Last year, the 49ers' season was filled with good luck and bad luck (mostly good luck). However, there's no denying the team's talent.
San Francisco made the NFC Championship game in 2011 and had a great chance at winning. Kyle Williams muffed two punts, sending the 49ers home and the Giants on to the Super Bowl (which they would eventually win).
In the previous round, the divisional round, Alex Smith showed what he's all about. Smith threw for and ran for key touchdowns in a span of just over two minutes to give the Niners an amazing win over the Saints, one that officially brought football back to the bay.
Now, they're looking to keep it here.
The 49ers return almost all of their team, and they made some nice free-agent acquisitions as well. Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs and Randy Moss each signed contracts with the team, and the Niners drafted LaMichael James and A.J Jenkins.
Oh, and they've got a pretty good defense too.
Aldon Smith should be ready for Week 1, and he, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis anchor a spectacular group of linebackers. Justin Smith is one of, if not the best, defensive linemen in the game, and Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson are great guys to have in the secondary.
The Niners have a tough schedule. They start the season against the Packers and Lions, two high-scoring teams who made the playoffs last year. The Niners also play the Bears, the Saints, the Giants and the Patriots.
How Far Will the Niners Get In 2012?
However, they're ready for the challenge.
San Francisco beat the Giants and Saints last year, and they've still got six games against the NFC West. The Seahawks and Cardinals have unproven quarterbacks, while there are tons of question marks for the Rams (and they don't have a star quarterback either).
The two "Smiths" will wreak havoc on those three teams twice, and they'll also hurt quarterbacks and running backs who aren't ready to face SF's defense. Overall, San Francisco's defense could carry it to a championship. But, it has talent on offense too.
Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James all have talent at running back, Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss are proven pass-catchers, Vernon Davis is a great tight end and Alex Smith is a capable quarterback. Smith has his doubters, but he's got a great coach in Jim Harbaugh to mold him into a star.
Smith threw the fewest interceptions out of all starting quarterbacks in 2011, and he should keep his interception total down in 2012. Smith is much improved and has received praise from Harbaugh, which should boost his confidence for the 2012 season.
Winning against some teams will be tough, but the Niners are capable of achieving anything this year. They have talent at every position, and they now have a quarterback ready to go. I don't know how far they will get, but I do know this...
2012 will be a successful season for the red and gold.