SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (15-5)
EXPECTATIONS: After back-to-back losses in the NFC title game, nothing short of a Super Bowl appearance could be considered a success in San Francisco. The 49ers have a star-studded roster with seven players who were picked as first-team All-Pros at least once in the past four seasons. The defense led by Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner was the stingiest in the league last season and added another interior pass rusher in Javon Hargrave to boost one of the only weak spots. Bosa has been holding out all summer but the Niners are hopeful they will sign him to an extension before the start of the season. Brock Purdy emerged from the last pick in the draft to become a viable starting QB, winning his first seven starts before getting hurt in the NFC championship game and posting an impressive 108 passer rating. With Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle as playmakers, Purdy doesn't have to do much to make coach Kyle Shanahan's offense click.
NEW FACES: Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, DT Javon Hargrave, QB Sam Darnold, K Jake Moody, DL Clelin Ferrell, S Ji'Ayir Brown, CB Isaiah Oliver, WR Ronnie Bell, OL Jon Feliciano, OL Matt Pryor.
KEY LOSSES: Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, RT Mike McGlinchey, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, QB Trey Lance, DB Jimmie Ward, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, K Robbie Gould, DL Samson Ebukam, DL Charles Omenihu, CB Emmanuel Moseley, DL Jordan Willis, OL Daniel Brunskill.
STRENGTHS: While the defense has been stellar of late, there might not be any team with the quality of offensive playmakers that the Niners have. McCaffrey is the league's most versatile back with the ability to run between the tackles or line up wide as a receiver. Samuel can shift from wideout to running back and is dangerous any time the ball is in his hands. Aiyuk had his first 1,000-yard season last year and is by far the best route runner of the bunch. Kittle excels as a blocker and receiver and had a career-high 11 TD catches last season, including seven in Purdy's first five starts. Even fullback Kyle Juszczyk is a threat as a receiver.
WEAKNESSES: The Niners roster is loaded but if something holds them back it most likely would be the offensive line. Unproven Colton McKivitz is stepping in at right tackle to replace McGlinchey and there are no solid options behind him if that doesn't work. While Trent Williams is perhaps the top left tackle in the game, the interior of the line could still be a question mark with Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel and Spencer Burford having only one year of starting experience.
CAMP DEVELOPMENT: The biggest question coming into camp was the health of Purdy after he underwent elbow surgery in March. He was cleared to throw at the start of camp and worked his way back to full participation over the past few weeks. His arm strength looks back to where it was pre-injury and there is no doubt that he will enter the season as the starter in San Francisco. With Darnold in place as the backup, the Niners traded away Lance less than three years after trading three first-round picks to draft him third overall.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: McCaffrey averaged 114.8 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown a game since stepping into the starting lineup for San Francisco last season following a midseason trade from Carolina. He once again has established himself as one of the top running backs in the league after two injury-filled seasons. A chance at a second season with at least 1,000 yards rushing and receiving isn't out of the question if he stays healthy.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 10-1. Over/under wins: 10 1/2.
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