They used to be a staple of the postseason and a perennial division favorite, but the San Francisco 49ers have spent recent years watching the playoffs from their couches. The Niner faithful have never stopped believing in their team’s ability to make it to the playoffs, which has led to many seasons of heartbreak. But this year all that faith may pay off; with a new coach, some key draft acquisitions, and a weak schedule, the Niners are poised to make a serious run this season and enter the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Head coach Mike Singletary, who took over after the firing of Mike Nolan, may be the most important difference in this San Francisco team. Though Coach Singletary’s 5-4 record last year may not seem that impressive at first glance, keep in mind that the team was 2-5 when he took over. Furthermore, the Niners ended the season winning 5 of their last 7 games, by far the hottest team in the NFC West and one of the hottest in the league. If anything close to that level of production can be sustained throughout a full year of Singletary as head coach, the Niners should have no problem making the playoffs.
The NFL draft was good to the 49ers, very good. With the Raiders horrible choice of Darrius Heyward-Bey at 7, the 49ers were lucky enough to get arguably the first or second most talented player in the draft with the number 10 choice. The pick up of Michael Crabtree could be one that has an instant impact on the 49ers season. Crabtree is an extremely skilled playmaker and is the kind of receiver that the 49ers desperately needed; a go-to down field option. The choice of Glen Coffee also helps to put some depth in the running back position, which should fit very well with Coach Singletary’s play style.
The NFC west is, to be honest, terrible, and as a result the 49ers have a fairly easy schedule this year. St. Louis is simply bad; it would be a surprise if they won anything more than 4 games this season. Seattle had a few good draft pickups, but they are still far from being rebuilt into a playoff contender. The Cardinals, though they did make it to the super bowl, still have sizeable holes in their roster and are not expected to have the same level of success this year. The six games versus division opponents should all be easily winnable, and a couple more wins against more difficult but fairly beatable opponents should be enough to earn the 49ers a 10-6 record and a division title.
With an easy schedule and plenty of talent, the 49ers under their new head coach should have a great chance of making it to the playoffs this year. They still have fairly weak offensive and defensive lines, a shortcoming they will have to overcome, but with the level of toughness and effort that Coach Singletary demands, they should be able to move the chains and get plenty of wins.