NFL Preseason Power Rankings: Taking a Look at Each Team After Week 1
Without Preseason, I doubt there'd be a Victor Cruz
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The need for Power Rankings at this time is great. Week 1 of the NFL Preseason is now in the books, and many of the questions of the offseason are being answered.
After learning so much within the first 16 games alone, it's time to set up and look at Power Rankings featuring all 32 teams, based solely on 2011 and the preseason thus far.
It's all set in stone. Let's see how each team fared after the first week of preseason.
The records listed are my predictions for how each team will finish 2012.
32. St. Louis Rams: 3-13
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I’ve never understood what the big fuss is regarding the Rams. I see that they’ve greatly improved this offseason with former Titans Mike Fisher and Cortland Finnegan, but they still don’t have a proven wide receiver or a good offensive line, and their defense is below average.
Look for them to his the 3-13 mark, trade down to the fourth pick (with the Raiders) and take Robert Woods, WR, USC. If this team can find some strong offensive line starters and a star wide receiver, it could make progress in its division.
31. Minnesota Vikings: 3-13
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Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL. Percy Harvin wants out. This is going to look like a very makeshift offense. Ponder hands off to Toby Gerhart, passes to Kyle Rudolph.
The offensive line is okay, but losing Steve Hutchinson hurts. The defense is pretty good, the defensive line is borderline elite, the linebacking corps is underrated and the cornerbacks are fine for a Cover 2 defense.
Give them a few more offseasons.
30. Indianapolis Colts: 3-13
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They won the “Suck-for-Luck” sweepstakes and as a result, have taken the top quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. Already, Andrew Luck showed that he can handle the NFL, evidenced by his stellar performance in his first preseason game.
The offensive line is stopgap, and their defense is putrid, but Andrew Luck is the real deal. The entire defense needs to get used to running the 3-4, which makes for an odd predicament, seeing as how Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have trouble fitting. It will be a long time before this team sees the playoffs again.
29. Oakland Raiders: 4-12
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In the middle of last season, the Raiders were stunning other teams and even took control of the AFC West. Now, they’re in the running for the first pick in the draft.
Carson Palmer is not the same player he once was, although he can survive in that offense. Assuming Darren McFadden goes down for the fifth year in a row, the Raiders need another tough back to complement Run DMC.
The defense lost a lot of its luster when they cut Kamerion Wimbley for salary cap reasons. They also lost Stanford Routt to a division rival. Look for them to rebound in two years under new management.
28. Miami Dolphins: 5-11
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Miami could be one of the most overrated teams in the NFL (Bold Statement #1). Their offense is absolutely horrendous and is now definitely run first without a good wide receiver worthy to be a #1 option.
Their offensive line is pretty weak aside from Mike Pouncey, Jake Long (who had an off year last year) and Jonathan Martin.
The defense is pretty good, aside from their safeties. They may be able to break six wins, but that’s about it.
27. Cleveland Browns: 5-11
Even with a weak showing, I trust Brandon Weeden.
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Cleveland, on the other hand, is greatly underrated. They have a first round quarterback at the helm (who did play poorly in his first game), a third overall running back being handed the rock, and a good receiver in Greg Little catching the passes. Their offensive line is pretty solid throughout.
On the defensive side, they could be one of the best all-around in the AFC. While not household names, players like Jabaal Sheard, D’Qwell Jackson and Joe Haden are all Pro Bowl-caliber superstars. If they were in an easier division (say the NFC West), they would contest for a wildcard spot—but being in the hardest division in football, there’s no room for mistake.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-11
He could be the future of Tampa Bay Football
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Although a resident of New Jersey, I never watched Rutgers as closely as some diehards. However, I do notice that Greg Schiano has what it takes to coach an NFL team. Although...LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin think they are the best tandem in the league, they’re not.
Their wide receiver corps is much improved, with Vincent Jackson starting. Their offensive line also greatly improved this offseason with the acquisition of Carl Nicks from New Orleans. Nicks is definitely a top-three guard in the entire league, so signing him is a huge deal.
The defensive line should be good—they are on paper—but they all busted, except for Adrian Clayborn. The linebacking corps is okay, headlined by Mason Foster, although I like LaVonte David.
