Call it surprising, but if I said Vernon Davis or Patrick Willis to some people, they would look at me with a blank stare.
Why? Because the 49ers haven't made the playoffs for quite a few years, and the best way to get known is playing in the months of January and February.
In fact, 2010 is the year in which the 49ers turn the table and take over an NFC West division that is looking for a new leader.
However, you lost both Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby, and didn't make any improvements to a defense that couldn't stop any offense in the playoffs. Add to that the departure of Kurt Warner, which leaves Matt Leinart to run your team.
San Francisco has the pieces within their division to emerge as the favorite. The offense upgraded the offensive line through the draft, selecting Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati.
Vernon Davis continues to grow into the top 10 selection for which the the 49ers hoped, being the biggest target on the offense.
Second-year receiver Michael Crabtree played well enough having missing a good portion of the season—including training camp—due to the holdout. He should stand out as another weapon for Alex Smith.
Speaking of Alex Smith, he is going to play for a contract the next few years.
He will have confidence knowing that he is the starter, and it is up to him to redeem himself after being a big disappointment for a No. 1 overall pick.
Also remember the young, improving defense of the 49ers, which is becoming a physical one under Mike Singletary.
Patrick Willis may arguably be the best linebacker in the game and continues to prove it each and every season.
Right now, there are no controversies regarding contract, with many of their stars being locked up this offseason.
The 2010 season may be the beginning of San Francisco's reign in the division. It is time for the 49ers to make another step towards being a contender in the NFC, and making the playoffs needs to be a guarantee this upcoming year.
Matt Miselis is an NFL Featured Columnist for BleacherReport.com.
Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/MattMiselis