Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the San Francisco 49ers.
In his first three seasons as the 49ers’ head coach, Jim Harbaugh has led the team to three NFC championship games, with one Super Bowl appearance, but has been unable to get the team the elusive Super Bowl title. He’ll try to finish the task this season, but with injuries and suspensions, it may be tough for the team to make another run to the conference championship or beyond.
In his first full season as the starter, QB Colin Kaepernick threw for just 3197 yards and 21 touchdowns, but that doesn’t tell the full story with him; he also added 524 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Those rushing numbers put him second on the team, behind only RB Frank Gore, who ran for 1128 yards and nine touchdowns. Kaepernick’s top receiver was WR Anquan Boldin, who had 1179 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with the team. TE Vernon Davis had 830 receiving yards with 13 touchdowns while WR Michael Crabtree added 284 yards in an injury-plagued season that limited him to just five games. The team did well defensively, ranking third in the league in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed.
With the offensive core returning, including a healthy Crabtree, the offense shouldn’t be a problem for the team this year, but the defense could be. Still recovering from an injury suffered in last year’s conference championship game, LB NaVorro Bowman will miss at least the first six weeks of the season after being placed on the physically unable to perform list and will likely miss longer than that. LB Aldon Smith will miss the season’s first nine games after being suspended for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy, and DT Ray McDonald faces a possible suspension over his recent arrest for domestic violence. The 49ers kick off their season on the road against the Cowboys before playing their first regular-season game at their new stadium in week two when they host the Bears. The schedule also includes road games against the Broncos and Saints and a final three-game stretch against the Seahawks, Chargers and Cardinals that could cause problems for the 49ers if they’re fighting for a playoff spot in the stretch run.