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San Francisco 49ers 2011 Schedule: NFL Tells Two Different Stories Of NFC West Favorites

In 2010, the San Francisco 49ers were supposed to make the jump from "mediocre," to "really good." The NFL envisioned a fierce battle between them and the Arizona Cardinals for top dog in the NFC West division. It's a rivalry that they had been trying to build up, which was supposed to culminate into something special in 2010, when the league gave the two teams yet another Monday Night Football game, and finished it off with a week seventeen matchup that they were obviously hoping would have divisional relevance.

Well, the Monday night game was a good one, but in week seventeen, both teams were essentially out of the running. Now, the 49ers have another Monday Night Football game, but it's against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the other primetime game is also against a team not in the division, the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, in 2010, the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams were battling for the division lead and a shot at the playoffs. Lo and behold, the Seahawks and Rams are squaring off on Monday Night Football in week fourteen.

The thing is, if the league believes that the Seahawks and Rams are going to be battling for the division again, one would figure they'd just do a repeat in week seventeen and have them playing it out right there at the end, but they've instead for the 49ers taking on the Rams. One theory is the fact that the NFL feels the same way that Vegas does - the 49ers and Rams should be the teams battling it out. Both teams opened up a couple months ago as co-favorites to take the NFC West, while the Seahawks were set to finish third and the Cardinals in the basement.

Even if the NFL gave the Rams-Seahawks the Monday night game, it still is nice to know that they feel like the 49ers will be in the thick of things, even if it's a rather sorry division by public perception.