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Week 18 power rankings: Where the 49ers stand entering regular-season finale

Jan 2, 2024 at 9:11 AM


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The San Francisco 49ers head into their final regular-season game with the confidence of having secured the NFC's top seed, guaranteeing a first-round bye in the playoffs and a route through Levi's Stadium to Super Bowl 58.

The Week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams holds little significance for the 49ers, prompting head coach Kyle Shanahan to consider resting several starters against their division rival.

"We'll definitely try to rest some guys, but you can't rest everybody," Shanahan told reporters after this past weekend's win over the Washington Commanders. "It's too hard. You don't have enough players. So we've got to field a team, without a doubt, but we're going to have a big week of practice. I still think there's lots of things we got to obviously get a lot better at. And the only way you do that is playing football and practicing football."

The additional time off will benefit the team's injured players. For instance, running back Christian McCaffrey sustained a calf injury against the Commanders. Leading the league with 339 touches and 2,023 scrimmage yards this season, McCaffrey could use a break to recuperate for the postseason.

"I think we all need it. I know I need it," McCaffrey told reporters after the game. "So I'm excited to just take a breath and get everything back to normal."

What does the national media think about the Niners' roster compared to the rest of the league? Below are samples from some of the more prominent power rankings around the web and where San Francisco currently stands within each. As always, the highest rankings are listed first.

The Athletic
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"The 49ers have made a quarterback nobody else in the league wanted look like a superstar by surrounding him with stars. On Sunday, San Francisco became the first team in league history to have a running back (Christian McCaffrey), two wide receivers (Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk) and a tight end (George Kittle) all surpass 1,000 yards in a single season. The 49ers also clinched the top seed in the NFC, meaning teams that love playing at home on turf (looking at you Dallas and Detroit) probably will have to win in the elements to get to the Super Bowl." — Josh Kendall

Bleacher Report
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"The best thing that happened to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday may not even have occurred in Washington. Sure, the Niners made relatively easy work of an overmatched Commanders team in the nation's capital, but Arizona's upset of the Eagles in Philadelphia settled things where the NFC's No. 1 seed is concerned. ... There's one player in particular who really needs that rest. Star running back Christian McCaffrey left the game in the third quarter with a calf injury ... Now, the team won't have to worry about rolling McCaffrey out there until the Divisional Round." — NFL Staff

CBS Sports
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 3
"They bounced back from their loss to the Ravens to beat the Commanders and lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They will be tough to beat at home." — Pete Prisco

ESPN
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"Biggest offseason contract to watch: WR Brandon Aiyuk. The Niners picked up Aiyuk's fifth-year option for 2024 after rebuffing trade interest in him last offseason, which means he remains on the team for at least another year. But the 49ers' preferred operating procedure has been to re-sign homegrown stars like Aiyuk before they enter the final year of their rookie deal. With the notable exception of DT DeForest Buckner, whom they traded to Indianapolis in 2020, the Niners have kept all of their foundational players, and they'd like to do the same with Aiyuk. That doesn't mean it will be easy or they won't receive interest from around the league, but there's also a path to structuring a deal for Aiyuk so his cap number spikes when other big-money deals come off the books." — Nick Wagoner

NFL.com
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"As with the Ravens, winning the top seed early (thanks, Philly!) and the first-round bye that comes with it was a crucial development for the 49ers, given their deteriorating health, with that No. 1 designation essentially building in an additional week's lag time to get right. They've been running on fumes a bit on defense, and Christian McCaffrey could use a good spa day. He left Sunday's win over Washington with a calf injury, and the focus will be on getting him (and some other key contributors) healthy for the postseason. Can the Niners regain their dominant form? I say yes. The Week 16 loss to the Ravens conjured some of the same concerning feelings we had about San Francisco during the team's three-game losing streak in Weeks 6 through 8. That said, the Week 9 bye really did inject some life into this group. The same thing can happen with the added rest before the first playoff game at Levi's Stadium in a few weeks. If McCaffrey, both lines of scrimmage and Brock Purdy are healthy and mentally sharp, this can be a Super Bowl team, in spite of any recent setbacks." — Eric Edholm

Pro Football Talk
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 3
"Anyone who beats them in Santa Clara in January will have earned it." — Mike Florio

The Ringer
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"The 49ers looked sluggish in the first half against the Commanders but pulled out a 27-10 win to clinch the no. 1 seed and first-round bye in the NFC. The move comes just in time. Running back Christian McCaffrey suffered a minor calf strain and will now have three weeks to rest the injury. Other banged-up 49ers such as left tackle Trent Williams and defensive tackle Arik Armstead will also get an extended chance to return to 100 percent—crucial for a team that has seemed like the class of the conference at full strength but has been plagued by injuries in the playoffs under Kyle Shanahan for half a decade." — Danny Heifetz

Sporting News
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"The 49ers rebounded from that Ravens ripping at home with a get well game all-round traveling to the Beltway in Washington. They now can rest, get resettled and healthier for a hopeful deeper playoff run with the top-seed bye business wrapped up before Week 18." — Vinnie Iyer

Sports Illustrated
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"This is absolutely an unfair statement to make with hindsight being 20/20, but I am glad Christian McCaffrey is getting some time to heal up. I was surprised that McCaffrey's load management looked like it did during the season, although, when someone is so responsible for the offense's complexion, never mind its success, he kind of has to be on the field as much as humanly possible." — Conor Orr

USA Today
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"They're the first team in league history with a running back (Christian McCaffrey), tight end (George Kittle) and two wideouts (Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk) all over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. With the NFC's bye secured, Niners now need to ensure CMC and his injured calf are ready to add to his output three weeks from now." — Nate Davis

Yahoo! Sports
Current Ranking: 2
Previous Rank: 2
"Getting the No. 1 seed in the NFC already was big for the 49ers. They can rest key players like Christian McCaffrey, who had a strained calf. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has already said McCaffrey will not play. Just what the rest of the NFC wanted: Extra rest for the 49ers before they host a playoff game." — Frank Schwab

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