Niners ascend to No. 1 in AP power rankings
Alex Smith gaining a lot of cred during 2-0 start
Alex Smith gaining a lot of cred during 2-0 start

Posted Sep 18, 2012


The experts have spoken, and they say the 49ers are the No. 1 team in the NFL today. After another convincing victory over a top NFC contender, the Niners have taken over the top slot in the Associated Press’s Pro 32 power rankings, moving up one spot from their No. 2 ranking last week.

An efficient Alex Smith and a rock-solid defense have the 49ers on top of the AP poll.

Smith threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns and the 49ers shut down the explosive Detroit Lions in a 27-19 win over the weekend, giving San Francisco a second win over a playoff team from last season. The 2-0 Niners moved up from second in the latest AP Pro32 regular-season poll released Tuesday, receiving 11 of the 12 first-place votes and 383 points from the media panel who regularly cover the NFL.

Houston advanced two spots to second with one first-place vote and 360 points, eight points ahead of Green Bay, which started the season on top. Atlanta is fourth, followed by Baltimore and Philadelphia, up six places after a second straight one-point win.

''There isn't much not to like about the 49ers,'' voter Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune said in putting the 49ers first for the second week in a row. ''At this point, the only question is who is No. 2?''

That would be the Texans, winners in each of their games by 20 points.

''The Texans have the NFL's top defense and a 2-0 record to show for it,'' reasoned Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, the only voter with Houston ahead of San Francisco.

Everyone else went with the 49ers, who opened the season with a big win at Green Bay before dominating the Lions at home.

''Almost everyone has holes, but you have to look hard to find any with this team,'' commented Clark Judge of CBSSports.com ''... and, please, could we stop the Alex Smith as 'game manager' talk? It's not only old; it's inaccurate.''

New England, meanwhile, fell from the top spot to seventh following a surprising 20-18 loss at home to Arizona.

''Week 2 mulligan,'' ESPN's Chris Berman called it.

San Diego made the biggest jump, up eight spots to ninth.

''Norv has this team believing,'' said Rich Gannon of CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio. ''More team speed on D doesn't hurt either.''

A pair of winless teams took the biggest tumbles – Kansas City dropped 10 spots to No. 31 and New Orleans eight places to 22nd after entering the season ninth.

''Think the Saints don't miss suspended head coach Sean Payton?'' asked Newsday's Bob Glauber. ''Perhaps an 0-2 start, something they'd avoided since 2007, will convince.''

Added Pompei: ''We knew they would miss Sean Payton, but they may be the most disappointing team in the NFL.''

Denver, which reached sixth last week after Peyton Manning's successful debut in a win over the Steelers, fell back earth with a loss in Atlanta on Monday night. Manning had three interceptions in the first quarter in the 27-21 loss, and his Broncos dropped five spots to 11th.

''Manning will correct the interceptions and the defense has pass rushers,'' said Pat Kirwan of SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com in ranking Denver fourth this week. ''They will be close to impossible to beat at home. Look for more teams to use the 'radar' defense against Manning that the Falcons employed.''

Jacksonville is 32nd and last.

''Nine punts, nine first downs – welcome to the NFL's version of the Mendoza Line,'' quipped Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.

Here are the individual comments this week on the 49ers from the AP’s national panel of voters, with where each has the Niners ranked in parentheses:

Chris Berman (ESPN, 1): Best-rounded team as fall begins.

Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 1): Impressive victories over the Packers and Lions make them the league's cream right now.

Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 1): Most balanced team in football and the QB is the real deal, nobody better at taking care of the ball. Franchise record 216 straight passes without INT.

Bob Glauber (Newsday, 1): Alex Smith's remarkable resurgence continues, and San Francisco's smothering defense claims the Lions as its latest victims after an equally impressive season-opening win in Green Bay.

Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 2): Best start by any team this season with a pair of victories over 2011 playoff teams.

Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 1): Almost everyone has holes, but you have to look hard to find any with this team ... and, please, could we stop the Alex Smith as "game manager" talk? It's not only old; it's inaccurate.

Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 1): These bullies take away your lunch money and your game plan.

Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 1): Niners have the best defense right now and Alex Smith is much improved on offense. They are also working hard on an expanded passing game for when they need it. Right now this team wins without taking many risks.

John Lynch (Fox Sports, 1): They took down the Pack at Lambeau and now a good Detroit team at home and beat them both soundly. They are the class of the league at this point.

Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 1): The 49ers aren't just winning games. They've mauled two quality teams (Green Bay and Detroit) along the way to a 2-0 start.

Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 1): There isn't much not to like about the 49ers. At this point, the only question is who is No. 2?



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