With the regular season less than two days away and preseason being laid to rest, now seems to be an appropriate time to list my first edition of power rankings. Although I have previously stated the flaws of the preseason; I believe it’s given fans insights on player’s development. Top story lines of the Preseason included: Tebow, the naming of five rookies starting at QB, the replacement refs taking over in Week 1, the Jet’s 1st team offense not being able to score a touchdown, and of course Tebow. But with the Preseason left in the dust; I bid adieu and introduce you to our first edition of our NFL Power Rankings. I did this whole ordeal as unbiased as I could, despite being a diehard Jets fan like all of you, for the sake of impartialness.
1. Green Bay Packers: In my opinion, this team has the most overall talent in the NFL. The offense, led by Rodgers, is still elite with Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings leading the receivers while James Starks leads an underrated running game. The defense, porous in 2011, should rebound nicely after a draft in which 6 of their 7 draft picks were on the defensive side of the ball. Should be favorites for the Super Bowl.
2. New England Patriots: The losers of last year’s Super Bowl reloaded on offense, acquiring Pro Bowl WR Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd, along with Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Steven Ridley, and Aaron Hernandez give QB Tom Brady formidable weapons at every skill position. The defense is still suspect, but with two first round rookies in ILB Donta Hightower and DE Chandler Jones added to the roster look for improvement. Once again AFC favorites.
3. New York Giants: The reigning Super Bowl champs come in at #3. This may seem disrespectful, but the Giants still have a porous offensive line and secondary issues, couple that with the loss of WR Mario Manningham and a Super Bowl repeat seems unlikely. However, with Eli Manning at the helm and the hellacious front four the Giants have don’t mark it out of the question.
4. San Francisco 49ers: Dominant defense? Check. Great running game? Check. New and improved receivers? Check. So why do the 49ers drop to #4? Simply, it’s the lack of an elite QB. Alex Smith proved to be efficient and was an excellent game manager last year. However, this is a quarterback driven league and is why the 49ers are a few notches below the teams above.
5. Houston Texans: It’s very possible that if QB Matt Schaub did not fall to injury last year the Texans would be SB bound. Despite losing stud OLB Mario William to free agency, Houston brings back a very capable defense that can limit teams both through the air and ground. The offense compliments the defense with a strong running game and playmakers in RB Arian Foster, WR Andre Johnson, and Schaub. It’s a complete team; however, the loss of RT Eric Winston leaves some room for concern regarding the offensive line.
6. Baltimore Ravens: If not for a shanked FG and a dropped endzone pass the Ravens could have become SB champs. Alas, it was not meant to happen. The Ravens, even with the loss of All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs, should boast a Top 5 defense. That along with a QB in Joe Flacco who seemed to progress in last year’s playoffs and an elite RB in Ray Rice primes Baltimore as a Super Bowl contender.
7. New Orleans Saints: This ranking may seem a bit high for all the turmoil the Saints have endured during the offseason. Yet, I’m confident that Drew Brees will be Drew Brees and the Saints will simply outscore the teams they play. The defense has a lot of holes and could use an infusion of youth in the secondary and linebacking corps. I don’t see a SB run with this defense.
8. Chicago Bears: Before starting QB Jay Cutler was lost for the season to injury, the Chicago Bears were 7-3 and looking at a deep playoff run. The defense, while aged, is still very good will keep the Bears in games. Adding Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall and reuniting him with Cutler should make the offense dangerous and balanced when you factor in the running game led by RB Matt Forte. Will challenge Green Bay for a division title.
9. Atlanta Falcons: One of the most balanced teams in the NFL. A good, bend but don’t break defense and a consistent offense that can run or pass on you. Roddy White and Julio Jones leading the receiving corps should allow QB Matt Ryan to have a career year and lead to another playoff birth while challenging the Saints for the division crown.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: The offseason had the Steelers go on a cut binge to bring them under the cap. The defense lost some pieces and is old, but under defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau, they should still be a Top 10 unit. With Rashard Mendenhall still on the mend and rookie G Dave Decastro out for the season, it’s up to Big Ben to carry the team and play lights out to keep up with Baltimore.
11. Philadelphia Eagles: First, they were the Dream Team. Now, according to Mike Vick, they’re on their way to becoming a dynasty. In all seriousness, despite a mediocre season, the Eagles turned it on at the end last year, finishing the season on a 4-0 run. The offense has a chance to be explosive and the defense can rush the passer: that’s a recipe for success.
12. Detroit Lions: Detroit has had a tumultuous offseason with many players running into off the field problems. Outside of that, the Lions boast the best QB-WR combo in the league with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Outside of the explosive offense, their is not a whole lot to like. The defensive line has talent but the defense underachieves and the secondary is atrocious. It will be interesting to see if th Lions can make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Watch out for that Madden Curse, Calvin.
13. Dallas Cowboys: America’s team comes off a disappointing season where they lost the division to the Giants in Week 17. The offense is loaded with RB Demarco Murray, WR Dez Bryant, WR Miles Austin, QB Tony Romo, and TE Jason Witten. On the defensive side, the Cowboys boast Demarcus Ware, a pass rushing machine. In addition, they shored up the secondary by drafting CB Morris Claiborne and signing CB Brandon Carr in Free Agency. Expect them to compete with Philadelphia and New York for the NFC East crown.
14. Denver Broncos: The Broncos will go as Peyton Manning goes. If Manning is close to the form he was as a Colt then don’t be surprised if the Broncos become a championship contender; especially since Manning would be coupled with a good defense. However, the offense weapons for Manning are limited with not a lot of playmakers. Denver should be the AFC West favorites if Manning returns to form.
