Some may argue the 49ers are the team no one wants to face in the NFL playoffs, and the latest NFL power rankings suggest that’s the case.
For a brief period of time during the San Francisco 49ers’ Wild Card matchup against the Seattle Seahawks last weekend, it appeared as if head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad would finally stumble out of what has been a red-hot streak dating back to its last loss in October.
After all, the Hawks not only managed to stay in the game against the No. 2-seeded Niners, but Seattle also managed to take a second-half lead.
Yet that was before rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and that top-ranked defense finally clicked into gear, ultimately sending the Seahawks out of Levi’s Stadium and the NFL playoffs after the 41-23 victory in the Wild Card round.
Now, San Francisco gets to renew its longtime rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys, and fans won’t soon forget how the 49ers eliminated Dallas a year ago during last season’s Wild Card matchup in one of the oddest finales in recent football memory.
Either way, it’s fair to suggest the Niners are still the hottest team left in the tournament right now, especially considering San Francisco’s offense is now clicking into full form with Purdy and McCaffrey, and that’s pairing with the NFL’s best defense from the regular season, too.
According to the latest NFL power rankings from NFL.com, this appears to be the case.
49ers enter divisional round as NFL.com’s No. 1 team in NFL power rankings
Of the 14 teams that entered the postseason, NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus lists the 49ers as No. 1 in NFL power rankings at the conclusion of Wild Card weekend.
Yes, even higher than the Kansas City Chiefs (No. 2), the Buffalo Bills (No. 3) or the top seed in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 5), who enjoyed the first-round bye during Wild Card weekend and will face the New York Giants in the other NFC matchup this upcoming weekend.
The winner of that particular game will square off against either the Niners or Cowboys for the right to represent the conference in Super Bowl LVII.
As for San Francisco being No. 1 in NFL power rankings, Hanzus offered the following justification:
"The 49ers continue to run circles around the enemy. On Saturday, it was the Seahawks’ turn to face the music — a Brock Purdy-orchestrated symphony that rolled off 25 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 41-23 win. After some misfires in the first few drives, Purdy locked in and became the first rookie QB in NFL history with four total touchdowns in a playoff game."
Hanzus also added how Purdy won the “NFL QB version of the lotto” when considering both the star power surrounding him and Shanahan’s coaching, and now the rookie signal-caller is taking full advantage of it.
Based on how the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft looked last weekend against Seattle, it’s hard to argue.
Should Purdy and the Niners continue with yet another strong outing against a Cowboys team that owns both an offense and defense in the top 10 from the regular season, it’ll be hard to suggest San Francisco as anything but the biggest Super Bowl contender from the conference.