The 49ers just finished off a 31-17 win over the Rams, the team the Seahawks play next Sunday in St. Louis.
And that result means the Seahawks are in third place in the NFC West at 3-2, behind Arizona at 4-1 and San Francisco at 4-2, the lowest they have been in the standings since week five of the 2012 season when they were also in third place.
To be sure, the standings come with an asterisk — the Seahawks have had a bye while the 49ers have not.
And yes, it’s still relatively early. But the top of the NFC West is suddenly shaping up to be as competitive as many thought with the 49ers righting the ship and winning three in a row, and Arizona showing no real signs of going away.
In fact, if the season ended today — and I know it doesn’t, but it’s always interesting to look at this stuff — the Seahawks wouldn’t make the playoffs.
Also worth noting is that Seattle has played as competitive of a schedule as any team in the NFL — Seattle’s opponents are a combined 19-10 (here’s one ranking stating that Seattle has played the third toughest schedule in the NFL so far).
What that means, though, is that the onus is on the Seahawks to make some hay over the next month when the schedule softens considerably with games at the 1-4 Rams and 3-2-1 Carolina before home games against the 0-5 Raiders and the 3-3 Giants before the schedule again toughens a bit with Seattle playing four out of six on the road before the regular season finale against St. Louis.
The reality is that the season for the top three teams in the NFC West figures to come down to the last six games of the season when Seattle and Arizona will play twice, Seattle and San Francisco will play twice and Arizona and San Francisco will play once (on Dec. 28 in Santa Clara.
That the schedule is so back-loaded with NFC West games means the Seahawks will have plenty of opportunities to make up games, assuming they don’t fall too far behind. Adding to the urgency this weekend, though, is that Arizona plays at Oakland, a game the Cardinals are obviously expected to win.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have a short week after playing tonight and then have to travel to Denver for the Sunday night game in what is the second game of a stretch of four of five on the road, sandwiched around their bye.