So you win the Super Bowl and still get no respect.
When New York Giants players look at the first-ever AP Pro32 rankings released by The Associated Press this week, they will have more ammunition for their inferiority complex. For those wondering why the NFL champions would feel that way, simply check out the poll, which has the Giants third behind Green Bay and New England.
We know, the Giants knocked off both teams on their way to the title. But if there ever was a strong indication that this is a new season, with all new considerations, the rankings are it.
"Until you lose, you've got to be called the best, right?" Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "I mean, it's a new year, it's a new season, but we have the crown and we've got that target on our back and we know it. That's why we're going to look at it that way. Not to put ourselves above anybody, but just to remember that when we play a team, we're going to get their best game, we're going to get their best shot."
The Giants are not on top in great part because several of the 12 voters look at New York's 9-7 regular-season record in 2011 and don't see a powerhouse. Plus, the Giants' preseason has not gotten off to a great start, with injuries (CB Terrell Thomas) and suspensions (S Tyler Sash) raising further questions.
Two voters had them as low as sixth.
"It's easy to forget G-Men almost didn't make playoffs last season until late push," said AP Pro32 voter Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com. "Let's see if being defending NFL champions provides early-season motivation."
Voter Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News also saw early-season challenges for the Giants.
"September, October, November and December don't seem to matter to Giants. January and February do," Gosselin said.
Still, the Giants did get five first-place votes, as many as Green Bay managed. Voter Clifton Brown of Sporting News summed up why very succinctly:
"Great clutch quarterback, superb pass rush, and motivated to prove they are better than last year's 9-7 regular season."
They'd better be or making the playoffs becomes problematic.
That doesn't figure to be the case for the Packers with their nearly unstoppable offense anchored by several players in their primes: Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley. Not to mention a defense that should be much stingier and features Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and B.J. Raji.
Even in such a tough division, where both the Bears and Lions — tied for No. 11 in the AP Pro32 — will challenge for the playoffs, Green Bay is the class.
"Pack went 15-1 last year and averaged 40 points a game at home," said voter Pat Kirwan of SiriusXM NFL Radio and CBSSports.com. "They got better on defense in the offseason."
So did New England, which received only two first-place selections but wound up just five points behind the Packers in the power rankings that will be updated weekly beginning on Sept. 4. And the Patriots hardly have the difficult chore the Packers or Giants will face to win their divisions.
It wouldn't be a shock for New England to run away with the AFC East — that Thanksgiving night game at the Jets could turn into a Patriots party to clinch the division.
Like the Patriots, New England's offense has the ability to dominate.
"If Patriots improve on D they'll be back in Super Bowl," said 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon of CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Not headed for the Super Bowl, but in contention for the top overall draft choice next April, will be six teams who sit at the bottom of the AP Pro32 rankings. The panel chose Indianapolis as the league's worst, but the voters easily could have gone with Jacksonville, Cleveland, Minnesota, St. Louis, or Miami.
It's possible those six teams won't win as many as Green Bay or New England gets all season. The Jaguars have little offense — none if Maurice Jones-Drew has a long holdout. Cleveland is banking on lots of youngsters, including at least four rookies. Minnesota's best offensive player, Adrian Peterson, comes off a major left knee injury, and its defense gave up the second-most points in the league last year — the most of any team that didn't hang it up early, as Tampa Bay did.
St. Louis is in a major rebuilding mode, although coach Jeff Fisher might be worth an extra win. Miami might be more in flux than any NFL team.
And that's what makes power rankings so much fun.
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL