There are always surprise teams each year in the NFL. Then, on the other hand, there are teams that seem to do good every year with their solid core of base players.
About every seven to ten years, a group of the teams that were atop the league seem to fall to the depths of the unknown, and a few teams formerly in the abyss rise to the surface in a seemingly brand new lifeboat.
Every year, several times a year, so-called experts create massive lists of projected fantasy stats and power rankings.
At times they hit the nail square on the head. However, all too often somebody comes out of the woodwork, and has a massive year, whether it be a team unexpectedly making a playoff run (see Arizona Cardinals for 2009 version), or a player such as Steve Slaton who was a third round pick by the Texans last year and amassed 1282 yards on an average of 4.8 yards per carry and put up nine rushing TD’s.
I will never claim to be an expert, even if one day via some miracle I should become what others refer to as such. I do like to read these predictions, interpret them, and attempt to develop my own take based on the article writer’s side of things, and my personal opinion.
This is my interpreted attempt at developing my own power rankings list. Some of these predictions will be direct hits.
Just as I expect some of these predictions will be extraordinary misses. Altogether, I suspect it will be a fairly accurate guide of the season on the brink.
For, while I don’t consider myself an expert, I am and always will be a very passionate fan of NFL football.
I previously wrote about teams 32-21. This article covers 20-11 and I’ll follow it up with the top ten. All comments, critiques, and critics are welcome.
Seattle is starting the non-Mike Holmgren era of football. New head coach Jim Mora JR. is s solid leader for this team.
Former Oakland and Atlanta offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will be taking the reigns as the head of the snake on offense for Seattle. He has consistently produced solid running games throughout his career.
Casey Bradley comes over from Tampa Bay where he was the linebackers coach for the last two seasons to take over as defensive coordinator.
Whenever there is a change up front for a team, there is going to be kinks that have to be worked out. This could be good for this team, however, as Mora is a high energy guy which may be exactly what this team needs.
This team has a good set of wide receivers even before the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is no doubt a number one guy and happy to be out of Chad Ochocinco’s shadow. If Hasselbeck can actually stay healthy this year, they could make a legitimate run in their weak conference.
But, that is a big if as he only played in 7 games last season. They should get solid play from a good offensive line.
Not many teams can match the potential of the players they have in their back seven on defense. The secondary is phenomenal, and the LB’s just got a huge boost with the addition of fourth overall pick Aaron Curry after the off season subtraction of Julian Peterson.
Leroy Hill resigned after the draft, and this defense looks like it’s in great shape. The new coordinator is probably the teams biggest question mark at this point.
They are this high in the power rankings for me for three reasons;
1. The fact that they will have a good ground game under Greg Knapp,
2. the defense is solid,
3. the division is weak.
Prediction: 8-8. With the 13th overall pick in the draft—This would be a 9 spot improvement from last season.
I am going to give the Jaguars the benefit of the doubt here. They finished worse than this last year, but you have to think it had something to do with losing three starting lineman for the whole year to start the season.
You just have got to think this team can return to at least some form of its former self this season. Their division is, in my opinion, the toughest in the league this year, so it will not be easy for them.
David Gerrard is a good QB. He has a knack for making good throws, and helping his team not turn the ball over.
Granted he threw 13 picks last year, but I think it had a lot to do with the offensive line shuffle in front of him. The line looks intact this year, so his INT’s should improve.
His biggest problem will be finding somebody to throw to who is not named Maurice Jones-Drew or Torry Holt. There is not much depth on this team, so they will have to hope the starters stay healthy.
Look for last year’s two rookie DE’s, Quentin Groves and Reggie Hayward, to make an impact on defense this year. The secondary should have a good year with the likes of Rashean Mathis, and hard hitting safety Reggie Nelson making QB’s think twice.
The LB’s are highly suspect on this team, as are the DT’s. The defense may struggle this year, and the team will have to build onto it next off season.
Prediction: 8-8 and have the 14th pick in the 2010 draft.
I’m sorry Cowboys fans, but this is your spot. I just don’t have faith in too many of the players on this roster.
Wade Phillips is a true Texas coach, like straight out of the movies stuff; and about the worth of an actor as a coach too. Far too much of a behind the scenes kind of operation has been running lately down there.
