Lopsided loss drops Niners to lowest ranking
The 49ers weren't in the discussion for No. 1 this week after being crushed 42-13 by the Seattle Seahawks, although they still received one first-place vote from ESPN's Chris Berman for their body or work this season.
But other voters did not think as highly of the 49ers (10-4-1) after they were exposed by the Seahawks in a lopsided rout.
One panelist dropped the 49ers all the way to eighth, and San Francisco was ranked fifth or lower by seven of the voters.
Quarterback Peyton Manning and his surging Broncos remain No. 1 this week as they close in on the playoffs.
Denver strengthened its grip on the top spot following its 10th win in a row, receiving nine first-place votes and 381 points in the balloting.
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.
''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 in a Sunday night prime-time showcase.
''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 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.
Minnesota, meanwhile, rose to No. 12 this week, and needs a win over Green Bay to earn a playoff spot. The Vikings started the season 29th. The Vikings beat the 49ers 24-13 in Minnesota on Sept. 23, dropping San Francisco out of the top spot after the 49ers spent the previous week ranked No. 1 for the only time this season.
They haven't been back since.
Here are this week's comments from the AP panel about the 49ers, with where each panelist has San Francisco ranked in parentheses:
Chris Berman (ESPN, 1): Admittedly, a HUGE mulligan.
Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 4): Losing wide receiver Mario Manningham will hurt their offense.
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 6): Despite loss to Seattle, still good enough to advance in the postseason.
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 4): The loss in Seattle wasn't the thing that hurt. Now the 49ers are dealing with injury issues at a time they can least afford it.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 5): The NFC's best defense is suddenly springing leaks. The 49ers have given up 76 points in the last two games – this after allowing only 184 points over the first 13 weeks.
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 5): Consider that waxing in Seattle a wake-up call; or, maybe it was just Pete Carroll's way of honking his own horn.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 5): A team this solid shouldn't look like the Chiefs this often.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 8): The 49ers looked less than invincible in the beating Seattle put on them. They probably won't go back to Alex Smith, but you just wonder if his experience would help right now.
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 5): More disturbing than the blowout loss to Seattle were injuries suffered by wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) and tight end Vernon Davis (concussion) heading into the playoffs.
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 5): When they are on, they are as good as anyone. But occasionally, they are off.
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