The San Francisco 49ers went into the 2014 season off 3 straight trips to the NFC Championship Game, which included a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. They were a legit Super Bowl contender going into the season, but injuries and a clash between head coach Jim Harbaugh and owner Jed York proved to be too much to overcome.

The 49ers went just 8-8 after going 36-11 in the previous 3 seasons combined. Despite an incredible start to his NFL coaching career, Harbaugh left (forced out) to go back to college to take over the Michigan Wolverines. That was just the beginning of a painful offseason. Star linebacker Patrick Willis, veteran defensive end Justin Smith and linebacker Chris Borland all retired, while left guard Mike Iupati, running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, corners Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver, and defensive end Ray McDonald all leave town in the offseason.

The new head coach is long-time defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. The decision to name Tomsula the coach didn’t sit well with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and he left to take over the same role with the Chicago Bears. The 49ers also watched offensive coordinator Greg Roman leave for the same job with the Buffalo Bills.

Needless to say, the expectations are not as high going into 2015 as they were just a year ago. In fact, the 49ers are in danger of falling into the basement of the loaded NFC West.

Last Season
NFC West
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
3rd
8-8
6-10
2-6
4-4
5-11
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
20th
5th
+7
19.1
21.3
2015 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
Arik Armstead (DT), Jaquiski Tartt (SS), Eli Harold (OLB), Blake Bell (TE), Mike Davis (RB), DeAndre Smelter (WR), Bradley Pinion (P), Ian Silberman (OG), Trenton Brown (OG), Rory Anderson (TE)
Additions
Darnell Dockett (DT), Torrey Smith (WR), Philip Wheeler (OLB), Shareece Wright (CB), Erik Pears (OG), Nick Bellore (LB), Reggie Bush (RB)
Losses
Mike Iupati (OG), Frank Gore (RB), Michael Crabtree (WR), Chris Culliver (CB), Perrish Cox (CB), Steve Johnson (WR), Ray McDonald (DE), Jonathan Martin (OT), Dan Skuta (OLB), Josh Johnson (QB), Chris Borland (ILB), Brandon Lloyd (WR)
2015 Schedule & Odds
Week Opponent Spread Win Chance
1 Vikings -4.5 0.67
2 @ Steelers +2.5 0.45
3 @ Cardinals +2.5 0.45
4 Packers PK 0.50
5 @ Giants PK 0.50
6 Ravens -2 0.53
7 Seahawks +1.5 0.47
8 @ Rams +1 0.49
9 Falcons -6 0.71
10 BYE
11 @ Seahawks +5.5 0.31
12 Cardinals -2 0.53
13 @ Bears -1 0.51
14 @ Browns -2.5 0.55
15 Bengals -3 0.59
16 @ Lions +1.5 0.47
17 Rams -3.5 0.64
Estimated Wins: 8.37
Roster Breakdown

Whether or not the 49ers can remain a force in the NFC, will come down to the maturation of 5th-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t been a bit of a disappointment the past couple of seasons. Kaepernick posted a quarterback rating of 98.3 in his 13 games during his debut as the starter in 2012. His rating fell to 91.6 in 2013 and was down to 86.4 this past year.

It’s still up in the air if Kaepernick will ever develop into a top-tier NFL passer. Losing Crabtree, who was one of his favorite targets when healthy, doesn’t help matters, but they do get back veteran Anquan Boldin and have added in a big time deep threat in Torrey Smith. The real key is getting tight end Vernon Davis back on track. After catching 52 passes for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013, Davis only managed 26 receptions for 245 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2014.

There’s also some concern over an offensive line that just a couple years ago was considered to be the best in the NFL. While they still have one of the top left tackles in the game in Joe Staley, the loss of Iupati is a major blow to their power running game inside. They also need better fortune with injuries as starting center Daniel Kilgore and starting right tackle Anthony Davis both missed 9 games last year.

The 49ers will also be relying on a new feature running back, as Gore left in free agency to team up with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. They are excited about the potential of 2nd-year back Carlos Hyde, plus have added in veteran Reggie Bush.

