With the season kicking off this week, the 49ers will be in the hunt for a Super Bowl berth yet again. 13 teams will stand in the way of another playoff run, meaning if all goes according to plan, these 13 teams will be in their wake come January 2014.
The Green Bay Packers
One-dimensional doesn’t even begin to describe the Packers. Green Bay hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ryan Grant and they don’t seem to care. They’re content with throwing on first, second and third down. The plan seems to work despite their offensive line being awful, their defense being made out of cheese cloth and their only saving grace being Aaron Rodgers.
This isn’t a knock on Rodgers — he’s so good he makes James Jones a top wide receiver in most fantasy football leagues — but they’re going to need more improvements than a running back with an affinity for calories and Eric Bakhtiari’s little brother to expect an outcome different from the bludgeoning at Candlestick Park last January. Rodgers was the NFL’s most sacked quarterback in 2012, and that’s pretty sad if you consider his adjacency to Jay Cutler.
Here’s another team taking the Packers’ route in an attempt to become competitive: let’s draft a stud quarterback, bolster nothing else, force him to take an inordinate amount of hits and hope he can win us football games. I have nothing negative to say about Andrew Luck, either — he’s the guy who single-handedly made Bay Area college football relevant again — but I do have issue with his boss.
Jim Irsay is a disaster. A trainwreck. You should already be grateful for Jed York, but if you’re not, why don’t you mosey on down to Irsay’s Twitter timeline. Or type “Jim Irsay” into your Google search bar and check out the most-searched terms (spoiler: alcohol is a common theme).
Honestly, I hope alcohol is involved, or else it’ll be hard to explain Ricky Jean-Francois’s contract. We love Ricky, right? But if Justin Smith’s absence last year is any indication, he won’t save the Colts from giving up 24 points per game.
St. Louis Rams
Hey Sam Bradford — Steph Curry called, he wants his ankle back. /RIMSHOTTTTT
Okay, that was a horrible joke, and to be honest it’s been nice to have such a porcelain opponent in division for so many years. Remember when the Rams drafted Bradford and they were supposed to take over as NFC West juggernauts? Instead it was disappointment year-after-year.
I’ll give them this: Jeff Fisher and the Rams held the 49ers to their most mediocre performances of the season last year, but even then they still went to overtime in both games and one resulted in a freakin’ tie. Fisher must want to get on Jim Harbaugh’s blacklist. Not a smart move, right Pete?
The Rams are a sleeper pick to make noise in the NFC West this year, but if they want to stay competitive they probably shouldn’t rely on offensive weapons the size of a Keebler elf. If it wasn’t for Dan Snyder, RGIII and that abomination of a trade, the Rams would still be slap-fighting with the Cardinals for worst in the West. Actually, scratch that. They’ll still be fighting with the Cards for fourth.
Ahhhh, the Texans. They’re headlined by the best fantasy football running back that nobody wants to draft, an aging quarterback nobody wants to draft and an even older wide receiver nobody wants to draft. Oh, and the oldest safety in the NFL on a defense nobody really wants to draft either.
The Texans have become the posterboys for making the playoffs every year without anybody noticing it. They go to the postseason and beat the Bengals only to move on and get embarrassed by a real team. Seriously, it’s happened two years in a row now.
All respect to J.J. Watt, but if I hear one more analyst say his emergence taught defensive linemen to “get their hands up and bat down passes” I’m going to throw my remote at the TV. Any defensive line coach worth the whistle he chews on teaches his players to do that. Watt may be extremely talented, but he’s not revolutionary.
And finally, I think I speak for every fantasy football player everywhere when I say SCREW YOU BEN TATE.
The Cardinals roast themselves pretty much every time they take the field. Their brief success was really achieved by stepping on the backs of some embarrassing divisional competition, and they did what they do best when they finally made it to the Super Bowl: they failed.
I was rooting for them too. Not in the Gary Radnich-ish, “root for the western teams” kind of way. I was rooting for them because there are few teams in the NFL I hate with more vitriolic passion than the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ll really never forgive the Cardinals for giving Steelers fans the “Sixburgh” nickname. You could have stopped this, Cardinals. It’s all your fault.
Your punishment? You suffered through quarterbacks like Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, and now you’ll have to suffer through Carson Palmer. Just ask Raiders fans how this is going to work: your defense will sieve out 30 points to your competition, Palmer will rally you back and then, right when you get near the opponent’s red zone, he’ll throw some shockingly idiotic pick-6.
And if you’re counting on your defense to actually look like something against the 49ers because Michael Crabtree isn’t around to pick on Patrick Peterson, don’t hold your breath. Anquan Boldin is up to the task.
I’ll keep this short because nobody cares about the Titans. They were kinda sorta cool when Steve McNair took them to the Super Bowl, but I was in 7th grade for it and they haven’t been relevant since. There was also the year when Chris Johnson was the best running back in the league, but even he couldn’t save his team from the quicksands of eternal obscurity.
It’s pretty hard to miss on a quarterback these days, but by choosing Jake Locker the Titans certainly joined the pantheon of teams who’ve put all their eggs in one terrible basket. With any luck, the Titans will be just good enough to miss out on Teddy Bridgewater and Jadaveon Clowney. Life isn’t fair.
Speaking of obscure AFC South teams. If it wasn’t for the Raiders, the Jaguars would be voted “most likely to be demoted to the Arena League.” They’ve at least been tagged as “most likely to be moved to LA,” which is sad because everyone in the south is obsessed with football and Jaguars football moves the needle like a decomposing corpse.
