Why the 49ers Will Win the NFC West
It hasn’t been a dream start to the 2022 National Football League (NFL) season for the San Francisco 49ers. The team lost its quarterback of the future, Trey Lance, to a season-ending injury in the first game of the season and are just 3-4 through seven games.
San Francisco is third in the NFC West, behind the Los Angeles Rams (3-3) and the Seattle Seahawks (4-3). Yet, according to most sportsbooks, the 49ers are the betting favorites to win the division. One sportsbook lists their odds as low as +120, with the Rams and Seahawks listed at +160 and +550, respectively.
So why are sportsbooks – and bettors – leaning in on the 49ers? Despite their record, and the fact they’ve got a mediocre QB in Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the 49ers have arguably one of the best offenses in the league with playmakers Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and now Christian McCaffrey, recently acquired from the Carolina Panthers.
Christian McCaffrey is a Game-Changer
McCaffrey is one of the best running backs in the league, even if he hasn’t been entirely healthy over the last few seasons. A dynamic, dual-threat back, McCaffrey has averaged 4.6 rushing yards per game since joining the league in 2017. He rushed for a career-best 1,387 rushing yards in 2019.
McCaffrey also had 1,005 receiving yards in 2019, and, while his overall numbers have declined since then, he’s still averaging similar rushing and receiving yards per game. McCaffrey had 393 receiving yards (4.6 yards per game) through six games with the Panthers before the trade. He’s a great fit in the 49ers offense and should only be more productive as he learns their playbook.
The 49ers acquisition of McCaffrey has already frustrated one rival coach in the NFC West: Sean McVay of the Rams.
“You thought, ‘Oh, s–t. They’re getting another great player?’ McVay told reporters Monday. “I think he’s a phenomenal player. Obviously, we saw him recently. I’ve always had respect for his game and the versatility. I think that’s your first inclination.”
Strength of Schedule
As if the addition of McCaffrey wasn’t enough, San Francisco also has the easiest schedule the rest of the way. According to Power Rankings Guru, the 49ers have an average opponent rank of 16.8. The Baltimore Ravens, by contrast, have the easiest remaining schedule in the league at 20.8.
The 49ers division rivals have the following strength of schedule ranking: Seahawks (13.7), Rams (15.7), and Cardinals (15.8). Seattle, the division leader, has the third-hardest schedule in the league.
San Francisco plays the Rams in an important divisional matchup on Sunday and then, after a bye, takes on the Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – all winnable games.