NFL Commentary: Will The San Francisco 49ers Be The Team To Beat This Season?
San Francisco 49ers.
NFL football is officially back! Oh how good it feels to be saying that! Week one of the new 2013 season is officially in the books, and there were quite a few interesting plots that took place. Whether it was New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton making his return after a year long suspension, or the Denver Broncos thoroughly routing the defending champion Baltimore Ravens, there was and still is much to talk taking place about in regards to week one.
Even though the season is still new, fans and analyst are already making their picks on what team will be their favorites to win it all this season. I personally feel that it's hard to make any solid conclusions based off of the first week. However, I happen to think last season's runner-up for the Super Bowl crown, the San Francisco 49ers, made a bold statement with their thrilling 34-28 victory over the Green Bay Packers in week one.
Heading into the 2013 season, the 49ers are arguably the favorite to win the NFC West division, with the Seattle Seahawks being considered the only real threat to the Niners. However, on this level of professional sports, all teams are credible, and team can win or be dethroned on any given day. Based on what I've seen in the first week, along with their team setup, I believe the 49ers are going to be the team to beat this season in the NFL. I'm going to point out some things that led me to take this stance.
Week One Vs. The Green Bay Packers.
The 49ers kicked off their 2013 campaign at Candlestick Park with a 34-28 victory against a very tough Green Bay Packers team. 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, completed 27 of his 39 pass attempts for 412 yards, and 3 touchdown passes. The 412 passing yards marked a career high for the 25 year old quarterback, who is beginning his first full season at the helm of the 49ers offense.
What's significant about Kaepernick's performance on Sunday was the way he was able to be effective against a stout Green Bay defense. During the 2012-13 NFL playoffs, Kaepernick, who is an excellent athlete and former baseball player, used his legs to succeed against the Packers defense. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards, which set an NFL single game record for rushing yards by an NFL quarterback. Kaepernick's performance helped in eliminating Green Bay from the playoffs.
However, in week one's victory against the 'Pack", Kaepernick's arm was his weapon of choice this time around. Kaepernick connected with 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin, who was acquired during the off season, 13 times. Boldin topped off his 13 catches with 208 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick also utilized tight-end, Vernon Davis, who recorded six receptions for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Read Option, and Colin Kaepernick Factor.
The 'read option' offense is predominately used by college and high school teams, and was once considered to be rare in the NFL. With the emergence of more mobile quarterbacks, this style of offense is being used more by various teams. The read option style of offense, although effective, hasn't been without it's critics. A lot of people feel that it puts NFL quarterbacks at much more of a risk of being injured, since they are more prone to taking more hits on the run.
Since Colin Kaepernick became the full-time starting quarterback for the 49ers, head coach Jim Harbaugh has implemented and used the read option offense more often, and it's been effective. It's what allowed Kaepernick to have the type of rushing game he did in the playoffs against the Packers, and it was something the Packers obviously remembered and game planned against heading into week one. In week one, Kaepernick wasn't very effective at running the ball against the Packers, and neither were the Niner running backs.
People that follow the NFL are aware that Kaepernick has a strong arm, and isn't afraid to take shots down the field. However, he is also dangerously accurate with his passes as well. Last season when Kaepernick took over replacing Alex Smith, tight-end Vernon Davis got left out in the cold. Davis was Alex Smith's favorite target, mainly because was more of a game managing type of quarterback. The fact that Kaepernick has shown that he not only can beat teams with his legs, but also with his arm makes him a duel threat, and a potential nightmare for defenses. Barring any unforeseen injury to the third year Kaepernick, I don't see him slowing down anytime soon. All the more reason why I think it's going to be difficult for anyone to beat San Francisco.
The San Francisco defense allowed Packers's quarterback Aaron Rodgers to throw for 333 yards, and surrendered 28 points in the victory. The defense also missed key tackles throughout the game; tackles - which at times caused the team to be at risk of losing the game. Despite all of that, the Niners defense still remains one of the most talented and aggressive defenses in the NFL.
Although Rodgers and the Packers receiving corp had success against the 49ers defense, Rodgers seemed very uncomfortable at times. Also, San Francisco(in similar fashion to the Packers), shutdown Green Bay's running game. The 49ers gave up a rushing touchdown to Packers running back Eddie Lacy, but held the rookie to only 41 yards on 14 carries. Also encouraging for the 49ers defense were the two turnovers created on an Eric Reid interception, and a Navarro Bowman forced fumble.
Many of the pieces from last years defense are still in place. The 49ers defense still has their all-pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis, and their pass rushing outside linebacker Aldon Smith. The 49ers also acquired cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who is currently the team's number three cornerback. Asomugha had some rough moments in week one, but should become more acclimated to his role as the year carries on. There is no shame in getting beat down field by a very good Green Bay receiving corp. Don't expect the 49ers defense to give up that many passing yards weekly. This is still an elite defensive unit.
The San Francisco 49ers come into the 2013 season with a schedule that is going to be tough in spurts. Here is a look at their schedule this season.
- Week 1 - Packers(Win)
- Week 2 - Seahawks
- Week 3 - Colts
- Week 4 - Rams
- Week 5 - Texans
- Week 6 - Cardinals
- Week 7 - Titans
- Week 8 - Jaguars
- Week 9 - Bye
- Week 10 - Panthers
- Week 11 - Saints
- Week 12 - Redskins
- Week 13 - Rams
- Week 14 - Seahawks
- Week 15 - Buccaneers
- Week 16 - Falcons
- Week 17 - Cardinals
The NFC West division consists of the 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks. In my opinion, the only legit threat to the 49ers in their division are the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle was considered the NFL's underdog team during the 2012-13 season. They ended up going fairly deep into the playoffs on the momentum of a strong defense, rough and tumble running game, and the progressively good play of then rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson. The Seahawks ultimately ended up losing a very close divisional game to the Atlanta Falcons.
I think that Seattle will be tough for the 49ers to defeat, but I believe the 49ers will beat them at least once this season. When I look at the rest of San Francisco's schedule, I only see three teams that may give them problems besides Seattle. Those teams are the Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, and Atlanta Falcons.
Houston is a run first team, but they fight until the end. This was evident in their come from behind week one victory over the San Diego Chargers. New Orleans have their head coach Sean Peyton back from suspension, and will most likely be clicking on all cylinders offensively this season. The 49ers eliminated the Falcons from the playoffs last season, but the Falcons are still solid this year. Another thing working San Francisco's favor is the majority of the teams they're going to face this season are either run first teams, or have shaky quarterback play.
Team To Beat?
Despite having to face several tough teams this season, I view the San Francisco 49ers as the team to beat this NFL season. The addition of Anquan Boldin, along with Vernon Davis becoming relevant in the passing game again spells trouble for defenses. As I mentioned earlier, barring an injury happening, I don't see Colin Kaepernick slowing down at all. In fact, due to his duel threat abilities, I think it's going to be harder for defenses to scheme against him.
The 49ers rushing attack struggled a bit in week one, but I don't expect Frank Gore to struggle like he did against the Packers the bulk of this season. The emergence of Kendall to complement Gore in the backfield provides a solid change of pace as well. The 49ers defense should remain solid unit it is. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has already addressed the poor tackling issue in week one, and I'm pretty certain that will be corrected.
I'm predicting the San Francisco 49ers to not lose more than three games this season, and I expect them to finish atop the NFC West. I know that the 49ers lost the Super Bowl last season, but I expect them to be a better team than the Baltimore Ravens this year. It's probably rare for a second place team to come into the following season as the league's team to beat. However, I think the Niners have all the weapons to be just that. We'll just have to see how it plays out. It's still a very young NFL season.
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