NFL Power Rankings: Top Teams After the Draft
The NFL draft as been over for almost a month now, and most teams have made their marks on the free agency market. So where does your team stand in my power rankings?
Undeniably, power rankings are strongly opinionated when no games have yet been played. Personally, I take the strength of a team's draft, free agency activity, returning players and last year's season into consideration when ranking the NFL.
There are a few surprises towards the top of the rankings, and hopefully they will hold true so that we have an exciting and different year in the NFL.
Please, feel free to open debate through comments. I always love to discuss your opinions and even read your personal rankings.
No. 32: Indianapolis Colts
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Andrew Luck may very well be the best draft prospect since Peyton Manning, but the Indianapolis Colts are in a complete rebuilding mode after a 2-14 season.
During the draft the Colts failed to address their defensive backfield issues, most importantly at cornerback. For that reason, they find themselves last in the power rankings, with no glimmer of moving up any time soon.
The Colts have upgraded, especially after reuniting tight end Coby Fleener with Luck, but no amount of draft picks can revive the struggling franchise in the immediate future. In a few years, the Colts will find themselves further up on this list. For now, they will remain as the bottom feeders of the NFL.
No. 31: Miami Dolphins
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Personally, I completely disagree with Miami's decision to draft Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick. I understand he has the intangibles and skill to develop into a competitive quarterback, but I strongly feel that there were offensive weapons available and ready to step in with Matt Moore as quarterback.
Drafting a quarterback that is not yet NFL ready so early in the first round left Miami inept at wide receiver. Logically, what good is a better quarterback if he has the worst core of targets in the NFL?
With a decent defense and an exciting running back in Reggie Bush, Miami will still steal a few wins—but their offense will be painful to watch.
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
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The two first round selections of Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith will have immediate contributions to this Minnesota team, but there is still too much to be desired.
With Adrian Peterson battling a brutal injury, the heart and soul of this team may not be the dominating running back of the past, as he will surely take time to recover fully. This may be the year that Christian Ponder either makes it or busts.
Even after a decent draft, the Vikings have too many serious questions both offensively and defensively to be considered any sort of threat—just barely beating out Miami for the spot here at 30.
No. 29: Cleveland Browns
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Brandon Weeden, the 28-year-old boy wonder, will not rejuvenate the flat-lining Cleveland offense. Weeden is talented and ready to contribute in the NFL, but I do not see much of an upgrade over Colt McCoy.
Trent Richardson will without a doubt be an impressive running back in the NFL, but the offense will rely on the rookie too much. With only Greg Little as a decent threat receiving the ball, Cleveland will once again struggle throughout the year to move the ball up the field.
Statistically, the Browns had one of the better pass-defenses in the NFL. Those statistics are misleading though, as teams often ran the ball due to an early lead.
Once depth and presence of a threat is added to their offense, Cleveland may be able to move out of the cellar ranks of the NFL.
No. 28: Jacksonville Jaguars
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Although I think the Jaguars could have drafted Michael Floyd and see similar production without sacrificing other picks, Justin Blackmon is as close to a sure thing as it gets at the wide receiver position coming out of the draft.
I can sum up the Jaguars very easily—Maurice Jones-Drew.
Blaine Gabbert has yet to pan out, the receiving corps is very inexperienced and lacks any serious talent outside of Blackmon and the defense has holes upon holes—but the Jaguars have quite possibly the best running back in the league.
Jones-Drew may be a superstar and one of the hardest working players in the league, but he alone is not capable of carrying a team on his shoulders. Because of this, the lack of depth in Jacksonville earns them a lowly spot at 28.
No. 27: Oakland Raiders
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The Oakland Raiders have had an offseason to forget. They lacked a draft selection in the first two rounds and found themselves in trouble with the cap—the heavy burdens of trades in the past.
The one great bright spot of this team is the talented running back Darren McFadden. McFadden has the ability to be one of the moth lethal weapons both as a receiver and rusher, and could terrorize NFL coaches if he could master just one thing: staying healthy.
