NFL Power Rankings: Who's Looking Pretty as Preseason Starts?
Offseason workouts are over, the Draft is a distant memory, last year's numbers are old news.
Football Sundays are fast approaching, and with the preseason just underway, it's time to weigh in on where all the teams rank.
As the preseason begins, some teams are at the head of the class, others are facing impending struggles and a handful are probably looking at a very long season.
Here is where all 32 teams rank, as I see it.
Top of the Class: New York Giants
How can a team that went 9-7 in 2011 be the No. 1 team in the rankings? By winning the Super Bowl, that's how.
The Giants addressed two needs as they headed into this preseason: running back and wide receiver.
After losing Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, they went out and drafted their replacements. David Wilson will replace Jacobs and back up Ahmad Bradshaw. Stud WR Rueben Randle should replace Manningham as Eli's third option receiver.
The Giants are looking very well-rounded and ready to defend their title as preseason is underway.
No. 2: New England Patriots
It's only fair that the Patriots get the No. 2 spot heading into this preseason, since they did play in last season's Super Bowl.
They retained the core of their explosive offensive unit from 2011, and their draft of Dont'a Hightower at inside linebacker, along with other defensive draft picks, should sure up some of their deficiencies from 2011.
Thus far, the Patriots look like they will be very strong.
No. 3: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers come in at No. 3.
They went 15-1 last year, a nice achievement, despite being the league worst in passing yards given up.
Just like the Patriots, Green Bay went out and drafted a lot of defensive help.
As for the Packers' offense, Aaron Rodgers is another year older, stronger and smarter, and his team will be a scary matchup for anybody.
Adding veteran running back Cedric Benson makes them even more of a well-rounded unit with which to contend.
No. 4: San Francisco 49ers
Contrary to the Packers, the 49ers had one of the best defenses in the league.
Their vaunted defense hasn't changed much, plus they've added Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to strengthen their receiving core.
Alex Smith seemed to thrive under coach Jim Harbaugh last year, so expect San Francisco to be right in the mix again this year.
They too look very strong at the start of preseason.
No. 5: Baltimore Ravens
Last year, they could have easily been in the Super Bowl if not for that costly touchdown drop by Lee Evans.
I do think that they have the right personnel in place in 2012 in order to recover from last season's blunder.
They are looking pretty good as the preseason starts this year.
No. 6: Houston Texans
The Houston Texans come in at No. 6 in the rankings, as they are looking pretty good as preseason is underway.
Schaub is back from injury, Arian Foster is ready to go, and they're coming off a great 2011 season where they won the AFC South and gained some valuable playoff experience.
A team to watch in 2012, they look to be a confident group with a core nucleus of players.
No. 7: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers slide into the No. 7 spot in my rankings.
With Mike Wallace expected to end his holdout in time for the regular season, Roethlisberger will have him, Antonio Brown and running back Mendenhall as his key offensive weapons. With Polamalu and Ryan Clark still patrolling the defense, they're looking like they will be in strong shape heading into 2012.
No. 8: Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia may have been the most-talked about 8-8 team ever last year, but they are looking very prime to quiet critics in their 2012 campaign.
Despite a scary collision that Nnamdi Asomugha got into on Monday, August 13, the Eagles are looking like the NFC East powerhouse they were expected to be last year.
They have the superstar quarterback in Vick, an elite running back in McCoy, and two young and above-average receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
As this preseason is underway, the Eagles are looking like they'll be much better than 8-8.
No. 9: Detroit Lions
Mostly thanks to the arm of Matthew Stafford, this team is looking capable of good things. Calvin Johnson is a terrifying matchup for any defensive back in the league, and with Suh, Fairley and Vanden Bosch anchoring their defense, they look to be in good shape.
Their only weakness appears to be at running back, but maybe Jahvid Best will have a better 2012 season.
Overall, the Lions are ready to go.
No. 10: Denver Broncos
The new look Denver Broncos are looking very good, as I have them at No. 10 in the rankings.
There will obviously be some adjustments with the offense, but anytime Peyton Manning is your quarterback, any adjustments would be welcomed.
Don't forget that Willis McGahee is at running back, Von Miller runs that defense and Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas just became the two happiest wide receivers in the NFL.
The Broncos are loaded with talent and it's just a matter of when it all gels together. They are looking very exciting at the start of 2012.
No. 11: Chicago Bears
The new-look Bears look to be in okay shape at the start of the 2012 preseason.
