George Kittle: 49ers' advantages in undefeated NFC West are defense, run game

The NFC West and the AFC West finished Week 1 undefeated, the first time since the 1970 merger that two divisions are undefeated after Week 1. Since 2002 realignment, only the 2002 AFC West and the 2015 AFC East started 4-0.

The sobering fact from the above stats: Each of those divisions that started 4-0 sent just one team to the playoffs.

Cannibalism will likely reign in the hotly contested divisions.

In the NFC, the West has been a cauldron of battle for years, with different winners the past three seasons and all four teams winning at least once since 2015.

All four clubs impressed in Week 1. Kyler Murray looks like an MVP candidate, while Chandler Jones is the leader for DPOY after five sacks. The Rams got off to a high-flying start in Matthew Stafford’s first game. Likewise, the Seahawks look primed to score points with Russell Wilson in a new-look offense.

As for the Niners, George Kittle broke down where their advantage in the division lies during an interview with ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill & Max show.

“NFC West, we’ve got a lot of [good players] out there,” Kittle said, via 49ers Webzone. “The Cardinals got Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins. You’ve got Chandler Jones, Budda Baker. The Rams have Aaron Donald. That’s pretty good by itself. And the Seahawks are always just bringing it with Russell Wilson. So you’ve got guys everywhere. But at the end of the day, they’ve got to go against our defense in Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead and Fred Warner. We have a lot of guys who can make a lot of plays, and I think our offense is going to continue to keep rolling.

“The one thing that we do better than I think anyone else in our division is run the damn ball. That’s what we’re going to continue to do and be violent, be physical every single week.”

The Niners’ defense looked good early in Week 1 against Detroit before allowing a ferocious comeback attempt with San Francisco in prevent mode. As Bosa and others get further from injury, the defensive line should get even better, but injuries in the secondary offer new questions.

Raheem Mostert going on IR after Week 1 takes some shine off the Niners’ backfield, but Kyle Shanahan has always managed to coax production regardless of who is in the backfield — Steve Slaton, anyone?

Attrition due to injury will likely play a massive role in who comes out on top in the NFC West. The team that can stay the healthiest will have a leg up.

With all four clubs looking like playoff contenders, the division games are sure to be even more exciting than ever, starting with Week 4, when the Niners host the Seahawks and the Rams entertain the Cardinals in a massive afternoon of football.

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