SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
2013 Record: 12-4-0
Key Additions: OL Jonathan Martin; S Antoine Bethea; CB Chris Cook; WR Stevie Johnson; QB Blaine Gabbert; WR Brandon Lloyd.
Key Losses: RB Anthony Dixon; WR Mario Manningham; CB Carlos Rogers; S Donte Whitner; CB Tarell Brown.
HEAD COACH: Jim Harbaugh
Offense: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick leads the way on offense and can hurt defenses with his arm or his legs. Kaepernick passed for 3,197 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions as well as rushing for 524 yards (5.7 ypc average) and scored four touchdowns. Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson will backup.
Veteran Frank Gore went for over 1,000 rushing yards once again last year (1,128, 4.1 ypc and nine TD) and will be the primary back again, especially with top backup Kendall Hunter appearing to be lost this season with a knee injury early on in training camp. LeMichael James and rookie Carlos Hyde (Ohio State) will be ready when needed.
The receivers are led by Michael Crabtree, who missed a big portion of last season with injuries and caught 19 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown. Anquan Boldin (85 receptions, 1,179 yards, seven TD) is the other starter and a primary target for Kaepernick. The tight end is Vernon Davis, who snared 52 catches for 850 yards (16.3 ypc) and 13 touchdowns.
Others in the mix for the 49ers this year include Stevie Johnson (52, 597, three TD with Buffalo), Jon Baldwin, rookie Bruce Ellington (South Carolina) and Quinton Patton. Vance McDonald is the backup tight end.
The O-line has Dan Kilgore at center with Mike Iupati and Alex Boone at guard. The tackles are Anthony Davis and Joe Staley.
STATS - The 'Niners need to pick it up this season after finishing 24th overall on offense (324 yards per game), especially in the passing game, where they averaged a paltry 186 yards per game. The running game is solid, finishing third in the NFL with an average of 138 yards per game. San Francisco finished 11th in scoring, averaging 25 points a game.
Defense: This is the strength of the team no doubt after finishing fifth overall in the league, giving up 317 yards per game. The run defense is solid with Glenn Dorsey at nose tackle and Ray McDonald and Justin Smith (6.5 quarterback sacks) at the ends in the 3-4 set.
The linebacking has Ahmad Brooks (8.5 QB sacks) and Aldon Smith (8.5 sacks) on the outside with NaVorro Bowman (five sacks and two interceptions, including one brought back for a score) and Patrick Willis inside. Providing backup in the front seven will be Ian Williams, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Dan Skuta, Chris Borland, Corey Lemonier and Michael Wilhoite.
The secondary features Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock (five INT, one for TD) at the corners with Eric Reid (four picks) and Antoine Bethea at the safety spots. Rookie Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois) was taken in the first round and along with Chris Cook (free agent signee from Minnesota Vikings) will be counted on as well.
STATS - The 49ers can stuff the run, witness their fourth ranked defense that allowed just 96 rushing yards per game. The pass defense also shined last year, giving up 221 yards per game, which was seventh overall. San Francisco finished fifth in the league in total defense and third in points allowed, giving up just 17 points per game. The 'Niners had 38 QB sacks and intercepted 18 passes while getting 30 turnovers for a plus-12 in the turnover category.
OUTLOOK: The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks will square off twice in the final five weeks of the season and those games will likely decide the NFC West division title as well as home field advantage for the NFC Playoffs.
A lot can happen during the course of a season, but the 'Niners appear ready and loaded once again with Kaepernick and company on offense and a stellar defense that ranks right up there with the best of them.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh saw his team take a step backward last season after reaching the Super Bowl two years ago and wants to get back there and win it this time around.
The NFC West is one of the toughest divisions in the league and to win it, the 49ers will have to control their own destiny as they seek to get the home field this post-season.
Barring any major injuries to key players, there is no reason to think this team can't go all the way and perhaps win the Super Bowl. First things first though as a 12-4 record appears likely this year. From there, it's up to the team to perform and come through once the playoffs begin if they want to achieve their goal of winning it all.
Week 1- at Dallas
Week 2- vs. Chicago
Week 3- at Arizona
Week 4- vs. Philadelphia
Week 5- vs. Kansas City
Week 6- at St. Louis
Week 7- at Denver
Week 8- BYE WEEK
Week 9- vs. St. Louis
Week 10- at New Orleans
Week 11- at NY Giants
Week 12- vs. Washington
Week 13- vs. Seattle
Week 14- at Oakland
Week 15- at Seattle
Week 16- vs. San Diego
Week 17- vs. Arizona