2012 NFL Power Rankings Before Training Camp with Projected Records

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIJuly 23, 2012

2012 NFL Power Rankings Before Training Camp with Projected Records

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    Projecting the records of every team in the NFL is a grueling task and makes for an interesting set of power rankings. Unlike most arbitrary rankings out there, these are contrived using the philosophy that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. 

    So these rankings were determined by projecting all 32 team's records. Then they are sorted by projected record and projected strength of schedule. Once that is all complete, the final result is a ranking  that can be used as power rankings.

    These rankings will be updated all year long, starting again from Week 4 and continuing throughout the season. The best teams will always have the best record against the best strength of schedule. 

32. Minnesota Vikings

1 of 32

    Projected Record: 2-14

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.516

    It's always hard to project who will be at the bottom of the barrel at this point in the season. The Vikings have an excellent running game but when Adrian Peterson has a torn up knee, it's hard to believe in that offense. Ponder is still young and Kalil is a good protector, but they need help to score points.

    As bad as their offense is, their defense isn't much better. Jared Allen and Kevin Williams are great bright spots, but there isn't much talent after them. Greenway is a good linebacker, and they have potential in the secondary. However, they need to grow as a defense before they can be relied on.

31. St. Louis Rams

2 of 32

    Projected Record: 3-13

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.496

    Sam Bradford is a good quarterback and leader, but head coach Jeff Fisher has his work cut out for him with that weak offensive line. They only have one good lineman in Harvey Dahl and there isn't anyone to help block for Stephen Jackson. 

    The Rams have rebuilt the defensive line and have talent all along it. The starting line of Long, Quinn, Brockers and Langford will give the Rams great protection for an already solid linebacking corps. The real weakness on their defense is in the secondary.

30. Miami Dolphins

3 of 32

    Projected Record: 3-13

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.500

    Miami is arguably one of the worst teams in the league. Their offensive line is solid, but they have no weapons for their trio of quarterbacks. They need help in the backfield as well. Reggie Bush is a good speed back, but they needs someone to grind out the tough carries.

    On defense, losing Langford hurts but the switch to a 4-3 will be beneficial for them. They have one of the more talented units, but it will take a year or two for the full switch to be effective. Their issue is that with Tannehill, Garrard and Moore as their quarterbacks this year, they just don't have the right signal callers to win a lot of games this year.

29. Indianapolis Colts

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    Projected Record: 3-13

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.523

    It's a bit harsh, but it's hard to purge as much talent as they did and not replicate the results from last season. The complete rebuild is needed for them to succeed long term. They have a lot of promising young talent similar to the 1999 season when they took Peyton Manning.

    Andrew Luck is very similar to Manning in a lot of ways, and he isn't going to be a winning quarterback his first season either. There are too many holes on defense and the offense needs to gel. Once they put it together, watch out for Indianapolis again.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars

5 of 32

    Projected Record: 4-12

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.504

    Mike Mularkey is a good coach and has the talent on his team to build a solid contender...in the future. They have too many holes on the offensive line this year to protect Blaine Gabbert. However, if they can figure out the right mix on their offensive line, they could challenge for the playoffs.

    Their defense isn't an issue at all. Mel Tucker runs a very talented unit, led by longtime veterans Reshean Mathis and Daryl Smith. They have a talented group that plays ahead of it's age and experience level. They have the ability to be a top-10 defense and carry the team if need be, but they won't carry them this year.

27. Washington Redskins

6 of 32

    Projected Record: 5-11

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.496

    Robert Griffin III brings a new hope to the offense. He's the ideal quarterback for Shanahan's scheme and he is a top-notch leader. However, he is still a rookie. He won't have the same kind of success that Cam Newton had early in his first year because the NFC East already knows how to handle a quarterback of his nature.

    The Skins have a solid run game and defense to lean on. Orakpo, Kerrigan, Fletcher and Riley make up one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL. It's a shame they don't have a defensive line good enough to match them and protect them. That will be their downfall this year.

26. Oakland Raiders

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    Projected Record: 5-11

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.512

    Carson Palmer leads the Raiders and is a talented quarterback. However, they need more than just Palmer to win games. The Raiders offense goes with Darren McFadden. He has been injured quite a bit, but if McFadden is healthy for all 16 games this season then their win total heads north.

