NFL Power Rankings: Post-Super Bowl Grades for Every Team

Gordon BlockContributor IIIFebruary 6, 2012

NFL Power Rankings: Post-Super Bowl Grades for Every Team

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    The 2011-2012 NFL season is all over, and now is the perfect time to rank each of the teams, going from the worst to the very best.

    In addition to ranking all of the teams, each squad will be given a grade for its efforts this year.

    While many teams will see a grade reflective of their record/placement on this list, some teams have received a small boost or drop.

    If a team played above their expectations, their grade went up. Grades were dropped for teams failing to live to expectations, regardless of their record.

    Here are the post-Super Bowl power rankings for each team.

32) Indianapolis Colts (Regular Season: 2-14)

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    There is no question that the Indianapolis Colts were just awful this year. Offensively and defensively, the team could do little right. 

    After going more than two-thirds of the season without a win, the team is doing some major restructuring. In addition to switching out their coach and general manager, they also appear to be moving on without their starting quarterback Peyton Manning.

    There's only one word appropriate for fans of the Indianapolis Colts: patience.

    The team will likely select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck in the upcoming draft, but even that will not turn around the team's fortunes in 2012. However, fans should remember than in Manning's first year, the team went 3-13. They jumped to 13-3 the following year.

    It may take some time, but it'd be foolish to think this team will be out of contention for too long. 

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: F

31) St. Louis Rams (Regular Season: 2-14)

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    The St. Louis Rams and their new head coach Jeff Fisher will have a lot of renovations to make as they hope to rebound from a humbling 2-14 record.

    One thing that will definitely improve is the team's overall health. The Rams had the misfortune of having several starters make their way to injured reserve early in the year, including many in their secondary.

    However, they do have two exceptional defensive talents in linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Chris Long. 

    A lot of the Rams' success next season will fall on quarterback Sam Bradford. After putting together an exceptional rookie season, he seemed to regress as injuries took their toll.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: D- 

30) Minnesota Vikings (Regular Season: 3-13)

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    A rough rebuilding season for the Minnesota Vikings went from bad to terrible with a painful ACL and MCL injury to star running back Adrian Peterson the last week of the season. His status for the start of the upcoming season is very much in doubt.

    Without Peterson, the already thin Vikings offense looks even worse. More concerning, rookie Christian Ponder appeared to have few legitimate receiving threats.

    However, the Vikings do have defensive end Jared Allen, who led the league in sacks. The unit as a whole may have plenty of issues, but at the very least, Allen is somebody who can make opposing offenses worry.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: D

29) Cleveland Browns (Regular Season: 4-12)

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    While it's easy to look at the Cleveland Browns and see nothing but hopelessness, there are a few slivers of hope for this squad as it looks to climb out of mediocrity.

    One of those is quarterback Colt McCoy. While he may be a prime scapegoat for the team's 30th-ranked offense, he also was a part of an offense that had pretty much no running game (nice job, Peyton Hillis), little offensive line protection (see the number of times he sprinted from the pocket) and limited receiving help (the Browns were among the worst for dropped passes).

    It would be interesting to see how this team could do with some more competent skill position players on offense.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: D

28) Jacksonville Jaguars (Regular Season: 5-11)

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars may have super talented running back Maurice Jones-Drew and linebacker Paul Posluszny (although his injury at the end of year is concerning), but the rest of the lineup is woefully thin.

    One of the things to watch next season is the development of quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He showed some flashes of greatness in year one, but he also had plenty of mistakes common with being a rookie.

    More worrisome is the lack of fan interest in the team. As the league considers teams to move to areas like Los Angeles (maybe London?), the Jaguars have to be on the short list of teams to go.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: D-

27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Regular Season: 4-12)

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on many critics' lists as a team primed to make the step to the next level this season. That was not to be.

    Instead, Bucs fans found a squad that could hang with the best one week, only to get pounded into oblivion the next. Quarterback Josh Freeman was found to be lacking, despite his tremendous physical attributes and past success.

    The one silver lining for this squad is that for the most part, this team is young. They will mature and will probably be a preseason dark-horse favorite for many fans and observers.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: D

26) Washington Redskins (Regular Season: 5-11)

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    It's the same old story in the nation's capital: a solid defense, a decent running game but poor quarterback play.

    John Beck and Rex Grossman proved this year that neither can handle the responsibility of leading the Washington Redskins under center.

    If the team can't find a way to upgrade at the passer position, then there's little hope that the 'Skins will be contenders in 2012.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: D+

25) Miami Dolphins (Regular Season: 6-10)

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    After a terrible first half of the year, the Miami Dolphins were able to score some nice wins to end the year (either salvaging their pride or killing their draft position, depending on how you look at these kinds of things).

