NFL power rankings, Week 16: 49ers get ready for showdown with Seahawks

Jim Rogash

We break down Week 16 NFL power rankings and consider the viability of the 49ers as the top team in the NFL

One of the frequent talking points about the NFL is the parity that exists in the league. While we see a lot of turnover in terms of good teams and bad teams, this year has provided some parity at the very top of the league. The top of NFL power rankings have seen quite a bit of turnover during the three months of NFL action we've seen thus far. Teams like Atlanta, Houston and Denver climbed from a bit further down, but once they entered the top of the rankings, we've seen a lot of rotation among the top teams.

The 49ers are a perfect example of that. The 49ers opened the season in the top five of most power rankings. They then climbed to the top of most rankings after opening the season 2-0 with wins over the Packers and Lions. They subsequently lost tot the Minnesota Vikings, and since then they have hung around the three to eight spots in most rankings.

As we head into Week 16, the 49ers are back closer to the top. They top the ESPN and NFL.com power rankings, which are aggregate rankings involving multiple site voters. Beyond those, they rank second or third in the other power rankings we track. These are only a few rankings, but I imagine most would be similar to this group.

I know some people get concerned when the 49ers start getting more serious respect. Jim Harbaugh is the most notable, but plenty of people prefer to creep up on people. While I do get that, I also like bringing a little swagger to the table. A win in New England in December does just that. Yes, the 49ers nearly blew that game, and that will help maintain some semblance of humility, but the 49ers are one of the teams to beat in January and hopefully February.

Yes, every playoff team has a chance, but even with plenty of reasonable concerns about the team, this is still a team that can do big things. Of course, they actually have to go out and execute, so I'm not here to say it will be some kind of walk in the park. But I like the confidence this team is developing, thanks to some pretty big wins.

SB Nation NFL

1. Denver Broncos
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. San Francisco 49ers

Like the Broncos and Falcons, there's a legit argument for putting them No. 1. Winning in Foxboro in December is no joke. The 49ers have as good of a shot as anyone to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

CBS Sports

1. Denver Broncos
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. San Francisco 49ers

That was an impressive first half at New England. The second? Not so much.

FOX Sports

1. Denver Broncos
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. New England Patriots

The way the 49ers jumped out to an early lead and then overcame Tom Brady's comeback effort was very impressive, but the tie and loss to the Rams still leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

ESPN

1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Houston Texans
3. Denver Broncos

Colin Kaepernick is the first 49ers QB since Jeff Garcia in 2003 to throw four TD passes in a game.

NFL.com

1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. New England Patriots

San Francisco earned this spot Sunday night. Period. The 49ers ran the ball effectively, and frustrated Tom Brady time and again for two and a half quarters. While the New England Patriots mounted a scintillating comeback, it was at least partially due to the Niners playing soft coverage. More importantly, when Colin Kaepernick needed to make a play for his club, he did -- hitting Michael Crabtreeon a touchdown pass to seal the deal. Special teams played a huge role, too. The LaMichael Jamesreturn to answer the Patriots' fourth-quarter salvo was a game-changer.

Statement Sunday = big-time football from the San Francisco 49ers.

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