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5 Questions That Will Define the San Francisco 49ers 2013 Season

5 Questions That Will Define the San Francisco 49ers 2013 Season

The San Francisco 49ers enter the season as defending NFC Champions. They caught everyone by surprise last year thanks to the emergence of their young quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

If these young Niners are going to make another run at NFC and Super Bowl titles, they’ll need to step up their game as NFC teams will be gunning for them.

Here are our picks for 5 questions that will define the 49ers this 2013:

Questions Expert A Expert B

1. How Good will the 49ers defense be?

Their secondary defense is still a work in progress. Rookie free safety Eric Reid has big shoes to fill with Dashon Goldson and Nnamdi Asomugha entering their twilight years. Cornellius “Tank” Carradine and Corey Lemonier are rookies with tremendous upside. With some grooming, they can all develop into quality prospects. As they prepare to face off against the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, San Francisco’s pass rushing unit will be tested often throughout the upcoming season. The 49ers defense is one of the strongest in the league. It showed in their No. 2 ranking in points allowed. San Francisco presently has five All-Pros in its base defense, including all four starting linebackers and a strong defensive tackle. Combined with defensive backs like Nnamdi Asomugha, Carlos Rogers and a first-round safety from the baddest defensive school on the planet, the 49ers may have the best defense in franchise history.

2. Will the Passing Offense Succeed Without Michael Crabtree?

Since Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles in May, the 49ers are left with the newly-acquired Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis as their top pass-catchers. The rest of the main receiving unit is comprised of A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton, Ricardo Lockette and Kyle Williams. Coming off multiple knee surgeries, Mario Manningham may not be ready to contribute by Week 1. With the number two receiving spot open for competition, someone needs to step up and grab hold of the job. While the group lacks NFL playing experience as a whole, they each have something to offer. The idea that the 49ers are going to fall flat because of one skilled player being out is teetering on ludicrous—this isn’t the Lions or Vikings. Michael Crabtree may have been their only 1,000-yards receiver last year, but the Niners have a great group of receivers that can likely step-up. Tight end Vernon Davis will likely take over as Kaepernick’s main option. Pro-Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin is also a capable 1,000-yard receiver. The team has three bona fide sleepers in Quinton Patton, Kyle Williams and Jonathan Baldwin, who look to be a great corps of complementary weapons. On top of that, San Francisco will get Mario Manningham back from his ACL injury sooner rather than later.

3. Is Colin Kaepernick a Top-Five Quarterback?

The third-year signal-caller has received a lot of media attention since he helped propel the 49ers to the Super Bowl. His strength, athleticism and strong arm have caught the eye of the football world. Set to make just his 11th-career start on opening day, Kaepernick must prove that last season was no fluke. With some film on his tendencies and style of play, defenses should be better prepared for him. Losing his top target in Crabtree will make life harder, but given Kaepernick’s relentless work ethic, don’t be surprised if he makes the proper adjustments and finds a new “go-to” guy. 2012 was the year of emerging young quarterbacks. While Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan were talked about before that season started, 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick came out of nowhere and put himself in the conversation. Ex-Eagles quarterback and current ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski bestowed some high praise upon the 49ers’ passer. It’s was a bold remark, but it just goes to show how high Kaepernick’s ceiling is.

4. Can the 49ers Survive This Brutal Schedule?

The 49ers will find each game more and more difficult as the season goes on. Not only do they have a batch of tough opponents, but their status as the defending NFC Champions will give them a hard time. Kaepernick won’t be surprising anyone anymore and they lost a lot of key players from their Super Bowl run last year. Although I still think they’re one of the top two teams in football, they’re a work in progress. From what I can tell, the 49ers are a team that rises to the occasion. They finished with a 5-0 record against the Packers, Falcons, Patriots and Saints last season, which includes four wins on the road. Games on prime time and ones versus heavy-handed opponents tend to bring the best out of the Niners.

5. Has the Gap Closed Between the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West?

The gap between the 49ers and the rest of their division may be closing.  Arguably the greatest threat to the 49ers is the Seattle Seahawks. The St. Louis Rams are improving under Head coach Jeff Fisher, who guided his team to 4-1-1 division record, good for best in NFC West. Lastly, the Arizona Cardinals have added veteran talent in Carson Palmer and Rashard Mendenhall to surround star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Jim Harbaugh’s ball club has claimed two straight NFC West crowns, but the task of winning the division will become much more challenging this season. The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl appearance, with the dynamic Colin Kaepernick at QB and one of the league’s most complete rosters. The Seattle Seahawks looked past Percy Harvin’s character flaws when they brought him in, and he should return part way into the season. The St. Louis Rams quietly took a step forward in Jeff Fisher’s first season. And the Arizona Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer, giving Larry Fitzgerald a chance to play with a competent QB for the first time since Kurt Warner’s retirement.
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Winning the division will be no cake walk for San Francisco. Take a peek at the team’s future odds of winning the NFC West, the NFC, and the Super Bowl. Also, visit our sportsbook to see the latest odds and lines for 49ers games.

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