At 13-3 through the 2011 NFL regular season, the San Francisco 49ers are among the NFC’s elite, but are they good enough to return the franchise to the levels it consistently reached during the 1980s and 1990s?
With a win over the St. Louis Rams in Seattle on New Year’s Day, the 49ers are now the No. 2 seed in the upcoming 2012 NFL playoffs. First-year head coach Jim Harbaugh has reignited the 49er fan base’s enthusiasm and excitement about the team’s postseason prospects (especially after clinching the NFC West) but is it enough to propel the team to the sport’s ultimate stage?
The Super Bowl and San Francisco have not seriously been mentioned in the same sentence for more than a decade, but it’s hard to knock the 49ers’ chances of reaching Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Feb. 5, 2012.
But, we can find a way.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Ranked close to dead last in the NFL, the 49ers’ passing game is hardly at the level it was during the Joe Montana and Steve Young eras, but their Frank Gore-led, 9th-ranked rushing game is a force to be contended with.
San Francisco’s defense ranks 21st against the pass and 1st against the rush, but if the team has any chance of slowing the passing attacks of New Orleans or Green Bay, its secondary is going to need to step up and perform. The 49er pass defense did play well against Pittsburgh in the team’s 20-3 win on Monday night in Week 15, but did surrender 305 yards through the air in spite of picking off three Ben Roethlisberger passes and sacking him three times.
In the end, the 49ers showed they can keep a high-powered passing offense out of the end zone.
Given its normally less-than-impressive pass defense, the 49ers’ chances of reaching the Super Bowl look bleak, especially because each of the NFC’s potential matchups (Green Bay, New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta and Detroit) produce more than twice the passing yards as they do on the ground. As impressive as San Francisco’s season has been to date, its weaknesses appear to be too numerous to overcome in pursuit of the Super Bowl.
The 49ers’ offense is rush-centric and its passing game is sub-par. Name the last Super Bowl participant that that could have been said about. Harbaugh has done an impressive job at taking a squad that went 6-10 in 2010 and turning it into a contender, but the chances appear slim that the 49ers will advance beyond the first game of the upcoming postseason.
You gotta like the 49ers’ chances of getting closer to the Super Bowl in 2012 and beyond, though. Especially if they can make some moves to strengthen their passing game and passing defense.
This post was contributed by Jason Carib. Jason is a Manhattan native who works as a writer with the Phoenix Bats Company, which manufacturers world-class wood bats, such as their popular maple bats for amateur and professional ballplayers around the globe.