    Their defense is the real problem. They don't have any true pass rushers on the ends of their line and a switch to the 3-4 is going to be beneficial for them in the long term. They have some solid linebackers, but need to invest in some pass rushers before they can win more games.

25. Cleveland Browns

8 of 32

    Projected Record: 5-11

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.535

    While most are projecting the Browns to be the worst team in the league, I see them as a much better team. They have good leadership on defense with D'Qwell Jackson, Shelton Brown and Ahtyba Rubin. They also have some great young talent around their defense in Joe Haden, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.

    The Browns face a problem at quarterback. Colt McCoy was already solid but they reached heavily for Brandon Weeden. They did upgrade one of their worst spots with offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz this year and should be able to win a few more games.

24. Seattle Seahawks

9 of 32

    Projected Record: 6-10

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.488

    Pete Carroll has led them to a pair of 7-9 records. This year they will be slightly worse. There is too much insecurity about who the quarterback is and that can lead to a lack of team unity. They have a good running game to lean on, but they need to settle their QB before the team can have a winning record.

    On defense, they should be better. They have a great candidate for their Elephant role in Bruce Irvin now and he could be a top-notch DE/LB in the NFL. However, they are a middle of the road team and will have a middle of the road record to go with it.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Projected Record: 6-10

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.492

    Tampa Bay will be better in 2012. They won't be playoff caliber or ready to make a huge move back into the playoffs just yet. They have issues with their defense that need to be addressed. Their cornerback situation leaves a lot to be desired and will be a big weakness versus the pass-happy NFC South.

    On offense, they should be able to gel a lot faster. Their two big additions of Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks will pay off, but they will have to wait a year for them to be completely synchronized with Josh Freeman. Once that happens though, the entire NFL should watch out.

22. Dallas Cowboys

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    Projected Record: 7-9

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.523

    Every year, Dallas is hyped as a top-notch playoff team. Every year, they either miss the playoffs completely or have a first round exit. This year is no different. Tony Romo is a good statistical quarterback, but he isn't the man to lead them to a championship.

    On defense, they look like they have finally fixed their big cornerback issues. However, they still have weaknesses all around their defense. They also have to play against one of the top divisions in the league, and that will be detrimental to their chances at moving up this list.

21. Denver Broncos

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    Projected Record: 7-9

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.555

    Peyton Manning is a great quarterback. However, he isn't going to save the Broncos as his injury history will come back to bite him. They will need to lean on their running game to do better than 7-9, but after giving Manning the contract they did, they will need to utilize him.

    On defense, they have one of the better 4-3 units out there at every position but defensive tackle. That will lead to them getting gashed up the middle by some of the better running attacks. It will also allow quarterbacks to step up in the pocket and shred them, leading to the mediocre record.

20. Cincinnati Bengals

13 of 32

    Projected Record: 8-8

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.484

    It happens every year. Playoff teams who take a step back before taking their next step forward. The Bengals will do that this year. They have an excellent offense led by A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, however, the running game being led by BenJarvis Green-Ellis will be underwhelming.

    On defense, they have an excellent pass rush and it's shocking that Mike Zimmer hasn't gotten the chance to be a head coach in the NFL yet. A great draft will only help this team develop for the long-term, but they will go through some growing pains this year.

19. New York Jets

14 of 32

    Projected Record: 8-8

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.492

    This will be Rex Ryan's last hurrah for the Jets. Sanchez isn't a great starting quarterback, but the biggest issue for the Jets is their locker room. Darrell Revis has said that the locker room is comparable to a circus and with Tebow added to the mix, it is even more of one now.

    Locker room issues are something that will completely destroy a talented team like the Jets from getting into the playoffs. They have a pretty easy schedule this year and should be around .500, but that won't be enough for the Jets to save Ryan's job.

18. Carolina Panthers

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    Projected Record: 8-8

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.520

    Cam Newton and the Panthers will improve again in 2012. They just aren't going to magically end up in the playoffs this year. Steve Smith is a veteran who would want to get back to the playoffs, but it isn't in the cards with how good the NFC South is this year.

    Their defense will be their real downfall as their defensive tackles are terrible and their corner depth is sad. Jon Beason is back from injury and the Panthers took the very solid Luke Kuechly to join an already deep linebacker corps, but it won't be enough to be more than .500.

