If the Associated Press Pro32 NFL Power Rankings mean anything, the 49ers' game at New England on Sunday night might be a Super Bowl XLVII preview.
The Patriots moved into the top spot in the rankings after their 42-14 demolition of fellow AFC heavyweight Houston on Monday night.
The 49ers became the highest-ranking NFC team in the poll, released Tuesday, vaulting two spots to third after beating the Miami Dolphins 27-13 on Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcons' 30-20 loss to the lowly Carolina Panthers helped the 49ers' rise in AP's rankings. The Falcons fell from a tie for second with New England to fifth in the poll, which is based on votes from 12 media members.
The Patriots received 11 first-place votes. The other went to the Denver Broncos, who jumped two spots to No. 2.
The Texans dropped from first to fourth after being humiliated by the Patriots.
The 49ers' lofty ranking might not last long: Their next two opponents posted a combined score of 100-14 this week.
After playing New England, the 49ers travel to Seattle for another Sunday night game, Dec. 23. The Seahawks moved up four spots into a tie for eighth with Baltimore after their 58-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Here are the voters' comments on the 49ers after Week 14, as provided by the AP (voter affiliation and ranking in parentheses):
Chris Berman (ESPN, 2) -- As good as they are, be careful 49ers: The division lead is precarious.
Cris Collinsworth (NBC Sports, 5) -- Comment unavailable
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 3) -- Switch to quarterback Colin Kaepernick seems to have worked.
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 3) -- Two more sacks from Aldon Smith, who is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. And now for the two-week stretch that could decide playoff positioning: at New England and at Seattle.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 4) -- The 49ers can join the Falcons with 4-0 records against the AFC this season with a victory Sunday in New England over the Patriots. The NFC leads the interconference series, 31-23.
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 4) -- Forget about suspending Brandon Jacobs. The 49ers should suspend the schedule. They next go to New England and Seattle, where the home teams lose as often as it snows in San Diego.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 3) -- Going for a 4-0 sweep of the AFC at Foxborough Sunday night.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 6) -- The Colin Kaepernick experiment continues. He can run for sure, but he throws a touchdown only once every 43 passes, and he's been sacked seven times in the last two weeks. This week it's the Patriots on the road, and they will take the run away.
John Lynch (Fox Sports, 5) -- San Francisco needs to finish hard as the Seahawks are on their tails in the NFC West. The scorching hot Patriots and the aforementioned Seahawks remain on their schedule.
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 3) -- It was the kind of physical victory that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh cherishes. San Francisco's rushing attack produced 117 second-half yards and wore down Miami's strong run defense in a 27-13 home victory.
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 4) -- Beating the Dolphins was one thing; beating the Patriots would be something else.