Roger Craig Thinks Niners Have Leg Up In NFC West

June 20, 2010 – By John Ritter

It’s no secret that there has been a shifting of power in the NFC West during the offseason with the Arizona Cardinals losing their quarterback, and the Seattle Seahawks completely reinventing themselves. It would appear the San Francisco 49ers are in position to make their move back to the top of the standings in 2010.

And as former running back Roger Craig sees it, it’s more than just a presumption.

“The 49ers will be a playoff team this season. I’m making that prediction,” Craig told Nancy Gay of FanHouse, via ProFootballTalk. “…The 49ers are the perfect team to annihilate the NFC West.”

San Francisco made a huge leap in ’09, turning out an 8-8 record and contending against their divisional competitors. If not for the loss of Frank Gore at the beginning of the year, that win total could’ve been a bit higher.

The Niners have drafted well over the years, and finally got some production out of their former no. 1 pick Alex Smith, who threw for 2,350 yards and 18 scores last season.

The Cardinals parted ways with Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby due to off-season moves, while Kurt Warner hung it up after 11 years. Matt Leinart is the heir apparent, but even Arizona executives are unsettled.

The Seahawks hired former USC coach Pete Carroll to take the reigns, despite a failed head coaching stint with the New England Patriots in the late 90s. The St. Louis Rams are starting from scratch with rookie Sam Bradford at quarterback.

All that together spells opportunity, says Craig.

“You think about the division — Kurt Warner isn’t with Arizona anymore, so they’re going to rebuilding, and Anquan Boldin is gone,” Craig said. “And Pete Carroll is going to have a tough time the first year. He’s not going to come out of the gate really dominating the West.”

NFL Sportsbooks are still tentative on the notion though, listing San Francisco as just a 13/1 favorite to win the NFC, and a 28/1 underdog to win the 2010 Super Bowl.

But if Gore remains healthy, and Crabtree improves after a nice rookie year, Craig may be doing more than just blowing smoke.

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