2013 NFL Power Rankings, Pre-Super Bowl Edition
The 2012 season is one game away from completion. What better time to look back to Week 1 and see which teams surprised us, which teams let us down and which teams came out of nowhere to make playoff runs?
Ready to find out which teams I badly missed on?
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 1: No. 22
The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the season with higher hopes and more promise, but injuries and continued poor play from quarterback Blaine Gabbert ended that quickly.
With Gabbert still struggling and Maurice Jones-Drew hardly making an impact this season, the offense suffered through a terrible season. On defense, an injury to Daryl Smith hurt the team initially, while other injuries kept the unit from ever playing up to full strength.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 1: No. 13
The Kansas City Chiefs were my pick to win the AFC West, but instead they won just two games all year.
Matt Cassel regressed, which caused the offense to fall apart, but most shocking was the complete lack of head-coaching ability from Romeo Crennel. The Chiefs fell apart early on and never developed the mentality that they could come back.
Change: - 18
30. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 1: No. 10
My biggest miss of the year. Thanks, Andy Reid.
The Eagles were supposed to be so much better than this, but neither side of the ball ever produced like it was expected to. I bit hard on the stardom of Michael Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha, and when both players struggled, the entire foundation fell through in Philadelphia.
29. Oakland Raiders
Week 1: No. 27
The Oakland Raiders finished right about where I expected them to before Week 1, with a minor change on the final power rankings board.
Dennis Allen's first year as head coach was a tough one, and the sad truth is that this team just lacks the talent level to be competitive. Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie are working to fix the years of poor decisions made by the old regime, but it's going to take time.
28. Arizona Cardinals
Week 1: No. 32
My pick as the worst team in the NFL before Week 1, the Arizona Cardinals messed things up by starting 4-0 before coming back down to Earth. Those first four weeks are still the difference between being ranked No. 32 and No. 28.
A new regime is in place now in Arizona, but this ranking goes to show that the talent level already in place needs a ton of work.
27. Detroit Lions
Week 1: No. 11
I should have stuck to my guns on the Detroit Lions.
While I did predict a downfall, I had no way of seeing a 4-12 collapse like the one the team went through in 2012. Matthew Stafford was average, the defense was horrible and the offensive line could never get going. All in all, it was just a bad year in Detroit.
26. Cleveland Browns
Week 1: No. 31
The young Cleveland Browns surprised me by winning more games in 2012 than expected, but moving from No. 31 to No. 26 isn't a huge feat either.
The team still played poorly enough to warrant another top-six draft pick in the 2013 class, and poorly enough to see its head coach and entire football operations department fired. Here's hoping the 2013 season is better.
25. New York Jets
Week 1: No. 26
Before the season, I was inundated with hate mail and tweets for my ranking of the New York Jets at No. 26 overall. That one turned out to be a pretty good pick.
The offense really suffered this year as Mark Sanchez once again struggled to improve. With the talent level around him on offense also taking a step back, the entire team saw optimism run out by season's end.
24. Tennessee Titans
Week 1: No. 18
The Tennessee Titans didn't surprise anyone in 2012, but they did regress from where they ended the 2011 season. Expectations were for a 7-9 or 8-8 type of season, and that didn't come to pass.
Jake Locker has his upsides, but his accuracy problems held the offense back in 2012, as did the lack of a consistent run game and mistakes from a young defense that's still learning to work together as a unit.
23. Buffalo Bills
Week 1: No. 16
One of the bigger surprises of the year was the poor play of the Buffalo Bills front line on defense. The addition of Mario Williams was supposed to spark this unit into the playoffs, but I never thought that the change would be a big factor.
Williams wasn't his usual self all year, and with an offense that can't compete at a high level each week, the Bills struggled enough to see their head coach fired.
22. Miami Dolphins
Week 1: No. 30
The Miami Dolphins were a pleasant surprise in 2012, proving my preseason pick of doom and gloom to be wrong.
Ryan Tannehill played better as a rookie than I expected, as did Jonathan Martin at right tackle. The coaching job done by Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman has to be applauded, as the duo put together an offense that Tannehill could run and run well even without elite talent at receiver.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 1: No. 21
No change for my preseason ranking of the Buccaneers at No. 21 overall. We'll call that lucky.
I was never a believer in Josh Freeman—not even back at Kansas State—and his solid play early in the year overinflated the team's expectations. Rookies Doug Martin, Lavonte David and Mark Barron kept things interesting, but overall Tampa performed to expectations in 2012.
20. Carolina Panthers
Week 1: No. 19
The Carolina Panthers were a trendy pick to make the playoffs in the preseason, but realistic expectations put them as a middle-tier team. That's where they finished too.
Thanks to a late-season run that saw Cam Newton come into his own as a leader and impact player, the Panthers were able to scrape together enough wins to build momentum heading into 2013. Now the new general manager, Dave Gettleman, needs to build up the team.
19. San Diego Chargers
Week 1: No. 23
The inadequacy of Norv Turner's head-coaching abilities finally resulted in his being fired, but it took another lackluster season for ownership to see that Turner and general manager A.J. Smith weren't getting the job done.
Mike McCoy inherits a team with talent, but the offensive line has to be fixed before the Chargers can be a real contender in 2013.
18. New Orleans Saints
Week 1: No. 5
Someone overrated the New Orleans Saints heading into the season. That someone was me.
The loss of Sean Payton was obviously huge, but the poor play of the defense was a surprise after seeing them hire Steve Spagnuolo and add Curtis Lofton and Brodrick Bunkley. To say in August that the Saints would miss the playoffs would have been very bold.
17. St. Louis Rams
Week 1: No. 29
One of the better surprise teams of the 2012 season, Jeff Fisher's St. Louis Rams were a tough team every week of the season. With two first-round picks in the upcoming draft, they're poised to make an even bigger statement next season.
Fisher's Rams played tough, beating the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers once and taking them to a tie another time. That ability to stick with top teams is why the team moved from No. 29 overall up to No. 17.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 1: No. 14
When I predicted that the Steelers would finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs before the season, people were not happy.
Since the Steelers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs, their overall ranking barely changes from where they were before the season began. The road back to the postseason shouldn't be hard, though, as the team has a ton of talent. They just need to stay healthy.
15. Dallas Cowboys
Week 1: No. 17
It seems like every year the Dallas Cowboys are so close to the postseason, but at the end of the year they always find a way to miss out. That was my preseason prediction for the team, and it held pretty close to true all year.
Jerry Jones has made big changes already this offseason by hiring Monte Kiffin to run the defense. Now the Cowboys need to upgrade their guards and restock the defense. If they can do that, the offense is good enough to deliver a postseason victory.
14. New York Giants
Week 1: No. 6
This is where I was way off.
The New York Giants were the reigning Super Bowl champions, but that wasn't quite enough to justify putting them No. 1 overall as some did. Even at No. 6, they were ranked too high considering the drop-off they suffered on defense this year.
It was a tough year for the Giants, but the offense is still loaded, and with a full offseason to restock the defense, Tom Coughlin will be back in the playoffs soon.
13. Chicago Bears
Week 1: No. 7
The combination of Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery was supposed to be unstoppable. Using the additions on offense as the justification, it was easy to rank the Bears in the top 10 before the season began.
The reality was that once again the defense carried the team—and it did take the Bears to the brink of a playoff berth. But that's not good enough to retain a No. 7 ranking.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Week 1: No. 24
This was a miss. A bad one.
The Minnesota Vikings ran their way to the playoffs on the strength of Adrian Peterson's 2,000-yard rushing season. No one saw either of those coming.
As great as Peterson was, in the preseason his recovery from an ACL tear in late 2011 was still fresh on the minds of every NFL writer. His miraculous ability to heal in half the time of a normal human being wasn't anything we could have accounted for in August.
11. Indianapolis Colts
Week 1: No. 28
The legend of Andrew Luck was cemented in his first season. Way back in August it was optimistic to think the two-win Colts of 2011 could climb out of the NFL's basement to a No. 28 ranking. Now look at them.
Luck and company were fantastic this season, and with a strong front office and smart coaching, the future is bright for the Colts. They should expect to stay ranked here, around the top 10, from now on.
10. Washington Redskins
Week 1: No. 25
And wrong again.
The Washington Redskins were a surprise for me this season. It wasn't that I thought Robert Griffin III couldn't make a big impact—I did—but that the team around him wasn't good enough yet to compete like they did.
But that was before anyone knew what Alfred Morris was going to do. The combination of Griffin and Morris made the Redskins a threat each week, and ultimately the NFC East champions.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 1: No. 12
A preseason pick of the Cincinnati Bengals as a postseason contender wasn't met with a ton of happy comments, but for a second straight year Andy Dalton and A.J. Green led the team to the playoffs. Now the goal is to win a game once they get there.
The Bengals are loaded with talent. Dalton, Green, Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict are four of the better young players in the game. If the front office can continue to stack the deck, three playoff berths in a row is very possible.
8. Houston Texans
Week 1: No. 4
The Houston Texans were brilliant during the regular season, but an injury to Brian Cushing and matchups against better teams exposed them late in the year and then again in the playoffs. This is still a good team, but not yet great.
Rick Smith has his work cut out for him as general manager. Deciding which free agents to keep and where to address needs in the draft will be tough. The Texans are close to Super Bowl material, but more talent is needed to take over a tough AFC South.
7. Green Bay Packers
Week 1: No. 1
The Green Bay Packers were my Week 1 top team, and for good reason. Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews are two of the most dominant players in the NFL, and following a very solid draft class, the Packers looked like the league's most elite team.
That was partially true, on a talent level, but the Packers never got around to playing consistent football. Injuries hurt, as did losses in Seattle and Indianapolis, but overall the team just looked out-coached on defense and too banged up on offense to sustain any momentum.
6. Denver Broncos
Week 1: No. 15
The play of the Denver Broncos was a big surprise in 2012, but their preseason ranking was largely based on the unknown of Peyton Manning.
Ranked at No. 15, the Broncos were a team with the talent to make the playoffs if Manning was healthy and close to back to his regular form. We know now that Manning was healthy, and as the season progressed he very much returned to his old self.
While the team isn't quite good enough to win a Super Bowl, it's close. John Elway needs to add pieces on defense, but the Broncos will start the 2013 season ranked higher than they started out last year.
5. Seattle Seahawks
Week 1: No. 20
I should probably send a gift basket to the city of Seattle.
After trashing the Seahawks' draft class for a reach in Bruce Irvin and an unnecessary pick in Russell Wilson (sorry), it's pretty clear that I had no idea what Pete Carroll was doing last summer. The good news is that he did know, and continues to know, how to build his team.
Wilson and Irvin both played big roles in the team's progression and playoff run. Heading into 2013, the Seahawks will be one of the NFL's top teams.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Week 1: No. 9
With the NFC's best regular-season record, the Atlanta Falcons earned a top-five grade in our power rankings throughout much of the season. They earned that in the playoffs too with a big home win over Seattle before losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
Looking back on it, a No. 9 ranking was too low. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White make up the NFL's most prolific passing trio, and Mike Nolan's defense was much better than credited in the preseason.
Expectations for 2013 will be a No. 1 seed and a Super Bowl win.
3. New England Patriots
Week 1: No. 2
The New England Patriots have been good for so long that we just expect them to be dominant each year. A No. 2 seed in the AFC and hosting the AFC Championship Game just seems like any other year for Bill Belichick's crew.
The fact is that every year, as long as Belichick and Tom Brady are still on the team, the Patriots will be a top-five team in both preseason and postseason rankings. They're just that good.
A loss in the AFC Championship Game won't make fans happy, but this team continually competes for the title. Fans can be happy with that.
2. Baltimore Ravens
Week 1: No. 8
I didn't see this great of a year from the Baltimore Ravens, but they were still a playoff team with serious potential in the preseason.
An aging defense and an uncertain offense left big question marks on paper when evaluating the team before Week 1. How good would Joe Flacco be? Could Ed Reed and Ray Lewis carry a defense missing Terrell Suggs? There were just too many question marks, but the Ravens answered them all en route to another great season.
Now they're Super Bowl-bound.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Week 1: No. 3
The San Francisco 49ers were my preseason pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, and that part was right. I ranked them No. 3 overall heading into Week 1 because of their weakness in the secondary heading into a Week 1 matchup against Aaron Rodgers and company. That proved to be a win, and a telltale sign of things to come.
Colin Kaepernick and the offense provided a spark that the team lacked when it lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game last year. Now one year later, the 49ers are headed to their first Super Bowl in 18 years.