High Five: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2014 NFL Season

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August 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh watches from the sideline during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Levi

5) San Francisco will end their season in the bottom half of their Division.

I realize the Niners are being hyped as a favorite to make it to the Super Bowl, largely because of their record of accomplishment since Colin Kaepernick took the starting quarterback job.  However, since replacing Alex Smith under center, Kaepernick has only started 23 regular season games in his career, and despite two deep runs into the post season, Kaepernick can only lay legitimate claim to one.  I find it deeply interesting how Smith is consistently dubbed a “game manger,” but Kaepernick is a rising elite, even both have though achieve the same levels of success in what is essentially the same team.  Remember, Smith led the 49ers to the NFC Championship in 2011 under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, throwing for 3,114 yards and a passer rating of 90.7.  Interesting compared to Kaepernick’s last season: 3,197 yards and a 91.7 passer rating.

Perhaps then it has more to do with the team and the Head Coach rather than the quarterback?  To the crux of the matter, San Francisco is more primed for implosion rather than explosion.  Frank Gore is still a monster truck in the backfield, but at 31 years of age, his drop off is eminent.  With a depth chart consisting of rookie Carlos Hyde, LaMichael James, and the oft-injuried Marcus Lattimore, the Niner’s running game may force a more one-dimensional offense than in recent years, especially considering the stoutness of NFC West defensive lines.  Regardless of Michael Crabtree’s health or the acquisition of Stevie Johnson, expect Kaepernick to perform under increased pressure this year.  Based on the preseason thus far, expecting that to be a recipe for success would be dutifully optimistic to say the least.

Additionally, San Francisco’s secondary remains suspect.  Jimmie Ward, 30th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft from Northern Illinois University, will probably be the starting nickel defensive back, which should say something.  There are more rookies than recognizable names on the roster, a concerning factor when facing the quarterback / reciever duos in the NFC West.

Between all that, there is still Aldon Smith’s crazy and Coach Harbaugh’s antics to add to the insanity.  The 49ers may look good on paper right now, but remember how thin paper really is.