By Jerrell Richardson
The ESPN NFL Power Rankings for Week Three have the San Francisco 49ers at the top. For a distinction with such a subjective measuring tool, there is typically the argument that there is a more deserving team. However, when considering their current body of work, the other top teams and what they have done this year, and what the 49ers as a team bring to the table, there is really no argument. If the question is who is the best team playing the best football right now, its San Francisco by a mile. This was confirmed by the voters who made it an unanimous pick, marking a drastic change for a team that in recent memory was lucky to crack the bottom 25.
Solid From Top to Bottom
A team is only as strong as its weakest wink, and San Francisco does not have one. They have Pro Bowl players on both sides of the ball, and outside of the Oakland Raiders they have the best punter/kicker combination in the league. When healthy, Ted Ginn Jr. is one of the top return men in the game, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is coming off Coach of the Year honors. The team starters and backups all play a role in the team’s success, and few players do not get a chance to contribute on game day.
The other teams rounding out the top 5 are the Texans (2nd), and Falcons (3rd), who are nowhere near as talented as the 49ers, and the Packers (4th) , whom San Francisco beat in their house, while the Patriots (5th) were just manhandled by the Cardinals at Foxboro. The 49ers have played two playoff contenders and for the most part dominated them both, showing that their 2-0 means more then that of the Eagles (7th), whose undefeated season includes a narrow win over the Browns. Not only is San Francisco clearly deserving of being called the best right now, there is really no competition.
There is no game that the 49ers will not be in until the final whistle. In 2011 they lost their four games by a combined 18 points, and this includes a 16-6 loss to the Ravens. This “blowout” was on the road against a team that, like San Francisco, eventually advanced to a conference championship game. The game was also played on Thanksgiving, giving the 49ers a very short week to play a very talented team, and they were still in the game until the final seconds.
Along with Alex Smith getting some MVP recognition, the 49ers being named the top team heading into Week Three is more about showing how far the team has progressed. Jim Harbaugh has said that the team is either getting better or getting worse, but never will stay the same from week to week, and its hard to imagine them going backwards. Outside of Frank Gore and Justin Smith, they are a relatively young team and if anything, seem yet to realize their potential. Clearly Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, NaVorro Bowmen and Aldon Smith, (just to name a few), have yet to reach their full potential. The team is far better then they were at this point last year and the question is how much better can they get?
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.