With no Michael Bush any longer, the great backup who often performed on high levels in McFadden's place, Oakland has a serious depth issue at their once deepest position. The defensive backfield is anchored by players like Tyvon Branch, who have inconsistent motors.
The young and exciting wide receiver core will find it difficult to receive the ball when Carson Palmer is on his back behind a struggling offensive line, and the Raiders deserve this placement for it.
No. 26: St. Louis Rams
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The St. Louis Rams organization has actually done a far more decent job this offseason than I had imagined they would. With that said, I still do not see this team as playoff contenders.
In the past, the NFC West was up for grabs and the Rams were often close to the playoffs. With the emergence of a very good San Fransisco team though, the NFC West looks to be one of the easiest divisions to be considered a lock.
Sam Bradford now has a new weapon in Brian Quick at receiver, but the overall receiving staff has left something to be desired. As always, Steven Jackson is a serious injury concern and the offense will be great at times, while awful at other times.
Just a few years away from being a playoff contender, the Rams have sit here at 26 but could surprise a few people.
No. 25: Washington Redskins
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I must admit I was one of the believers that Peyton Manning could make this team a serious playoff threat. Especially after the addition of Pierre Garcon.
Robert Griffin III is a tremendously talented quarterback, but even if he plays to a Cam Newton-replicating level, I feel Washington is still only decent. I do expect him to be effective, but I cannot see him coming out of the gate playing at that level—especially since he is very inexperienced setting up under center.
The defense is solid as a whole, but it is weak point is in the backfield. The team lacks a true safety and cornerbacks like DeAngelo Hall are serviceable at their best. Expect a lot of quarterbacks to have good looking numbers versus this backfield.
No. 24: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent a lot of money during the offseason, but they may have spent too much on players that have bust written all over them. In fact, many of the key players on this team have attachments to the word bust.
LeGarrette Blount came onto the scene with high expectations after his rookie season, but has proven to have difficulty bolstering the offensive backfield. Vincent Jackson has a history of disappearing once the money is in his pocket, despite his elite abilities. Josh Freeman is in the same position as Blount, as he has failed to perform up to the promise he showed as a rookie.
The defense looks improved, especially with the can't-miss prospect Mark Barron, but I still see a struggling group that will consistently give up more points than the offense can produce.
No. 23: Buffalo Bills
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The addition of Mario Williams definitely makes this Buffalo defense very interesting. The drafting of the playmaker Stephen Gilmore helps the backfield. The defensive line is among the best in the league with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, but the problems for the Bills will lie on the offensive side of the ball.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will determine his fate this season, and not much has been done to help him succeed. The return of Fred Jackson certainly helps, but the lack of options across Steven Johnson is a glaring hole.
The Bills have jumped to hot starts in the past few seasons, but have failed to maintain pace. I see the same situation occurring again this year. Of course, it does not help playing an the always tough AFC East.
No. 22: Seattle Seahawks
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The first round selection of Bruce Irvin baffled everyone. While he is a talented pass rusher, he is not an every down player that Seattle needed.
Seattle landed the Green Bay Packers' backup QB Matt Flynn, but we all know that the Seahawks offense is not even a shell of the Packers. Flynn will surely be an upgrade from Tavaris Jackson, but he will not be a player that takes this team to the next level.
As a team, Seattle is good. They are not great in any given area, but decent in a lot. The lack of an offensive line and a struggling receiving corps will overshadow a good defense in Seattle and hold this team back.
No. 21: Carolina Panthers
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The return of Jon Beason, one of the best linebackers in the game, and addition of Luke Kuechly make for a very good line-backing core.
I do not see the Panthers becoming a good run stopping team this year however, and since they were one of the worst in the league last year, that will once again be the theme.
