NFC preview: 49ers ready to pick up where they left off

Colin Kaepernick is ready for his first full season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
Harry How/Getty Images
Colin Kaepernick is ready for his first full season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

A look at how the teams in the NFC shape up this season (Teams listed in predicted order of finish; new players in bold; *denotes injured players expected to start when healthy):


1. NY Giants

Coach: Tom Coughlin (10th year, 83-61)

Last year: 9-7, second


Outlook: Big Blue missed the playoffs after starting 6-2 thanks to a defense that imploded. Victor Cruz is happy with his new contract, and Hakeem Nicks will be motivated to earn one next offseason. Expect a bounce-back year by Eli Manning and the gang, as long as Jason Pierre-Paul’s back is healthy.

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WR impact rank: 3rd. Nicks and Cruz are one of the best tandems in the NFL.

QBEli ManningDEJustin Tuck
RBDavid WilsonDTLinval Joseph
FBHenry HynoskiDTCullen Jenkins
WRVictor CruzDE*Jason Pierre-Paul
WRHakeem NicksOLBKeith Rivers
TEBrandon MyersMLBDan Connor
LTWill BeattyOLBSpencer Paysinger
LGKevin BootheCBCorey Webster
CDavid BaasCBPrince Amukamara
RGChris SneeSRyan Mundy
RTDavid DiehlSAntrel Rolle
KJosh BrownPSteve Weatherford

2. Washington

Coach: Mike Shanahan (4th year, 21-27)

Last year: 10-6, first

Outlook: Kirk Cousins has proven to be a more-than-capable backup, but the Redskins’ Super Bowl hopes ride on the healthy knee of Robert Griffin III, who helped the ’Skins finish the NFL’s best running game and fewest turnovers last year.


WR impact rank: 29th. Need Pierre Garcon healthy for 16 games, because there’s not much else there with Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson, and an aging Santana Moss.

QBRobert Griffin IIIDEChris Baker
RBAlfred MorrisNTBarry Cofield
FBDarrel YoungDEStephen Bowen
WRPierre GarconOLBRyan Kerrigan
WRJosh MorganILBLondon Fletcher
TEFred DavisILBPerry Riley
LTTrent WilliamsOLBBrian Orakpo
LGKory LichtensteigerCBDeAngelo Hall
CWill MontgomeryCBJosh Wilson
RGChris ChesterSBrandon Meriweather
RTTyler PolumbusSBacarri Rambo
KKai ForbathPSav Rocca

3. Dallas

Coach: Jason Garrett (4th year, 21-19)

Last year: 8-8, third

Outlook: Tony Romo finally got paid, and now the Cowboys expect him to cut down on his 19 interceptions and lead Dallas back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Dez Bryant is coming into his own as an elite receiver and DeMarcus Ware has plenty of burst left.

WR impact rank: 10th. Bryant is a stud, but Miles Austin is aging fast, and there’s not much behind him on the depth chart.

QBTony RomoDEAnthony Spencer
RBDeMarco MurrayDTJason Hatcher
WRDez BryantDTNick Hayden
WRMiles AustinDEDeMarcus Ware
WRDwayne HarrisOLBSean Lee
TEJason WittenMLBBruce Carter
LTTyron SmithOLBJustin Durant
LGRonald LearyCBBrandon Carr
CTravis FrederickCBMorris Claiborne
RGMackenzy BernadeauSBarry Church
RTDoug FreeSWill Allen
KDan BaileyPChris Jones

4. Philadelphia


Coach: Chip Kelly (1st year)

Last year: 4-12, fourth

Outlook: The Eagles may be a team no one likes playing at the end of the year, with Kelly bringing an exciting, up-tempo offense that could be unlike anything seen in the NFL. But the defense, transitioning to a 3-4, is devoid of talent.

WR impact rank: 16th. DeSean Jackson is still the best home run hitter in the NFL, but behind him are journeymen and unproven youngsters.