If all of the defensive backs are uninjured and not in jail (Aqib Talib), they have a good group with Talib, Eric Wright, Ronde Barber and Mark Barron.
25. Arizona Cardinals: 5-11
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Aside from their horrendous quarterback play, Arizona has a potential-filled group. Running back Ryan Williams and receiver Michael Floyd are both 1000-yard players in their own ways (rushing and receiving respectively). Their offensive line is a little weak, giving Kevin Kolb and John Skelton a harder time of finding an open receiver.
Their defense is very strong; starting on the front with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, and ending in the secondary with Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson. They have a chance to contest with Seattle for second place in their division.
24. Washington Redskins: 5-11
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Robert Griffin III will be a four-plus time Pro Bowler (Bold Statement #2). Washington is desperately trying to buy a playoff spot (RGIII trade, lucrative Pierre Garçon contract) and actually have the ability to be a shock to hopeful playoff teams.
Their offense will be much improved, with Roy Helu, Tim Hightower, RGIII, Santana Moss and Pierre Garçon all running the show. However, they have holes on the offensive line, specifically at the center position.
Their defense is not yet ready. They have good players in many spots (DeAngelo Hall, Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan) but are still a below-average unit. Give management time to lock up more aging stars (like the good old days), and this team could hold on for a wildcard spot.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars: 5-11
The terrifying defense at work!
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Blaine Gabbert is a great quarterback (Bold Statement #3). He looks like a new, less lemony man this preseason, even taking sacks after terrible meltdowns in protection. This generous placement does rely on Shahid Kahn and Co.’s ability to get Mo-Jo (Maurice Jones-Drew) back on the team after holding out.
In terms of passing the ball, Justin Blackmon may be the real deal, even if legal troubles are already getting in the way. This offense is top 20, but it could quickly get better with a few simple upgrades on the line—specifically at LG, where Will Rackley (one of the worst starting guards in football) currently resides.
On defense, this team is near elite. On the defensive line they have good players in Tyson Alualu, Terrance Knighton and Jeremy Mincey Their linebacking corps is superb, featuring Daryl Smith, Paula Posluszny and Clint Session. The defensive backfield is above average, with a good nickel unit featuring Aaron Ross, Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox and Dwight Lowery.
This defense is the real deal.
22. Seattle Seahawks: 7-9
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Although I don’t think very highly of Matt Flynn, this Seattle team is one season away from a wildcard spot. Marshawn Lynch is a good player, although with a newly fattened contract, who knows if he will ever re-enter Beast Mode?
Wide receivers Sidney Rice and Terrell Owens both come with baggage (injury history, big mouth), but that will not stop this offense from producing at an okay rate. Their offensive line is pretty good, mainly underrated, with little-known starters all over the place.
While few fans notice, their defense is top-notch, especially their pass defense. I do not agree with the Bruce Irvin pick one bit, he’s a 3-4 OLB in a 4-3 defense (especially poor pick, seeing as how Quinton Coples was available) but they have an okay front-seven. The loss of David Hawthorne hurts, but they can recover.
The defensive backfield is where this team is one of the scariest in the NFL. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are the two best CBs in that division, both are great in coverage and ball hawk. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor make up the best safety duo in the NFC as well (Bold Statement #4).
21. Buffalo Bills: 7-9
Surprise, Surprise. Last season when the Bills were 3-0, I still called for them to go 7-9. So what do they do? Go 6-10. They have problems on the offensive side of the ball, starting with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Funny how he plays like a below-average quarterback after a huge payday.
I’m also not convinced that CJ Spiller is the real deal, and Fred Jackson is now a not-so ripe age of 31. That offensive line also happens to be a bottom 10 in this league.
Their defense showed that they were okay. Their linebacking corps isn’t great, although their pass defense is intense; with a good rush provided by Mario Williams, Mark Anderson and Kyle Williams, and a backfield featuring Stephon Gillmore and Jairus Byrd.
20. Denver Broncos: 7-9
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Peyton Manning leads the Broncos…to third in the AFC West. (Bold Statement #5). This team is weak, very weak. This is actually generous placement.
