Niners looking out for No. 1 again in AP poll

Niners come out of bye with one No. 1 vote

The 49ers held their No. 4 spot in the Associated Press Pro32 power rankings during their bye week, but they once again are getting some No. 1 recognition from the poll that had them at the top of the league after their 2-0 start.

San Francisco's impressive body of work at midseason had one of the 12 members of a national media panel moving the 49ers back up to the top of the list in this week's poll.

Clifton Brown of the Sporting News had San Francisco back at No. 1 in his poll, and ESPN's Chris Berman has moved the Niners up to No. 2 on his list.

The 49ers got the only first-place vote that did not go to the Atlanta Falcons, the NFL's only unbeaten team that remains atop the AP poll. The Falcons topped the lists of the other 11 voters.

The Niners remained No. 4 despite some activity above them in the poll.

The New York Giants dropped from second into a tie for sixth with the New England Patriots after losing 24-20 at home to the No. 10 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chicago Bears moved up two spots to third, leap-frogging the 49ers after demolishing the No. 29 Tennessee Titans 51-20 last Sunday.

The 49ers have a Monday night showdown looming with the Bears at Candlestick Park on Nov. 19. San Francisco (6-2) returns from its bye week to host St. Louis (3-5) this Sunday.

The Houston Texans moved up to second in this week's poll and the Green Bay Packers follow the 49ers at No. 5.

The Falcons (8-0) had a close call over the weekend, topping Dallas 19-13 in a game that went down to the wire, but Atlanta still remained a near-unanimous choice atop the poll with 382 points.

Houston totaled 363 points and Chicago had 362, with San Francisco rounding out the top four with 348 points.

"The NFL's Bon Jovi," said ESPN's Chris Berman of the Falcons, "they're halfway there, but NOT living on a prayer."

Despite the perfect record, not everyone's a believer.

"Undefeated? Yes. Super Bowl threat? Yes. Best team in football? Still not convinced," said Brown, who had the Falcons third behind the 49ers and Bears.

The Texans moved up a spot after their 21-9 win over Buffalo, while the Giants dropped four places after their third loss of the season. The Bears are set to host the Texans on Sunday night in a matchup of one-loss teams.

Foxsports.com's Alex Marvez said the game "could be a preview of Super Bowl XLVII."

Many voters singled out the Bears' defense, which already has seven interception returns for touchdowns. Chicago is ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense while the 49ers rank second.

"Which offense would you rather have: Jacksonville's or the Bears' defense?" asked CBSSports.com's Clark Judge.

Houston, meanwhile, rarely gives up the ball. The Texans lead the lead with just six turnovers.

"The Texans haven't had a turnover in five games this year," notes the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei. "If they can avoid one Sunday, they can beat the Bears."

San Diego and New Orleans made the biggest advances, moving up six spots each – the Chargers to 16th, the Saints to 17th despite a 3-5 record. Also, surprising Indianapolis – 23-20 winners over Miami – improved four places to 12th after starting the season 32nd and last.

"The Colts are having a magical season, inspired by the fight of their head coach Chuck Pagano and a rookie QB who looks nothing like a rookie," said Fox Sports' John Lynch.

"Andrew Luck already looks like Peyton Manning. Watch out for the Colts," said SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who started the season rated eighth, are now 20th, dropping three spots after Monday night's loss to the Saints.

"A sinking ship for Andy Reid and Michael Vick," said CBS Sports/Sirius XM's Rich Gannon.

Also tumbling were Minnesota and Washington. The Vikings fell six places to 18th, the Redskins five slots to 23rd.

Here are the comments on the 49ers this week, with where each panelist has San Francisco ranked in parenthesis:

Chris Berman (ESPN, 2): Had week off to celebrate with SF Giants – both have great defenses.

Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 1): They've given up six points or less in four of their last five games.

Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 5): Poised for a strong second half finish fresh off a bye.

Bob Glauber (Newsday, 6): Niners come off a bye week to host the Rams. Gotta like the home team this week.

Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 4): The 49ers have allowed only six touchdown passes through eight games. Little wonder they have the best pass defense in the NFC.

Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 4): Admit it, the 49ers are a complete team and a playoff lock, and they're making another run for a first-round bye.

Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 4):Let's face it: they're going to rule the NFC West for awhile.

Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 5): The Niners have been on a bye but not forgotten. They will climb right back in the top three in the next week or two.

John Lynch (Fox Sports, 4): The 49ers rested with a bye week but have looked dominant of late. A tough, physical, talented and well coached football team.

Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 4): Following a bye, the chance to post a 3-0 division record awaits Sunday against visiting St. Louis.

Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 5): As Alex Smith goes, so go the Niners. He has a 122.3 passer rating in their six victories.

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