NFL Power Rankings 2012: Underrated Teams Sure to Rise
The Carolina Panthers will be in playoff contention this coming season.
The emergence of superstar signal-caller Cam Newton under center has revived the franchise and will elevate them to the next level in 2012.
Newton smashed NFL quarterback rushing records (14 touchdowns) a season ago and promises to flip Carolina's record around this year (the Panthers went 6-10 in 2011).
The Panthers aren't the only underrated NFL franchise that will rise in the weekly power rankings this season, though.
Let's take a look at some under-the-radar teams that will make a push in 2012.
Will the Panthers make the playoffs in 2012?
Carolina had to address their defensive deficiencies in the draft last spring, and they did just that, drafting Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft will certainly help make an impact on a defense that ranked 24th and 25th in the league against the pass and run respectively last season. I like the Panthers to challenge the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South in 2012. They have a franchise quarterback and have added to their struggling defense this offseason.
Seattle struggled to move the ball consistently in 2011, which led to a 7-9 season and a disappointing early offseason. The Seahawks' strength last season was their defense, which ranked 11th in the NFL defending the pass and 15th against the run. Seattle now has a franchise quarterback in Matt Flynn, who they signed this offseason.
Flynn showed glimpses of elite talent behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and will now get his chance to lead an offense for a full season in 2012. First- and second-round picks Bruce Irvin from West Virginia and Bobby Wagner of Utah State bolster the defense and will give the Seahawks a real shot at contending in the NFC West, which boasts beatable competition.
With Michael Vick healthy again in 2012, and the pressure of being dubbed the "Dream Team" behind them, the Philadelphia Eagles will rise in the NFC East. Philly has loads of talent on its roster, and despite the hardship facing head coach Andy Reid and the team after the recent death of Reid's son at training camp, they will return one of the NFL's hottest offenses this season.
The Eagles ranked ninth and fifth in the league last season in passing and rushing offense, and managed five road wins despite a rocky start to the season. Expect the defense to be much better after an offseason of intense scrutiny. Philly drafted defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in the first round, and shored up their interior defensive line, which will immensely improve their rushing defense in 2012.
My Latest 2012 Preseason NFL Power Rankings
|No. 1||Green Bay Packers||15-1|
|No. 2||New England Patriots||13-3|
|No. 3||Baltimore Ravens||12-4|
|No. 4||New York Giants||9-7|
|No. 5||San Francisco 49ers||13-3|
|No. 6||Pittsburgh Steelers||12-4|
|No. 7||Houston Texans||10-6|
|No. 8||New Orleans Saints||13-3|
|No. 9||Detroit Lions||10-6|
|No. 10||Denver Broncos||8-8|
|No. 11||Cincinnati Bengals||9-7|
|No. 12||Chicago Bears||8-8|
|No. 13||New York Jets||8-8|
|No. 14||Dallas Cowboys||8-8|
|No. 15||Philadelphia Eagles||8-8|
|No. 16||San Diego Chargers||8-8|
|No. 17||Seattle Seahawks||7-9|
|No. 18||Tennessee Titans||9-7|
|No. 19||Atlanta Falcons||10-6|
|No. 20||Arizona Cardinals||8-8|
|No. 21||Oakland Raiders||8-8|
|No. 22||Carolina Panthers||6-10|
|No. 23||Kansas City Chiefs||7-9|
|No. 24||Miami Dolphins||6-10|
|No. 25||Buffalo Bills||6-10|
|No. 26||Jacksonville Jaguars||5-11|
|No. 27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4-12|
|No. 28||Washington Redskins||5-11|
|No. 29||Indianapolis Colts||2-14|
|No. 30||Cleveland Browns||4-12|
|No. 31||Minnesota Vikings||3-13|
|No. 32||St. Louis Rams||2-14|
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