Predictably, both NFC West powers entered this season with great expectations. Seven weeks in, though, things aren't going as planned for either squad. The Seahawks just lost their second consecutive game (to lowly St. Louis, no less), dropping the defending champions to 3-3. Meanwhile, San Francisco was blown off the field in Denver, leaving the 4-3 49ers 1.5 games off the Arizona Cardinals' first-place pace. If the season ended today, neither the 'Hawks nor the Niners would make the postseason. This begs a simple question ...
Which purported NFC West juggernaut is more likely to miss the playoffs: Seattle or San Francisco?
- Adam Schein @AdamSchein
The defending champs could be the odd team out in the NFC West
Back in April, when everyone was talking about an emerging dynasty in Seattle, I wrote a column explaining why the Seahawks would not repeat. And in August, I picked San Francisco to win the NFC West.
Well, I still like the Niners to make the playoffs. And the Cardinals, too.
Beyond the season-opening dismantling of Green Bay, Seattle just hasn't looked dominant -- not even against the lowly Redskins. The previously stout defense has been pushed around. The offensive line has issues. The bullies have been out-bullied.
That nonsense about the Percy Harvin trade factoring into Seattle's latest setback is a loser's lament. The Seahawks didn't stumble in St. Louis because a malcontent was traded.
- Dan Hanzus @DanHanzus
Beware of a potential implosion in San Francisco
The 49ers are more likely to miss the playoffs for two simple reasons: 1) They're not as good as the Seahawks, and 2) it's impossible to know just how fractured this organization is from within right now.
We've seen multiple reports that Jim Harbaugh and his players aren't in a great place, and a team with suspect internal constitution can't take too many blowout losses of the sort that we saw Sunday night in Denver. Meanwhile, don't put too much stock in the idea that Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman will return to save the day. Smith hasn't played a live snap since the preseason, while Bowman is working his way back from a serious knee injury.
- Charley Casserly @CharleyCasserly
San Francisco has higher rebound potential going forward
I am not sure either one will miss the playoffs. Of the two, San Francisco has a better chance to rebound. The main reason is, the 49ers will get a number of key players back in the fold as the season goes on. Aldon Smith is eligible to return from his nine-game suspension in Week 11, and that ban could even be shortened by a game or two for good behavior. This defense could use a boost in the pass rush, as San Francisco ranks 21st in the NFL with 12 sacks. Meanwhile, NaVorro Bowman continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee and should be back in the second half of the season. Fellow linebacker Patrick Willis is currently on the shelf with a toe injury, but importantly, Jim Harbaugh doesn't think it's "a long-term thing." The secondary isn't very strong to begin with, so injuries to guys like Chris Culliver and Jimmie Ward (who both missed Sunday's loss in Denver) really hurt. Fortunately, they should both be back in short order.
On the other side of the ball, the offensive line has battled the injury bug. Consequently, this unit, which has been a huge key to the 49ers' success in recent years, has struggled. San Francisco lost center Daniel Kilgore to a broken leg on Sunday -- that's the bad news. The good news? The rest of the O-line should be healthy after a Week 8 bye. Now the group just needs to show more consistency. Alex Boone, for one, has not played as well this year as he has in the past.
- Gil Brandt @Gil_Brandt
Seahawks could be in danger -- but then, so might the Niners
Seattle should pull even with 4-3 San Francisco (which has a bye in Week 8) after beating the Carolina Panthers this coming Sunday -- but ultimately, I think the Seahawks are more likely to fall short at season's end.
The squads are fairly close. The quarterbacks are about even. Seattle's offensive line is a bit of a weakness, though San Francisco did just lose Daniel Kilgore for the season. Both squads have linebackers dealing with toe injuries (Bobby Wagner in Seattle; Patrick Willis in San Francisco), but the Niners' defense will get a boost when Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman return. Finally, the Seahawks' receiving corps is not as good as San Francisco's.
We can't forget about the Cardinals, who -- provided Carson Palmer stays healthy -- are in pretty good shape at 5-1. The truth is, it's conceivable that both the Niners and Seahawks wind up watching the playoffs from home. Of course, Seattle does still get to play the Niners and the Cardinals twice, and all three teams still have five home games left, so much of this story has yet to be written.