CBS 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “Gameday” every Sunday night at 11:30pm and offers his unique sports analysis here.

San Francisco (CBS 5) – Jim Harbaugh yackin’ it up with the media? It’s amazing what a 3-1 record and a two-game lead in a division can do. The universal assumption was that Harbaugh would turn this thing around. But now? This fast? Welcome to the NFC Worst where one glance at the schedule combined with continued improvement in the San Francisco 49ers’ offense virtually guarantees an NFC West crown. In the pre-season, Kim Coyle was trying to shed a little light into Harbaugh, the person. The coach would have nothing to do with it. In his words, “we’re not peeling back the onion here.” Today, the onion had few skins left after Harbaugh revealed part of his history dating back to a small house in which he shared a room with his brother. Certainly not earth-shattering material, but I think Harbaugh is discovering its ok to share a little bit about who he is, where he came from and what makes him tick. By the way, Harbaugh gave up his first-class seat to fly home with his players in coach. It seemed like the blue collar thing to do. And if you’re wondering, center Jonathon Goodwin took Harbaugh’s seat.

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I hear it so often I cringe at the cliché. It’s the first sound byte I tell my producers to kill. “We cannot afford to turn the ball over.” But as much as I disdain the refrain, the wisdom cannot be denied. The 49ers are 3-1 because they are an NFL-leading plus-8 in the turnover category. The reason is a conservative offense and a defense that is one pass rusher away from being the best in the league. I recall Bill Walsh’s genius when he stole Fred Dean in mid-season from the San Diego Chargers. Is there a pass-rusher supreme that might be available? If I’m Trent Baalke, that’s the card I play. By the way, can the Indianapolis Colts really rank 28th in the league in sacks with Dwight Freeney in the line-up? Just asking.

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So now comes an early-season showdown at Candlestick. The 3-1 Bucs versus the 3-1 49ers. Alex Smith is suddenly NFL worthy. His 97.7 QB rating ranks 8th in the NFL. (ahead of names like Romo, Vick, Rivers, and Freeman) There are three quarterbacks who have thrown just one interception: Sam Bradford, Kerry Collins, and Alex Smith. Harbaugh has arrived. It appears a quarterback is right behind.

One fact that flew under the radar: The Oakland Raiders actually tied the 49ers in TV ratings on Sunday. That NEVER happens. Proof that interest was back and that a victory over New England would be a box office bonanza for the rest of the season. Oops. The not quite ready for Prime Time Raiders flopped in the team’s biggest game since Super Bowl Sunday in 2002. And someone’s gotta tell Hue to drop the bully lingo. It perpetuates the penalty problem that seems to be a direct correlation to the teams’ losses. How does the Richard Seymour get called for two stupid penalties on New England’s opening drive? Who wasn’t screaming at Seymour to drop his bear hold on Brady? Yea, but man, what a bully he was. Ridiculous.

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Dennis O'Donnell