    Like the Washington Redskins, the team will have a major need for an upgrade at the quarterback position.

    However, there have been a few stars within the rest of the roster. Running back Reggie Bush was much improved in the second half of the season, and will be a regular next season.

    Linebacker Cameron Wake may have had a down year statistically, but he was a constant force in defending the rush.

    The Dolphins do have a lot of work to contend in the tough AFC East division, but this team may contend next year if the right pieces are added, starting at quarterback (offensive line needs an infusion of talent, too).

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C-

24) Buffalo Bills (Regular Season: 6-10)

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    After a great start to the year, the Buffalo Bills collapsed big time. While some of this has to do with the injuries they faced (the loss of Fred Jackson was devastating), the team was exposed as punching way beyond their weight class.

    It will be interesting to see how the collapse will affect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. After getting a big contract extension midway through the year, his play fell dramatically. He will need to redeem himself to justify the big money sent his way.  

    First Seven Games Grade: A

    Rest Of The Season Grade: F-

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C-

23) Seattle Seahawks (Regular Season: 7-9)

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    The Seattle Seahawks have the pieces to be contenders, but just couldn't make it happen in 2011. Four of their losses came by three points or less. They may not have been major contenders this year, but they're not that far off where they need to be.

    However, the team will have some interesting decisions to make this upcoming offseason. They have several talented free agents hitting the market (like running back Marshawn Lynch), but have plenty of money and cap room to make the signings they like.

    The team may also want to reconsider the future of starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. While he has the physical attributes to play in the league, he does not have the accuracy to work in the team's current West Coast offense.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C

22) Carolina Panthers (Regular Season: 6-10)

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    The Carolina Panthers are one of my favorite teams to watch, primarily because of the play of quarterback Cam Newton.

    Shattering the record books for rookie passers/rushing quarterbacks, Newton is exciting not only for what he has done so far. It's what's to come next. The sky is the limit.

    However, the team's defense leaves me with the exact opposite feeling. Giving opposing offenses points almost at will, the unit will be the team's focus this offseason.

    If the defense can step up in the slightest, it would not be a surprise to see this team challenge the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints for the NFC South crown.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C

21) Kansas City Chiefs (Regular Season: 7-9)

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    The Kansas City Chiefs' season was doomed from pretty much the get-go after the injuries they faced in the early going (you see how your team does after losing Pro Bowlers on offense and defense).

    However, the team rose to the occasion with the hiring of Romeo Crennel to replace Todd Haley. Going 2-1 after the hiring, the team was able to force the Green Bay Packers' only regular-season loss of the year.

    Crennel has his team's faith and good will, and that will go far. With many players set to return next season, there should be plenty to be excited about in Kansas City.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C+

20) New York Jets (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    The New York Jets have the talent to play with practically anybody. However, the team will need its long offseason to resolve many of the locker-room issues that embarrassed the squad at the end of the year.

    One main change will be the likely departure of wide receiver Santonio Holmes. While Holmes has a tremendous amount of talent, it is not acceptable for a team captain to be called out by a team source for quitting on the team.

    There are also some questions about the future of Mark Sanchez, who has angered teammates with a perceived arrogance about his work ethic.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C+

19) Arizona Cardinals (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    The Arizona Cardinals, like many teams on this list, struggled with a lack of steady play at the quarterback position. Despite having one of the best wide receivers around in Larry Fitzgerald, neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton could get the job done under center.

    The team also found itself lacking at the running back position.

    However, the defense is finally playing to an acceptable level after years of poor play.

    If the offense can step up, this team should challenge the San Francisco 49ers for NFC West supremacy.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C+

18) San Diego Chargers (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    The San Diego Chargers appeared to have plateaued under current head coach Norv Turner, failing to win the AFC West despite a major lack of competition within the division (no offense, Denver Broncos fans, but your team backed into the playoffs.)

    Both Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will get one final shot at righting the ship. They must win now. Right now.

    Despite this confusion, the team has all the pieces to win. The offense has loads of talent (although they have a tough decision about the future of wide receiver Vincent Jackson), and the defense is consistent.

    However, the pressure of this upcoming season only underlines how disappointing this team was this past season.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C+

17) Tennessee Titans (Regular Season: 9-7)

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    The Tennessee Titans were able to surprise a lot of people as they hung around late into the year challenging the Houston Texans for the AFC South. However, their talent failed to hang around when the pressure set in.

    The big question for the Titans next year will be who will start under center. While veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was solid for most of the year, he didn't get the job done, leading to his benching.

    However, rookie Jake Locker didn't appear to be ready to take over either. No matter which direction they go, the team will probably be underwhelmed with its quarterback play.

    Also concerning is the near-complete absence of running back Chris Johnson. One of the best rushers in the league only a year ago, he was (much to the chagrin of fantasy football players everywhere) a non-factor for most of the year.

    While this team had a pretty solid season given the circumstances, there are plenty of tough questions this team will have to answer this offseason.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C+

16) Chicago Bears (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    The Chicago Bears have a boatload of talent on their roster but will find themselves behind the eight-ball again, as they have to deal with a stacked division with the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

    Fortunately, quarterback Jay Cutler will be the starter (and not the dreadful Caleb Hanie), and that will take away most of the struggles the team faced in the latter half of the season after Cutler's season-ending injury. Running back Matt Forte was also excellent this year.

    Again, the Bears must find a way to bridge the gap on the Packers and Lions. Unfortunately, their window is closing, as their defense is not getting any younger.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C+

15) Philadelphia Eagles (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    The Philadelphia Eagles got off to a bad start with many fans as backup quarterback Vince Young proclaimed them to be the "Dream Team." While team officials tried to downplay the name, the damage was done.

    The team's inconsistent play hurts even more after the number of signings the team made to beef up the roster. However, the team's lack of focus at linebacker stung them in a major way, as opposing running backs put up career numbers, easily working their way to the secondary.

    The Eagles should be back in contention next season. However, they will have to make major improvements at the linebacker position to keep it from being an Achilles' heel two years in a row.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: C+

14) Dallas Cowboys (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    Given the results of tonight's game, the Dallas Cowboys' do-or-die loss in Week 17 to the New York Giants doesn't seem as bad in retrospect (although losing four of the last five surely will sting this offseason).

    However, there are plenty of questions of how things will improve for America's Team as they take on the Giants and a sure-to-be-improved Philadelphia Eagles team.

    The major question mark is the defense, as Rob Ryan's unit was terrible in defending the pass, finishing 23rd in passing yardage allowed.

    While the team may blame the lockout for limiting the amount of time that players had to learn Ryan's defense, that timing problem was the same for every team.

    In actuality, the team's lack of talent at defensive skill positions let it down in a major way. 

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: B-

13) Oakland Raiders (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    The Oakland Raiders should have been in the playoffs, and would have been in had it not been for the season-ending injury to starting quarterback Jason Campbell. He may not be the flashiest passer in the game, but he got the job done.

    With him gone, the team struggled to find its form again with the rusty Carson Palmer. Betting major draft picks to get him in order to win this year, the gamble failed in the worst possible way.

    In addition to killing this season, the Raiders have ruined their prospects in the upcoming draft. They will not have a pick until the draft's second day.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: B-

12) Denver Broncos (Regular Season: 8-8)

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    The Denver Broncos were able to redeem their season with the placement of quarterback Tim Tebow in the starter role. Tebow's play was the story of the season, but that wasn't the only reason for the team's success.

    The Broncos defense found ways to step up, from defensive rookie of the year Von Miller all the way to veteran cornerback Champ Bailey. Running back Willis McGahee was also a major impact player.

    The big question for next year is if the Broncos can build on their success. Fans of the team can only hope their future is more like their Wild Card Round win against the Pittsburgh Steelers than their playoff blowout loss to the New England Patriots.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: B+

11) Atlanta Falcons (Regular Season: 10-6)

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    The Atlanta Falcons enter the postseason with more questions than answers after their humiliating loss to the New York Giants to start the playoffs.

    While this team has all the pieces to succeed, it just hasn't found a way to put it all together. While it will likely continue to play well next year during the regular season, its measure of success is now its playoff performance.

    The Falcons can't end another season like they did this year.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: B+

10) Cincinnati Bengals (Regular Season: 9-7)

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    One of the most unlikely playoff stories in recent memories, the Cincinnati Bengals overcame years of bad mojo and a large number of rookie skill-position players to earn a wild-card spot in the difficult AFC North division.

    Quarterback Andy Dalton should continue to grow into next season, as his partnering with wide receiver A.J. Green will be one of the most exciting to watch.

    They will also get a nice boost from the first-round pick (and 2013 second-round pick) they received from the Oakland Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A-

9) Houston Texans (Regular Season: 10-6)

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    The Houston Texans made the most of a terrible injury situation at the quarterback position in order to make the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

    Look for this team to be even better in 2012. The running game is hitting its stride with the combo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and the defense is intimidating.

    With that said, their progress this year was outstanding. If they had received a slightly better game from third-string quarterback T.J. Yates, the Texans may have even found themselves topping the Baltimore Ravens and getting to the AFC championship.

