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Today: The San Francisco 49ers
Last Year: 12-4 (2nd place in NFC West, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Thank god I’m not a 49ers fan. I don’t mean any disrespect. The Niners have been light-years better than my Bears for the past three seasons. Hell, two years ago, the Niners beat the Bears to a bloody pulp. But, still, I’m incredibly thankful to not be a 49ers fan. Why? Because I couldn’t handle all the heartbreak.
Here is how the past three seasons have ended for the 49ers:
- Muffed punt in OT in the NFC Championship Game
- Incomplete pass on fourth and goal in the Super Bowl
- Interception in the end zone in the NFC Championship game
In the last three seasons, the Niners have lost two NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl, all by a combined 12 points. I understand it must rock, having a team that is always contending for a championship. But, all that heartbreak would’ve killed me by now. I’m in awe of all you Niners fans.
Last season, the Niners cruised to a 12-4 record, mainly due to their fifth-ranked defense. Unfortunately, playing in the NFC West means dealing with the Seahawks, who bested the Niners’ 12-4 record with a 13-3 record. The Niners made the postseason, but, because of their 12-4 record, surrendered home-field advantage to the Hawks, which would prove to be costly in the NFC Championship Game.
For all the hype that surrounded Colin Kaepernick before the season, San Francisco’s quarterback often looked like a rookie. Wait a minute, that’s because he basically was a rookie. Kaepernick only started seven regular games in his career prior to the 2013 season. So, while Kaepernick’s passing numbers were a bit lackluster, it’s certainly understandable. Plus, for all of his struggles through the air, Kaepernick still has the ability to do this, whenever it pleases him to do so.
I will say this about the Niners: you guys have my favorite coach not named Marc Trestman. Some people hate Jim Harbaugh. I love the dude, mainly because he resembles me when I’m playing a game of Madden.
He also managed to piss off Jim Schwartz once upon a time.
This guy is my hero.
Last Year’s Stud: NaVorro Bowman
He’s the team’s best defender — maybe its best player. Bowman brought in a 23.9 score from Pro Football Focus, led the team in tackles with 145 total, had five sacks, and hauled in two interceptions. Which, of course, makes his injury in the NFC Championship Game much more devastating. He’s most likely out until mid-season while he recovers from a torn ACL.
Runner-up: Aldon Smith (for his performance on the field, not off of it, obviously)
Last Year’s Surprise: Anquan Boldin
He’s 33 and almost single-handedly carried the team’s passing offense last season. Boldin was responsible for 35% of his team’s receptions and 37% of his team’s receiving yards.
Runner-up: Tramaine Brock
Last Year’s Disappointment: Colin Kaepernick
Again, he’s basically only played a season and a half, so I’m not condemning him as a below-average passer just yet. But, considering all the offseason hype, Kaepernick underwhelmed in the passing department. He posted a 58.4 completion percentage. Not what you would call the greatest quarterbacking ever, Jaws. Yes, he averaged an impressive 7.7 yards per attempt and threw only eight interceptions, but Kaepernick still has a ways to go within the pocket.
Runner-up: Michael Crabtree
My favorite pick of the Niners’ draft has got to be Carlos Hyde. Frank Gore could start wearing down in the near future, and Hyde is a player who can come in immediately and contribute. He’s gifted as both a runner and a pass catcher, and should compliment Gore nicely in the Niners’ run-heavy offense. That might mean less fantasy value for both Gore and Hyde, but that should lead to more success in real-world football.
Other notable pick: Jimmie Ward
This Year’s Stud: Patrick Willis
With Bowman out for a while, Willis becomes the team’s best linebacker.
Runner-up: Vernon Davis
This Year’s Surprise: Bruce Ellington
He’s extremely versatile and should have more value than most sixth-round picks. Oh, and there’s already reports hinting that Ellington is going to be a contributor this season.
Runner-up: Stevie Johnson
This Year’s Disappointment: Brandon Lloyd
He’s 33 and is expected to miss a couple of weeks with an injury. At this point, I’m not even sure we can assume Lloyd is a lock to make the roster.
Runner-up: Blaine Gabbert
Draft early: Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree
Good value in the middle rounds: Defense (mid-late rounds), Vernon Davis
Don’t draft: Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde
What Vegas Is Saying (LVH Sports Book): 10.5 wins
What We’re Saying: 10-6 (2nd place in NFC West)
Like the Seahawks, I have the Niners finishing at 10-6. Even if the Niners don’t win the West, they should end up in the postseason via the Wild Card.
A couple of concerns I have for this team:
- Bowman’s injury
- Aldon Smith’s situation
- The secondary
Yeah, I’m not really that concerned about this team. I’m pretty sure they got worse on defense — mainly due to the loss of Bowman and Smith — but I think they’ve improved offensively. Stevie Johnson should fit in nicely alongside Crabtree, Boldin, and Davis. And, adding Hyde to the running mix gives them an extra gear.
Of course, all of this might be bad news for Niners fans. It certainly has the potential to lead to even more heartbreak and misery. The good news for the rest of us? If it does lead to heartbreak, we’ll have an abundance of angry Jim Harbaugh GIFs to sort through.
End note: I wrote this while sitting across from two Niners fans. So if there’s no NFL Preview on Tuesday, you know why…
[genericon icon=twitter] Follow Sean Wagner-McGough on Twitter @seanjwagner