2012 NFL Preseason Power Rankings
Here are my power rankings for the 2012 season. It was an exciting off-season for most teams—both in free agency as well as the draft—and personally, as a Broncos fan, I cannot wait for the season to begin. It took awhile, but all 32 teams were scouted and ranked based on their performances last year in addition to their off-season acquisitions. See where your team ended up!
1.New England Patriots
Even though they lost the Super Bowl last year, I feel that the Pats are the most well-balanced team in the league. They always seem to get it done with whomever they have at their disposal.
Adding two talented players in the 1st round in Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones will drastically improve their young defense. Dont’a Hightower will be a physical presence in the middle of the New England defense alongside Brandon Spikes; and Chandler Jones, the younger brother of UFC fighter Jon Jones, is a freak athlete who could be quite scary coming off the edge.
2.New York Giants
I originally had Green Bay in this spot, but the Big Blue Men are the defending champs and their defense is on a different level. However, they did lose a number of key offensive players from last season, including Mario Maningham and Brandon Jacobs. Nevertheless, getting Usi re-signed was an important move and the addition of David Wilson and Rueben Randle should help replace some of those players lost in free agency. With Eli under center and their tenacious defense, the Giants are always in contention come playoff time.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Pack certainly owns the most potent offense in football, but—as the old mantra goes—defense wins championships, and Green Bay cannot count on their defense to force the ridiculous number of turnovers they did during their Super Bowl season.
Green Bay did draft two very talented defensive linemen in Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy, who will definitely help them in the trenches. Nevertheless, there are too many top-end defenses in the NFC that can slow their high-powered offense, making them beatable.
4.San Francisco 49ers
The Niners are one of my favorite all-around teams. I even considered putting them above Green Bay due to a very productive off-season. The front office has done a great job building a strong support staff around an inconsistent Alex Smith; adding AJ Jenkins, LaMichael James, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs, and Randy Moss to an already very talented offensive group.
And everyone already knows about the stout defense in San Fran—led by all-world middle linebacker Patrick Willis—and I expect them to play just as well this upcoming season. Look for the 49ers to have a very successful second season under head coach Jim Harbaugh and watch them make another deep run in the playoffs.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens always seem to be contenders, despite the lack of a truly elite quarterback in Joe Flacco. Adding two offensive linemen in Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski through the draft should help the offense by giving Flacco more time, especially playing in the highly competitive AFC North.
On the other hand, when talking about the Ravens, you can forget about the offense. The Ravens will go as far as Ray Lewis and their defense goes, and who knows if this phase of their game will ever decline. Baltimore’s defense is always tough, and adding Courtney Upshaw out of Alabama will only make them tougher—giving the team some much needed youth on the defensive side of the ball.
You can never count the Ravens out, and no one should this year.
6. Denver Broncos
The Broncos had, by far and away, the biggest and best off-season in the NFL. Not only did they land quite possibly the biggest free agent in history in Peyton Manning, but also rid themselves of the distracting media whirlwind that is Tim Tebow. They also succeeded in getting much needed help on defense by signing Tracy Porter to play opposite Champ Bailey, as well as Florence Drayton to give further depth to their secondary.
Denver had a fairly mediocre draft, but did manage to pick up two very solid players in defensive tackle Derek Wolfe and running back Ronnie Hillman—both of whom should be able to contribute immediately. At the very least, I expect the Broncos to win the rather weak AFC West and make a good run into the playoffs.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers had one thing on their mind this off-season - keep Big Ben healthy. They should be able to do just that with the additions of David DeCastro and Mike Adams. They also got some help for their aging linebacker corps by drafting Sean Spence out of the University of Miami, who is a little undersized, but brings the hammer and should fit right in with the hard-nosed Steelers defense.
It should be yet another tight race for the AFC North in 2012, and the Steelers should be smack in the middle of it.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
Like most of Philadelphia’s teams, the Eagles had a very disappointing season last year. Nevertheless, they have so much talent it is impossible to think they will have an equally miserable season in 2012.
With the additions of Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks to their defense, they should be more capable of stopping offensive drives this season. If they can succeed in this, their high-flying offense, conducted by the incomparable Mike Vick, should take care of the rest.
That said, the NFC East is always tough; however I think the Eagles will give the Giants a run for their money.
The Detroit Lions is a team that has been on the cusp of greatness for the last few years. They have a number of young and quickly maturing stars on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The addition of Riley Ratliff to the offensive line should greatly help Matthew Stafford, who has struggled with injuries over the past couple years. Furthermore, Ronnell Lewis will give the defense a little more depth and versatility at the linebacker position.
