With all the parity in the league and surprise teams every year it is really hard to put together accurate power rankings. Most people go by their opinion but I decided to try it a different way. I came up with a formula that I used to help in the creation of these rankings. I went by previous year record, strength of schedule, projected division winners, and draft grades. I then tweaked the results by my opinion.
Here are the results with brief descriptions:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
I usually don't like seeing a team be put number one just because they won the Super Bowl. Rarely does the best team in the league win the Super Bowl. This time though...the Steelers were the best team in the league. They had the toughest schedule in the league and won it all. They had a decent draft and their only glaring weakness is the offensive line (which may be better this year). They have a much easier schedule this year as well.
2. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are always dangerous when healthy. They had a pretty good draft and should be able to run the ball more effectively with the addition of RB Donald Brown. The question mark with them is who will step into the second receiver role vacated by Marvin Harrison?
3. New England Patriots
Other rankings have them at number one...this is if Tom Brady comes back and picks up where he left off. Also, everyone lauds their draft but more than half of their picks probably won't even make the roster. They did make some nice additions in the draft and free agency. If the run game is better with Fred Taylor and Brady plays great then they will probably be the favorite in the AFC to win the Super Bowl.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Did any team do more to help themselves in the draft or free agency? If their draft picks pan out then look out. McNabb has receivers now and they have a backup for Westbrook if he goes down. They also added to the offensive line with the acquisition of Jason Peters. The Eagles made the NFC Championship game last year and may find themselves there again in 09.
5. Atlanta Falcons
The Achilles Heel of the Falcons last year was their defense (#24 in the league). The team had another strong draft and focused every pick except one on defense. Peria Jerry should help against the run and pass. William Moore could end up starting at strong safety. The defense should be better but the question mark is their line-backing corps. Adding Tony Gonzalez to an already potent offense will only help.
6. NY GIANTS
The team faded down the stretch last year with the loss of Plaxico Burress. They added WR Hakeem Nicks in the draft and also upgraded their offensive line and line-backing corps. They have a potent rushing attack and if their passing game flourishes could be a tough team to beat. They do have a tough schedule but should contend with Philadelphia for the NFC East.
7. TENNESSEE TITANS
Tennessee had a solid draft and looks like a contender again this year. Question marks here are quarterback and replacing Haynesworth. They have a middle of the road schedule as far as strength and should contend with the Colts for the AFC South division.
8. ARIZONA CARDINALS
One thing that helps the Cards get a ranking this high is being in a weak division. They had a good draft and have a pretty easy schedule. The addition of RB Chris Wells should help the rushing attack. Question marks- There are a number of players who aren't happy with their contract situations (Boldin and Dockett) and it is yet to be seen how this will effect the team.
9. BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Ravens have an easy schedule and had a solid draft. Question marks- How will the defense look without Bart Scott? Will Joe Flacco play well again?
10. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Hmmm...how will the Favre saga pan out? I'm not a huge Favre fan but picking him up shouldn't hurt this team given their quarterback situation. The solid offensive and defensive lines and the run game are the strengths of the team.
11. CHICAGO BEARS
Another team that really helped themselves out this offseason. A solid draft, the easiest schedule in the league, and QB Jay Cutler should help Chicago contend for the NFC North crown.
12. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Not a stellar draft but it was ok. Will Tomlinson return to form or continue to regress? Will Merriman return to form and help the D? They have a middle of the road strength of schedule and should win their division.
13. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints could rise up the rankings significantly if their defense plays well. The team picked up some nice pieces on defense in free agency (Darren Sharper, etc.) and in the draft (CB Malcolm Jenkins). This team has a tough schedule but should be better on defense. Look for them to contend for the NFC South crown.
14. MIAMI DOLPHINS
This is probably a little high for the Dolphins. Look for them to regress this year as the Wildcat won't fool as many this go around. Didn't like their draft much...and they have the hardest schedule in the league this year. They may make a quick slide down these rankings when the season starts.
15. DALLAS COWBOYS
As far as talent goes Dallas would be way up the rankings...however, this team is like the Yankees are in baseball. The talent just doesn't seem to gel and translate into success for them like you would think. Question Marks- Will the team be ok with Roy Williams as the go to guy instead of T.O.? Will Romo finally be able to win big games? Will Jessica keep the weight off? LOL
16. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Look for Carolina to take a step back this season. They didn't have a very good draft and what they did pick up was mostly for depth. Last year this team won a bunch of close and come from behind games...will their luck run out this time around? They also have a really hard schedule and who knows how the Peppers saga will end.
17. BUFFALO BILLS
Will T.O. and Lee Evans be able to coexist? They had a good draft and had some nice free agent acquisitions. They also have one of the toughest schedules in the league.
18. HOUSTON TEXANS
Houston was another team that really helped themselves this offseason. Strong draft at the top and should be better. The problem is they are in a tough division and have a pretty tough schedule. If they can pull off some wins in their division they may be able to get over the 8-8 hump.
19. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Green Bay had a good draft and upgraded themselves defensively. Question Mark- How will the transition to the 3-4 defense under Dom Capers go? One of the easiest schedules in the league should help.
20. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Another team that would be higher if judged strictly on talent. They have a middle of the road strength of schedule and had a so-so draft. Albert Haynesworth should help the D line but was he worth all that money and keep his nose clean?
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS
They had a nice draft and their strength of schedule isn't too hard. The defense should be better...however will Chad Johnson or Ocho Stinko show up?
22. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
The Jags were plagued with injuries last season. They had a solid draft and upgraded the offensive line. Will Jones Drew be able to carry the load with Fred Taylor gone? Watch out for Torry Holt...he's got something to prove and was a good pickup for the Jags.
23. NY JETS
Everyone's raving about their draft...however they only picked up three players. One was Sanchez, who will probably end up starting as a rookie. The other two will probably be backups this season at best. They did make some nice additions to the defense, but will it be enough? They are in a tough division and have a tough schedule.
24. CLEVELAND BROWNS
They had a nice draft and some good pickups in free agency. However, question marks still remain at quarterback and they have a lot of holes. They do have one of the easier schedules in the league, which should help.
25. DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos were decimated with injuries at the running back position. They stock-piled running backs this year and drafted Knowshon Moreno. They had a decent draft but losing Cutler and getting Orton isn't going to help them. The good news is their schedule isn't that hard and they are in a weak division. If they gel could move up in the rankings considerably.
26. DETROIT LIONS
Have heart Lions fans!!! The Lions shouldn't be the worse team in the league this year. A really good draft and some nice free agent acquisitions will help out tremendously. They may surprise people offensively...the defense is still a work in progress.
27. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Best offseason acquisition- Aaron Curry. Worse offseason acquisition- Jim Mora, Jr. which in turn brought in their second worse acquisition...Greg Knapp. They stunk up Atlanta...what makes anyone think they will do any better at Seattle? The good news- they had a decent draft and are in a weak division.
28. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
They had a so-so draft but do have one of the easiest schedules in the league. The major question mark- quarterback. Who's going to throw to Crabtree?
29. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
This team has a ton of salary cap money but didn't put it to good use. I don't have a problem with them picking up Kellen Winslow. However, why give a player who has been plagued by injuries a huge, long-term deal? They also did a mass purge of veterans and had a poor draft. They also have one of the hardest schedules in the league.
30. ST. LOUIS RAMS
The Rams had a pretty good draft and look better on defense. The problem is who are they going to throw the ball to? This team has too many holes to fill in one year.
31. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
While quarterback wasn't a strength for the team last year, it wasn't their biggest hole either. They didn't have a very good draft and made some poor moves in free agency. The good news is they are in a weaker division and their schedule isn't too tough.
32. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Very, very bad draft. Cut Al Davis and you'll be on the right track!