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NFL Power Rankings: Patriots Rise, Texans Fall In Week 15 Poll

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady runs onto the field before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady runs onto the field before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

NEW YORK -- See ya, Houston. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have taken over the top spot in the AP Pro32 NFL power rankings.

Hours after routing the previous No. 1 Texans 42-14, the Patriots were back on top of the rankings for the first time since Week 2. Houston held the No. 1 spot for a month before tumbling to fourth following its second loss of the season.

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are second, with the San Francisco 49ers third as they prepare to visit New England on Sunday night.

The Patriots (10-3) received 11 of 12 first-place votes and 383 points Tuesday in balloting by The Associated Press' panel of media members who regularly cover the league. Denver (10-3) got the other first-place vote and had 369 points.

"That was quite a message they sent to the league Monday night, said ESPN's Chris Berman of the Patriots' seventh straight win.

"The Patriots played a near flawless game and are taking form to make a serious run at the Lombardi," said Fox Sports' John Lynch. "A potential Super Bowl preview awaits Sunday night with the 49ers."

The Broncos, meanwhile, take an eight-game winning streak into their game against Baltimore, which fell into a tie for eighth after an overtime loss to Washington.

"Peyton Manning is making his pitch for a record fourth NFL MVP award. He has steered Denver to eight consecutive victories and thrown 19 TD passes during that stretch," said the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin, the only voter who had Denver No. 1 this week.

The Atlanta Falcons dropped two spots to fifth after their loss to Carolina, and Green Bay and the New York Giants were tied for sixth.

Even at 11-2, voters are beginning to wonder about the Texans, who have clinched a playoff spot but still have two more games against division rival Indianapolis, ranked 10th this week.

"The hope is that Monday's loss (by Houston) was a wakeup call," said Clark Judge of CBSSports.com. "If not, make it the beginning of the end to what once looked like a promising season."

As for the Falcons, their second loss has some voters wondering as well.

"Has any 11-2 team every gotten as little respect? Don't think so," said The Sporting News' Clifton Brown, who ranked the Falcons eighth.

Seattle made the biggest advance after its 58-0 rout of Arizona, up four places to eighth.

"It's like Pete Carroll is back at USC beating up on Washington State. Seahawks absolutely pummel Cardinals 58-0, only 11 points from equaling Carroll's most lopsided win in college," said Newsday's Bob Glauber.

Jacksonville is 32nd and last.

___

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