49ers Head Into Bye Week Atop NFC West, In Great Position

The San Francisco 49ers are 5-1 and sit alone atop the NFC West division. They're heading into the bye week after a win over the previously unbeaten Detroit Lions and have cogs moving on all sides of the ball. Life is good going into the bye week. For more on the team, head on over to Niners Nation, SB Nation's San Francisco 49ers blog.

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49ers Vs. Browns Injury Update: Braylon Edwards Set To Return?

The San Francisco 49ers return to action against the Cleveland Browns, and could welcome the return of wide receiver Braylon Edwards to the lineup.

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49ers Come Out Of Bye Week Further Ahead, A Look At The NFC West

The San Francisco 49ers have spent the last week resting, recovering and generally trying to maintain all momentum they had coming into it after beating the previously-unbeeaten Detroit Lions. Coming into this bye week, they are 5-1 and sitting atop the NFC West division. Coming out of this bye week, they remain at 5-1, but they've increased their lead due to the failures of the rest of the division.

Next, the 49ers will take on the Cleveland Browns at home, and hopefully will be rested and healed. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards expects to be back, and for them, that's huge. They're already got their eyes on the NFC West crown and, more pointedly, a 6-1 record after this coming Sunday. With the second-place team in the division sporting a 2-4 record, the 49ers are riding a great high right now. Let's take a look at where the rest of the teams are at.

Seattle Seahawks

There's a quarterback controversy, or at least, it looked like there might be before Sunday's game against the Browns. Tarvaris Jackson was out with a pectoral injury, which occurred right about the time that Seattle fans started calling for Charlie Whitehurst to get the start, mostly due in part for his comeback heroics against the New York Giants. Jackson ended up being out with injury regardless, and Whitehurst couldn't even get past the century mark in passing on the day, and didn't have a touchdown.

So now that Whitehurst proved, once again, that he's not the answer for the Seahawks, they're likely back to a healthy Jackson starting at quarterback, looking ahead to a remaining schedule that includes the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. They've got a better chance for a win next week, when they'll take on the Cincinnati Bengals, but sitting at 2-4, they've still got a long way to go to make it to the top of the NFC West and unseat the 49ers.

Arizona Cardinals

After an offseason trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb, most felt that the Cardinals were going to look a lot better this year than they did last year. Unfortunately, Kolb hasn't been very good, though he hasn't been putting up throwaway numbers every game. He always seems to get decent yardage and a touchdown or two, but can't score in the redzone when it's needed and definitely cannot lead the team in a comeback victory with the clock running out. The fact that they don't really have much of a running game hasn't helped, either.

Rookie first-round pick Patrick Peterson hasn't looked nearly as NFL-ready as advertised, having been burnt quite a few times this season. The defense gets scored on with regularity and, though they seem to play a lot better than the Seahawks, they're sitting at 1-5 with no relief in sight. For a team led by "The Whiz", they're getting more than out-played, they're getting out-coached. Larry Fitzgerald seems to be the only aspect of the team that's really working, and already has a slew of highlight reel catches this year. But he can't do it alone.

Arizona hits the road in its next game to take on the very tough Baltimore Ravens, and their remaining schedule includes games against the Dallas Cowboys and both games against the 49ers.

St. Louis Rams

Labeled as the offseason- and preseason-favorite to win the division along with the 49ers, the Rams were very much supposed to be on the up-and-up. They drafted a young quarterback who appeared to be a winner in Sam Bradford, and spent some picks in the 2011 NFL Draft on some wide receivers in Greg Salas and Austin Pettis. Their strong defense would only improve with Robert Quinn coming in as the team's first-round pick, and Steve Spagnuolo was on his way to really turning this franchise around.

But now they're sitting with an 0-6 record and really, nothing is working. They're last in the league in points-per-game and 28th in total yardage. The New Orleans Saints scored more points on Sunday night than the Rams have all season long. They're getting massacred on offense and the defense looks like it's not even being coached at times - Spagnuolo has some serious detractors at this point. Bradford is throwing picks and the injury bug has been biting them all season.

