Around the NFC West

The NFC West is shaping up similar to last season but the roles have been reversed for two teams. Coming off six straight losing seasons, San Francisco is off to a 3-1 start and has the lead in the division. Meanwhile, Arizona has struggled thus far along with Seattle and St. Louis. Brad Wilbricht checks the pulse of the NFC West and breaks down the first quarter of the season.

For the Arizona Cardinals, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time. The Cardinals are in shambles on both sides of the ball and needed to step back from the playing field in order to evaluate their current problems. The top priorities in Arizona include improving a dismal secondary and a running game that continues to be ineffective.

RB Tim Hightower has exhibited explosiveness at times carrying the ball but most of his damage has come through the air. Hightower is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry compiling 109 yards on 32 carries. Rookie RB Chris Wells battled injuries during the preseason and has experienced ball control issues so far in the regular season. Wells has accumulated just 71 yards on the ground and has already coughed it up twice.

In the secondary, the Cardinals are allowing 280 passing yards per game. Second-year CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been a massive disappointment after flashing unlimited potential during his rookie campaign a year ago. Rodgers-Cromartie has been exploited throughout Arizona's first three games and safeties Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle are already liabilities in coverage.

Shaun Hill

The surprising start of the San Francisco 49ers really shouldn't be that shocking. The 49ers deploy a play-making defense and feature a steady offense which relies heavily on the running game and consistency at the quarterback position. QB Shaun Hill has provided the consistency under center and the combination of Frank Gore and Glen Coffee have been reliable on the ground.

The 49ers' defense has been the real story as they're giving up 284 yards per contest and has forced seven turnovers. Furthermore, San Francisco has displayed its big-play potential on defense scoring three times in a Week 4 matchup against the St. Louis Rams. The 49ers hold a game and half lead over Arizona and already defeated the Cardinals on the road in the season opener.

The Seattle Seahawks won their first game of the year but have gone on to lose three consecutive outings. QB Matt Hasselbeck could return to action this week but Seattle's 1-3 record could be too much to overcome for a rather pedestrian squad. The Seahawks' defense has been the teams undoing thus far allowing 344 yards per game. Seattle has been unable to stop its opponents through the air or on the ground and its offense isn't explosive enough to account for a soft defense.

St. Louis has been even worse and is one of only three winless teams in the NFC. The Rams have been outscored by 84 points through their first four games, more than any other team in the league. St. Louis has once again been riddled by injuries and has struggled on both sides of the ball. The Rams are averaging a mere 251 yards per game of total offense while they're allowing 360 yards per contest. QB Marc Bulger has spent time on the shelf and RB Steven Jackson's success has been limited due to the team's lack of weapons in the passing game.

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