Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos dismantled the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the season opener. Then they delivered a convincing victory on the road against Manning’s younger brother and the rest of the New York Giants.
The strong start helped the Broncos hold off the Seattle Seahawks for the top spot in this week’s AP Pro32 power rankings, released Tuesday. The Broncos moved up one spot from second after receiving eight first-place votes.
"Denver looks Super Bowl good right now," Newsday columnist Bob Glauber said.
After their commanding win over San Francisco on Sunday night, the Seahawks swooped in to take the other four first-place votes and settle in at No. 2. The 49ers, after tallying seven first-place votes last week, fell two spots to third.
Seattle, which was fifth last week, settled the debate until the rematch in December about which bitter NFC West division rival is better by beating the 49ers 29-3.
The Seahawks managed that even with a rough game by quarterback Russell Wilson, further highlighting their aggressive, punishing defense that’s still missing cornerback Brandon Browner and defensive ends Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin because of injuries.
"Can anyone go into Seattle and get a win?" asked voter Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com and SiriusXM satellite radio.
Voters have even begun to envision a Denver-Seattle Super Bowl, as far ahead as February might be.
"I’m not convinced Peyton can beat Seahawks’ secondary," wrote John Czarnecki of Fox Sports.
Houston and Green Bay rounded out the top five. NBC Sports analyst Tony Dungy raised a question about the Texans.
"Two come from behind wins. Is that good or bad?" the former Colts coach asked.
New England and New Orleans tied for sixth. Chicago was eighth, Atlanta finished ninth, Kansas City jumped seven spots to 10th, and Miami made the same leap to 11th. The Dolphins were the lowest of the eight unbeaten teams.
The Saints continued their creep toward the top, catching the eye of the panel with an uncharacteristically stout defense.
"My hat is off to Rob Ryan and the defensive product he’s putting on the field," Kirwan wrote, praising the coordinator. "The Saints have given up 31 points in two games. Last year they gave up 75 points in the first two games."
Added Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com: "Who Dat?!? The Saints’ defense wasn’t supposed to play this well in 2013."
Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Indianapolis, San Diego, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Detroit and Tennessee filled out slots 12 through 20. The Chargers made the biggest jump, advancing nine spots from 25th after a 33-30 victory on the road over the Eagles.
The bottom third comprised Arizona, Buffalo, the Giants, Minnesota, Washington, the Jets, Pittsburgh and Carolina, with Oakland and Tampa Bay tying for 29th. Then came Cleveland, one of eight teams without a win. Finally, for the second straight week, Jacksonville was a unanimous choice for last place. The Jaguars have scored 11 points over two games.
The next AP Pro32 power rankings will be released on Sept. 24