Who will be sitting next to the Vince Lombardi Trophy after this season? These power rankings provide a different take on this season.
Projected Finish/Record: 4th in NFC WEST- (2-14)
Nugget: One quarterback does not make a team. This team has so far to go, it may be three years before St. Louis even sniffs postseason play. Drafting Bradford was certainly the right move, but he needs more support and other around him to step up.
Projected Finish/Record: 4th in AFC SOUTH- (2-14)
Nugget: The Alualu pick baffled many experts and so-called experts alike. Declining attendance and interest, along with rumors of a move out of town are contributing to the sharp and sudden decline of this once proud franchise. Can they rekindle the Mark Brunell magic?
Projected Finish/Record: 4th in AFC EAST- (3-13)
Nugget: RB C.J. Spiller needs to have someone hand the ball off to him. Until Buffalo can get a legitimate quarterback, that franchise will not be in the playoffs.
Projected Finish/Record: 4th in AFC WEST- (3-13)
Nugget: Signing Rolando McClain helps, and the Jason Campbell pick-up was a plus. Hugh Jackson is also a good move for them, but there needs to be more. This franchise has been a wreck since the second year of the Bill Callahan administration. They need a few more solid off-seasons like this one to turn it around.
Projected Finish/Record: 4th in AFC NORTH- (3-13)
Nugget: Even with the start of the Mike Holmgren era, how long will Eric Mangini be the head coach? Will QB Jake Delhomme regain his old form or will Colt McCoy be the starter by the bye week? (Week 8)
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in the NFC WEST- (4-12)
Nugget: Pete Carroll tries his hand again at coaching an NFL team. The Seahawks drafted well, but it remains to be seen if they can turn that into immediate success this season. Seattle could be much better if the pieces fall into place. They don't exactly play in the toughest division.
Projected Finish/Record: 4th in NFC SOUTH- (4-12)
Nugget: Raheem Morris enters his second year as a head coach and can expect a small improvement record wise, but Tampa needs to do more. Drafting Gerald McCoy was a start. See: #32- St. Louis.
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in AFC WEST- (4-12)
Nugget: Look for Kansas City to be competitive this year, but it won’t show up in the record column. The Chiefs did well in the draft and in free agency, but, like Seattle, it remains to be seen if they can translate that into immediate success. With teams like the Broncos and Chargers within the division, all signs point to no.
4th in NFC NORTH- (4-12)
I wanted to put Detroit higher, but I just can’t. Even with the signings of Suh and Best, the Lions are still at least one more year away from becoming competitive. This franchise is headed in the right direction, but they haven’t reached the promised land yet.
Projected Finish/Record: 4th in NFC EAST- (4-12)
Nugget: This franchise, even with Mike Shanahan as the head coach, is in shambles. Albert Haynesworth is still a mystery, and bringing in a bunch of “has-beens” does not make a good NFL team. McNabb will be better than Campbell, if only because he’ll be able to better tolerate the beatings he will be taking. Washington is not going to be a playoff team for a few years.
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in NFC NORTH- (6-10)
Nugget: Chicago is on the ropes. Lovie Smith arguably should have been fired after last season. Jay Cutler does not deserve to be a starting QB. I like the signing of Julius Peppers, but, once again, one player does not automatically make a team a competitor.
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in AFC SOUTH- (6-10)
Nugget: Tennessee’s admirable turnaround from last season does not turn this season into a success. Vince Young can’t mind his own business, Chris Johnson now thinks he’s a Hall-of-Famer, and the Titans lost some major pieces on defense. This franchise will not be a playoff team this year.
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in NFC SOUTH- (6-10)
Nugget: Getting rid of Jake Delhomme was a start, but Jimmy Clausen and/or Tony Pike won’t provide any relief. Carolina wasn’t very good last year-look for a similar story this season.
Projected Finish/Record: 2nd in NFC WEST- (8-8)
Nugget: All of the losses on the offensive side of the ball will not be a good thing for a franchise officially in rebuilding mode. Only a weak division keeps them from a worse record.
Projected Finish/Record: 2nd in AFC WEST- (8-8)
Nugget: Tim Tebow will work out for the Broncos. Dumping Brandon Marshall will help this team. Expect them to be close to a wildcard berth, but bow out at the last minute.
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in NFC EAST- (7-9)
Nugget: The Eagles need to find a more permanent solution at the QB position. Until then, they will not be a playoff team. Andy Reid may lose his job if this gets any worse.
