37 Days until Opening Night... I need to do something to make time go faster, so here's probably the 326th Power Rankings you've read in preparation for football season, and every one you've read so far has made you cringe at how bad it is... I'm not promising better anything from mine, but I am certainly welcome to debate any discrepencies one may have with my opinion, because that is all these rankings are...
Without further ado:
1) Pittsburgh: Until further notice, they are the defending champions. It is worthy of note, however, that last time they defended a title they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, with a team ravaged by the injury bug. This team isn't flashy and doesn't wow me all that much, but they always have a solid defense and find ways to win games, which is all that matters.
2) New England: I really hate putting a team that missed the playoffs this high, but one has to consider the record breaking 2007 season that Brady and Moss had together healthy. They won't need to be nearly as prolific this year to be successful, and they won't be, seeing as the AFC East has gotten much tougher since that year. That being said, as long as they're healthy they should cruise to a division title.
3) Tennessee: I've noticed that this team has been flying under the radar for a lot of people. And other then the loss of Haynesworth, which by no means am I pretending is a light loss, this team should be improved from the AFC regular season champs last year. Their young recievers are a year older and their defense, even without Haynesworth should be as solid as ever. Don't be surprised if they come out with some wildcat wrinkles with VY.
4) Philadelphia: As a Giant fan, it scares me much potential this team has. Their window is closing though. Maclin is a star in the making and Jackson also is if he can get his head out of his butt and put in the work, but Westbrook is on his last legs and McNabb isn't as young and flashy as he used to be. This team's outlook, like any other, is dependant on the health of their 2 key players: 13-3 if McNabb and Westbrook are healthy all year, 8-8 if they aren't.
5) NY Giants: This defense has the potential to be scary this year, and that's saying something considering the unit has been very good the past 2 years. The only thing that scares me is the lack of recieving experience. I think Steve Smith is going to have a breakout year, but I don't see this team being able to keep up in a shootout; however, with their defense, they may not have to.
6) Baltimore: Another solid team anchored by defense, a bit of a trend among top teams. The loss of the veteran presence of Mason will hurt the recieving corps, but as long as Flacco isn't a liability, this team will compete. I like the chances of any team with Ray Lewis anchoring the defense. Even at his age, he is a on field presence unseen since the days of Lawrence Taylor.
7) Indianapolis: If there is one veteran that needs preseason, it's Peyton Manning. His greatness shows how work ethic and attention to detail is the difference between above average and elite. No other quarterback puts in as much time as he does, and it shows on the field. Expect this team to get off to another one of their vintage hot starts with Manning getting a full preseason again. The loss of Tony Dungy hurts this team both on and off the field though, and cannot be overlooked
8) Minnesota: With an excellent running game and an excellent defense, one can compete in the NFC so long as the quarterback is not a liability(see: 2007 Giants, 2006 Bears). But heck, even some bum off the street should be able to play quarterback for them. Is it really that hard to hand it off 50 times a game and throw the occasional play action bomb? With AD and rookie Percy Harvin, the Vikings have 2 of the fastest players in the league, and that will play to their advantage this year.
9) Dallas: A lot of people are foolish enough to sleep on these guys, but I am no such fool. They still have a solid defense and running game, and that is what it takes to win in today's NFL. The loss of TO is a double edge sword, sure it helps clear the off field baggage, but nobody can question TO's work ethic and will come gametime. I'm not sure who will make up that production, but what I am sure of is that this team is strolling into the season under the radar, and will have a chip on their shoulder this season.
10) Washington: I know that you're thinking that this is much too high for a team with a mediocre quarterback. But hey, even Tom Brady would look average going up against Dallas, the Giants, and Philly 6 times a year. What I see is a team with a solid running game and improved defense. As said many times before, those things can get you far in today's NFL. This might be east coast bias showing through, but any NFC East team could go to any other NFC division and probably win it, and that speaks to the depth and talent of the division.
11) San Diego: LT version 2009 is not LT version 2007, their defense is not as good at it was and Philip Rivers is terribly overrated. Not to mention thst they don't really have a big time reciever other than Gates at TE. That being said, who else is there in the AFC West? Sproles is a special teams monster, but you can only do so much touching the ball 10 times a game; thus, he needs to replace LT by the end of the season if this team wants to make noise in the playoffs.
12) New Orleans: In the constantly changing NFC South, the fact that New Orleans finished last this past year has to make them this year's favorite. That, plus a much improved defense and Drew Brees. They have the potential to make a Super Bowl run, but the fact remains that this is still a largely unproven team, and there remains much to be seen going into this season.
13) Carolina: This team's decline is a direct result of getting old. Their defense and running game is still good but it's not an elite corps that will put them over the top in the NFC. That combined with the fact that this team has been one of the most inconsistant and disappointing teams over the past 5 years makes me reluctant to pick them very high.
14) Atlanta: Matt Ryan's 2nd season screams sophomore slump, which, in the long run, will be good for him. His rookie season was almost too perfect and he needs to go through some adversity and a tough season to make himself a better quarterback. So much went right for them last year during their playoff run, and I just cannot see that good fortune striking 2 years in a row. Have no doubt though, in 2-3 years this team will be a perennial NFC title contender with Matty Ice at the helm.
