Sports Illustrated put out their 2010 NFL Preview recently and they've got the 49ers coming in first for the NFC West with an 8-8 record. They cite Alex Smith as the catalyst for how far the 49ers can make it as a team, which is definitely the case to be made. What's immediately clear, though, is that they obviously don't have an entirely large amount of faith in Smith, which also, by the way, is entirely understandable.
Still, I think with 49ers fans at this point in time, 8-8 is unacceptable, even with a division win. This team appears to have come much further than that. They don't have an entirely tough schedule, but 8-8 with pro bowl players on their roster such as Vernon Davis, Frank Gore (with pro bowler Brian Westbrook backing him up), Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, how can you not have high expectations? It's true all of those players were there last year, but this year just feels different.
It's true though, that 8-8 is likely enough to win the division over the Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks. If it comes down to that, yeah, I'm sure we'll take it. We'll go into the postseason, but at 8-8, can we really expect to make a difference? Who knows, it all shoulders on, as Sports Illustrated points out: Alex Smith.
I think, overall, the SI preview is a good measure of how the general public views the San Francisco 49ers at this time. Frank Gore should break out, the rookie offensive line should be solid, and the defense should be very stingy. But of course, they will struggle because of Alex Smith. Let's just add that prediction to Alex Smith's stack of "Haters Gonna Hate-mail," and another person to prove wrong.