NEW YORK (AP) — Basically, the teams that met in February's Super Bowl remain the NFL's best.
In rankings compiled by The Associated Press NFL team writers, the Patriots and Rams came out on top. Using a scale of 1 through 5, with the higher number meaning a better rating, New England and Los Angeles earned 18 total points. They were evaluated in four fundamental categories: offense, defense, specials teams and coaching.
Both teams received a pair of 5s in the same categories, for offense and coaching. They also got 4s for defense and special teams.
New Orleans, which but for a blown officiating call in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game against the Rams might have met New England in the Super Bowl, and the other LA club, the Chargers, were next with 17 points. They also received 5s for coaching, while the Saints' offense got a top mark, too.
At 16 points were Kansas City, Baltimore and Chicago — all division winners in 2018.
Other teams getting 5 points were the Bears for defense and coaching; the Vikings for defense; the Eagles for offense; the Giants for special teams; the Broncos for defense; the Titans for defense; the Ravens for specials teams; and the Browns for offense.
At the other end of the ranking were the Dolphins, dead last with 7 points; Cincinnati with 8; and Oakland with 9. Miami was the only club drawing two bottom marks, ominously on offense and defense. The Bengals got a 1 for their defense, as did the Raiders.
Pittsburgh, Denver and Minnesota got the lowest number for their special teams, Tampa Bay for its defense.
Judging by the AP rankings heading into the NFL's 100th season, division winners should be New England for the 11th straight year in the AFC East; Baltimore repeating in the AFC North; Tennessee in the AFC South; and the Chargers in the AFC West. The Chiefs and the Colts or Browns would get wild cards — no, hope is not gone for Indy without the retired Andrew Luck.
Philadelphia would win the NFC East, with Chicago in the North, New Orleans in the South and the Rams in the West also on top. Green Bay would get one wild card, while the other would go to either the Giants, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Vikings or Cowboys, all with 13 points. Dallas' number was based on Ezekiel Elliott playing.
Two teams projected by many to rise in the standings this year didn't get that much support from the team writer. Cleveland's 14 points placed it tied for sixth in the AFC. San Francisco's 10 points had it ahead of only Arizona in the NFC.