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2010 Sports Illustrated NFL Preview: 49ers picked to win the NFC West

Sports Illustrated has officially published their 2010 NFL Preview, and they have the 49ers going 8-8 and winning the NFC West. I'd take a divisional win, although an 8-8 record would be kind of weak. Even worse though is the fact that they have the 49ers losing to the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs. Although I suppose that's better than Football Outsider's mean victory number putting us in fourth, right?

The SI preview of the 49ers focuses on Alex Smith as would be expected. The subtitle for the piece is "Mike Singletary's crew will go as far as quarterback Alex Smith can take them." We've discussed this issue a million times, but once again the 49ers will be a solid team, but their playoff hopes likely rest on what Alex Smith can do in 2010. That doesn't mean Alex Smith has to be a superstar and put up monster stats. It'd certainly be a nice little plus, but it's just not necessary for this team. The 2010 49ers have a potentially great defense with a host of offensive weapons surrounding Smith.

More importantly, we have a quarterback who wants to be here and wants to prove the doubters wrong. The preview closes with this quotation:

"It would have been easy to leave, to go get a fresh start. But I don't know if that would have been the right thing to do. I know I can play. It's just about going out and doing it."

Obviously attitude can only get you so far, and Alex Smith still has plenty to prove in this league. But with the oft-mentioned second year in the offense potentially playing a big role, I'd think fans should be at least a little bit excited for the upcoming season. Coach Mike Johnson indicated Alex Smith is working as hard as anybody he's ever coached and said that:

"He's understanding every-thing we're trying to do from a protection standpoint and aroute standpoint, and it's allow-ing him to play faster."

We'll see how that translates once the real games start.