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Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Around the NFC West: 49ers in power poll

By Mike Sando

Our NFL Power Rankings will be hitting the site in a few hours.

The San Francisco 49ers made a strong case for the top spot by outscoring the New York Jets (34-0) and Buffalo Bills (45-3) by a combined 79-3 margin during an eight-day period. They dominated in all phases, most notably from the quarterback position and especially against the Bills.

NFC West teams have been winning largely with defense. The quarterback play Alex Smith has provided the 49ers at times this season -- at Green Bay and against Buffalo, for sure -- puts them on another plane.

Remember the interception rate (1.1 percent) Smith carried through last season, the one that was so low it could not possibly be sustainable? It has actually fallen to 0.7 percent through five games.

The 49ers' third-down conversion rate has climbed from 29.4 percent last season to 39.6 percent his season. Their red zone touchdown percentage has climbed from 40.7 percent to 64.7 percent.

Eleven regular-season games remain. These trends might not hold.

For now, though, the 49ers are playing as well as or better than any team in the NFL.