49ers news: ESPN ranks San Francisco 3rd best team in 2020

Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Is ESPN correct ranking the 49ers third in Football Power Index?

The San Francisco 49ers aren’t the best team in the NFL. And according to ESPN, they’re not even the second best team in the league heading into 2020.

But at least the Niners are third in ESPN’s latest Football Power Index.

For those needing to understand ESPN’s FPI prediction model, you can click here. But the gist of it is a predicted analysis for offense, defense and special teams. According to that model, San Francisco is ranked third with 10.2 wins behind the top-ranked Kansas City Chiefs (11.2 wins) and Baltimore Ravens (11.0 wins).

Interestingly enough, 10.2 wins is also what ESPN predicts for the New Orleans Saints, which is the No. 4 team on the rankings and directly behind the 49ers. It’s likely that number was rounded, though, giving the Niners the slight edge in FPI.

Especially considering ESPN gives the Saints a stronger chance at making the playoffs (83 percent) compared to that of the Niners (81 percent).

Here was ESPN’s justification:

"Though FPI thinks the 49ers are the third-best team and the best NFC franchise, the New Orleans Saints (fourth in FPI rating) are actually the third-most-likely team to win the Super Bowl at 13%, with San Francisco coming in at 12%. Why? New Orleans faces a slightly easier schedule than the 49ers and is a tad more likely to win the NFC South (59%) than the Niners are to win the NFC West (53%). The Saints are our narrow NFC favorites in what could be quarterback Drew Brees’ last ride."

That makes some sense. The NFC West is considerably tougher than the NFC South. San Francisco’s division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams, remain contenders for a playoff berth. And the upstart Arizona Cardinals could see some significant improvement over their 5-10-1 regular-season record from a year ago.

The Saints, meanwhile, could realistically be looking only at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as serious contenders.

Some may look at the Niners being listed as the third best team in the NFL heading into 2020 as a bit of a slight. After all, despite a fourth-quarter meltdown to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad was about as dominant a franchise as it could have been last year. And while there were some notable changes during the offseason, namely losing defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the 49ers remain largely intact on both sides of the ball.

Yet it’s not too big a slight, honestly. Few would argue Kansas City belongs elsewhere aside from the top spot, and the Ravens were arguably the league’s best regular-season team from a year ago.

What probably matters most is the 49ers stand an excellent chance at getting back into the playoffs again this year.

Next. 3 Niners players who could take a step back in 2020. dark

The only problem is they won’t be surprising anyone in 2020.