- Chris Sprow
The average playoff seed for a Super Bowl champ in the past 10 years is No. 3 -- not bad enough to merely limp in, not good enough to earn a week off and host a divisional-round game. As many 6-seeded teams have won the Super Bowl as 1-seeds in that time. Green Bay was a slight favorite in the Super Bowl as one of those 6-seeds, and nobody flinched. But by February, with two playoff road wins down, we'd forgotten this was the same team that went 3-5 on the road during the regular season and had ceded the NFC North to the Bears. It's a good reminder as we look at the first NFL Power Rankings, because although Green Bay won the postseason, the Packers also were, say, a Detroit road victory at Tampa Bay in Week 15 from not making the playoffs. Tampa (preseason No. 12 in the Power Rankings) and Green Bay (No. 1) had the same record last season. Both made few moves and added some rookie talent this offseason, so neither is a vastly different squad in 2011.
Although the Super Bowl result tends to reset the memory in "Men in Black" fashion, the computer never forgets, and neither does Vegas. We took the initial season win-total projection from our friends at AccuScore and averaged it with the initial Hilton Vegas win-total lines, and we present a list of which teams are being over- and underrated to start the 2011 season.
Power Rankings slot: No. 9
Win projection average: 10.6
Neither the sharps nor computers have forgotten that Baltimore won 12 games last year with a young quarterback and finished the regular season on a four-game win streak before losing in the divisional round. Both also seem certain that Baltimore's 21st-ranked pass defense of 2010 is due for a bounce-back in 2011.
More fitting rank: No. 4
Power Rankings slot: No. 10
Win projection: 10.5
It's really hard to fathom that a team could have the most offensive yards, allow the fewest, outscore opponents by 119 points and still miss the playoffs, but the Chargers did in 2010. Like pitcher wins in baseball, those stats aren't the greatest indicators, but they aren't completely opaque, either. Subsequently, both the computers and oddsmakers believe in the team that was a statistical powerhouse and 7-2 from Oct. 31 on last year. Perhaps the Chargers will fumble the opening kickoff this year, allow their first punt to be returned for a touchdown, get it out of their system and get on with being good. They are.
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