- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 26, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Peyton Manning and his Broncos are closing in on the playoffs as the top team in the AP Pro32 NFL power rankings.

Denver strengthened its grip on the top spot Wednesday following its 10th win in a row, receiving nine first-place votes and 381 points in balloting by The Associated Press panel of 12 media members who regularly cover the league.

The AFC West champion Broncos (12-3) close out the regular season at home against Kansas City (2-13), 32nd and last in the rankings. The final AP Pro32 rankings will be released next Wednesday.

The NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons (13-2) moved up two places to second with one first-place vote and 363 points. Last week, the Broncos were first by three points over San Francisco, which dropped to sixth after being blown out by Seattle.

“Eleven in a row (after KC this weekend) and primed for a Super Bowl run,” Rich Gannon of CBS Sports/Sirius XM said in voting the Broncos first.

“As expected the Broncos have become a scoring machine that also has good pass rushers. Still a chance they are the No. 1 seed in the AFC,” Pat Kirwan of SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com said.

The Seahawks (one first-place vote) were up two spots to fifth after routing the 49ers 42-13 on Sunday night.

“They have scored 120 points more than their last three opponents and officially have become the team no one wants to play in the postseason,” Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune said.

Despite the loss, the 49ers still received a first-place vote.

“Admittedly, a HUGE mulligan,” said ESPN’s Chris Berman in sticking with the 49ers at No. 1.

Green Bay was up three spots to third after its 55-7 rout of Tennessee, while New England dropped a place to fourth after hanging on for a 23-16 win over No. 31 Jacksonville.

“If there’s any solace from an unimpressive win at Jacksonville, the Patriots also seemed disinterested in their final two regular-season games last year before reaching Super Bowl,” Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com said.

“Yes, the Patriots are hard to figure out, but this isn’t: They’re always a Super Bowl factor as long as Tom Brady is healthy,” Clark Judge of CBSSports.com said.

Indianapolis, which clinched a playoff spot with a win over Kansas City, moved up to 10th in a season in which the Colts started out No. 32 in the first AP Pro32 rankings.

“Can an assistant coach be named the NFL’s coach of the year? Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has put himself in that position for his interim work filling in for ailing head coach Chuck Pagano this season,” Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News said.

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