AFC Power Rankings for 2009
Entering the 2009 seasons, everybody is wondering who's on top. I am starting with the 16 AFC teams, and will publish one of the NFC teams later in the week.
The division winners are pretty easy to predict, but there is a large body of average teams, that will all be fighting for the wild cards.
We are now past the NFL Draft, and most of the top Free Agents are signed. Several major trades may still occur, but assuming the teams stay the same as they're now, these are my Power Rankings.
1. New England Patriots
Led by some brilliant pickups by Bill Belichick, the Patriots solidified an already stacked roster. The return of Tom Brady instantly makes this team a Superbowl threat, and the signings of Joey Galloway, Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs, and Fred Taylor will create even more depth for this team.
The returns from injury by Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Laurence Maroney, Adalius Thomas, and Tank Williams, will also greatly help this team.
The Patriots were 11 and 5 with a brand new quarterback last year, so I'm predicting a 14 and 2 record this season, and possibly more.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Led by the veteran leadership of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers enter 2009 as Superbowl Champions and field an even stronger team than last year, with the return of Rashard Mendenhall from the IR.
He should help their run game that struggled greatly last year, but still their inconsistent running backs, with a less than stellar offensive line, will keep this team from overtaking the Patriots.
3. San Diego Chargers
This is a team that could very well challenge the Patriots for first in the AFC. People have been saying for several seasons now about the incredible talent the Chargers have.
They have very few weak points on their roster, and Philip Rivers is coming off an incredible season with 4000+ passing yards, and 34 touchdowns.
If he can repeat last year's success, and a healthy LT can provide a one-two punch with Darren Sproles, this team has a great chance of overtaking the Patriots.
The return of Shawne Merriman will also give great pressure off the edge. Right now I have the Chargers at No. 3 because of their inability to preform in crunch time during the playoffs, but if they can pull it together, Watch Out!
4. Indianapolis Colts
As long as Peyton Manning is leading this team, they will always be a threat. The offense will always be strong, and the pickup of Donald Brown should provide the rest Joseph Addai needs to succeed.
The combination of the two of them, will give the Colts a formidable run game. Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark are great threats, and Peyton Manning can distribute to ball to whoever is left.
The big question mark is always the defense. But with the pressure of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney coming off the edge, it should make the whole defense better.
I like the pick up of Fili Moala in the draft, who many had going in the first round. I don't see them as a Superbowl pick, but they are dangerous enough to beat anybody.
5. Tennessee Titans
The loss of Albert Haynesworth will hurt the Titans more than they think it will.
I don't think they could have afforded the money the Redskins offered him, but his presence in the middle was a major crux in what made the defense run.
Defense was what carried this team, and it will certainly feel the loss.
The Offense will still be strong because of the run game by Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Kerry Collins will prevent mistakes, and keep the team moving, but the losses in defense will prevent the Titans from being as good a team as they were last year.
I'm predicting a slight fall off from last year's success.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis returned to give it another year, but the Ravens will not be as good as they were last year. The losses of, Bart Scott, Rex Ryan, Jim Leonhard, Jason Brown, and Chris McAlister will hurt this team.
The defense will still be strong, but not strong enough to carry the team as far as it did last year, especially because the Steelers didn't change at all.
Joe Flacco will benefit from another year of experience, but still isn't good enough to carry this team. The run game is shaky, but should improve with McGahee being healthy.
Offensively, this team will be slightly better, defensively it will be slightly worse. Offense has never carried this team.
7. Buffalo Bills
Just like every other team that gets Terrell Owens, this team will start strong, and tank late. This is a young but very talented team, led by Trent Edwards, Lee Evans, and Marshawn Lynch (despite his suspension).
The addition of TO will help this team stretch the field, suddenly making everybody a threat. Their defense is decent, and the addition of Maybin could help this team be a surprise pick.
I don't see them getting far, but they may challenge for the wild card.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
The fate of this team lies upon the short but ridiculously strong legs of Maurice Jones-Drew. So far he has been a touchdowns fanatic, but has yet to record a 1,000 yard season. Without Fred Taylor, he will have to carry his team.
The Jaguars helped their team greatly with the draft, getting two young cornerstone tackles to anchor the offense, and David Garrard is an adequate quarterback.
The return of Rashean Mathis should help the defense be decent. But the team's success will rely upon the run game.
9. New York Jets
The Jets are a very promising young team, led by a maturing defense, and the legs of workhorse Thomas Jones.
I don't think Mark Sanchez can lead this team anywhere for another year or two, but in a few years this team may be the team to beat in the AFC east.
Right now, every AFC East team will have two losses from the Patriots, which will make it hard for any of them to compete for the wild card. This team as a young nucleus of Sanchez, Rhodes, Revis, and Pace, including several others, that will make this team one to be reckoned with in the future.
10. Miami Doliphins
When has Chad Pennington ever had a good year two years in a row? The answer is never. He did well in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.
This team will be the worst in the AFC East this year despite their surprise record last year. The return of Ronnie Brown will help, but there isn't enough talent on the defense for them to surprise anybody this year.
11. Houston Texans
This team is a few players away from being a wild card contender, unfortunately, all of those players are on the defense.
The quarterback, running back, and receiver positions are all strong. But the defense is a few defensive backs away from seriously challenging for the division.
They had a great draft this year, and if Cushings and Barwin can mature this year, and they can draft some DBs next draft, they could be a playoff contender in 2010.
12. Denver Broncos
How good is Josh McDaniels? He took all the credit for Matt Cassel, and seems eager to try again with Kyle Orton.
If he succeeds this team could have a better record than their talent would suggest, because they get the privilege of playing the Chiefs and Raiders twice.
The addition of Knowshon Moreno should help the run game, but the real question mark lies with the development of Orton.
The defense is weak as well, and Champ Bailey only has so much more energy in his veteran legs.
13. Cleveland Browns
Could this be the year Brady Quinn starts? The sooner he starts, the sooner the Browns can start building around him.
Jamal Lewis is a strong running back, though he only has one or two more seasons left in him and Braylon Edwards is a top five receiver when he wants to be.
The defense is full of question marks, but that's supposed to be Mangini's specialty right? Shaun Rogers will help. And D'Qwell Jackson is turning into a young star.
14. Cincinnati Bengals
Carson Palmer... You've got to feel bad for the guy.
The Bengals ranked 32nd in points, 32nd in yards, 30th in passing yards, and 29th in rushing yards last season.
Carson Palmer is a Pro Bowl quarterback with no support except for Chad Ocho Cinco who is inconsistent at best, and Cedric Benson who used all of his energy up in college.
Andre Smith should help him stay on a feet a few more seconds, but with nobody to throw to this could get ugly. The defense is an utter mess.
Carson Palmer will carry his team to several fluke victories, but that is only as long as he can stay healthy. If Andre Smith is a bust, this team could be looking at a lottery pick.
15. Oakland Raiders
Despite year after year of high draft picks, the Raiders continue to only select busts, or players still waiting to break out. Robert Gallery, Darren McFadden, and JaMarcus Russell, will only continue to disappoint, and they will now be joined by their latest bust pick, Darrius Bey-Heyward.
When will Al Davis ever give up the team, and allow them to draft a player who actually plays well, and isn't just a beast physically.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
If Scott Pioli wasn't the GM of this team, I would be giving the Chiefs up for lost for eternity.
The selection of Tyson Jackson over somebody like Aaron Curry was shocking to say the least.
Larry Johnson should be improved but the quarterback position is very shaky, and the defense couldn't stop the Detroit Lions in an 0-16 season.
It's time to try and make it look like an accident and grab the 1st pick early, then draft Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, or Tim Tebow.