The two-time defending NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers remain strongest where it often matters most: at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the defensive front seven. They have a dynamic tight end in Vernon Davis and should get another productive season from their running backs, including Frank Gore. I also think the schedule could give them advantages over primary NFC West challengers.
No team does a better job scheming its running game or making use of formations. Those factors and the core talent on offense make the 49ers especially dangerous on early downs. This team doesn't appear to be as strong as last year's, however. Michael Crabtree's injury, Delanie Walker's departure and issues at wide receiver raise questions about the offense even though quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains on an upward trajectory.
There is enough talent for the 49ers to remain a playoff team and a dangerous one. I'm projecting a wild-card berth and at least one postseason victory. The organization is on solid footing. But for the first time since 2010, the 49ers do not necessarily have the best team in the division. Seattle pulled nearly even last season and edged ahead this offseason, in my view. The healthier of those two teams should win the West.
Predicted finish in NFC West: second