Best and worst case for 2022

Welcome to FanSided’s 2022 NFL preview! It’s time to look into our crystal football and take a glimpse at the San Francisco 49ers season prediction.

The San Francisco 49ers head into 2022 on the tails of making it all the way to the NFC Championship Game a season ago, nearly winning it despite a sluggish 3-5 start to the season.

Hoping to avoid that this year, the Niners’ biggest question mark will be turning the page at quarterback from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance, which will understandably be the biggest storyline for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad despite a playoff-caliber roster in support of the young signal-caller.

San Francisco 49ers 2021 season in review

  • 10-7 record
  • 3rd place in NFC West
  • Lost in NFC Championship game to Rams

San Francisco’s early scuffles in 2021 didn’t bode well and suggested the team would miss out on the playoffs. However, with some desperation and a defense that wholly turned around midway through the year, the 49ers managed to sneak into the postseason as a wild card team and pulled off notable postseason victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers before finally falling victim to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams.

Beyond the record and finish, though, the playoffs revealed two notable things the Niners took away heading into 2022:

Deebo Samuel carried the offense, while the defense remained awfully stout
Jimmy Garoppolo can manage games but couldn’t shoulder the offensive load, literally speaking amid his injuries

Injuries and merely so-so play are the factors that prompted the Niners to grab Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft, although he saw a mere two starts and went 1-1 in those contests.

San Francisco 49ers 2022 NFL Draft class

  • Rd 2: EDGE Drake Jackson, USC
  • Rd 3: RB Tyrion Davis-Price, LSU
  • Rd 3: WR Danny Gray, SMU
  • Rd 4: OL Spencer Burford, UTSA
  • Rd 5: CB Samuel Womack, Toledo
  • Rd 6: OL Nick Zakelj, Fordham
  • Rd 6: DT Kalia Davis, UCF
  • Rd 6: CB Tariq Castro-Fields, Penn State
  • Rd 7: QB Brock Purdy, Iowa State

Minus a first-round pick because of last year’s Lance trade, San Francisco nevertheless got a steal in Jackson, who was predicted to be selected much sooner than No. 61 overall when the 49ers landed him.

Jackson, like many of the 49ers’ rookies, probably won’t start right away, as the bulk of selections were intended to round out the reserves and depth chart.

Previewing 49ers offense for 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Tyrion Davis-Price, RB
    • Danny Gray, WR
  • Biggest X-Factor: Trey Lance, QB
    Squeakiest Wheel: Interior offensive line

Lance enters 2022 with a star-studded offensive cast consisting of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk, coupled with second-year running back Elijah Mitchell, whose 963 rushing yards last season set a franchise record for a rookie.

Still, Lance will go through his growing pains as a first-year starter and in the wake of not having too much experience at the collegiate level, starting just one full season (2019) at North Dakota State.

While the Niners don’t have to worry too much about starting tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, the interior of the offensive line could spell trouble in the wake of losing Pro Bowlers Laken Tomlinson (free agency) and Alex Mack (retirement).

Previewing 49ers defense for 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Charvarius Ward, CB
    • Drake Jackson, DE
  • Biggest X-Factor: Javon Kinlaw, DL
  • Squeakiest Wheel: Nickel cornerback

San Francisco allowed only one team to rush for over 100 yards from Week 10 through the NFC Championship game last season, which is a testament to how well-rounded this group is.

The 49ers were without Javon Kinlaw for that stretch, so his return from an early season-ending knee injury last year could be vital in helping make up for the loss of now-Denver Broncos nose tackle D.J. Jones, who was essential in defending against the run.
Jackson, meanwhile, is poised to be the perfect complement to Pro Bowl pass-rusher Nick Bosa, who was an All-Pro snub after recording 15.5 sacks and a league-best 21 tackles for loss last season.

Yet the biggest kicker from the offseason was finally addressing what was a lackluster cornerback room, and the Niners adding former Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Charvarius Ward should pay off handsomely this season.

Even if the Niners’ situation at nickel corner isn’t quite solved yet in the wake of K’Waun Williams leaving in free agency for Denver.

San Francisco 49ers coaching staff overview

  • Head Coach: Kyle Shanahan
  • Def. Coordinator: DeMeco Ryans
  • 2023 Head Coach Candidate: DeMeco Ryans

San Francisco underwent some serious coaching changes during the offseason, bidding farewell to offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who took the Miami Dolphins’ head-coaching vacancy, while also changing out special teams coordinator Richard Hightower for Brian Schneider.

Fortunately, DeMeco Ryans stays put after an exemplary first year in his defensive coordinator role. But, after turning down a second round of interviews for the Minnesota Vikings’ head-coaching spot earlier this offseason, he’ll likely emerge as a red-hot candidate on the market again in 2023 if the 49ers defense stays as potent as it was a year ago.