The running game is absolutely terrible, especially with Knowshon Moreno starting. Their wide receivers are developing, but not that quickly. The offensive line is okay. Even with the older Manning, they’re not a top-10 offense.
Let’s look at the defense. It features a good pass rush and run stopping unit, although Champ Bailey is aging very quickly. The linebacking corps isn’t too good, besides Von Miller.
Let me just say why they won’t be anywhere near the playoffs. Tim Tebow was absolutely clutch in the fourth quarter—and he didn’t throw the ball.
Peyton Manning is going to have to work with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to singlehandedly win five games in the fourth quarter. I don’t see it.
19. Dallas Cowboys: 7-9
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Dallas is extremely underrated. They could actually shock many and take second in the ever-competitive NFC East. Their quarterbacking is strong (even if Tony Romo can singlehandedly lose many games).
I don’t personally trust DeMarco Murray as a featured back and he has trouble staying on his feet, but luckily they have first round pick Felix Jones helping him out. The offensive line is not very strong, even with some great players like Tyron Smith and Doug Free.
The defense could compare to the "Dream Team’s," on paper. For a 3-4, their defensive line is okay, with needed talent clogging the middle in Jay Ratliff. The linebackers are very important in this defense, which is why this unit will thrive under Rob Ryan.
DeMarcus Ware is the best pass rusher of this decade. Sean Lee and Dan Connor are both young Nittany Lions who are improving very quickly and could be 100-tackle worthy each this year, and Anthony Spencer is okay on the outside.
The defensive backfield was completely re-done this offseason. While Morris Claiborne is supposedly dealing with an injury, I find him a better prospect than Patrick Peterson. He will have pried the job out of Orlando Scandrick’s hands by Week 1. Brandon Carr, the best No. 2 corner in the NFL next year, might not be elite, but he’ll be great nevertheless.
18. New York Jets: 8-8
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This locker room will survive the season (Bold Statement #6). With that said, I think the entire league is waiting to see what the Tebow wildcat system looks like, and it might be tough to stop for the entire season (think Dolphins Wildcat).
I think their offensive line will be stronger this year, especially with the competition at RT between Austin Howard and local sieve, Wayne Hunter. The rest of the offensive line makes for a top 5 in this league.
Wide receiver Stephen Hill seems NFL-ready, based on the fact that he was running well in training camp and week 1 of preseason. Regarding Santonio, he doesn’t talk when the Jets win and he gets the ball, and I think it will be easier to get him the ball this season in a run-first offense with three competent receivers.
Jeremy Kerley is a good slot man. The running backs are all pretty decent, although Joe McKnight did show some big play ability in the preseason, possibly giving him the third down back duties.
The defense really needs no introduction. Now in a 4-3 defense, they have great coaches everywhere. Starting off is former Vikings D-line coach Karl Dunbar at the defensive line. Then, linebackers coach Bob Sutton is a former defensive coordinator.
Lastly, defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman was going to be interviewed for the Raiders Defensive Coordinator job in 2011, but Rex Ryan did not allow him. He also coached defensive backs in Baltimore at the times of Samari Rolle, Chris McAllister and Ed Reed.
Now, onto the players. The defensive line for the four-man front is one of the most potential-filled in football, starting with the trio of Sione Pouha/Kenrick Ellis/Mike DeVito at the tackles and Quinton Coples as well as Mo Wilkerson at end. The linebackers are okay, headlined by David Harris, and the defensive backs are some of the best in the NFL.
17. San Diego Chargers: 8-8
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San Diego never gets the credit they deserve. You can point out that seemingly every year, they start off slow, only to pick up major steam in the last few weeks of the season.
They have an amazing offense, starting with elite quarterback Philip Rivers. However, I do not agree with letting Mike Tolbert leave, especially seeing as how Ryan Matthews is inevitably injured again.
The wide receiver corps is strong, depending on your opinion of Robert Meachem. I don’t think he is a stud per se, but they wanted to make a splash and saved $5 million per year by signing him over keeping V-Jax. Their offensive line isn’t the best; but it isn’t bad, probably slightly above average. Losing Marcus McNeill every season to injury hurts, so they let him go.
