The San Francisco 49ers open their 2011 NFL season and the Jim Harbaugh with a home contest against their division rivals from the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Seahawks. The two teams opened the 2010 season up in Seattle and saw a promising early 6-0 lead fall to pieces as the Seahawks rattled off 31 unanswered points. The loss kicked off a five game losing streak to start the 49ers season and eventually lead to the dismissal of head coach Mike Singletary.
A year later the 49ers have brought in Jim Harbaugh following his hugely successful run coaching the Stanford Cardinal. The 49ers are hoping for a bit of a repeat of the magic that Bill Walsh brought from Palo Alto 30 years ago. The team is somewhat handicapped by the lockout, which truncated the offseason. However, optimism is still there for the return of the west coast offense and the potentially aggressive defensive scheme of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Both teams enter Sunday's game with numerous question marks and the answers could lead to division glory or the basement. The most prominent question mark for each team is at quarterback where the 49ers send out Alex Smith and the Seahawks send out Tarvaris Jackson. There are plenty of important questions, but for many fans the fate of their respective teams rests on the shoulders of these two young men.
For the 49ers however, the offensive line might be the real question mark. The line looked great in two preseason games and looked abysmal in the other two preseason games. If the 49ers are going to find offensive success, the line will need to develop consistency. Until that happens it might not matter who is at quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers will be looking for some consistency in the pass rush and also consistency from the secondary. The 49ers have been quite solid in stopping the run in recent seasons, but they've continually struggled against the pass. They drafted Aldon Smith to turn into the monster pass rusher they never got from Manny Lawson. They have had some serious turnover in the secondary as well due to free agency and injuries and will look for the new members to provide a bit more consistency.