I know it is way too early to make these types of predictions, but on paper, writer Don Banks does point out some positives going in the 49ers' direction. Banks recently wrote a piece that named six new teams that would make the playoffs and six teams that will not return this upcoming season.
The 49ers made the list as a new playoff contender with this assessment:
• San Francisco—The 49ers finished the season at 5-2 in their last seven games under interim head coach Mike Singletary, and that's almost always going to earn you chic-pick, team-on-the-rise status heading into the following season. But there is something about Singletary's old school approach that seems to be what the lackadaisical 49ers are in need of. He doesn't seem to suffer fools or sloppiness too well, and those are two things that have not been in short supply in San Francisco for a while now.
Whether or not the 49ers have enough quality quarterbacking to make their first playoff appearance since 2002 remains a question, but let's not lose sight of something here. The NFC West's past three champions have gone 9-7 (Arizona in 2008), 10-6, and 9-7 (Seattle in 2007 and 2006, respectively). So it's not going to take a quantum leap for San Francisco (7-9 last year) to scale that particular mountain.
Such success for the team would come at the Cardinals' expense. The division champions come to part of a trend where Super Bowl losers don't return to the playoffs. With that, it looks like the 49ers are being predicted by at least one person to return to the playoffs.
And with nine wins being enough to win the division, it's not too far-fetched for the 49ers.