SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Four Predictions for the Second Half of the 49ers’ 2022 Season
Nov 9, 2022, 8:30 AM| Updated: 9:08 am
(Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Bye Week is over 49ers fans, it’s time to lock in for the remainder of the 2022 season as San Francisco looks to go on another run down the stretch.
Currently sitting at 4-4 and second in the NFC West, it won’t be easy if the Red & Gold want to win their first divisional title since 2019. But with the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals still in chaos at the halfway point, the 49ers could control their own destiny with nine games to go.
And with several key players expected back from injury in the coming weeks, San Francisco is set up to be at its best heading into January.
Overheard as #49ers broke down pre practice huddle (believe it was Fred Warner but unsure): “This second half run starts right now.” pic.twitter.com/qbtogp9LwF
— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) November 7, 2022
With that in mind, here are four predictions for the 49ers’ second half of the 2022 regular season.
Christian McCaffrey Wins Comeback Player of the Year
There are a lot of players in contention for this award, but McCaffrey’s trade to the West Coast will likely topple every other narrative at the end.
Stuck on the rudderless Carolina Panthers at the start of the year, the 49ers’ move for CMC two weeks out from the deadline proved what a superstar talent could do in a winning organization. Yes, it was a steep price to pay, practically giving up half of their draft picks over the next two years, but the results have paid dividends already.
Week 8 was McCaffrey’s re-introduction to the world, becoming the fourth player in NFL history to score a passing, rushing, and receiving touchdown in a single game, the first since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005.
Crowned him 👑 @CMC_22
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) November 2, 2022
His second TD was the most impressive of the bunch, levitating midair to snag a high ball from Jimmy Garoppolo along the right corner of the endzone, giving the 49ers the lead in the third quarter. He finished the day off with his rushing score, breaking loose for 25 yards before running out-of-bounds at the one-yard-line, punching it in from there to give San Francisco the victory.
Already at 881 total yards from scrimmage at the halfway point, the Stanford alum looks back to his All-Pro self, re-energized and motivated to get his first Pro Bowl honor since 2019. It’ll be interesting to see how the backfield realigns with Elijah Mitchell healthy, but McCaffrey will play a major role for the 49ers regardless.
Both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel Hit 750 Receiving Yards Each
This would be a given if you were looking at last season’s statistics (Samuel in particular), breaking out for more than 2200 yards as a duo.
But that was last season, and this season numbers have dipped, dropping from 12th to 23rd in passing attempts for San Francisco.
Currently, Aiyuk leads the group with 483 receiving yards, and Samuel isn’t far behind at 387 yards through the air. So it’s not far-fetched to assume both players hit their mark, but we know how much Kyle Shanahan loves to run the football.
Regardless, the 49ers’ ability to establish a lethal passing game to complement the run will be vital to the team’s success down the stretch. Establishing more verticality will go a long way for the Red & Gold, a team that has no passing TDs longer than 25 yards with Jimmy G at the helm.
Tight end George Kittle could also bite into the wideouts’ production (319 receiving yards currently), but he’ll be jointly featured in the run game as well, setting up lead blocks for the 49ers’ platoon of halfbacks.
Aiyuk has also stepped up to the plate for San Francisco this season, becoming a leader on and off the gridiron. His hard work has paid off, finally showing the true potential he flashed at Arizona State in 2019. “1B” to Deebo’s “1A” in the positional rankings, the pair should be a focal point of the 49ers’ offense going into the new year.
Nick Bosa Leads the NFC in Sacks
Less of a prediction, and more of a certainty because Nick Bosa could be the defensive player of the year when the season is done-and-dusted.
Racking up 8.5 sacks in seven games played, the defensive end is tied for first in the NFC West at the midpoint of the season. He also is among the league leaders in all major pass-rushing categories, including Pass Rush Win Rate and Run Stops.
Nick Bosa vs. Micah Parsons:
Pass Rush Win Rate: Bosa
Pass Rush Productivity: Bosa
Sack Percentage: Bosa
Pressure Percentage: Bosa
Run Stops: Bosa
Penalties Drawn: Bosa
Oh, Nick Bosa’s played 1 fewer game too.
— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) November 3, 2022
It’ll be an uphill climb to win the outright sack title in 2022 (New England Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon has 11.5 sacks), only Bosa’s health could stop him from reaching a career-high come playoff time. The team’s next two opponents are the Los Angeles Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals, organizations with desolate offensive lines. It doesn’t really matter who’s in front of the Ohio State alum though, he’ll go through/around them nonetheless.
San Francisco will need his consistent pressure in the opposition’s backfield to help solidify the rest of the unit, especially with defensive tackle Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw still on the mend. Again it won’t be an easy challenge, one I expect Bosa to steamroll through.
Javon Kinlaw is Out Until the Postseason
Speaking of Kinlaw, his absence with each passing week has grown to be a major concern for the 49ers.
Dealing with fluid buildup in his surgically repaired knee, the defensive lineman has been out of the lineup since Week 3 in Denver. Trying to work through it in a pre-game workout the following Monday night against the LA Rams, the last image seen of Kinlaw on the field was him walking off, alongside defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, with his face covered from the lingering spectators.
He hasn’t been on the field, even practiced, since.
The burden has been heavy for the former South Carolina standout mentally. Having to watch his team go through the ups and downs of a season while he’s on the sidelines.
“I’m telling you,” Kinlaw said last week. “I’m trying to do whatever I can to be back out there and have some fun with those guys. It looks like they’re having fun at a level I haven’t even been a part of, yet.
“Even the run last year, all the fun times, the good and the bad, I’m never a part of anything. I just want to get out there and be a part of something.”
And the team’s feeling is mutual, hopeful that he could return to the lineup down the stretch run.
“Whenever he’s played, he’s been a difference in there,” general manager John Lynch added. “He’s a large man that can move. He’s got a good feel for the game of football. It’s been hard on Javon. He wants to be out there worse than anyone. He’s been dealt a tough hand. I’m proud of the way he’s been working.”
Wednesday’s practice will give Kinlaw another opportunity to reappear after the Bye Week, but I expect him to be sidelined for an extended period of time.