15) Green Bay: This is a team which I am extremely unsure about, and I admit that I haven't seen them play as much as I would like. The jury's still out on Aaron Rodgers, and they have a young recieving corps, defense, and running back. This is a team that was 6-10 last year. My gut is telling me that they will breakout this year, but reason says to wait and see.
16) Houston: This is an above average team playing in a division with 2 elite teams. And even though they are this year's trendy breakout pick, I feel they're still a year away from getting to the playoffs and 2-3 away from getting to the top of the division. They just have to keep adding key parts like they have been and wait for Indy and Tennessee to get old and break apart, and then they will be a force.
17) Buffalo: This team is a real sleeper and if Trent Edwards plays as he is capable of this team should be able to get a wildcard spot. The TO addition will help them immensly, largely due to the fact that he takes the attention away from Lee Evans, who will be an absolute monster this year. That being said, the over/under for the first TO breakdown is week 3.
18) Arizona: Why am I rating the defending NFC Champions this low? Because you're putting too much stock into their playoff run last year. Let's remember that this is a team that went 9-7 in a bad division last year, and a team that has no running game and little defense. Let's remember that before they made their run in the playoffs last year we were asking if they even belonged there. Plus, history dictates that this team is cursed this year.
19) San Francisco: A little secret that might not be believed by many: this Mike Singletary guy can coach. I guarantee that the defense will be a solid cohesive unit this year. The problem is the offense. I don't know which no-name is going to QB these guys, but I would like to let him know that Michael Crabtree will be a defensive nightmare if used properly.
20) Miami: Trick plays and gimmicks can only get you so far before everyone else realizes what you're doing and game plans against it. Short of new wrinkles we have never seen before being put in this offseason, such as the newly invented rabid dog formation where you put the biggest guy on the team at QB and let him plow all the defenders, this team is looking 6-10 sqarely in the face.
21) Cincinatti: This team could very well be the AFC's version of New Orleans this year. The only difference is that they play in a division with 2 top-5 defenses and a location that doesn't support an air-it-out style of play as well. Carson Palmer is a good QB, but he needs a little help if he wants to get this team to the playoffs.
22) Seattle: This is a 4-12 team from last year, and they play in a bad division. Getting your starting QB back from injury helps, but simply put, this team lost its edge that it had for a few years over this division last year, and they aren't getting it back this year. This team looks to be one at the beginning of a 3-year rebuilding cycle, but given the weakness of their division, they'll be back sooner rather than later.
23) Chicago: I've never been a fan of Jay Cutler for the simple fact that he's not a winner. You can have all the tangable statistics in the world at quarterback, but if you aren't a winner, none of it matters. He had some good teams in Denver but always choked during the big games, and then sold out his team and his coach this offseason. He will choke again in Chicago, which is sad, because looking at some of the other talent they have, this is a team that should be completing for the NFC North title.
24) Cleveland: Now we begin our run of rebuilding teams. Cleveland is a team that was competitive 2 years ago, then not so much last year. I think last year was a better representation of the Browns future, as neither Anderson or Quinn looks to be a long term solution at QB, and they have yet to find a solid RB or put together even an average defense.
25) NY Jets: I don't think it matters who they go with at QB, as neither Clemens or Sanchez will save them from a last place AFC East finish. Rex Ryan will soon find out that his D-Coordinator success was largely due to the presence of Ray Lewis, which was discussed earlier. This D will look bad at times and pathetic at others.
26) Kansas City: One more year of rebuilding, KC fans. This team has many key parts building up with youth, and will be somewhat competitive in the AFC West, which isn't saying much. With San Diego on the downswing, they may be able to take the division as soon as next year.
27) Denver: Firing Shanahan was the worst thing that this franchise can do. Shanahan would have had them competitive for the next few seasons, but now instead they're looking at an immenent 2-3 year stretch of 6 win seasons.
28) Jacksonville: Their going to be a bad team this year. I'm thinking 4-5 wins. Seasons like this happen to even the best of franchises. From what I've seen of this young franchise, they'll get back on track and pick up some key pieces over the next year or two and return to playoff contention before you know it.
29) Tampa Bay: The bad news is that they aren't very good. The good news is that, given that they play in the NFC South, it means they will be next year. They just need to develop some young good defenders to replace the old guys.
30) Oakland: This team will never be successful until someone has the balls to tell Al Davis that he's gone senile and is no longer capable of running a football franchise. Then maybe they can get someone else with a true commitment to excellence, and get this once proud franchise back where it belongs.
31) St. Louis: Spags must have known what he was getting into when signing on with this team. They'll have an improved. swarming defense with him at the helm, but they still need some better bodies in their and to get a lot of help on offense around Jackson, whose window of being an elite RB is closing fast.
32) Detroit: Win a game and then maybe they'll warrant some discussion.
I know I'm wrong. Just let me know where and I'll expand upon my viewpoints. A little healthy debate is good sometimes, as it helps us reaffirm and back up our own beliefs and opinions, as well as helping pass time until football season finally starts...