Change we can believe in
The coaching staff has hinted that the playbook will open up, allowing Colin Kaepernick to throw more in a "real breakout year." The offense was scaled back early last season when Kaepernick was battling a foot injury, Michael Crabtree was still on the shelf and Vernon Davis was battling through hamstring issues.
The 49ers are falling behind the division-rival Seahawks on defense with linebacker NaVorro Bowman and nose tackle Glenn Dorseyboth injured and pass rusher Aldon Smith a candidate for NFL suspension. Safety Eric Reid, a 2013 draft pick, is the longest-tenured defensive back in a rebuilt secondary that might experience growing pains. This defense is in jeopardy of slipping out of the top five for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh-Vic Fangio era.
Notable Madden ratings
Training camp surprise
What we'll be saying in February
The 49ers were talented enough to overcome a first-half adjustment period on defense, but the team never gelled after an offseason filled with questions about Harbaugh's San Francisco future.
Around The NFL's predicted finish: Second place in NFC West, No. 7 in Around The NFL's Power Index.