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49ers still climbing in USA TODAY NFL power rankings

Three wins in a row for the 49ers has put them back in the NFC playoff picture and back into the upper half of the USA TODAY NFL power rankings. San Francisco’s spot at No. 13 is their highest rank since Week 5 and offers a good reminder of what we thought the 49ers would be this season.

It’s not a coincidence that the 49ers’ climb back into the realm of the relevant has coincided with their re-establishment of an identity centered on a well-schemed run game, efficient passing attack and a stingy defense. During their three-game win streak they’re averaging 41 rushing attempts, 180 rushing yards and 31.7 points per game. They’re plus-five in the turnover column and allowing just 15.3 points per game.

Their formula is sustainable for the most part, although turnover luck is hard to replicate on a game-by-game basis, but sustaining drives, shortening games and playing complimentary football is how the 49ers are built to succeed.

While their ascent into the top 15 in the power rankings and No. 6 in the playoff standings has been impressive for a team that was 3-5 after losing to Colt McCoy and the Cardinals. However, an injury to WR Deebo Samuel is a cause for concern when projecting the 49ers’ next couple games.

Via USA TODAY’s Nate Davis:

In the event you suffer from East Coast bias, the franchise that popularized the West Coast offense is suddenly up to sixth place in the NFC. They’re averaging nearly 180 rushing yards during three-game win streak but must carry on in short term without top weapon Deebo Samuel.

If the 49ers can put together wins in Seattle and Cincinnati without Samuel, who’s been the driving force of their offense virtually all season, it’s going to be hard to not take them seriously as a contender in a jumbled NFC.

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