One of the numerous advantages the NFL holds over college football is that an annual champion is decided on the field, not by the judgments and observations of biased and in many cases lazy, under-informed pollsters. But despite meaning not a thing at all, we all still enjoy taking a look at various outlets Power Rankings each week throughout the season. And now that we're officially in Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season, that means it's time for the first set of rankings to be published.
1. Green Bay Packers: The Packers get this spot after winning the Super Bowl last year. They're clearly talented and I'll keep them here until they prove they're not worthy of the top spot.
2. New Orleans Saints: It seems like a few people are forgetting about the Saints. The Patriots and Eagles got a lot of the headlines but this is still one of the best teams in the league lead by one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
3. New England Patriots: They were a 14-win team last year and added some big-name pieces. Big names can sometimes be a lot of fluff but the Pats have a way of getting the most out of these guys.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: As long as that defense is there, they're competing for a Super Bowl. Ben Roethlisberger should hope Hines Ward is still playing at a high level. Oh, and Rashard Mendenhall? He's pretty darn good.
5. Philadelphia Eagles: They added a ton of pieces this offseason. If QB Michael Vick starts every game, this team could be in the Super Bowl. The problem? I can't see him starting all 16 games. His health is the key to the season.
Not a bad top
five four. Not sure that the Steelers' story lines are exactly how good Hines Ward will be or if Rashard Mendenhall proves himself to be one of the league's elite backs (he really just needs to prove once more that he's 'very good'). But a solid top four to go with at the outset of the season.
Definitely don't think Philadelphia belongs at No. 5 after what they've show in the preseason. I think that roster has some serious issues personally, and I'm kinda expecting them to be 0-2 when they host the New York Giants in Week 3.
Take a look at the rest of the list and weigh in with any other observations you may have, like say, the Tennessee Titans being ranked ahead of the Houston Texans, an interesting but defensible position. Makes you wonder what 'Power Rankings' means though because the Texans are both better than the Titans on paper, and are coming off a better season in 2010.
Let's move on to see what ESPN's panel of judges voted for in Week 1.
- Green Bay Packers. Last Week (LW): 1 Record: 10-6 ; Are we seeing an NFC Championship Game preview when the Packers host the Saints Thursday? (Walker)
- New England Patriots. LW: 2 Record: 14-2 ; I'm a little concerned how they match up against man-to-man coverage, but they are the AFC's top dogs. (Clayton)
- Pittsburgh Steelers. LW: 5 Record: 12-4 ; QB Ben Roethlisberger could have his best statistical year in 2011. (Walker)
- Philadelphia Eagles. LW: 3 Record: 10-6 ; The Eagles will have new starters at four of the five offensive line positions, including at right tackle. They must keep Michael Vick upright for the season to be a success. (Fox)
- New Orleans Saints. LW: (4) Record: 11-5 ; Turnover at running back gives the Saints' offense a new feel this season. (Sando)
Again, I think the Eagles are too high. My biggest issue with 'Power Rankings' is that they almost always don't factor in things like upcoming schedule or the need to acclimate new teammates to the system. Can the Eagles work their way up to the top of these types of lists as the 2011 season progresses? Absolutely. But are they worthy of being considered a top-five team just yet while they wait to see how they'll mask their deficiencies in the front-seven defensively and find ways to most effectively deploy their new, shiny tools in the defensive backfield? I don't think so.
One interesting disparity between SB Nation's and ESPN's is the placement of Houston and Tennessee. Joel Thorman had the Texans slightly behind the Titans in the high teens. ESPN had Houston at 11 and Tennessee at 23. I think the Titans will prove to be better than a bottom third team, but I think they have it right in putting Houston quite a bit higher than Tennessee to start the year.