The cliché thrown around most often by the NFL talking heads is the fact that all thirty-two teams have an equal shot when the season begins. There have been a number of examples in recent years to support those claims with worst to first scenarios playing themselves out across the league. In 2007 the Miami Dolphins looked inept wining just one game on a fluky overtime catch en route to a 1-15 record and the number one overall draft pick. Just one year later the team went 11-5 and captured that AFC East division crown. The unthinkable can happen and does on a regular basis in the NFL, so let’s take a look at some candidates to make the miraculous turnaround in the 2010 version.
This may not be going out on much of limb, but the San Francisco 49ers had an amazing draft and seem poised to finally get back over .500 for the first time since 2002 when (gulp) Terrell Owens was still a team member. A great deal of their success hinges on the continued maturation of former 1st overall draft pick Alex Smith, but he showed last season that when healthy he can run the offense rather well for Mike Singletary’s Niners. The one thing that the team needs to focus on offensively in 2010 is getting more touches for their grinding running back Frank Gore. Singletary would love to play hard-nosed defense and win low scoring games with a punishing running game all season long.
Playing defense is one area where the Niners have been just fine in recent years with their fixture at linebacker Patrick Willis making plays all over the field. Last month’s NFL Draft allowed the team to snag a playmaking safety that Singletary really likes in Taylor Mays in the second round to add to an already stout unit. San Fran boasted the 6th best rushing defense in the league last season, but their secondary was burned quite regularly ranking 21st in the league against the pass. Even a small improvement in that area can go a long way and with a ball control offense, perhaps opponents won’t have the ball enough to complete many passes against the Niners’ corners and safeties.
In the NFC West division where the Arizona Cardinals have dominated over the last two seasons and the remaining teams have all been mediocre at best, the 49ers have a great chance to get into the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade. No more Kurt Warner for the Cards could mean a big opportunity for the Bay Area to get get back into the postseason conversation. As one of the more proud franchises in league history, it’s always nice to have the teams with a pedigree in the mix come playoff time whether you are cheering for or against them. The more polarizing, the better.
Current: Coming Soon!