The arrival of Brandon Marshall has all of camp excited, they upgraded at running back by signing Michael Bush and by bringing back Matt Forte, and Devin Hester still poses a special teams threat for them.
The Bears are looking to be a formidable opponent this season.
No. 12: New Orleans Saints
The Saints were in the news this offseason for all the wrong reasons, which is why I don't have them in the top ten of the NFL Power Rankings.
Yes, they were 13-3 in 2011, and yes, they signed Brees to a monstrous contract, but they are heading into the 2012 season without their head coach and without their start linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
They still have Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas at running back and Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham at receiver, but the absence of Sean Payton will impact their ability to execute throughout the season.
I can't say they're looking pretty now, but time will tell.
No. 13: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons went 10-6 last year, and I think they are looking good this preseason and should improve in 2012.
Their core offensive pieces of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Julio Jones didn't completely gel last season, but they should be a more cohesive unit after another year together.
With the addition of Asante Samuel at cornerback, the Falcons look prime to do well in the NFC South in 2012.
No. 14: Dallas Cowboys
How 'bout them Cowboys?
I have them at No. 14 because no matter what the so-called "experts" say about the Cowboys, they always seem to end up as a middle-of-the-road team.
Romo can't seem to ever rise up to the challenge, Dez Bryant is a headache, Miles Austin is injury prone and DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones are average when good.
Jason Witten is the only piece of consistency on this team.
The cowboys are who they are: an average underachieving team with an obnoxious, loud owner.
No. 15: San Diego Chargers
Things don't look good for them in this upcoming season, mainly due to the departure of Vincent Jackson.
They still have their 1000+ yard rusher Ryan Matthews, and Phillip Rivers still has Malcom Floyd as a target, but as of now things don't look too great for the Chargers.
They'll be lucky to equal their 8-8 record from last year.
No. 16: Tennessee Titans
Even though 2011 had a lot of new personnel, the Titans still seem to have a lot of question marks going into 2012.
Will Chris Johnson be the running back he was a couple seasons ago?
Will Jake Locker emerge as a top young quarterback?
Can they be better than 9-7?
They are a mystery as of now.
No. 17: Cincinnati Bengals
With his first season and first offseason under his belt, Andy Dalton is looking to improve on the Bengals' 9-7 season from 2011.
While the Bengals exceeded expectations last year, they already appear to be regressing.
They no longer have their 1000+ rusher Cedric Benson, and you have to assume that Dalton may have a bit of a sophomore slump.
The Bengals would be lucky to equal their mark of 9-7 from last year.
No. 18: Arizona Cardinals
Will John Skelton or the highly regarded Kevin Kolb step up and lead the team this year?
Yes, you still have the best wide receiver in the game in Larry Fitzgerald and a decent running game with Beanie Wells, but if you aren't clear at quarterback, does it all really matter?
A lot is unknown with the Cardinals.
No. 19: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs will have Romeo Crennel at the helm for his first full year and the responsibility of plugging in their 2012 draft picks.
Kansas City is looking like they will be able to build on their 7-9 season from 2011.
Cassel is an average quarterback with above-average targets in Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston. He'll also have decent running game in Dexter McCluster and new acquisition Peyton Hillis.
With Crennel in charge, he should be able to improve the Chiefs' defense and put the team in a better position than last year.
No. 20: New York Jets
The Jets should feel lucky to be at No. 20 and not No. 32.
Here's a team that continues to regress under Rex Ryan and a place where controversy lives all year round.
Who knows if Santonio Holmes will feel like playing or crying?
Shonn Greene at running back is not the answer.
Revis and Cromartie don't seem to scare opponents like they once did.
Things seem to be falling apart at the seams with the Jets; they don't look good at all heading into 2012.
No. 21: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers' 6-10 record last season was overshadowed by the tremendous rookie season of Cam Newton.
They look like they are in prime position to contend in the NFC South if their defense shows up this year.
Their two-headed running game of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart should be as effective or better this season.
Cam Newton's emergence might have also extended the career of Steve Smith; look for these two to connect many times in 2012.
No. 22: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks enter 2012 with the hope that they can improve on their 7-9 record last year.
The addition of Terrell Owens is not the way to do that.
They have two below-average quarterbacks vying for the starter role, and besides Marshawn Lynch, I don't see a bright spot for Seattle.
