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Taking the Wind Out of the 49ers Sails: Why They Aren’t the Best Team In Football, or Even Their Own Division

If I had a nickel for every time the San Francisco 49ers were lauded for praise for their play in the first two weeks of the season, I might have more nickels than Mitt Romney.

(See here, I can do political stuff, too!)

If you aren’t a 49ers die-hard fan who has the right to think their team is the best, as all die-hards do, then I’m going to stop you from ponying up any more money on them in Vegas.

People generally tend to think of the NFC West as a crap division. The one that’s the brunt of every anchor’s joke that draws a round of fake laughter, or as I like to call it, ”anchor laughter”. So for future references, that’s what “anchor laughter” means.

Point is, people think the division is bad. And logical thinking probably points to a team that was 13-3 the previous year would win a weak division.

But look away logical thinkers. It is not so in the NFC West!

Here’s what the 49ers’ calling looks like:

  • Defense
  • Special Teams
  • Running Game
  • No Turnovers
  • More Defense
  • David Akers’ Bionic Leg

Now take a look at their divisional rival Seahawks’ deck of calling cards:

  • Running Game
  • Defense
  • Special Teams (Starting to sense a theme?)
  • Pete Carroll’s Undying Charisma
  • Crowd Noise
  • Defense’s lack of ability to tackle Marshawn Lynch
  • And finally… Tell the readers what they won because they guessed it right… More DEFENSE!!!

Also noteworthy is the fact that both defenses ranked in the top 10 as well as the fact that the Seahawks are younger. Much younger. So realistically speaking, we might be looking at another year with the top two defenses in the same division. No, not the same shtick in the AFC East with the Steelers and Ravens. No, we’re talking Seahawks and 49ers. And in that order.

(The thinking with the youth is… well let’s put it this way, would you rather have three Pro Bowlers who are 25, or three who are 32? Exactly.)

Basically those previous 68 words are fancy-elongated speak for “both defenses are really good.”

The pitfall of every team in the NFC West, though, might be the offense. St. Louis is just horrendous. Arizona literally has been running the one-man offensive show that is Larry Fitzgerald for years, and then there’s Seattle and San Francisco.

Both obviously have efficient and almost stellar running games with Lynch and Frank Gore taking their places in the upper echelon of NFL running backs.

That leaves the one significant category in football that I haven’t gotten to yet, the passing game.

Both teams have very distinct views of their QBs. Views that aren’t that entirely far apart. Both like to use their Quarterbacks as the “point guard,” if you will, of the offense. They aren’t going to be the playmakers;  they’re going to be the distributors. One QB is a former number-one overall pick who has developed into a game manager (cough bust cough). The other is a dynamic, playmaking rookie who seems to be making every other team who needed a QB that didn’t get RGIII or Luck look foolish. Hint: Dolphins, Miami and Browns, Cleveland.

The thinking goes that if you have a “point guard” QB, then you should have weapons surrounding him. This is where the pundits and I disagree. Most people will tell you that the Seahawks have the worst group of receivers in the league. Worse than Cleveland, worse than Miami, even worse than St. Louis. I tend to think otherwise. Seattle has a good group of receivers in place. They aren’t going to blow you away, but they are good. Don’t forget that.

One other thing that you’ll notice is that San Francisco is not listed in the groups of teams with bad weapons and/or receivers.

The Niners have one good wide out on the whole team. That’s Mario Manningham. To be fair, they do have Vernon Davis at tight end, but after that there isn’t a whole lot. Go ahead. Voice your complaints in the comments section below (makes pointing gesture to bottom of screen). Tell me that Randy Moss isn’t a glorified fourth receiver in his twilight years. Tell me Michael Crabtree isn’t possibly the most overrated player in the entire league. Also tell me that Ted Ginn, Jr.  isn’t just a special-team-player-extraordinaire who happens to be listed at the wide receiver position.

The Seahawks argument for having better weapons than the Niners and in general goes like this. One, Sidney Rice is not the third coming of Koren Robinson or the second coming of Javon Walker. He isn’t going to fall victim to the permanent tag of “Brett Favre made me look like a Pro Bowler.” Rice still has way too many years left to play, as well as an intriguing mix of size and speed to be continually labeled as such.

Two, Braylon Edwards has some gas left in the tank and still shows some of the potential that made him such a wanted commodity around the league just a couple years ago.

And three, you have young wide receivers with the potential to be good in this league. The days of TJ Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Brandon Stokely and all those other older receivers are gone. Let me rephrase that, these players could actually play for more than three years at a high rate.

That may sound pathetic, but it’s true. Ever since we lost the solid duo of Darell Jackson and Bobby Engram, we have been subject to a rollercoaster of receiving leaders. The past four years since losing the Engram-Jackson partnership (one of whom led the team in receiving yards every year with one exception from 2001-2007) we have seen John Carlson, Houshmandzadeh, Mike Williams and Baldwin lead the team in receiving.

It’s been tumultuous to say the least, but now it seems that all of that has passed thanks to the new group of receivers.

I’ll argue it with anybody, if you haven’t figured out already, that the Seahawks not only have better offensive weapons than the 49ers, but are a better team. Period.

This is the last thing; people praise the 49ers. While giving their defense props is fine, praising the offense isn’t. It’s Vernon Davis, a slightly overrated Frank Gore and a shoddy receiving core. That’s not saying that the Seahawks are loads better. It’s just that their QB is more dynamic. Their running back isn’t overrated, and they have an actual elite back. Their receivers are pretty good, and their defense is younger and bigger.

Translation: the Seahawks and Niners are on even footing when it comes to defense, but in terms of offense, the Seahawks have the edge, which is why the Seahawks are the better team.

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