The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a terrific season… but also the first Super Bowl loss in the history of a proud franchise. The 49ers will try to reduplicate everything about last season… except the final step. They enter the season among the Super Bowl favorites on the NFL betting odds.
Best Offseason Move:
The 49ers’ best offseason move is not hard to identify. The team’s ability to land wide receiver Anquan Boldin was a masterstroke, one that should keep the 49ers ahead of the curve in the NFC West and the NFL at large. San Francisco might be the reigning Super Bowl champion if not for Boldin, who dominated the 49ers’ smaller cornerbacks in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans this past February. Boldin’s ability to win jump balls in traffic – a combination of his leaping ability and his power in a fighting contest against a defensive back – enabled Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco to make low-percentage throws, knowing that his receiver could bail him out. What might have seemed like foolishness on the surface was actually a smart strategy by Flacco and the Ravens – they knew they had the kind of receiver who would win more battles than he’d lose.
With Boldin now on the 49ers’ roster, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a target he can really trust in difficult situations. The Seattle Seahawks – who are San Francisco’s main competitor in the NFC West – struggled with pass defense last season. Boldin, who used to play against the Seahawks when he performed for the Arizona Cardinals a number of seasons ago, is going to give San Francisco a leg up on Seattle in the most anticipated divisional battle in the NFC this season.
Worst Offseason Move:
The 49ers picked up cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha from the Philadelphia Eagles. Few cornerbacks performed worse than Asomugha did in Philly this past season. Asomugha was part of the group of free agents that was supposed to make the Eagles an NFL betting contender, but he flopped in the City of Brotherly Love. San Francisco seems to be a bit hubristic in its belief that it can make (or re-make) Asomugha into a quality cover corner again. This seems like a move based not on sound football judgment and instincts, but on speculation and the hope that a so-so player can find a fresh start in his career. The Niners are groping desperately here, and this doesn’t look good for them… not in the same division as Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
How They’ll Finish In The Division:
The 49ers know that the St. Louis Rams have improved in the NFC West, and they know that the Seattle Seahawks will pose a supreme challenge this season. Yet, the 49ers have an elite coach, Jim Harbaugh, who will give them a winning edge and keep them half a step in front of the Seahawks. San Francisco remains the team to beat in the NFC. At the very least, the 49ers will win the NFC West and get a first-round bye in the playoffs. San Francisco went 13-3 when it won its first Super Bowl title in the 1981-’82 season. One could see the same scenario playing out this year in the City By The Bay. There’s just too much talent on this team, and Kaepernick is only going to get better as an NFL quarterback.
Super Bowl Odds: +400