San Francisco 49ers: Bold Predictions for Regular Season

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49ers Will Have NFC West’s 3rd Best Defense

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few short years ago, the NFC West was widely viewed as the NFL’s worst division. With good reason, too. In the 2010 regular season, the Seahawks won the West with a losing record. That was when the 49ers were still under Mike Singletary‘s leadership and Jim Harbaugh hadn’t quite made the trip from Palo Alto to San Francisco.

Now, however, the division is easily the league’s best and also boast’s some of the best defenses.

Let’s rank the defenses — from worst to best — for the upcoming season.

4. Arizona Cardinals

The loss of Pro-Bowler Darnell Dockett really hurts. Without that injury, they may be the division’s second-best defense. With Patrick Peterson — who’s paid like the league’s best corner, much to the chagrin of Richard Sherman — and Tyrann Mathieu matching up with the opposition’s best receivers, throwing against the Cardinals will be a tough task.

However, running may prove to be even more difficult. Last year, Arizona had the league’s best rushing defense, only giving up 84.4 yards per game on the ground. The loss of Dockett will surely weaken them up front, but they still will be stout with the likes of Calais Campbell and John Abraham.

3. San Francisco 49ers

If everyone was healthy — and avoided suspensions — the San Francisco 49ers could compete with Seattle for the best defense in the West. However, they’re not. NaVorro Bowman will miss at least six games after being placed on the PUP list and Aldon Smith will be out anywhere between two and eight games.

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  • The aging Justin Smith cannot be relied upon for a full season this far into his career, making San Francisco weaker up front. They have the depth to give Smith plenty of breathers, but they won’t be able to fully replace him.

    Free-agent signee Antoine Bethea — who is replacing the hard-hitting Donte Whitner — suffered a concussion versus the Denver Broncos in the christening of Levi’s Stadium. The injury doesn’t seem too serious, but it still stretches San Francisco’s already-thin secondary.

    2. St. Louis Rams

    Mark it down. The St. Louis Rams will record the most sacks in the NFL. They’ll still finish last in the division after Sam Bradford tore his ACL again, but they have a fearsome front seven. With Chris Long, Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, and rookie Aaron Donald, they sure know how the rush the quarterback.

    Their secondary lacks some talent and depth. They will appear better than they are thanks to the constant pressure all quarterbacks will be under when playing the Rams.

    St. Louis’ defense will keep the game close most of the time, but they won’t make much progress from last season on the offensive side of the ball.

    1. Seattle Seahawks

    No surprise here, right? The Seahawks once again have the league’s best defense, but it’ll be closer than it was last season. Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Walter Thurmond III, and Brandon Browner have all moved on. Some will be replaced well, but I expect a drop off in defensive efficiency from a year ago.

    They signed Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Michael Bennett, essentially keeping their core together. The Legion of Boom will still be alive and well, but maybe Sherman won’t be considered the “league’s best corner” anymore, although he won’t admit it.