As sure as there is sun in the sky, there is always a chic pick heading into the NFL season. Arizona occupied that role in recent years past after the addition of Matt Leinart to an already potent offense. This year, the 49ers are clearly that team du jour. People see the offseason spending spree, the 2006 explosion of Frank Gore and the general maturation of the rest of the team and they equate that with a division and potential playoff run. I think it's safe to say that we here at Niners Nation are a touch more conservative in our estimates, but are still high on the team. That's certainly ironic considering we're a blog devoted specifically to the 49ers.
However, just as sure as there are chic picks, there are those who poo-poo those picks. Exhibit A: Bill Simmons. The Sports Guy rolled out the first part of his NFL preview and decided we should be considered the "Popsicle Team":
21. San Francisco 49ers
We've seen it before: A non-playoff team spends the spring and summer getting bandwagon buzz, and it builds and builds, and every time you turn on the NFL Network or ESPN, someone's saying, "I'll tell you what, this Niners team is for real." Then USA Today and the national magazines release the obligatory "Here come the Niners!" features, and their fans get abnormally excited, and by the time mid-August rolls around, everyone's handing them 10-11 wins even though they haven't proven anything. Invariably, this team struggles coming out of the gate, everyone freaks out and their season falls apart faster than "Californication" in episodes 2 and 3.
What does this have to do with popsicles? You could call it the Winston Wolf "Let's Not Start Sucking Each Other's Popsicles Yet" Test -- if the popsicles get broken out too early for an NFL sleeper, they're headed for an imminent disaster (like the '06 Dolphins). It's just human nature. You never hear someone say after the Super Bowl, "We did it, everybody believed in us, we came through for you guys!" It's always, "Nobody believed in us except the coaches and the guys in this locker room!" That's why true NFL sleepers shock everyone in September and October for a double-barreled impact of "Whoa, where did these guys come from???" (the media) and "Nobody believed in us!" (the team). You need both factors; they work hand in hand, and they are not negotiable. That's how the Saints did it last season, and that's how my 2007 Sleeper Pick (we're not there yet) will do it this season. Sorry, Niner Fans, you're doomed.
So we're doomed? That seems a little harsh. So I guess this is the double reverse opposite of the chic pick? We're so chic that you actually now have to pick against us? I agree that everybody seems to be on the 49ers bandwagon and that kind of annoys me after a while. I do want to clarify some of Simmons's points in regards to my views.
- I do NOT think this team will win 10-11 games. I would like 9 or 10, would settle for 8 if the team improved.
- If the team does struggle out of the gate it's not because they are a bad team. It's because that's the toughest part of their schedule.
- I do agree though that it's hard for a team to say everyone believed in us and we came through.
Of course, as soon as he put the Raiders, Texans and Packers ahead of the 49ers I took his points a lot less seriously. He may be talking sleepers, but the 49ers deserve better than that.