49ers NFL schedule: Power ranking each Niners opponent for 2022

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Power ranking 49ers opponents: Nos. 6-3

. . . Las Vegas Raiders. 6. team. 28

The AFC West has been busy in free agency this offseason.

It feels like every team in the division has two fearsome pass-rushers for opponents to contend with. The Chargers now have Khalil Mack and Joey (not Nick) Bosa. The Chiefs have Chris Jones paired with Frank Clark. The Broncos retained Nick Chubb while adding Randy Gregory. And the Raiders feature Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones coming off the edge.

Yikes is right.

To be sure, most of this is focused on trying to wrestle the division away from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but it doesn’t feel right that the 49ers find themselves having to play the entire division in 2022.

Granted, the rest of the NFC West does as well, not to mention these four teams will get to beat up on each other the way the NFC West has for the past couple of seasons.

This is the new best division in football. And the Raiders are still likely the worst team in it.

This, in spite trading for former Packers’ wideout Davante Adams for two 2022 NFL Draft picks (first and second rounders) and bolstering both their offensive and defensive lines and secondary so far in free agency.

Unfortunately, the play in the AFC West and so even though quarterback Derek Carr is a good player with players to throw to, especially tight end Darren Waller and former college/now professional teammate Adams, the Raiders still have a gap between them and top of the division, let alone the rest of the AFC’s top teams.

Sometimes being the worst team in a division is better than other situations, but this doesn’t mean the Raiders and new head coach Josh McDaniel will be bad in 2022.

But as far as 49ers’ opponents go, it gets far worse.

5. team. 51. . . . Los Angeles Rams

Yes, I know. These are the defending Super Bowl champs who just beat the 49ers in the division foes’ most recent matchup, when the Niners fell apart in the NFC Championship game at SoFi not long ago.

And yes, they still feature top players like All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and quarterback Matthew Stafford, not to mention bringing in Allen Robinson.

Still, it’s hard to argue the Rams are better than they were in February when they become the second-straight team to win the Super Bowl on its own turf. The Rams lost wideout Odell Beckham to at least an ACL injury, although the Robinson signing probably means Beckham will be looking for a new home in 2022. Pass-rusher Von Miller, another midseason rental trade, is now a Buffalo Bills player.

Not to mention there is still uncertainty about how long wide receiver Robert Woods will be out after his late-season ACL injury, suffered in the lead up to the Week 10 matchup against the 49ers.

Make no mistake, this is still a good team, but Super Bowl hangovers can be real (just ask the 2020 Niners) and outside of those final minutes of the NFC Championship game, the 49ers truly seem to have had the Rams’ number over the last few seasons.

Heading into the 2022 season, the Rams and 49ers appear to be the favorites to win the NFC West, and the defending champs stand as the Niners’ toughest division opponent because of that.

. Denver Broncos. 4. team. 45. .

Just when it looked like Russell Wilson was going to go and bother someone else for a while, who should Seattle trade him to but one of the 49ers’ (and the Seahawks’, for that matter) 2022 opponents.

The Broncos are certainly going for it in 2022, but as was previously mentioned, so is the rest of the AFC West, meaning Wilson may go from a team that finished last in the NFC West to a team that… may still finish last in the AFC West, depending on how things shake out as those four teams face each other throughout the year.

Wilson is walking into a team that was considered a quarterback away from being in contention with a strong defense featuring the aforementioned pass-rushers (Chubb and Gregory), a good secondary (safety Justin Simmons, cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby), along with the addition of former 49ers’ nose tackle D.J. Jones.

The new Denver signal-caller’s offensive weapons are also strong, with wideouts Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton standing out, although there is work to do to bolster the tight end and running back groups.

And therein lies the rub. This isn’t a complete Denver team, especially compared to the rest of the division.

While Wilson to continue to be a thorn in the side of the 49ers, Denver is a beatable team even with him. That won’t make it an easy game, however, pushing the Broncos high on this list.

. . Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 3. team. 48.

It would have been real interesting to see how far the Buccaneers would have fallen in quarterback Tom Brady had stayed retired.

But Brady is indeed returning for 2022 (at least), and the Bucs were subsequently able to shore up pieces around their future Hall of Fame QB, albeit to a lesser extent then they have been over the first two years in Tampa.

Still in town either way are players like wide receiver Mike Evans, tight end Cameron Brate, and tackle Tristan Wirfs along with defensive standouts like pass-rusher Shaq Barrett, linebacker Devin White, and defensive tackle Vita Vea.

But Tampa was also able to bring back wide receiver Chris Godwin, cornerback Carlton Davis, center Ryan Jensen, while trading for former Patriots guard Shaq Mason after losing Alex Cappa to the Bengals in free agency.

To be sure, the Bucs still have a long list of free agents that includes players like tight end Rob Gronkowski, pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, and running backs Gio Bernard and Leonard Fournette, so they still have work to do.

History, however, has taught us not to count out Brady, even if he will be 45 years old in August, and the former MVP has done more with less throughout his career.

Brady will get to visit the Niners for only the second time in his career and the first time since 2016 when he led his Patriots to a 30-17 victory over the Colin Kaepernick-led 49ers. The Patriots played at Candlestick in 2008, but Matt Cassel was the quarterback that season.