San Francisco 49ers on the Rise? I Think So

Hazen VennardContributor IMay 26, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 21: Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a victory against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The 49ers beat the Rams 17-16.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

It has been a long time since the San Francisco 49ers have been favorites to win the NFC West, but this year they will strive to regain their dominance in the division.

With Mike Singletary cracking down, look for the 49ers to dominate the run game with Pro-Bowl running back Frank Gore. Last year, Gore rushed for 1,036 yards on 240 attempts and six touchdowns. 

The 49ers look to strengthen their offensive line by signing offensive tackle Marvel Smith. The offensive line gave up a league high of 55 sacks, which was nothing to write home about. 

Catching lightning in a bottle, Michael Crabtree fell to the 49ers with the 10th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. 

With the running game looking to be the dominant part of the 49ers; offense, it should be able to open the passing game for quarterbacks Shaun Hill or Alex Smith, depending on who impresses Singletary during training camp this summer.

Veteran wide receiver Issac Bruce is back for at least one more year; look for him to help fellow WRs Josh Morgan and Crabtree. If Morgan can stay healthy, I think he could impress a lot of people, since his speed can give defensive backs problems.

Patrick Willis is the heart and sole of the 49ers defense. The thing about him is, he found a way to dominate the NFL as a rookie and keeps improving and showing no signs of slowing down. 

Willis has impressed many teams with his strength and speed, and to me, is looking like one of the best middle LBs in the NFC.

If the 49ers' DBs can stay healthy, it could be a pretty exciting season for the defense. 

After losing Walt Harris for the season due to a torn ACL, the 49ers wasted no time in signing veteran DB Dre' Bly, who has been great in his career, (though showing signs of age), but will fit in perfectly as the second DB behind Nate Clements.

How will the 49ers finish? I predict the 49ers will win the NFC West and finish with a regular season record of 9-7. 

The Arizona Cardinals will finish second with a record of 8-8, and next will be the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams, at 6-10.

The 49ers are a long way from being who they once were 15 years ago, but you have to start somewhere, and this is going to be an exciting year for the San Francisco 49ers.