NFL Nation: Scout's take

The San Francisco 49ers are 2-1 and leading the NFC West heading into Week 4. Does that suddenly make them division favorites with the St. Louis Rams sitting 0-3?

"I guess I'm leaning toward San Francisco, but I don't feel confident," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said this week. "The Rams could finish strong. I can't see Seattle doing it. And I think Arizona is a six-win team, but they are all kind of six-win teams."

The 49ers won six of their final 11 games last season. That makes them 8-6 over their last 14 regular-season games. The Rams and Seahawks are 5-9 during the regular season over the same span. The Cardinals are 3-11.

With that, a closer look at the 49ers from Williamson's perspective:

  • [+] EnlargeFrank Gore
    Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesRunning room has been harder to come by for Frank Gore this season.
    On the struggling ground game: "Frank Gore doesn’t look good. He is not attacking things. Gore looks like he is playing hurt. He has run so competitively in the past. He would not just go in the tank. I think Kendall Hunter is very interesting. He looks like he is playing at a different speed when he goes in there. I don't know if Gore has lost a step, but there is no running room for him. You can see where Gore is frustrated. Their line is abysmal. It is amazing."
  • On quarterback Alex Smith: "Smith has exceeded my expectations. He does not make a lot of mistakes. You can grind out some wins. I give Jim Harbaugh credit. He is manufacturing offense. It is a real test for Harbaugh because Smith is so limited. I just don’t think he throws the football very well. He is a good athlete, but he is not big and strong, doesn't make difficult throws, doesn't handle the rush real well, doesn't anticipate things real well. But he is smart and I do think he has some ability. I thought Harbaugh could turn him into a serviceable West Coast guy if he is all he is cracked up to be."
  • On the offense overall: "They finally got Vernon Davis involved. They use a lot of double tight end sets. Delanie Walker is a nice player, but too often those guys have had to help the offensive line, especially Davis. I would like to see what the offense can do with both Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree healthy for a game or two. Those guys have obvious inconsistencies, but they also have obvious talent. They might be able to open up room for one another, for Davis, for the run game, make life easier for Smith. Overall, if they turn the ball over, they are done."
  • On the defense: "Their front seven is fantastic. I don't know if everyone knows how good Justin Smith is, but he is one of the 10 best players in the league on defense. Patrick Willis is, to me, the best second-level defender in football. I'm not saying best linebacker because it's not fair to compare him to DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, those guys. But Willis is the best second-level defender and it's not even close. They have two other guys, NaVorro Bowman and Ray McDonald, playing out of this world. Bowman is a big-time find. The 49ers are tough on all down-and-distances. Not only is the nose tackle (Isaac Sopoaga) playing well, but then he comes off the field and Smith and McDonald go inside, and then the outside guys are a handful, too. Aldon Smith has flashed, Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks. I don't love Donte Whitner, but he is an upgrade. They are a corner short even though Carlos Rogers has played very well."

That completes our four-team checkup with Williamson. You can reach him on Twitter as well.

Scout's take: Where Seahawks stand

September, 30, 2011
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., like just about every other football analyst, pulled no punches in assessing the Seattle Seahawks' chances with Tarvaris Jackson as their quarterback.

Back in August, he called Jackson the NFL's worst starting quarterback.

"I still think Tarvaris Jackson is terrible," Williamson said this week after Jackson and the Seahawks claimed their first victory of the 2011 regular season.

But focusing disproportionately on what Jackson offers the team right now should not obscure a fuller analysis. The contracts Seattle has committed to Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst tell us the organization isn't banking on either player for more than what a placeholder would provide -- short-term stability until the team finds a brighter prospect, most likely in the 2012 draft. There is much more going on in Seattle than what is happening at quarterback.

"I like just about everything else," Williamson said. "They have set themselves up big-picture to bring up Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley and make a pretty comfortable transition."

A few additional thoughts from Williamson on the Seahawks coming out of Week 3:

  • [+] EnlargeEarl Thomas and Kam Chancellor
    Charles LeClaire/US PresswireThe Seahawks appear set for the future at the safety position with Earl Thomas, left, and Kam Chancellor.
    On the defense: "Their front seven is dynamite. That defensive line with Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant and that crew is good. They have a lot of pieces in place on defense. Earl Thomas is the real deal -- explosive, fast. He is not Ed Reed, but that is the comparison, a true free safety who covers a ton of ground. Kam Chancellor is almost a linebacker. He's a playmaker, a hitter, an Adrian Wilson type. The two of them complement each other well. They have had a revolving door at linebacker with injuries and the Aaron Curry situation, but they will get that worked out. David Hawthorne is a very good player once he gets healthy. They are a No. 1 corner away on defense."
  • On offensive skill positions: "I like what they did getting the big pass-catchers. I'm a big Sidney Rice fan. My only concern is just team speed. There are no fast guys. That is not the end of the world. Larry Fitzgerald is not the fastest guy, but he is still a deep threat. Sidney Rice can be that type of guy to go over a defensive back and get a 60-yarder. Zach Miller runs well for a tight end. Justin Forsett and especially Leon Washington are really good pass-catchers who can be like a Reggie Bush on the perimeter. Marshawn Lynch is fine. I'm not a real believer. He has not done anything in three years except the one game everyone saw in playoffs. Eventually, you have to upgrade, but that is the easiest position to upgrade. That might be a third-round pick next year."
  • On the offensive line: "It stinks right now, but I tend to think it won’t. Offensive lines take a long time to gain continuity. It is so young. They had no minicamps this year. It is almost unfair to look at the line and expect it to be even average. They are well coached. Russell Okung can be a star, though he has not proved it this year, either. He has taken a ton of penalties, but he can be a franchise left tackle. Robert Gallery will come back. It’s just going to take time."
  • On the quarterbacks: "The position is a mess, but if the guys they have are their second and third guys in the future, that is not so bad. Get a rookie you have something for the long haul."

Back in a bit with Williamson's thoughts on the St. Louis Rams.