Are the 49ers worthy of elite status?

The latest edition of the ESPN Power Rankings was released today and the San Francisco 49ers jumped all the way up to #2, leapfrogging the Patriots and Saints. The undefeated Green Bay Packers have held the #1 spot every week of the season, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

The 49ers are the only one-loss team in the NFL. But are they worthy of such a lofty status? They have won five games in a row, including road wins at Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Detroit, and put a 48-3 beatdown on a Tampa Bay team that was 3-1 heading into that game.

But are the 49ers better than veteran teams like the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots and Saints, the four teams right behind them in the ESPN Power Rankings? We’ll get some of those answers as the season progresses. The Ravens host the 49ers in a Thanksgiving Day showdown, and the defending AFC champion Steelers come to town for Monday Night Football on December 19th.

Those match-ups are the two serious tests left on the 49ers schedule. With five of their nine remaining games against weak division foes, it’s very realistic that the 49ers could finish the season with 12 wins and the #2 seed in the NFL.

Will that make them the 2nd best team in the entire league?