ESPN analyst ranks 49ers dead last among NFC West teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The NFC West is far and away the best division in the NFL.
Between the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals, the "NFC Beast" as some call it, is set up for another crazy season in 2021.
ESPN analyst Mike Clay released his projections and rankings for all 32 NFL teams.
Of the four NFC West teams, the Seahawks were ranked the highest (6th overall) followed by the Rams (12th overall), Cardinals (14th overall) and the 49ers coming in at 15th overall among the 32 teams.
The 49ers are still ranked in the top half of the league, but with most projecting San Francisco to be one of the best teams in the NFL, Clay's ranking is a little surprising.
"The 49ers check-in last among NFC West teams but are still in the upper half of the league, which shows how loaded the division is this season," Clay writes. "After breaking out with a 13-3 season and NFC title in 2019, San Francisco was overwhelmed with injuries and plummeted to 6-10 last season -- its fifth losing season over the past six years. A bounceback should in the cards with the team back near full health."
So what does a bounceback season look like?
"The Niners have a terrific offensive line and a good core of offensive targets led by George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, but it is yet to be seen how much they get out of the unsettled Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance quarterback situation," Clay adds.
"The defense has more voids than in years past and coordinator Robert Saleh is gone, but star power remains in the form of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, Jason Verrett and Jimmie Ward. This is a decent roster that will need to overcome a tough division in order to find its way back to the playoffs."
Not exactly the highest of praise for a team that (Clay believes) has plenty of star power.
If you were to ask the 49ers, they would prefer to play with a chip on their shoulder.