No surprise, ESPN lists 49ers as Super Bowl favorites (but why?)

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

ESPN tabs the 49ers as the top Super Bowl favorite heading into 2024, but what is their justification after losing the Super Bowl last February?

For those San Francisco 49ers fans still sour after last February's Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (OK, that's all of us), there's some solace knowing the Niners are fully expected to be right back in the dance again in 2024.

That's not just wishful thinking.

Looking around at many of the sportsbooks out there, San Francisco is usually the betting favorite to win Super Bowl LIX. But the analytics folks over at ESPN are backing up those claims by also listing the 49ers as Super Bowl favorites over other top contenders like the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills and those pesky Chiefs.

Seth Walder of ESPN broke down why the Niners ranked No. 1, according to their FPI index, which uses analytics to determine any given team's overall strength along with other key factors.

San Francisco was tops, according to Walder:

However, getting into the postseason is one thing. Winning the Super Bowl is another. After all, the 49ers were slight favorites in the Super Bowl last February but ended up losing an overtime heartbreaker.

Why the edge now?

The reasoning is pretty simple. Despite some inevitable fluctuations across the league, plus notable ascents from NFC teams like the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, the AFC is still the superior conference. A contender like Kansas City will still face a tougher gauntlet to get back to the Super Bowl, whereas the Niners' road to the Super Bowl may not be quite as challenging.

Walder wrote:

"The 49ers' edge in quality over the Baltimore Ravens and Chiefs is narrow, but because San Francisco plays in the weaker NFC, its championship chances (16%) are notably higher than any other club."

It's not a bad position for San Francisco to be in. Armed with a stacked roster, head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad is still the best of the best within the NFC. Barring another 2020-like rash of injuries or other unforeseen developments, the 49ers should be fully immersed in the discussion to represent the NFC for the league's ultimate prize for a second consecutive year.

Additionally, ESPN's FPI index predicts a rematch between the Niners and KC as the most likely of Super Bowl matchups, while the most likely bout for the NFC title will be another rematch between San Francisco and Detroit.

There are a lot of games between now and then, though.

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