Not to mention that, through no fault of their own, they have no indoor practice facility anymore. Jerry Jones is so desperate that he has Michael Irvin recruiting WR’s and DB’s for his team.
Tony Romo has been more interested in life outside of work lately to even be close to having his head in the game. T.O. is gone, which may or may not be a bad thing depending on who you ask.
Roy Williams is going to have to step his game up this year if this team has a prayer. Jason Witten is a game changing TE and great outlet.
If Roy and Patrick don’t step up, then Jason could be getting a lot of double coverage from LB’s and safeties. Their running game should be awesome this year, and that’s always a good thing.
Marion Barber is sensational, and Felix Jones definitely showed some signs of life before his injury last year.
The defense is a work in progress after the departure of several players including Roy Williams, Greg Ellis, Anthony Henry, Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, and possibly others whom I’m forgetting. They are going to have to rely heavily on DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Brady James, Terrance Newman and Ken Hamlin if they want to survive the year without being in the bottom half in total defense.
The drama may have all been on offense last year, but there are several young guys on defense who are going to have to step up and make plays this year in a tough physical division.
Prediction: 8-8, on the outside looking in for these Cowboys with the 15th pick in 2010.
This seems like a good spot for a team that has had its ups and downs over the past few years. Last year, the Bears lost to the Panthers by 3 points, Tampa Bay by 3 points in overtime, and Atlanta by 2 points, all in the first six weeks of the season.
If they had won those three games, then they would’ve started the season 8-0, and finished atop their division with a record of 12-4. Now, that’s a big “if” but it’s really only 8 points.
The Bears have struggled on offense. They are hoping that the teaming of Jay Cutler and Matt Forte can help them overcome this hurdle, and start putting something together.
Cutler threw for nearly 4,600 yards last year and 25 TD’s. That’s almost 1,600 yards more than Kyle Orton, and 7 more TD’s.
If the Bears had 100 more passing yards per game, and a few extra TD tosses here and there, and how much different would their season have been. So this year we will see if it was Cutler in Denver, or the talent level in Chicago.
They need help at WR, and it could come with the emergence of Earl Bennett, one of Cutler’s favorite targets in college. If not, they have two very good TE’s in Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. The O-line appears to be in good shape as well.
Defensively, they were a shell of their former selves last year. Only one player, Lance Briggs, broke the 100 tackles mark.
They boast one of the best front sevens in the game today. It’s the secondary where they could see some trouble this year.
I expect the defensive leaders to step back up this year, and help this team climb back up the ladder of success. Unfortunately, I cannot put my full faith in expectations, thus the semi-low ranking.
Prediction: another team that could make some stuff happen this year, I say they go 9-7 this year and pick 16th in 2010.
The New York Jets were atop the AFC in week 11 of last year, before Brett Favre’s shoulder injury which he vehemently denied until after the season. The catastrophic meltdown of the entire team that unfolded around him cost the team the playoffs altogether, Eric Mangini’s job, and a lot of respect in social circles.
The offense will most likely be led by the ground game in new head coach Rex Ryan’s scheme. Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and rookie Shonn Green are definitely three different types of runners who can get this task accomplished.
One of the great things about Mangini’s tenure in New York was that he established a young solid core of offensive linemen early on, which could prove to be an excellent crutch for this offense with questions at the WR position, and the QB spot. If we will see the emergence of Jerricho Cotchery as a number one guy after the departure of Laveranues Coles remains to be seen.
I do know that some Jets fans are pretty high on Chansi Stuckey, but the book is still unwritten on him too. One sure thing for the offensive passing game is TE Dustin Keller.
Defensively, Shaun Ellis is a beast. He’s average 14 games per year since his rookie season, and racked up 463 career tackles, 61.5 sacks and 11 forced fumbles.
Kris Jenkins was a monster when he was on the field last year, but the team really suffered when he wasn’t there—they have to fix that. The addition of Bart Scott will come with attitude and knowledge of Ryan’s defensive scheme.
Calvin Pace, Vernon Gholsten, and Bryan Thomas should be the other starters in the 3-4 which is solid (if Gholsten can prove he is worth the top ten pick a few years back). With Darrelle Reevis, Lito Sheppard, and Kerry Rhodes in the secondary, they should be locked up in coverage, allowing for the LB and safety blitz’s the Ravens D is famous for.
