2011 was a magical season that brought our franchise out of the depths of mediocrity and brought back memories of yesteryear. This has shot expectations through the roof for the upcoming season, to the point where it’s almost Superbowl or bust.
What should are realistic expectations be? Is getting back to the playoffs good enough, winning the division, a playoff game, or does it really take a Superbowl appearance?
Losing the NFC Championship hasn’t been a promising endorsement for the following season. In fact the last 7 teams to lose the NFC Championship have failed to win a playoff game with 6 of those teams not even making the playoffs. The Eagles are the only team over the last decade to win a playoff game following a NFC Championship loss. If you take out the Eagles the last team to win a playoff game was the 1999 Minnesota Vikings whom won a wild card game: the year before they had gone 15-1.
Are the 49ers destined to repeat these performances? I hope not, but let’s temper the expectations on this season before we go putting them in the Superbowl. For as close as we were to getting to the Superbowl last year, we were just as close to not winning a playoff game.
It took a lot of hard work to get to the point we were at last year, and it helped that we weren’t getting the national attention we deserved. Now there is a target on our back and all eyes will be on us.
While most don’t think it, we go into this season with a lot of question marks. Will Alex Smith play up to the level he did last year? Can we be fortunate when it comes to injuries? Can our defense create turnovers like it did last year? How well will we do playing a first place schedule? How well will we do against great offenses? How much did the rest of the division improve?
I think we will win the division, but I don’t see us going 13-3 or better this year. We have to travel to play New England, Green Bay, New Orleans, and the Jets. We will not sweep the division and add on hard games against the Lions, Giants, and Bears. I’m thinking a 10-6, 11-5 type of year and we’d be lucky to get a first round bye. That means we are most likely going on the road to face a quality opponent, which is never an easy task.
Perhaps we make it to the big game, but I’d be content with a close divisional round loss, anything less I would deem a failure. No it’s not a homer pick, nor is it what many fans want, but I believe it’s a good goal to set and we can go from there.