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Pay No Attention To Power Rankings

ESPN released its latest batch of power rankings earlier this week, and the Cardinals came in 29th out of 32 teams.

While that ranking may illustrate the general national perception of the team, take it with a grain of salt.

It was almost exactly one year ago when ESPN ran this same exercise following the first wave of 2017 free agency, and the results did not end up correlating with those projections.

The Eagles were ranked No. 21 out of 32 teams and then won a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback. The Saints, Jaguars and Rams were all ranked among the worst nine teams in football but put together great years. Four of the top 10 teams – the Packers, Raiders, Giants and Broncos – finished with losing records.

There was so little connection between projection and performance that the bottom 16 teams in ESPN’s power rankings won only four fewer regular season games than the top half.  The bottom group also finished with more playoff teams (7) than the top group (5) – including three of the four conference championship game participants.

This is a perilous time to handicap teams. The headline-grabbing portion of free agency is over, but many critical signings will come in the ensuing months. Additionally, as the Saints proved in 2017, an expert draft can drastically change a team’s fortunes. Health, as always, will play a major factor.

Power rankings can be a fun way to spark conversation, but as last year showed, we are a long way from knowing which teams will be true contenders in 2018.

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