By Derek Lofland.
Our first power rankings of the 2009 season feature a familiar team at the top of the list. These rankings are a reflection of the success teams experienced in 2008, combined with the moves they made in free agency and in the draft.
32. Detroit Lions (0-16) – Until the Lions win a game, they are the worst team in the NFL. But there are hopes for Detroit with emerging star WR Calvin Johnson and promising second year RB Kevin Smith on offense. If QB Daunte Culpepper can regain his 1999-2004 NFL form, or Matthew Stafford can impress as a rookie, the Lions figure to win some games in 2009. The good news for them is that there is nowhere to go but up in 2009.
25. Seattle Seahawks (4-12) – The key for them is for QB Matt Hasselbeck to stay healthy in 2009. When he is at full strength, the Seahawks have one of the best passing games in the NFL. T.J. Houshmandzadeh should be a welcome weapon to a receiving core that has underachieved in recent years, and LB Aaron Curry could have a nice impact on the defense that slipped quite a bit in 2008. If they stay healthy, they could compete in a weak NFC West.
16. New Orleans Saints (8-8) – If it were just about throwing the ball, the Saints would have the best team in the NFL. Drew Brees was the first quarterback to throw for over 5,000 yards since 1984 and missed Dan Marino’s league record by just 16 passing yards. The running game has some promise with Pierre Thomas appearing to be the starting back, and Reggie Bush still a dangerous weapon in the passing game. The Saints used free agency and the draft to address the defense and, if they can improve on that side of the ball, they should be poised for their first playoff run since 2006.
10. Arizona Cardinals (9-7) – Even though they represented the NFC in the Super Bowl, they were still a 9-7 team in the regular season. They have a great offense with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin leading the receiving core. QB Kurt Warner had a fantastic year, but is turning 38-years old. The big questions are whether Tim Hightower and rookie Chris “Beanie” Wells can give them stability at running back, and whether the defense can play at the same level it showed in the playoffs that it had not displayed in the regular season. They will be a dangerous team in 2009, but probably not one of the elite squads.
4. New York Giants (12-4) – The Giants used free agency to add DT Rocky Bernard, DE Chris Canty and LB Michael Boley to their already talented defense that ranked fifth in points allowed last season. The Giants are a wide receiver away from being the clear cut favorite in the NFC, evidenced by the struggles that QB Eli Manning and the offense had in December without WR Plaxico Burress. If first-round pick Hakeem Nicks can have a breakout rookie season, the Giants could easily be playing February football.