The season of great expectations has arrived for the 49ers as they dive headfirst into their…
Niners looking out for No. 1
The 49ers are now looking down on the rest of the NFL from the No. 1 roost in the one poll that's actually associated with the league, the NFL.com power rankings.
As the NFL.com poll says in its comment on the Niners, "Impossible to not place the Niners in the top spot. They beat last week's second-ranked team at their place, while the former No. 1 (G-Men) went down with a whimper at home. Alex Smith has received much respect for his performance, but San Francisco's secondary put its stamp on this game, competing until the very end. What a start for Jim Harbaugh and company."
The Niners also have moved to the top slot in the Sporting News and Yahoo! Sports polls.
San Francisco has climbed to No. 2 in the ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, Pro Football Weekly and the new AP Pro32 power polls.
Former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick – who once worked in the 49ers' front office under Bill Walsh and now promotes the Fox Sports rankings – commented on the Niners, "For the 49ers to go on the road, and particularly to Green Bay, was impressive as any win on Sunday. In my opinion, they are the most complete team in the NFL with a scary good defense, but now also an offense that can hang big points as well. They separated themselves in the NFC on Sunday."
And so they have.
The Niners still haven't quite convinced the people at Newsday and CBS Sports, who have them No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in those polls. San Francisco moved up two spots in the Newsday poll and seven slots in the CBS poll, which inexplicably had them ranked No. 11 entering the season. No. 11? Give us a break.
And No. 4 now? So the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and … Atlanta Falcons? … should be ahead of the Niners after Week 1 performances? Give us a break.
The Patriots are ahead of the Niners at No. 1 in most polls, including the AP Pro 32, which ranks teams by the voting of 12 media members who cover the NFL nationally.
In that voting, the Patriots received eight top selections to earn 378 points, 10 in front of San Francisco. The 49ers moved from fourth to second and earned one first-place vote.
''Business as usual,'' is how ESPN's Chris Berman explained placing Brady's bunch on top.
''The Patriots looked just OK in the preseason. Not so fast!'' said former All-Pro safety John Lynch, now with Fox Sports. ''They whooped up on a good Titans team. Brady and the youth-infused defense looked like a team deserving of the No. 1 ranking.
Only Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune selected the 49ers as the best team, reasoning that their showing at Lambeau Field warranted a jump from No. 4.
''People don't want to believe this team can be this good with Alex Smith at quarterback,'' Pompei said. ''Believe it.''
Believe it, indeed.
Also getting strong support in the AP poll were Baltimore, third with 357 points and two first-place votes, and Houston with 336 and one.
''Ravens show in no uncertain terms how ready they are to get back to the AFC championship game – and perhaps beyond,'' Newsday's Bob Glauber said. ''After honoring the memory of the late Art Modell in a rousing pregame ceremony, Joe Flacco engineers the rout. More where that came from.''
Glauber handles the Newsday power rankings and has the Ravens at No. 1 ahead of the Patriots and 49ers in that poll.
And more from the Texans, whose 30-10 demolition of Miami persuaded Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News to vote them No. 1 – even if the Dolphins rank 32nd and last.
''Andre Johnson is healthy. The AFC is in trouble,'' Gosselin said.
Green Bay rounded out the top five with 326 points after being humbled by the 49ers.
Making big jumps in the rankings were Washington, up eight spots to No. 16; Tampa Bay, improving from 26th to 19th; Dallas, up six spots to No. 9; and Denver, from 11th to sixth.
''The RG3 show is off and running,'' said Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL Most Valuable Player now working for SiriusXM NFL Radio and CBS Sports.
As for the Broncos, NBC Sports' Cris Collinsworth, who called their win over Pittsburgh, saw their improved simply as ''Manning and a much improved run defense.''
Moving the other way were the defending champion New York Giants, New Orleans and Buffalo.
After the Giants – who defeated the 49ers 20-17 in overtime in January's NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park – couldn't ride the emotion of unveiling their latest championship hardware and lost the season's kickoff game at home to the Cowboys, they fell seven spots to No. 10.
''They have to find a way to protect their secondary with a better pass rush, as well as their offensive line protecting Eli Manning better,'' said Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Buffalo was down seven places, too, plummeting to 27th following a 48-28 loss to the Jets, who now rank 15th.
''So much for all the offseason playoff hype,'' said Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com. ''The Bills will be drafting in the top 12 of the first round for the eighth consecutive year if they can't clean up the mess on display last Sunday against the Jets.''
New Orleans also had a big drop, from ninth to 14th after a sloppy performance against Washington. One voter wondered why that didn't prompt some further action from the Saints' star quarterback.
''These guys should be – and will be – better than they showed,'' Clark Judge of CBSSports.com said. ''They have too much talent. My question: After what happened, how come Drew Brees doesn't demand an explanation?''
Of course, for those who vaulted the 49ers in their polls, there was no explanation needed. The Niners did all the taking for them on the turf at Lambeau Field.
Here are the comments the 49ers received this week from the voters on the AP Pro32 panel, with where each voter ranked the Niners this week in parentheses:
Chris Berman (ESPN, 3): What poise!!
Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 4): 49ers defense might be the best in the NFL, while Alex Smith might be the most underrated QB.
Cris Collinsworth (NBC Sports, 2): Dominate defensive performance.
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 3): Convincing win at Lambeau and solid performances from the D and Alex Smith. Sold!
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 3): A game manager no more, as Alex Smith gets the better of 2005 draft classmate Aaron Rodgers in a statement game at Green Bay. Growing respect for the 49ers' resilient quarterback. Nicely done, sir.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 2): No one made a louder statement in the opening weekend than the 49ers going into Green Bay and spanking the Packers.
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 2): The defense hasn't changed, and Alex Smith should be better. Draw your own conclusions. I've drawn mine, and based on one week nobody in the NFC is better.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 2): Randy Moss is already paying dividends for Jim Harbaugh's crew and his presence on the flank opens up new running lanes for underrated Frank Gore.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 2): Go on the road and hold the Packers to 22 points and rush for 186 yards. This is one difficult team to beat and Alex Smith is an efficient passer right now.
John Lynch (Fox Sports, 2): Any ?'s the 49er's were the "real deal" were answered in Week 1 with a sound defeat of the Packers in Lambeau. These guys are for real!
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 2): I wrote last week that the 49ers can stake legitimate claim to being the NFC's top team if they won in Green Bay. Done deal.
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 1): People don't want to believe this team can be this good with Alex Smith at quarterback. Believe it.
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