The Rams have games against the Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers remaining, as well as both games against the 49ers. Next week, they've got that game against the Saints, who just put up 62 points on the Colts, at home.

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Rams Lose 34-7 To Cowboys, 49ers Further Lead In NFC West During Bye Week

Sitting back, maxing, relaxing all cool (and possibly even shooting b-ball outside the school), the San Francisco 49ers are enjoying their bye week. In the morning games, the Seattle Seahawks looks absolutely abysmal against the slightly-less abysmal Cleveland Browns, and then the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up hostilities (if you can call them that), with a 32-20 Steelers win.

To put the cherry on top, as though it was needed with their winless record going into the game, the St. Louis Rams dropped a beatdown to the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo had a modest 166 yards passing with two touchdowns, but it was the St. Louis run defense that gave up all the yardage: giving DeMarco Murray 253 yards rushing on 25 carries with a touchdown of his own. A.J. Feeley, starting in place of the injured Sam Bradford, wasn't actually terrible, but he didn't have a touchdown to counter his one interception and threw for just 196 yards.

New trade acquisition Brandon Lloyd had 74 yards receiving and no touchdowns, so it's good that he looked fine out there. Hilariously enough, he was taunting and getting in everybody's face when he got a big catch down 34-7. Yeah. Good one there, Lloyd. Steven Jackson had 70 yards but the Rams just couldn't get anything done. The fumbles didn't help, either.

The Rams remain winless, sitting at 0-6 on the season and getting further and further away from the 49ers, who sit at 5-1 atop the NFC West. The Rams host the New Orleans Saints next week.

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Cardinals Fall To 1-5 With 32-20 Loss To Steelers

The San Francisco 49ers are certainly feeling good. In the morning, the Seattle Seahawks dropped a 6-3 affair to the Cleveland Browns, and the first bit of afternoon NFC West action has also tilted in their favor. The Arizona Cardinals, despite one or two big plays, looked helpless in a 32-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. Unlike the aforementioned Seattle game, this one was actually fun to watch, though not necessarily because of the Cardinals.

Ben Roethlisberger torched Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals defense, going 25-for-38 for 340 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. The Steelers had just under 100 yards combined rushing, but Rashard Mendenhall was held to just 32 yards on 13 carries. It wasn't all bad for the Cardinals, who were able to execute a bit offensively: Kevin Kolb threw for decent yardage once again, getting 272 yards and had a couple of touchdown passes and an interception. The huge touchdown pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling was of particular significance.

Still, the Cardinals lost and fall even further into the hole in the NFC West, maintaining third place with a shiny new 1-5 record. The 49ers sit atop the division at 5-1. Arizona will hit the road for the next game to take on the Baltimore Ravens.

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Seahawks Lose 6-3 In Awful, Awful Game Against Browns, 49ers Watching Gleefully

The morning games are wrapping up and, right about now, the San Francisco 49ers are sitting back and enjoying themselves in a variety of ways. Sitting atop the NFC West at 5-1, they'll definitely be interested in how the rest of the division is doing, with all three teams having already had their bye weeks and in action today. They've got some good news right now coming out of Cleveland: the 2-3 Seattle Seahawks (second place in the NFC West) have fallen to 2-4 with a loss to the Browns.

First off, as a fan of football, let me humbly apologize to everybody who watched the game. With a final score of 6-3 with no touchdowns on either side, it was a sorry affair. The Seahawks didn't look good on any fronts, giving up 95 rushing yards to backup running back Montario Hardesty and getting just 39 yards out of their own backup, Leon Washington. The play-calling was awful, but it's not as though quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was going to make things happen with his arm, as it happens.

Whitehurst was starting in place of the injured Tarvaris Jackson, and threw for just 97 yards and was 12-for-30 with no touchdowns and a pick. Many fans were clamoring for him to get the start even if Jackson ws healthy coming into Sunday, but it's probably safe to say he's not the quarterback of the future there in Seattle. They did pick off Colt McCoy once, but didn't do anything with it.

The afternoon will see the Cardinals take on the Steelers and the Rams face the Cowboys.

