NFL Power Rankings: May 2009 edition
It's May. Pollen and prognostication are in the air.
Yes, we're still months away from a game that matters, but our offseason ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings are nothing to sneeze at -- there's been plenty of tumult since the 2008 Week 18 final edition.
Not surprisingly, the poll of our 12 experts reveals the Pittsburgh Steelers as the top team in the league. The defending Super Bowl champions vault two places from their final 2008 regular-season ranking.
The New England Patriots, energized by quarterback Tom Brady's apparently successful return from injury, are deemed the second-best unit. The Patriots vault seven places from their final 2008 ranking. The New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts round out our top five.
Where are the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals, who came within a whisker of beating the Steelers in the Super Bowl? Arizona is considered the ninth-best team in the NFL.
Other interesting shakeups in the voting: The Miami Dolphins, facing a tougher schedule in 2009 than they did in 2008, rate No. 15 overall. That's a seven-slot slide. Still, that's nothing compared to the tumble the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have taken. Without head coach Jon Gruden -- now an analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" -- the Buccaneers rate No. 27 out of 32 teams. Tampa Bay finished last season ranked No. 16.
Look for our next edition of the offseason rankings when training camps open in July.
(Editor's note: LW indicates each team's ranking last week -- in this case, in the 2008 Week 18 Power Rankings.)