NFL Nation: Power rankings May 09

Suzy Kolber, Darren Woodson and Tim Hasselbeck break down the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The following is a look at why I placed the AFC West teams where I did in the NFL power rankings.

San Diego Chargers

Power ranking: 7

Where I ranked them: I had the Chargers ranked eighth. The Chargers showed late in the season that they are a team to reckon with. This can still be an elite team.

Denver Broncos

Power ranking: 25

Where I ranked them: I had the Broncos 25th. They lost their three final games and underwent  major changes this offseason. This is a new-look team with new leadership. There are many question marks in Denver.

Kansas City Chiefs

Power ranking: 29

Where I ranked them: I kept the Chiefs at 29th. Kansas City has new leadership and a new quarterback. The team will make strides, but I'm just not sure if it will be right away.

Oakland Raiders

Power ranking: 30

Where I ranked them: I had the Raiders ranked 27th. The Raiders didn't make many changes but they may not have made many significant improvements, either. Oakland has talent but it has to show it can win.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

First of all, let's hear a round of applause for ESPN.com's Sheldon Spencer and Mike Sando for taming the monster that is NFL Power Rankings: May 2009 edition. Each week during the season, Sando and blog editor Brett Longdin put together colorful charts to explain how we came up with the power rankings. Sando's efforts have brought a lot more transparency to the process. And it makes it much easier for you guys to channel your anger to the appropriate e-mail addresses.

Here is Sando's exclusive "How the voters voted" blog entry. You'll discover that NFC East teams ranked 10th on average in the rankings, which was best for any division. The AFC East was second with a 13.9 ranking and the AFC West came in dead last with a 22.6. 

Hall of Famer Len Pasquarelli joined me (non-HOF) in ranking the Giants No. 2 overall in the rankings. We were the only panelists who had them that high. AFC East blogger Tim Graham and John Clayton were the only voters who had them out of the top five (sixth place). 

I had the Eagles fourth overall, but ESPN.com columnist and E60 contributor Jeff Chadiha has them at No. 2. Sando and Pasquarelli had the Eagles at No. 8. 

As always, the Cowboys were one of the most polarizing teams in the field. I had them at No. 11, but Pat Yasinskas had them at No. 3. Seriously. John Clayton has the Cowboys ranked at No. 22. And yes, that's the biggest gap (19 spots) in the voting. If anyone's interested, I'm happy to call up Clayton and ask for an explanation. The Cowboys ended up in the No. 13 spot.

The Redskins were also a team that voters disagreed on in a big way. Clayton checked in with the highest ranking at No. 12. But Clayton's Seattle neighbor Sando had the Redskins 24th. I'm happy to help you guys get in touch with Sando. Do you need his office or cell? Anyway, I had the Redskins 17th. I think they could be much better than that, but I don't trust them after last season's collapse. I'm dropping by Ashburn, Va., soon to see them, so maybe I'll change my mind. 

Overall, a pretty strong showing top to bottom by the NFC East. OK, I have to go watch the Cowboys practice now. I'll check back with you guys in a few hours. 

This link from Sando has a lot of bells and whistles. Perfect for the post-Memorial Day blues.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The first edition of the 2009 ESPN.com power rankings reveals a changing of the guard in the NFC North but a continued lack of regard for the division as a whole. (Sniff, sniff, pout, pout. But as we all know, we do our talking on the field in the Black and Blue. Yesssir!!!)

Chicago's acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler has catapulted the Bears to the division's top ranking at No. 12 overall. Last year's division winner, Minnesota, is two spots behind at No. 14.

Now for the bad news: The Bears' ranking is the lowest for the top team in any division. And when you average each division's rankings, as NFC West mayor Mike Sando did, you find the NFC North rests sixth among the eight divisions. As we sit here on May 26, take that for what it's worth.

Let's take a closer look at where I ranked each NFC North team and why:

Chicago Bears

Power Ranking: No. 12
My vote: No. 11
Why: I tried to keep things as simple as possible at this point in the offseason. Quarterback is the most important position, and the Bears made a significant upgrade with Cutler. They were 9-7 last year and if all else remains equal, Cutler could be worth two more victories. I know that assumes the Bears have improved their defense, but we'll leave that discussion for another day.

Minnesota Vikings

Power Ranking: No. 14
My vote: No. 13
Why: I still think the Vikings are an upper-echelon team, and my vote will change if they sign quarterback Brett Favre. But there wasn't a lot separating the Vikings from the Bears last season, and I think Chicago ultimately was more aggressive this offseason in addressing its needs.

