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No more panicking in S.F.?

That didn't last long. Just four days after the San Francisco 49ers looked a shell of last season's NFC champions, the Bay Area's team traveled to the Midwest, shook off its defensive absences, and thrashed the St. Louis Rams 35-11. Is the crisis over in San Fran? Or are the Rams just that bad?

What do you make of the 49ers' 35-11 win at St. Louis on Thursday night?

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Discuss (Total votes: 117,902)

  • Assuming the Seahawks are best, which is the second-best team in the NFC?

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  • Which is the worst team in the NFC?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 14,026)

  • How many games will the 49ers win this season?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 13,507)

  • When will the Rams next make the playoffs?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 12,549)

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USA TODAY Sports

NFC West Preview -- 2013

The San Francisco 49ers made the Super Bowl last season, thanks in large part to breakout star quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Seattle Seahawks came close, thanks in large part to breakout star quarterback Russell Wilson. Now these two teams take aim at greater heights. Will either reach them?

More: NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West

  • Which team will win the NFC West?

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  • Will an NFC West team reach the Super Bowl this season?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 10,817)

  • Which team is in better shape for the future?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 11,687)

  • Which quarterback would you rather have on your favorite team?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 11,760)

  • Will Larry Fitzgerald return to the Pro Bowl this season?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 10,987)

  • Should Sam Bradford be the Rams' long-term starter at quarterback?

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    Discuss (Total votes: 10,999)

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Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel: offensive linemen, and the first two picks in the 2013 NFL draft. (In case we needed more evidence that the men up front are of paramount importance to football teams.) Now, neither finds himself on the list of top trenchmen -- yet. So until one or both make it, let's sort out the league's best. Click on the images to set your rankings!

NFL offensive linemen

Duane Brown

Duane Brown

T, Texans

Ryan Clady

Ryan Clady

T, Broncos

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis

T, 49ers

Jahri Evans

Jahri Evans

G, Saints

Mike Iupati

Mike Iupati

G, 49ers

Matt Kalil

Matt Kalil

T, Vikings

Ryan Kalil

Ryan Kalil

C, Panthers

Jake Long

Jake Long

T, Rams

Nick Mangold

Nick Mangold

C, Jets

Logan Mankins

Logan Mankins

G, Patriots

Carl Nicks

Carl Nicks

G, Buccaneers

Russell Okung

Russell Okung

T, Seahawks

Maurkice Pouncey

Maurkice Pouncey

C, Steelers

Mike Pouncey

Mike Pouncey

C, Dolphins

Joe Staley

Joe Staley

T, 49ers

John Sullivan

John Sullivan

C, Vikings

Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas

T, Browns

Max Unger

Max Unger

C, Seahawks

Trent Williams

Trent Williams

T, Redskins

Marshal Yanda

Marshal Yanda

G, Ravens

Your Rankings

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In 2012, J.J. Watt nearly unanimously won NFL defensive player of the year, thanks to video-game-on-easy numbers (and, as a result, the success of his Houston Texans). Is the 24-year-old already the best defensive lineman in football? Or will the rest of the pack catch up in 2013? Click on the images below to set your rankings!

Rank 'Em: MVP | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | LBs | DBs | Offensive ROY | Defensive ROY

