49ers rise to No. 3, fall to No. 14, and hold ground at No. 9 in wild Week 2 NFL power rankings

Chris Wilson
Sep 15, 2021 at 2:47 AM--

The NFL power rankings for Week 2 illustrate the sports media's split over the 49ers after their blowout-turned-nail-biter victory over the Lions.

If you're confused about the San Francisco 49ers after their 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 1, you are not alone.

In Week 2, NFL "Power Rankers" fell into one of two general camps as it relates to San Francisco: Those who think the 49ers took a clear step forward as they trounced the Lions over the first three quarters of Sunday's contest, and those who, after witnessing the Lions' improbable comeback attempt expectedly fall short, don't quite know what to think.

It was a rough weekend for NFL analysts, as many in a long list of questionable media darlings tasted their first defeats of the 2021 NFL regular season. Some were even blatantly disrespected, like a glorified Green Bay Packers squad who left Week 1 with a far-worse taste in their collective mouths. Perhaps Aaron Rodgers' incessant cockiness and never-ending complaints and threats are taking their final toll on the team, who suffered a 31-point spanking -- but no groping -- at the hands of quarterback and interception-king Jameis Winston and a mediocre New Orleans Saints team. Perhaps the Packers previously came to terms with Rodgers' constant drama, provided he produced on the field -- at least until the NFC Championship game. But if Green Bay continues to play unwatchable football, the 2020 NFL MVP's "last dance" may be cut short.

Skyrocketing or plummeting Week 2 power rankings are a clear indicator the analyst didn't take the necessary time to form a strong opinion about the team in question. On the opposite side of the spectrum, when the rankings of multiple losing teams are artificially inflated despite the superior play of neighboring squads, that's usually an indicator of an analyst who has planted a flag in a team's success, and won't budge or address the situation objectively until absolutely necessary.

As we discussed last week, "Beyond their propensity to promote heated conversations among friends and coworkers surrounding the water cooler, NFL power rankings do hold value, and are far from pointless to create or consume. In particular, preseason power rankings are extremely useful for gaining insight into NFL-wide hype surrounding a team, the biases of an individual analyst or media institution, and whether [Power Rankers engage] in the film review and analysis necessary to form their own opinions or simply echo the ill-informed viewpoints of the loudest talking heads."

Simply put, much insight was gained. This is going to be a fun 2021 NFL season.

The first rule of NFL power rankings is, "Don't overreact to one week of football." A number of the below Power Rankers took this to heart; The rest are likely somewhere on a rooftop shouting. "The first rule of Fight Club is Fight Club exists!" Thus, the winner of this week's "Overreaction Overdrive" award is -- unanimously -- USA Today.

USA Today may have been granted a do-over after Week 1, as there is little resemblance between the site's first two ranking attempts. Aside from the top-2 obligatory choices, only the No. 23 Carolina Panthers remained unchanged from their prior position. The 49ers dropped two spots after their Week 1 win, but they appeared to be a mere afterthought in the process, as they were leapfrogged by the two remaining NFC West teams -- a four-spot move for the Seattle Seahawks, as the Arizona Cardinals jumped all the way from No. 21 to No. 7. The new No. 5 New Orleans Saints and No. 8 Pittsburgh Steelers averaged a 10-spot bump, and even the winless Dallas Cowboys catapulted into the top-10 thanks to their Week 1 loss. Once USA Today secured a top-10 spot for the winless Buffalo Bills and a top-4 ranking, accompanied with nothing but excuses for the media favorite and grossly overrated Cleveland Browns, the 49ers ended up being the odd man out of USA Today's list of the top-10 teams in the NFL.

Last week, the San Francisco 49ers' Week 1 power rankings ranged from No. 5 on Yahoo Sports to No. 10 on ESPN and Bleacher Report. This week, the Niners received a moderate ranking boost from seven sites, while one website punted to next week, and the final two pushed the team down in their rankings, as numerous winless teams stood their ground. San Francisco's final rankings for Week 2 range from No. 3 all the way to a lackluster ranking of 14 from Bleacher Report, who notedly did provide a shoutout to the site. Locating the 49ers on Bleacher Reports' power rankings was a more daunting task than expected, as I scrolled up and down the page and passed 5 winless teams before I finally found the undefeated Niners. For the purpose of full transparency, I also refreshed my browser, reset the cache, and even rebooted my computer after finding both the Browns and the Bills both winless but identically placed within the site's top-5 teams in the league, yet they still remain.

Are the 49ers among the NFL's elite, or did San Francisco's victory turn them into the worst team in the NFC West? The "experts" claim both; hopefully the media finds a bit of clarity in Week 2.

Below is an overview of where San Francisco currently ranks within some of the more prominent NFL power rankings from around the web, as well as commentary and/or justification in support of each decision:

49ers Power Rankings NFL Week 2 - Winners on the Rise?

