200 Miles From the Citi

September 1, 2010 5:37 AM

San Francisco 49ers: 2010 Preview


You may have caught 49ers tight end Vernon Davis this off-season north of the border, cheering on the United States Curling team during the Winter Olympics.

He's a tremendous supporter of the team - and the sport - and he was most recently spotted with members of the team this summer at a San Francisco Giants game.

The curling team needs more support from people like Davis in order to be more successful - they are pretty well ignored except for two weeks every four years and end up being a disappointment during that time.

But now it's time for the curlers to cheer on Davis, where anything less than a division title for his 49ers would be a disappointment well beyond anything seen by the U.S. Curling team.

The NFC West is weak.  Easily the second-best team in the division is the Arizona Cardinals, which is going through a quarterback controversy following the retirement of Kurt Warner.

The 49ers aren't perfect, but they should be the best team in this division by a long shot.  And they should be better than the 8-8 team from a year ago.  Mike Singletary is season by season putting more of his stamp on this team, getting guys who understand his style of play - and coaching - and getting rid of players who don't.

In addition to the attitude of the players, the play on the field should be better.  The 49ers have taken steps to protect quarterback Alex Smith by playing two rookie offensive lineman, both first-round draft picks.  (The last time that happened worked pretty well - D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold of the Jets.)  And with the time he'll be given, Smith will have a full season of receiver Michael Crabtree, who was effective right away in the 49ers offense once he started playing five games into last season.

The Niners were weakened at running back with the surprising retirement of Glen Coffee, but luckily saw it happen right before Brian Westbrook made his decision of where to play in 2010.  Not only does Westbrook, having played on a winning team in Philadelphia, bring good veteran leadership to a relatively young 49ers team, but if he's healthy, he's a good complement to number one back Frank Gore. 

Nothing is automatic in the NFL.  Mike Singletary will make sure his team knows that.  His leadership will help prevent a disappointment the likes of which Vernon Davis is surely familiar with from his winter sports preferences.

2010 Prediction:  11-5, 1st Place in NFC West

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