49ers news: San Francisco won’t face as strong an NFC West in 2022

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers sacks Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers sacks Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers might feel a little fortunate knowing the NFC West probably won’t be as tough in 2022 as it was last season when they went 2-4 within the division.

Last season, and arguably for a few years before that, the NFC West was widely viewed as the premier division in the NFL.

Indeed, the NFC West sent three teams — the Los Angeles Rams, the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers — into the postseason in January of 2022, and the combined win-loss record of all four teams, also including the last-place Seattle Seahawks, was 40-18.

In contrast, the NFC North, with three teams below the .500 threshold, went a combined 30-37-1.

Yet changes are likely to be afoot within the Niners’ own division, and it’s possible the NFC West relinquishes its crown as being the toughest division in the NFL in 2022.

Potentially good news for San Francisco. But even it might face notable challenges in the wake of the inevitable switch under center, the transition from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the high-profile 2021 rookie, Trey Lance.

The other three NFC West teams could face different issues, yet those will nevertheless be challenging enough.

49ers to face weaker Seahawks, Cardinals teams within NFC West?

The Seahawks’ demise has likely been a 49ers fan’s dream for years now, but it seemed to come to fruition finally in 2021 with the Hawks going 7-10 and finishing below the .500 mark since quarterback Russell Wilson began his NFL journey in 2012.

There are still rumors Wilson could be dealt this offseason via trade. And while Seattle elected not to tear the whole thing down, and head coach Pete Carroll is still head coach, any Wilson move would essentially mean the end of an era and likely all-out rebuild regardless if Carroll is still in place.

Even if Wilson stays, the Seahawks will have to master the offseason to get back into serious contention for the divisional crown again.

Meanwhile, out in Arizona, another second-half collapse under the tutelage of head coach Kliff Kingsbury derailed what was the most promising season for the Cardinals in years. Whether or not that prompted quarterback Kyler Murray to enact the following, at least according to the below report, is anyone’s guess:

But it can’t be a good thing.

Moreover, Arizona is still teetering on being over the 2022 salary cap ($813,256, per Over the Cap), and high-profile free agents like EDGE Chandler Jones and wide receiver Christian Kirk are going to be hard to retain.

Even harder once Murray is due what promises to be a lucrative extension following his rookie contract.

Can Rams survive a Super Bowl hangover?

Perhaps the Rams are victories in Super Bowl LVI over the Cincinnati Bengals. Perhaps they’re not.

Either way, backing up a Super Bowl appearance with another impressive, deep run is a difficult proposition, and the Niners sure found that out the hard way in 2020 amid a rash of devastating injuries.

Read More: 5 free agents 49ers won’t bring back in 2022

But LA, which went all-in for 2021 by the way of high-profile trades for quarterback Matthew Stafford and EDGE Von Miller, are already projected to be nearly $14 million over the cap in 2022 and will likely have to bid farewell to pending free agents like Miller, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and cornerback Darious Williams.

Without first- or second-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft to account for those possible losses, it might be tough for Los Angeles to make up the difference.

If the Rams win a Super Bowl, of course, no one will care. But it does open the door for suggestions that they might not be quite as dominant as they were in 2021.

Good news for San Francisco, if it can retain its own competitive edge this upcoming season.

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