Finally, the terrific Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles should have great success opposite Megatron. I expect the Lions to fight for a playoff spot again this season.
10. Chicago Bears
Chicago has all the pieces to win a championship (Assuming, of course, that they re-sign Forte). They just seem to have letdowns on a regular basis, from important role players such as Roy Williams and Marion Barber last season.
The first order of business is getting Forte re-signed, but after that, they can focus on implementing their two star rookies: Shane McClellan and Alshon Jeffery, who should fill in the gaps nicely. Working opposite Julius Peppers, McClellan should have plenty of opportunities; and Jeffery finally gives Jay Cutler a legitimate, play-making receiver. The Bears have the talent to be a very dangerous team this season, supposing all goes well in the windy city.
11. Houston Texans
The worst named team in football had a great season last year, making and wining their first playoff game in franchise history. With the looks of the AFC south this year, the Texans are the favorite to win the division for a second straight year.
Losing Mario Williams will definitely hurt them on defense, but adding Whitney Mercilus should lessen the blow. Arian Foster looks to be entering the peak of his career, and I think he will have yet another monster season. TJ Yates proved he can play in the NFL, and with Andre Johnson healthy again, the Texans should have their sights set on a deep playoff run.
12. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is another team that just can’t seem to get over the hill and make a genuine run at a championship. They have all the talent necessary to win, and Julio Jones will only get better as he becomes more familiar with Matty Ice - and Matty Ice with him. Nevertheless, they are quickly getting older in almost all phases, and need to overcome their issues in the next few seasons or start rebuilding again.
13.New Orleans Saints
The Saints definitely had the worst off-season of any team—for obvious reasons—but as long as they have Drew Brees, they are always a threat. They will be very thin for the first few games of the season, considering the many suspensions; however these sort of problems can have a way of bringing a team together, and as players come back and get into game shape, they may have enough of a chip on their shoulders to make a run at the playoffs.
14.San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have had a rough couple of years. Phillip Rivers had a dismal season last year, and rookie running back Ryan Mathews did not pan out as planned. I think they need to get rid of Norv Turner and start over again.
Either way, their number one draft pick Melvin Ingram is a terror coming off the edge, and that should definitely help in the AFC West, playing against Peyton Manning, Matt Cassel, and Carson Palmer. They have a good amount of talent, but their play last year was too inconsistent to believe they will have a stellar year in 2012.
The Cats were a nice surprise last season for the NFL. Andy Dalton shocked just about everybody with his immediate impact on the field—of course it does not hurt having AJ Green to throw to.
The additions of Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Zeitler should make this team a contender in the very tough AFC North, but we will have to wait and see if Dalton can reproduce his 2011 season and continue to win on a consistent basis.
The Cowboys are the great under-achieving team of this era in the NFL. They always have the talent necessary to win, but they are so inconsistent that success rarely follows them for long.
Moving up to grab lock-down cover corner Morris Claiborne instantly improves their defense, especially with rush happy defensive coordinator Rob Ryan at the helm. On paper, they should be very good this upcoming season; it's just tough to believe they will actually pull it off these days.
17.New York Jets
The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets will always have a good defense under the watchful eye of Rex Ryan and the leadership of Bart Scott, but they will have to be amazing in order to cover up Mark Sanchez’s shortcomings.
Adding Quinton Coples through the draft gives them yet another demon coming of the edge and will only make things better. Nevertheless, it’s the offense I’m worried about. I’m not a Mark Sanchez fan and am confident, as a Broncos fan, that Tebow won’t help—and may even hurt—the inconsistent quarterback play for the Jets. Yet their defense can keep them in games, and, like we saw with Tebow last year, anything can happen in close games.
The Titans are an interesting team that flew a little under the radar last season. Matt Hasselbeck has had a resurgence in his career moving to the warm weather in Tennessee, and hopefully Chris Johnson can get back on track now that he’s not worried about his money.
If all goes according to plan with the rest of the offense, Kendall Wright could turn out to be a great draft pick who gives the team another incredibly explosive offensive threat. Not necessarily a playoff team, but they look to be headed in the right direction.
19.Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I really like the Bucs. I believe Freeman is a great young quarterback who just needs to find his confidence. I love the way LeGarrette Blount runs, and adding a change-of-pace back like Doug Martin through the draft will make their offense that much more diverse.
In addition, I thought Mark Barron was one of the best players coming out of the draft this year, and like John Lynch did for so many years with the Bucs, Barron will lock down an already strong secondary and control the middle of the field.
