NFL Power Rankings: 2008 Week 1
They lost the Super Bowl in February, but that's not preventing the New England Patriots from opening the 2008 regular season as the No. 1 team in the NFL.
The Patriots own that distinction according to ESPN.com's Week 1 power rankings, which vary slightly from the 2008 training camp edition published in July. We polled 12 experts, including ESPN.com staff writers and Scouts Inc. insiders. Each ranked the teams No. 1 through 32, and the Patriots secured the top spot easily. Five experts voted the Patriots No. 1 and six voted them No. 2. I voted the Pats No. 3, but I easily can see New England winning it all.
The Chargers got four first-place votes and are ranked No. 2. Even as star linebacker Shawne Merriman's knee woes clouded the picture, the Chargers still received nothing lower than a fifth-place vote (Chargers fans: That No. 5 ranking came from AFC North blogger James Walker).
As long as we're inciting the fans, let's just clarify that in our NFL season previews that ran last week, I did predict the Dallas Cowboys would finish third in the NFC East. That was not a misprint, although I heard from plenty of Dallas fans who were sure it was.
I realize the Cowboys have tons of talent, but I'm just playing a hunch (nothing more and nothing less). I voted them eighth in this poll, but my colleagues all had them a lot higher. The Cowboys are ranked No. 3 overall in these power rankings. Scouts Inc. Insider Matt Williamson and AFC East blogger Tim Graham each voted Dallas in the top spot.
The Indianapolis Colts, a unanimous choice in the top five, are No. 4 overall. The Jacksonville Jaguars round out the top five, although John Clayton, who's probably smarter than the rest of us put together, put them at No. 14.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers round out the top 10. Yes, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants ranked No. 8, despite a No. 16 vote from Clayton. The Seahawks finished at No. 9, although Matt Williamson ranked Seattle at No. 20.
On the bottom end of the rankings, the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons each got at least one last-place vote and that wasn't a big surprise. San Francisco ranks No. 29 and the Dolphins are No. 30. The Falcons, who got seven last-place votes, edged out the Chiefs to earn the No. 32 ranking.
Entering the 2008 regular season, we've called upon some of our voting members to provide team-by-team commentary. Thus, for your reading pleasure, you'll have:
• Tim Graham on the AFC East
• James Walker on the AFC North
• Paul Kuharsky on the AFC South
• Bill Williamson on the AFC West
• Matt Mosley on the NFC East
• Kevin Seifert on the NFC North
• Pat Yasinskas on the NFC South
• Mike Sando on the NFC West
The defending champion Giants, who traded tight end Jeremy Shockey and lost defensive linemen Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora to retirement and season-ending injury, respectively, dropped two places from No. 6 to No. 8.
The Arizona Cardinals, who recently named Kurt Warner the starting quarterback over Matt Leinart, dropped four places from No. 17 to No. 21.
(Editor's note: LW indicates each team's ranking last week -- or in this case, our July 2008 Training Camp edition. And the REC reflects the teams' 2007 regular-season finishes.)