The Seattle Seahawks are still on top. Soon, they’ll have to start proving it again.
After finishing training camp with no major setbacks, the defending Super Bowl champions predictably stayed in first place in the latest power rankings from the Associated Press. Denver, which was second, had one vote from the 12-person panel in the Pro32 poll released Tuesday.
"There’s not much doubt anywhere on this roster. Plus, Russell Wilson will keep growing with this offense, which means the best team in the league last season may be even better," said Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated.
The Seahawks will be tested right away, hosting the NFL regular-season opener Thursday against Green Bay. The Packers were fourth, one spot behind the New England Patriots.
"Aaron Rodgers looks ready for an MVP season. Now if Dom Capers’ defense can show some improvement, there could be another Lombardi Trophy in Green Bay," said Newsday’s Bob Glauber.
The Broncos host Peyton Manning’s old team, Indianapolis, on Sunday in another standout matchup on the schedule for the first week. The Colts were ranked eighth.
"If you’re looking for an alternative to the Denver/New England Super Bowl chatter, Andrew Luck offers a strong case for his team going to the big show," Glauber said.
Vrentas joined the chorus of praise for the ascending Luck but offered a word of caution.
"The Colts’ greatest weakness is a big one: its offensive line," she said.
New Orleans was fifth. San Francisco saw the most notable slip from the preseason poll six weeks ago, from second to sixth.
"The bad vibes continue in the Bay Area," said FoxSports.com’s Alex Marvez.
The 49ers offense was sluggish in exhibition action, a nine-game suspension of star outside linebacker Aldon Smith became official and defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested on felony domestic violence charges. All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman will miss at least half of the season recovering from a left knee injury that required surgery after losing to the rival Seahawks in January.
"This isn’t the same defense that played in the NFC title game," said Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.
Philadelphia was seventh, San Diego was ninth and Baltimore and Cincinnati tied for 10th. Rounding out the top half of the league: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Carolina and Kansas City.
Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland took the bottom three spots.