The 49ers’ defense were the backbone of the team, with their offense scoring just enough to win. Alex Smith had his best season in the NFL, but there is definite room for improvement. He often shied away from throwing to his wide receivers and opted for tight end and running back targets. His group of wide receivers didn’t do him any favors and the 49ers addressed the position this offseason. Randy Moss and Mario Manningham are now there to help boost San Francisco’s passing attack.
The NFC West looks like it will be weak once again. Can the 49ers take advantage of another down year for the division?
Key Additions: WR Randy Moss, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham, QB Josh Johnson, RB Rock Cartwright, OG Leonard Davis, WR A.J. Jenkins, RB LaMichael James, OG Joe Looney, LB Darius Fleming, WR Chris Owusu, S Trent Robinson, C Jason Slowey and DE Cam Johnson.
Key Losses: WR Josh Morgan, WR Braylon Edwards, LB Blake Costanzo, TE Justin Peele, OG Chilo Rachal, S Reggie Smith, C Adam Snyder, CB Shawntae Spencer and Madieu Williams.
Non-Division Schedule: AFC East and NFC North
Fantasy Sleepers: WR Chris Owusu and RB LaMichael James – Alex Smith had a hard time connecting with his receivers in 2011. He used Vernon Davis and Frank Gore as his crutches and Michael Crabtree would often disappear in games. San Francisco signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss in the off-season, but Signing rookie free agent Owusu was a smart move. He played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and should pick up the offensive system fast. He has looked good in the preseason and if he makes the team, he’ll be a nice pickup in the deepest of leagues. LaMichael James would be a nice player to stash away since Jacobs and Gore have had injury problems in the past. Kendall Hunter will be the primary backup, but James is an explosive, speedy talent to keep and eye on.
Team Analysis: The 49ers were THE surprise team in 2011. They were the “this is the year they finally put it all together” team the last four seasons and it finally happened. Although they did benefit a lot from being in a bad division (AFC West), they had a strong non-divisional record of 8-2. Alex Smith will need to put up some numbers and not be a plain quarterback whose only goal is to not turn the ball over. San Francisco has an embarrassment of riches at running back. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter return with Brandon Jacobs, Rock Cartwright and rookie LaMichael James joining the team this season. Their passing game has some new weapons, but will only be as good as the quarterback whose throwing them the ball. Randy Moss is back in the NFL after a season away from football. He has the same skill-set as newly-signed Mario Manningham, so it will be interesting to see if they use them together. Defense will once again be the backbone of the team. NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith both had breakout seasons with Patrick Willis being his usual self. The secondary benefited from their rush defense and many players had their best season as a pro. I look for the defense to once again be dominant in 2012. I don’t see the 49ers matching their 13-3 record from a season ago. Their non-divisional record is brutal (AFC East & NFC North). They are a playoff team and could lock up a spot early, since the NFC West is looking bad once again.
2012 Wins Over/Under Line: 9 1/2 (Prediction: OVER)
2012 Projected Win/Loss Record: 10-6