After losing in the NFC divisional playoffs last season the 49ers have their eyes set on going one step further this season. Can they do it though?
Key Man : Colin Kaepernick
After getting paid in the offseason it is time for Kaepernick to kick on this season and lead the 49ers to a Superbowl triumph. He has come close twice before but come up just short.
There is good reason to think though that third time is the charm. Firstly, Kaepernick is fully fit, unlike last season where he began the year with a niggling foot injury. Secondly, his favourite target Michael Crabtree is fit, again unlike last season. Thirdly, and are you sensing a theme, star tight end Vernon Davis is also fit again.
If Kaepernick can build on his first two years as a starter then Jim Harbough and the 49ers could be celebrating a first year in a new stadium with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Biggest Strength : Running back depth
Well run franchises stack talent in depth and that is what the 49ers have done over the last few years. At running back they have Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde, Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James.
Gore is just short of 10,000 NFL rushing yards and baring season ending injury will get surpass the mark by at least week 2. Carlos Hyde would have been a first round draft pick in any other year but this one. Marcus Lattimore dominated in the SEC and has the potential to do the same in the NFL if he can get fit. Lastly, LaMichael James is a second round pick and super speedy return specialist.
This depth should give the 49ers a rushing attack that never lets up.
Biggest Weakness : Defense
After the 49ers lost in the divisional playoffs last season I never though I'd be saying that San Fransisco's defense was a weakness but a series of suspension and injuries have hit the 49ers hard.
Just read this list of injuried/suspended players:-
Inside Linebacker Navorro Bowman – Injured ACL – return date week 9
Nose Tackle Glenn Dorsey – Torn Bicep – might return for playoffs
Outside Linebacker Aldon Smith – suspended for 9 games
Those three players were three of the 49ers best players on the defense. Navorro Bowman held the middle together. Glenn Dorsey stuffed the run and Aldon Smith supplied the pass rush. Together they combined for 269 tackles and 15.5 sacks. The 49ers are going to struggle to replace those numbers. Especially when the secondary is now dangerously inexperienced with 2013 draft pick safety Eric Reed now being the
longest serving defensive back.
The defense should improve as players return in the second half of the season but for
first nine weeks of the season things could be painful and in the NFC West this could be fatal weakness.
For the last few seasons playing in the NFC West has meant that at least half your games were tough by default. Whilst the NFC West is still one of the toughest in the NFL I do think that the Rams and the Cardinals have regressed slightly this season. This of course makes the 49ers schedule slightly easier especially since there are also matches against the Cheifs, Raiders and the NFC East.
Bottom line even with matches against the Eagles, Broncos and Seahawks to contend with the 49ers should have be able to win 10 to 11 games. They will only be 2nd
in the division though.
Prediction : 11-5