As Ray Ratto points out in this morning’s paper, with the Giants 12.5 games out and the A’s 11.5 games behind the Angels (curse those SoCal teams!), it’s about time to look forward to some new things, like the NFL’s hottest sleeper pick, your San Francisco 49ers.
We have to say that we’re quite excited about the upcoming season, particularly since the 49ers are on many experts’ short list of young teams that could make some noise. Of course, the majority of the team’s success will hinge on whether Alex Smith can take that storied “next step,” something that won’t be made easier by the front office’s failure to upgrade at wide receiver. Ashley Lelie and Darrell Jackson were apparently the best wideouts that the brass could swing, so tight end Vernon Davis had better live up to his hype this year.
Especially given last year’s encouraging finale, most people are cautiously optimistic about the Niners, but isn’t that just the nature of the hometown fan?
To whet your NFL appetite, here are some snippets from what the experts are saying about the Niners over at the World Wide Leader:
Dan (Reno, NV): Doug, the Seahawks are small on the defensive line, not great in pass coverage, their star runningback may or may not be 100% and their quarteback is good, but not great. Why should the Seahawks be the favorites in the NFC West with all the additions the 49ers and Cardinals have made?
SportsNation Doug Kretz: Dan.. Good question.. The Seahawks are probably still the best of a relatively weak division so that gives them an immediate advantage. The 49rs are still a year or two away (but building momentum) and the Cards have to prove that they can develop a winning attitude (very important)
Brian (CA): The 49ers defense started to come around at the end of the season. They’ve added several key FA’s and rookies. The niners seem to finally have the personnel to run a legit 3-4. Do you think the unit could be a top 10 defense?
SportsNation Doug Kretz: Brian. Thanks for the question. The 49rs defense IS improving, however they were still a bottom ten team on defense, giving up 344 yards per game. Their new defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky, is a good coach and will do well but they are still a year or two away..
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