The improving period in the NFL offseason is over with.
Free agency and the draft are things of the past now. For better or worse, the 49ers remain relatively the same as they did in 2021. It was good enough to see them make the playoffs and reach the NFC championship game. The 49ers staked their claim as a prominent team in the NFC yet again.
However, that may not be enough to maintain their elite status in the conference. Making the NFC title game essentially made the 49ers the second-best team in the conference, but since there weren't any significant additions or tweaks anywhere, they may see some drop-off this season.
So where do the 49ers stand within the NFC going into 2022?
As of right now, the 49ers are definitely a top-five team in the conference. The only teams who can say with all certainty that I believe are better are the Rams and Buccaneers. The 49ers are a couple of levels off of these teams and a lot of that stems from their mystery at quarterback with Trey Lance, or dare I say Jimmy Garoppolo again.
Plus, the 49ers' offensive line is extremely suspect. In fact, that is my main concern I have with them over what Lance could be or even if Garoppolo returns. If the 49ers do not have a stable offensive line, then they will be in absolute trouble. It will be a repeat of 2020 all over again when their offensive line woes were at their zenith. The 49ers have huge question marks up and down their offensive line outside of Trent Williams.
Having Lance step in with a suspect offensive line is not conducive to adequate development. Sure, Lance has the mobility to move around, but the 49ers do not want and cannot sustain a strong offense with backyard football from Lance. Not to mention that they will increase the chances of Lance sustaining an injury if their offensive line is weak. Overcoming a putrid offensive line is extremely difficult even with a mobile quarterback.
As I dissect the liability of the 49ers' offensive line, it makes me think that I would give the nod to the Packers and even the Eagles slightly over the 49ers. So I would place the 49ers as the fifth-best team in the NFC right now. Look, Green Bay lost Davante Adams which will certainly sting. But let's not get it twisted. The Packers still have Aaron Rodgers who, last time I checked, is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He SHOULD be able to still thrive and excel with Adams gone. Defensively, the Packers are pretty sound. Lets not forget how sweet they performed in the divisional playoff game against the 49ers. They are not to be slept on.
When it comes to the Eagles, they are just loaded with talent. Their defense was already and has always been elite. In 2020 and 2021, the 49ers struggled against them in a loss and then a very close win. Jalen Hurts is an average quarterback, but now that he has A.J. Brown in his ranks, his talent should ascend into a lot more above average moments. The Eagles' success really is contingent on Hurts just playing well enough.
So the 49ers are really in a pinch here. Now, I am not saying the four teams I have ahead them can steamroll them. No, not at all. The 49ers can battle with the best of them. But right now, those teams just look like they have less to overcome and figure out.