NFL Power Rankings Preseason Edition: NFC Teams Land Top 3 Spots
The 2012 NFL season is nearly upon us, which means it’s time to unveil the preseason power rankings.
It’s been one of the more memorable offseason’s in recent memory, and it didn’t even involve any Brett Favre comeback stories. Perhaps the most notable headlines that surfaced were those regarding the New Orleans Saints—from the bounty scandal, to the eavesdropping allegations to Drew Brees nearly holding out.
Two of the most intriguing stories heading into the season will involve two iconic quarterbacks: Tim Tebow, the former Bronco signal-caller, who is now the new backup QB for the New York Jets, and Peyton Manning the man who replaced Tebow in Denver after missing all of last season due to a neck injury.
Other points of interest this season include the debuts of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, whether or not Cam Newton will suffer a sophomore slump, the possibility that Calvin Johnson falls victim to the Madden Curse and whether or not the Packers and Patriots will get familiar with the concept of defense.
I like to make a Super Bowl prediction prior to every season. As a Packer fan I, of course, believe they are the team to beat. However, leaving all bias aside, my Super Bowl prediction this year is…Houston over San Francisco.
And with that, here are my 2012 NFL Preseason Power Rankings.
Are the Giants the best team in football? I say no. But they are the defending champs and will begin the season in the top spot.
Is it just me or is Eli Manning still left out of the conversation of the best current quarterbacks?
Despite playing in a lackluster division, the 49ers showed they were a legitimate contender last year. Now they’ve added additional offensive weapons for Alex Smith. If Randy Moss is even half of what he used to be, this team should be looking at a Super Bowl berth.
Green Bay has proven they don’t need a running game to be successful. But, the addition of Cedric Benson in the backfield will give opposing teams nightmares this year. However, assuming Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers will only go as far as the defense can take them.
Every year I say the Patriots just aren’t that good anymore, and, every year, they seem to be right in the thick of things. Once again, I’m not convinced they are that good, but when you have Tom Brady running the show, you have a chance to win every single game.
That defense is another year older, but I see no reason why it still won’t be one of the top-ranked units in the league. It’s time for Joe Flacco to take that next step if he wants to be considered more than an average quarterback.
Based on last year, this ranking is too high for the Eagles.
However, if Michael Vick can stay healthy (something he has yet to prove he can do) I believe this team might finish the season as the NFC's best. There is no denying the talent they have, and now they’ve had an entire season to play together.
Andy Reid will have this team ready to go.
The Texans defense was significantly improved last year, and even though they lost some talent this year, I believe they will still be a force. If their three main guys (Schaub, Foster and Johnson) can all stay healthy for a season, I believe they could be the best team in the AFC.
The Steelers must sign Mike Wallace to be an elite team. Their defense could carry them to the playoffs, but without Wallace, they do not have enough playmakers on offense to make a long playoff run.
10. Detroit Lions
Can the Lions repeat their success from last year, or were they a one-year wonder?
I say they can repeat it. They must improve on defense, though, if they want to do more than simply reach the playoffs.
11. New Orleans Saints
If there is any team equipped to deal with major adversity, it’s the Saints.
With that said, I’m not sure even Hurricane Katrina could top the adversity the Saints are facing this season. However, they do have Drew Brees back, and, quite frankly, that makes them a legitimate contender in my eyes.
12. Atlanta Falcons
Another season, another postseason loss for Matt Ryan. At some point people are going to realize this guy isn’t that great. Considering some of the offensive weapons he has had—and still has—it is time for him to do something relevant.
13. Denver Broncos
Despite the major upgrade at the quarterback position, I’m not sure Denver is a playoff team. They do play in a weak division, but I’m not sold that Peyton Manning is going to be able to return to form. Plus, Denver simply doesn’t have a lot of talent.
I can’t recall a season in which I was actually looking forward to following a team other than Green Bay to see how its season pans out.
14. Dallas Cowboys
They have the talent to be a serious threat, but they also play in a very tough division.
Will this be the season they get it all figured out? They need to have Miles Austin healthy, but he seems capable of pulling a hamstring by simply getting out of his car.
It will be interesting to see how the Bengals do this season after blowing past last year’s expectations and securing a playoff spot.
