BEHIND THE PLATE: 49ers get it done this year

Seven months later, the final play of the Super Bowl still causes headaches and frustration. Oh so close.

The 49ers were one play away from winning their first championship since Steve Young led the Gold Rush almost 20 years ago. Instead, Baltimore’s fast start helped the Ravens hold on for the title and put an end to all the stories about Ray Lewis’ retirement party.

The new season is finally here as the Ravens and Broncos opened on Thursday. What can we expect after many intriguing storylines from the year before?

The Colts went on miraculous run to make the playoffs while their coach received cancer treatment. The 49ers seemingly flipped a coin during the second half about which quarterback to start. And don’t forgot the massive dud the NFL laid to begin the season with the awful replacement referees. Green Bay fans will never forget the horrendous call that gave Seattle a last-second win.

This season, though, is already shaping up to be another memorable one.

Colin Kaepernick is no doubt the starter for the 49ers. Several teams with new quarterbacks are hopeful to emerge past losing records. Oakland, Buffalo, New York and Kansas City look to rid the bad taste of their bad gambles at the quarterback position.

With the season beginning on Sunday for the rest of the 30 NFL teams, the ultimate prize — the light at the end of the tunnel — awaits in February. Will your team be the last one standing or will you be dying for Spring Training?

Here’s how the NFL should shape up for the 2013 season.

NFC West

You can argue all you want but this division will be the toughest in the NFL. Seattle and San Francisco will beat each other to death while St. Louis looks to be a sleeper. The Rams owned the 49ers last year, and the Seahawks wished every game was at home.

Champion: San Francisco

Wild Card: Seattle

NFC South

Everyone keeps talking about how great Atlanta’s going to be this season. Has anyone forgotten about the Saints or even the Panthers? What about the Bucs? This could be the most surprising division.

Champion: New Orleans

Wild Card: Atlanta

NFC North

The Packers continue to be the best team hailing from the division, but the Vikings made a run last year with Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson. Minnesota will not get lucky again but Chicago could surprise the league with its new coach. Detroit’s 2011 run was a fluke.

Champion: Green Bay

NFC East

Will the Cowboys finally win the division? The Giants have owned the East since winning the Super Bowl in 2008, but Dallas’ coaching shake-up might be the missing piece to the puzzle. Washington, though, looms but having RG3 on the field sooner than we thought could cripple their season. Chip Kelly’s offense in Philly could be the biggest surprise if it’s successful like Oregon.

Champion: Dallas

AFC West

Denver should have no problems winning the West again. The Raiders and Chiefs are nowhere close to being successful but not having Norv Turner guide the Chargers could make San Diego competitive again.

Champion: Denver

AFC South

Houston appears to be the clear favorite and now that Indy has its coach back, what motivation will guide the Colts’ ship to success? Jacksonville and Tennessee are still irrelevant, making this a two-team race to No. 1

Champion: Houston

AFC North

Cleveland showed signs during the preseason of good things to come, but it still has to compete with Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The North will be the toughest in the AFC with three teams making the playoffs.

Champion: Baltimore

Wild Cards: Cincinnati and Pittsburgh

AFC East

This division is a joke, and it’s unfortunate that one of Fallon’s boys is associated with one of the most self-obsessed coaches in sports. The Patriots have the East already won but could see it’s stiffest competition (by definition, a margin in the teens) hail from Buffalo.

Champion: New England

NFC Championship

San Francisco over Green Bay

AFC Championship

Houston over New England

Super Bowl

San Francisco over Houston

The 49ers will make another trip to the Promised Land after falling several yards short last season. How does a Colin Kaepernick parade sound during Nevada’s homecoming next year?

Thomas Ranson can be contacted at


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