Projected Record: 12-4
NFC West Rank: 1st
Last year, the 49ers came so close to winning it all with a second year QB and a forceful defense. They’ll look to comeback even stronger this season. San Francisco is probably the most complete team in the NFL on both sides of the ball. They bolstered their defense with some notable additions, which adds to an already talented bunch. They also drafted an RB, who could potentially prove to be a starter or be included in a dynamic combo with primary RB Frank Gore. Therefore, the Niners can definitely win their division despite the competitive Seattle Seahawks.
QB Colin Kaepernick got his break in the middle of last season after former #1 overall draft pick, Alex Smith went down with a concussion. And ever since then, Coach Jim Harbaugh has used him as the starter. Unfortunately for Smith, the only thing he did to lose his starting job was get a concussion. Alex Smith walked this offseason and joined the Kansas City Chiefs, which will prove to be a wise career move. He wouldn’t have earned his starting job back with the way Colin Kaepernick has been playing. Kaepernick is blessed with size, athleticism, and a mental acuity that is rare for young quarterbacks. Kaepernick’s primary target last season, Michael Crabtree required surgery this offseason for an achilles injury and is on the PUP list, which means he’ll be out for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. Crabtree led the team last season in receptions (85) and receiving yards (1105). Generally, it would be a huge blow to a team if they lost their leading receiver. But, the 49ers are fortunate to have so many options that it won’t sting as much. The Niners traded this offseason for WR Anquan Boldin, who led the Ravens last year in receptions and receiving yards. Since Crabtree’s health is in question, Boldin will most likely be the primary receiver in the offense for at least the first half of this upcoming season. TE Vernon Davis is one of the best tight ends in the league, but is willing to play as a receiver. Yet, he’ll be most effective when he’s used to block for Kaepernick and their rushing attack and less frequently as a throwing target.
Additionally, their rushing attack has been heightened this offseason even though their rushing game was already among the league’s best (4th in total rushing yards). They drafted Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and he can make a potent one-two combo with veteran halfback Frank Gore. He dropped off in this year’s draft because of injury concerns at South Carolina. They also have a young and explosive RB in LaMichael James who could have a big season if Lattimore isn’t ready. In addition to James, the Niners have Kendall Hunter on their depth chart, who rushed for 371 yards last season. None of this is even taking into account their second leading rusher last season, Colin Kaepernick who had 415 yards on just 63 carries. To make matters more impressive, he managed to attain these statistics in just 13 games and only 7 of which he started. Clearly, neither the passing game nor rushing attack are a cause of concern for them but rather something opposing defenses should be worried about.
On the defensive side of the ball, their team is loaded at just about every position on the field. They acquired former Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha who was released by the Eagles after two mediocre seasons. He recently earned the 3rd cornerback spot on the depth chart. Asomugha, a top tier cornerback just three years ago, had to fight for a position on the roster. He’s right below CB Tarell Brown and CB Carlos Rodgers. Their secondary also consists of safety Donte Whitner, who made a Pro Bowl appearance last season. San Francisco has easily the best set of linebackers in the NFL, which includes Pro Bowlers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith. Smith had a whopping 19.5 sacks last season, 2nd in the NFL only behind JJ Watt. DT Justin Smith also made the Pro Bowl. The monstrous defensive tackle helped the rushing defense throughout all of last season which stood at 4th in the NFL. The 49ers allowed only 17.1 point-per-game last season which accounted for 2nd best in the NFL and 2nd best in their division, both times behind the Seahawks.
Evidently, this team is stacked on both fronts with Pro Bowlers scattered throughout their roster. Although I sincerely believe that they can do better than 12-4, there is no definitive way of saying that they will even go 4-2 in their own competitive division. Last year, they were blown out once by the Seahawks and held a 0-1-1 record against the Rams. Thats right, the Rams tied the 49ers. Despite the 49ers immense amount of talent, they have their own off days. Still, the 49ers are my Super Bowl favorites because there are too many upsides to argue against.