Offensively, the Panthers look pretty good. Adding yet another running back after signing Mike Tolbert is a bit confusing, but Cam Newton and Steve Smith will still look to create highlights. Unfortunately for Carolina, teams will now have a lot more material on Cam Newton to game-plan and the production will drop from his remarkable rookie season.
A few players away from being a very solid team, the Carolina Panthers will hope to be a middle-of-the-pack team at best.
No. 20: New York Jets
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Tim Tebow cost the New York Jets draft picks, and he will not see a significant role on the field as he did in Denver. With a team constantly on the down slide of what was once of a championship caliber, the Jets have made very questionable decisions without significantly upgrading.
While the defense of course will be solid, they will feel the effects of losing Jim Leonhard—who was their defensive-read specialist. Quinton Coples is a great talent, but his drafting led to many questions as he is not the type of player the Jets needed. Darrelle Revis will still be one of the best in the league, but the touted Jets defense has not been as spectacular as they have hyped themselves up to be.
Offense is where this team sees its struggles. Mark Sanchez has proven to be inconsistent, and Tim Tebow will only complicate the situation in New York. LaDainian Tomlinson is gone and Shonn Greene has been nothing compared to the ground and pound back that everyone thought he would become.
Although Santonio Holmes could break out at any time, I do not see this receiving staff elevating this Jets team past even decent defenses, and we will see many of the scoring troubles we saw last year.
No. 19: Arizona Cardinals
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Michael Floyd will be a great complement to Larry Fitzgerald, but the issue will be getting these two players the ball. Kevin Kolb has not worked out as planned and John Skelton is still a developmental project.
With the pressing issues at quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals will have trouble scoring. Which is unfortunate, given the fact that they have a very good defense with unbelievable play-making abilities. The front seven is full of talent, and will help this Arizona defense become a very solid opponent.
No team will want to face Arizona, but at the same time, they will not necessarily fear them either.
No. 18: Tennessee Titans
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The receiving core in Tennessee looks very exciting. With Kenny Britt returning and the team drafting Kendall Wright, there will be more than enough talent to succeed offensively.
The only issue will be quarterback. Will they go with Matt Hasselback, or show faith in Jake Locker? In either case, the Titans will be looking at a somewhat frustrating process.
If Jake Locker is able to take the reins and play up to his talent level with smart decision making, defenses will be surprised by the points Tennessee will have the ability to produce.
After a poor season last year, Chris Johnson is still one of the best running backs in the league and is always a threat to score every time he touches the ball. If Johnson has a season even resembling his 2,000-yard performance, you may very well be looking at a strong playoff team.
No. 17: Cincinnati Bengals
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The connection of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green was a pleasant rookie surprise last year. This year, expect to see a lot of the same.
Andy Dalton's performance behind center will be the key to success for the Bengals this year, as they will need him to improve and continue to make smart decisions. The only issue I see with Cincinnati after adding the ultra-reliable BenJarvus Green-Ellis, will be the options offensively after Green. Losing Jerome Simpson hurts, and Andy Dalton will have to make a lot out of a little.
The draft pick of Dre Kirkpatrick and signing of Terrence Newman help bolster the defense, while they will rely on other free agent signings to solve their interior issues. If free agency is kind to the Bengals, you will see a team causing a stir once again.
No. 16: Kansas City Chiefs
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Last year the Chiefs were decimated by injuries, and none hurt more than the early season ending injury to their explosive running back Jamaal Charles.
With Charles returning, and the addition of Eric Winston strengthening the line, there will be even more room for Charles to exploit defenses with his quickness and speed. Matt Cassel will also benefit from the addition of one of the best tackles in football.
Much of the Chiefs' success will be riding on the shoulders of Cassel, as the run game is as solid as they come and the team must improve in the pass. The abilities of Tony Moeaki, Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin and Dexter McCluster catching the ball should give Cassel all the tools he needs.
The first round draft pick of Dontari Poe will help add stopping power to the talented Kansas City defense, and they will once again prove to be reliable and at times dominant.
