How the San Francisco 49ers can win the NFC West

NFC West, San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers haven’t won a division title since 2012. How can Kyle Shanahan’s team build on 2017’s late-season momentum and capture the NFC West?

There’s a lot of excitement in the Bay Area these days when it comes to the NFL. Yes, Jon Gruden is back as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. But what team in the league enters 2018 with the longest-current winning streak?

Following a 1-10 start, the San Francisco 49ers opted to start their 2017 prized acquisition in the club’s final five games. And while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t put up eye-popping numbers, he was clearly in command when it came to the club. The result was a season-ending 5-0 run, knocking off the playoff-bound Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and (albeit the resting) Los Angeles Rams in the final three weeks.

So in this final installment of HOW all eight teams that finished in last place in their division in 2017 can soar to the top, what are three essential aspects of the game that the 49ers must improve on for Shanahan’s club to unseat the Rams in the NFC West?

3. Better offensive line play

When you’re facing the likes of 2017 NFL sack leader Chandler Jones, the new-look tandem of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh as well as the Seattle Seahawks’ defense a combined six times during the season, you better be pretty secure up front. So it’s no wonder that Niners’ general manager John Lynch addressed the offensive line numerous times this offseason.

The club added veteran center Weston Richburg (New York Giants) and used the 10th overall pick on April 26 on Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey. There are also the additions of guard Jonathan (Dallas Cowboys) and center Mike Person (Indianapolis Colts). Teamed with incumbents such as veteran left tackle Joe Staley and guards Laken Tomlinson and Josh Garnett, the 49ers need to improve on a ground game that ranked 21st in the NFL. And Shanahan’s club needs to cut back on those 43 sacks allowed.

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