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ESPN’s FPI ranks 49ers as sixth-best Super Bowl favorite

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell made the Super Bowl case for every NFL team, including the 49ers.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL regular season finally underway, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell made a case for all 32 teams to win the Super Bowl this season. While Barnwell admittedly struggles to make a case for several rebuilding teams around the league, the 49ers are not one of them. In fact, despite finishing in last place of the NFC West last season, ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) ranks the 49ers the sixth-biggest championship favorite in the league.

FPI has the 49ers winning the Super Bowl in 5.6% of their forecasts and making the playoffs in 68.5% of simulations, slightly ahead of the Los Angeles Rams (5.3% & 64.9%) and Seattle Seahawks (4.6% & 63.2%). While no team from the NFC West ranks among the top five Super Bowl favorites, per FPI, the Niners, Rams, and Seahawks are all in the top nine.

Conversely, the Arizona Cardinals are easily ranked the lowest among NFC West teams, slotting in at 21st in the league with an estimated 0.8% chance of winning the Super Bowl and 31.4% chance of reaching the postseason.

Barnwell understands why FPI considers the 49ers the NFC West favorite but acknowledges the impact their quarterback conundrum will have on how they finish the season. Whether veteran starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo or rookie quarterback Trey Lance is the team’s primary signal-caller by the end of the regular season, both have the upside to lead a championship run and the downside to derail the Niners postseason chances.

Three of the past four teams on this list have been from the NFC West, which should tell you just how talented and how tough that division should be in 2021. FPI likes the 49ers slightly more than the competition, although I’m not sure how it feels about the debate between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. Whatever competition seems to have been settled by default now that Lance has suffered a finger injury, the 49ers will guarantee Garoppolo’s $25 million compensation for 2021 by keeping him on the active roster for Week 1.

“Three of the past four teams on this list have been from the NFC West, which should tell you just how talented and how tough that division should be in 2021. FPI likes the 49ers slightly more than the competition, although I’m not sure how it feels about the debate between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. Whatever competition there was seems to have been settled by default now that Lance has suffered a finger injury; the 49ers will guarantee Garoppolo’s $25 million compensation for 2021 by keeping him on the active roster for Week 1.

Will the 49ers try to pull off the Chief’s Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes approach from 2017? Or will it be like the Smith/Colin Kaepernick season in San Francisco in 2012, when Kaepernick came in for an injured Smith and never gave back the job? I think it could be something more like the Ravens’ Joe Flacco/Lamar Jackson situation in 2018, where Jackson was used early in the season for certain packages before eventually coming in for an injured Flacco later in the season. Lance undoubtedly offers a higher ceiling, but given that Garoppolo came within one deep completion of winning the Super Bowl two years ago, the floor isn’t too bad with the incumbent, either.”

Are you surprised that the 49ers are favorites to win the NFC West?