The San Francisco 49ers have yet to reach their peak, but they are well on their way to the top, setting in at No. 2 in the latest set of NFL power rankings for Week 15.
Through injuries and adversity, this 2022 edition of the 49ers continues to find ways to win. Their latest victory was an impressive 35-7 route of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with rookie quarterback Brock Purdy under center. The win was San Francisco's sixth-straight and a historic one at that. Purdy became the first quarterback to make his first-career start against Brady and come away with a win, and DeMeco Ryans' unit became the the first No. 1 total and scoring defense to ever defeat Brady after Week 5 of the season. Another complete team win and loss by the Seattle Seahawks to the Carolina Panthers in Week 14, further solidified the 49ers as the NFC West leaders with a 9-4 record on the year.
However, there are more challenges ahead for this formidable squad. A long list of injuries came out of Sunday's contest. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel suffered both an MCL and ankle sprain. Purdy is dealing with separate oblique and rib injuries and is considered day-to-day. Cornerback Dontae Johnson tore his ACL and will be out for the remainder of the season. Defensive lineman Kevin Givens also has an MCL sprain. Cornerback Samuel Womack III is in the concussion protocol and will not be available for Thursday night's game. And finally, defensive lineman Kerry Hyder Jr. and cornerback Ambry Thomas both are working through ankle injuries.
The injuries coupled with the short turnaround for "Thursday Night Football" in Seattle have led to some adjustments to the normal game week schedule. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is prioritizing the health and recovery of his players before wheels up on Wednesday.
"With Thursday night games, the biggest thing for us is sleep," Shanahan said. "We won't do anything full speed. It'll be all about recovery... Tuesday, we'll let them sleep in. We'll start a little later. I think we start at 10:30, so we do some things in the stadium where we have some lights just walking through. Then we'll start a little bit later Wednesday, but we also have to travel that day, so cut a couple things out in meeting times. A lot of things with reps and it's just about resting them up, getting them the gameplan and we'll go full speed on Thursday."
Here's a look at the latest NFL power rankings from several national outlets:
Around the NFL Writer Dan Hanzus
"Brock Purdy stepped into the starting lineup on Sunday and easily outplayed Tom Brady in a 35-7 win over the Bucs at Levi's Stadium. Purdy was a natural in Kyle Shanahan's offense, looking very similar to the hyper-efficient distributor Jimmy G had become in this attack before breaking his foot. Purdy will have to show he's more than a one-hit wonder, but his performance fuels legitimate optimism that San Francisco remains a serious title contender despite rotten injury luck at the game's most important position."
NFL Writer Nick Wagoner
"The 49ers' defense would probably be No. 1 here were it not for a poor performance against the Chiefs, but it does still lead the league in many traditional categories. The offense has been on a decided upward trajectory since acquiring running back Christian McCaffrey, as San Francisco has averaged 28.7 points per game since McCaffrey took on a full-time role in Week 8, up eight points from before he arrived. Perhaps most encouraging is a special teams unit that had some struggles early in the season but is rounding into form with returner Ray-Ray McCloud III -- who now ranks in the top eight in both kick and punt return average for the season -- leading the way."
NFL Writer Frank Schwab
The Brock Purdy story is tremendous. It's hard to believe that a third-string rookie quarterback taken with the last pick of the draft could lead a team to a Super Bowl, but in the past two weeks the 49ers look the part of a title team. Maybe Purdy will be exposed in an adverse situation — on the road, when the 49ers fall behind, in a tense playoff game, and so forth — but maybe this is an awesome all-time story we're seeing unfold. It's certainly making the 49ers must-watch TV the rest of the way."
Pro Bowl voting for the 2022-23 season is open. Be sure to cast your votes daily for your favorite 49ers players here.