Who’s The Next Niners?

Posted: January 24, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
Tags: , , , , , , ,

While they didn’t make it all the way to the golden shores of Super Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers pushed their turnaround season to limit on Sunday night. Absolutely nobody would’ve picked a team coming off a 6-10 year, featuring a first time NFL coach leading a team with Alex Smith at quarterback, would end up a fumble and field goal away from being the best in the NFC this year.

Nobody.

It just goes to prove even further that nobody is ever truly out of it in the NFL. It only takes a few crucial moves, a quick change in philosophy and a bit of kind scheduling, to put a team in prime position to turn their whole fortunes around in the blink of an eye.

This time last year, nobody thought "Who's the next Alex Smith" could mean anything that didn't lead to a duel.

So who’s next? Can any of the bottom feeders from 2011 take on the full blown Cinderella move the Niners put on this year and wear the “glass cleat” they rocked almost all the way to the biggest dance of them all?

Well, yeah. It’s very possible, and there are a number of teams that have what it takes to have a day to the night that was the season that’s landed them atop the upcoming draft. So I’ve taken it upon myself to name a few of the most likely candidates to shock you later on this year.

 

Carolina Panthers: When you look at Carolina it’s easy to think Cam and that’s it, and for obvious good reason. The “better damn be Offensive Rookie of the Year to be” put on to the tune of 4,757 yards and 35 TDs this year, and carried the weight of a four game improvement. However, the best is yet to come here.

See, it seemed like it was a one man show because it had to be, mostly because they were among the most wounded teams in the league, with 18 players on the injured reserve. This impacted no side of the ball more than the defense where three starters were lost for virtually the entire season, most notably All-Pro linebacker Jon Beason. Him returning alone changes the whole potential of the club. Add in the the coin flipped eigth or ninth pick in the draft and a division full of teams undergoing makeovers and there could be a lot of noise coming out the Carolinas from more than just Mr. Newton.

The Miami Dolphins: In order to put your feet down and stop your misfortunes full speed like you’re riding that bike you had growing up with no brakes, you have to have a strength to lean on, and the Fins have that in their defense. After taking forever to wake up and realize the season had started, they played good football down the stretch. In all reality, it was more of a surprise that the defense played as bad as it did to start the year allowing the sixth fewest yards as a unit in the league.

Philbin will look to add the final spark to a Dolphins club that went 6-3 after a terrible start.

Now here’s the kicker, despite losing more games in ’11 from ’10, they actually gave up fewer points per game. As a bonus, the offense greatly overachieved in many regards, especially from the coming of age of Reggie Bush. New head coach Joe Philbin has already guarantees a change in philosophy on offense and has made landing a new QB top priority already (can you say Matt Flynn?), so pulling the offense up to speed with the defense is on pace.

Indianapolis Colts: Yeah, I know what just happened down there. It wasn’t even comical how much they got battered around the RCA Dome this year. On top of that, who knows who will be leading the way next year for that mess of an offense, will the defense get any better or who will even be calling the plays in. Sounds like a team that’s prone for another year on top of the draft right?

Wrong. The bottom line is that either Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck will be leading this team next year, and that’s worth between 5 to 7 extra wins itself. Also, they are in a division that is still far from claimed, although the Texans are on the way up.

 

The offense can still go; it just needs a capable driver to handle it and one way or another that’s guaranteed. Also there is a hyper-competitive owner in Jim Irsay that is embarrassed and doesn’t look to be too gun shy about pulling the trigger on any possible move that gets him back in the playoffs immediately. 2011 was an aberration, and this team is definitely prime for strong 180 next year.

 

For more on the march to the biggest Bowl of the year and basically everything else I may end up doing throughout the day, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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