This is the year, I know it has been a while, and some of you may have started to lose hope that it would ever happen again, but the time has come. The 2009 season will be the year that the 49ers finally make it back to the playoffs. You might ask yourself how it’s possible; well there are three simple reasons: the Arizona Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams, and the Seattle Seahawks. The NFC West is a terrible division, arguably the worst in football, meaning it can be easily won by an improved San Francisco team.
The St. Louis Rams might as well be centuries removed from being “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Their defense allowed 46 touchdowns last year, while their offense only scored 19. They ended the season 2-14 and were ranked 31st in the league in both points scored and points allowed. There isn’t really any bright spot in the Rams’ future, they picked up a great offensive tackle in Jason Smith, but they are still far too weak on both sides of the ball to have any chance at taking a division or even being a .500 team.
The Seattle Seahawks have been a relatively good team in recent years, but after a Super Bowl appearance in the 2005 season, their last 3 years have been fairly disappointing, as happens so often to Super Bowl losers. Their 13-3 season in 2005 has led to increasingly bad regular season records, finally ending with last season’s abysmal 4-12 record. This year Seattle looks like a better team, if they manage to stay healthy, but the pickup of Aaron Curry won’t be enough to cure Seattle’s defensive woes and make them a playoff contender.
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off an amazing postseason run as the NFC Champions, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Super Bowl losers tend to do badly after having lost the big game and Arizona wasn’t that good a team to begin with. I’m not trying to take anything away from what they did last year, but they really weren’t a Super Bowl contender coming into the playoffs; their postseason was just a case of a team getting hot at the right time. During the regular season they were not at all impressive, having only a 9-7 record and being one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Their running attack is underpowered and their offense may suffer with the continued unhappiness of star receiver Anquan Boldin. Though they should still be much more formidable than other teams in the division, I expect the Niners to win both head to head match-ups with the Cardinals.
There are many elements this year that will factor into the 49ers making it to the playoffs, but none may be more important than the other teams within their division. The benefit of being in the NFC West should be enough to propel this 49ers team, which is still in the stage of rebuilding, to the top of their division and into a spot in the playoffs.