COMMENTARY | NFL power rankings aren't supposed to be taken seriously. They're utilized to give scribes a platform to quickly dissect where each team stands around the league and to give fans some sort of bragging rights around the office water cooler.
After all, neither of the last two Super Bowl champions were considered favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at any point during the regular season. It's all about having a little fun and giving your take on where teams stand.
The San Francisco 49ers began this season ranked No. 1 overall by multiple media outlets. As the defending conference champions, they seemed destined to ride out the duration of the season in the top five of these rankings. Two consecutive blowout losses in the second and third weeks of the season pretty much ended these expectations.
Fresh off four consecutive convincing victories, San Francisco finds itself slowly climbing the ladder and within reaching distance of the top five in a majority of the power rankings around the football world.
This article will address where each major media outlet has San Francisco ranked entering Week 8 and give you my take on the 49ers in general as well as the rankings themselves.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the 49ers have jumped up a few spots during their four-game winning streak. Considering that they were at No. 10 on ESPN's power rankings after their Week 3 meltdown against the Indianapolis Colts, it might be surprising they aren't ranked any higher here.
ESPN details exactly how San Francisco has jumped in the rankings and why it is in the midst of a four-game winning streak.
"The 49ers are running again, rushing on 59 percent of their plays during their four-game win streak. The 49ers ran 35 percent of the time in their first three games."
Kirwan places San Francisco at the exact same spot as ESPN, which shouldn't be much of a surprise. A strong argument can be made that all five of the teams ranked above the 49ers here have been better throughout the first seven weeks of the season. The NFL insider switches it up a bit by putting the Colts at one, but the five teams ahead of San Francisco are the very same ones we saw in the ESPN article linked above.
The good news here is that San Francisco has two more games against these teams remaining on its schedule. Win against the best in the NFL and you earn the respect. Outside of the 49ers season-opening victory against the Green Bay Packers, their wins have come against rather mediocre competition.
San Francisco comes in at a robust six once again. The former Baltimore Ravens head coach and current FOX Sports analyst had the following to say about the 49ers in his weekly power rankings…
"Here come the 49ers. After starting 1-2, they have now won four in a row and are scoring 33 points per game while only giving up 12.8 during their win streak."
Regardless of opponent, it is impressive that San Francisco has won four consecutive games by an average of nearly three touchdowns per outing. It's this type of domination that leads me to believe that Jim Harbaugh and Co. are fully prepared to continue this win streak deep into next month. Their first stop will be against the Jacksonville Jaguars this week in London before a much needed bye week. If the 49ers are able to go into that bye riding a five-game winning streak, the momentum will be put in place for them to continue their domination in the second half of the season.
Schwab mixes it up a lot in the newest version of his power rankings. The Yahoo scribe actually has the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs ranked No. 5 overall, a major change from what we see in the rankings linked above. Schwab's point is that the Chiefs have played a soft schedule, even as he ranks the Denver Broncos who have played an equally soft schedule at No. 4 overall. The primary change here as it relates to San Francisco is that he has the Green Bay Packers, at 4-2 and losers against the 49ers in Week 1, at No. 5 overall.
With that said, Schwab seems to be pretty high in his praise of the 49ers.
"Great win on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick finally seems to be settling in, and being more aggressive with his running too. That game made you think the 49ers are starting to get it going."
It goes without saying that San Francisco needs Kaepernick to play at a high level in order to be considered a top Super Bowl contender. His performance since that horrible two-game stretch against Indianapolis and Seattle is indicative of a young quarterback in the midst of progression. Once Kaepernick gets the likes of Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree back, he will be in a great position to take San Francisco's bottom-five passing offense to the next level. If that happens, watch out.
All five of the power rankings I linked in this article, San Francisco ranks just outside of the top five. That's pretty much par for the course considering its record and that two of the teams ranked ahead of the 49ers have already beaten them on the season. Harrison's explanation of his ranking is rather simple.
"Two big factors in the Niners' win at Tennessee: Anquan Boldin and Colin Kaepernick. Boldin made a couple sick catches, one on the left sideline with a single hand, the other on a lunge down the right sideline. Kaepernick, meanwhile, ran for 68 yards and a score."
San Francisco's passing game hits another gear when both Vernon Davis and Boldin are connecting with Kaepernick. When that doesn't take place, defenses are able to scheme against the one pass catcher that he is targeting throughout the game. This was evidenced against Seattle and Indianapolis in San Francisco's only two losses of the season.
Personally, I would rank San Francisco at No. 5 overall with the Saints as the odd-team out of the top five. While New Orleans boasts a better record and has been the more consistent team, it hasn't dealt with anywhere near the injury issues we have seen in San Francisco. All things equal, with the 49ers' injured players returning, they are clearly a better all-around team. Outside of that, San Francisco simply cannot be ranked any higher.It's going to need to pull off a season-defining win against either New Orleans or Seattle, it's two toughest opponents remaining on the schedule, in order to crack the top three or four on a consistent basis. Until then, skeptics will continue to conclude that the 49ers aren't prepared to go up against the best the NFL has to offer.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- San Francisco
- San Francisco 49ers