QBMichael VickDECedric Thornton
RBLeSean McCoyDTIsaac Sopoaga
WRDeSean JacksonDEFletcher Cox
WRRiley CooperOLBConnor Barwin
TEBrent CelekILBMychal Kendricks
TEJames CaseyILBDeMeco Ryans
LTJason PetersOLBTrent Cole
LGEvan MathisCBBradley Fletcher
CJason KelceCBCary Williams
RGTodd HerremansSNate Allen
RTLane JohnsonSPatrick Chung
KAlex HeneryPDonnie Jones


1. Green Bay

Coach: Mike McCarthy (8th year, 74-38)

Last year: 11-5, first

Outlook: As long as Aaron Rodgers, 29, is running the show, the Packers are going to be a Super Bowl contender and have one of the league’s best offenses. The defense finished 11th in points allowed but was badly exposed by Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs.

WR impact rank: 6th. Jordy Nelson (when healthy) and Randall Cobb are studs, and Rodgers will make the rest look good, as well.

QBAaron RodgersDEDatone Jones
RBJames StarksNTRyan Pickett
FBJohn KuhnDEB.J. Raji
WRJordy NelsonOLBNick Perry
WRRandall CobbILBA.J. Hawk
TEJermichael FinleyILBBrad Jones
LTDavid BakhtiariOLBClay Matthews
LGJosh SittonCBTramon Williams
CEvan Dietrich-SmithCBSam Shields
RGT.J. LangSM.D. Jennings
RTMarshall NewhouseSMorgan Burnett
KMason CrosbyPTim Masthay

2. Detroit

Coach: Jim Schwartz (5th year, 22-42)

Last year: 4-12, fourth

Outlook: Last year was a disaster, but the Lions have enough talent on both sides to make a big jump. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson might be the best QB-WR duo in the game, Reggie Bush is a nice addition, and the defense has one of the toughest fronts around.

WR impact rank: 4th. Johnson is the best in the game, but the unit is lacking with Nate Burleson, Patrick Edwards, and Ryan Broyles.

QBMatthew StaffordDEJason Jones
RBReggie BushDTNick Fairley
WRCalvin JohnsonDTNdamukong Suh
WRNate BurlesonDEZiggy Ansah
TEBrandon PettigrewOLBAshlee Palmer
TETony SchefflerMLBStephen Tulloch
LTRiley ReiffOLBDeAndre Levy
LGRob SimsCBChris Houston
CDominic RaiolaCBDarius Slay
RGDylan GandySGlover Quin
RTJason FoxSLouis Delmas
KDavid AkersPSam Martin

3. Chicago

Coach: Marc Trestman (1st year)

Last year: 10-6, third

Outlook: Jay Cutler is playing for a new contract and Trestman was brought in to fix Lovie Smith’s mistakes and get this team back to the playoffs. Matt Forte looks great, and if Cutler can cut down on his interceptions, the Bears’ offense should be dynamic.

WR impact rank: 5th. Brandon Marshall is dominant at times but has a bad hip. Alshon Jeffery is a potential star in the making.

QBJay CutlerDECorey Wootton
RBMatt ForteDTHenry Melton
FBTony FiammettaDTStephen Paea
WRBrandon MarshallDEJulius Peppers
WRAlshon JefferyOLBJames Anderson
TEMartellus BennettMLBD.J. Williams
LTJermon BushrodOLBLance Briggs
LGMatt SlausonCBTim Jennings
CRoberto GarzaCBCharles Tillman
RGKyle LongSMajor Wright
RTEben BrittonSChris Conte
KRobbie GouldPAdam Podlesh

4. Minnesota

Coach: Leslie Frazier (4th year, 16-22)

Last year: 10-6, second

Outlook: Adrian Peterson literally carried the Vikings to the playoffs last year, and might need another heroic effort to get his team there again. Christian Ponder is in a make-or-break year. The defense has a budding star in Harrison Smith.

WR impact rank: 28th. Cordarrelle Patterson could develop into a star, but otherwise this unit is castoffs and unproven youngsters.

