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ESPN NFL Power Rankings: Are The 49ers Coming In Under The Radar?

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ESPN released their first NFL power rankings of the preseason and our beloved 49ers sit 26th. The only teams behind them? Denver, Cleveland, Washington, Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati. Not exactly a great list of teams, but maybe having low expectations isn't the worst thing in the world.

Last year the 49ers entered the preseason ranked 12th in the power rankings. Power rankings in general are much more reactionary than predictive and the 49ers are a perfect example of that. Over the last few seasons the 49ers have entered the new year with high hopes and high expectations from the pundits. Big things were expected in 2007 after the 49ers closed strong in 2006. Last year expectations were high in the media thanks to the consistency carrying over. Both seasons ended fairly disastrously.

Low expectations this year can be due to a whole variety of reasons. The team did bring in Jim Harbaugh, but even that contributes to potentially low expectations. While we're all ready for Coach Harbaugh to lead the team to the promised land, less subjective opinions likely expect more struggles early on. A new coaching staff, the lockout affecting implementation of scheme changes, and of course the return of everyone's favorite whipping boy, Alex Smith, all contribute to lower expectations this year.

Do the expectations really make any difference? Is it possible lower expectations might decrease the pressure on the players' shoulders? Or does it really matter? I realize power rankings are fairly worthless in the broader context, but it does give us an idea of what people are thinking outside of the 49ers fanbase.