Everyone assumes the floor for the 49ers will be drastically lower, with Trey Lance under center in 2022. However, those same folks believe San Francisco’s ceiling is significantly higher, thus, making the unknown for this season the reason to tune in weekly.
Let’s examine both the floor and the ceiling of what the national pundits expect from the Niners this season. For this exercise, let’s act as if the floor would be missing the playoffs while the ceiling would be hoisting a Lombardi trophy.
Peter King - 7th seed
I’m going to tell you that King has had success predicting teams on the heels of him saying Lance will lose his job Monday, Trey Sermon would be the team’s RB1 this season, and Jimmy Garoppolo would be cut.
King has fared relatively well over the years when it comes to season-long predictions for teams. He’s picked the Super Bowl winner four years in a row. This year, he has the Bills beating the Packers. Here’s how King sees the NFC shaking out:
1. New Orleans (12-5). Note of the week: Saints have beaten Tom Brady’s Bucs in all four regular-season meetings, and none of the four has been a one-score game.
2. Green Bay (12-5). Minnesota threatens, but Aaron Rodgers figures out how to make Romeo Doubs a factor early, and off they go.
3. Philadelphia (11-6). DeVonta Smith/A.J. Brown combined to average 14.1 yards per catch last year. Now Jalen Hurts has them both.
4. LA Rams (10-7). This is still a very good team. But it’s a very good team facing a murderous schedule, starting with the Bills in three days.
5. Minnesota (11-6). Is this the year Eric Kendricks finally gets credit for being a top-five NFL ‘backer?
6. Tampa Bay (10-7). Just too much noise and too many injuries around this team. Talent, and Brady, makes the Bucs still a factor.
7. San Francisco (10-7)*. We interrupt this endless quarterback story to remind you the other 51 players on this roster are pretty good.
*Tiebreaker: San Francisco over Dallas (10-7).
Wild card: Green Bay over San Francisco, Tampa Bay over Philadelphia, LA Rams over Minnesota.
In this prediction, the 49ers are the reason the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs. Finishing 10-7 should be viewed as a success, as should making the playoffs. I agree that the Saints, Eagles, and Vikings make the playoffs.
There isn’t enough being made about Matthew Stafford’s injury, the lack of depth on the Rams, or how they’ve escaped the injury bug under Sean McVay. Pair each of those with the Super Bowl hangover, and you have yourself a new NFC West Champion coming out of the Bay Area.
King seems to believe the Niners’ floor is outside of the playoffs, while them getting into the postseason will be as far as they go before Aaron Rodgers cuts the Super Bowl dream short.
Analyst John Breech has correctly picked the AFC team to last in the Super Bowl in four of the previous seven years. Last season, he predicted the NFC Divisional round correctly too:
Teams: 1. Packers 2. Rams 3. Eagles 4. Buccaneers 5. Cowboys 6. Vikings 7. 49ers
(7) 49ers 22-19 over (2) Rams
(6) Vikings 30-27 over (3) Eagles
(4) Buccaneers 34-31 over (5) Cowboys
(1) Packers 20-17 over (7) 49ers
Breech had the Broncos beating the Packers in the Super Bowl.
The joy in beating the Rams, especially one season after the loss in the NFC Championship, won’t last long after years and years of playoff success against Green Bay. Would you be satisfied with this result?
Of course, everyone wants to win a Super Bowl. But a playoff win in Year 1 as the starter for Lance would signal San Francisco has the correct player under center.
Breech’s confidence in a playoff victory over a divisional rival suggests the 49ers’ floor and ceiling are both higher than what King had.
The Sporting News
The final prediction comes from Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News, who is all in on the 49ers. Iyer predicts the 49ers to finish 13-4:
1. San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
The 49ers have the most talented team of the Kyle Shanahan era and should Trey Lance not live up to the massive hype (he will), they have a strong fallback plan in place again with Jimmy Garoppolo. Offense, defense and special teams add up to a high floor with a Super Bowl-winning ceiling.
Wild-card round: No. 2 Buccaneers over No. 7 Vikings ... No. 3 49ers over No. 6 Eagles ... No. 5 Rams over No. 4 Cowboys
Divisional round: No. 1 Packers over No. 5 Rams ... No. 2 Buccaneers over No. 3 49ers
Iyer also predicted the Packers to win it all. The Niners’ quest for six falls short at the hands of Tom Brady.
What does a successful season look like?
An NFC West title. That’s what the 49ers should strive for in 2022. Iyer’s outlook is as close to this team's best-case scenario as it gets.
Realistically, the 49ers can win the Super Bowl this season. Nobody would argue that considering what we’ve seen from this team with a healthy quarterback. But you can’t ignore Lance’s inevitable bumps in the road, the young offensive line, and what could be another season of injuries that lead to a depleted secondary.