Power ranking 49ers opponents: Nos. 2-1
As we get to the top of this list, I could be convinced either way which team is the top and which is the second most difficult opponent the 49ers will face in 2022.
The Chargers are going after the City Chiefs in 2022, that much we know. The Chargers offense was already pretty good, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receiver Mike Williams, and running back Austin Ekeler to score the fifth most points in the NFL en route to a pretty disappointing 9-8 season and missing out on the playoffs via an overtime loss to the Raiders in Week 18.
Los Angeles should remain among the top offenses in the league, so it went out and added pieces all along the defense, pairing Khalil Mack with Joey Bosa along the defensive line, cornerback J.C. Jackson to a secondary that already featured fellow corner Asante Samuel Jr. and safety Derwin James, and convincing defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day to join the other LA team to boot.
Yes, James needs to stay healthy and the coaching staff, led by second-year head coach Brandon Staley, needs to figure out how to overcome the ghosts of past Chargers teams that have fallen just short when it mattered.
But this team, on paper, looks terrifying. Herbert, obviously, is the key.
If he continues to improve as he did in year two, the Chargers will be among the AFC’s elite teams. If he stumbles, LA has enough pieces to be good, but maybe not enough to stick around in this incredibly competitive division.
The Chiefs have won the AFC West crown for six straight years and haven’t finished below second since bottoming out in 2012 with Matt Cassel at quarterback.
They’ve won one Super Bowl, been to another, and lost in the AFC Championship game the other two seasons that have featured Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
On top of that, they haven’t finished outside of the top six in total points or yards in the Mahomes era, all while fielding an average to bad defense during that time frame.
It’s just that the rest of the division hasn’t been putting up much of a fight, until the 2022 offseason began and the shots were fired from all corners of the AFC West. The only place where the Chiefs have an obvious advantage on their division opponents — and on much of the rest of the league, for that matter — is quarterback.
And so it will be up to Mahomes, along with his offensive weapons like tight end Travis Kelce, wideouts Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, to make sure the gap isn’t bridged. Adding wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will help matters a lot, too.
To be fair, the Chiefs have spent some money on their defense, retaining pass-rusher Frank Clark and bringing in safety Justin Reid, who will step into the place left by outgoing free agent Tyrann Mathieu.
There are concerns on this team (certain spots along the offensive line, depth at tight end and running back), but Mahomes is the type of player who is supposed to be able to overcome deficiencies elsewhere.
So until the Chargers prove they can come together as a team and take down the Chiefs, Kansas City is the 49ers’ 2022 opponent to be most feared.