Their defense is also full of stars, while altogether is an okay unit. The defensive line is weak, although there is no need for superstars in the 3-4. The linebacking corps features sack specialist Antwan Barnes as well as Shaun Phillips and 3-4 OLB star Jarrett Johnson. The defensive backfield is pretty average besides All-Pro safety Eric Weddle.
Should this team get over the weak start hump (and keep some momentum going), they could challenge the AFC West.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7
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The Steelers roster has had a complete makeover in the past three years. Gone are receivers Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Antwan Randle El. Instead, they get major production from Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace.
If their first and second round picks—David DeCastro and Mike Adams (even though he royally sucked against Philadelphia), respectively—succeed, this offensive line will be the most improved in football.
They will definitely have trouble running the ball with a player like Isaac Redman, even if he has shown promise in spot duty and garbage time. Ben Roethlisberger is Ben Roethlisberger—a big, tough quarterback who has an arm, legs, and a bad rep.
The defense needs to get young, quickly. They have seven starters over the age of 30, including their entire defensive backfield (except Keenan Lewis). Besides the age problem, they do have a ton of talent everywhere, but really need to find successors in the backfield and linebacking area.
Because they were in self-inflicted salary cap doom this offseason, they couldn’t have signed any young players to fill in at DE, ILB or CB. They’re not the feared Steel Curtain that they once were, but shouldn’t be overlooked.
15. Detroit Lions: 9-7
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Why so low? They should be one of the best teams in the league this year, but they won’t be. It’s no that they’ve gotten worse, it’s that they didn’t improve much while other rosters immensely strengthened.
There is no denying their passing game. If Matthew Stafford is healthy, this passing game is great. The running game is lackluster—although they’ll improve with Mikel LeShoure and Kevin Smith back—because of a quickly aging and amazingly bad offensive line. The first round pick of Riley Reiff should help a little bit, but they were very unwise to waste a second round pick on Ryan Broyles when Peter Konz, Kelechi Osemele and Mike Adams were all available.
Quite simply, they have one of the best defensive lines in all of football between double-digit sack artist Cliff Avril, genius veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch and then young studs Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh as well as Corey Williams.
Their linebacking corps is underrated, as Stephen Tulloch is a star. Their backfield needs a lot of work, but with a pass rush as formidable as Detroit’s, they won’t be too exposed.
14. Tennessee Titans: 10-6
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This team is ready to make the jump to the near-playoff position. With Jake Locker/Matt Hasselbeck starting, they have trusted hands throwing the ball. Their wide receivers, when healthy, are the most underrated group in the league: Kenny Britt was on pace to have 1500 yards before going down with a season-ending injury, Nate Washington filled in admirably with 1000 yards of his own and they just spent a first round pick on Kendall Wright, so they’re set at that position.
They have a good offensive line, and they should look even better with Chris Johnson. CJ2K should have a better season, thanks to his new contract that will allow him to play without complaining.
On defense, this team could use work. Their defensive line is okay, with Kamerion Wimbley now going to bring a lot of pressure. Derrick Morgan was okay last season, but not first round pick worthy. There is a huge need at DT.
Their linebacking corps is pretty underrated, and if second round pick Zach Brown plays well (like he did in the first week of preseason), this group will be pretty solid. The defensive backfield took a huge blow when Cortland Finnegan left for St. Louis, but they should still be a good unit. Finnegan will be sorely missed with a need now being at CB2, but with Michael Griffin, Jordan Babineaux and Jason McCourty, this group isn’t weak by any means.
They barely pry the wildcard out of the Steelers’ hands in the last week of the season, when they beat Jacksonville and Cleveland upsets Pittsburgh.
13. New Orleans Saints: 9-7
Joe Paterno treatment. It's just not fair.
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No Sean Payton? No playoffs. Even with Drew Brees, this team is going to just miss it. Why? Because of their defense. Their offense is great. Drew Brees needs no introduction, and his receivers will not have any problem as long as he is throwing them the ball.
