Houston received eight first-place votes and 376 points in balloting by The Associated Press’ panel of 12 media members who regularly cover the league. The Texans (11-1) are first for the fourth straight week.
“We will find out all we need to know about this team when they visit New England on Monday,” said the Chicago Tribune’s Dan Pompei, who had the Texans first and the Patriots third on his ballot.
“Had impressive win in Chicago. Can they get one in New England?” asked Clifton Brown of Sporting News, who had the Texans fifth and the Patriots first.
New England has made a steady climb up the rankings thanks to a six-game winning streak.
“Hard to keep out of the top spot when all you do is win,” ESPN’s Chris Berman said.
“Still don’t trust the defense,” noted Rich Gannon of CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, “but they do have Brady and the No. 1 offense that’s averaging 36 ppg.”
Denver is up a spot to fourth after clinching the AFC West with its seventh straight win. San Francisco slips three spots to fifth after an overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams.
“They can run. They can play defense. They have Peyton Manning. And they can’t lose,” said Clark Judge of CBSSports.com. “Yeah, I’d say the Broncos are complete.”
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News noted the Texans and Broncos are the most balanced teams in the league because they are the “only teams that rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense.”
The New York Giants dropped a spot to eighth after a 17-16 loss to Robert Griffin III and Washington on Monday night, with the Redskins up two places to 14th. The Giants are the highest-ranked 7-5 team and are ahead of two 8-4 teams _ Chicago (ninth) and Indianapolis (10th).
The defending Super Bowl champion Giants have a one-game lead over Dallas and Washington in the suddenly tight NFC East race.