The surging Patriots gained the top spot in the AP Pro32 poll on Tuesday, receiving nine of 12 first-place votes for 381 points in balloting by media members who regularly cover the NFL.
The Patriots (10-2) have won eight in a row and are closing in on yet another AFC East title.
"The Patriots have come a long way since losing two of their first four games," said Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. "They look a lot like the 2014 version."
The Minnesota Vikings, who also are 10-2 and on an eight-game winning streak, received two first-place votes and moved up a spot to No. 2.
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"It's time to acknowledge that the Vikings are a serious Super Bowl threat behind a fierce defense and a third-string quarterback playing at a Pro Bowl level," said Ira Kaufman of SB Nation Radio.
The Philadelphia Eagles (10-2), who saw their nine-game winning streak snapped in a loss in Seattle, received the other first-place vote and dropped two spots to No. 3.
"Showdown with Rams looms," Fox Sports' John Czarnecki said of Sunday's game in Los Angeles between the first-place teams.
The Eagles are staying on the West Coast this week and are setting up camp in Orange County.
Despite a 10-2 record and a seven-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Steelers slipped a spot to No. 4.
The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, both 9-3 and leading their divisions, remained at Nos. 5 and 6.
The Seattle Seahawks, only a game behind the Rams in the NFC West, rose two places to No. 7 after beating the Eagles.
The Carolina Panthers slipped a spot to No. 8 after losing to the Saints. The Panthers face another challenge in Week 14 as they host the Vikings.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, tied for first place in the AFC South at 8-4, each gained a spot and rounded out the top 10.
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