Yahoo Sports
Current Ranking: 3
Previous Ranking: 5
"Think of the 49ers this way: They barely used Trey Lance, who is their most talented quarterback. Trey Sermon, a back everyone had high hopes for, was surprisingly inactive. Raheem Mostert got hurt early in the game. Brandon Aiyuk, perhaps because he's barely back from a hamstring injury, didn't get a target after playing so well last season. And the 49ers still put up 41 points on the road. All those aforementioned players are very good and will be factors as we go on. The 49ers are going to be really good." — Frank Schwab

Sporting News
Current Ranking: 3
Previous Ranking: 6
"The 49ers don't get style points for how they let the Lions back into a blowout, but they were still impressive passing and running for big plays and cleaning up again with everyone healthy on defense. There are some personnel usage things that need to be ironed out, starting at quarterback, but Kyle Shanahan has them back in 2019 form early." — Adam Hofe

CBS Sports
Current Ranking: 3
Previous Ranking: 6
"They jumped all over the Lions, but had to hold on to win for dear life. The defense has to be better than what it showed against Detroit." — Pete Prisco

Sports Illustrated
Current Ranking: 4
Previous Ranking: 8
"Too high? Just wait until the Trey Lance package begins to expand. I cannot overstate this point enough: Teams had a hard time as it was slowing down Kyle Shanahan's offense when everyone was healthy and Jimmy Garoppolo was under center. Now, they're prepping for two versions of the same offense each week." — Conor Orr

Current Ranking: 7
Previous Ranking: 10
"Top rookie: CB Deommodore Lenoir. It's early, but Lenoir looks the part of the Niners' next fifth-round diamond in the rough. With Emmanuel Moseley out because of a knee injury, Lenoir started at outside corner opposite Jason Verrett. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Lenoir played 55 coverage snaps and was targeted four times, allowing one completion for three yards. Lenoir did have a pass interference penalty, but it was a solid debut for a player who is likely to step into an integral role on a more permanent basis following Verrett's right knee injury." — Nick Wagoner

Pro Football Talk
Current Ranking: 9
Previous Ranking: 11
"The Trey Lance train continues to be derailed." — Mike Florio

Pro Football Network
Current Ranking: 9
Previous Ranking: 11
"Their game against the Detroit Lions went exactly how we all expected it to, until about four minutes left in the fourth quarter. They completely dominated the game until the end. Then, the wheels almost came completely off. The offense gained nearly 8 yards per play, with Jimmy Garoppolo averaging 12.6 yards per attempt." — Mark Maske

49ers Power Rankings NFL Week 2 - Bring in the Punt Unit

Current Ranking: 9
Previous Ranking: 9
"San Francisco had a 41-17 advantage over Detroit when cornerback Jason Verrett limped to the sideline with what was later diagnosed as a season-ending ACL injury. It's not a coincidence that the Lions began to eat into that lead as soon as the top cover man exited the picture. The 49ers survived Detroit's furious comeback attempt, and now they'll have to find a way to survive without an indispensable figure in their secondary. We know this team is capable of scoring points, but a healthy and effective defense will be necessary to fulfill those Super Bowl expectations. With Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray looming on the schedule, San Francisco must adapt in a hurry." — Dan Hanzus

49ers Power Rankings NFL Week 2 - Win? Lose? Everyone gets a Trophy

USA Today
Current Ranking: 11
Previous Ranking: 9
"Are they the team that led Detroit 38-10 through 2½ quarters, or the one that held on for a 41-33 win ... and is already dealing with another rash of injuries after losing CB Jason Verrett to a torn ACL while hoping RB Raheem Mostert (knee) can return by midseason?" — Nate Davis

Bleacher Report
Current Ranking: 14
Previous Ranking: 10
"For most of Sunday's win, the San Francisco 49ers outclassed the Detroit Lions in every way imaginable. Jimmy Garoppolo was sharp throwing the ball, topping 300 passing yards. Rookie tailback Elijah Mitchell went for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in his first NFL game. The defense also made a number of big plays, including a pick-six from linebacker Dre Greenlaw. However, Greenlaw injured his groin on that interception return. Mitchell was out there because veteran tailback Raheen Mostert injured his knee after two carries. And top cornerback Jason Verrett suffered a season-ending ACL-tear as well. Those holes on the roster didn't matter in Week 1. They may not against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, either. But beginning in Week 3, the Niners play four games in five weeks against teams that made the playoffs in 2020. The lone one that didn't (Arizona) demolished the Titans on Sunday.
It's a daunting enough stretch at full strength. Short-handed, the Niners' season could go sideways quickly." — NFL Staff
  • Chris Wilson
  • Written by:
    You may have seen Chris Wilson's work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis, and film breakdowns at Minute Media, FanSided, Niner Noise, Insidethe49, LockedonSports, ClutchPoints, and others. Follow Chris on Twitter @cgawilson.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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