As part of my season preview, here are some hot takes for the 49ers’ upcoming season. I promise I’ll try to come back at the end of the season and see how many of these actually came to fruition.
1. Nick Bosa will win Defensive Player of the Year
The momentum seems to be quietly building for Nick Bosa to win this award. Over the past few seasons, it’s typically gone to an edge rusher that accumulates a ton of pass-rushing stats by the end of the season. However, Bosa put up 15.5 sacks last season coming off the ACL injury, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him reach the 20-sack mark (something he’s mentioned himself).
Bosa had the entire offseason to refine his game (not focus on rehab), and he should have an even-more talented defensive line to play with this season. If he can stay healthy for 17 games, I like the 49ers’ star pass rusher to win DPOY.
2. Brandon Aiyuk will lead the 49ers in receptions and receiving yards
Brandon Aiyuk quietly started to dominate towards the end of last season in the receiving game but was outshined by Deebo Samuel’s sheer dominance as a “wide back.” Aiyuk seemed to step up his game to another level this offseason, working with quarterback Trey Lance and developing that chemistry.
The 49ers’ coaching staff has been impressed with Aiyuk’s focus, attention to detail, and his development. Most around the team claimed that the former Arizona State receiver had the best training camp of any player on the team.
I think the offense this season is going to set up for No. 11 to be highly successful, and I think when it’s all said and done, he’s going to lead the team in catches and receiving yards.
3. The 49ers’ defense will have 15+ interceptions in 2022
49ers’ safety Jimmie Ward claimed that defense this year will be “pick city,” meaning they’ll rack up interceptions. They finished 2021 with nine interceptions — which feels like a higher number than I recall.
This pass defense has the talent to be very, very good at forcing turnovers this season. They were routinely turning the ball over in training camp, and I think it’s something that can carry over into the season.
If Charvarius Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, Samuel Womack, and Jimmie Ward can stay healthy for the majority of the season — they should be able to reach this mark.
4. Trey Lance will not be benched for Jimmy Garoppolo in 2022
The only scenario I see Jimmy Garoppolo playing for the 49ers this season is if Trey Lance gets injured.
The public pressure to replace Trey Lance will only come if the 49ers’ season starts to go off the rails and they lose a lot of games out of the gate. Even if Lance struggles, I think the 49ers’ roster is too talented, and there are enough easy games in the first ten weeks for them to avoid having a losing record.
In 2019, Garoppolo had nine touchdowns and seven interceptions through the first seven games, and the 49ers were 7-0. Garoppolo grew as that season went on, but he had his fair share of struggles early that season. I’m not saying the 49ers will experience similar success, but it won’t be bad enough to replace Lance.
5. Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers will win the NFC West
I believe the 49ers have a better top-to-bottom roster than the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers’ ceiling in 2022 hinges on the development of Trey Lance, but their floor is exceptionally high because of a talented defense, run game, and continuity along the coaching staff.
The 49ers finished with ten wins last season and only won two of their six divisional games. I think if the 49ers can go 4-2 or better in the division, they will run away with the NFC West and finish as one of the top seeds in the NFC.
The team is starting to believe, and if they can get off to a hot start (see 2019), they’ll be the champions of the NFC West when it’s all said and done.
What are some of your bold predictions for the 49ers’ season?