The 49ers have steadily gone from a middle-of-the-pack team towards the top of NFL power rankings in recent weeks, and Monday’s win over the Cardinals provided a big boost.
For the second season in a row, it’s looking as if the San Francisco 49ers need the first half of the year to “figure a few things out,” so to speak, before going on a tear during the second half.
This season, a 4-4 start over the first half prompted some to think the Niners could be a fringe playoff team potentially looking at a Wild Card berth. However, after winning three consecutive games in impressive fashion and then walloping the Arizona Cardinals in front of an international audience on Monday Night Football from Mexico City, many are starting to look at head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Shanahan’s offense has finally come alive, particularly after adding All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey just prior to the NFL trade deadline, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is easily playing his best football since joining San Francisco back in 2017.
And the 49ers defense? Well, it hasn’t surrendered a single point in the second half of its last three games.
Not surprisingly, those results have lofted the Niners toward the top of many an expert’s NFL power rankings heading into Week 12. During that so-so run over the first half in which San Francisco could do no better than a .500 record, it was easy to see Shanahan and Co. in the teens.
Now, a mere top-10 berth might not be quite adequate enough. It’s been a notable turnaround.
Let’s take a look at where the 49ers are landing in the latest NFL power rankings.
49ers continue to climb NFL power rankings entering Week 12
Dan Hanzus, NFL.com — No. 5 (+2)
"When this offense is healthy and humming — as it was on Monday Night Football in Mexico City — it can feel unfair. Christian McCaffrey. Deebo Samuel. George Kittle. Brandon Aiyuk. Elijah Mitchell. It’s an embarrassment of riches for Jimmy Garoppolo, who got the ball into the hands of his playmakers with expert proficiency in a 38-10 wipeout of the overmatched Cardinals. Garoppolo threw four touchdown passes without a turnover and regularly connected with wide-open receivers running free against an Arizona defense that packed it in by the fourth quarter. Add in a physical and imposing defense, and this team is ready for liftoff."
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports — No. 9 (even)
"Nobody will want to play this team come playoff time. They are getting it right at the right time. Jimmy Garoppolo is playing well."
Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated — No. 5
"This is what they are capable of in the Christian McCaffrey era—complete and utter dominance. No defense that can completely encase them. It’s a really terrifying prospect for anyone who assumed the NFC was locked up a few weeks ago."
Bleacher Report NFL Staff — No. 9 (-1)
"Granted, it came against a team without its starting quarterback. But Kyler Murray’s absence didn’t have anything to do with how the Niners moved the ball at will. On the ground, San Francisco had 159 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per attempt. Through the air, Jimmy Garoppolo had four touchdowns without an interception plus a passer rating of 131.9.Defensively, Nick Bosa and Co. shut the Cardinals down. Arizona averaged 2.8 yards per carry, and while the Cardinals converted half of their third-down attempts, San Francisco continually turned Arizona away when it was in position to score."
Matt Verderame, FanSided — No. 7 (+1)
"The 49ers are starting to put things together as the group has gotten healthier. Tied for first place in the NFC West."
It’s a little strange to see the folks over at Bleacher Report drop the Niners in their standings, but perhaps they were taking into account the fact Murray was absent for Arizona.
Although that didn’t seem to matter, especially after San Francisco finally came up with answers on All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had been doing damage to the 49ers in the first half.
Either way, as Verderame pointed out, the Niners are getting hot at the right time.
And, with three home games in a row now, San Francisco can look to ride that momentum into a top seed in the NFC playoff picture.