17. New York Giants

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    Projected Record: 8-8

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.543

    This looks crazy to some due to the fact that they are the reigning Super Bowl champions. However, they lost a couple of key components on offense in Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs and their defense still has issues in their linebacking corps. 

    They made it to the playoffs in 2011 because of a very good run at the end of the year. However, they have a harder schedule in 2012. They won't have the ball bounce their way in the 2012 season and will barely miss the playoffs at 8-8. 

16. Arizona Cardinals

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    Projected Record: 9-7

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.496

    Arizona has a good defense to rely on and an even more talented offense to give them a winning record. The only thing that keeps them out of the playoffs is their lack of a true starting quarterback. Unlike most of the teams with quarterback issues, the Cardinals can protect against that.

    Their top group of wide receivers in Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts give a quarterback a lot of talent to play with. They also have a pair of safety valves at tight end in Todd Heap and Jeff King. The running game also helps them earn a solid record.

15. Detroit Lions

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    Projected Record: 9-7

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.508

    The Lions are for real. They just have the bad luck of playing in a division with three playoff caliber teams. They will go 9-7 after losing in the final week to Chicago for the last playoff spot. However, that game could go either way.

    The only real issue that the Lions face is themselves. They have arguably the most talented team in the NFC and they have an excellent coaching staff. However, if they continue to get arrested and suspensions hold their wealth of talent out of games, they won't duplicate 2011.

14. San Diego Chargers

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    Projected Record: 9-7

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.523

    A 9-7 AFC West team that misses the playoffs? No, this isn't bizarro world. The AFC West got much better and they will wind up winning more games as a division than people will give them credit for. The Chargers will barely miss the playoffs this year.

    Their offense is lead by Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates. They did lose Vincent Jackson, but bringing in Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal gives them more versatility at wide receiver. They will miss the playoffs though and that means Norv Turner will finally be fired as head coach.

13. New Orleans Saints

20 of 32

    Projected Record: 9-7

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.539

    The Saints have the Bountygate issue to worry about for sure. The biggest part that they have to worry about is Sean Payton not being on the sidelines. In the three games that he either missed or wasn't on the sidelines for, they went 1-2.

    They won't be that bad this year, as they should still be above .500 with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and the completely upgraded linebacking corps. Expect them to compete in every game, but they won't have the extra coaching they need to get over that hump early in the season.

12. New England Patriots

21 of 32

    Projected Record: 10-6

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.461

    The Patriots will sneak into the playoffs this year in a highly competitive season for the top teams. They won't win their division, but they will still ride one of the best coaching-quarterback combinations in NFL history to their continued success.

    Their defense is also finally starting to come together again. They have some good pass rushers that they selected and they could always bring back Andre Carter as well. They will mix 3-4 and 4-3 schemes to be one of the best defensive teams in the league again.

11. San Francisco 49ers

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    Projected Record: 10-6

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.465

    The 49ers are well coached, talented and the best team in the NFC west. Though Alex Smith is a complete game manager, they will be able to score quite a bit of points due to their excellent running game and Smith finally having a second year in the same offense. 

    Their defense is what wins games. They have the best defensive lineman in the league in Justin Smith and their interior linebackers are top notch in Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. They will have a small regression to the mean, but will still be a top team in the NFC.

10. Chicago Bears

23 of 32

    Projected Record: 10-6

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.469

    They will return to prominence now that Jay Cutler is healthy again, and the Bears will be much better. Their offensive line doesn't have a lot of talent on it but the new scheme will help protect their lack of talent and their franchise player. 

    Wide receiver is a true strength this year after bringing in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to team to pair with Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. The defense is still talented and the Bears could make a run in the playoffs if they get hot at the right time.

9. Tennessee Titans

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    Projected Record: 10-6

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.488

    The Titans should finally start second-year player Jake Locker at quarterback. He's a good decision maker and will lead them to a playoff record. Chris Johnson should also return to form with a much better offensive line in 2012 after the addition of Steve Hutchinson.

    On defense, they will have a talented rotation at both end and tackle. In the wide-9, expect Kamerion Wimbley to have a career year and be a true asset for once in his career. They also brought back Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux to cover deep and their talent will lead to a playoff birth in 2012.

