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NFL Power Rankings: May 2008 edition

Week: Pre
ESPN.com

The air is heavy with pollen. The American presidential campaign drags on, nearly six months away from the finish. Gas is $4 a gallon and it's not yet summer.

ESPN.com's Power Rankings
The rankings were determined by a poll of ESPN.com's NFL staff: writers John Clayton, Matt Mosley, Pat Yasinskas, Bill Williamson, James Walker and Mike Sando; and Scouts Inc. Insiders Jeremy Green and Keith Kidd.
•  Watch: Sando: Pats better?
•  Watch: Schlereth: Bolts low?
We know what you're thinking: What better time to debate the NFL hierarchy? Welcome to the May 2008 edition of our Power Rankings.

Has it been three months since the New York Giants, who finished ninth in the 2007 final edition of the Power Rankings, completed an unlikely run to the Super Bowl title by upsetting the New England Patriots? Wasn't it just yesterday when the Patriots, our 2007 Power Rankings titlists, were putting the wraps on an unprecedented 16-0 regular season by beating those same Giants?

Even as rookies and free agents acquaint themselves with their new teammates at minicamps around the league, we speculate. Are the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints really headed for rebound seasons after lackluster 2007 campaigns? Are the Green Bay Packers -- who, you might have heard, will have a new starting quarterback in 2008 -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans destined to take steps back?

And what do you make of the Washington Redskins, a surprise playoff team last season but one of several teams adjusting to a new head coach in 2008?

To take a look at teams during the offseason, we've called upon some of our voting members to provide the team-by-team commentary. Thus, for your reading pleasure, you'll have:

• Mike Sando on the AFC East and NFC West
• James Walker on the AFC North and NFC North
• Pat Yasinskas on the AFC South and NFC South
• Bill Williamson on the AFC West
• Matt Mosley on the NFC East

Our voters, who also include staff writer John Clayton and Scouts Inc. Insiders Jeremy Green and Keith Kidd, had diverse takes on what offseason moves mean to various teams. The Titans ranked as high as 10th in one voter's opinion, but rated only 22nd in another's. The defending champion Giants are the best team in the league, according to one selector; another ranks nine teams ahead of Big Blue.

BIGGEST RISE: N.Y. Jets from 30th (final finish in 2007) to 21st. BIGGEST DROP: Green Bay Packers from fifth to 10th; Tennessee Titans from 11th to 16th; Detroit Lions from 24th to 29th.

Click here to submit your ranking, SportsNation.

(Editor's note: LW indicates each team's ranking last week -- or in this case, at the end of the 2007 regular season.)

