San Francisco 49ers: Can 49ers Win out in NFC West?
This year, the Niners have won some tough games. They were the first team to beat the Lions, and they did so in Detroit.
This week the 49ers will be hosting the Cleveland Browns in their first match off of their bye week.
Currently Harbaugh's team has a 5-1 overall record, and they're 1-0 in their division. But there is still a lot of football to be played.
If San Francisco is to win out in their division they will have to go undefeated in their five remaining divisional games, three of which are going to be played away from home.
The following is a breakdown of the San Francisco 49ers and an examination of whether or not they can win out in their division.
Breaking Down the 49ers: Offense
The San Francisco 49ers do not have the best offense in the NFL. In fact, it would probably be unfair to say that the Niners have an offense that ranks in the top 10.
The 49ers have still somehow found a way to win five of their six football games.
Sure, they have the sixth most productive running game in the league. Frank Gore and company average 131.5 yards per game on the ground.
On the opposite end of the spectrum the 49ers have a passing game that ranks second worst in the NFL. San Fran averages just 171 yards per game through the air.
Only the Jacksonville Jaguars have a less productive passing offense, with an average of 128 passing yards per game.
The key to the 49ers offense has been limiting mistakes, which the Niners have done an incredible job of.
The Niners rank third in turnover efficiency with a plus-eight rating. By limiting mistakes, Jim Harbaugh's team has always been able to keep themselves in games that they would have previously been unable to win.
On top of their efficiency, San Francisco has been able to find ways to come up with the plays they need in order to win.
A great example of this was their game in Detroit, in which Alex Smith found Delanie Walker on a slant route with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter to give the Niners the lead.
As long as the Niners keep playing intelligently, there's no reason they can't be successful in their division.
Breaking Down the 49ers: Defense
The San Francisco 49ers have been all about defense this season. It has to be said that the 49ers defense has been just as important as their offense in the game they've won this season.
The 49ers have allowed the second fewest rushing yards per game to their opponents this season. The Niners give up an average of 74.7 yards per game on the ground.
The only team that can claim a more impressive average is the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones' men give up an average of 69.7 yards per game.
The 49ers have not been as impressive in defending the pass. They rank 22nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed with an average of 261 yards per game.
The stat that is most important to a defense though, is point allowed per game. This is where the 49ers flourish.
San Francisco has allowed 97 total points in their six games that they've played. This averages out to 16.2 points per game.
With their average of 16.2 points per game the 49ers allow the second fewest points to their opponents in the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens lead the league in the stat, giving up an average of just 13.8 points per game.
Jim Harbaugh has given the 49ers a great mindset that has helped them grasp what they need to do to win football games. And that is exactly what the Niners have done this season.
Breaking Down the Opponents: St. Louis Rams
While it is unlikely that the Rams will not win a game this season, they are certainly looking like one of the poorer teams in the league.
The Rams' offense is in complete shambles. They average 208 passing yards per game, which ranks them at 23rd in the NFL.
Their rushing game is even worse. The Rams have averaged 93 yards per game on the ground, which gives them the sixth worst rushing game in the league.
And in the stat the matters most the Rams come in a dead last in the NFL. St. Louis has averaged just 9.3 points per game, which is 2.7 points fewer than the next worst team (the Jacksonville Jaguars).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams are even more hopeless.
The Rams give up an average of 183.8 rushing yards per game to their opponents, the most in the NFL.
Their passing defense is much better. The Rams actually have one of the better passing defenses in the league, giving up just 226.5 yards per game in the air. This gives them the 13th best pass defense in the nation.
Once again though, when we look at the stat that matters, the Rams fail to compete. The St. Louis defense allows the second most points in the NFL, giving up an average of 28.5 points per game.
After considering all of these facts, it appears the Rams won't be giving the 49ers much trouble.
Breaking Down the Opponents: Seattle Seahawks
Pete Carroll is going to need a miracle to get this Seattle team to win the division. He has a lot of obstacles up in Seattle.
The first obstacle would have to be the Seahawks' offense. Seattle has one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
The Seahawks average 182.3 passing yards per game. This average puts them at fourth worst in the league.
Fourth worst in the league is pretty bad, but it's not as bad as their rushing game. The Seahawks average 80.5 yards per game on the ground, which is the second worst in the league.
An inability to generate offense is a horrible problem to have, and it has hurt the Seahawks this season.
Their inability to generate yards has carried over to their scoring game.
Seattle has average 16.2 points per game, which is the fifth worst in the NFL.
Luckily, the Seahawks defense has been much better than their offense. At 104.7 rushing yards per game, the Seahawks have the 11th best run defense in the NFL.
Their passing defense isn't horrible either. Pete Carroll's side allows an average of 250 yards per game in the air, which ranks them 20th in the league.
Where the Seattle defense really impresses however, is their points allowed. The Seahawks allow 21.3 points per game, which is the seventh best in the NFL.
While the Seahawks defense has demonstrated effective play this year, the Seahawks offense has been quite poor.
If the Seattle Seahawks have any hope of a successful season they are going to need their offense to start turning in performances.
Breaking Down the Opponents: Arizona Cardinals
The problem, for me, has been Kevin Kolb. Kolb has thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdown passes. He has a terrible completion percentage, and he has one of the lower quarterback ratings in the league.
To be fair, the Cardinals do average 240.5 passing yards per game, which is the 13th best in the NFL. But when it comes to scoring the Cardinals average just 19.3 points per game.
That would be an acceptable total if the Cardinal defense was helping the offense, but unfortunately for coach Ken Whisenhunt, this is not the case.
The Cards give up 388.3 yards per game to opposing offenses, the sixth highest average in the NFL.
On top of that, Arizona gives up 25.5 points per game, which is the fifth highest average in that category.
A below average offense coupled with a poor defense gives the Cardinals a very bleak looking future.
What This All Means
After examining all of the teams that make up the NFC West, it becomes clear that the San Francisco 49ers are the best team in that division.
Their 5-1 record already proves that. They are the only team in their division with a winning record.
The Niners are one of six teams in the NFL with five wins. Even more impressive, San Fran is one of only three teams that have 1 or fewer losses.
It would take a catastrophe for the 49ers to not win their division.
It appears that Jim Harbaugh could produce a winning team out of the practice squad, so as long as he's there, the Niners are going to be OK.
Will the San Francisco 49ers Win out in the NFC West?
It's very difficult to say whether or not the San Francisco 49ers will win out in their division. Doing so would mean they finished undefeated in their division.
The last team to do that was the 2008 Arizona Cardinals. That was a team that made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
It appears as though the San Francisco 49ers will win their division, and I'm going to go on record and say that they will win out in their division.
This means that if they lost every non-division game from here on out, they would still finish with a record of 10-6.
Mark my words, you're going to see the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs this year.