However, I foresee this as Brees’ worst statistical season (Bold Statement #7). This is because his receivers are weaker than ever; and even with Jimmy Graham, I just don’t see Brees hitting 5000 again. First, he’s 33 and his arm will start to weaken over the next year or two. Second, he finally has running backs who can now run as well as catch. They’ll be given handoffs. Finally, his offensive line isn’t what it once was.
On defense, the Saints have a lot of problems, specifically on the D-line. Will Smith is washed up. Sedrick Ellis is not what he was thought to be. Brodrick Bunkley belongs in the 0 technique in the 3-4 defense.
Their linebacking corps is pretty good (just because each of their linebackers have about 100 tackles, doesn’t mean they’ll be good) and their defensive backs are nearly elite groups, with stars everywhere. I do question the cornerbacks’ coverage ability, however.
Look for the Saints to just miss out.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: 10-6
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The "Dream Team" still needs a little bit to move into the playoffs. First, every divisional game is a trap, where the Eagles could very easily lose every one of them. Second, I question quarterback Michael Vick’s skill at this stage in his career. There’s no doubting Shady McCoy, but if the Eagles start losing, look for a player like DeSean Jackson to open his mouth. In fact, I predict that he will be traded at the deadline (Bold Statement #8).
The offensive line is weak, mark my words. Now that Mike Vick will be slowing down, they won’t look as good as usual. In fact, I predict the pocket to collapse significantly more times, especially without Jason Peters.
The defensive side of the ball is why they received the nickname "Dream Team." That defensive line is unbelievable although, I don’t see Jason Babin coming in with another 18 sacks. I think that Trent Cole will lose double teams on pass plays as teams focus on Babin. As a result, I foresee Cole having 14 sacks and Babin having eight.
Fletcher Cox is a big addition to the line, although defensive tackle was a smaller need than linebacker. This linebacking group really has trouble. Matthews is not like his brother, Kendricks is okay and DeMeco Ryans is not the best fit in a 4-3.
Regardless of the OJ Atogwe signing, they still have a need at FS. Kurt Coleman is a great SS, but neither Nnamdi Asomugha nor Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have performed to expectations.
11. Carolina Panthers: 10-6
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While everybody likes picking a sleeper team, I found mine. By now it’s a general consensus that Cam Newton is the real deal. He has good weaponry to work with, especially with the acquisition of pass catching back Mike Tolbert. Steve Smith is worth every dollar, but the team really needs a good third receiver. Perhaps bringing in Plaxico Burress would be a good idea.
The offensive line is seriously underrated. Ryan Kalil is a top-three center in the game. The rest of the line features solid starters in Ryan Gross, Amini Silatolu and Geoff Hangartner.
On the defensive side, the Panthers are an above-average group. The defensive ends are good, while the tackles need some work. Their linebacking corps is the best in the league for the 4-3 defense, with 4 capable starters currently reside.
The defensive backfield isn’t great, but Chris Gamble and Charles Godfrey get the job done at corner and safety, respectively.
Look for this team to seal a wildcard.
10. Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6
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Even though this team didn’t look very frightening in its first preseason game, they are a future dynasty. Andy Dalton and AJ Green will be the two faces of that offense for years to come. They quietly addressed the need for a solid No. 2 this offseason with Mohammed Sanu and Armon Binns now competing, not to mention slot receiver Jordan Shipley will be back from last year’s season-long injury.
Their offensive line is very good, especially with new offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. I think they will have a lot of trouble running the ball this year with “Law Firm” Benjarvus Green-Ellis, but with their newfound passing game, running the ball shouldn’t be too great a concern.
Their defense is okay. Domato Peko and Geno Atkins are both great 4-3 linemen. However, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are not good 4-3 DEs. The linebacking corps is solid, headlined by Rey Maulauga and including Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard. The defensive backfield is strong with Reggie Nelson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Terrence Newman, Nate Clements and Leon Hall.
Yes, this defense is pretty set.
9. Kansas City Chiefs: 10-6
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This is the most complete team in the league, outside of the quarterback position. (Bold Statement #9). They can effectively run the ball with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. They have a good offensive line with new addition Eric Winston at RT. They have great receivers in Dwayne Bowe, Doug Baldwin and Steve Breaston. If only they had a good quarterback.
One way to improve this is to trade a fourth round pick to Seattle for Tarvaris Jackson, who is now on the trade block. While not necessarily the answer, he could be a good starter.
On defense, this team is very strong. Their defensive line consists of three first rounders in Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe. While the first two have yet to live to potential, Poe is believed to be a great prospect.
They have the second best linebacking corps of all 3-4 defenses, starting with Tamba Hali, their star pass rusher. Opposite of him is Justin Houston, another capable starter. In the middle is Derrick Johnson, one of the top 3-4 ILBs in the NFL, and Jovan Belcher, who is more than capable of taking an ILB spot in a 3-4.
The defensive backfield is also tremendous. Brandon Flowers is a shutdown corner. Stanford Routt was an unintelligent acquisition, as he is far inferior to former starter Brandon Carr. Safety Kendrick Lewis gets the job done and Eric Berry is a top SS now back from injury.
8. Chicago Bears: 10-6
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This team has a very strong roster, although the holes in their roster are large. Jay Cutler now has a backup in case he suffers another injury this year. Matt Forté also has overly capable insurance if he goes down; Michael Bush is 1000-yard capable.
The offensive line improves every season, as Chicago brings in more good players. The receiver position made huge strides when they traded for Brandon Marshall and drafted Alshon Jeffrey.
Defense also has a lot of bright spots and dark holes. The defensive line is pretty solid, with Julius Peppers and Shea McClelllin both pass rushing specialists. On the inside, Henry Melton provides solid rush and Stephen Paea continues to improve.
Chicago needs a strong-side linebacker but besides that, they have two all pros in that group in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. The defensive backfield is also solid except for free safety, which is weak.
Look for this team to take a wildcard.
7. Atlanta Falcons: 11-5
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The Falcons offense is absolutely insane. Matt Ryan, going into his fifth year, is the second-best quarterback in his division behind Drew Brees. Their running back, Michael Turner, still has some good years left in him (he was sparingly used in San Diego for years). Behind him is good talent in Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.
Their wide receivers are crazy: Roddy White is a Pro Bowl receiver, as is Julio Jones. Tony Gonzalez is still the best TE to ever play the game. The offensive line is also very solid.
The defense is pretty good, too. The defensive line is strong, starting with John Abraham. The linebackers need a lot of work, except for Sean Weatherspoon. The defensive back will give off a good nickel set with Dunta Robinson, Asante Samuel and Brent Grimes at the corners.
They have a good safety in Thomas DeCoud, however, William Moore’s SS place could be upgraded.
6. Houston Texans: 11-5
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This is really contingent on Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson’s durability. The offensive line is very weak, which is a cause for concern regarding injuries. The running game is nearly unstoppable, with Arian Foster and Ben Tate combining for 2800 yards last season.
Kevin Walter should be upgraded, but DeVier Posey was drafted to add some competition to the second receiver spot. The offensive line definitely needs a lot of work before it is considered great. I still don’t understand why they released Eric Winston.
This defense didn’t lose any personnel and were No. 1 in some categories last year under Wade Phillips. The defensive line is okay, with JJ Watt and Antonio Smith doing an admirable job on the ends. The NT position must be upgraded.
The linebackers are very good, especially on the outside with Connor Barwin and Whitney Mercilus. In the backfield, nobody is that good besides Johnathan Joseph.
5. Baltimore Ravens: 12-4
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This offense is actually more talented than the credit it’s given. With a running back like Ray Rice and such an elite offensive line, they don’t need an over-the-top passing game.
Joe Flacco is an above-average starter, but he doesn’t have many great players to throw to. Torrey Smith is a good no. 2 receiver, and Jacoby Jones is a good third, but they don’t have a bona fide no. 1 receiver. Anquan Boldin is getting old, and hasn’t shown that same speed he had in Arizona. Tight end Ed Dickson is a very good receiving tight end in this league.
On defense, this team isn’t what it once was, but definitely a top-five group. They could upgrade at defensive end, although Terrence Cody is okay and Haloti Ngata is disruptive.