Will Andy Dalton and A.J. Green suffer sophomore slumps, or will they lead the Bengals back to the postseason for a second consecutive season?
Carolina is my dark horse.
Sure, they went 6-10 last year, but five of those losses were by a touchdown or less. The defense really let them down, and I expect much better from this unit this year.
Even if Cam Newton doesn’t repeat his impressive season, I expect Carolina to be in the mix to win the division.
17. New York Jets
When it comes to the Jets, I really only have one thought: what will come out of Rex Ryan’s mouth this year? As bad as I believe Tim Tebow is, Mark Sanchez really isn’t that much better. I can’t wait to see how the Jets handle Tebow-mania.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Many people cringed at the contract Matt Flynn received, considering he had started only two NFL games. However, in one of those games, he threw for 500 yards (if you don’t include sacks) and six touchdowns (albeit against Detroit). He most definitely will not have the same kind of talent around him in Seattle, however.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers really struggled last year. I expect the team to improve and get back to being the offensive juggernaut to which we have become accustomed. The division is pretty weak so I expect them to win at least 10 games.
20. Tennessee Titans
The Titans named Jake Locker their starting quarterback, and I think that was a fantastic move. He showed serious signs of promise in a few spots last season and has earned the right to be the starter.
If Chris Johnson can return to form and Kenny Britt can stay healthy and out of trouble, the Titans could surprise a lot of people.
The majority of Cardinal fans are in favor of John Skelton over Kevin Kolb. I believe Kolb is the better option if he can stay healthy, but quite frankly, it doesn’t matter whom Arizona goes with, I don’t think they are a .500 team this year.
22. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders begin another season with relatively low expectations. Cutting down on the number of penalties alone will be a huge help. If Carson Palmer can channel his early Cincinnati days, then perhaps Oakland might sniff the playoffs.
Chiefs fans have likely spent the offseason wondering what might have been.
They were decimated by injuries last year—some occurring to their best players—and finished with the second fewest points scored in the entire league.
Despite all of that, they finished 7-9, just one game out of a four-way tie for first. They lost three games by four points or fewer. Even though they are ranked below their three divisional opponents, the Chiefs, I believe, have a great shot at winning the AFC West.
24. Buffalo Bills
After starting last year 5-2, the Bills went on to lose eight of their final nine games.
However, Buffalo significantly improved its defense this offseason by adding Mario Williams via free agency and by drafting Marcell Dareus. If they can find their offense from the first month of last season, the Bills could compete for a wildcard spot.
Regardless of the final record for the Redskins this year, it should be fun watching Robert Griffin III get his first taste of the NFL. He looks like the next Michael Vick— except, you know, he's a better runner, a better passer...and he probably won’t be involved in a dog-fighting ring.
26. Miami Dolphins
Miami is going with Ryan Tannehill as its starting quarterback. Considering he hasn’t played quarterback that much in his life, it should be interesting to see his development.
I have to believe Miami is considering 2012 as a rebuilding year.
Justin Blackmon was arrested, Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out and Blaine Gabbert still stinks. Could be a tough year for Jaguar fans.
Minnesota has some good talent, but unfortunately for the Vikings, they play in the wrong division. They might have a fighting chance if they were in any other division, but they will likely go 0-6 against the NFC North.
So I don’t see them winning more than three or four games all year.
29. Cleveland Browns
If only preseason football meant anything, the Browns and their fans might have reason to be excited, seeing as they beat the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in their first two games.
Alas, preseason football is about as relevant as…actually, I can’t think of a single thing more irrelevant than preseason football.
After going 10-6 and just missing the playoffs in 2010, the Bucs took three steps back in 2011, losing 10 straight games to end the season.
I expect them to bounce back to some extent this year; finishing 8-8 should be considered a great year for Tampa.
The Colts were miserable last year, flirting with an 0-16 season. However, Andrew Luck looks like he might be the real deal. I wouldn’t expect much from Indy in Luck’s first season, but I do believe he will win more games as a rookie than did Peyton Manning (three) in his first season.
32. St. Louis Rams
The Rams may be in for yet another tough season. They just don’t have much talent. Steven Jackson is still a great back and Sam Bradford has shown promise when healthy, but, nonetheless, I expect them to finish in the cellar of the NFC West.
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