San Francisco 49ers 2022 Season Preview and Win Total Prediction

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Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers works out during training camp at SAP Performance Facility. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/AFP

The San Francisco 49ers were a drive away from returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons. But another blown lead for head coach Kyle Shanahan in the playoffs proved costly as the 49ers now move on with Trey Lance as the new starting quarterback.

Is Lance the missing piece to taking Shanahan’s offense to the highest level? In the last four postseasons, only two teams have blown a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, and both times it was the 49ers. A better closer on the other side of the ball could make it too hard for teams to catch up, but first, the 49ers must deal with a difficult division that features the defending champion Rams.

Many of the top-rated sportsbooks have the 49ers with an over/under of 10 wins following last year’s 10-7 campaign. Including the playoffs, Shanahan is 43-44 as San Francisco’s coach. Will 2022 finally be the first time his career record goes above .500?

The Notable Changes for 2022

The 2022 49ers are largely giving us the same team as last year with one huge change at the most pivotal position. Something could be said about coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ defense needing to come up with more than nine interceptions, but the 49ers return many of the key defenders in Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, and Jimmie Ward.

Let’s be honest. Adding corner Charvarius Ward from Kansas City does not move the needle on winning a championship unless he’s invented time travel to intercept the ball Jaquiski Tartt dropped in the NFC Championship Game last year. Tartt is no longer with the 49ers in case you were wondering.

This is all about Lance as it should be given the huge investment the 49ers made in the draft to acquire him in 2021.

Trey Lance: The Era Begins

In late July, the 49ers made the move that many have been expecting official: Trey Lance is the starting quarterback for 2022. The team is open to trading Jimmy Garoppolo, but for now, all that matters is Lance.

It was the necessary, logical decision for the franchise, but it sure does feel like a boom-or-bust pick at quarterback.

Of course, that was true when the 49ers traded multiple first-round picks to acquire the quarterback who only lit up one season of lower-caliber college competition at North Dakota State.

While it would be great if we had some confidence in what Lance will be this season, we can only look at the history of the position, the history of Shanahan’s system in San Francisco, and Lance’s small sample size of two starts last year to figure out how this might turn out this season.

Lance for MVP?

If you want a dark horse pick for NFL MVP before the preseason starts, Lance at odds around +4000 might be the best value. Why not in a league where Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Lamar Jackson (2019) both won the MVP in their second season after minimal play as rookies?

We have also seen first-year starters dominate in the past, including Kurt Warner (1999) and Daunte Culpepper (2000).

Lance’s age and lack of NFL experience is not a detriment in thinking he cannot be special this year. Most great quarterbacks in this league show it to us in their first or second year as a starter.

Lance’s lack of college experience is a little concerning, but he’s had over a year to learn the system and get some meaningful starts in 2021.

Trust the System

Kyle Shanahan’s vaunted offensive system has used spacing and play-action passes to boost quarterback’s stats for years. He has done it for Matt Schaub (Houston), Robert Griffin III (Washington), Matt Ryan (Atlanta), and Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco).

The Receivers

Lance might have the best physical tools of any quarterback Shanahan has had, which is scary when you talk about the potential in this offense with these weapons.

Deebo Samuel should be tested for Adamantium skeleton – the stuff Wolverine is made out of – with the way he is so hard to tackle. He has a new contract extension and should be rolling as a dual threat again in this offense.

Tight end George Kittle is incredible after the catch, even better than Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is a player some thought would break out last year, but he ended up in Shanahan’s doghouse early before coming on late in the season. He too is great after the catch and should have his best season in 2022.

The Quarterbacks

The 49ers have been the best offenses at producing YAC the last five years thanks to these uniquely talented receivers and the system. Now Lance can benefit from the system that led to Garoppolo having the second-highest yards per pass attempt (8.4) in NFL history.

Among quarterbacks with at least 1,400 career attempts, Garoppolo also ranks second in completion percentage and fifth in passer rating. Not bad for a quarterback people would sooner call handsome than good at his job.

Speaking of the system, in 2018 the 49ers started quarterback Nick Mullens in eight games. Mullens was a backup with no pedigree –college, or pro– but he still threw for 2,277 yards in his first eight starts.

That is still the fifth-highest total for a quarterback’s first eight starts in NFL history. This was before the team had Samuel too.

Lance’s 2021 Starts

In 2021, Lance got to make two starts: one against a good team and defense (Arizona) and one against a lousy team and defense (Houston). He threw 71 passes in the whole season and still averaged 8.5 yards per attempt, though some of the other efficiency was not great.

