The San Francisco 49ers aren't the same team that nearly won the Super Bowl a few seasons ago. They've got a new head coach and have lost several notable players, but that doesn't mean they won't make the playoffs. Here are four reasons the 49ers are guaranteed to make the playoffs this season.
1. Improved Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick is still one of the best running QBs in the NFL and that won't change this year. What might improve is his passing ability. Kaepernick spent the offseason working with Kurt Warner, which should improve Kaepernick's ability inside the pocket. Kaepernick struggled at times last season, especially late, but should be better this year.
2. Strong Defensive Line
The best way to limit an opposing offense is to have a strong front defensive line. Even after losing Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, the 49ers are still in a good place. Nose guard Ian Williams is one of the more underrated players on the 49ers. Glenn Dorsey wasn't worth the high pick the Chiefs spent on him, but he's a solid player for San Francisco. Darnell Dockett is coming off an ACL tear, but if he's healthy he could have an impact. The 49ers spent a first round pick on Arik Armstead and he's got big-time potential. Tank Carradine could be in for a breakout season and Quinton Dial might finally get some more reps this season.
3. Several Players Are Back From Injury
NaVorro Bowman is back after his nasty leg injury that cost him all of 2014. The 49ers need him after Patrick Willis and Chris Borland retired. Tramaine Brock battled a toe injury much of last season and should start this year. Last year's first round pick Jimmie Ward missed much of the season with a foot injury, but is back at practice. Daniel Kilgore should be back at center after breaking his leg last year. Guard Brandon Thomas might have been a first round pick two years ago if he hadn't suffered a torn ACL. He's healthy now and might start.
4. New Deep Threat
Even when the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl, they lacked a true deep threat. Colin Kaepernick has never really had a player who can stretch the field. The 49ers have that now with Torrey Smith. If Smith and Kaepernick can connect on a few deep balls, it will open up the running game and make it easier to complete passes in the middle of the field.
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