49ers top AP Pro32 NFL power rankings

Colin Kaepernick has the job from the start this season, and the
feeling is the flashy quarterback is more than capable of leading
the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl championship.

The 49ers, who came up a few yards short of winning last year’s
title game, open the preseason as the No. 1 team in the AP Pro32
NFL power rankings.

”He looks ready to take the next step,” Newsday’s Bob Glauber
said of the third-year quarterback who stepped in for the now
departed Alex Smith and went 7-3 in leading the 49ers to the Super
Bowl.

”A lot of losses from last year’s roster,” noted NBC Sports’
Tony Dungy, ”but solid in all three phases.”

San Francisco’s wide receiver spot took a hit with the loss of
Michael Crabtree until midseason, but the 49ers filled the void by
signing Ravens standout Anquan Boldin. The 49ers also added
dependable kicker Phil Dawson in the offseason to replace the
inconsistent David Akers and signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

San Francisco received five first-place votes Tuesday from The
Associated Press panel of 11 media members who regularly cover the
league, and totaled 344 points.

The Denver Broncos, who added standout wide receiver Wes Welker
to catch Peyton Manning’s passes, are second with four first-place
votes and 335 points.

”Welker gives them enough O to overcome injury problems,” said
Dungy, who voted Denver first and San Francisco second.

”Wes Welker keeps the chain moving and Montee Ball Jr. closes
the game in the fourth quarter,” summed up ESPN’s Herm
Edwards.

Receiving one first-place vote each are the Super Bowl champion
Baltimore Ravens and the Seahawks.

”How do you beat them at home, they have the 12th man?”
Edwards asked of Seattle, the team he had No. 1 on his ballot.

The Atlanta Falcons are third with 323 points, one point ahead
of Seattle. Rounding out the top 10, Green Bay is fifth, followed
by Baltimore, Houston and New England tied at No. 7, Cincinnati and
Indianapolis.

There are high hopes again in Atlanta. The Falcons turned Matt
Ryan into a $100 million quarterback with a contract extension,
tight end Tony Gonzalez was lured out of retirement and a top
running back was brought in from St. Louis.

”The Falcons have a Super Bowl-ready passing attack. They hope
Steven Jackson can give them a Super Bowl-ready rushing attack,”
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News said.

Adds Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: ”Falcons
should have a huge chip on their shoulder. No one is talking about
them.”

The Jacksonville Jaguars, one of eight teams with new coaches
this season, are ranked last – picked 32nd by six of the voters. A
year ago, the Colts started 32nd with rookie quarterback Andrew
Luck but made the playoffs and finished 10th – exactly where they
start in the preseason rankings.

Kansas City ended up 32nd last year after winning two games. The
Chiefs fired their coach, then hired fired Eagles coach Andy Reid
and head into the preseason at No. 19.

An updated preseason AP Pro32 NFL power rankings will be
released Sept. 3, followed by weekly rankings through the regular
season.

The voting panel is Cris Collinsworth (NBC Sports), Tony Dungy
(NBC Sports), Herm Edwards (ESPN), Bob Glauber (Newsday), Rick
Gosselin (Dallas Morning News), Clark Judge (CBSSports.com), Ira
Kaufman (Tampa Tribune), Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM), John Lynch (Fox
Sports), Alex Marvez (FoxSports1, SiriusXM NFL Radio), and Charean
Williams (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

Online: http://www.pro32.ap.org/poll