NFL power rankings: Where 49ers stand among 2022 playoff teams

DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys tries to break away from Michael Wilhoite #57 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys tries to break away from Michael Wilhoite #57 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

NFL power rankings, Wild Card weekend: Nos. 11-7 (Cardinals, Bengals, 49ers, Patriots, Cowboys)

Things get a little tougher here, including for the 49ers’ own rankings, as it’s up to a lot of different criteria to determine Wild Card weekend NFL power rankings.

For good reasons, though.

32. . 11-6. . Arizona Cardinals. 11. team

Remember when the Arizona Cardinals were the hottest team in football? Seems like ages ago.

Sure, it might seem shortsighted to rank Arizona lower than San Francisco here, as the Cards beat the 49ers twice during the regular season. But that’s when the Cardinals were playing good football.

And one can almost annually count on head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s squads falling apart late in the season.

Losing four of its final six regular-season games isn’t exactly the kind of momentum Arizona wants to generate heading into the playoffs and against a still-potent Rams team in the Wild Card round.

56. . 10-7. . Cincinnati Bengals. 10. team

The Bengals are one of those teams that could be ranked higher or lower, if you’re looking at their strength of victories and nature of losses this season. It’s fitting, as Cincinnati emulates one of those squads that could beat the very best the league has to offer, only to lose to any bottom-feeding team the following week.

See Weeks 7 and 8 against the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets as examples.

Still, second-year quarterback Joe Burrow has been outstanding for much of 2021, only outdone by rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s incredible first-year campaign.

Chase and Burrow will have to carry the offense, as the Bengals defense may have tough times matching up against Las Vegas.

San Francisco 49ers. 9. team. 42. . 10-7.

Maybe a little San Francisco homerism here. And like the first slate of teams, the 49ers had to enact their own kind of desperation to get into the NFL playoffs by beating the Rams in overtime.

But they did. And the overwhelming theme from both Fox and CBS Sports’ gameday broadcasts in Week 18 stressed how the Niners are built for playoff football, particularly if they revert back to a swarming pass rush and dominant run game.

The defensive backfield is a massive weakness, though, meaning there’ll be plenty of pressure on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to continue mitigating that injured thumb while avoiding those costly turnovers that nearly cost San Francisco its shot at the playoffs.

Read More: 3 reasons why 49ers pulled off thrilling win vs. Rams

If Garoppolo can protect the ball in the Wild Card round against the Cowboys, while the defensive line frustrates Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, a stout 49ers rushing attack might be all that’s needed for the Niners to advance to the next round.

47. . 10-7. . New England Patriots. 8. team

Some may feel San Francisco deserves to be ranked ahead of the New England Patriots in Wild Card weekend NFL power rankings here.

Perhaps. Jimmy Garoppolo has a much bigger pedigree than rookie Pats quarterback Mac Jones, and it’s likely New England is going to continue limiting its asks of him during the playoffs, much like how it has done all season long.

But that Patriots defense, finishing the regular season ranked No. 2 in scoring, is a force in of itself, and it’s always, always, always a better bet to side with head coach Bill Belichick over the 49ers’ own head coach, Kyle Shanahan.

The Pats and Buffalo Bills should be an epic matchup to watch in the opening round of the postseason.

. Dallas Cowboys. 7. team. 123. . 12-5

There are plenty of reasons to be hyped about the Cowboys this season.

For starters, that atrocious defense from a year ago has done a complete 180, thanks to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and the outstanding play from defenders like linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs.

But it’s the Dallas offense, finishing the regular season ranked No. 1 in both points scored and yards gained, that could give a team like the 49ers a lot of worry in the Wild Card round. Sure, that offense has mostly gone up against sub.-500 teams in what turned into a joke of an NFC East division this year.

Still, a 49ers squad looking to advance to the divisional round might have to do its best to engineer a run-first approach to keep Prescott and Co. off the field as much as possible.

At least that longtime Cowboys and 49ers rivalry is back into the fray after being largely dormant the last 20 years.