KANSAS CITY — The Kansas City Chiefs will have a chance to prove they belong atop the AP Pro32 power rankings when they face the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
The unbeaten Chiefs barely held onto the top spot Tuesday in voting by a 12-member media panel that regularly covers the league. Kansas City, off last week, earned 374 points and five first-place votes, while the second-place Seahawks had 373 points and five No. 1 nods.
The Broncos were third with 369 points and two first-place votes.
"Now we see whether the NFL's last unbeaten team is as good as the record indicates," wrote Newsday's Bob Glauber, who had the Chiefs third behind Denver and Seattle. "Two of their next three are against the Broncos, and the outcomes could decide the divisional race."
The Patriots were fourth in the tightly bunched AP Pro32 with 341 points, followed by the Saints with 340. The Panthers, Lions, Colts, 49ers and Bengals rounded out the top 10.
Still, the focus this week will be squarely on the Chiefs and Broncos.
Kansas City could be playing its biggest game of the season without wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who is facing a potential suspension after he was arrested for speeding and possession of marijuana on their bye weekend. The Chiefs were aware of the situation but had no comment.
Meanwhile, the Broncos will be playing again without coach John Fox, who is recovering from heart surgery. But they will have quarterback Peyton Manning under center, even though he hurt his already ailing ankles so much in last week's win over San Diego that he underwent a precautionary MRI exam that came back negative.
"The hits just keep on coming for the Broncos — unfortunately, for Peyton Manning, too," Glauber said. "He's been taking a pounding the last few weeks. Not a good way to head into the first of two meetings in a three-week span against the well-rested Chiefs' defense, but at least Manning will be in the lineup despite continued ankle problems."
Former NFL coach Tony Dungy said the biggest question will be whether the Broncos can protect Manning. As for the Chiefs, Dungy said, "we'll find out this week who they are."
The Seahawks did little to hurt their claim on No. 1 with a 33-10 rout of the Falcons over the weekend. Winners of five straight, they host Minnesota on Sunday.
"Seattle is 8-2 in their last 10 road games and they don't lose at home," wrote Pat Kirwan, an analyst for Sirius XM satellite radio and CBSSports.com. "Missing three of their starting offensive linemen, the Seahawks went into Atlanta and put 33 points on the board."
In this week's other marquee showdown, the Patriots visit the Panthers on Monday night. New England is coming off a blowout of Pittsburgh that solidified its place in the AP Pro32's top 5, while the Panthers vaulted into sixth place with a 10-9 win over the 49ers.
"The Panthers have allowed an NFC-low 115 points this season, an average of just 12.7 per game," observed Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. "That's an improvement of better than 10 points per game from a year ago."
The Panthers have won five straight after a 1-3 start.
"This surging defense is built in Ron Rivera's image — tough, physical and aggressive," wrote Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.
The Bears started off the second 10, followed by the Jets, Packers, Eagles and Cardinals. The Cowboys were No. 16, followed by the Ravens, Chargers, Browns and Rams.
Despite winning its first game of the season, Jacksonville remained No. 32.
"My hat's off to the Jaguars for never giving up and getting a win on the road this week," Kirwan said. "They still may be the team with the first pick in the draft."