CBS Sports predicts 49ers win NFC West in 2023, but also this rival bounces back big
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers will win the NFC West, according to CBS Sports, but one of their rivals makes a sharp return from the depths of the conference.
Honestly, it wasn't that long ago when the NFC West was actually the toughest division in all of football.
In fact, looking at the 2021 season, there was a theory that all four teams could somehow squeak into the playoffs, which would have been exceptionally hard but possible, particularly considering the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams were all postseason contenders.
Seattle didn't make it into the playoffs that season, and LA ultimately won the Super Bowl... a game following a game that Niners fans would probably like to forget about.
In 2022, San Francisco won the NFC West, and it was the Hawks who managed to get into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Los Angeles and Arizona, meanwhile, finished with 5-12 and 4-13 records, respectively, and the Rams' Super Bowl-defending season was the worst in NFL history.
Even though Arizona, LA and Seattle generally had strong offseasons, are the 49ers still favored to win the NFC West?
According to CBS Sports' Will Brinson, yes.
CBS Sports: 49ers win NFC West, but Rams will make surprising bounce-back
It's not hard to find some hot-take predictions suggesting the Seahawks will actually overtake the Niners in the NFC West this season, especially if quarterback Geno Smith plays as well as he did last year and the other new components help revitalize what was a shaky Hawks defense in 2022.
But Brinson isn't buying it. According to his NFC divisional-winners predictions, San Francisco finishes No. 1 in the NFC West with a 12-5 record.
However, Brinson acknowledges both Seattle and Los Angeles as legitimate threats:
"If the QB situation is a problem, San Francisco can still be a playoff team for sure in a weakened NFC, but the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl is gonna be tough. And I think Geno Smith or Matthew Stafford is capable of snaking the Niners if Kyle Shanahan's crew stumbles for any reason."
Read More: NFL.com says Seahawks greatly closed NFC West gap with 49ers
For a brief "ha ha" moment, Brinson feels Arizona is the worst team in the league this season, and "it's not particularly close."
However, Brinson predicts both the Seahawks and Rams finishing with 9-8 records, and the edge ultimately goes to the Hawks in a tiebreaker.
That said, an LA team that jettisoned cornerback Jalen Ramsey, lost linebacker Bobby Wagner and EDGE Leonard Floyd and still has an underwhelming offensive line bounces back from five wins to nearly doubling it a season later.
Provocative enough, especially if a team like the Rams is banking on the Niners having quarterback problems not only in 2023 but potentially for the next couple of years.