No. 15: San Diego Chargers
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After losing Vincent Jackson to free agency, the San Diego Chargers did a great job of signing Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Also adding more depth to the offensive line to help Phillip Rivers, the San Diego offense will have defenses on their feet with the passing game. Especially since Antonio Gates will be starting the season on a healthy note.
Running back Ryan Matthews will be the key to this team, however. He must stay healthy after Mike Tolbert as left. If Matthews can manage to stay healthy and produce as he did last year, the Charger offense will be very well-rounded.
Defensively, the Chargers did a very good job of improving through the draft. Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes will immediately contribute and help stack the line as well as provide pressure in the process.
If Phillip Rivers can revert to making smart decisions, since he will be on his feet more rather than being sacked, the Chargers will have another strong year.
No. 14: Dallas Cowboys
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The Dallas offense, despite a few moments in the clutch, never failed to disappoint. The Cowboys found a future franchise back in DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant has progressed nicely. Tony Romo actually had a very good statistical year, and if he could work out a few kinks he has under pressure, he could be in the next tier of quarterbacks.
The issue with the Cowboys last season was there secondary. Jerry Jones knew this, and did a fine job of revamping the defensive backfield.
During free agency, the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr and Brodney Pool. Two reliable players who may not stun you, but will surely add the depth needed.
The team changing move was made during the draft however, as Dallas traded up to select their man Morris Claiborne. Claiborne will be an instant star in Dallas. His defensive ability to jump on the ball will surely lead to interceptions, and as long as he can learn to read offenses this offseason he very well may end up a Pro Bowler.
No. 13: New Orleans Saints
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To rank New Orleans so low just feels unnatural. For the past years, they have been one of the better teams in the NFL.
The Bounty scandal has devastated the Saints, and in the midst of all that there is an unhappy Drew Brees. I do not expect the drama to effect his play, but it does not help.
After losing Carl Nicks, the Saints did a great job in replacing him with another great player in Ben Grubbs. Losing Robert Meachem will not hurt the offense as much, since Brees will just distribute targets throughout is many options still available.
Defensively, the Saints lose Jonathan Vilma for the year due to suspension, but Curtis Lofton may be an even better player at this point in his career. Brodrick Bunkley will be a valuable addition on the line next to Sedrick Ellis, as well.
The main reason for the Saints being ranked here, will be the loss of their head coach Sean Payton thanks to the bounties. Payton is one of the best coaches in the league, and is the architect of this high powered offense. His loss will definitely effect the Saints.
No. 12: Atlanta Falcons
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After trading draft picks to get receiver Julio Jones in last years draft, the Atlanta Falcons were handicapped in this year's draft. They did however, find a steal in the second round at the 23rd pick with Peter Konz.
The Atlanta offense looks very similar to last year, and despite having a disappointing season, they are still a team that can put up points. Atlanta did most of their work on defense this offseason.
Atlanta made the right moves by re-signing Brent Grimes and adding Asante Samuel to their backfield. The return of Jonathan Babineaux will help immensely, as well as Ray Edwards and John Abraham.
Atlanta will not be as stagnant offensively again this year, and Matt Ryan will have something to prove. With the always strong running game with Michael Turner and cast, Atlanta will be very competitive and return to old form.
No. 11: Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears selected two very good players with their first two picks, Shea McClellin and Alshon Jeffrey.
McClellin will add versatility to the defense as well as create more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but Alshon Jeffrey completes an equation that could equal great success for Jay Cutler.
After having very few options to target last year, Cutler now has the greatly sized Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett in the slot and Devin Hester stretching the field with his speed.
Also adding Michael Bush on the depth chart behind Matt Forte, the Bears have turned an inept offense into one with promise. Given they stay healthy, Cutler will have the weapons to move the ball down the field and start putting up points. For this reason alone, Chicago moves up in the power rankings.
No. 10: Detroit Lions
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The Detroit Lions have seemingly decided to take a purely offensive approach to football.