Projected Finish/Record: 2nd in AFC SOUTH- (9-7)
Nugget: Houston is on the rise- there is no doubt about that. However, with Indianapolis still in the division, Houston will be relegated to Wild-Card contender this season. Can they finally capture a post-season berth? That remains to be seen.
Projected Record/Finish: 2nd in NFC EAST- (9-7)
Nugget: New York ended its season with a dismal, embarrassing and flat out awful loss in Minnesota. I don’t see things getting much better for the Giants. The additions of Antrel Rolle and Jason Pierre-Paul will help, but the Cowboys will win this division running away.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in NFC WEST- (11-5)
Nugget: SF is not a particularly great team. They’ll win the division, but they need another year of solid signings to become a legitimate playoff contender. They only get into the playoffs because of the traditional weak NFC West.
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in AFC NORTH- (9-7)
Nugget: Ben Roethlisberger is the key for success. If the Steelers can go .500 in the 6 games that he will miss (including 2 division games- BAL, and CLE), they may be able to get things together and make a run at a Wild Card.
Projected Finish/Record: 3rd in AFC EAST- (9-7)
Nugget: New England is still recovering from a stunning beat-down in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs at home last year. Tom Brady is in the last year of his contract and Wes Welker is coming off of a major knee injury. Can they piece it all together? I say no.
Projected Finish/Record: 2nd in the AFC EAST- (10-6)
Nugget: Miami takes another step forward this year, if only because New England regresses slightly. Even with Chad Henne at the helm, Brandon Marshall will make the Dolphins a better team.
Projected Finish/Record: 2nd in the NFC SOUTH- (11-5)
Nugget: Atlanta was already a decent squad last year. With the addition of Dunta Robinson and another year of experience under Matt Ryan’s belt, this team should make the playoffs as a Wild-Card.
Projected Finish/Record: 2nd in NFC NORTH- (10-6)
Nugget: Green Bay fought and earned a Wild Card berth last season after losing to lowly Tampa Bay. If Bryan Bulaga can step up, Green Bay could catch fire and make a deep run. The Packers are a sleeper pick to make a Super Bowl run. Also, if Brett Favre really does stay retired, the Packers become the favorites to win the division.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in AFC EAST- (12-4)
Nugget: New York upgraded an already good team this offseason. If LaDanian Tomlinson can be half of the player he was in San Diego, another year of experience for QB Mark Sanchez will add up to a playoff run and possibly a first round bye this year.
Projected Finish/Record: 2nd in AFC NORTH- (11-5)
Nugget: Cincinnati is a popular pick for a Wild Card berth, but reinstated itself in the Division race after the signing of Terrell Owens and the injury to Baltimore’s Dominique Foxworth. Cincinnati should be in the playoffs this year and make a run at least into the Divisional Round. If Baltimore regresses even slightly, Cincinnati will be there and claim back-to-back division crowns.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in AFC WEST- (12-4)
Nugget: San Diego will win the division again. Vincent Jackson will be another force on the offensive side. The question is: Will Shawn Merriman show up and be dominant again, or will he sulk and be average? Charger fans hope the former.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in AFC NORTH- (12-4)
Nugget: Baltimore upgraded their offense in a major way with the signings of Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth. For the first time in recent memory, the offense is getting more hype than Ray Lewis’ defense. If Baltimore can either improve the pass rush or plug some holes in the secondary, they very likely will be there at the end of January.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in NFC EAST- (13-3)
Nugget: If Dez Bryant can be a difference-maker, then Dallas could make history and become the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Dallas returns all the major pieces except Flozell Adams, and that could spell trouble for the NFC.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in AFC SOUTH- (13-3)
Nugget: Indianapolis’ season ended in heart-breaking fashion in the Super Bowl. That same team didn’t lose much over the offseason and you can bet that Peyton Manning will have a fire to prove that last year was a fluke and that he can be the elite post-season champion quarterback.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in NFC SOUTH- (13-3)
Nugget: New Orleans returns the basic core of players that won the Super Bowl last year. Drew Brees will not let down and become complacent. Expect New Orleans to be there again.
Projected Finish/Record: 1st in NFC NORTH- (13-3)
Nugget: Minnesota will get an early chance to establish themselves as the conference front runner as they host the Cowboys in week 6. If Brett Favre returns for the Vikings, they become instant favorites to at least be in the NFC Championship game, if not in the Super Bowl. If Favre does indeed stay retired, Minnesota is still a very good team, just not the Super Bowl contender that everyone thinks they are.
-Paul Taylor hosts the Average Joe Sports Show, returning Sunday, August 22nd on 860 AM KNUJ New Ulm, MN. Listen online at knuj.net. Follow him on Twitter @paul_t11.