Niners holding strong in AP power rankings

A lot for Niners to get excited about entering bye

The 49ers remained No. 4 in the in this week's Associated Press Pro32 NFL power rankings after their 24-3 rout of the Arizona Cardinals left them 6-2 with a two-game lead in the NFC West heading into their bye week.

The top seven spots remained the same, led by the 7-0 Atlanta Falcons – the NFL's only unbeaten team – who received nine first-place votes from national panel of 12 national media members.

The Falcons easily retained the top spot following a convincing win at Philadelphia, with the New York Giants edging the Houston Texans for second place in the latest rankings. The 49ers round out the top four spots in the rankings.

The 49ers were No. 1 in the poll during Week 3 of the season before their loss to Minnesota that week dropped them from the top spot.

Atlanta received nine first-place votes and 319 points this week. The Giants had the other first-place vote and 303 points, two more than the third-place Texans.

Indianapolis made the biggest move, advancing eight spots to No. 16 after a win over Tennessee. Miami, Detroit and Tampa Bay each moved up seven spots. The Dolphins are 11th, the Lions 14th, and the Buccaneers 19th.

San Diego and New Orleans took the biggest tumbles, each dropping six places – the Chargers to 22nd, the Saints to 23rd.

After Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in Atlanta's 30-17 over the Eagles, the voters were raving about the Falcons.

"Most impressive win of the year. Over 50 percent of 7-0's make the Super Bowl," said ESPN's Chris Berman.

"Crushing Philadelphia after the Eagles' bye convinced me: No one is better," said CBSSports.com's Clark Judge.

"Those Matt Ryan MVP chants are getting louder, and with good reason," said the Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman.

The Giants, who blew a 23-point lead but hung on to beat Dallas 29-24, are still tops with one voter, who took things a few steps further.

"How would an Eli Manning-Peyton Manning Super Bowl strike you?" asked the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei.

The Texans had a week off, but head into Week 9 at 6-1, the best record in the AFC. Buffalo visits on Sunday.

"The Texans win their division by the first of December," said Judge, who voted Houston third behind Atlanta and Chicago. "I haven't seen a race this easy to call since Secretariat ran the Belmont."

Speaking of horses, the Colts galloped past a bunch of teams following a 19-13 overtime win over the Titans. Voters are actually talking playoff possibilities.

"More Andrew Luck magic, this time with the winning touchdown pass in OT as Indy's resurgence continues. Wild card contender? Could be," said Newsday's Bob Glauber, who had the Colts 17th.

"This is a fact that shouldn't be taken lightly – the Colts (4-3) are legitimately the second-best team in the AFC South," said Foxssports.com's Alex Marvez.

Watch out for Denver, too. Peyton Manning and the Broncos improved to eighth this week after a third straight win.

"Manning and the passing game finding their groove along with that defense. Watch out!" said CBS Sports/Sirius XM's Rich Gannon.

The Niners, no doubt, are a team to watch out for when they return to play the second half of the season, too.

Here are the panel's comments on the 49ers this week, with where each voter has San Francisco ranked in parentheses:

after Week 8 with where each , as provided by the AP (voter affiliation and ranking in parentheses):

Chris Berman (ESPN, 3): Suffocating defense and Randy Moss. Could it be an S.F. daily double?

Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 6): Great defense, strong running game, excellent special teams and an outstanding coaching staff. Pretty solid!

Bob Glauber (Newsday, 4): Alex Smith losing confidence? "Just gobble, gobble, gobble, turkey from jive-turkey gobblers," says Jim Harbaugh after Smith sets completion percentage record in 24-3 romp over Arizona. Got it, coach.

Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 3): The 49ers have held four of their last five opponents without a touchdown.

Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 5): Enough already. It's time to declare a moratorium on Alex Smith criticism.

Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 4): The Alex Smith bashers don't have much to say this week, do they?

John Lynch (Fox Sports, 5): The 49ers are getting back to the dominance we became accustomed to in 2011. They physically dominated the Cardinals in all phases on Monday night.

Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 5): 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (five catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns) continued to shine as one of the NFL's most improved players in Monday night's 24-3 road victory over Arizona.

Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 5): If they can keep Alex Smith playing like he played Monday, look out.

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