Prediction: This team should go 9-7, anything less is a failure. I’d put them ahead of Miami if not for the meltdown to end the year last year. They will pick 17th in the 2010 draft.
The Houston Texans appeared to be coming on strong at the end of last year winning five of their last six games. Granted they were games that they should’ve won against subpar teams, but that’s what you need to do in this league is win the games that you are supposed to win.
They may not be able to turn the corner in this tough division yet, but they are getting very close. Gary Kubiak is a great coach, and he will get this team into playoff contention if the ownership gives him the right time frame to work with.
One of the nagging problems for this team has been their starting QB, Matt Schaub only playing 11 games per year in his first two seasons as a Texan. He has posted a rating of 89.95, but has only averaged 2642 yards per year, and only thrown 26 TD’s to his 19 INT’s.
If they are going to be successful, he has got to stay healthy for the whole, or at least most of the season. Andre Johnson has not disappointed whatsoever and people are starting to call him the top receiver in the game these days.
Steve Slaton was a major bright spot for the team last year as well. Owen Daniels is easily one of the best TE’s in the conference, if not the league.
The O-line has to do some growing, but there is certainly plenty of youth there for them to do just that.
The defense is superior in the front seven, probably one of the top front seven’s in the entire league. Mario Williams has turned out to be a smart move by the management, as he has outplayed Reggie Bush in both of the last two seasons, in my opinion.
He is a consistent competitor that they will be able to rely on for 50+ tackles a year, and 10+ sacks per year. DeMeco Ryans is the real deal at middle linebacker, bringing his career tackle total up to 396 by the end of last year, after just three seasons.
Dante Robinson is a pure cornerback with great physical assets, and combined with Eugene Wilson, they bring good experience to that secondary. This team is almost there.
Their division is tough, they will have to fight for every victory against the AFC South opponents.
Prediction: 9-7. They will pick 18th in the 2010 draft.
The Miami dolphins could be dangerous this year. If there is a guy in the league who has proven himself as a smart football guy, it’s Bill Parcells.
He has led five different teams to the playoffs and two different teams to the Super Bowl. Last year, he took a team that was the laughing stock of the league, and turned them into a division winner.
This year, the Fins will look to reboot their version of the wildcat with Pat White, the rookie QB out of West Virginia.
The division rival Jets may have cut their own throats with a move that sent Chad Pennington to Miami in favor of the one season wonder Brett Favre. Pennington only completed 67.4% of his passes, and held up well for the whole season.
Ronnie Brown is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield, and Ricky Williams will look to improve upon an unexciting year last year. Patrick Cobbs is sort of like this team’s version of Kevin Faulk, “Mr. Reliable” on third downs.
Ted Ginn Jr. is explosive with the ball in his hands, and should show development this year. Pat White is listed on the roster as a WR, but I think we all know what he is really there for.
And of course, Jake Long is going to be solid for a long, long time.
On the defensive tilt, you just have to know that Joey Porter is going to make his voice heard in some shape or form. Yeremiah Bell and Channing Crowder will back him up too as both these guys got 100+ tackles last year.
New comer Gibril Wilson says this could be one of the best secondary’s in football this year. No reason to not believe him, as he piled up over 100 tackles with the Raider’s last year.
So that gives them, most likely, the only pair of 100+ tackle safety’s in the league. So now that Parcells has his favorite former Cowboys, oops, I mean chips in place, we’ll see if the Dolphins sink or swim this year.
Prediction: 9-7 on the outside looking into the playoffs this year. Pick 19th in 2010 draft.
Sorry Falcons fans, but if I was going to pick a fluke playoff team from last year it would be Atlanta. With the division they are in there is so much shuffling and tug and pull action, something’s gotta give.
Give the coaching staff and owner Arthur Blank a lot of credit for helping the fans to forget Michael Vick by bringing in a rookie QB who is going to be a solid starter for them for a long time, but I do expect a sophomore slump, even if only a little bit.
It’s unimaginable for a rookie QB to have a rating of 87.7 his first year, and it would be absolutely astounding if he could improve on that this year.
Matt Ryan took the reigns of this team last year and guided them right into the playoffs.
Throwing for nearly 3,500 yards on his way to 11 wins. Another Michael, by the name of Turner ran over defense’s for 1699 yards (couldn’t squeeze that last one) and an impressive 17 TD’s.
