Granted, power rankings are intrinsically silly, knee-jerk, ultimately futile endeavors. Call it human nature to try to make sense of something as variance-heavy and chaotic as the NFL regular season, where it's not uncommon for teams to go from worst to first in their divisions or for preseason afterthoughts like the 2008 Arizona Cardinals to contend for Super Bowl titles.
But power rankings are fun, intrinsically silly, knee-jerk, ultimately futile endeavors.
Disclaimers aside, the folks at NFL.com are quite high on the Pittsburgh Steelers after the team's short-handed victory over the Atlanta Falcons, an exciting, upstart team numerous sportswriters have picked to upset the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints for the NFC South crown.
I suppose the rationale for Pittsburgh's meteoric rise from apocalyptic preseason prognoses is that if the team can (barely) defeat a presumed playoff contender like Atlanta without its star quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) or his primary backup (Byron Leftwich), without both of their starting offensive tackles (Willie Colon, Max Starks), and without the nose tackle in their 3-4 defense (Casey Hampton), they are going to be quite good when the squad gets healthier, and, y'know, not suspended-for-allegations-of-rape.
NFL.com's eight writers ranked the Steelers as low as No. 18 and as high as No. 6 for a consensus of No. 8. Not bad for a team that was essentially written off after a tumultuous offseason characterized by not only Roethlisberger's suspension (since reduced from six games to four) but by headline-ready additions to their AFC North rivals (Anquan Boldin to the Ravens and Terrell Owens to the Bengals).
Now, only one of NFL.com's writers has Cincinnati (consensus No. 16) ranked above the Steelers. All of them, however, still rank Baltimore (consensus No. 3) higher.
All talk of power rankings aside, even the most devout Ravens and Bengals fans must concede that when Roethlisberger returns after the Week 5 bye, the Steelers are going to be a pretty scary team, especially if Hampton and Starks can get out of the trainers' room swiftly.
In the meantime, the Steelers' hopes rest on the inexperienced Dennis Dixon at quarterback and depth players like Jonathan Scott (left tackle), Chris Hoke (nose tackle), and Ziggy Hood (defensive end). The next challenge is the Tennessee Titans, who had a pretty good Week 1 themselves. (They also have this guy.)
If Dixon and company can eke out two more wins before the bye, the experts' catapulting the Steelers toward the top of their power rankings may prove prophetic.
Anything can happen. Remember, the NFL is a universe governed by chaos: