Defending Super Bowl champion Seattle (12-4) received 11 of 12 first-place votes in the AP Pro32 power rankings, which are decided by a media panel that regularly covers the league.
The Seahawks will open the playoffs at home on Jan. 10.
“Who’s scared of the big, bad Seahawks? Everybody.” Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune said.
The Patriots (12-4) received the other first-place vote. New England is the top seed in the AFC and also opens the playoffs at home on Jan. 10.
“The Patriots are better in two ways from last year’s AFC runner-up: an improved roster, and home-field advantage,” said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback.
According to Glantz-Culver, the Seahawks (at 2-1) and Patriots (at 5-2) are the favorites to reach the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1.
The Green Bay Packers (No. 3), Dallas Cowboys (No. 4) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) all finished 12-4 and won their respective divisions.
The Cowboys open the playoffs on Sunday against Detroit.
“The surprise team of the 2014 season finishes things off in style with a resounding win at Washington,” Newsday’s Bob Glauber said. “The only team in the tournament to beat the Seahawks on the road this season.”
Indeed, Dallas won all eight road games.
Most of the remaining playoff teams rounded out the top 10: the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 6), Detroit Lions (No. 7), Indianapolis Colts (No. 8), Cincinnati Bengals (No. 9) and the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens (tied for No. 10).
The Bengals, who haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, face Andrew Luck on Sunday in Indianapolis. The Bengals have lost in the first round each of the past three years.
“Will they finally win a playoff game this year?” asked NBC Sports’ Tony Dungy.
The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Saturday night, a renewal of their bitter rivalry.
“(Baltimore) hoping that Haloti Ngata can plug a few holes,” Fox Sports’ John Czarnecki of the Ravens defensive lineman who is set to return after a four-game suspension.
NFC South champion Carolina finished at No. 13 with a 7-8-1 record and faces the Cardinals on Saturday.
“The Panthers became the first team to win back-to-back titles in the NFC South since the NFL realigned in 2002,” noted Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News.
Going into the season, Seattle was No. 1, followed by Denver, New England, Green Bay and New Orleans. The Saints finished 7-9 and at No. 23 in the final poll.
At the opposite end of the poll, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland were picked to finish No. 30 to 32. Jacksonville (3-13) did indeed finish No. 30 followed by Tampa Bay, which has the No. 1 pick in the draft, and the Tennessee Titans.
The Browns were 25th and the Raiders finished 29th.
THE RANKINGSThe Associated Press Pro32 NFL Power Rankings, as voted by a 12-member panel, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Sept. 30, total points based on 32 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 32nd-place vote, and previous ranking:
|1. Seattle Seahawks (11)||12-4||1||383|
|2. New England Patriots (1)||12-4||2||368|
|3. Green Bay Packers||12-4||3||362|
|4. Dallas Cowboys||12-4||4||349|
|5. Denver Broncos||12-4||5||336|
|6. Pittsburgh Steelers||11-5||7||319|
|7. Detroit Lions||11-5||6||304|
|8. Indianapolis Colts||11-5||10||297|
|9. Cincinnati Bengals||10-5-1||9||289|
|10. Baltimore Ravens||10-6||12||273|
|10. Arizona Cardinals||11-5||8||273|
|12. Philadelphia Eagles||10-6||12||249|
|13. Carolina Panthers||7-8-1||18||237|
|14. Kansas City Chiefs||9-7||14||225|
|15. Houston Texans||9-7||15||214|
|16. San Diego Chargers||9-7||11||207|
|17. Buffalo Bills||9-7||16||200|
|18. San Francisco 49ers||8-8||18||186|
|19. Miami Dolphins||8-8||17||163|
|20. Minnesota Vikings||7-9||24||134|
|21. New York Giants||6-10||21||132|
|22. St. Louis Rams||6-10||22||128|
|23. New Orleans Saints||7-9||25||124|
|24. Atlanta Falcons||6-10||20||120|
|25. Cleveland Browns||7-9||23||113|
|26. New York Jets||4-12||29||87|
|27. Chicago Bears||5-11||27||65|
|28. Washington Redskins||4-12||26||63|
|29. Oakland Raiders||3-13||28||58|
|30. Jacksonville Jaguars||3-13||30||42|
|31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2-14||31||20|
|32. Tennessee Titans||2-14||32||16s|