NEW YORK (AP) — With a healthy Aaron Rodgers ready to resume his pinpoint passing, the Green Bay Packers will start the season as the No. 1 team in the AP Pro32 power rankings.
In balloting by the 12 media members who regularly cover the NFL, the Packers finished ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.
Green Bay received six first-place votes and 375 points, with the NFC champion Seahawks earning four first-place votes and 367 points. The Super Bowl champion Patriots totaled two first-place votes and 359 points.
The next poll will be released Sept. 15 after Week 1 of the regular season.
NFL MVP Rodgers led the Packers to their fourth straight NFC Central title, but was hampered by a calf injury that limited his mobility. Green Bay lost to the Seahawks in overtime in the NFC championship game.
“The best quarterback in the NFL gives the Packers the edge in becoming the best team in the NFL,” said Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News.
The Indianapolis Colts are fourth, followed by Denver, Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Cincinnati. The Tennessee Titans are 32nd.
Rodgers will have top receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb back along with a solid running game with Eddie Lacy. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers lead a defense that seemed to improve late last season.
“Green Bay should’ve been in the Super Bowl last year,” said ESPN’s Herm Edwards. “They’ve improved their team since then and will come into this season on a mission.”
The Seahawks also are on a mission after coming up a goal-line interception short of winning their second straight Super Bowl. They are determined to make amends after the 1-point loss to the Patriots.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has a new contract, tight end Jimmy Graham joins the team and Richard Sherman again leads one of the league’s fiercest defenses.
“ They say you can’t pay everyone, but the Seahawks have masterfully locked up a core of mainly 20-something veterans who will keep the championship window open for at least a few years,” said Jenny Vrentas of Monday Morning Quarterback.
With or without Tom Brady, whose four-game suspension for his role in “Deflategate” remains in limbo, the Patriots still made the top three.
“Betting against the greatest QB-coach tandem in NFL history remains risky business,” said Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune after choosing the Patriots No. 2.
Despite drafting Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and adding defensive mastermind Dick LeBeau as coordinator, the Titans still start the season at the bottom of the rankings.
“I’m glad they drafted Mariota and in time it will become clear he’s a pretty good QB,” said Pat Kirwan of SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, “but rookie seasons in this league is usually a trial and error period that ends in a bad record.”