Remember a few years back when the NFC and AFC West divisions were mocked around the football universe?
That is no longer the case. The two divisions sent a total of five teams to the 12-team playoff tournament, two of them played in the Super Bowl and a third went to the NFC title game.
In 2014, the two divisions square off in the annual intra-division games. In addition to their six games against their NFC West foes -- the division is the strongest in the NFL, in my opinion -- the San Francisco 49ers play the AFC West, including playoff teams Denver, San Diego and Kansas City.
Because of the 10 games against the top West competition, the 49ers have the fourth toughest 2014 schedule based on the combined 2013 records of their upcoming opponents. The 49ers’ opponent win percentage is .563 and is tied with the Chargers.
The St. Louis Rams have the toughest strength of schedule in the NFC West. It is the third highest in the league, a shade above the 49ers at .564. Super Bowl champion Seattle is just below the 49ers at .561.
Sometimes strength of schedule can become moot because of injuries or if opposing teams make dramatic improvement or regression. But I expect, for the most part, the 49ers’ 2014 schedule to remain about as tough as it looks with a few variations.