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NFL Schedule, Week 7: 49ers Spend Bye Week Observing NFC West Foes

The San Francisco 49ers are on a bye through week seven, but that doesn't mean Sunday is entirely meaningless for the team. The 49ers currently hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Seattle Seahawks, a 3 1/2 game lead over the Arizona Cardinals and a 4 1/2 game lead over the St. Louis Rams.

The rest of the division has made it through their respective bye weeks and now face a host of tough matchups in week seven. The Seahawks travel to Cleveland to face the Browns, the Cardinals host the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rams travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys. Seattle plays an early game, while Arizona and St. Louis play in the afternoon session.

This is a big week for both Seattle and Arizona as they look to stay alive in the playoff chase. The 49ers appear to have emerged as the team to beat in the NFC West, but with each team having at least four divisional games left, there is room for teams to overcome deficits. However, they will need to get their act in gear this week. As it stands, Seattle has the best chance to win at Cleveland. Arizona is only a four point underdog, but if Pittsburgh continues their strong run of late, the Cardinals could be in trouble.

NFC West Games - Week 7
Seattle @ Dallas - 10:00am PT
Arizona vs. Pittsburgh - 1:05pm PT
St. Louis @ Dallas - 1:15pm PT

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Aldon Smith Named Pepsi NFL Rookie Of The Week; Frank Gore FedEx Ground Player Of The Week

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for the second straight week after his performance against the Detroit Lions last Sunday. He tallied two sacks, a forced fumble and a safety in last week's 25-19 win over Detroit. Smith now has 5.5 sacks on the season and is on pace to get 14.5 in his rookie campaign. If he can keep up this pace and get to that number, he'd tie a sack-era record for rookies with Jevon Kearse's performance in 1999. 

Smith was also fined $15,000 for a hit on Lions' QB Matthew Stafford below the knees that drew a roughing the passer penalty in that game. 

On the other side of the ball, running back Frank Gore was named the NFL's FedEx Ground Player of the Week for his 141-yard rushing performance on Sunday at the Lions. 

All in all, not too shabby of a week for this 49ers team, who will now look to rest and recuperate this weekend during their bye.

For more on the 49ers, make sure you check out the always excellent Niners Nation.  

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49ers Bye Week Midseason Review: Aldon Smith Emerges As Defensive Rookie Of The Year Candidate

It might not be halfway through the San Francisco 49ers season, but it's just around the corner and with the team taking a bye week and sitting at 5-1 atop the NFC West, now is as good a time as any to take a look at the various positions and how they've looked thus far.

With the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft, the 49ers made Aldon Smith their pass rusher of the future. It was a move that most experts regarded with ... well, with very little opinion, as it happens. The big draft "gurus" gave weak explanations while the local beat writers covered his strong suits, but nobody could quite confess to having expected it in the slightest. Fans of the team, in particular, were almost universally confused and even angry. If you've ever wondered, the best way to make somebody irate is to confuse them.

So Smith came in and, despite the fact that most people weren't sure what to think of him, was expected to be the team's leading sack-getting and a starter sooner rather than later. Most experts were of the opinion that he'd take awhile to learn the position, and with the lockout eating up weeks of organized team activities, the odds were stacked even further against him.

But he did get playing time - and early. He was worked in on third downs, but eventually saw time on other downs in rotational work with Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks. And he produced. Smith now has 5.5 sacks on the season, with a forced fumble and a safety to his credit. He leads all rookies in sacks and is an early candidate for defensive rookie of the year - and is on pace to tie the rookie sack record, as well. He's got more sacks than Denver's Von Miller, who has five, and has seen the field less than Miller has.

Aldon Smith is a veritable windmill of calculated aggression off the line of scrimmage. When the ball is snapped, he doesn't so much as engage a blocker and pull him out of the way as he does use impressive leverage in his long arms to cast them aside in a way that ... quite honestly, doesn't look quite as impressive as a well-timed spin move or simply rush on the outside. When you realize he's tossing aside 300 pound linemen as though they're yesterday's trash .. it's a little more impressive.

