NEW YORK – 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.
Receiving one first-place vote each are the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and the Seattle Seahawks.
“How do you beat them at home, they have the 12th man?” ESPN’s Herm 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 running back Steven Jackson was brought in from St. Louis.