2012 San Francisco 49ers Season Outlook
The San Francisco 49ers surprised everyone, including the ‘experts’, with their rise to the top of the NFC West, 13-3 regular season record and #2 spot in the NFC, epic victory over the New Orleans Saints, and ultimately a devastating loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champions the New York Giants.
Can a team that had the second best record in the NFC, had the #1 run defense that allowed a shade over 77 yards per game and gave up only 3 rushing touchdowns (the least amount since the NFL went to 16 games) and had a +28 turnover differential get better?
The answer…Yes.* But how?
*For those that know me, know that I have this weird, obsessive, undying love for the 49ers, but, if you understand that, then you know I’m very grounded with my homersexuality for them, so don’t take this with a grain of salt…or do, I don’t really care, just keep reading.
The one glaring weakness the 49ers had all year –which directly lead to the loss to the Giants — was the 3rd down and red-zone efficiency, or lack thereof. The 49ers were terrible all year and that was the reason they lost, not Kyle Williams two fumbles, although that didn’t help. The 49ers starting wide receivers against the Giants were Michael Crabtree (1 catch, 3 yards), Kyle Williams (0 catches), Brett Swain (0 catches). I know math isn’t everyones strong point so let me add that up for you, the starting wide receivers for the 49ers — the creators of the West Coast Offense — had 1 catch for 3 yards…I’ll repeat that ONE CATCH FOR THREE YARDS! (and they still should’ve won).
How did the Niners rectify this? They went out in free agency to sign Randy Moss, probably the most physically gifted wide receiver of all-time, to a low-risk high-reward non-guaranteed contract. Are the 49ers getting the Moss of the New England Patriot days? Hell no. But if they can get a guy that can still run, and take the top off a defense, even if he’s just a decoy — which means you can’t double team Vernon Davis or put an extra man in the box to stop Frank Gore — then he’ll be a contributor. Next, the 49ers signed Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, another speed guy, to be the #3 receiver on a rebuilt wide receiver corp and the 49ers used their 1st round pick on AJ Jenkins…seeing a theme here?
The 49ers lacked speed at almost every skill position on offense so they signed two speed wide receivers to compete for starting position, drafted a speedy receiver of the future. Oh, and they drafted LaMichael James to be their Darren Sproles of the offense with the second round pick. The 49ers identified their one glaring weakness and tried to make it a strength.
Let’s not forget this was a team that, after a lengthy lockout last year, hired a new Head Coach, installed a new offense and defense, and had about two weeks to do that, with much maligned Alex Smith as their starting quarterback. I thought going 6-10 would’ve been fanfreakingtastic (I love being wrong sometimes).
But what bout the strength of the team? The Defense. The 49ers statistically had a Top-3 Defense, but realistically they were the best defense in the NFL. The 49ers have the best front-7 in the league, and are returning all 11 starters on defense, had the best run defense in the NFL (teams just stopped running on them), and had a league high +28 turnover differential. Aldon Smith, the phenomenal rookie, will take over at OLB this year for Parys Haralson. Smith recorded 14.0 sacks last year – one sack shy of breaking the rookie sack record — and he only played 48% (!) of the snaps last year. Math lesson #2 – if he played double that he would’ve had 28.0 sacks last year (clearly not realistic, but still). The resigning of the OLB on the opposite side of Smith, Ahmad Brooks, the best corner on the team, Carlos Rodgers, and franchising Dashon Goldson, solidified the best defense in the NFL for at least one more year.
Now the 49ers may not go 13-3 or better this year, the schedule is pretty ridiculous, they face the top six passing teams in the NFL, but this team should be better and are clearly a Super Bowl contender.
*I even went this whole blog post without questioning 49ers QB Alex Smith, just shows what a good coach can do for someone.
Here is my prediction for the San Francisco 49ers record:
1: @ Green Bay Packers – L
2. Detroit Lions – W
3. @ Minnesota Vikings – W
4. @ New York Jets – W
5. Buffalo Bills – W
6. New York Giants – L
7. Seattle Seahawks – W
8. @ Arizona Cardinals – W
10. St. Louis Rams – W
11. Chicago Bears – W
12. @ New Orleans Saints – L
13. @ St. Louis Rams – W
14. Miami Dolphins – W
15. @ New England Patriots – L
16. @ Seattle Seahawks – L
17. Arizona Cardinals – W
11 – 5. NFC West #1.
What do you guys think?