The San Francisco 49ers are a popular preseason Super Bowl pick headed into the 2012 season.
Led by dominant defensive end Justin Smith, and the All-World linebacking duo of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers plan to be in contention for a Championship so long as their key players stay healthy. And while San Francisco’s fierce front seven will surely be a thorn in the side of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, the 49ers improved offense will provide a difficult test to the Packers heavily scrutinized defense.
In last year’s 13-win season, the 49ers ranked eighth in the league in rushing averaging 127.8 yards per game. However, the passing game was a far different story, as San Francisco ranked 29th in the NFL last season in passing offense, averaging just 183.1 yards per game through the air. Although quarterback Alex Smith did a terrific job taking care of the football, his 17 passing touchdowns ranked just 17th in the NFL.
San Francisco’s deficiencies in the passing game were so glaring that they opted to use only three wide receivers throughout the course of last year’s NFC Championship Game. With Ted Ginn out of the lineup due to injury, the 49ers used a run-oriented approach with at least two tight ends on the field for 81.9 percent of the game.
The stingy 49ers defense was able to hold the Giants to just 20 points on a sloppy playing field in San Francisco, allowing their ground-and-pound approach to put them in position to win the game. But in the end, after a Kyle Williams fumble in overtime, the Giants made one more play than the 49ers and advanced to Super Bowl XLVI.
But after reinforcing their offense with several new weapons, the 49ers plan on lighting up the scoreboard in 2012.
In hopes of taking the lid off of opposing defenses, San Francisco signed future Hall of Famer Randy Moss. The 35-year-old wideout sat out the 2011 season but reportedly ran a sub-4.4 forty-yard dash while working out for New Orleans in March. Moss certainly isn’t the game-breaker he once was, but at 6’4″ he remains a dangerous threat in the red-zone.
Less than a week after adding Moss, the 49ers announced they signed the hero of Super Bowl XLVI–former Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham. Both Moss and Manningham saw time with the starting offense this preseason, and Moss is currently listed as the starter opposite Crabtree on San Francisco’s depth chart.