NEW YORK (AP) — Green Bay had staying power in the AP Pro32 through the preseason. Now, let's see how long the Packers can remain the top-rated team in The Associated Press NFL power rankings.
Green Bay earned five first-place votes from a panel of 12 media members who regularly cover the league, and had 373 points overall to edge New England and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The Patriots got two first-place votes and 367 points, while the Giants were No. 1 on five ballots and totaled 363 points.
"I've seen enough improvement from the defense in preseason to keep the Packers at the top," said 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon of CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Added Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune: "The addition of Cedric Benson could give the Packers a dimension they lacked."
That would be a running game, of course. If the Packers, who went 15-1 last year with virtually no ground attack and a leaky defense, improve both areas, there seems no reason they won't lead the AP Pro32 for a long time.
Still, the Giants might feel slighted heading into Wednesday night's season opener against Dallas. "After all, as Chris Berman of ESPN put it, "they are defending champs."
The top eight are the same as in the previous poll conducted just before preseason games. San Francisco, Baltimore, Houston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia followed the Giants.
One team that cracked the top 10 was Atlanta, which replaced NFC South rival New Orleans at ninth. The Saints, who begin the schedule without coach Sean Payton — suspended for the season — and interim coach Joe Vitt (six-game suspension) because of punishment for the team's bounty program, slipped to 10th.
"Saints still have a ton of talent, plus Drew Brees," Clark Judge of CBSSports.com said. "No Sean Payton will keep them down, though."