NEW YORK – While Tom Brady cares for his damaged nose, New England Patriots fans can gain comfort from having their team lead the AP Pro32 power rankings.
Thanks to Brady's impressive work at Tennessee, even with a possible broken nose, the Patriots moved into the top spot of the first regular season poll released Tuesday. New England's convincing win and Green Bay's home loss to San Francisco jumbled the rankings at the top. Further down, Washington, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Denver surged thanks to opening victories.
In voting by 12 media members who regularly cover the NFL, the Patriots received eight top selections to earn 378 points, 10 in front of San Francisco. The 49ers moved from fourth to second and earned one first-place vote.
"Business as usual," is how ESPN's Chris Berman explained placing Brady's bunch on top.
"The Patriots looked just OK in the preseason. Not so fast!" said former All-Pro safety John Lynch, now with Fox Sports. "They whooped up on a good Titans team. Brady and the youth-infused defense looked like a team deserving of the No. 1 ranking.
Only Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune selected the 49ers as the best team, reasoning that their showing at Lambeau Field warranted a jump from No. 4.
"People don't want to believe this team can be this good with Alex Smith at quarterback," Pompei said. "Believe it."
Also getting strong support were Baltimore, third with 357 points and two first-place votes, and Houston with 336 and one.
"Ravens show in no uncertain terms how ready they are to get back to the AFC championship game — and perhaps beyond," Newsday's Bob Glauber said. "After honoring the memory of the late Art Modell in a rousing pregame ceremony, Joe Flacco engineers the rout. More where that came from."
And more from the Texans, whose 30-10 demolition of Miami persuaded Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News to vote them No. 1 — even if the Dolphins rank 32nd and last.
"Andre Johnson is healthy. The AFC is in trouble," Gosselin said.
Green Bay rounded out the top five with 326 points.
Making big jumps in the rankings were Washington, up eight spots to No. 16; Tampa Bay, improving from 26th to 19th; Dallas, up six spots to No. 9; and Denver, from 11th to sixth.
"The RG3 show is off and running," said Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL Most Valuable Player now working for SiriusXM NFL Radio and CBS Sports.
As for the Broncos, NBC Sports' Cris Collinsworth, who called their win over Pittsburgh, saw their improved simply as "Manning and a much improved run defense."
Moving the other way were the defending champion New York Giants, New Orleans and Buffalo.
After the Giants couldn't ride the emotion of unveiling their latest championship hardware and lost the season's kickoff game at home to the Cowboys, they fell seven spots to No. 10.
"They have to find a way to protect their secondary with a better pass rush, as well as their offensive line protecting Eli Manning better," said Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Buffalo was down seven places, too, plummeting to 27th following a 48-28 loss to the Jets, who now rank 15th.
"So much for all the offseason playoff hype," said Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com. "The Bills will be drafting in the top 12 of the first round for the eighth consecutive year if they can't clean up the mess on display last Sunday against the Jets."
New Orleans also had a big drop, from ninth to 14th after a sloppy performance against Washington. One voter wondered why that didn't prompt some further action from the Saints' star quarterback.
"These guys should be — and will be — better than they showed," Clark Judge of CBSSports.com said. "They have too much talent. My question: After what happened, how come Drew Brees doesn't demand an explanation?"
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL