The summer is nearly here, which means it's wind-down time in the NFL. Coaches, front-office personnel and even players will get a break in a month or so before convening for training camp in late July.
|Byron Leftwich could shake up the rankings with a good second pro season.(AP)|
It's the same for many of us who cover the NFL, which means it's about to be a peaceful time, spent on the beach reading books and hitting that little round ball around the course.
It is not a time for anger, grief or nasty e-mails that feature many who would like to put my 9-iron in a place where the sun doesn't shine.
So why is it time for another SportsLine.com Power Rankings?
My bosses love them.
They provoke reader response, and plenty of hate directed at me. Nothing written on SportsLine generates as much feedback as the NFL Power Rankings.
Because we haven't put out the rankings since February, it's probably time. The offseason is nearly complete, save for June 1 cuts and signings, and the opening of camps is two months away.
The hard part with this batch of rankings is how much to take into account the 2003 season, while also looking ahead to the 2004 season.
We know there are going to be teams that come from nowhere to get deep into the playoffs. History tells us that. And there will be teams that make major falls.
The Jacksonville Jaguars might be one of those teams set to make a big rise. They have made big improvements and they showed well in the second half of 2003. If quarterback Byron Leftwich can make significant improvement -- the guess here is he will -- the Jaguars will compete in the tough AFC South.
But the tough part is ranking them now. Are they a top 15 team? Right now, they are just inside the top 15 at No. 15. Come September, that could change and they could be higher.
In doing these rankings, we had similar troubles gauging some of the other teams on the way up, while also trying to find the teams on the way down.
In a word, these Power Rankings were tricky.
So before firing off the usual nasty e-mails, take into account two things: one is the speculative nature of some of the rankings in a look-ahead mode, while the other is the most important thing of all.
It's nearly summertime. Leave me alone until at least late July or I'll never break 90 again.
P.S.: I need my 9-iron.
The rankings for May 18: