(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/G
Last Season: 7-9, 2nd NFC West
GOOD THING GOING; Even though Arizona won the division and ultimately the NFC title, no team in the NFC West played better than the 49ers towards the end of the year.
The Niners finished 2009 winning four of their final five games. Three of those wins came against the Jets, Bills and Redskins.
Two new additons that should upgrade the offense will be new coordinator Jimmy Raye and first-round choice Michael Crabtree. Raye should develop a more balanced offense, with a stronger emphasis in the running game and find ways to get Crabtree the football, especially in the play-action.
PRESENTABLE PROBLEMS: Walt Harris' injury puts a damper on leadership and veteran play in the secondary. Dre' Bly is a solid replacement with his credentials (two pro bowls, a Super Bowl victory), but he was burned too often in Denver.
The Niners have also struggled with finding an identity for the offense over the years. If the offense struggles early, it will not be a good sign for the defense as they could get worn down in games.
CRUCIAL GAME(S): The season opener with Arizona will determine if the 49ers will be an early favorite in the NFC West. The week 14 matchup with the Cards could determine the division. Depending on how well the niners hold up in December, their week 15 contest at Philadelphia could have playoff implications.
WHAT TO BELIEVE IN 2009; There is excitement in the Bay Area. That hasn't happened in a while, not since Steve Young and Jerry Rice wore the red and gold. Mike Singletary has found ways to make his team believe, which became evident towards the end of 2008. If that carries over in 2009, the glory days could be back for the Bay Area.
THE PICK FOR '09: 11-5