Green Bay Packers

Power Ranking: No. 17
My vote: No. 15
Why: It's hard to draw many conclusions about a team making a fundamental defensive transition. You know the Packers' defense will be better as time moves on. But when and how much? That's really hard to say. So I think everyone is just kind of sticking them in the middle of the pack (no pun intended, really) and waiting to see what happens.

Detroit Lions

Power ranking: No. 32
My vote: No. 30
Why: Call me crazy, but I don't think that Detroit will be the worst team in the NFL this season. I know I was among those seduced into similar thinking last year, but that's where I stand in late May after watching the Lions overhaul their roster and add some well-respected coaches this offseason. They have a long way to go -- but no further than, say, St. Louis, which was my choice to finish No. 32.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

On Tuesday, ESPN.com posted its first NFL power rankings of the 2009 season.

Here is a breakdown of how things shook out in the AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Walker's vote: No. 1
  • Cumulative vote: No. 1
  • Analysis: No surprises here. The Steelers received an almost unanimous vote this week as the NFL's top team. After winning the Super Bowl in February, not much has changed in Pittsburgh. The team returned 20 of 22 starters and there is no reason to believe the Steelers won't be title contenders once again in 2009. By the way, ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli was the only person on the panel not to vote Pittsburgh in the top slot. He has the Steelers rated ninth, and Pasquarelli will check in with the AFC North blog Wednesday to debate this topic (hint, hint).

Baltimore Ravens

  • Walker's vote: No. 7
  • Cumulative vote: No. 6
  • Analysis: I received a lot of heat in our AFC North inbox last week for not putting Baltimore in the top 5, but it turns out the overall panel didn't rate the Ravens in the top 5, either. By the way, everyone had good guesses Tuesday on the six teams I rated ahead of Baltimore. While a few people got the teams correct, I didn't notice anyone nailing the exact order. It was Pittsburgh (No. 1), the New England Patriots (No. 2), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 3), New York Giants (No. 4), Indianapolis Colts (No. 5) and Arizona Cardinals (No. 6).

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Walker's vote: No. 19
  • Cumulative vote: No. 23
  • Analysis: As expected, I had Cincinnati rated higher than anyone on the panel. For instance, NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert had Cincinnati rated the lowest at No. 29, one spot below the Cleveland Browns in his ballot at No. 28. Sure, I'm pegging the Bengals as a potential sleeper this season. But as I explained last week, No. 19 is a good starting point where it recognizes the Bengals' improvements on paper yet doesn't go overboard without them first earning respect on the field.

Cleveland Browns

  • Walker's vote: No. 29
  • Cumulative vote: No. 28
  • Analysis: My individual vote with Cleveland was pretty much in line with the cumulative vote. If the Browns are as efficient and smart as new head coach Eric Mangini expects, they could be in a lot of close games. But the talent gap on most weeks will favor the opponent and could hurt Cleveland throughout the regular season. For now, I expect Cleveland to remain toward the bottom of ESPN.com's power rankings until it answers some key questions, particularly at quarterback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Our offseason power rankings just came out and the NFC South has two teams in the top 11.

Our panel of experts rated the Panthers No. 10 and the Falcons No. 11. My ballot had both Carolina and Atlanta in the top 10. I also voted the Saints No. 15 and the Buccaneers No. 23. In the final totals, the Saints are ranked No. 16 and the Bucs No. 27.

The logic behind my rankings? Carolina was 12-4 last season and returns 21 starters. Atlanta's right there with the Panthers, but I want to see how this young defense shapes up before getting too carried away with the Falcons.

I thought about putting the Saints in the top 10 and I think they could end up there. But that would be pure projection. I like all the moves they've made to their defense in the offseason, but I want to see how they play out.

I went a little higher on the Bucs than most of the panel members. But they've got some huge question marks, starting at quarterback.

One other note: On my ballot, I ranked Dallas No. 3 and included a note to my editors that it wasn't a misprint. Do I really think the Cowboys are the third best team in the NFL? Heck no. But these rankings are just for fun and I thought I'd do my part to raise the bar for Dallas since expectations seem to have slipped so much.

Expectations were extremely high for the Cowboys before last season and a lot of people were talking about them going to the Super Bowl, but I predicted they'd underachieve, finish third in the NFC East and miss the playoffs. Um, they did.

This year, expectations aren't nearly as high and maybe the Cowboys will overachieve. Or maybe not.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Our initial power rankings for 2009 are out. You can find them here and the accompanying file from Mike Sando detailing how we all voted here.

My ballot was in line with the top four on the list.

