With a stacked roster mostly intact, the San Francisco 49ers are getting some 2020 Super Bowl love from ESPN’s Football Power Index.
The Niners came out of nowhere to finish 13-3 last season. Although they lost three starters this offseason, ESPN’s FPI gives San Francisco a 12% chance to win it all next year, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs (21%), Baltimore Ravens (17%) and New Orleans Saints (13%).
FPI’s projected win totals for the 49ers is 10.2 wins, and it gives the Niners an 81% chance to make the playoffs, the second highest in the NFC, trailing only the Saints. Here is ESPN’s explanation on why it has New Orleans just ahead of San Francisco:
“Though FPI thinks the 49ers are the third-best team and the best NFC franchise, the New Orleans Saints (fourth in FPI rating) are actually the third-most-likely team to win the Super Bowl at 13%, with San Francisco coming in at 12%. Why? New Orleans faces a slightly easier schedule than the 49ers and is a tad more likely to win the NFC South (59%) than the Niners are to win the NFC West (53%). The Saints are our narrow NFC favorites in what could be quarterback Drew Brees’ last ride.”
Let’s not forget ESPN’s FPI had the 49ers projected win total at 7.7 going into last season, while ranking them as the 21st best team in football. San Francisco blew that total out of the water.
FPI has the Niners offense ranked No. 5 in the league. It is interesting to see the defense being ranked fifth as well, behind the Patriots, Bills, Steelers and Buccaneers. The Special Teams unit comes in at No. 3 overall.
The one thing FPI does have right in my mind is that the Niners, Chiefs, Saints and Ravens are the four best teams in the league by quite a wide margin. FPI’s ability to predict Super Bowl contenders has been pretty good over the last five years, with four out of the last five Super Bowl champions being ranked in the top five of FPI’s preseason rankings.
But, with the coronavirus pandemic still looming large, there will be many factors that will play a role in determining a champion next season. We don’t know how far behind the curve incoming rookies like Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk will be with a non-traditional offseason. Another factor to consider is potentially playing games without fans, which will have obviously a huge impact on home-field advantage.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross believes things will be back to normal by the fall, but as a California resident, I am skeptical. I don’t see large gatherings being allowed here until a vaccine is developed, which most likely won’t happen until early next year.
Either way, the expectations are Super Bowl or bust for the 49ers. Their roster is loaded with high-end talent, and with the continuity going into next season, San Francisco should be among the final four teams going into the Conference Championship games.
If the league is forced to alter its schedule and cancel OTAs, while playing games without fans in attendance, how much of an impact do you think it will have on the 49ers?