(CBS) - We're less than a quarter of the way into the 2021 season, but so far it's looking like the West is the division to beat in the NFC. The NFC West's four clubs (Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle) are a combined 9-3 with a +79 net points total.
With all four divisional rivals squaring off in week 4, something's got to give as two unbeatens look to stay perfect and the West's two other squads attempt to erase the sting of last week's collapses.
All times listed are Eastern.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, October 3, 4:05 p.m.
The Seahawks and 49ers will clash for the 46th time this weekend. So far Seattle has gotten the better of the Niners more often than not with 28 wins in the series. This year's Seahawks squad feels a bit different than years past though. Currently sitting a game under .500 the Hawks are coming off back-to-back losses where they squandered early leads with terrible second-half execution. It also doesn't help that the Seahawks' defense is currently last in the league when it comes to yards allowed per game.
"They blew that game against Tennessee," Hartstein said. "They had the big lead and then last week again in Minnesota, they come out on fire, score 17 quick points, do not score a point in the second half. I don't think it's so much of the offense being the problem, it's the defense. They've given up the most yards in all of football, 440 per game. That is not allowing the offense to get on the field enough.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers also tasted defeat last week, but put up a great fight against the Green Bay Packers. Had any quarterback besides Aaron Rodgers been under center in that match-up San Francisco would likely be 3-0 right now.
"You look at this 49ers team that played very well offensively against Green Bay," Hartstein said. "But they suffered more injuries in the secondary. Aaron Rodgers picked them apart."
San Francisco hasn't been particularly stellar on either side of the ball this year, but they're solid across the board. It is worth noting that their two high-scoring games early on this season have been against the Lions and Packers, the worst and fifth-worst scoring defenses in the NFC.
As for a final prediction, Hartstein sees the Seahawks having a leg, or wing, up.
"It's hard to see Russell Wilson losing three straight games," Hartstein said. "I think Russell Wilson is going to have plenty of success. This is going to be a shootout, because I don't think either team can stop the other."
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, October 3, 4:05 p.m.
The Cardinals and Rams account for six of the division's nine wins through three weeks, each coming in at a perfect 3-0. Both teams embody the modern NFL with their high-powered offenses. Matthew Stafford comes into week 4 with nine passing touchdowns, second only to the age-less Tom Brady. Arizona's signal caller, Kyler Murray, has seven scores through the air and another three on the ground. As a team, the Cardinals are tied for first in points scored with 103 and the Rams are just a few tallies behind, ranked third in the league with 95.
It's been smooth sailing for the most part for both of these teams although they both had near falls in week 2. The Rams took a tight one in Indianapolis 27-24 and the Cardinals squeaked past the Vikings 34-33. Each team rebounded nicely with a double digit victory last week as Los Angeles took down "Age-less Tom" and the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers and the Cards tamed the Jaguars.
With the battle of NFC West unbeatens going down this Sunday in LA, Hartstein is leaning towards the boys in blue and yellow.
"They're both 3-0. When you look at Arizona, they probably should have lost to the Vikings," Hartstein said. "They missed a chip-shot field goal, Minnesota does, that would have beaten Arizona. Then Arizona goes to Jacksonville, was down 19-10 with that crazy kick return before halftime but then they get a Trevor Lawrence picks-six to turn it around and cover. You got to actually respect that, because that was a sleepy spot for Arizona with this game on deck and yet they still covered the number. But all of that said, I'm more impressed with the Rams and Matthew Stafford in this offense, which is exactly what Sean McVay has been dreaming about. And then you look at the matchup. He has owned the Cardinals, Sean McVay is 8-0. He's put up 30 points in almost all of those with the average margin of victory around 20."
Which picks can you make with confidence this week, and which Super Bowl contender goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $7,900.
for more features.