The 49ers are all over the place, as you’ll see in this week’s power rankings. They’re as low as 21 in one poll and as high as 11 in another. As always, the truth is likely in the middle. If the Niners stack a couple of wins in a row, they should land back in the top-10.
Previous ranking: 18
Week 1 confidence rating: 6.5
How it’s going now: 5.8
The 49ers have been in every game they’ve played and could be 5-0, just as they could be 0-5. But they’re 2-3 and riding a three-game losing streak, all against teams considered preseason playoff contenders. The hardest part about trusting the Niners right now is they don’t yet seem to have forged an identity that inspires much confidence. There are reasons for hope, but there are even more questions that need answers to come back in the affirmative for this season to get back on track. — Nick Wagoner
Previous rank: No. 17
The bye came at an ideal time for the Niners, who stumbled into their off week on a three-game losing streak. The offense needs to achieve consistency, and San Francisco could find it by addressing two big issues: 1) Who is the quarterback going forward? 2) Who can stay healthy and serve as a catalyst in the running game? First-round pick Trey Lance is a player who can be a solution to both those questions, but he’s dealing with a knee issue and doesn’t appear to have earned Kyle Shanahan’s trust just yet. It might be time for the coach to make a leap of faith.
17. San Francisco 49ers (2-3, LW: 12)
One post-bye goal should be to get Brandon Aiyuk involved. The 2020 first-round pick was impressive as a rookie. But through five weeks, he unbelievably has 90 yards. It would boost the 49ers’ offense to use one of their best players more, especially with George Kittle out.
THE DARKHORSE CONTENDERS
11. San Francisco 49ers (2—3)
Last week: Bye
Next week: vs. Indianapolis
The defense is borderline dominant again (even while blitzing more with Josh Norman on the field!); the issue is the offense. The last time we saw the Niners, Trey Lance was not the superhero I believed he’d be in 2021 (he’s still going to be incredible long-term). They rolled out a limited playbook, and the offensive line had an awful time blocking in front of a more improvisational quarterback—though they still were a couple fourth-down conversions away from a win in Arizona anyway. They overcame a mediocre quarterback to make the Super Bowl in 2019, but as Split Enz once told me, history never repeats.
21. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)
20. 49ers (20): Hopefully, the bye helped clear head of underperforming WR Brandon Aiyuk, who has eight catches for 90 yards – on the season.
The 49ers being competitive has been constant this season. Out of the bye week, I expect to see a team that knows what they want to do on offense. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case during the first five games.
Football Outsiders DVOA has the 49ers in their top-10 rankings. The Niners are closer to No. 11 than No. 18. Listing them in the “darkhorse contenders” might not be far off. The team continues to be a projection as we have yet to see consistent play on both sides of the ball.
This week, they’re in a good spot at home against a Colts team that struggled against the Texans. Last week, midway through the third quarter, Davis Mills threw an interception when the score was 7-3. The wheels fell off after that turnover for the Texans.
Will we see a more confident Niners team moving forward?