Video: Gaining ground in NFC West

The San Francisco 49ers outscored the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants by a combined 65 points in the first meetings between those teams last season.

49ers Point Differentials

The margin shrunk to plus-four in the rematches.

Venue played into the 61-point drop in differential. Each of the rematches against the Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks took place away from San Francisco. But there was also no denying the improvement those 49ers opponents made between first and second meetings.

One question to consider is whether improved familiarity with the 49ers' schemes will allow opponents to further close the gap in 2012.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and others gave the 49ers high praise for some of the wrinkles within their running game specifically. How many more wrinkles await in 2012? How much more ready will opponents become?

It's possible San Francisco will maintain or even add to any coaching-related advantages now that the 49ers have a full offseason to prepare. The lockout was supposed to work against teams with new coaching staffs last season, after all.