The Jaguars are so bad, Tim Tebow was given the choice and opted to go to the Jets. Maurice Jones-Drew had better make a comeback because he’s on my fantasy team, but he certainly won’t when he’s getting pummeled at the Queen’s line of scrimmage by Justin Smith. If I were a Jags fan (and I’m not because they don’t exist), I’d already own a Bridgewater jersey.
The Jaguars and the Panthers seem to be in a competition for silliest logo in the NFL. I still think the corniest color scheme goes to the Bengals (what is it about teams named after cats?), but the Panthers are a close second on that one. I can’t see the Panthers without thinking about Jake Delhomme, and that makes me think about losing football.
No matter how many times Cam Newton does that ridiculous Superman touchdown thing, he’ll still be the guy who got punked by a 6-year-old (his mom’s favorite player). This will be billed as a matchup between two athletic quarterbacks, except only one will get stifled by a real defense.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints will probably be pretty good this year, which is too bad because the NFL was better when their team was a disaster. New Orleans is a frustrating team, capable of exploding at any moment. Still, they can’t manage to beat the NFC West, and the Superdome’s crowd noise becomes virtually nonexistent when the 49ers are scoring touchdowns on offense and defense.
The Saints were more hateable when Gregg Williams was still on their coaching staff, but Sean Payton will do just fine.
And just for good measure:
Robert Griffin III is the only quarterback in the league getting more attention than Colin Kaepernick right now, which is cool because I’m literally exhausted with the discussion of how often the 49ers will run the read-option. Let the experts wonder what Mike Shanahan will destroy next (hint: it’ll be his own skin) while Kaepernick continues to get better. Griffin seems to do all the right things, and Alfred Morris is pretty good, but Washington will suffer for the foreseeable future because ownership refuses to change their overtly racist name.
This game will be good if Griffin stays healthy long enough to actually face off with Kaepernick. That’s a huge if.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Greg Schiano wants to be Jim Harbaugh so bad. It won’t happen, because Harbaugh has redeeming qualities — he’s goofy, he can be fun. Schiano just seems pissed off all the time, and while Harbaugh will troll the sidelines screaming and whining about calls, Schiano is the one calling all-out blitzes on kneel downs.
Josh Freeman is a less talented Ben Roethlisberger, Doug Martin’s nickname is actually his college girlfriend’s nickname, Darrelle Revis is the next Nnamdi Asomugha and Dashon Goldson will probably be serving a season-long suspension for killing a receiver across the middle by the time the Buccaneers play the 49ers.
San Francisco beat Tampa 48-3 in 2011, and that was with Alex Smith at quarterback.
This team has it all — and by “all” I mean a great quarterback and two great wide receivers. The Falcons traded out Michael Turner for Steven Jackson and now everybody thinks their running game will be revitalized. Get excited, Roddy White and Julio Jones owners: it’ll only take Mike “Steve Martin” Smith about three series to realize the Jackson acquisition was a complete failure before he goes back to the air with his perpetually red-faced quarterback.
And one-dimensional teams don’t do well against the 49ers. (See: Packers, Saints)
Oh, you thought I forgot about them? No list would be complete without Pete’s kids, and I certainly couldn’t put them in the middle of this one. Where do I even begin?
I can’t attack Russell Wilson’s character or his first season’s body of work, but I can attack the yoga photo shoot he participated in. Lots of people think Wilson will take a step back this year, and unfortunately I can’t agree. I think he’s going to be just as good, which means I’m going to hate him even more.
When Marshawn Lynch isn’t burping up beer bubbles while weaving through I-880 traffic in a creeper van, he’s weaving through defenders, charged with pre-diabetes amounts of Skittles coursing through his veins. Why hasn’t he been convicted yet? It’s literally been on the docket for years now.
Golden Tate can thank replacement refs for his 15 seconds of fame.
Richard Sherman is literally the only man on earth who can make Skip Bayless likable. I’d better refer to him as “All Pro Stanford Graduate,” because it’s the only title he has right now. Sherman is a damn good cornerback, but what he possesses in play-making ability he lacks in his ability to successfully rip the most rip-able personality in sports. His “assault” on Bayless was almost as graceful as his attempt to cover Roddy White in the playoffs last year.
WATCH OUT FOR THAT BANANA PEEL (horrible GIF on the horizon)
Unless Pete Carroll used to be a three pack-a-day smoker and he’s grubbing 4 mg chiclets of Nicorette, there’s no excuse for the prominence of that god damn gum he chews. It’s his signature, his version of Harbaugh’s fleece and khakis, except Carroll’s gum addiction is exponentially more obnoxious. And seriously, didn’t your mother tell you not to smack gum like that?
Harbaugh owns Carroll, but moms everywhere probably love Carroll because he seems like the friendly neighbor. I see through the facade. He’s like the neighbor in Disturbia — totally friendly by all appearances but he’s actually plotting something truly evil. The NFL is a cutthroat business, and Carroll is trying to pass on an image of helping his daughters sell Girl Scout cookies while he’s spending his evenings dispensing ADHD medication and obsessively studying the 49ers’ personnel strategy with Scot McCloughan over a handle of Gilbey’s gin.
Bruce Irvin is not Aldon Smith, Russell Wilson is not Colin Kaepernick, Aaron Curry was not the second coming of Patrick Willis and the Seahawks will never be the 49ers. So I speak for everyone when I say rest in peace to the Seahawks, and every other team on the 49ers’ 2013 schedule.