Vernon Davis is confident, and he should be. Last year under a new head coach his team won 13 regular-season games a year after winning only six, and the Super Bowl heroics of Eli Manning, Mario Manningham et al likely would have been little more than a dreamy fairy tale on a dreary offseason day if Kyle Williams could hold onto a football.

Davis is a key figure on an offense that was supported by a strong running game in 2011, and more depth was added to the backfield between Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James, while Manningham and Randy Moss have been plugged in to give Alex Smith more weapons so that he can finally be more than a mere caretaker for an entire season.

So yeah, Davis is excited and bubbling with gleeful anticipation here in early June. How excited? This much

I strongly believe we should be the Super Bowl favorites.

But I can’t talk about it because it’s all about work. It starts here at practice. I don’t want to talk about it and brag and say this and that, because it’s not about that. It’s about working first. And in the end, you will see where you’ll be.

Too late, Vernon. Now you’ve talked about it.

Within their own division the 49ers are certain favorites, with the Cardinals dealing with a quarterback quandary, and the Rams rebuilding under a new head coach. The quickly rising Seahawks will push San Fran, but they have their own uncertainty under center between the inexperienced Matt Flynn and the unreliable Tarvaris Jackson, and a defense that allowed only 77.2 rushing yards per game (easily a league best) can contain Marshawn Lynch.

Looking at the conference, teams like the Falcons and Lions are lurking, but their defensive holes will be continually exposed, subtracting from explosive, dynamic offenses. Ditto for the Packers, while the Giants and Saints are stiff challenges, but challenges that the 49ers have conquered or nearly conquered.

Between the existing defensive foundation, the continued maturation of Smith under Jim Harbaugh’s system, and the added offensive weapons this offseason, the 49ers have the tools to advance out of the NFC. Then it would take a high octane, Patriot-like offense from the AFC to make Vegas look in the other direction and declare San Francisco the underdog in a Super Bowl matchup.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Yesterday the Seahawks were found to have violated the rules regarding contact during OTAs, regulations implemented by the new CBA that are designed to cover players in several layers of bubble wrap increase player safety. The punishment is a loss of three practices, and head coach Pete Carroll essentially said that if his players tried too hard and there’s consequences for that, then so be it. Translation: good job, good effort. [Seahawks.com video]
  • The Browns only pursued a trade to land the No. 2 pick and Robert Griffin III “enough to say that they tried.” How very Browns of them. [Tony Grossi]
  • Justin Blackmon will step in front of a group of people with cameras, tape recorders, and notepads later today, and they’ll all be very excited to hear him say nothing. [Florida Times-Union]
  • Ike Taylor thinks that Warren Sapp should probably spend his time worrying about his bank account, and not the average age of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sound advice. [Behind The Steel Curtain]
  • Is Julio Jones the next Calvin Johnson? [The Falcoholic]
  • Percy Harvin has returned to practice. [Gregg Rosenthal]
  • Chad Ochocinco’s bedroom skills have been greatly exaggerated due to the deception of asthma. Sucks to your assmar. [Ocho with more Twitter absurdity]
  • Hey, are you a man? And do you enjoy looking at attractive women who are wearing very little clothing while jumping around? The Internet has something to show you. [click for generic, guilt-free oogling]