San Francisco 49ers awards watch

Bosa wasn’t the only Niners standout from last season, as Samuel ended up reaching 1,770 all-purpose yards en route to a first-team All-Pro selection.

Those two probably figure to have the best chances of competing for league accolades in 2022 unless Lance somehow winds up having the kind of year indicative of another star who recently dominated his second year in the league and his first as a starter.

Trey Lance, MVP

It’s not hard to draw parallels between San Francisco’s selection of Lance and what the Chiefs did with quarterback Patrick Mahomes back in 2017, trading up to grab a promising signal-caller only to marinate him on the bench behind a veteran starter, Lance behind Garoppolo and Mahomes behind Alex Smith.

Mahomes, of course, had his MVP season the following year in 2018, and the 49ers would naturally be thrilled if Lance followed a similar trajectory.

That’s a lot to ask for, though, and a more realistic maximum expectation would see the Niners’ second-year quarterback potentially make a Pro Bowl, little more.

Deebo Samuel, Offensive Player of the Year

When was the last time a non-quarterback won MVP? Adrian Peterson in 2012?

Based on that trend, Samuel isn’t going to be vying for the NFL’s top honors, yet he should be considered in the running for Offensive Player of the Year, particularly in the wake of his contract extension he’ll want to justify and with the understanding that Lance will need plenty of support this season.

Samuel’s unique capabilities as a legitimate receiving threat and potent rusher earned him national recognition a year ago, and provided he stays healthy, the “wide back” should stay on that trajectory once more.

Nick Bosa, Defensive Player of the Year

Yes, Bosa was an All-Pro snub last season, but he nevertheless put in a remarkable effort after suffering a torn ACL the year before.

Now fully healthy and looking to set himself up for a massive contract extension as well, Bosa should be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year alongside perennial contenders like T.J. Watt and Aaron Donald.

Biggest game on San Francisco 49ers schedule in 2022

Last year, the Niners’ biggest game on the calendar was the Week 18 regular-season finale against the Rams, a must-win contest for San Francisco’s playoff hopes and a thrilling overtime victory for Shanahan’s squad.

No final-week rematch here, though, but that doesn’t change the fact the 49ers’ biggest contest of the year will be in Week 4 against those same Rams on Monday Night Football, the perfect setting for a grudge match after what happened in the NFC Championship game last February.

The Niners had won six straight over Los Angeles before suffering that loss, and with the Seattle Seahawks in a rebuild mode and the Arizona Cardinals trending in the wrong direction, San Francisco and LA will want to set the tone early for which team should dominate the NFC West.

San Francisco 49ers season prediction: Best-case scenario

The 49ers winning the Super Bowl this season isn’t a totally hyperbolic prediction for a best-case scenario, but it’s not out of the question either.

As noted already, Garoppolo didn’t exactly carry the Niners through the playoffs and within minutes of winning the NFC Championship game. Fans have to thank Samuel and San Francisco’s defense for that.

Lance is a wild card. But if he plays even remotely as consistent as Garoppolo, and the 49ers ride a strong running game and a stout defense once again, a deep trip into the playoffs amid a weaker NFC is likely.

Perhaps a Super Bowl victory, too, if things go well enough.

San Francisco 49ers season prediction: Worst-case scenario

While it’s understandable Lance might go through plenty of growing pains during his first year as a starter, the Niners are nevertheless built to absorb those with a strong offensive and defensive supporting cast.

That said, all fans need to do is rewind back to 2020 when San Francisco was by far the most injured team in the NFL that season. While 2021 wasn’t nearly as bad, the 49ers were still in the top 10 of injury-plagued teams yet managed to overcome those setbacks.

However, if injuries begin popping up again, the 2022 season could be derailed in a similar fashion as two years ago.

San Francisco 49ers season prediction for 2022

  • 10-7 record
  • 2nd place in NFC West
  • Playoff Prediction: Loss in Divisional round

The Niners do face a challenging schedule this season, particularly still having to square off against a still-tough NFC West while also having to match up against the vaunted AFC West, too.

Lance could easily cost San Francisco a game or two along the way, which is going to impact the overall record despite the 49ers having enough talent to carry him into a playoff berth.

Provided the latter half of the year is better than the first, though, it wouldn’t be shocking whatsoever if the Niners manage to get into the postseason dance as a Wild Card team, finishing second within the division behind the Rams.

A Wild Card victory might be a bit more achievable, given there aren’t anywhere near as many top contenders in the NFC as there are in the AFC. And if San Francisco winds up knocking off the Packers once more, as it did after the 2019 and 2021 seasons, perhaps that’d be a favorable matchup.

Assuming both teams meet up in the postseason yet again.

However, given Lance’s likely growing pains, it’s too much of a reach to ask the 49ers to make it beyond a Wild Card win, suggesting a divisional-round loss would be the likeliest of outcomes.

Read more from FanSided’s 2022 NFL Preview here. For more San Francisco 49ers coverage, check out Niner Noise. 

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