NFL Power Rankings: 2008 Week 18 edition
With the arrival of the playoffs, we mark the final regular-season edition of ESPN.com's 2008 NFL Power Rankings.
The Tennessee Titans finished our balloting as the league's top team, edging the New York Giants for that distinction by seven points in the weekly polling of our experts. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, round out our top five.
The New England Patriots, who entered the season as our top-rated team, are deemed the NFL's ninth-best this week. Unfortunately for the Patriots, that ballot finish and their 11-5 record did not translate into a playoff berth. Of the playoff qualifiers, the No. 13 Arizona Cardinals are the lowest-ranked team. The Cardinals, who played poorly after locking up the NFC West title early, used a Week 17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks to vault six places in the rankings.
One indication of how unpredictable the season has been is the Atlanta Falcons' finish. Atlanta, which was 4-12 in 2007, began this season considered the league's worst team by our experts. But after a 34-21 season-opening victory over none other than the Detroit Lions, the Falcons began a surge to lofty heights. They finished the regular season ranked seventh and visit the Cardinals on Saturday in an NFC wild-card playoff game.
Perhaps the most intriguing playoff matchup will feature two of the league's hottest teams, each coming off mercurial rides in our rankings. The Colts, who closed the regular season on a nine-game winning streak, ranked as low as No. 18 entering Week 9 of our rankings. On Saturday, they'll visit the No. 12 San Diego Chargers. As recently as Week 14, the Bolts were ranked a mediocre No. 23. A four-game flourish boosted them to the AFC West title and playoff berth.
Given the turnarounds of teams such as the Falcons and Miami Dolphins, the 0-16 Lions should take heart for 2009. The Lions, 7-9 in 2007, entered this season ranked 26th. You know where they finished.
(Editor's note: LW indicates each team's ranking last week.)