Wednesday, May 5
Power Rankings: Pats open on top
ESPN.com's Power Poll
This week's rankings were determined by a poll of ESPN.com's NFL staff -- senior
writers John Clayton, Len Pasquarelli and ESPN.com NFL editors Peter Lawrence-Riddell and James C. Black. Click here to send in a comment.
The 2004 season is still more than four months away (Colts at Patriots, Sept. 9), but with the draft in the rear-view mirror and the free-agent market mostly dried up, we figured it was time for some Power Rankings.
Unlike the last time they won the Super Bowl, the Patriots are heading into the 2004 season as the clear favorites. The same can't be said for the Panthers, who are looking up at three other NFC teams, including one team in their own division (Falcons) that only won five games last season.
The Raiders and Redskins both made big moves up the rankings after busy offseasons. Washington has fooled us before in the offseason, but this time we're betting on Joe Gibbs. As for teams heading in the opposite direction, the 49ers dropped all the way to No. 31 after an offseason that saw them lose Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens.
2004 Power Rankings: Offseason
1 Patriots 14-2-0 Corey Dillon might be a pain, but the Patriots have to figure that as long as they're winning, they can get a good season or two out of him.
2 Eagles 12-4-0 With some big offseason acquisitions -- Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse -- it's Super Bowl or bust for Donovan McNabb and the Eagles.
3 Colts 12-4-0 We're still not sure the defense is good enough to win it all, but with Peyton Manning at QB, the Colts will be in contention at the end of the season.
4 Broncos 10-6-0 We're assuming the Mike Shanahan can find a capable back to replace at least some of Clinton Portis' production.
5 Chiefs 13-3-0 Doesn't look like the defense got any better which isn't a good thing.
6 Seahawks 10-6-0 With solid additions on defense (Bobby Taylor and Grant Wistrom) and a young, explosive offense, the Seahawks enter 2004 as the favorites in the NFC West.
7 Falcons 5-11-0 Ranking is obviously high based on last season, but with a healthy Michael Vick the Falcons should be heading back to the playoffs.
8 Panthers 11-5-0 Another run for the Cats or the next franchise to go from Super Bowl to subpar?
9 Ravens 10-6-0 Terrell Owens would have really helped on a team that still figures to struggle throwing the ball.
10 Titans 12-4-0 One of these years, all the pounding and injuries are going to catch up to Steve McNair. Could this be the year?
11 Dolphins 10-6-0 The Dolphins are still calling Jay Fiedler their starter, but A.J. Feeley was brought in to win the job.
12 Packers 10-6-0 As long as Brett Favre is throwing the football, the Packers will be in contention in the NFC North.
13 Vikings 9-7-0 Vikings players probably still have a bitter taste in their mouths about how last season ended and a trip to the playoffs could be the only thing that will wash it away.
14 Rams 12-4-0 Marc Bulger might have made the Pro Bowl last season, but he has to be better than he was last season when he threw and NFL-high 22 INTs.
15 Cowboys 10-6-0 A veteran could be on the way, but for now, the QB situation has to be a bit of a concern for Cowboys fans.
16 Buccaneers 7-9-0 Some of the big names -- John Lynch and Warren Sapp -- might be gone, but expect the Bucs to be back in the playoff hunt.
17 Bengals 8-8-0 We're still scratching our head a little at the Chris Perry pick. Marvin Lewis is obviously smarter than we are, but it seems like there might have been some other players that would have been more of an immediate help.
18 Redskins 5-11-0 Will this be the season all of Washington's offseason spending finally pays off?
19 Raiders 4-12-0 Warren Sapp and Ted Washington should help turn around that 30th-ranked defense.
20 Jaguars 5-11-0 If the defense can maintain the level it showed last season, the Jags could be fighting for a playoff spot.
21 Bears 7-9-0 Lovie Smith has to be tempted by Kurt Warner, but we're not sure he's the right fit to mentor Rex Grossman, who doesn't need to be looking over his shoulder.
22 Saints 8-8-0 Deuce McAllister is as good as it gets at RB. But that hasn't been enough to get the Saints to the playoffs.
23 Bills 6-10-0 Willis McGahee's progress will be one of the most interesting storylines to watch this offseason.
24 Jets 6-10-0 Added speed on defense should help, but the Jets need Chad Pennington healthy from start to finish or all the speed in the world on defense won't help.
25 Lions 5-11-0 OK Joey Harrington, you've got some weapons now, so people are going to be expecting some results.
26 Steelers 6-10-0 Could another playoff miss end Bill Cowher's 12-year run in Pittsburgh?
27 Texans 5-11-0 They still have some holes, but have a potentially explosive offensive trio in David Carr, Andre Johnson and Domanick Davis.
28 Browns 5-11-0 Kellen Winslow is going to have an impact, but all that talk comparing him to LeBron James by his agents was just silly.
29 Giants 4-12-0 In this scenario the Giants would end up sending the Chargers the No. 4 pick in next year's draft.
30 Cardinals 4-12-0 Their wide receivers will be fun to watch, but the Cardinals still have a long way to go.
31 49ers 7-9-0 49ers could be fighting it out with the Cardinals this year in the NFC West -- and that's not for first place.
32 Chargers 4-12-0 The weather is great and all, but we're not sure we'd want our son playing for the Chargers, either.