QBChristian PonderDEBrian Robison
RBAdrian PetersonDTLetroy Guion
FBZach LineDT*Kevin Williams
WRGreg JenningsDEJared Allen
WRJerome SimpsonOLBChad Greenway
TEKyle RudolphMLBErin Henderson
LTMatt KalilOLBMarvin Mitchell
LGCharlie JohnsonCBJosh Robinson
CJohn SullivanCBChris Cook
RGBrandon FuscoSJamarca Sanford
RTPhil LoadholtSHarrison Smith
KBlair WalshPJeff Locke


1. Atlanta

Coach: Mike Smith (6th year, 56-24)

Last year: 13-3, first

Outlook: The Falcons have made steady progress under Smith and Matt Ryan, and should contend for a Super Bowl berth again. Steven Jackson is the new running back, and a solid defense adds Osi Umenyiora and first-round pick Desmond Trufant.

WR impact rank: 2d. Julio Jones and Roddy White are among the NFL’s top 10 receivers, and Harry Douglas is a solid No. 3.

QBMatt RyanDEKroy Biermann
RBSteven JacksonDTJonathan Babineaux
FBBradie EwingDTCorey Peters
WRJulio JonesDEOsi Umenyiora
WRRoddy WhiteOLBStephen Nicholas
TETony GonzalezMLBAkeem Dent
LTSam BakerOLBSean Weatherspoon
LGJustin BlalockCBAsante Samuel
CPeter KonzCBDesmond Trufant
RGGarrett ReynoldsSWilliam Moore
RTLamar HolmesSThomas DeCoud
KMatt BryantPMatt Bosher

2. New Orleans

Coach: Sean Payton (7th year, 62-34)

Last year: 7-9, third

Outlook: The best offseason addition in the NFL wasn’t a player — it was Payton coming back from his one-year suspension. Now Drew Brees can focus on what he does best — leading the NFL’s most potent offense. The defense will likely hold the team back again.

WR impact rank: 15th. Marques Colston and Lance Moore are a nice 1-2 punch, but there’s not much depth behind them.

QBDrew BreesDEAkiem Hicks
RBPierre ThomasNTBrodrick Bunkley
FBJed CollinsDECameron Jordan
WRMarques ColstonOLBJunior Galette
WRLance MooreILBJonathan Vilma
TEJimmy GrahamILBCurtis Lofton
LTCharles BrownOLBMartez Wilson
LGBen GrubbsCBJabari Greer
CBrian De La PuenteCBKeenan Lewis
RGJahri EvansSRoman Harper
RTZach StriefSMalcolm Jenkins
KGarrett HartleyPThomas Morstead

3. Tampa Bay

Coach: Greg Schiano (2nd year, 7-9)

Last year: 7-9, fourth

Outlook: The Bucs are well-coached and play tough under Schiano, and have a lot of good talent on the roster, between Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Lavonte David, and Darrelle Revis. But it’s all going to come down to Josh Freeman, who completed 54.8 percent of his passes last year and is wildly inconsistent.

WR impact rank: 13th. Vincent Jackson is a monster and Mike Williams is a nice No. 2.

QBJosh FreemanDEDa’Quan Bowers
RBDoug MartinDTGerald McCoy
FBErik LorigDTAkeem Spence
WRVincent JacksonDEAdrian Clayborn
WRMike WilliamsOLBDekoda Watson
TELuke StockerMLBMason Foster
LTDonald PennOLBLavonte David
LGCarl NicksCBDarrelle Revis
CJeremy ZuttahCBLeonard Johnson
RGDavin JosephSDashon Goldson
RTDemar DotsonSMark Barron
KRian LindellPMichael Koenen

4. Carolina

Coach: Ron Rivera (3rd year, 13-19)

Last year: 7-9, second

Outlook: No more excuses for the Panthers in Year 3 of Rivera and Cam Newton, who has put up flashy stats but hasn’t won a lot of ballgames. An improving defense should be even better with rookie Star Lotulelei, but the Panthers don’t have the offensive firepower to compete in the toughest division.

WR impact rank: 23rd. Steve Smith still has talent at age 34, but he doesn’t have much help.