He's still got a long way to grow. Smith isn't DeMarcus Ware just yet, but he's performing at or better than expectations right now and can only get better. He's also likely to get more playing time, as the times he's gone into coverage, he's looked good doing so. Either Haralson or Brooks are going to end up spending some more time on the bench while Smith continues his campaign for defensive rookie of the year when the Cleveland Browns come to town next Sunday.

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49ers Relatively Healthy Heading Into Bye, Should Be Even More So After

The 49ers are a pretty healthy team right now, all things considered. Outside of the wide receiver position, they enter the bye with limited injuries, and including the wide receiver position, they should come out of it with even fewer. There are some key players, including four starters, on the injury list and they all should benefit from the soothing balm of a bye week and more time to prepare, as Matt Barrows of The Bee notes.

Braylon Edwards is far and away the biggest injury of note. He's missed the last four games with an injury, and with fellow receiver Josh Morgan off to injured reserve, it's even more imperative that he make his return sooner rather than later. Fortunately, Edwards told fans on Twitter that he expects to be back on Oct. 30 against the Cleveland Browns, which is the team's next game, following the bye week. Further evidence that Edwards may be coming back comes in the team's decision to release receiver Kerry Taylor from the practice squad and re-sign Chase Beeler.

Moran Norris, the team's starting fullback, is out with a fractured fibula. The bye week will give him some more time to recover, but so far there is no timetable on his return. He just got out of his boot on Monday and that's a good sign, though some fans would disagree. Many are happy with the work that rookie Bruce Miller has been doing, and it's likely that Norris won't take over full starting duties when he comes back. Instead, he might be called on for more impact blocking in short-yardage situations, which the team has been using Isaac Sopaga for somewhat frequently. It's also worth noting that Miller just had what most consider to be his worst game of the season against the Detroit Lions.

Tramaine Brock has been injured since week two against the Dallas Cowboys and might not get much playing time even when he does return. He was the team's nickel corner, but after a strong bid against the Lions, Chris Culliver might have taken over that role. Nobody knows quite what to expect out of Brock, who's only significant playing time has come this season. His agent says that he'll be back either after the bye or after the following game.

Other minor injuries occurred to starters Adam Snyder and Parys Haralson, and though it's unlikely they'd be kept out even with just a week to go, the bye week can only help them end up at 100% when the Browns come to town the following Sunday.

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Aldon Smith Making Huge Contributions On Defense As A Rookie

The San Francisco 49ers drafted outside linebacker Aldon Smith with the seventh overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, and the selection is starting to pay off for the tough 49ers defense. The product out of Missouri has been on fire in recent weeks, recording 5.5 sacks in the team's past three games.

According to Mike Sando of ESPN, Smith is on pace to rack up 14.5 sacks by the end of the regular season. That figure would tie Smith with Jevon Kearse for an NFL rookie record.

Smith has played extremely well in recent weeks. Last week, for instance, Smith contributed four tackles and one safety to go along with his 2.0 sacks. He has not started a single NFL game yet, and his projected stats could rise if he moves into the starting spot.

With so few games to judge from so far, this type of performance could turn out to be an anomaly. Kearse's rookie season, for instance, turned out to be just that. After recording 14.5 sacks in his first year, Kearse followed up with totals of 11.5 and 10.0 sacks over the next two seasons before failing to reach double digits ever again. Perhaps some of the decline can be attributed to age, but some of it can also be attributed to the fact that averaging roughly 1 sack per game is difficult to maintain over an entire season.

It's too soon to know for sure how good Smith can be in the NFL. What we do know, though, is that Smith has the potential to become an impact player for the 49ers defense in coming years.

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San Francisco 49ers In Great Position Heading Into The Bye Week

The San Francisco 49ers are 5-1 and sit alone atop the NFC West division. They're heading into the bye week after a win over the previously unbeaten Detroit Lions and have cogs moving on all sides of the ball. Life is good going into the bye week. For more on the team, head on over to Niners Nation, SB Nation's San Francisco 49ers blog.

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