Surprise As Seahawks Top Preseason Power Poll

Brady-LombardiMore than a few surprises in the NFL Preseason Power Poll over on NFL.com. Not sure about that top five title contenders.

Title Contenders

1. Seattle Seahawks
2. New England Patriots
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Carolina Panthers
5. Green Bay Packers

The Seahawks and Patriots have inarguably been the best two teams of the decade and our group didn’t see that changing this year. The Patriots have earned a playoff bye for a record six straight years. Seattle has somehow ranked in Football Outsiders’ team DVOA rankings four straight regular seasons.

It was surprising to see so much agreement about Seattle as the No. 1 overall team. Five writers agreed about the Seahawks, with Colleen Wolfe having the Panthers first and Dan Hanzus picking the Packers. Six of the seven writers had the same five teams atop their lists, just in different orders. (Hanzus put the Steelers fourth.)

The NFL prides itself on parity but we have grown used to the same teams near the top of the league year after year. The Panthers and Cardinals are trying to make that leap into annual powers. The Packers have made the playoffs seven straight times. The Broncos, who have won 12 games four straight years, are in the tier below.

Knocking on the door

6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Cincinnati Bengals
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. Denver Broncos

You’ll notice that these rankings look awfully similar to last year’s playoff teams. AFC North and AFC West are the deepest divisions in football according to this poll. Three AFC West teams are in our top 10, and the third AFC North team is Baltimore at No. 13.

Playoffs or Bust

10. Oakland Raiders
11. Houston Texans
12. Dallas Cowboys
13. Baltimore Ravens
14. New York Jets
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
16. Minnesota Vikings
17. San Diego Chargers

If the actual season worked out this way, the Raiders would be out of luck as a top-10 team that missed the playoffs. This tier of squads had more variance in predictions compared to the teams above. The Texans were ranked anywhere from the No. 9 team in the land to No. 24. The Cowboys were ranked between No. 9 and No. 25. The Jets were ranked as high as No. 8 and as low as No. 22.

Despite the different opinions, it’s fair for fans of any of these teams to be disappointed by anything less than a playoff berth. The Texans have invested a great deal in rebuilding their entire offense. The Jaguars might change coaching staffs if they don’t finally get over the hump, and they have the talent to pull it off. I was surprised to see the Cowboys still get so much love despite the injury to Tony Romo. It’s a rough-looking defense.

No team took a bigger hit during the preseason than Minnesota. The Vikings would have surely been in the second tier if not for Teddy Bridgewater’s injury. The Ravens, perhaps more than any team in football, seem to have a huge range of outcomes. If the team’s injury problems go away, they could be back in the AFC North crown mix.

If everything breaks right …

18. Tennessee Titans
19. Washington Redskins
20. New Orleans Saints
21. Indianapolis Colts (tie)
21. Atlanta Falcons (tie)
23. Buffalo Bills
24. New York Giants
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
26. Philadelphia Eagles
27. Miami Dolphins
28. Detroit Lions
29. Los Angeles Rams
30. Chicago Bears

While we mentioned the lack of parity at the very top of the league, evidence that hope springs eternal every Week 1 can be located in this tier. While none of the teams here should expect to make the playoffs, it wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see any one of them in the mix in the final weeks of the regular season. My favorite “sleeper” teams here include the Saints, Bucs and Eagles. The NFC South generally is getting deeply disrespected. It has the best collection of quarterbacks in the league and reasons to believe the defenses of the Falcons, Saints and Bucs will improve.

End Game

31. Cleveland Browns
32. San Francisco 49ers

Perhaps the two thinnest rosters in the league also have new head coaches. They were listed separately here because they were the final two teams on six of our seven polls. (Conor Orr, ever the original thinker, had Bears-Rams as his final two teams.) The 49ers shouldn’t feel too bad, though. The Redskins were listed No. 32 before last season before they won the NFC East.

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