Last year, the San Francisco 49ers ran away with the NFC West Division with a record of 13-3. I'm not too scared of the 49ers this year because they played almost a perfect season and only managed to get to the NFC Championship before their luck ran out. Consider that their defense did not allow a rushing touchdown until what, the last game of the season? How likely are they to repeat that feat?
Also, consider that Patrick Willis was the only starter on offense, defense and special teams who lost significant playing time due to injuries. He missed out on three games. I think it is highly unlikely that the injury bug won't be making a detour when flying towards Candlestick Park again.
Also consider that underachieving Alex Smith actually had a decent season. Mr. Interception Per Game for his career before 2011 only threw 5 picks last year which was a huge improvement and he hit the 90 passer rating for the first time in his career. In my opinion, it was an almost perfect season for him too and I doubt he can repeat that feat this year also. Will the entire 49er offensive line stay intact for another 16 game stretch? It's not that I hope they get injured (or maybe it is) but it's just unlikely to me that all five guys can go a full season injury free.
Also consider, all the trick plays that head coach Jim Harbaugh ran that actually worked. I figure he might be able to pull a rabbit out of his sleeve every now and then during the coming season but other teams will be better prepared for him. I beleive the 49ers caught lightning in a bottle last year but lightning strikes the same place only once.
Change has come to the 2012 St. Louis Rams. Our running game, defensive line and secondary have a chance to be among the best individual units in the league. A lot banks on the effectiveness of the offensive line. If our front five can come back healthy with the addition of Scott Wells, I believe our running game will be greatly improved with Steven Jackson back for another campaign and the addition of Isaiah Pead will do wonders for our offenses' versatility. Our wide receivers are going to battle it out. I'm glad to see Danny "Sams Security Blanket" Amendola back healthy to wreak havoc in the middle of the field to open it up for Brian Quick, Danario Alexander, Greg Salas, Steve Smith, Chris Givens and company to do their damage on the outside while opposing teams stack the box to stuff the run.
One factor that is being overlooked is the fact that we have Brian Schottenheimer now as our offensive coordinator. Also the fact that we had a full offseason to work in the new playbook with the veterans and rookies. I'm looking forward to see our new offense in action.
When Schottenheimer was the OC with the Jets, their top pass catcher was tight end Dustin Keller. Right now, the top tight end in the NFC West is Vernon Davis of the 49ers. Rams second year tight end Lance Kendricks got off to a good start in the preseason last year but when the games counted, he struggled slightly. Lets look at the comparisons between the three players.
Vernon Davis 6-3 / 250 16 games 67 catches 792 yards 11.8 avg per catch and 6 touchdowns.
Dustin Keller 6-2 / 250 16 games 65 catches 815 yards 12.5 avg per catch and 5 touchdowns
Lance Kendricks 6-3 / 247 15 games 28 catches 352 yards 12.6 yards per catch 0 touchdowns
Kendricks doesn't come close statistically to the other two but the fact that Bradford was found laying on the job a lot last year had a lot to do with it and Kendricks may have struggled with Josh McDaniels' scheme. I believe with Schottenheimer leading the offense and working the Bradford-to-Kendricks connection, Sam Bradford will be able to develop another "security blanket" in the middle of the field along with Danny Amendola and opposing defenses won't know who to defend on any given play. But once again, it's going to depend on the offensive line giving Sam the time to scan the coverages and find the open man. If Kendricks under Schottenheimer can even come close to Dustin Keller's numbers I will be ecstatic for the Rams chances to open things up and become the next best thing to the Greatest Show on Turf.