15. Cincinatti Bengals: After a playoff birth, Andy Dalton is looking to take the next step as a quarterback. Adding Benjarvus Green Ellis at RB should help along with an improved AJ Green. While the offense is solid, the Bengals should be reliant on their strong defense led by CB Leon Hall.
16. San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers had his worst season as a pro last year, throwing 20 interceptions. Don’t expect a repeat this year as Rivers should return to form. If Ryan Matthews reaches his potential at RB this team could be scary good on offense. The defense remains a question mark, the team should compete for a wildcard spot…Norv Turner’s job depends on it.
17. New York Jets: After one of the most embarrassing offensive showings in preseason history, many football prognosticators have declared the Jets as being dead in the water. However, with the defense the Jets have they will always be in the game. Even though the offense looks like a major liability, there is some talent in TE Dustin Keller and WR Santonio Holmes for QB Mark Sanchez to utilize.
18. Buffalo Bills: The Bills win the prize for having the best offseason bringing in Pro bowlers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to pair with DT Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams making a formidable defensive line. The potential for Buffalo lies on the offense side of the ball. Last season was a tale of two halves for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: Great through the first half, not so great in the second half. It will be upto him to end Buffalo’s playoff drought.
19. Carolina Panthers: When you have a great QB it hides a lot of your teams deficiencies. This applies perfectly to the Panthers. Cam Newton is on his way to super stardom and will make Carolina a tough out for any team. The problem is a not good enough supporting cast to get the team into the playoffs. Still a year away.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A good start to last year ended in catastrophe when the Bucs quit on former HC Raheem Morris and lost their last 10 games. After last year’s struggles QB Josh Freeman got some offense stability when the front office signed lucrative deals to WR Vincent Jackson and OG Carl Nicks. The defense still needs to upgrade the secondary and defensive line.
21. Tennessee Titans: The decision to start QB Jake Locker over incumbent Matt Hasslebeck dropped the Titans a few rungs; but was the best decision for the future. As a young player, Locker will have to rely on RB Chris Johnson and WR Kenny Britt to help him out. The defense has talent but will hurt in the secondary with the loss of CB Cortland Finnegan to the Rams.
22. Oakland Raiders: I don’t think Carson Palmer will ever regain his Pro bowl form from years past, but he should still help the Raiders compete. A group of young receivers, like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore, gives Oakland speed outside that few teams have. If RB Darren Mcfadden stays healthy: watch out. The defensive line is still strong even as DE Richard Seymour gets up in age, the loss of CB Stanford Routt hurts the secondary.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: The return of stars such as S Eric Berry and RB Jamaal Charles immediately bolster the Chiefs overall talent level. Mix those players in with LB Tamba Hali, WR Dwayne Bowe, and TE Tony Moeaki and KC has some play makers. Unfortunately, the defensive line is thin and I don’t have that much faith in QB Matt Cassel.
24. Seattle Seahawks: I know Rookie QB Russell Wilson has lit it up this Preseason but too expect it during the regular season is a completely different story. Outside of Cam Newton, rookie quarterbacks struggle and that should keep the Seahawks from seriously competing for a playoff spot. It’s a shame since Seattle has real talent defensively, especially at the back end with safeties Earl Thomas and Kim Chancellor.
25. Washington Redskins: I think Washington is actually better than their #25 ranking suggests. Unfortunately, they play in a brutal division and they have an offensive line that will not protect their franchise savior,QB RGIII, that well. Pass Rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo should fuel the defense although the secondary is exploitable.
26. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals came on strong last year finishing 5-2 under recently announced starting QB John Skelton. However, outside of Fitzgerald the playmakers are bare and I don’t like their ability to run the ball or stop the run. I foresee a long year in ‘Zona.
27. Indianapolis Colts: If it were not for my belief that QB Andrew Luck is already a top 15 QB this team might be ranked in the cellar. Their secondary, even with the trade for Vontae Davis, is still very bad. They can’t rush the passer like they used too. They can’t run well. They can’t block. Good Luck, pun intended.
28. Miami Dolphins: I think that Ryan Tannehill has a promising future in the NFL. I just don’t think his rookie year will be promising. After only 19 starts in college, the Dolphins are throwing him to the wolves and giving him no support offensively. The receivers are bare and no one outside of slot WR Davone Bess is anything of a threat. The defense is solid, but will take some transitioning into the 4-3.
29. St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford is only two years removed from having an excellent rookie season and I think he’ll improve over last season’s disaster. CB Cortland Finnegan should help the secondary a bit and Steven Jackson should give life to the run game like always. After that? Not a whole lot to like.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars: Fans must be ecstatic that Maurice Jones Drew (AKA: the whole offense) ended his hold out. The bad news? Blaine Gabbert is still the QB. Now, to be fair, one year does not make a career. Unfortunately, Gabbert plays behind a shaky line and no receiver worth noting outside rookie WR Justin Blackmon.
31. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder showed some flashes near the end of last season but was far too inconsistent. Adrian Peterson doesn’t figure to be healthy until a few weeks into the season. The real problem? The defense needs a major youth infusion; the secondary is way too old and in a passing league being able to cover can change a team from being the doormat to a playoff contender.
32. Cleveland Browns: Topping off the Power Rankings at #32 is the Browns. I’m sorry Cleveland it gets easier and there’s nowhere to go but up. Starting a rookie QB whose #1 WR is Mohamed Massaquoi is not the recipe for success. CB Joe Haden should lead a decent secondary but the loss of DT Phil Taylor hurts the defense immensely.