The San Francisco 49ers said goodbye to a head coach who led them to three consecutive NFC Championship games after falling to 8-8 in 2014. Jim Harbaugh is now the head coach at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, and San Francisco begins a new era under its longtime defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. San Francisco not only lost Harbaugh, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Add in personnel such as LB Chris Borland, LB Patrick Willis, G Mike Iupati, RB Frank Gore, and WR Michael Crabtree and one is left to think about what is left. Super Bowl predictions at Vegas sportsbooks have answered with not much. In fact, NFL odds for the 49ers to win the championship have San Francisco listed at a longshot price of +4000. As for winning the NFC Conference, the 49ers have posted odds of +2200 and +900 to win the NFC West division.
The San Francisco 49ers do have a very capable QB in Colin Kaepernick who watched as his numbers dropped in 2014. Kaepernick threw for 3,369 yards and 19 touchdowns, but the 49ers offense averaged just 19.1 points per game (25th overall). San Francisco signed Baltimore WR Torrey Smith to make up for the loss of Crabtree and Detroit RB Reggie Bush to offset the loss of Gore. Defensive end Ray McDonald was let go and wound up signing with Chicago. The 49ers drafted 6-7, 292-pound defensive end Arik Armstead from Oregon and signed Darnell Dockett from Arizona as a result. Both Borland and Willis retired, but San Francisco expects Navarro Bowman to return this LB slot after missing 2014 with an injury. Defensive end Justin Smith also retired, another reason why the Niners went after Armstead with their first pick and signed Dockett.
Despite Super Bowl predictions listing San Francisco as longshots, the 49ers still have OLBs Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, and Aaron Lynch. Brooks and Lynch led the team in sacks last year with six. Smith missed nine game last year due to suspension after leading the team in 2012 with 19.5 sacks. If he can return to his previous form, San Francisco can still be effective on defense. And as we all know, defense wins championships.... right? With Kaepernick having spent the off-season retooling his game, one of the big things the 49ers and new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst need to do is to figure out how to get TE Vernon Davis back into the offense. Davis is a 6-3, 250-pounder blessed with wide receiver speed who managed just 26 receptions for 246 yards and two touchdowns last year. That is a far cry from his Pro Bowl seasons – 2009 and 2013 – when he had 50-plus receptions and 13 touchdowns. In terms of Super Bowl predictions, 49ers fans shouldn't be too excited but if Kaepernick can get the offense rolling early; San Francisco might have an outside chance of claiming the 2015 NFC West title.
49ers Update (9/12/15): San Francisco are now +5000 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +2800 to win the NFC Conference and +1600 to win the NFC West.