Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
ESPN.com released its Week 1 power rankings Tuesday.
In somewhat of a surprise, none of the division ratings changed from the start of training camp.
This year, ESPN.com streamlined the process to four voters. That panel includes ESPN.com senior writers John Clayton and Jeff Chadiha, and NFC West blogger Mike Sando and AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky.
Here is how things shook down in the AFC North:
Power ranking: No. 1
Pre-training camp ranking: No. 1
Walker’s take: ESPN.com’s panel is giving the champs their due by keeping them at the top of the power rankings. The Steelers haven’t shown anything in the preseason to dispute the fact that they will once again be a title contender. I’m a little surprise that the voting was unanimous, considering the hype the New England Patriots, the No. 2-rated team, received most of this offseason. But the panel made the same call I would've made for the Steelers.
Power ranking: No. 10
Pre-training camp ranking: No. 10
Walker’s take: According to the rankings, the Ravens are on the cusp of being an elite team but still have to prove it. Baltimore was a polarizing group in this voting, because Clayton had the Ravens rated at No. 8, while Sando and Chadiha has them as low as No. 12. Not much stock is being put into the fact that Baltimore advanced to last season's AFC Championship Game. Five AFC teams are rated ahead of the Ravens.
Power ranking: No. 24
Pre-training camp ranking: No. 24
Walker’s take: Of the four division teams that didn’t move in the rankings, I’m most surprised the Bengals stayed put. Many in the national media, including this AFC North blogger, feel the Bengals have the potential to surprise this season. But this panel isn’t buying it. Perhaps quarterback Carson Palmer’s ankle injury this summer scared the voters enough to keep the Bengals rated near the bottom of the league. But with his healthy return to action Sunday, Cincinnati has a chance to move up during the course of the season.
Power ranking: No. 28
Pre-training camp ranking: No. 28
Walker’s take: This was no surprise that the Browns stayed rated near the bottom of the league. As of Tuesday, Cleveland remains the only NFL team not to name its starting quarterback, and that uncertainty makes you question if this team is unified and headed in the right direction. Talent and depth appears to be lacking in Cleveland from what I’ve seen this preseason. But the Browns can prove a lot of people wrong with a home win this week over the Minnesota Vikings, who are No. 9 in our power rankings.