NFL DLs in 2013

Jared Allen

Jared Allen

Vikings
2012: 45 tackles, 12 sacks, FF

Geno Atkins

Geno Atkins

Bengals
2012: 53 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 4 FF

Elvis Dumervil

Elvis Dumervil

Ravens
2012: 54 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 6 FF

Chris Long

Chris Long

Rams
2012: 33 tackles, 11.5 sacks

Haloti Ngata

Haloti Ngata

Ravens
2012: 51 tackles, 5 sacks

Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers

Bears
2012: 39 tackles, 11.5 sacks, FF

Jason Pierre-Paul

Jason Pierre-Paul

Giants
2012: 66 tackles, 6.5 sacks, FF

B.J. Raji

B.J. Raji

Packers
2012: 26 tackles

Justin Smith

Justin Smith

49ers
2012: 66 tackles, 3 sacks

Ndamukong Suh

Ndamukong Suh

Lions
2012: 35 tackles, 8 sacks

J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt

Texans
2012: 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 FF

Cameron Wake

Cameron Wake

Dolphins
2012: 53 tackles, 15 sacks, 3 FF

DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware

Cowboys
2012: 56 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 5 FF

Vince Wilfork

Vince Wilfork

Patriots
2012: 48 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 FF

Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams

Vikings
2012: 30 tackles, 2.0 sacks

Mario Williams

Mario Williams

Bills
2012: 46 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 FF

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Defense might not be winning championships these days -- the Baltimore Ravens, after all, were fairly middle-of-the-road -- but it certainly doesn't hurt; the Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers had one of the league's best defenses a season ago, as did many of the league's playoff teams. How do the contenders stack up on that side of the ball in 2013? Click on the logos below to set your rankings!

NFL Defenses

49ers

49ers

2012 YPG Rank: 3rd
2012 PPG Rank: 2nd

Bears

Bears

2012 YPG Rank: 5th
2012 PPG Rank: 3rd

Bengals

Bengals

2012 YPG Rank: 6th
2012 PPG Rank: 8th

Bills

Bills

2012 YPG Rank: 22nd
2012 PPG Rank: 26th

Broncos

Broncos

2012 YPG Rank: 2nd
2012 PPG Rank: 4th

Browns

Browns

2012 YPG Rank: 23rd
2012 PPG Rank: 19th

Buccaneers

Buccaneers

2012 YPG Rank: 29th
2012 PPG Rank: 23rd

Cardinals

Cardinals

2012 YPG Rank: 12th
2012 PPG Rank: 17th

Chargers

Chargers

2012 YPG Rank: 9th
2012 PPG Rank: 16th

Chiefs

Chiefs

2012 YPG Rank: 20th
2012 PPG Rank: 25th

Colts

Colts

2012 YPG Rank: 26th
2012 PPG Rank: 21st

Cowboys

Cowboys

2012 YPG Rank: 19th
2012 PPG Rank: 24th

Dolphins

Dolphins

2012 YPG Rank: 21st
2012 PPG Rank: 7th

Eagles

Eagles

2012 YPG Rank: 15th
2012 PPG Rank: 29th

Falcons

Falcons

2012 YPG Rank: 24th
2012 PPG Rank: 5th

Giants

Giants

2012 YPG Rank: 31st
2012 PPG Rank: 12th

Jaguars

Jaguars

2012 YPG Rank: 30th
2012 PPG Rank: 29th

Jets

Jets

2012 YPG Rank: 8th
2012 PPG Rank: 20th

Lions

Lions

2012 YPG Rank: 13th
2012 PPG Rank: 27th

Packers

Packers

2012 YPG Rank: 11th
2012 PPG Rank: 11th

Panthers

Panthers

2012 YPG Rank: 10th
2012 PPG Rank: 18th

Patriots

Patriots

2012 YPG Rank: 25th
2012 PPG Rank: 9th

Raiders

Raiders

2012 YPG Rank: 18th
2012 PPG Rank: 8th

Rams

Rams

2012 YPG Rank: 14th
2012 PPG Rank: 14th

Ravens

Ravens

2012 YPG Rank: 17th
2012 PPG Rank: 12th

Redskins

Redskins

2012 YPG Rank: 28th
2012 PPG Rank: 22nd

Saints

Saints

2012 YPG Rank: 32nd
2012 PPG Rank: 31st

Seahawks

Seahawks

2012 YPG Rank: 4th
2012 PPG Rank: 1st

Steelers

Steelers

2012 YPG Rank: 1st
2012 PPG Rank: 6th

Texans

Texans

2012 YPG Rank: 7th
2012 PPG Rank: 9th

Titans

Titans

2012 YPG Rank: 27th
2012 PPG Rank: 32nd

Vikings

Vikings

2012 YPG Rank: 16th
2012 PPG Rank: 14th

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