During the offseason, Detroit did little to improve their defense. Although they did franchise tag Cliff Avril, and re-signed Stephen Tulloch, the Lions failed to improve on their run-stop.
I overlook this for one simple reason, and that is what they have offensively. The Lions will gladly play in shoot-out types of games, as they have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. It has worked for the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers having a defense just able to get by, so why not the Lions?
After adding a pure pass-blocking offensive tackle, Riley Reiff, the Lions are putting their fate into the hands of Matthew Stafford, who did throw for over 5,000 yards last year.
If Jahvid Best can return healthy, and stay that way, the Lions will have an offense that causes defenses to cringe.
No. 9: Denver Broncos
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The Denver Broncos were a playoff team last year without a true quarterback. Now they have Peyton Manning, a man who on his name alone can turn a pretender into a contender.
The Broncos have added Joel Dreesen and Jacob Tamme, giving Manning even more targets. The passing offense may not be what it was in Indianapolis with Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, but this offense is far better off than it was with Tim Tebow.
Defensively, Denver was inconsistent last year but they have many talented young players as well as returning veterans. They have also signed Tracy Porter, improving their secondary.
If Denver plays even close to the same level as they did last year defensively, then Manning will not have to come back to win games, he will lead this team to many easy wins. That is, if he is still the same old Manning—which I see no reason to believe he will not be.
No. 8: Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens may have lost Terrell Suggs, but their defense is still extraordinary.
Courtney Upshaw was a steal in the second round for Baltimore, and Sergio Kindle returning will help ease the loss of Suggs. Retaining Lardarius Webb will keep Baltimore's secondary led by Ed Reed strong.
Offensively, you know what you get with Baltimore. Joe Flacco will not amaze, but he is solid. Ray Rice is one of the best backs in the league, and he is a monster when eating up the clock throughout the game. The convincing of Matt Birk to stay helps the offensive line immensely, and Anquan Boldin across Torrey Smith give Flacco very reliable targets.
Last year, Baltimore was a field goal away from overtime in the playoffs and their team has not gotten much weaker. There defense may have taken a step back, but they are still within the league's top ten and will still be treated as one of the best.
No. 7: Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Pittsburgh Steelers return a very strong team a veterans mixed in with young talent.
With possibly the steel of the draft in David DeCastro, the Steelers offense will be just as effective last year since Mike Wallace will be returning. With a good group of receivers, Ben Roethlisberger will have weapons as he returns healthy and ready to rack up more yards. The Steelers will be using a running back by committee type of system now that Mendenhall is lost, but it will be enough to keep defenses honest.
Defensively, the Steelers always have a great squad. Strength in nearly every aspect of defense, teams will find it difficult to put up points and accumulate yards. Casey Hampton will be starting the year on the PUP list, but there are reliable replacements.
Pittsburgh will once again be contenders to fight for a Super Bowl bid.
No. 6: Philadelphia Eagles
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Many people would have had Baltimore, Pittsburgh or even other teams ahead of the Eagles here. In my opinion, after a full season together and working this offseason, the Eagles just have too many explosive weapons to be any lower.
The hype of the Eagles' defense leading into last year ultimately guaranteed failure, but additions as well as chemistry will have this defense playing the the high level that was expected of them.
DeMeco Ryans and Fletcher Cox will fill holes brilliantly for Andy Reed. Cox will play alongside Cullen Jenkins, forming possibly the best defensive line rotation in the NFC. DeMeco Ryans will solve the Eagles run stopping issues, as he is one of the best run-stoppers in the league. The loss of Asante Samuel hurts, but the secondary can only improve from their poor showing last year.
Offensively, DeSean Jackson is healthy again. His explosive speed and ability to stretch the field will help find room for Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy to put their quickness and speed on display. Any team facing this offense will have their hands full.
At the start of the new year, Philadelphia will have the chance to redeem themselves, and they will do so convincingly.