Defensively the 49ers remained one of the top units in the league, ranking 5th in the league in total defense (321.4 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (21.2 ppg). They were strong against both the run (100.8 ypg, 7th) and the pass (220.7 ypg, 5th), and led the league with 23 interceptions.

Losing a player like Smith will hurt more in his absence inside the locker room than his play on the field. The 49ers have added in veteran defensive end Darnell Dockett and used their 1st round pick on Oregon’s Arik Armstead, who projects as a 3-4 defensive end. Dockett and Armstead will join a unit that returns nose tackle Ian Williams and Quinton Dial, as well as defensive ends Tank Carradine, Glenn Dorsey and tony Jerod-Eddie.

There’s no question that the defense would have been better had Willis been able to keep playing, but the fact of the matter is, he only played 6 games last year. They get back star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who missed all of last year and still have two talented defensive ends in Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. The key will be getting Smith back into the form that saw him rack up 33.5 sacks over his first 2 years in the league (only 10.5 last two years combined).

The secondary is in pretty good shape as well. The 49ers return one of the top safety duos in the NFL in Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid, they also get back starting corner Tramaine Brock. The only real concern is the starting corner spot opposite of Brock. They added in free agent Shareece Wright, but I’m not big on him contributing much. Don’t be surprised if 2nd-year corner Dontae Johnson doesn’t end up starting.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl L
8
20 to 1
45 to 1
Odds Courtesty of 5Dimes
Projections

While there’s enough talent on the field left over for the 49ers to surprise and contend for a division title, I could just as easily things taking an even bigger turn for the worse in 2015. Like him or not, Harbaugh was an excellent coach that knew how to win. On top of that, I don’t think people are factoring in how much the loss of Fangio hurts his team.

Me personally, I’m not a big Kaepernick fan and have major concerns with him regressing even more without Harbaugh to guide him. I think the offense is really going to struggle to score enough points to be taken seriously in the NFC West. The defense on the other hand should be good enough to keep them in games, but even that’s not a guarantee without Fangio.

The 49ers win total has been set at 8, which I think is being a bit generous given the circumstances that this team faces. San Francisco certainly has the potential to win 8-9 games, but I think that’s the ceiling for this team. I have the 49ers going 6-10 and finishing last in the NFC West.

NFC West Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
4th
2-4
6-10
UNDER 8
49ers 10-Year Recap
Year W L Playoffs Coach Win Total
2014 8 8 Harbaugh 10.5
2013 12 4 Lost Conf Harbaugh 11.5
2012 11 4 Lost SB Harbaugh 10
2011 13 3 Lost Conf Harbaugh 7.5
2010 6 10 Singletary/Tomsula 9
2009 8 8 Singletary 7
2008 7 9 Nolan/Singletary 6
2007 5 11 Nolan 7.5
2006 7 9 Nolan 5
2005 4 12 Nolan 4.5

Doug Totten

Douglas Totten
NinerNoise.com

OVER 8 Wins – Despite the loss of several big names on both the roster and coaching staff, the 49ers return a solid, underrated talent base. With little knowledge out there about the coaching staff, this is a season that could go either way, but from the looks of training camp and the feeling in the locker room, this season will be better than most expect. That being said, the 49ers do have the 3rd toughest strength of schedule and play in the NFC Best, I mean West. All things considered, I still expect them to win more than eight games to finish 9-7 on the season.

49ersGab

49ers Gab
49ersGab.com

OVER 8 Wins – Despite the departures of some major pieces, the 49ers have been preparing for most of them. Don’t be fooled because they aren’t household names YET. Expect a move ferocious defense and improved offensive weapons around Kaepernick!

Peter Panacy

Peter Panacy
NinerNoise.com

UNDER 8 Wins – I thought an 8-8 record was reasonable. But if I had to take an over/under, I’d have to go with the latter.

The NFC West isn’t going to be any easier this year, and the 49ers already have the third toughest schedule in the NFL.

They aren’t as bad as a lot of people think, but this is a transition year.

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