I'm sure many of you read this title and think your about to read some ridiculous journalism by some ESPN nut. I'm not a big believer in the Niners this year, but I still have to admit I was surprised by this. Football Outsiders just released their preseason DVOA predictions (which have been consistently pretty accurate) and they predict the Niners to be the 3rd worst team in the NFL and worst in the NFC, ahead of only the Broncos and Bills.
I know many of you don't like FO and I'm sure this will turn off even more NIner fans but I really think this will be a good test. If FO is right and the Niners are awful this year it will shed some light that some people here at NN and too many people here in the Bay Area are drastically overstating how talented this team is. Especially if they finish with the fewest wins in the NFC (below the Lions and Raiders!), that will truly be some humble pie. On the other hand, if the Niners are competitive this year then we can say that FO was really wrong on them and perhaps there's too many variables that they can't account for.
What I think should be clear at least is that this team is not a true contender yet. We may sneak up on people and compete in the NFC West but anyone who thinks this team is ready to compete with the big boys is just kidding themselves. There are still too many holes on both sides of the ball (or as Scott Wright of nfldraftcountdown.com says in his 2010 mock draft:)
Unfortunately for 49’ers fans their squad has as many significant needs as any team in the league and they could realistically go in a number of different directions here, including but not limited to quarterback, right tackle, safety, linebacker and nose tackle
I know this will probably upset people, especially people who are high on the team this year, but I think it's important to try to stay somewhat realistic about our team's chances in order to prevent massive disappointment. I think where FO goes wrong is in predicting that the defense will be the 2nd worst in the league. The defense was almost completely healthy last year and still couldn't defend the pass, I think that's where the prediction comes from. But I still expect the unit to be average, if certainly not "top 5" as some here have suggested.'
Anyway, just wanted to get everyone else's thoughts on this, I'm guessing many will not be too happy. For what it's worth FO thinsk the Cardinals will be bad too, ranking them only one spot ahead of the Niners. Also, while I do think the Rams are underrated, I think FO is giving them too much credit, and the writers themselves have said they don't expect the Rams to play as well as their projection indicates. One thing I do agree with it that the Seahawks are the clear favorite to win the division.
I think in light of these projections I've changed my expectations to about 6-7 wins for the Niners, with anything more being a good season. I'm not ready to throw in the towel on the season already, but I don't expect the Niners to make the playoffs. Here's their rankings for the NFC West:
Mean Wins / Offensive Ranking / Defensive Ranking / Overall Ranking:
Seahawks: 9.5 / 6th / 15th / 11th
Rams: 8.7 / 14th / 9th / 12th
Cardinals: 5.5 / 22nd / 27th / 29th
Niners: 5.4 / 24th / 31st / 30th
It will be very interesting as the season unfolds to see how accurate (or inaccurate) these predictions are.