49ers Alex Smith Under Pressure in 2012

The San Francisco 49ers emerged as one of the biggest surprises in 2011 and even fell just short of the Super Bowl after losing to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game.

If the 49ers have any chance of returning to the playoffs and getting over the hump to participate in this year’s Super Bowl down in New Orleans–they’ll need Alex Smith to have the best season of his career.

This team already established a reputation for themselves for having one of the toughest defenses in the NFL last season and was the main reason they made the playoffs considering how inconsistent the offense was.

If Smith could figure out a way to perform at the high level he played at when San Francisco hosted New Orleans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last January–he would easily be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

On the bright side, Smith did break the 3,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his career in 2011–which is some-what embarrassing for a quarterback that was once the first overall pick in the draft.

Now, if Smith can only figure out a way to break the 20-touchdown mark in 2012 with an upgraded receiving unit consisting of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.