Carolina is obviously a team to watch out for with superfreak Cam Newton under center. However, they still have huge holes on their roster and Steve Smith can’t play forever. Luke Kuechly is a great pick who will help solidify the middle of their defense and take some pressure off of Jon Beason. However, I assume they will struggle this season as defenses begin to figure out Cam Newton and opposing offenses continue to run over their D. Nevertheless, they are moving in the right direction quickly.
21.St Louis Rams
The Rams are definitely still in the building process, but have made some very strong steps towards winning in the future. Yet they still need more offensive firepower to support Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford. Michael Brockers was a good pick, as they definitely need help on defensive side of the ball. All in all, the Rams are still a project.
The Bills had a great first half of the season last year, but fell off the wagon during the second half. Nevertheless, they had a very productive off-season, landing Mario Williams in free agency as well as Stephon Gilmore through the draft. Both of these players will immediately secure the team’s defense, and hopefully allow the offense to play with a lead or—at the very least—in close games.
23.Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were devastated by injury last season, but even with everyone healthy, they are still missing a number of pieces needed to win consistently in the NFL. I love Dwayne Bowe and Eric Barry, but they simply cannot carry the team forever. Bowe is constantly doubled, and Barry cannot be so heavily relied upon each year to save their defense’s butt.
Their first-round draft pick, Dontari Poe, is a bit of a question mark in my book and was drafted way too high due to the vast need for D-lineman in the NFL – he reminds me of a Glen Dorsey. Nevertheless, he should help, but not to the level the Chiefs need to win. They still need a couple of years to improve their roster as well as develop young talent.
Adrian Peterson is definitely my favorite football player in the league right now. The Vikings upgrading their O-line by drafting Matt Kalil will not only help Peterson continue to dominate (and stay healthy), but also improve their entire offense. They still need a quarterback, but even so, I like the team and think they are a dangerous one.
25. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a team in flux for the time being. They have a number of very talented players, particularly Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Wilson, but still don’t know who their starting quarterback will be for 2012. Their first round draft pick, Michael Floyd, should add some explosiveness to their offense, as Fitzgerald will inevitably get most of the attention from opposing secondaries, and Floyd will be free to prove himself as a first round pick.
The Seahawks have not been relevant since their Super Bowl appearance six years ago, but are beginning to build a legit team under Pete Carroll. It was a bit of a surprise to see them take Bruce Irvin as their first round pick, but he has a high ceiling and could end up being a very good player for the defense. Slowly but surely they are beginning to build a legitimate team up in Washington for some of the best fans in the country.
The Redskins are a disaster. They overpay everybody and just can’t seem to win, no matter what they do. However, Robert Griffin III was a great pick that could turn their fortunes around. He will be able to use his quick feet a lot in Mike Shanahan’s scheme during roll-outs and in play action. The question will be, though, do the Redskins have enough weapons around Griffin to permit his success?
I thought the Browns had by far and away the best draft this year. Trent Richardson is a beast who will make an immediate impact on their football team, especially playing in the cold AFC North and with an inexperienced quarterback. Though he lacks NFL experience, picking up the 28-year-old baseball player out of Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden, was a great choice for this team. He is intelligent, has a great arm, is quite mature, and ultimately ready to step in and play at a relatively high level immediately.
What can I say about the Raiders? As I mentioned previously, I’m a big Broncos fan. So...sorry, but it’s great to see the Raiders franchise in shambles. They have some great players, but as a whole, the organization is having serious trouble. They gave up a lot for Carson Palmer, who should do better after a full off-season with the team, but they are still in a state of chaos and cannot win consistently in any sense of the word.
The Fish are hoping Ryan Tannehill’s short stint of success as a quarterback at Texas A&M can continue into the NFL. They have some strong pieces in place, like Jake Long and Reggie Bush, but need to find more production on their roster if they want to win in the very tough AFC East.
The Colts are still reeling from the loss of Peyton Manning. They pretty much cleaned house in order to set up the era of Colts football under number one overall pick Andrew Luck. By no means, though, is this a quick process. It will take years for them to fully recover.
However, there is no better quarterback to start rebuilding around than Luck. They still have a fairly strong receiving corps with Reggie Wayne coming back, but overall the roster was decimated this off-season and it will take a few years to get them back on track.
I think the Jags are in the worst position of any football team in the NFL. There have been rumors of the franchise moving cities due to their poor attendance, and they really don’t have too many pieces in place, offensively or defensively, other than an aging and beat-up Maurice Jones-Drew. Justin Blackmon, their first round pick, is a very talented player, but the guy throwing him the ball, Blaine Gabbert, was drafted way too high and has too much pressure on him as a starter. I fear he will lose his all-important confidence playing in Jacksonville.