Patriots regain top spot in AP Pro32 rankings
NEW YORK (AP) -- Tom Brady and the New England Patriots maintained their mastery of the AFC East and returned to the top spot in the NFL.
The Patriots clinched the division for the 11th time in 12 years with Sunday's 41-13 rout of the Miami Dolphins.
New England (11-3) received nine of 12 first-place votes Tuesday in the AP Pro32 power rankings, which are decided by a media panel that regularly covers the league.
"Remember when Tom Brady was in decline and the 2-2 Patriots were about to lose control of the AFC East? So much for that," Newsday's Bob Glauber said.
"Brady has 28 TDs and six INTs since his uneven start, and the Pats have won nine of their last 10 to win another AFC East title and earn the inside track on home-field advantage in the conference playoffs."
The Seattle Seahawks (10-4) got the other three first-place votes and moved up a spot to No. 2 after their 17-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Seahawks face NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals (11-4) on Sunday night. The Cardinals moved up a spot to No. 5.
"The Cardinals have played four quarterbacks this season, and their defense has been ravaged with injuries, but they still sewed up their first playoff berth since 2009. Bruce Arians is a lock for Coach of the Year," said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback.
The Denver Broncos jumped a spot to No. 3 after clinching the AFC West with a 22-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
"John Fox has quietly pieced together a formidable defense," said Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.
The Green Bay Packers dropped from the top spot to No. 4 after their surprising 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
"The two best teams in the NFC may be Green Bay and Seattle - yet both sit second in their own divisions with two weeks to play," said Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News.
The Dallas Cowboys (10-4) are at No. 6 after rallying past the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, followed by the Indianapolis Colts (10-4). The teams play Sunday afternoon in Texas.
"Indy game is huge (for Dallas)," NBC Sports' Tony Dungy said. "Could end up No. 1 seed or miss the playoffs."
The Detroit Lions (10-4) remained at No. 8 after rallying past the Minnesota Vikings and moving into a first-place tie with the Packers in the NFC North.
"Vikings beat them everywhere but on scoreboard," Fox Sports' John Czarnecki said.
The Eagles (9-5) and Baltimore Ravens (9-5) rounded out the top 10.
"Another grind-it-out win for the Ravens over the Jaguars," ESPN's Herm Edwards said.
The Eagles have dropped two straight and trail the Cowboys by a game in the NFC East going into Saturday's matchup with last-place Washington.
"The same problems that have persisted all season - poor pass coverage against the deep ball, offensive line woes and spotty quarterback play - are starting to sink the Eagles," Foxsports.com's Alex Marvez said.