AP Pro32 ballot from Kirwan
Ballot and comments from AP Pro 32 panel voter Pat Kirwan of SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com:
PAT KIRWAN (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com)
1. Houston Texans -- The Texans deserve the top spot. They went on the road to Chicago this past week and won in very tough weather conditions. Their defense overshadowed the Bear defense.
2. Denver Broncos -- Peyton Manning has the offense fired up like a well-tuned machine. The Broncos defense held the Panthers to 2.5 yards per carry, sacked Newton 7 times, and hit him another seven times.
4. Chicago Bears -- A tough loss at home to the now No. 1 team, Houston. The Bears hope to get Cutler back real soon with a road game in San Francisco next up on the schedule.
6. Baltimore Ravens -- The Raiders limped into Baltimore and the Ravens took full advantage of the Black and Silver. Fake field goal, and a 105-yard kickoff return for touchdowns. Two games coming up against the Steelers will tell us all we need to know about Baltimore.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers -- An ugly win over Kansas City is OK, but the loss of Roethlisberger would be a real problem. They overcame his four-game suspension once going 3-1 but I doubt they could do it again.
8. San Francisco 49ers -- They should have lost the game to the Rams which they eventually tied and it showed the team has work to do. Hope Alex Smith is OK because he makes them better. He was 7 for 8 when he left the Ram game with a concussion.
10. Green Bay Packers -- The Packers have been quiet on their bye, but now have the Bears in their sight. The Packer defense needs to get healthy and improve. Without Clay Matthews the pass rush is not very good but the offense can outscore teams. They are a lot like the Patriots.
11. New York Giants -- I hate to say it, but the Bengal loss sure makes it look like the Giants are in their classic midseason slump. It's a good thing the rest of the division is questionable.
13. Indianapolis Colts -- The best story of 2012 in sports. A 2011 2-14 team that plugged a rookie QB in the lineup, lost their coach for a few months but still manage a 6-3 and are on a four-game winning streak.
14. Minnesota Vikings -- A red hot start a few stumbles and people were ready to say they were headed to the NFC North basement where they belonged. No one asked the Vikings who came back this week with a big division win over Detroit.
15. New Orleans Saints -- Right now they probably deserve to be higher in these standings but they have early failures that can't go away just yet. New Orleans is running the ball, Brees is unstoppable and the defense is getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
16. Cincinnati Bengals -- They finally beat a playoff caliber team in the Andy Dalton era. As Marvin Lewis said "it's one game, now we have to go out and do it again." The Bengals did a very good job of protecting Dalton from the Giant pass rush.
17. Detroit Lions -- Whether it's injuries, or bad luck the Lions are simply not taking the big step forward to get in the playoff race. Their 2011 playmakers aren't making the big plays.
18. San Diego Chargers -- A dangerous team that can beat anyone one day and lose to anybody the next week. Rivers needs to protect the ball and his line needs to protect him.
19. Dallas Cowboys -- A big win over the Eagles will go a long way to restore some confidence in this team. They have teased us before (opening day road win over the Giants). Keep an eye on rookie QB Nick Foles, who may have to start with Vick coming off a concussion.
20. Miami Dolphins -- There was no excuse for their poor performance in a home loss to the Titans. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill is going to have days like that, but the running backs and defense have to pick up the slack.
21. Washington Redskins -- All quiet during the bye week, but this team is dynamic and could make a run if the defense could shore up its problems. Right now they can't stop a good passing game.
22. Tennessee Titans -- I was happy to see Jake Locker get a win after coming back from injury. This team underachieves and I don't think the owner threatening solves anything. Coach Munchack had his team ready to play on the road and as long as Chris Johnson is an effective back the team will win games.
23. Philadelphia Eagles -- Last year it was Vince Young tagging the team with a silly title they never lived up too. Now it's a bigger mess and things are looking desperate in Philadelphia. Andy Reid's job is on the line and I expect this group to play hard no matter what is being said about people being fired. I am still bothered by the firing of Juan Castillo.
24. Arizona Cardinals -- The bye came just in time to save their quarterbacks from an offensive line that can't protect anyone. The defense is playoff caliber, but the offense drove this team to the bottom of the power rankings.
25. New York Jets -- Way too much talk and not enough action. The Tebow experiment is a disaster, the special teams are a liability, and the offense can't establish anything.
26. St. Louis Rams -- The Rams will be a dangerous team down the stretch with an improving pass rush, and Sam Bradford is starting to return to 2010 form, especially with Danny Amendola back on the field. They will move up the power rankings in the next few weeks.
27. Carolina Panthers -- The Broncos smothered Cam Newton with a pass rush and he took a beating. I'm not so sure he can handle the pressure that comes with this much losing, but in time he will grow from this experience. It may not be this year.
28. Buffalo Bills -- The Bills put up a good fight against the Patriots, but they are still 0-11 in Foxboro. It is hard to get excited about a team that plays tough, but can't win. The pass rush looks like it will never materialize the way it was supposed to and Ryan Fitzpatrick is just a solid QB that probably needs to be replaced in the future.
29. Oakland Raiders -- Back in September I said the team had no depth because of the salary cap purge and the mistakes in talent evaluation over the years. Now injuries have too many good players on the sideline.
30. Cleveland Browns -- A very young team that plays for 60 minutes. They are coming off a bye and should be better.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Still no MJD and that means no movement up the rankings.
32. Kansas City Chiefs -- They played with great effort to get to overtime on the road in Pittsburgh and if they keep it up will win a few games.
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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