A bounce-back win by the 49ers on Sunday brought them some sought-after items, as well as a No. 3 final position in the Associated Press Pro32 Power Rankings, released Wednesday.
The 49ers recovered from a 42-13 thrashing in Week 16 by the Seattle Seahawks to beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-13 in the regular-season finale at Candlestick Park on Sunday.
The win over the 27th-ranked Cardinals enabled the 49ers to finish 11-4-1 and take the NFC West title. The win also gave San Francisco the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, and it also qualified the team for a much-needed bye week. The 49ers host their playoff opener Jan. 12 at 5 p.m.
And, oh yes, the win elevated the 49ers from sixth to third in the AP rankings, as voted by the panel of 12 NFL experts. The Denver Broncos finished first in the rankings with 382 points, followed by the No. 2 New England Patriots (361 points). The 49ers received 352 ranking points.
Denver was awarded 10 first-place votes. The Patriots and the 49ers got the other two first-place votes.
The Atlanta Falcons fell from second to fourth in the final rankings, and the Green Bay Packers fell from third to sixth. Seattle retained its fifth spot.
The 49ers can hope their three-position rankings rise is a sign of things to come in their drive for the Super Bowl trophy.
Comments on the 49ers by the AP Pro32 panel (ranking in parentheses):
Chris Berman (ESPN, 1) -- As long as Justin Smith is ready to roll for the postseason.
Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 4) -- Came very close last season, and this could be their year.
Cris Collinsworth (NBC Sports, 4) -- Comment not available
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 3) -- Can Kaepernick win in his first postseason ... he can with that defense and running game.
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 4) -- Colin Kaepernick did about as well as anyone could have asked. But the stakes get higher now. It's Super Bowl or bust. Earning the bye week could be the difference.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 4) -- The 49ers have the best defense in the NFC -- and sterling defense took San Francisco as far as the NFC title game last season.
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 4) -- Make Colin Kaepernick the president of the Minnesota Vikings fan club. By beating Green Bay, the Vikes gave Kaepernick one less playoff game to prove himself.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 3) -- Very quietly, WR Michael Crabtree is on the brink of elite status.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 4) -- The Kaepernick experiment is working and this is one tough physical team. They want to run the ball more than pass but that may not be the case in the playoffs.
John Lynch (Fox Sports, 6) -- San Francisco has a great defense. Kaepernick appears great at times, but can he be consistent enough to flourish in the postseason?
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 3) -- With two wide receivers on injured reserve, Michael Crabtree (172 yards receiving and two touchdowns against Arizona) couldn't have picked a better time to play the best football of his four-year NFL career.
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 4) -- In his last nine games, Frank Gore has failed to rush for 100 yards. If they are going to win in the playoffs, Gore has to heat up.