QBCam NewtonDECharles Johnson
RBDeAngelo WilliamsDTDwan Edwards
FBMike TolbertDTStar Lotuleilei
WRSteve SmithDEGreg Hardy
WRBrandon LaFellOLBThomas Davis
TEGreg OlsenMLBLuke Kuechly
LTJordan GrossOLBJon Beason
LGAmini SilatoluCBJosh Thomas
CRyan KalilCBCaptain Munnerlyn
RGGarry WilliamsSMike Mitchell
RTByron BellSCharles Godfrey
KGraham GanoPBrad Nortman


1. San Francisco

Coach: Jim Harbaugh (3rd year, 24-7-1)

Last year: 11-4-1, first

Outlook: The 49ers were one play away from winning the Super Bowl, and there’s little reason to think Harbaugh won’t have his team competing for back-to-back trips. Colin Kaepernick now gets 16 games to unleash the Pistol offense, and a dominant defense adds Nnamdi Asomugha for good depth.

WR impact rank: 27th. They better hope Anquan Boldin has enough left in the tank.

QBColin KaepernickDERay McDonald
RBFrank GoreNTIan Williams
FBBruce MillerDEJustin Smith
WRAnquan BoldinOLBAhmad Brooks
WRKyle WilliamsILBNaVorro Bowman
TEVernon DavisILBPatrick Willis
LTJoe StaleyOLBAldon Smith
LGMike IupatiCBCarlos Rogers
CJonathan GoodwinCBTarell Brown
RGAlex BooneSDonte Whitner
RTAnthony DavisSC.J. Spillman
KPhil DawsonPAndy Lee

2. Seattle

Coach: Pete Carroll (5th year, 25-23)

Last year: 11-5, second

Outlook: The Seahawks might be the second-best team in the NFC, behind the 49ers. Russell Wilson was a huge revelation at QB, and the Seahawks are loaded on both sides of the ball, although losing Percy Harvin (hip) for the season and DE Bruce Irvin for four games (suspension) will hurt.

WR impact rank: 11th. Nice unit would have been spectacular with Harvin.

QBRussell WilsonDERed Bryant
RBMarshawn LynchDTTony McDaniel
FBDerrick ColemanDTBrandon Mebane
WRSidney RiceDE*Chris Clemons
WRGolden TateOLBK.J. Wright
TEZach MillerMLBBobby Wagner
LTRussell OkungOLBMalcolm Smith
LGPaul McQuistanCBRichard Sherman
CMax UngerCBBrandon Browner
RGJ.R. SweezySKam Chancellor
RTBreno GiacominiSEarl Thomas
KSteven HauschkaPJon Ryan

3. St. Louis

Coach: Jeff Fisher (2nd year, 7-8-1)

Last year: 7-8-1, third

Outlook: The Rams were a tough team last year and figure to be even tougher in Fisher’s second year, especially on defense. Sam Bradford has shown flashes in his first three seasons, but now needs to take a big step forward with his new targets: Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, and Brian Quick.

WR impact rank: 18th. Givens, Austin, and Quick have a lot of potential, but are unproven.

QBSam BradfordDEChris Long
RBDaryl RichardsonDTKendall Langford
WRChris GivensDTMichael Brockers
WRTavon AustinDERobert Quinn
WRBrian QuickOLBWill Witherspoon
TEJared CookMLBJames Laurinaitis
LTJake LongOLBAlec Ogletree
LGShelley SmithCBCortland Finnegan
CScott WellsCBJanoris Jenkins
RGHarvey DahlST.J. McDonald
RTRodger SaffoldSDarian Stewart
KGreg ZuerleinPJohnny Hekker

4. Arizona

Coach: Bruce Arians (1st year)

Last year: 5-11, fourth

Outlook: The Cardinals are starting over under Arians, but still expect to win after signing Carson Palmer to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. If Arizona can find a semblance of a running game it could be a surprise team, but a brutal division will ultimately keep the Cardinals down.

WR impact rank: 7th. Fitzgerald is still one of the best in the game. Michael Floyd wasn’t great as a rookie but has potential.

QBCarson PalmerDECalais Campbell
RBRashard MendenhallNTDan Williams
WRLarry FitzgeraldDEDarnell Dockett
WRMichael FloydOLBLorenzo Alexander
TEKory SperryILBJasper Brinkley
TERob HouslerILBKarlos Dansby
LTLevi BrownOLBSam Acho
LGDaryn ColledgeCBPatrick Peterson
CLyle SendleinCBJerraud Powers
RGPaul FanaikaSYeremiah Bell
RTEric WinstonSRashad Johnson
KJay FeelyPDave Zastudil