28 Oct The 49ers’ 2022 Season: Starting Over in Week 8?
By Scott Engel, The Game Day
The 49ers suffered an embarrassing loss against the Chiefs, but that defeat ultimately could be a marker of where one point of the season ended and another begins. The blowout defeat does not erase any hope going forward. The Niners can nearly start anew with a key win over the Rams this week.
How the team fares against a top rival in an NFC West showdown can point the direction to where the 49ers go from here. Embracing a “next man up” philosophy has not worked out as hoped. Injuries have played an obviously large role in a two-game losing streak that has dropped the 49ers into a tie for third place in the NFC West.
But they are also only one game behind the first-place Seahawks entering Week 8.
A win over the Rams, coupled with a Seattle loss to the upstart Giants, would put the Niners into a tie for first place, with Christian McCaffrey settling in after his arrival and the defense looking to get back to better health in the weeks ahead. The defense still did not look like itself against Kansas City, but that can all be put behind the team as it can still come through a rough mini-stretch in position to take over the division lead in the near future.
The 49ers will have survived a challenging patch and can still be in position to take over control in the NFC West as soon as next week.
We heard and read talk that maybe the team rushed its key injured defensive players back too soon against the Chiefs. Nick Bosa was not a major factor and Charvarius Ward was among several others who had to work through issues to suit up in Week 7. But the defense should be getting back into form soon, especially with Arik Armstead on the verge of returning.
The 49ers can enter the second half of the schedule with their most potent offense in recent memory, and the defense should be back to its expected self at the same time. The Niners have already overcome the loss of Trey Lance because they had an ideal replacement still in the mix, and now the all-important running game gets the most significant boost of all with the acquisition of arguably the best running back in the game.
Lance not available? Jimmy Garoppolo was ready to jump back in. Elijah Mitchell not able to stay healthy? McCaffrey is now here. The defense did suffer when several top guys were unavailable, so roster depth can only go so far.
Yet, now that the team is looking closer to getting whole again, there is not a better-looking roster in the division.
Seattle has certainly defied expectations and can finish second in the division while contending for a playoff spot. Geno Smith has exhibited strong command of the offense and Kenneth Walker III looks like a rising star. The defense has played better recently, but the 49ers seem to be better stocked on both sides of the ball.
The Rams definitely appear to be suffering a Super Bowl hangover. The pass protection is shoddy, there are no reliable offensive playmakers outside of Cooper Kupp, and the defense is no longer quite as fearsome. Arizona has not progressed as hoped, and Kliff Kingsbury is drawing a lot of criticism. They might be the team most likely to be left out of the divisional race.
This week’s matchup with the 49ers will be a huge game for the Rams, too, and they will be a tough opponent after coming off a bye to revisit what is not working and re-energize. Neither team wants to fall to 3-5, especially if Seattle wins. But if the Niners’ defense plays better as expected, and the new-look offense starts to take flight this week, then last year’s Super Bowl champions won’t look like a real contender to even repeat as division champs.
There is simply no match for the 49ers’ playmaking crew in the entire NFC now that they have acquired McCaffrey. When the entire defense is healthy, only the Buffalo Bills may look more complete and potentially outstanding on both sides of the ball from a league-wide perspective.
But games are not won on how the roster looks on your screen, so making it all comes to life begins this week. We are only in Week 8, but this is a very important midseason showdown. If the 49ers come away with either a decisive or inspiring win over the Rams, then the season can truly start fresh from this point on.