Roddy White’s emergence accounted for nearly 1400 receiving yards and 7 TD’s. Michael Jenkins added 50 catches and 700+ yards and should have a better year this year as he improves his game.
The addition of Tony Gonzalez should prove to be a nice addition to the passing game as well. The offense looks primed to make another run at it this year.
Jamaal Anderson is just an outstanding athlete on defense for this team. He should take his game to the next level this year if this team expects to compete.
Most of the starters on this side of the ball are unproven commodities. Curtis Lofton put on a good show last year at SLB racking up 94 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble.
Von Hutchins and Chris Houston did an ok job of making the loss of DeAngelo Hall almost unnoticeable.
Overall, this team is good, but they are green too. On top of that, they have to play Carolina twice, New Orleans twice this year and the AFC East and NFC East divisions, YIKES!
Prediction: 10-6, they just have a tough schedule, and they will fall off a little in that division this year, just missing the playoffs and pick 20th in the 2010 draft.
The Baltimore Ravens are a team that surprised a lot of people last year as well. While they failed to produce a 1,000 yard, they ranked 4th in the league with 148.5 yards per game and rushed for 20 TD’s.
Another rookie QB story here as well, though his rating was 7.4 points lower than the previous, Joe Flacco managed to win two playoff games to Ryan’s 0.
Rookie coach John Harbaugh led his Ravens all the way to the AFC championship game where they fell to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. They will once again be the sixth seed in the playoffs.
The offense is going to toy with the idea of team leading rusher Le’Ron McClain at FB, and try to keep him on the field at the same time as Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. Reports are circulating that McClain doesn’t like the decision, so we have troubled waters here folks.
Derrick mason led the receivers last year with over 1,000 yards and 5 Td’s. Mason is a solid receiver, but he’s not getting any younger.
Clayton and Williams need to step up and play hard this year. L.J. Smith joins Todd Heap and becomes one of the best TE tandems in the league.
The O-line is ok.
The leader of the defense signed up for 7 more years. What? 7?
Alright, I guess that’s just management’s way of saying that he will retire a Raven after he led the team in tackles once again. His buddy Bart Scott is gone, but they did manage to keep Terrell Suggs.
Ed Reed is one of the best safeties in the league. He always impresses me and I love to watch him play ball.
Jarrett Johnson had a solid year last year with 57 tackles and 5 sacks. The defensive line has 0 questions marks.
Looks like another good year on defense as long as they don’t miss Rex Ryan too much.
Prediction: 10-6 sixth seed in AFC playoffs. They will pick 21st in 2010.
The Carolina Panthers are cocked, locked, and loaded in the backfield. John Fox had his boys ready to go last year as they won their division and cruised into the playoffs.
QB Jake Delhomme played some great ball during the year, but was a big part of the reason they lost in the playoffs last year, which has fans questioning whether he is the QB he once was for the franchise.
The combination of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will give any defense nightmares.
Last year the two backs combined for 2,351 yards and 28 TD’s. Look for them to improve on these numbers this year, and how scary is that?
Steve Smith catches weren’t that high, but he racked up an impressive 1,421 yards for 6 TD’s. Muhsin Muhammed is a great complement to Smith, and he caught only 9 less passes last year and had over 900 yards and 5 TD’s.
But he isn’t getting any younger, he’s turning 36 and they are going to need to find another receiver to take pressure off Smith’s side soon. That guy could be Kenny Moore, the 2nd year man from Wake Forest, although the team is high on Dwayne Jarrett who only has 16 catches through three seasons.
I personally like 6-4 212 lbs. Marcus Monk to make a name for himself in training camp. Their OT’s are set for years into the future with Jeff Otah and Jordan Gross.
The defense is the head coach’s forte. Look for Julius Peppers to make it back before the season starts, and look for Charles Johnson to make a run at the other DE over Tyler Brayton.
Chris Gamble is a great cornerback who had 93 tackles last season. Thomas Davis and John Beason also did their part with over 100 tackles each, while Beason added 3 INT’s, and Davis had 3.5 sacks.
I think the team falls off a little bit this year, because the Saints have fixed their defensive woes and have a mega-potent offense to back it up. I also think Jake Delhomme could have a rough year this year with nobody to throw to except Smith.
Prediction: 10-6 6th seed in NFL playoffs, and will pick 22nd in 2010 draft.