I think they'll need more than their "12th man" atmosphere to overcome a 7-9 record.
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
Even though the Raiders' late collapse last season was hard to watch, the addition of Carson Palmer was very positive.
Look for Palmer to do big things with his team after a full offseason with the club.
The loss of Michael Bush hurt, but they still have the explosive Darren McFadden.
Darius Heyward-Bey had a very Jekyll-and-Hyde season last year, but when he's good, he's great.
Their defense should be more of a focal point this season, and they have a lot of improving to do to show us that they can be better than their 8-8 record from a year ago.
No. 24: Buffalo Bills
The Bills camp has to be optimistic even though they went 6-10 last season.
Fitzpatrick threw the hell out of the ball and had them playing well against quality teams until their late collapse.
Fitzpatrick, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson will all have been together another year, and that is never a bad thing with a young core of players.
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs regressed last season, going 4-12.
They were last in the league against the run, so they did draft a lot of defensive players, but with a new head coach, you can't expect a lot from Tampa Bay.
Josh Freeman needs a bounce back year, Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow need to step up at wide receiver, and look for LeGarrette Blount to improve from a satisfactory year in 2011.
Overall, they should do better than 4-12, but with a new head coach, don't expect much.
No. 26: Washington Redskins
There is a lot of excitement around the Washington Redskins along with the arrival of Robert Griffin III.
In a very tough NFC East, they will not do much better than their 5-11 record from last season.
Roy Helu, who emerged last season as the team's best running back, is suffering from Achilles tendinitis, and their leading wide receiver Jabar Gaffney left for New England.
Their defense should be decent, but expect Griffen and the Redskins to go through some major growing pains this season.
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are coming off a 6-10 record last season, but they just drafted their future quarterback Ryan Tannehill eighth overall in the 2012 draft, so they are optimistic.
They better hope Tannehill is as advertised because the Dolphins could not move the ball through the air at all last year.
They lost Brandon Marshall as a target, but they still have the versatile Reggie Bush to lean on.
They did draft a slew of position players, but expect there to be growing pains in South Beach with a new coach and quarterback this season.
No. 28: Jacksonville Jaguars
It's hard to envision the Jaguars improving on their 5-11 campaign from last year.
Even though they drafted stud wide receiver Justin Blackmon to try and help Blaine Gabbert's development, they have a very disgruntled Maurice Jones-Drew on their hands and a stagnant offense.
The NFL is a passing league these days, and Jacksonville was dead last in passing yards in 2011.
Maybe if Tebow had chosen to go to the Jaguars this offseason, there would be some optimism there in 2012.
Don't hold your breath for anything good happening in Jacksonville this season.
No. 29: St. Louis Rams
The Rams look like they are in for another tough season.
I don't see them improving too much on their 2-14 record from 2011, especially since Bradford's only real target, Brandon Lloyd, is now a Patriot.
Steven Jackson is still there to alleviate some pressure off Bradford, but the young quarterback had a very rough season last year, so it's unclear which Sam Bradford shows up this season.
There's a lot of missing pieces in St. Louis, and this could be a long season for them.
No. 30: Cleveland Browns
The Browns were very busy in the 2012 NFL Draft, and they have a lot of young pieces to play with this season.
Their young—but old—rookie Brandon Weeden, should start, and Trent Richardson will have a lot to prove, especially since Peyton Hillis has left for the Kansas City Chiefs.
They still have the versatile Josh Cribbs, but expect it to be another long season in Cleveland in 2012.
No. 31: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have a very tough year ahead of them. They went 3-13 last season, and all signs indicate that they will be around that same mark this year.
Adrian Peterson is coming off that horrendous knee injury he suffered at the end of last season, Percy Harvin is their only receiving threat, and their defense didn't improve much from last year.
They did draft Matt Kalil at offensive tackle, which should help Ponder a little bit, but not too much.
Buckle up Vikings fans: it's going to be a bumpy ride.
No. 32: Indianapolis Colts
We've finally reached the last team in these NFL Power Rankings, and it's your new-look Colts.
To say that the Colts have gone through changes is a severe understatement.
They were 2-14 last season, but they are looking toward the future with the hyped superstar Andrew Luck.
He will have the talents of Reggie Wayne to help him, but there are a lot of new pieces in Indianapolis.
They will be better than 2-14, thanks to Luck's incredibly high IQ and his ability to pick up the playbook, but this season will be a real learning experience for him and the Colts' organization.