Pittsburgh at No. 1 was in part because the Steelers won the Super Bowl. I'm expecting a huge year for New England (second) and think the Giants (third) and Philadelphia (fourth) did good work to get better.

After that, my votes and the results diverged.

Here's how I stacked the teams of the AFC South:

AFC South Power Rankings
Team Power ranking Kuharsky's vote
Indianapolis 5 6
Tennessee 8 5
Houston 18 16
Jacksonville 24 23

My thinking with notes of high and low votes:

The Titans lost Albert Haynesworth, but he's the only starter they're going to miss. (Justin McCareins is gone, and Nate Washington and Kenny Britt have to be an upgrade at receiver.) I don't think they're a 13-3 team, but I do Tennessee will be very good if it stays healthy. And I don't feel like when you measure them against the Colts, looking at the changes on both teams, that enough has happened to change last year's order at this point.

High vote: 4th, Kevin Seifert
Low vote: 17th, Matt Williamson

The Colts should be better on both lines, Peyton Manning will be healthy from the start and he's got another weapon in the backfield in Donald Brown. Bill Polian's steady hand will help offset the loss of Tony Dungy. But we don't yet know much about Jim Caldwell or when assistants Tom Moore and Howard Mudd will return and what they will be allowed to do. Indy will be counting on bigger contributions from their rookies than Tennessee.

High votes: 3rd, John Clayton and Bill Williamson
Low vote: 13th, Pat Yasinskas

The Texans are a popular pick as a breakout team, but it's going to be hard for them if the Titans and Colts stay healthy. Houston added to its front seven and hopes that helps everyone on defense. The Texans need a healthy season from Matt Schaub with reduced turnovers, and could still use a big back to work with Steve Slaton.

High vote: 14th, Tim Graham
Low vote: 24th, Seifert

The Jaguars did a lot to address their offensive line and will get guys back from injury there, too. If they can run better and protect better, David Garrard will throw better. But they haven't done a lot on defense and a couple draft picks will have to make big contributions. I think they'll turn the corner and move the right direction, but it's a tough division to climb the standings in.

High vote: 20th, Jeff Chadiha
Low votes: 24th, James Walker and Graham

Any explanation for my status as the high or low vote for a team where I am not part of a huge crowd:

Denver (low, 28th) -- With Matt Williamson and Clayton, I put the Broncos 28th. Their offseason made little sense to me, starting with replacing an offensive coach with an offensive coach, the Jay Cutler drama and the lack of solutions on the defense. Maybe all these middling veterans they brought in will blossom and make me move them way up from here. I don't see it right now.

Oakland (low, 32nd) -- Along with Matt Mosley, I feel like the Raiders will bump Detroit out of the last spot. I have little faith in JaMarcus Russell and believe things in Al Davis' world will continue to unravel.

Detroit (high, 29th) -- I'm looking for a boost in popularity in the Midwest. No, I honestly expect the Lions to show a major improvement in the new regime and win four or five games. That will leave room for a couple teams to edge behind them. I'm alone with them as high at 29th, but four more of our 12 panelists also moved Detroit out of last.

AFC East power rankings

May, 26, 2009
5/26/09
11:30
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

ESPN.com has unveiled its first preseason power rankings for 2009.

And why not?

A meaningful game hasn't been played in three months and another one won't take place for four months. So take them for what they're worth: A good reason to talk football in late May.

Here's the rundown of how the AFC East fared in a polling of the eight division bloggers and four other ESPN.com football writers.

2. New England Patriots

  • My ranking: No. 2. As much as I think they're a legitimate contender, the Pittsburgh Steelers belong atop any preseason power ranking.
  • Write a thank-you note: Len Pasquarelli was the only pollster not to have the Steelers ranked No. 1 and to have the Patriots ranked ahead of the defending champions. He had the Patriots No. 1, and the Steelers way down the list at No. 9.
  • Send your complaints: Jeff Chadiha had the Patriots listed No. 6.

15. Miami Dolphins

  • My ranking: No. 13. I have the Dolphins as the seventh-best AFC team, which puts them on the playoff fringe.
  • Write a thank-you note: Kevin Seifert rated the Dolphins No. 7. He and Chadiha were the only ones to have them in the top 10.
  • Send your complaints: Matt Williamson penciled the Dolphins at No. 22. The 15-spot differential between Seifert and Williamson was fourth-largest discrepancy of any team. The Carolina Panthers had a 21-spot differential between Pasquarelli (No. 3) and Williamson (No. 24).

