2011 NFL Betting Preview: San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers (6-10, 6-10 ATS, 3rd Place in NFC West)

The San Francisco 49ers entered last season as the clear favorite in the NFC West. The 49ers started last year with five straight losses, and they could never get things turned around. Mike Singletary was fired near the end of last season, and now the Niners have gone in a completely different direction. The huge offseason acquisition for this team was clearly the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as head coach. San Francisco signed Harbaugh to a five year contract worth $25 million. Clearly, the team thought Harbaugh was the right man for the job. Jim Harbaugh was hugely successful at Stanford as he turned around a program that had been completely in the dumps. John Harbaugh, Jim’s brother, has done a very good job with the Baltimore Ravens. San Francisco hopes that Jim Harbaugh can work his magic and take this team back to the top of the division.

The quarterback position has been the number one question for this team for the last few years, and I don’t expect anything different this season. Alex Smith was the first overall pick in the draft, but he has yet to live up to the hype. Harbaugh has been singing the praises of Smith in the offseason, and if anyone can help Smith revive his career it would probably be Harbaugh. The good news for San Francisco fans is that they now have more depth at the quarterback spot. Colin Kaepernick was a solid second round pick for this team, and he has the potential to be a star if put into the right system.

The 49ers have surrounded the quarterback of this team with a lot of talent at the skill positions. Frank Gore is one of the better running backs in the league when healthy. Braylon Edwards was a big offseason pickup for this team, and I expect him to help stretch the field for the Niners. Vernon Davis has developed into one of the best tight ends in the game. Michael Crabtree is still young, and I expect him to have a breakout year. The biggest question mark offensively is the line, which surrendered 44 sacks last year.

The 49ers are switching to a new defensive scheme led by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Aldon Smith was the Niners top draft pick in this year’s draft, and he will need to adjust to the 3-4 defense. The 49ers were one of the best defenses in the league last year when it came to stopping the run, but they lost several key members in the middle of the defense. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin was a great run stuffer, but he is now a member of the Saints. Takeo Spikes was a solid contributor at the linebacker spot, but he went to San Diego in the offseason. Patrick Willis is still here, but the supporting cast has weakened considerably. This unit will likely take a step backward this season.

San Francisco 49ers 2011-2012 NFL Prediction: 7-9 (2nd Place in NFC West)

I think hiring Harbaugh was absolutely a terrific decision for this team, but it will take some time for San Francisco to become a serious contender. I like the team’s weapons on offense, but I’m still not convinced that the 49ers have an answer at the quarterback spot. The team plays in the worst division in the NFL, but I still think they’ll fall short of the playoffs this year.

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Kyle Hunter

is full-timesports writer and sports handicapper. You simply won’t find someone who loves sports more than Kyle. Kyle considers college football and college basketball his two favorite sports. Kyle has earned many accolades for his highly successful handicapping, and he writes full-time for many top sports websites. Keep an eye out for high quality free sports analysis from Kyle!

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