The Orion

California NFL 2015 season preview

Nick Martinez-Esquibel

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NFL fans have been waiting for the new season since the day Super Bowl XLIX ended. Supporters of California teams should be excited for the upcoming season, but not surprised if their team isn’t the one lifting the Lombardi trophy in Santa Clara at the season’s end.

San Francisco 49ers- The Niners suffered one of the worst offseasons in NFL history. Firing successful head coach Jim Harbaugh started a snowball effect on an empire that had made three straight NFC Championship games in a row at the edge of collapsing. Coordinators Greg Roman and Vic Fangio— gone. Linebackers Chris Borland and Patrick Willis— retired. Offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati— retired and traded. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree and beloved running back Frank Gore—gone. But wait, there’s more. Linebacker Aldon Smith, possibly the best player left on the roster, was dismissed from the team last month after his third DUI arrest. Fellow linebacker Ahmad Brooks’ status is in the air, as he was recently charged with sexual battery. In total, the Niners have lost players that added up to 50 percent of their snaps last season. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still struggling in the preseason, taking a safety last preseason game against the Broncos. Niner fans should be happy if the new head coach, Jim Tomsula, and coaching staff can miraculously get the team back to an 8-8 record.

Prediction: 5-11, last in the NFC West, miss the playoffs.

Oakland Raiders- With the demolition of the Niner empire, there is now debate of who is the best team in the Bay Area, and the Oakland Raiders could make a strong case for it. Entering their second NFL season, linebacker Khalil Mack, running back Latavius Murray and quarterback Derek Carr have looked great in the preseason and are primed for a breakout year. Management has stocked Carr with offensive weapons by drafting electrifying wide receiver Amari Cooper out of Alabama while signing veteran Michael Crabtree from across the bay. The Raider coaching staff was also revamped over the spring. The team hired a new head coach, Jack Del Rio, as well as new offensive and defensive coordinators. It won’t be this year, but Raider fans are excited for the future and hope for their first winning record since 2002, when they reached the Super Bowl.

Prediction: 5-11, last in the AFC West, miss the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers: Coming off their second straight 9-7 season, the Chargers headed into the offseason with a bitter taste in their mouth after finishing with a winning record, but missing the playoffs. Leading up to the draft, trade rumors swirled around quarterback Phillip Rivers. Some believed the Chargers were going to ship their starting quarterback of the last nine years to the Tennessee Titans for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Ultimately, the deal was never conceived and the Chargers signed Rivers to a four-year extension. In the draft, the Bolts took Wisconsin running back, Melvin Gordon, with the 15th overall pick who has struggled this preseason to get to an NFL running level. The additions make it seem like the Chargers are ready for another successful year, but will they taste playoff glory?

Prediction: 8-8, third in the AFC West, miss the playoffs.

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter.

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California NFL 2015 season preview