Forget sitting atop the power rankings, the Patriots aren’t even the top team in the AFC East.
According to ESPN.com’s preseason power rankings, the Pats are listed at No. 9, one spot below the New York Jets.
The defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints top the season’s first list, with the Colts, Vikings, Chargers and Cowboys rounding out the top five, respectively.
ESPN’s John Clayton points to the Patriots’ lack of a pass rusher as the reason for the mediocre mark. Tully Banta-Cain, whom the Patriots re-signed to a three-year extension in March, led the team with 9.5 sacks last season.
The Green Bay Packers (No. 6) and Baltimore Ravens (No. 7) are also listed ahead of the Patriots, who are coming off a 10-6 regular season and a first-round playoff exit.
Just as they finished in last season’s power rankings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 30), Detroit Lions (No. 31), and St. Louis Rams (No. 32) round out the bottom three.