By Richard Rosenblatt AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — Peyton Manning and his Broncos are closing in on the playoffs as the top team in the AP Pro32 NFL power rankings.
Denver strengthened its grip on the top spot Wednesday following its 10th win in a row, receiving nine first-place votes and 381 points in balloting by The Associated Press panel of 12 media members who regularly cover the league.
The AFC West champion Broncos (12-3) close out the regular season at home against Kansas City (2-13), 32nd and last in the rankings. The final AP Pro32 rankings will be released next Wednesday.
The NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons (13-2) moved up two places to second with one first-place vote and 363 points. Last week, the Broncos were first by three points over San Francisco, which dropped to sixth after being blown out by Seattle.
“Eleven in a row (after KC this weekend) and primed for a Super Bowl run,” Rich Gannon of CBS Sports/Sirius XM said in voting the Broncos first.
“As expected the Broncos have become a scoring machine that also has good pass rushers. Still a chance they are the No. 1 seed in the AFC,” Pat Kirwan of SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com said.
The Seahawks (one first-place vote) were up two spots to fifth after routing the 49ers 42-13 on Sunday night.
“They have scored 120 points more than their last three opponents and officially have become the team no one wants to play in the postseason,” Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune said.
Despite the loss, the 49ers still received a first-place vote.
“Admittedly, a HUGE mulligan,” said ESPN’s Chris Berman in sticking with the 49ers at No. 1.
Green Bay was up three spots to third after its 55-7 rout of Tennessee, while New England dropped a place to fourth after hanging on for a 23-16 win over No. 31 Jacksonville.
“If there’s any solace from an unimpressive win at Jacksonville, the Patriots also seemed disinterested in their final two regular-season games last year before reaching Super Bowl,” Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com said.
“Yes, the Patriots are hard to figure out, but this isn’t: They’re always a Super Bowl factor as long as Tom Brady is healthy,” Clark Judge of CBSSports.com said.
Indianapolis, which clinched a playoff spot with a win over Kansas City, moved up to 10th in a season in which the Colts started out No. 32 in the first AP Pro32 rankings.
“Can an assistant coach be named the NFL’s coach of the year? Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has put himself in that position for his interim work filling in for ailing head coach Chuck Pagano this season,” Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News said.
And yes, Arians can win the award.
Minnesota, meanwhile, rose to No. 12 this week, and needs a win over Green Bay to earn a playoff spot. The Vikings started the season 29th.
“Adrian Peterson is finally getting a little help from his friends,” Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune said.
Philadelphia began the season No. 8 and dropped three more spots to No. 27 after a 27-20 loss to Washington. The Redskins, meanwhile, went the other way, starting at No. 25 and rising to No. 9 this week.
“It’s very simple for the resurgent Redskins: beat the Cowboys on Sunday, and the division is theirs,” Bob Glauber of Newsday said. “Would be an incredible finish for a team that looked to be out of it at 3-6.”
What they’re saying about the Seahawks
NEW YORK — Comments on the fifth-ranked Seattle Seahawks by the AP Pro32 panel (ranking in parentheses):
Chris Berman (ESPN, 6) — 150 points in three weeks is legendary.
Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 1) — Nobody else is dominating opponents like the Seahawks are right now.
Cris Collinsworth (NBC Sports, 6) — No comment.
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 5) — This team is better than advertised and GM John Schneider deserves strong consideration for Executive of the Year.
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 3) — There is no hotter team in the NFL right now. Pete Carroll’s boys have outscored their last opponents by a whopping 150-30. Most impressive was a 42-13 blowout of the 49ers at home, where the ‘Hawks are 7-0.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 7) — Russell Wilson remains the NFL’s only opening-day starter at quarterback who has not thrown for 300 yards in a game this season. It doesn’t matter — the Seahawks rank in the Top 4 in both offense and defense and have the best homefield advantage in the NFL.
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 6) — Good thing for the rest of the NFC these guys don’t draw a home game.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 4) — Their confidence level is soaring as high as the Space Needle these days.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 4) — Nobody wants to play this team after scoring 150 points in three games. The probable loss of Richard Sherman will have an effect, but for now they are riding high.
John Lynch (Fox Sports, 5)
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 3) — Is this really the same powerhouse that lost to four teams (Arizona, St. Louis, Detroit and Miami) that have a combined record of 23-36-1?
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 4) — They have scored 120 points more than their last three opponents and officially have become the team no one wants to play in the postseason.