PFF's admiration of Rams' NFC West Division rival is way over-the-top

Pro Football Focus in mesmerized by this LA Rams rival in the NFC West Division. But they have taken their admiration a bit too far.
Los Angeles Rams Minicamp, Sean McVay
Los Angeles Rams Minicamp, Sean McVay / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

Every LA Rams fan knows that the San Francisco 49ers are good. A team must be good to win the NFC West Division. Right now, the 49ers have won the division title two consecutive seasons in a row. And the same team has advanced to the NFC Championship Game. In 2022, the 49ers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2023, the 49ers defeated the Detroit Lions to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII.

The 49ers lost to the Chiefs.

But if we are to believe the folks at Pro Football Focus, the 49ers are back with a vengeance. Based on their pre-season projections, PFF has the 49ers tops in the NFC at all positional groups save one. They have given the nod to the Detroit Lions in terms of offensive line. All other position groups from all 16 NFC teams are inferior to that of the San Francisco 49ers.

Yes, this is their claim.

The problem that I have with this 49ers love-fest is that it's simply not true.

The 49ers are a good team, and they have the type of complementary play that bolsters the entire team's performance. They run well, which opens up the passing game. And that offensive balance helps the offense stay on the football field, which helps to keep the defense well rested.

But the 49ers are do not dominate at all positional groups in 2024. Here's why:

Running backs

When it comes to running backs, the San Francisco 49ers do boast a very good one in RB Christian McCaffrey. Of the 49ers' 2,389 yards rushing, McCaffrey put up 1,459 yards and 14 touchdowns in 16 games. But nobody on the 49ers roster rushed over 300 yards. In essence, it's all on McCaffrey to pound the football on the ground.

The LA Rams put up 2,045 yards on the ground in 2023. Of that amount, RB Kyren Williams put up 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. If Williams played in 16 games like Christian McCaffrey, he would have rushed for over 1,525 yards and 16 touchdowns. And the Rams did have veteran Royce Freeman put up over 319 yards. But in 2024, the Rams will also have rookie RB Blake Corum in the backfield, a powerhouse who loves to run north-south and who will push Williams hard for carries.

Advantage: Rams

Receiving Corps

While the San Francisco 49ers had a very effective passing game in 2023, that is not a normal state of affairs for their offense. Whether it was great timing or random chance, the 49ers offense was incredibly healthy throughout the 2023 NFL season. As we all know, health plays a huge factor in how well a team performs in any given season. Unfortunately, the Rams were not quite as healthy.

Even as a rookie WR, Puka Nacua had a better year than the 49ers top WR, Branon Aiyuk. And I don't think that it's a controversial view that Rams WR Cooper Kupp is a better receiver than 49ers Deebo Samuel. Even limited to the second half of the 2023 season, WR Demarcus Robinson is better than any third wide receiver option on the 49ers roster.

I concede that the 49ers hold the advantage at tight end with George Kittle. But I do believe that the Rams will close that gap in 2024. Not only do the Rams hope to get TE Tyler Higbee back from injury, but the team has a healthy competition going between Colby Parkinson and Davis Allen that will result in better that expected production in 2024.

Oh, and let's not overlook Rams speedy WR Tutu Atwell, a player who has no counterpart on the 49ers roster.

Advantage: Rams

I won't belabor the point on defense, although I do believe that the Rams' newly refurbished secondary and pass rush will shock some folks in 2024. My point is that while the 49ers are very good, they simply do not outclass all NFC teams with every positional group. Does PFF realize that the 49ers fired defensive coordinator Steve Wilks? A new defensive coordinator means changes are about to occur. For a defense that did as well as the 49ers' defense performed in 2023, that is more likely to mean changes for the worse over changes for the better.

If they did, the 49ers would be on track for a nearly perfect 2024 season. In 2023, this team finished with a record of 12-5. I don't see them being any better than that in 2024.

As always, thanks for reading.