The Houston Texans are on top of the AP Pro32 NFL power rankings again, and getting ready for the Monday night spotlight when they visit the New York Jets.
The Texans became the first team to retain the No. 1 spot after a resounding 38-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans to remain unbeaten in four games.
The other two unbeatens, Atlanta and Arizona, needed game-deciding field goals to stay perfect.
A week after becoming the fourth team in as many weeks to ascend to No. 1, Houston received 11 first-place votes and 382 points Tuesday from the 12-person panel of media members who regularly cover the NFL.
Atlanta remained second with 369 points, and Arizona was fifth with one first-place vote and 342 points.
All eyes will be on the Texans come Monday night, when quarterback Matt Schaub and defensive end J.J. Watt lead them against the Jets in New Jersey. The Jets dropped five places to 23rd after a 34-0 loss at home to San Francisco, which moved up a spot to fourth, just behind Baltimore.
"The Texans are making it look easy right now and have shown themselves to be the most well-rounded team in the NFL," said John Lynch of Fox Sports, and "J.J. Watt is having an MVP type season."
The Falcons beat Carolina 30-28 on Matt Bryant's 40-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.
"Something special happening with the Falcons," said Rich Gannon of CBS Sports/Sirius XM, "and the players believe it as well."
The Cardinals rallied against Miami to force overtime on Kevin Kolb's 15-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts with 22 seconds left, then won 24-21 on Jay Feely's 46-yard field goal 6:31 into OT.
"They have won eight in a row at home," said the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei, who voted Arizona No. 1 for the second week in a row. "Even if a lot of the wins have been ugly, they still count."
"If the NFL conducted its coach of the year balloting at the end of September, Ken Whisenhunt would be the slam-dunk choice," said the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin of the Cardinals coach.
New England was sixth, followed by Green Bay with Philadelphia up four places to eighth after its 19-17 win over the New York Giants, who tumbled seven spots to 11th.
"The Eagles are the NFL's shakiest 3-1 team with all three victories coming by a combined total of four points. No matter. They're still 3-1," said Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com.
Winless New Orleans was 26th, up a spot after its 28-27 loss to the Packers.
"Not even an impassioned speech from Drew Brees at a midweek team meeting was enough to get the Saints in the win column," said Bob Glauber of Newsday. "Stunningly, the season's just about over after a month."
Winless Cleveland was 32nd and last for the second straight week.
"That's 13 losses in their last 14 games, and, no, that's never a good sign for a head coach about to gain a new boss," said Clark Judge of CBSSports.com.
The Associated Press Pro32 NFL Power Rankings, as voted by a 12-member panel, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 2, total points based on 32 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 32nd-place vote, and previous ranking:
Team..............W L T Pts Pvs
1. Houston Texans (11) 4 0 0 382 1
2. Atlanta Falcons 4 0 0 369 2
3. San Francisco 49ers 3 1 0 351 4
4. Baltimore Ravens 3 1 0 347 3
5. Arizona Cardinals (1) 4 0 0 342 6
6. New England Patriots 2 2 0 309 8
7. Green Bay Packers 2 2 0 304 7
8. Philadelphia Eagles 3 1 0 296 12
9. Chicago Bears 3 1 0 293 10
10. San Diego Chargers 3 1 0 272 13
11. New York Giants 2 2 0 265 4
12. Cincinnati Bengals 3 1 0 259 14
13. Denver Broncos 2 2 0 249 16
14. Minnesota Vikings 3 1 0 237 17
15. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 2 0 218 15
16. Dallas Cowboys 2 2 0 189 11
17. Seattle Seahawks 2 2 0 182 9
18. Washington Redskins 2 2 0 178 21
19. St. Louis Rams 2 2 0 151 29
20. Buffalo Bills 2 2 0 149 20
21. Detroit Lions 1 3 0 140 19
22. Carolina Panthers 1 3 0 128 23
23. New York Jets 2 2 0 126 18
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 3 0 112 22
25. Miami Dolphins 1 3 0 99 28
26. New Orleans Saints 0 4 0 91 27
27. Kansas City Chiefs 1 3 0 70 24
28. Oakland Raiders 1 3 0 63 26
29. Tennessee Titans 1 3 0 60 25
30. Jacksonville Jaguars 1 3 0 46 30
COMMENTS ON THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS (14)
Chris Berman (ESPN, 15) - Quietly winning below NFC North radar.
Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 13) - Probably the league's most pleasant surprise, with the much-improved Christian Ponder.
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 14) - Nobody saw this coming as the Vikes are on top in the NFC North. Only starting QB without and interception is the league's most improved player, Christian Ponder.
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 15) - Adrian Peterson's first 100-yard game since surgery. Just the beginning, says the NFL's most powerful runner.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 12) - The Vikings are playing defense again - and winning again.
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 13) - Their quarterback doesn't commit mistakes. Their defense is plugging holes. And they just ended an 11-game losing streak in the NFC North. Maybe it's time to get behind the Vikings.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 13) - You can't dismiss these overachievers, not the way Christian Ponder is playing.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 13) - Say what you want, not only are the Vikings 3-1 but they beat the 49ers and just handed it to the Lions. Ponder is one cool customer.
John Lynch (Fox Sports, 12) - The Vikings continued to impress. Christian Ponder has matured quicker than I thought he would and is playing very solid football.
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 12) - Running back Adrian Peterson's comeback, the quick development of second-year quarterback Christian Ponder and a staunch defense make the Vikings one of this season's biggest surprise stories.
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 13) - They keep answering challenges very impressively, but we still need to see more from Christian Ponder and company.
Vikings continue ascent in AP power rankings
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