    We have not heard the last of this team.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A-

8) Pittsburgh Steelers (Regular Season: 12-4)

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers may have bowed out of the playoffs (or should I say Tebowed) earlier than they may have hoped, as their team was exposed for both their age/injuries and a poor game plan.

    Fans of the Steelers have to hope their team can rebound from a season marred by injuries.

    Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should be in much better shape physically, and the defense will have an offseason to regroup and get past its injuries, which put a major dent in its takeaway numbers (only 15 this season).

    They will also be able to add some depth to a weakened offensive line which was a constant question mark. 

    Look for the Steelers to show their mettle as they attempt to return to title contention.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: B+

7) Detroit Lions (Regular Season: 10-6)

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    The Detroit Lions may be disappointed with their exit against the New Orleans Saints, but this is a team with a lot of potential to be a major contender in the years to come (after making the playoffs for the first time since 1999).

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford, finally healthy for a full season, showed he was the real deal. The defense have a unique ability to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks (when not drawing league fines and suspensions, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is a force of nature).

    Those shouldn't go away over the offseason. Look for the Lions to only get better.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A-

6) New Orleans Saints (Regular Season: 13-3)

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    The New Orleans Saints met the wrong side of destiny as they fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs. However, that defeat should not take away from a very strong season in which they went 13-3 and dominated their division.

    The big question for the Saints is when they will re-sign quarterback Drew Brees.

    After putting together one of the best statistical seasons for a quarterback in NFL history (including the shattering of Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record), he will deserve top dollar.

    It's almost scary to see how much the Saints will spend to keep their hands on the face of their franchise.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A-

5) Green Bay Packers (Regular Season: 15-1)

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    The Green Bay Packers were tremendous this season, as they nearly compiled a perfect record during the regular season, falling only to the Kansas City Chiefs late in the year.

    For this team to contend again, it will need to spend some time addressing its shortcomings on defense.

    The Packers were able to score on anybody. Unfortunately, they were able to get scored on by almost anybody. The derailing of the Packers toward the end of the season was disappointing, seeing the amount of talent on this team.

    However, if the defense can improve itself even marginally, look for this team to be right up there at the top of the pack at the end of next season.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A

4) San Francisco 49ers (Regular Season: 13-3)

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    The San Francisco 49ers made the unlikeliest of turnarounds this season, as they jumped from 6-10 to 13-3, making the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

    While their success this year was incredible, they have built a foundation that should serve them for years. Their defense is stout, and their rushing game is solid.

    Fans should be excited to see what head coach Jim Harbaugh will be able to do with more time to install his game plan next season.

    They should spend the offseason addressing their major weaknesses, a lack of depth in their secondary and a major lack of wide-receiver options. 

    First, they will need to make a few decisions in the next few weeks on the future of several stars of 2011, including quarterback Alex Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A

3) Baltimore Ravens (Regular Season 12-4)

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    The Baltimore Ravens were terrific this season and should continue next season as a contender.

    One reason for this is the likely return of veteran linebacker Ray Lewis. In addition to bringing an unmatched intensity to the field, he benefits the team with his veteran leadership, which he demonstrated in this speech after their AFC championship loss.

    The offense should continue to excel, particularly running back Ray Rice. The passing game should also improve, especially as quarterback Joe Flacco gets more comfortable with receiving options like Torrey Smith. 

    While their playoff exit must be disappointing, they should be proud of what they were able to accomplish this season (including their season sweep of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers).

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A

2) New England Patriots (Regular Season: 13-3)

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    The New England Patriots were great all season, but when the pressure was on, they fell just short of their goal, losing to the New York Giants 21-17.

    It's tough to watch that final play of the Super Bowl and not get visions of Jim Harbaugh in a Colts uniform against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1995 AFC championship (the moment comes at around the 7:30 mark in the video).

    While they may have missed out on another Super Bowl win, there are a lot of positives to take from this season, including the rise of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

    There's no reason that these two shouldn't continue to succeed and create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.

    The Patriots will continue to have an excellent offense, but will likely spend this offseason loading up on players for their secondary. If they want to continue contending, they have to have more talent in that part of the roster.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A

1) New York Giants (Regular Season: 9-7)

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    Quarterback Eli Manning put the team on his back as the New York Giants dropped the New England Patriots 21-17 to win the Super Bowl.

    It seems ages ago that the Giants were 7-7 and far from playoff contenders. However, the Giants found their stride and did not lose after that point in the season.  

    The Giants have established a formula for their success. They have a stout defense and a high-powered passing offense run through Manning, who has found himself an immense amount of wide-receiver talent.

    This team will continue to be a title contender for years to come.

    Final 2011-2012 Grade: A+