NFC West trending upward

The San Francisco 49ers are well positioned to remain one of the NFL’s elite teams for the long haul.

It is clear one of the 49ers’ few real problems is the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are in their division. But the problems may not end there. The entire NFC West is stacked.

Recently, our NFL nation network looked at eight teams that are trending upward. NFC West residents Arizona and St. Louis were among the eight teams selected as risers.

Are these two teams threats to the 49ers?

I don’t think either the Cardinals or the Rams are legitimate threats to finish ahead of the 49ers in the standings in 2014. But what the 49ers and the Seahawks both must be weary of is stumbling against one of these two teams. The Seahawks were beat by the Cardinals at home in December.

And it could happen again. The 49ers, whose 2014 schedule is tied for the fourth toughest in the NFL, swept both Arizona and St. Louis this season. Because the race again with the Seahawks is likely going to be tight again, winning inside the division is going to be paramount.

The fact that both the Cardinals and the Rams appear to be improving makes playing side this division even more challenging.