After a 7-9 record in 2006 expectations were high for the San Francisco 49'ers in 2007. Instead the team suffered their 5th consecutive losing season and an offense that produced the 32nd ranked scoring and passing offense in the league. This led to a 5-11 season and nearly cost 49'ers head coach Mike Nolan his job. Oddsmakers have set the 49'ers season win total at 6 games.
When you handicap season win totals you must, I mean must look at the schedule.
A game you can circle for the 49'ers is their September 21st home date against Detroit. Mike Martz would like nothing better than to stick it up Lion coach Rod Marinelli for being the fall guy for Detroit in 2007 with his firing after last season. San Francisco must play the AFC East and get New England and the NY Jets at home and must travel to Miami and a tough trip to Buffalo in late November. The 49'ers are scheduled against the tough NFC East and that means road trips to Dallas and the NY Giants and home dates with Washington and Philadelphia. Also mixed in is a road game at the New Orleans Saints who will be an improved team. The 2008 schedule is a difficult one for the 49'ers.
Quarterback Alex Smith begins his 4th NFL season with his 4th different offensive coordinator and system. Former St Louis Rams head coach and 2007 Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz will run the Rams offense. Quarterbacks have improved under Martz such as Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger and even Jon Kitna last season. Martz is saying the right things about running back Frank Gore being the centerpiece of the offense. But last season Martz abandoned the run much to the disgust of his head coach Rod Marinelli which contributed to a 7-9 season and Martz' firing. Head coach Mike Nolan is a defensive minded coach and coupled with Martz offensive pass heavy system it just might create a volatile situation in the Bay area. Defensive minded coaches like their offenses to run the ball and control the clock but Martz is all about the big play. Nolan is facing a dilemma if his offensive coordinator chooses to abandon the run. Nolan could be handcuffed here because he is fighting for his job. Now Isaac Bruce comes over from the Rams to play wide receiver but he is 35 years old. Arnez Battle and Bryant Johnson really don't put much fear into opposing defenses. Jason Hill has good speed behind Bruce but was mired with injuries last season. This unit lacks a playmaker.
Last season the 49'ers defense were on the field more than any other defensive unit in 2007. This season it could be more of the same with a Mike Martz quick scoring offense this season. When you have a Mike Martz offensive system your defense is going to be on the field quickly and you are going to need to be able to rotate players in out and out. Some of your starters are going to miss series to rest. Simply you need depth on defense. Fortunately the strength of this 49'ers team is their defense. Linebackers Patrick Willis was outstanding earning Defensive Rookie of the year last season. His battery mate Manny Lawson is coming off a torn ACL and we will see if he can still effectively chase down defenders against the run. The Niners lost 2 starters from last years defensive line and filled them with rookie first round pick Kentwan Balmer out of North Carolina and free agent Justin Smith from the Bengals. How well they develop backups will be the difference between a good or bad year for the defense. Based on the direction of this franchise over the past several seasons expect the worst.
And now to my Selection:
This is by far the weakest group of offensive talent Mike Martz has ever worked with. Unfortunately for 49'ers head coach Mike Nolan time isn't on his side. He needs to win now to keep his job and just barely survived the 2007 season. The 49'ers did little in the off season to give the offense the weapons to succeed and just a system change will not be enough in 2008. Poor Alex Smith. The guy has got to be totally confused entering his 4th year in the league under a 4th different offense. This is a franchise in chaos as they are breaking in a sixth offensive co-coordinator in 6 years. The schedule is brutal as well this season.
Play San Francisco UNDER 6 wins for the 2008 season.
Selection: UNDER 6 wins in 2008 Regular Season.