The 49ers are a shoe-in to win the NFC West, and the juice is set to increase as this truth sinks in.
San Fran finished 8-8 last year in a much more difficult division, and would have finished 9-7 if it weren't for another Brett Favre miracle moment.
An Arizona Cardinal downfall is more than apparent as Kurt Warner retired and Anquan Boldin went bye bye. Fifth-year pro Matt Leinart or Derek Anderson will take over the reigns, which leaves the Cardinals in questionable hands.
Yes, they still have Larry Fitzgerald, but no easy-trigger arm of Warner perfecting the slant route. This could likely lead to an adjustment year for the Cardinals, potentially switching to a run game in the form of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower.
Why the emphasis on the Cards? They should place second in the West even without linebacker Karlos Dansby and the extremely effective cornerback Antrel Rolle. Joey Porter finds another destination after his release from the Dolphins joining the Cards, but he is not getting any younger.
Starting QB Alex Smith has hovered in the 60s for completion percentage throughout his career, but has a quality core of receivers that should only boost his stats. Third-year WR and Virginia Tech alum Josh Morgan is a formidable option if Smith cannot find second-year standout Michael Crabtree or 6'3", 250-pound tight end Vernon Davis, who cashed-in for over 900 yards and 13 TDs last year.
Frank Gore is arguably the best RB in the league along with Steven Jackson, and should have another great year. Gore missed two games last year and still finished 11th in the league with 1,120 yards and ninth in the league with an average of 80 yards per game.
Backup Glen Coffee should be able to contribute when Gore rests a few downs, though coach Mike Singletary wants to see more effort and awareness out of him. If Gore avoids injury woes, this running game will be strong and can neutralize the blitz.
The niners' core of linebackers, including Patrick Willis, who netted 152 tackles last year, and Takeo Spikes help make this defense a force to be reckoned with.
Ever since Singletary began his tenure, the team has played a grittier style on both sides of the ball. They tied for third in the league in the sacks column last year and should be able to net some more this year against the division's young QBs Matt Leinart and Sam Bradford.
Aside from the statistics, the 49ers schedule is one of the easier ones in the league.
It's hard to see them losing to their divisional opponents, particularly the Seahawks and Rams, but let's assume that out of the six division games they win four. Their AFC match-ups are a blessing with Kansas City, Oakland, and Denver on the slate with their most difficult game coming against the Chargers.
They will also get Carolina and Tampa Bay, who finished 8-8 and 3-13 respectively last season.
There are some difficult games, including New Orleans, a visit to Lambeau Field, and a Sunday Night game against Philly in October. The 49ers should be good enough to have a shot at winning any game, and with this schedule, 11-5 seems like a more likely result this season than 9-7.
At minus-155 odds on gambling sites like sportsbook.com, the 49ers are as good as gold. Grab this prop, now because it certainly won't hold steady.
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