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Will the 49ers Return to Glory in 2010?

The 49ers, of course, will win the division this year.  With lofty predictions reaching as high as 12-4, there’s no way the Cardinals can compete, right?  Surely, I jest.  It’s a bit of sarcasm that is in no way meant to deride the author of the article I linked.  My opinion, in fact, is probably in a small minority located around Flagstaff or Phoenix. 

In any event, it’s very hard to imagine the 49ers winning 12 games this season, but it’s even harder to imagine them only losing 4.  Consider that the only non-NFC West teams the Niners beat in 2009 were the Lions, Jaguars, and Bears; all non-playoff teams they played at home.  In fact, 6 of their 8 wins were at home.  The only teams they beat on the road were the Cardinals (1st game of the season) and the Rams (please). 

The 49ers’ non-division opponents this year are New Orleans, Kansas City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland, Carolina, Denver, Tampa Bay, and Green Bay.  Assuming they sweep their division games, I see them beating the Chiefs, Raiders, and Bucs, but the rest of the games are toss ups.  Giving the 49ers the benefit of the doubt in all division games, that’s 9 wins; and that’s being generous.

Moving on to the quarterback issue, it seems to me that Alex Smith and Matt Leinart are basically in the same situation.  They have a relatively equal amount of talent and have had their shares of success and failure.  If a 49ers fan or an analyst is picking on Leinart, there’s no reason for them to feel at all confident about Smith.  The former first rounder (I mean Smith here) has a career 69.2 rating with more interceptions (43) than touchdowns (37) and hasn’t proven that he can lead his team to win any meaningful games.

Why the sudden swell of confidence in Smith?  Maybe it’s because the 49ers drafted Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis to protect him.  There’s little doubt that will help (if not this year then certainly the next), unless those two are busts, which probably isn’t likely.  It won’t, however, turn an average or below average quarterback into a sure fire winner.  Maybe it’s because Michael Crabtree is going to be an elite receiver in 2010, like the “experts” say.  He caught 48 balls in 11 games with 2 touchdowns, which is nice for a rookie effort, but let’s not call him Larry Fitzgerald just yet.

I’ll be the first to admit there are questions surrounding the Cardinals.  Anyone that has read this website would know that I’m quite skeptical about Leinart.  The questions surrounding the Cardinals and the strength of the 49ers as compared to the rest of the league are separate issues in my mind.  The 49ers dominated the Cardinals last season, but couldn’t even get over the .500 mark.  How can you say a team will win 12 games before they’ve beat any real competition or won any games on the road?  I don’t see how two rookie lineman, a rookie safety, a perennial underachiever at QB, and a second year wide out translates to four more victories this year than last.  The rest of the 49ers’ makeup hasn’t changed much.  The 49ers can’t propel themselves past the Cardinals before they’ve stepped foot onto the field, which is where division champions are crowned.  Ask the Cardinals.

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