No. 5: San Fransisco 49ers
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The San Fransisco 49ers had one concern last year, and that was their receiving corps. It was noted, and it was addressed.
The 49ers have signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss as well as drafted a very talented A.J. Jenkins. While most disagreed with the first round selection, I loved it. Jenkins has unbelievable potential.
Alex Smith may have been hurt a bit by the attempt to land Peyton Manning, but he will continue to manage this offense efficiently after receiving his new deal. There is always the chance we see hit let loose a bit too, with his new set of talented receivers.
The defense is the staple of this team, and will be returning almost every piece from last year. There is no reason that the Patrick Willis led defense will regress, and they will continue to be a dominant force in stopping the run.
No. 4: Houston Texans
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Putting Houston here at fourth may surprise some of you, but keep in mind how last year progressed with this team.
Houston was one of the best teams in the NFL, with one of the best defenses as well as an offense capable of scoring at will. Andre Johnson battled injuries for most of the year, and Matt Schaub suffered a season ending injury as well. Had these two players been healthy for the duration of the season, Houston had as much of a chance at a Super Bowl appearance as anyone.
Also returning will be one of the best duos of running backs—Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Offensive weapons are in good supply in Houston.
Defensively, Houston will probably regress a little as it will be hard to sustain their levels of performance from last year. With Wade Phillips controlling the defense, don't expect any dramatic regression.
This is a complete team with few holes that will be playing in a soft division, and when healthy, can compete with any team in the league.
No. 3: Green Bay Packers
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Not much more can be said about the Green Bay Packers other than they will be returning nearly every offensive weapon.
With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers will always be a favorite in the NFC. He is playing at a level we saw when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were at their best, and that's not the scary part—he runs too. With such a dynamic style of play and incredibly dangerous arm, Aaron Rodgers has this top-notch offense on the move at all times.
Defensively, the Packers took a step backwards. Most notably in pass-rushing, the Packers seemed less motivated. The addition of Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy through the draft should help the defense immensely.
Even if the defense were to lack improvement, the Green Boy offense is good enough to outscore just about any team in the NFL. That alone earns them a top three position in the power rankings.
No. 2: New York Giants
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Yes, they are the defending champions. Yes, I have them ranked No. 2.
I know I will catch flak for this, but the Giants did not get No. 1 not because of what they did or did not do, but because of what another team has done.
The Giants' offense exploded last year with the emergence of Victor Cruz, the receiver you often saw on highlight reels every Monday morning. Although they have lost Mario Manningham, the Giants still return a great receiving core headed by Hakeem Nicks. With Eli Manning now definitely in the discussion of being an elite quarterback, the Giants will have no issues lighting up the scoreboard.
Defensively, the Giants struggled at times. But once again, just as they did in 2007, the front of the defense played remarkably at the right times and proved to be too much for powerful offenses in Green Bay and New England.
The only downfall to the Giants entering the 2012 season will be the fact that teams will no longer look past their defense, as they have proved they are as dangerous as one could imagine.
No. 1: New England Patriots
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I know there is an unwritten rule of power rankings that the defending champions deserve the top slot, but I do not see how a Super Bowl team that has done as much as the Patriots have this offseason, can be anything other than No. 1.
On offense, the New England Patriots added unbelievable depth to the wide receiver position and mostly due to the acquisition of Brandon Lloyd. With Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez all on the field for Tom Brady, this offense is as close to unstoppable as it will get.
The negative of the team has been their defense, as they ranked 31st in pass-defense last season. Even though they were in the middle-of-the-pack in regards to points allowed, too many big players were made at key times against the under-performing secondary.
Bill Belichick went into attack mode at the draft, trading up twice to draft Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. Jones is a pass rushing defensive end who can immediately help solve New England's issues pressuring the quarterback, while Hightower will compliment Jerod Mayo and help give the Patriots one of the best groups of linebackers in the NFL.
After only improving this offseason through the draft and free agency, the Patriots will once again be the favorite to win the Super Bowl.