NFC Notes: 49ers, Seahawks, Cowboys

Even though the San Francisco 49ers are one of the two best teams in the NFL, and even though they’ll be better this year than last, the problem is that the No. 1 team is in their division, and they’re improved, too.

National Football Post’s Greg Gabriel previews the 2014 49ers and says that the team’s top priority is, obviously, getting past the Seahawks, who are riding high after a 43-8 throttling of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. At quarterback, San Francisco is set with Colin Kaepernick, but Gabriel notes that there isn’t much behind him in the way of depth, even with the team’s recent acquisition of Blaine Gabbert.

Overall, Gabriel loves the talent on each side of the ball as well as head coach Jim Harbaugh, though the statuses of Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman will be key.

More links from the NFC below:

  • At first glance, the running game of last year’s Seahawks appears quite formidable, as the team ranked fourth in total yards gained on the ground with 2,188. But, as The Seattle Times Bob Condotta notes, ranked the Seahawks No. 13 in adjusted yards per carry, a statistic that takes into account rushing touchdowns and rushing first downs as well as bulk yardage.
  • The Cowboys bounced back from a franchise low in rushing yardage in 2012 — 1,265 yards — to a respectable 1,504 yards in 2013 on 4.5 yards per carry, and lead back DeMarco Murray will be leaned on more than ever in 2014, writes Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News. Despite play-caller Scott Linehan notoriously leaning on the arm of his quarterback more often than not, he’s promised to run with Murray, as the Cowboys are 11-0 when the former Sooner gets 20 or more carries.
  • The Saints need to pay up on a long-term deal for Jimmy Graham, USA TODAY’s Lorenzo Reyes argues. Reyes thinks talks between Graham and the team will intensify as the July 15 deadline to sign a multi-year deal approaches.
  • The opinion by arbitrator Stephen Burbank that a tight end is defined by whether he lines up within four yards of an offensive tackle is not sitting well with the Saints, a source tells Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Per Florio, the team contends that a tight end is a tight end based on the player’s size, his position group and how team’s defend him, and that his relationship to the offensive tackle has no bearing.
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