Lance only led the offense to 33 points on 21 drives, an average of 1.57 points per drive that would have ranked 29th in the NFL in 2021. That will need to get much better. In fact, the 2021 49ers were the only offense to rank in the top 12 in yards per drive but not in the top 12 in points per drive.

They were No. 7 in yards and No. 13 in points despite being the best team in the red zone, scoring a touchdown two-thirds of the time. That red-zone efficiency likely will regress, though Lance could be a weapon in that area as a runner in a way Garoppolo was not.

Lance was intercepted in each of his starts, but this is not an area of concern yet. Besides, Garoppolo’s interception rate was at least 2.7% in each of his seasons. That’s great for 1984 but not so much in this era. The 49ers could survive Lance throwing a dozen or so interceptions this season.

A Promising Season Ahead

But it is clear Lance is going to use his legs in ways we are not used to seeing with Shanahan quarterbacks. He had 16 runs for 89 yards against Arizona, which is a Lamar Jackson type of line, and he had eight carries for 31 yards against Houston.

The 49ers probably do not want him averaging 12 runs per game, but he should finish the season as one of the more prolific rushing quarterbacks in the NFL.

The 49ers are unlikely to have Lance throw as much as Mahomes did in 2018 or run as much as Jackson did in 2019 when they won MVP, but you can see the potential is there for success in this offense.

Ultimately, this move will be judged by whether the 49ers win. Love him or hate him, Garoppolo was 35-16 (.686) as Shanahan’s starter since 2017. With any other quarterback, Shanahan is just 8-28 (.222) as San Francisco’s head coach. That is one of the largest splits you will ever see for a coach when he is without his best quarterback.

For Shanahan’s job security in San Francisco, he better hope Garoppolo does not go down as his best quarterback. They need Lance to be a big hit.

Mike McDaniel Goes to Miami

Like Sean McVay in Los Angeles, NFL front offices want the coaches who work closely with Shanahan in San Francisco. The latest departure is offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins where he is creating some buzz with their offseason.

McDaniel has been attached at the hip with Shanahan for years, even going back to 2006 when they were both on the Houston Texans staff. McDaniel served as the running game coordinator in San Francisco before taking over as the offensive coordinator last year.

But make no mistake about it: Shanahan is still calling the shots for his offense here. This coaching change should be a lot more impactful for Miami than it will be hurtful to the 49ers.

Offensive Line

The 49ers have an above-average line led by left tackle Trent Williams, who many believe had his best season in 2021.

However, the interior will have to replace center Alex Mack (retired) and left guard Laken Tomlinson (Jets). But reliability at the tackles should build confidence for Lance.

The 2022 Draft

After the trade to get Lance at No. 3 in 2021, the 49ers did not have a first-round pick in 2022. Their first selection was defensive end Drake Jackson (USC) with the 61st pick.

He could just spell Nick Bosa when the Pro Bowler needs a break, but Bosa does play nearly 80% of the snaps week to week.

In the third round, the 49ers drafted running back Tyrion Davis-Price (LSU) and wide receiver Danny Gray (SMU). Neither needs to make an impact in 2022 for the team.

2022 49ers Prediction

Obviously, the way Lance performs will determine how this team fares for your NFL picks. He is arguably the biggest wild card in the 2022 season as anything from MVP to injured in September feels like it is on the table.

If the 49ers want to go on another deep playoff run, those two meetings with the Rams should go a long way in deciding how probable that is.

There are plenty of other challengers on the schedule, so the 49ers are going to have to clean up when they face teams they should beat such as Seattle (twice), Carolina, Atlanta, Washington, etc.

I lean towards trusting Lance to deliver in this system with some of the most talented skill players in the game. A push is also very possible if they repeat their 10-7 record from last year, but I am going with the over for the 49ers.

2022 49ers Pick: Over 10 wins (-105) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.

On the Last Season of “The 49ers”: Jimmy’s Last Stand

There were decent expectations for the 49ers in 2021 after their 2020 season was derailed by too many important injuries. After starting 2-0, the 49ers lost four in a row with a close loss to the Packers that still proved valuable in the way the team battled back despite a masterclass from Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.

The 49ers also lost another game to Russell Wilson’s Seahawks, a career nemesis, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s annual injury led to rookie Trey Lance’s first start against upstart Arizona. It did not go well, and the Cardinals won 17-10.