2008 Power Rankings: Offseason
  RK (LW) TEAM REC COMMENT
1 (1) Patriots 16-0-0 A healthy Tom Brady and a happy Randy Moss make the Patriots championship contenders this season and for years to come. (MS)
2 (2) Colts 13-3-0 They haven't had a lot of offseason turnover and they already were very good. Continuity means a lot. (PY)
3 (6) Chargers 11-5-0 If the Chargers can get over their injury issues, they could be in the Super Bowl mix all the way to Tampa. (BW)
4 (3) Cowboys 13-3-0 Felix Jones should help the running game immediately. But who will emerge as the No. 2 receiver? Patrick Crayton wasn't up to the task in late '07. (MM)
5 (4) Jaguars 11-5-0 They sometimes get overshadowed by division rival Indianapolis, but the Jaguars have an elite roster and an elite coach in Jack Del Rio. (PY)
6 (9) Giants 10-6-0 Teams other than the Patriots aren't supposed to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Will Michael Strahan retire? Can they compensate for free-agent losses at LB? (MM)
7 (8) Steelers 10-6-0 A very strong draft catapults the Steelers into Super Bowl contenders. RBs Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall should be one of the best 1-2 punches. (JW)
8 (7) Seahawks 10-6-0 New O-line coach Mike Solari stands out as the Seahawks' top offseason acquisition, perhaps allowing them to keep their edge in the NFC West. (MS)
9 (13) Browns 10-6-0 The 2007 darlings face high expectations. The offense will score. Can the D, anchored by additions Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, hold up its end? (JW)
10 (5) Packers 13-3-0 This is an unpredictable team in the wake of the retirement of Brett Favre. Who will step up and make the big plays this year? (JW)
11 (18) Saints 7-9-0 The offense already was very good. Defensive improvements will make the Saints one of this year's biggest turnarounds. (PY)
12 (15) Vikings 8-8-0 If they settle on a QB, the Vikes could become a playoff team. RB Adrian Peterson is at the top of the list for MVP candidates. (JW)
13 (14) Eagles 8-8-0 Last season, they hit their stride when it was too late. With a fully healed Donovan McNabb and an improved secondary, the Eagles could be dangerous. (MM)
14 (10) Redskins 9-7-0 Too many questions: a new coach, young QB and a pair of rookie WRs. Hard to get a good read. (MM)
15 (12) Buccaneers 9-7-0 They didn't make any splash offseason moves. But RB Warrick Dunn's return is going to help more than many recognize. (PY)
16 (11) Titans 10-6-0 They didn't get as much help from QB Vince Young as they should have. But he's going to become good enough to carry the offense. (PY)
17 (17) Cardinals 8-8-0 Ken Whisenhunt and staff changed the culture in Arizona. Kurt Warner provides top-notch insurance at QB. Depth along the O-line and on defense in general remain the question. (MS)
18 (23) Panthers 7-9-0 The return of QB Jake Delhomme might be enough to get them to the playoffs. But there are no guarantees with Tommy John surgery. (PY)
19 (19) Bills 7-9-0 Marcus Stroud turns 30 this summer and his starts have declined over three seasons. Will he be healthy enough to help the Bills in December? (MS)
20 (16) Texans 8-8-0 They reached respectability in 2007. Improving will be difficult because their division is so tough. (PY)
21 (30) Jets 4-12-0 An offseason spending spree upgraded the roster without answering the Jets' most pressing question: Do they have the right QB? (MS)
22 (25) Ravens 5-11-0 Are the 2008 Ravens more like the 13-3 team in 2006, or the 5-11 unit last season? This is certain: QB play is key. (JW)
23 (21) Broncos 7-9-0 This is the second-best team in the AFC West. That is an indictment of the division, not a pat on the back for this team, which has many holes. (BW)
24 (20) Bears 7-9-0 Seems like ages ago the Bears were NFC champs. For better or worse, fans will have to endure another season of good Rex Grossman and bad Rex Grossman. (JW)
25 (22) Bengals 7-9-0 If WR Chad Johnson sits out, the Bengals will suffer. If Johnson shows, he's a distraction. Neither situation is good. (JW)
26 (27) Raiders 4-12-0 The Raiders' offense won't make people sick anymore, but their defense might. (BW)
27 (26) 49ers 5-11-0 New offensive coordinator Mike Martz provides credibility on offense, but head coach Mike Nolan still must prove he can manage the team more smoothly. (MS)
28 (29) Rams 3-13-0 Quietly, Jim Haslett has turned the defense into a respectable unit. The Rams could contend for a playoff spot if their offensive line can keep Marc Bulger healthy. (MS)
29 (24) Lions 7-9-0 QB Jon Kitna says it will be a disappointment if the Lions don't win 10 games this season. Perhaps he doesn't realize Detroit hasn't won 10 games since 1995. (JW)
30 (28) Chiefs 4-12-0 The Chiefs' rebuilding project has begun, but it's unrealistic to believe they will become contenders anytime soon. (BW)
31 (32) Dolphins 1-15-0 A rookie head coach and an unsettled QB situation add up to growing pains, even though the Dolphins have upgraded their talent base. (MS)
32 (31) Falcons 4-12-0 New coach Mike Smith is the right guy to turn this team around, but it's going to take a few years. (PY)