The NFL kicks off Week 15 in a little over 24 hours, with Frank Gore and the Indianapolis Colts hosting the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football. The San Francisco 49ers return to action later this weekend when they host the Tennessee Titans. The 49ers have won three of their last four games to improve to 3-10, while the Titans lost to Arizona last week to drop to 8-5.
The 49ers are firmly in the hunt for a top five draft pick, while the Titans are a game back of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South title, and hold one of the two wild card berths. These are two teams playing for distinctly different reasons these final three weeks.
We’re back with a look at Week 15 NFL power rankings around the media, and I thought we’d try something a little different moving forward. I’ve included 12 media sources, and for each one I’ve included the rankings and blurbs for both the 49ers and Titans.
The 49ers have won three of their last four, and it has resulted in a steady climb out of the bottom few spots in most power rankings. The Titans are 8-5, but Marcus Mariota is struggling, and the loss to Arizona has people questioning their bona fides. The 49ers are a two-point favorite this week, marking the first time they have been favored this season. Could they stun the Titans? The Titans are in a better overall position, but the 49ers seem to have some solid momentum on their side heading into this game.
Titans: There have been plenty of reasons to doubt the Titans, and they showed every damn one of them in Week 14 against the Cardinals. Tennessee couldn’t run the ball and Marcus Mariota didn’t do anything right as he battled through a knee sprain.
It’d take a lot to knock the Titans out of the AFC Wild Card race, so they’re probably in a safe spot. But it’s just impossible to get that jazzed about Tennessee’s chances in the playoffs when the team was blown out by the Steelers recently and can’t even comfortably win the games it should.
Bleeding Green Nation: 23 (Titans: 17)
49ers: The Niners are ON FIRE. Two wins in a row. Jimmy Garoppolo is looking like the answer for San Fran.
Titans: Not nearly as good as their 8-5 record suggests. Below average team.
49ers: The quarterback position was looking like a major weakness for the 49ers, but the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo may have solved that. Garoppolo is 2-0 with a 66 Total QBR for San Francisco. The 49ers' other starting quarterbacks went 1-10 with a combined 29 Total QBR.
Titans: The Titans' defense has shown improvement thanks to some playmakers in the secondary. Kevin Byard is tied for the league lead in interceptions (six) and both Adoree' Jackson and Logan Ryan already have more pass breakups than any Titans defender did last season.
Yahoo! Sports: 30 (Titans: 18)
49ers: The only problem with Jimmy Garoppolo playing this well is his price tag for the offseason continues to grow. The 49ers still have the franchise tag though. You have to assume the undying stories of the 49ers pining away for Kirk Cousins are done now, but who knows.
Titans: I’m stunned by Marcus Mariota’s regression. He seemed to have set a reasonable floor for his play during his first two seasons, but in his third season he has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. I’m also amazed this team is still in good shape in the playoff race. They’re not good.
49ers Last Week’s Rank: 27
Points in MMQB Power Poll: 99
Highest-Place Vote: 21st
Lowest-Place Vote: 29th (2)
Last Week’s Result: Win at Houston, 26-16
Week 15 Opponent: vs. Tennessee
Titans Last Week’s Rank: 13
Points in MMQB Power Poll: 181
Highest-Place Vote: 11th
Lowest-Place Vote: 21st
Last Week’s Result: Loss at Arizona, 12-7
Week 15 Opponent: at San Francisco
Bleacher Report: 25 (Titans: 13)
49ers: It's amazing what having a franchise quarterback does for a team. With Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the San Francisco 49ers have a different swagger. They believe they can win games.
Garoppolo was phenomenal on the field against the Houston Texans too. He was under pressure a lot but continued to get the ball out quickly and find the open man. He also moves in the pocket well, which cannot be overlooked.
The San Francisco defense isn't effective, and it will need to be addressed in the offseason. 49ers fans have to feel optimistic heading into that offseason, though. They have their franchise quarterback, they have their head coach and they have a few young playmakers to build around.
Titans: I hate to beat a dead horse, but the problem with the Titans remains the fact they don't do anything on an elite level except run the ball. This is what separates Tennessee from the elite teams in the NFL.
When the Titans cannot run the ball, the offense struggles. I still question Marcus Mariota's ability to carry the team with the pass. I like him, and I think he has a bright future, but I don't trust the ball being in his hands yet with the game on the line.
Mariota's play and the lack of balance on offense are concerning. While the defense is good, it isn't going to win games on its own. This isn't a team built to go deep in the postseason, assuming Tennessee can even make it there.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo has been special since taking over. They have their guy.
Titans: Playing close games finally caught up to them at Arizona. They are now in second place in the AFC South playing the chase game.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo is now a local legend in San Francisco. He's 4-0 as a starter in the NFL. He surpassed 300 yards passing in the win over the Texans, making him the first 49ers quarterback to pull that off since John Brodie. So maybe that's an exaggeration -- but Garoppolo is the first Niners quarterback to do that since Brian Hoyer in Week 5. Maybe this flurry of wins (yes, two in a row counts as a flurry for this 49ers group) will result in San Francisco missing out on a top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Fine. Picking sixth or seventh ain't so bad when you aren't desperate for a quarterback. Just a thought.
Titans: Titans fans have been quite upset with yours truly of late for a perceived low ranking. They weren't much happier when your hack writer predicted them to lose in Arizona. While the record is still impressive -- something many readers pointed out when Tennessee won six of seven -- even the most nutso Tennessee fan with a Keith Bulluck alternate road jersey and Blaine Bishop bobblehead will tell you the team has been wildly inconsistent. Marcus Mariota's play has dipped, if not taken nosedive -- his late interception Sunday was the latest in a subpar anthology for the franchise leader. Not to mention, 159 passing yards on 31 attempts is unacceptable production. Give Mariota credit for putting that ball right on Delanie Walker during Tennessee's final offensive stanza, however. The Cards were playing kickball out there. That's OK: The Titans threw to a defensive back -- their own -- with the game on the line.
Washington Post: 25 (Titans: 17)
49ers: So does Kyle Shanahan deserve credit for waiting until Jimmy Garoppolo was ready — really ready — to play before putting him in the lineup? Or does he deserve blame because Garoppolo should have been playing sooner? The Niners still have never lost a game started by Garoppolo.
Titans: There’s no excuse for the feeble loss in Arizona at a time when the Titans should be making a stretch-drive push for the playoffs.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo has made the 49ers look like a completely different team. The tandem of Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan will be dangerous for years to come.
Titans: Marcus Mariota continues to regress in a Titans offense that was designed to be successful in the 1940s. Tennessee likely will make the playoffs, but if the playbook doesn’t open up, then it will be bounced shortly.
Sporting News: 27 (Titans: 12)
49ers: The 49ers might have something in Jimmy Garoppolo, who has won both of his starts.
Titans: The Titans needed to beat the short-handed Cardinals, but let the game — and possibly the AFC South — slip away.
Detroit Free Press: 29 (Titans: 13)
49ers: Winning three out of four moves them out of the 30s for this week at least. They are the biggest spoiler candidate for the next two weeks as they host the Titans and Jaguars.
Titans: You have to excuse us, but we're just not in love with the Titans. Winning out is likely their only chance to take the AFC South, and they've got three teams just one game behind them for a playoff spot.