The preseason is over and it’s time for the “real” football to begin. We’ve seen a shift since our training camp power rankings. The Saints are still on top but with holdouts still going on with some contenders and injuries hitting others, there’s been a change behind the defending champion Saints. Without further delay, here are our 2010 NFL Power Rankings heading to week 1 of the season:
1. New Orleans Saints – A team still with a ton of weapons and Drew Brees looks like he’s still got the same mojo from last year. The Darren Sharper concern is big on their repeat hopes though. He was such a difference maker in their defense last year.
2. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning looked tremendous despite the conflict with umpire placement. That will get sorted out and shouldn’t impact regular season games or it’s going to look ridiculous for the NFL.
3. Baltimore Ravens – Anquan Boldin seems to be fitting in nicely with Joe Flacco. The offense in Baltimore should put up a lot of points and keep defenses off balance.
4. Green Bay Packers – They could have the best offense in the league this year. Aaron Rodgers is tremendous. If the defense steps up, the Super Bowl is a definitely possibility.
5. New York Jets – Mark Sanchez is the key to the season. If he can play steady all year, they should be one of the best teams in the league. Oh yeah and Darrelle Revis needs to play.
6. Minnesota Vikings – The Sidney Rice injury is huge. He was Favre’s go-to receiver last year and now Percy Harvin may be week to week on if he’ll be able to play with health problems. If they’re back to 100% by January, they’ll be contenders.
7. Cincinnati Bengals – This team looks good. Carson Palmer should have the most talent around him of his career and it’s on him to lead them to a win in the playoffs.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan looks like his rookie year again and if Michael Turner stays healthy this team could go deep in the playoffs.
9. New England Patriots – If Wes Walker stays healthy, their offense will be outstanding again. The defense needs young players to step up and make an impact now.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Their offense has looked putrid in the preseason. They’ll get back on the same page but they better do it fast as their division won’t be easy and they can’t afford a slow start.
11. San Diego Chargers – Phillip Rivers is still there and is the most underrated QB in the league. He just makes plays. Rookie Ryan Matthews has looked good so far but they need their holdouts to play or they will be watching the second weekend of the playoffs again.
12. San Francisco 49ers – I like this team. They should win their division easily this year. Alex Smith will be the difference for them.
13. Philadelphia Eagles – The defense looks like it’s improved over last year. The offense is still a well oiled machine even with the new cogs replacing Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook.
14. Houston Texans – This is a big year for the Texans. Another year that ends outside the playoffs will probably mean the end of Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub in Houston. Look for Andre Johnson to catch 100+ passes for 1500 yards…again.
15. Tennessee Titans – Chris Johnson keeps talking how he’ll run for 2500 yards. I think he’ll be near 2000 again this year but the Titans will need Vince Young to play well to have any hope of making the playoffs in a difficult division.
16. Miami Dolphins – Chad Henne to Brandon Marshall will be the most common phrase in Miami this season. They need Ronnie Brown to stay healthy and keep running the wildcat with such success. I think they’re still a step below the Jets and Patriots in the division though.
17. Oakland Raiders – If Jason Campbell is healthy, you’ll see a much better Raiders team. I think they’ve finally got the confidence that their QB won’t throw their game away and that should lead to the Raiders challenging for a playoff spot.
18. New York Giants – A new defensive coordinator is trying to return them to the way they played back when they won the Super Bowl a few years ago.
19. Kansas City Chiefs – They’ve got a ton of speed now and hope their young players can make plays. Lookout for rookies Dexter McCluster and Eric Berry.
20. Washington Redskins – Donovan McNabb will do well in Mike Shanahan’s offense. Does Albert Haynesworth become a problem during the season?
21. Pittsburgh Steelers – No Big Ben for a month hurts. That’s a quarter of the season and will probably make the difference in having a winning season or preparing for the draft in Janaury.
22. Denver Broncos – The loss of Elvis Dumervil is devastating. The pressure he generates on the opposition can’t just be duplicated. Will Josh McDaniel stick with Kyle Orton or is there a 3-way circus at QB in Denver this season?
23. Chicago Bears – The Mike Martz and Jay Cutler union is one to watch this season. You know Cutler can make any throw but will Martz put him in the positions to make them or get sacked?
24. Carolina Panthers – Can Matt Moore play like he did last year? They’ll have the running game which should ease his burden and look out for rookie Greg Hardy on defense.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – It’s the same story with Jacksonville again this year. Can they get plays in the passing game? If they do, they could be 8-8, if not, they’re back in the top 10 of the draft.
26. Arizona Cardinals – The uncertainty at quarterback is looming over this team and they’ll need the defense to carry them.
27. Detroit Lions – Ndamakong Suh is a beast. He’ll greatly improve the defense and the offense looks to have explosive potential. They’re still young and have to learn how to win.
28. Cleveland Browns – Which Jake Delhomme shows up? One that took Carolina to a Super Bowl or the one we saw last year continually throw the ball to the other team?
29. Seattle Seahawks – I don’t see much out of the Seahawks this year. Pete Carroll has to upgrade the talent and get the team to stay healthy. Luckily they get two games against the Rams so they’ve got a shot at a few wins.
30. Buffalo Bills – The Bills have one of the best running back groups in the league now but outside of that, there’s a lot of holes. Playing in the tough AFC East will make for a long year.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – They need more talent. They’re young and just don’t seem head for anything more than 3 wins this year.
32. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford has been up and down but looked to at least be progressing through the preseason. He’s gonna see more complicated defensive schemes and a line that can’t keep him upright for long. They will be back at the top of the draft next year.