The folks at Shutdown Corner (at Yahoo! Sports) put together their Shutdown Countdown for 2014, and our San Francisco 49ers ranked No. 1, with the top five including the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and New Orleans Saints. You can read the 49ers specific column HERE. You can go through all the teams, with links to their individual articles, HERE.
NFL power rankings have generally had either the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos at the top. The Seahawks are a reasonable choice as defending champions. They might take a step backward with some of their losses, but they remain the champs. As for the Broncos? Well, they did get to the Super Bowl, and they added some big talent to the roster. I still think the 49ers are better than the Broncos, but it's not the end of the world that teams would consider them at the top.
In breaking down the 49ers, Frank Schwab hit on a lot of the key points we know about. The most notable of course being the perimeter defense. The 49ers have completely turned over their secondary over the last year and a half. Eric Reid looked solid last year, but the question generally seems to focus more on the cornerbacks. The 49ers will switch from Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, to Tramaine Brock and probably Chris Culliver. Additionally, they will have either Perrish Cox or rookie Jimmie Ward in the nickel role.
He broke down the best and worst case scenarios for the 49ers, and he pretty much hit the nail on the head. The best case is winning the Super Bowl, the worst case is anything else. Sure, we could talk about more specifics as to the worst case, but is there really anything other than a Super Bowl that wouldn't be considered a disappointment? Getting to the NFC title game or the Super Bowl again and losing would be an impressive achievement, but given what this team has accomplished to date, it really is Super Bowl or bust.
Some might say the Broncos are in a similar situation, but given how badly they were beaten by Seattle, it was clear they were at least a step down. The 49ers playoff losses the last three seasons have come by a combined 12 points. This team has been a championship caliber team, but they have come up short each time. There is nothing left but getting over the top and taking home Lombardi No. 6.