Around the NFC West: Separating 49ers

Around the NFC West: Nov. 26, 2012

Drew Brees, Vernon Davis and Alex Smith played leading roles in a memorable New Orleans-San Francisco playoff game last season.

The Saints were counting on Brees during the rematch Sunday. The 49ers won even though Davis caught zero passes and Smith did not even play.

San Francisco's overall strength stood out during the 49ers' 31-21 victory in the Superdome. They can beat an opponent so many ways.

That is why the 49ers appear increasingly likely to win the NFC West title for a second consecutive season. At 8-2-1, they hold 2.5-game overall lead on second-place Seattle (6-5). They're up by three games in the loss column. St. Louis (4-6-1) and Arizona (4-7) aren't threats at this point.

The 49ers, unlike every other playoff contender, could lose their starting quarterback to injury and remain on course.

Colin Kaepernick has proven as much through his play during double-digit victories over Chicago and New Orleans. While he has presumably done enough to remain the starter, the 49ers have won consistently and even set franchise single-game records for offense with Alex Smith in the lineup.

Advantage, 49ers.