Can the 49ers go from non-contender in 2018 to first place in the NFC West?
It would be a huge leap for Kyle Shanahan’s team, which finished 4-12 last season behind the 13-3 Rams and 10-6 Seahawks, and goes into the start of training camp this week with a number of question marks.
But NFL analyst Nate Davis of USA Today believes San Francisco will be one of the league’s surprise teams this season.
In his annual projection of the NFL published Monday, Davis puts the 49ers at the top of the NFC West at 10-6, followed by the defending NFC-champion Rams at 9-7 and the Seahawks, also at 9-7. Davis believes the Cardinals will match their 3-13 record of a season ago.
Davis believes the Rams will be bitten by a Super Bowl hangover, a tough travel schedule and running back Todd Gurley’s injuries, while the Seahawks just don’t have the standout playmakers who once powered them to division supremacy.
Meanwhile, the 49ers brought in multiple players through free agency and the draft and get back the quarterback they believe can make them a winner.
Davis is more optimistic of the 49ers chances than most analysts, as well as Las Vegas oddsmakers, who make the Rams the division favorites, but put the Niners No. 2 (tied with Seattle).
Writes Davis: "Is anyone talking about them? Recovered QB Jimmy Garoppolo may have just one premier weapon (TE George Kittle) but has plenty of capable options to leverage in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Should be a joy to watch healthy group, which has consistently fought hard and remained highly capable despite dire circumstances of past two years."
Players are expected to report to training camp Friday.