8. Baltimore Ravens

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    Projected Record: 10-6

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.427

    Ray Rice, Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin return for another year after losing in the last seconds in the playoffs due to a Cundiff missed field goal. Baltimore could still end up in the AFC Championship game this year, but they will have to learn better redzone management.

    Their defense is still the famed Ravens defense and they shouldn't fall off until both Ed Reed and Ray Lewis retire. This is looking to be the last year for both of the long-time Ravens. However, Baltimore has always been able to find replacements and 2013 is deep in middle linebacker prospects.

7. Buffalo Bills

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    Projected Record: 11-5

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.449

    I'm oing out on a limb here for the Bills, but a combination of a weak schedule and a rebuilt defense will give them their first playoff appearance under Chan Gailey. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a good quarterback playing behind a solid offensive line with good targets. 

    The defense will be dominant though with Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson on the line. They will have solid linebackers and a solid group of corners. However, their safety duo of Jairus Byrd and George Wilson is arguably the best in the NFL and could lead their defense to new heights.

6. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Projected Record: 11-5

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.492

    Matt Cassel doesn't inspire any confidence as the starting quarterback. However, getting Jamaal Charles back and bringing in Peyton Hillis to go with their talented wide receiver group gives hope that any quarterback just has to not lose instead of going out and winning.

    Head coach Romeo Crennel also has an excellent group on defense, and bringing in Dontari Poe to anchor the line will be a good move. The only real hole on their defense is the inside linebacker spot next to Derrick Johnson and that can be filled with a solid but unspectacular player if they play more nickel defense.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

28 of 32

    Projected Record: 11-5

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.500

    The Eagles have a top-tier team. But they aren't a dream team or even close to being a dynasty. They are going to get into the playoffs and compete for a spot in the NFC Championship game. However, Michael Vick has been figured out by quite a few defenses.

    That being said, their defense is supremely talented, and by adding Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans to their linebacker corps, they finally shored up the weakest spot on the defense. The improved defense will lead to them having an 11-5 record for the first time in three years.

4. Houston Texans

29 of 32

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.457

    Houston continues to improve. Sure they lost Eric Winston, Mario Williams and Mike Brisiel to free agency, but they improved by continuing to have the right scheme fits drafted. They will get Schaub back and had he been healthy all of 2011, they would have likely been 12-4.

    They were also able to keep together the primary cogs of the best defense from 2011. Wade Phillips is healthy and they will have another year in the scheme. They also brought in a first round pass rusher who could be the difference between 10-6 and 12-4 in 2012.

3. Atlanta Falcons

30 of 32

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.496

    The Falcons are built for the regular season as noticed by their three playoff losses in the past four years. However, this is the year that they have to prove they can win in the playoffs or Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff could be put on the hot seat.

    They have a good offense and Julio Jones is primed to break out under Dirk Koetter's new scheme. The defense could be much better as the additions of Asante Samuel and Mike Nolan will only increase the production and aggression, leading to more wins.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

31 of 32

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.496

    Pittsburgh is perennially going to be in the playoffs. This is the final year of their AFC North dominance though. They improved their terrible offensive line by drafting rookies David DeCastro and Mike Adams to team with Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey and Willie Colon.

    The improved offensive line, as well as the offense overall, will take pressure off of the defense. Dick Lebeau's defense will continue to be good, but this is Casey Hampton's last year in the NFL. The presence of a top nose tackle is essential in the defense and the Steelers will enjoy a solid year before age and injury catches up with them.

1. Green Bay Packers

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    Projected Record: 13-3

    Projected Strength of Schedule: 0.453

    The Packers are still the best team in the NFL in 2012. They have the best offense in the NFL and their defense finally has enough talent to go from the middle of the NFL back to the top. They have improved the outside pass rushers with the selection of Nick Perry.

    They also improved their secondary with the selections of Casey Hayward at corner and Jerron McMillian at safety. The only weakness that is still on the Packers is the offensive line, but they should be able to hold up and allow the Packers to be the best team in the NFL...at least for the regular season.


    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist and Trends and Traffic Writer for Bleacher Report. As a Featured Columnist, he covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek and also runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and the host of Kvetching Draftniks Radio.