20. New York Jets

  • My ranking: No. 18. The Jets have so much going for them -- a promising defense, a solid offensive line, capable running backs. But can they count on their quarterbacks? And who's going to catch the passes?
  • Write a thank-you note: Pasquarelli, perhaps channeling Joe Namath, slotted them 12th.
  • Send your complaints: Chadiha put them at No. 24.

21. Buffalo Bills

  • My ranking: No. 22. There's a lot to love about the Bills' skill players, but they won't mean much if the reshuffled offensive line doesn't come together.
  • Write a thank-you note: Pasquarelli is Mr. AFC East. He had the Bills rated No. 13, while John Clayton and Bill Williamson each had the Bills at No. 14.
  • Send your complaints: Matt Williamson put the Bills at No. 25, the lowest ranking of any AFC East team in the poll.
Rk Team Mike Sando Matt Williamson James Walker Bill Williamson Jeff Chadiha Pat Yasinskas Tim Graham John Clayton Kevin Seifert Paul Kuharsky Len Pasquarelli Matt Mosley
1 PIT 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 9 1
2 NE 2 2 2 2 6 2 2 2 2 2 1 3
3 NYG 3 4 4 4 3 5 6 6 5 3 2 2
4 PHI 8 3 3 7 2 4 3 4 3 4 8 4
5 IND 4 6 5 3 8 13 4 3 10 6 6 5
6 BAL 6 9 7 9 4 8 9 9 8 7 4 6
7 SD 5 5 11 8 11 11 8 5 9 9 7 7
8 TEN 11 17 8 5 12 6 7 11 4 5 5 8
9 ARI 7 12 6 10 5 9 5 16 14 10 15 9
10 CAR 10 24 9 6 7 7 16 13 6 14 3 10
11 ATL 9 7 10 11 10 10 10 10 12 8 20 13
12 CHI 13 10 12 16 15 14 15 7 11 11 14 12
13 DAL 14 8 13 15 14 3 12 22 17 15 11 11
14 MIN 12 18 15 12 13 17 19 8 13 12 10 15
15 MIA 16 22 17 13 9 12 13 18 7 13 18 14
16 NO 15 14 14 18 17 15 11 19 16 17 17 23
17 GB 17 16 18 22 18 16 17 20 15 19 19 16
18 HOU 18 15 20 20 16 20 14 15 24 16 16 22
19 WAS 24 19 16 21 21 19 21 12 18 18 22 17
20 NYJ 21 13 22 19 24 21 18 23 21 20 12 19
21 BUF 23 25 24 14 22 18 22 14 19 22 13 21
22 SEA 20 11 23 24 19 26 20 17 22 21 21 27
23 CIN 25 20 19 28 23 27 24 21 29 24 23 26
24 JAC 26 23 28 23 20 22 28 27 23 23 24 24
25 DEN 22 28 25 25 25 25 25 28 20 28 26 18
26 SF 19 21 27 26 27 28 23 26 26 25 25 25
27 TB 28 26 21 17 29 23 26 30 25 27 27 20
28 CLE 27 27 29 30 26 24 31 24 28 31 31 31
29 KC 31 29 26 29 31 30 29 25 31 26 29 28
30 OAK 30 30 30 27 30 29 27 29 27 32 30 32
31 STL 29 32 31 31 28 31 30 32 32 30 28 29
32 DET 32 31 32 32 32 32 32 31 30 29 32 30

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Got a problem with where your team landed in ESPN.com's initial power rankings for the 2009 season? The above chart shows how each voter ranked every team in the league. None of us can hide.

Mike Sando

Mike Sando       
NFC West blogger

Matt Williamson Matt Williamson
Scouts, Inc.
James Walker James Walker
AFC North blogger
Bill Williamson Bill Williamson   
AFC West blogger
Jeff Chadiha Jeff Chadiha
senior writer
Pat Yasinskas Pat Yasinskas
NFC South blogger
Tim Graham Tim Graham      
AFC East blogger
John Clayton John Clayton
senior writer
Kevin Seifert Kevin Seifert  
NFC North blogger
Paul Kuharsky Paul Kuharsky   
AFC South blogger
Len Pasquarelli Len Pasquarelli
senior writer
Matt Mosley Matt Mosley   
NFC East blogger

Tiebreaker alert: We broke no ties this week.

Agree to disagree: The Panthers generated the widest gap between highest and lowest votes, a whopping 21 places. Pasquarelli ranked them third. Matt Williamson ranked them 24th. Sixteen other teams also generated double-digit disparities. We break them down, with the gap between highest and lowest votes listed parenthetically (and, yes, we name names):

(Read full post)

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