Paul Kruger is not a very good fill-in for Terrell Suggs, although the second-round pick is a good replacement for Jarrett Johnson. The defensive backfield is really strong. Ed Reed, LarDarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith all fit in the nickel package. SS Bernard Pollard gets the job done.
4. San Francisco 49ers: 12-4
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This offense could be top-seven this year. Alex Smith is not a great starter by any means, but he’s only going to look better when looking at his supporting cast. Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James, and Kendall Hunter are all ready to take some carries away from Frank Gore and figure to be a good committee replacement.
The wide receivers are severely underrated. AJ Jenkins is a first-round pick, Michael Crabtree is a no. 1 receiver, Moss could be a good no. 2 and Manningham can come in for the slot. The offensive line is okay, although Anthony Davis has been a bust up to this date.
On the other side of the ball, this defense is top-three in the NFL. The defensive line would be elite if they had a better NT. The linebacking group is the best I’ve ever seen...ever.
The defensive backfield is also top-five. Although Dashon Goldson receives a lot of flak for blown coverage, he’s a ball hawk who just has great ball skills. Donte Whitner is a good starting SS. Carlos Rogers is a great starting CB, while Tarell Brown gets the job done.
3. Green Bay Packers: 12-4
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Their offense is one capable RB away from being the best in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers needs no introduction. He had the best passer rating of any QB of all time throughout the entire regular season.
He has a multitude of weapons to throw to as well, in a group featuring Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jermichael Finley. The offensive line is very good, and the running back need may have been somewhat satisfied with the signing of Cedric Benson to form a duo with James Starks.
Furthermore, this defense is great. On the defensive line—their weakest group—they have BJ Raji, second-round pick Jerel Worthy and Ryan Pickett pushing back linemen. The linebacking corps is a good group, starting with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on the outside and moving inside with stars like AJ Hawks and, when he’s back, Desmond Bishop.
The defensive backs are also very good, although I do not agree with moving a great coverage cornerback to SS in Charles Woodson. However, the rest of their defensive backs are talented, especially their nickel package with Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush. Morgan Burnett is a very good free safety as well, and this should make up for Nick Collins’ retirement.
2. New England Patriots: 12-4
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I don’t understand how the Patriots can lure the best players as well as being some of the best drafters in the NFL. Anyways, let’s look into their roster. On offense, they have Tom Brady. Along with this, they have multiple stars catching the ball. Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Their running backs are highly underrated; all three of them are great runners (Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen). The offensive line is elite, possibly the best in the NFL.
The defense still needs more work even after investing most of the draft there. They have a humongous need at right defensive end, unless they put Chandler Jones at the 5 technique. Wilfork and Jonathon Fanene are both capable starters (Wilfork is a perennial Pro Bowler). Rob Ninkovich will fit well as a 4-3 defensive end.
The linebacking corps is young and potential-filled. All three of them could easily be Pro Bowlers. The defensive backfield is solid, Ras-I-Dowling would be a good nickel to Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington. The safeties are really weak. Patrick Chung looks more and more like a bust, while Steve Gregory just isn’t a good starting FS.
While they are the best team in the AFC, I don’t foresee the Super Bowl for them again.
1. New York Giants: 12-4
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Are they going to win the Super Bowl again? I don’t think so. But they are the reigning champs, so I guess it’d only be fair that I call them the #1 team. Starting on the offense, Eli Manning has joined the elite group of quarterbacks. However, I’m not going to say he’s the best just because he won two Super Bowls (especially because he didn’t win them either game).
Their running game will be strong, with Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson teaming up in the backfield. Their wide receivers are some of the game’s best. Reuben Randel should’ve been picked in the top 25, not the 63rd pick. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are two of the game’s best. Martellus Bennett is a stud tight end, and their offensive line is great.
Moving on to the defense, they are good enough to win championships. Their defensive line is amazing. The pass rushing defensive ends are all elite, while the inside tackles also show their worth (Chris Canty and Linval Joseph).
The linebacking corps is highly underrated. If Keith Rivers remains healthy, look for him to usurp Michael Boley and then have Boley move to MLB where he unseats Chase Blackburn.
Another group that needs to stay healthy, the defensive backs are amazing, starting with the cornerbacks (Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster) as well as safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle. Simply amazing.