Garoppolo returned after the bye week for a rainy Sunday night game against the Colts, but the 49ers turned it over four times in a sloppy performance and lost 30-18. A sweep at the hands of Arizona put the 49ers at 3-5, an afterthought one week into November behind the Cardinals (8-1) and Rams (7-2) in the NFC West.

But things were about to change in a big way in Week 10.

Deebo Samuel: The Secret Weapon

The 49ers were in danger of becoming irrelevant in the playoff race before a crucial clash with the Rams, a team they had beaten in four straight meetings, on a Monday night in Week 10. San Francisco came out and played incredibly with the offense going on two touchdown drives that were so long that the 49ers only had two offensive possessions in the half – something unheard of in this league. The defense also got a tipped ball for a pick-six to open a big lead before going on to win 31-10.

That seemed to carry over the next week against Jacksonville when the 49ers opened the game with a 20-play drive that consumed over 13 minutes. They settled for a field goal, but it was another example of using wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the backfield as a running back and getting him the ball in a unique way since he is so hard to tackle.

  • In the first eight games when the 49ers were 3-5, Samuel had six rushes for 22 yards and a touchdown.
  • In the next eight games when the 49ers were 7-1 with him, Samuel had 53 carries for 343 yards and seven touchdowns.

Samuel’s receiving production did drop when his rushing workload went up as he went from averaging 110.3 receiving yards per game to 65.4 yards per game.

But the 49ers were thriving with this new-look offense, and they managed to beat the eventual AFC champion Bengals in overtime and took the top-seeded Titans down to the final snap in a 20-17 loss, which led to some controversy for the team.

Garoppolo Returns in Time for Playoff Push

General manager John Lynch reportedly liked a negative tweet by accident about the 49ers leaving Garoppolo in Nashville after the Tennessee loss. With the quarterback injured again, some wondered if this would be the end of his days as the starter for the team.

Lance made his second start in an easy win over the Texans, but the 49ers needed to beat the Rams in Week 18 to make the playoffs at 10-7. Garoppolo passed for 316 yards and ended up leading a 17-point comeback, including a late touchdown drive to force overtime where the 49ers later kicked the go-ahead field goal.

The defense intercepted Matthew Stafford to put the game away and punch their tickets to the playoffs.

Next Upset: Dallas

The 49ers needed to take a most difficult path to the Super Bowl, which would include winning four straight road games as an underdog against playoff teams if you include the Week 18 win in Los Angeles to qualify for the playoffs.

San Francisco played Dallas in the wild-card round and controlled the game early with leads of 13-0 and 23-7 going into the fourth quarter.

But this team has had some issues with closing teams out and the Cowboys made a game of it late.

A comedy of errors led to Dallas getting one last chance at winning the game on a touchdown, but Dallas called a very confusing quarterback draw with Dak Prescott and the clock ran out with the 49ers winning 23-17.

Bigger Upset: Green Bay

In the divisional round, the 49ers were a 5.5-point underdog at Lambeau Field with the snow and cold weather present. But that favors the more physical, run-based team from San Francisco. While Garoppolo and the offense struggled, the special teams saved the day as Green Bay’s notoriously bad special teams blew the game.

In the fourth quarter with the 49ers down 10-3, the Packers’ attempt at a punt was blocked and returned for a stunning game-tying touchdown with just under five minutes left.

The defense forced a stop, and Garoppolo just had to complete two quick passes before Samuel had a huge 9-yard run on third-and-7 to put the team in field goal position. Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal with no time left gave the 49ers the 13-10 win and a spot in the NFC Championship Game in Los Angeles.

The Ride Stops: Los Angeles

Now as a 3.5-point underdog, the 49ers had a chance to win a seventh game in a row over Sean McVay’s Rams. The team looked ready to do it as touchdowns by Samuel and George Kittle put the 49ers up 17-7 going into the fourth quarter.

Stafford was 0-28 in his career when entering the fourth quarter down double digits against a team with a winning record. But he led the comeback of his career with some help by the 49ers on defense. Up 17-14, Jaquiski Tartt dropped a Stafford interception at midfield.

It was not a game-ending play, but it could have turned things around with the San Francisco offense struggling down the stretch.

After the Rams took a late 20-17 lead, Garoppolo had his chance to be the hero, but he was pressured and threw a game-ending interception. It turns out it could be his last pass for the franchise as they move on with Lance officially.