Niners Poised for Run at Super Bowl

San Francisco a favorite of many (including computers), but team is vulnerable in some areas, and any key failures could spell disaster in 2013

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Can running back Frank Gore continue to be productive now that he's 30 years old? (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

    In two seasons under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have risen dramatically to become one of the NFL’s best teams after a decade in the doldrums.

    In his first season, they reached the NFC Championship Game. In his second, they reached the Super Bowl. This year, some are predicting San Francisco to win it all.

    Las Vegas oddsmakers have picked the 49ers, and many NFL analysts have, too. And a  computer program in Philadelphia called The Predictalator even simulated the NFL season 50,000 times, with the 49ers winning the Super Bowl 20.1 percent of the time, the best rate in the league.

    So, going into Game 1 of the 2013 season Sunday at Candlestick Park against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers are well-positioned to make another run at an NFC title and the Super Bowl’s Vince Lombardi Trophy. But not everything always goes according to plan. As good as the 49ers appear to be, bad things will occasionally happen to good teams.

    Here are five reasons the 49ers can win the Super Bowl, and five reasons they can’t:

    WHY THEY’LL WIN IT ALL

    1. Colin Kaepernick. What everyone saw in 2012 was just the tip of the iceberg. The young quarterback will build on what he learned in his half season as a starter and become an even more dynamic player in 2013.
    2. Defense. With defensive end Justin Smith healthy again, more depth at defensive line and linebacker and the addition of Nnamdi Asomugha as a third cornerback, the 49ers are dominating again.
    3. Harbaugh. Who’s got it better than the 49ers at head coach? Nobody. The guy always wins.
    4. Frank Gore: Running backs aren’t supposed to stay at the top of their game after age 30, but Gore showed in the preseason he’s still as quick as ever. A dynamic Gore, backed up by Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James, creates a deep corps of backs.
    5. Newcomers: Offseason additions such as starting safety Eric Reid, wide receiver Quinton Patton, tight end Vance McDonald, linebacker Corey Lemonier and place-kicker Phil Dawson help lift the 49ers to even greater heights.

    WHY THEY WON’T

    1. Kaepernick is injured: If he goes down, the 49ers are left with the unimpressive Colt McCoy or rookie B.J. Daniels at QB, not a pretty scenario. And with Kaepernick’s penchant for running, he could take plenty of hits this season.
    2. The NFC West: Just winning the division will be difficult, let alone advancing through the playoffs. The Seahawks are being picked by many to not only win the West but go to the Super Bowl. The Rams are greatly improved under proven coach Jeff Fisher and the Cardinals actually have a quarterback to go with a strong defense.
    3. Wide receivers. What if the injury to Michael Crabtree proves too costly to overcome, with nobody stepping up to fill his shoes? Anquan Boldin should be steady, but Marlon Moore, Patton, Jonathan Baldwin and Chris Harper still have to prove themselves, and Kyle Williams is returning from injury.
    4. Frank Gore: That 30 barrier is indeed too strong to cross, and Gore can’t carry  the load anymore, putting more pressure on Hunter and James.
    5. Newcomers: If any of the key additions isn’t up to the job, the 49ers could be vulnerable. If Reid can’t be a strong pass defender; if Asomugha is over the hill; if defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey is just mediocre; if Dawson suddenly becomes erratic (as David Akers did in 2012), several wins could slip through their fingers and the Niners could fail to get to the postseason.