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MMQB Mail: Early rankings fallout

Well, it had been a quiet little week, except for Favrapalooza. Then I had to go and give my post-draft ranking of the teams, 1-32.

The beefs -- from more than 2,000 e-mails and 17 calls I got, and from the Twitter chatter I've monitored since Monday -- seem to center on four big things:

• I ranked the Steelers too low, at two.

• I ranked the Bears too high, at four.

• I ranked the Saints too low, at 24.

• I ranked the Lions too high, at 31.

Let's start with the Steelers being behind the Patriots. Abdul Abdulbarr of Washington writes: "Can you please explain in detail why you feel New England should be No. 1-overall and not Pittsburgh, the Super Bowl champs who beat the crap out of the Patriots in the regular season, and who return basically the same team from last year and Tom Brady is a big question mark for New England. So please, on God's green earth, tell me how can you put New England No. 1''

What would you say, Abdul, if I told you recent history tells us there's a 12-percent chance the Steelers will repeat? Let's look at the Super Bowl winners this decade, and what happened the following year:

2000: Baltimore beat the Giants 34-7, then went 10-6 and lost a divisional playoff game the next year.2001: New England beat St. Louis 20-17, then went 9-7, out of the playoffs the next year.2002: Tampa Bay beat Oakland 48-21, then went 7-9, out of the playoffs the next year.2003: New England beat Carolina 32-29, then went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl the next year.2004: New England beat Philadelphia 24-21, then went 10-6 and lost a divisional playoff game the next year.2005: Pittsburgh beat Seattle 21-10, then went 8-8, out of the playoffs the next year.2006: Indianapolis beat Chicago 29-17, then went 13-3 and lost a divisional playoff game to San Diego the next year.2007: The Giants beat New England 17-14, then went 12-4 and lost a divisional playoff game to Philadelphia the next year.

One for 8. One Super Bowl winner. One conference champion.

That's my point: History says Pittsburgh's got a steep hill to climb here, and the Steelers may well do it. But the more I watch this game, the more I realize there's a reason teams don't repeat. I love the Steelers, I love everything about the Rooney/Tomlin regime, and I love the leaders on their team. But I respect history, too. And this New England team comes back with a quarterback who I think will be healthy, and a quarterback and a team that will come back hungry to prove they're still a champion. Just my opinion.

Now onto your e-mails, which will have much of the protests of the rankings in there:

TWITTER QUESTION OF THE WEEK: From Ryan Daniels of Alexandria, Va., via Twitter: "Was ranking Chicago fourth related to alcoholism?''

Afraid not. Every year I like to pick one team to make an illogical jump because one or two teams always do. The Bears are my team this year. I think their defense is good enough and Jay Cutler will be a major difference-maker on offense.

DON'T GET RIVETED ON STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE. From Cliff Prince of Midlothian, Va.: "Everyone always points to the strength of schedule when predicting how a team will do, but with the parity in the NFL and the changing year-to-year of the strength of these teams, it seems a poor indicator of things to come. That rough schedule the Steelers had last year ended up 133-120. Given the state of the NFL, I think its better to assume that the schedule will be slightly to the inverse of the previous year's strength. Your thoughts?"

Cliff, it's an interesting concept you raise. But let me ask you this: Right now, at this point in May, would you rather have a schedule that LOOKED the way Pittsburgh's looked last year (with New England, the Giants and Indianapolis), or would you rather have the schedule Pittsburgh has for 2009 (with Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland)? You never know how the situation is going to play out with the schedule, but looking at it now, you know the Pittsburgh slate this year looks a lot easier than a year ago.

CUTLER IS NOT TO BLAME. From Matt of Columbia, S.C.: "Is Jay Cutler really wrong? I must be the one person who agrees with Cutler. He is a commodity in a profession that expects its players to give 100 percent in the workplace. Why is Cutler so wrong in that he expected Josh McDaniels to commit to him 100 percent and say he would not trade him. I don't blame Cutler at all. At the point he ignored Pat Bowlen, it was too late and Bowlen was merely a pawn in the game. Yes Bowlen signs the checks, but Cutler puts butts in the seats. Nobody comes to watch Bowlen in the owner's box or McDaniels coach. Respect is a two-way street. A contract doesn't mean I'll bow down to you or I'll lose my right to voice my opinion. I actually respect Cutler more because of this.''

I respect your opinion, Matt, but I think if your owner places a phone call to you, you should respond. I also think players are not the people who run the team; owners, coaches and GMs are. And there's no reason, just because Josh McDaniels didn't tell Cutler categorically that he would never be traded, that Cutler should stage a wildcat strike from the team with three years left on an existing contract.

CUTLER IS NOT THAT GOOD. From Brian of Martinsville, N.J.: "Peter, you stated that "Cutler's a big-time player." Where exactly do you see this? Is it in the late-season collapse last year? Is it in his .500 record as a starter? Is it in the fact that he hasn't led a very talented Denver team to the playoffs, including the year he was spotted a 7-4 start by Jake Plummer? For comparison's sake, Jason Campbell, with a much less talented offense, has a better starting record and actually made the playoffs in a tougher division. Cutler is average.''

We'll see. For an average quarterback, there sure were a lot of teams falling all over themselves trying to get Cutler. You make some valid points, because he hasn't played well late in seasons early in his career. But let's not kill Cutler because the Denver defense gave up 30, 30 and 52 points, respectively, in the last three games last year.

THE SAINTS WILL COME MARCHING IN. From Chase of Luling, La.: "How can you say the Saints defense isn't good enough to win eight games this year? We won seven last year [with a missed field goal preventing eight], and now have added Greg Williams, Darren Sharper, Malcolm Jenkins and Jabari Greer. We also get Tracy Porter, Dan Morgan and Charles Grant back healthy. Are you seriously saying their defense will not be 1 [arguably 0] game better than last year? That's insane.''

A lot of it's the pass-rush (I don't see one), and some of it is the schedule (at Philly, at Buffalo, Jets, Giants, at Miami, Atlanta in Weeks 2-7) early. We'll see. As I told one Saintaholic this morning: "They, and every other team, will have ample chance to prove me wrong.

HERE COME THE BUFFETT E-MAILS. From Desmond of Pittsburgh: "Wow, slamming Jimmy Buffett. Not a good move King. Get ready to hear it from the Parrotheads.''

Not really a slam of Buffett. Just a point that it's pretty desperate when you tie your marketing fate to him. Just thought it was odd, and I will be surprised if it sells many tickets.

THE BUFFETT DEAL HIT PHIL WRONG TOO. From Phil of Bear Creek, Vt.: "I fully agree with you that the Buffett deal is weird. I think its weird as hell, and makes me wonder about the business acumen of some of these 'professional' football men. But, with that said, I don't think you fully understand Buffett's popularity. Saying he hasn't had a hit since 1977 is like saying the Grateful Dead weren't popular because they rarely made the Billboard top 10. Buffett has a HUGE following. Again, agree with your point 100 percent....but don't diss Buffett.''

Point taken. Thanks.

AND NOW FOR THE GREAT NESTOR APARICIO'S TAKE. From Nestor Aparicio of WNST radio in Baltimore, who basically rewrote Buffet's Wikipedia page and concluded: "Honestly, I think it's a great relationship and smart branding on both sides. But again, nothing can make the Dolphins institutionally 'sold out' in a fickle South Florida market that has always eschewed 'Northeast-style' passion for the NFL. Or even Midwestern passion. Too much sunshine there, too many pretty girls, too many options.''

Thanks, Nestor. That just about says it all.

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