The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV Sunday, so the book is officially closed on the 2010 NFL season.
That means it's time to look at the 2011 NFL season. Hopefully, a lot will happen between now and late July when training camps are scheduled to open, including free agency, trades and the NFL Draft.
With that in mind, it's never too early to start ranking the teams. So here they are, the first 2011 NFL Power Rankings.
32. Carolina. Things won't get better for the Panthers until the quarterback situation is resolved.
31. Cleveland. Browns took strides but need improvements on the front seven and a playmaker for Colt McCoy.
30. Arizona. See Carolina.
29. Buffalo. Offense took strides behind quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Steve Johnson. Defense needs major upgrades.
28. San Francisco. When will the 49ers finally start living up to their potential?
27. Tennessee. What will the Titans do at quarterback now that the Vince Young era has officially ended?
26. Houston. Offense is explosive and Arian Foster is the real deal. Secondary has to be better.
25. Detroit. Still a long way to go, but things are finally heading in the right direction for the Lions.
24. Cincinnati. Which Bengals team will we see this year: The 2009 AFC North champs or the 2010 cellar dwellers?
23. Washington. Still a dysfunctional family. Just another year on team owner Dan Snyder's wild ride.
22. Denver. Another team with quarterback issues. Did the Broncos see enough from Tim Tebow to make him their guy?
21. Seattle. Seahawks were too inconsistent during the year, even if they won the NFC West.
The Oakland Raiders are finally making progress. One of their top 10 draft picks (Darren McFadden) finally panned out, the quarterbacks showed signs of life, and the Raiders had their first non-losing season since 2002.
So, naturally, they fired their head coach.
In Al Davis' mind, it all makes sense. Lost in all of this is that the Raiders made real progress this year. Of course, whether they improve next year depends on whether they can retain Nnamdi Asomugha through free agency.
The Rams made huge strides last season, especially on the back of their rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, a group of no-name receivers and a young defensive corps.
The ceiling is high for this group, but the Rams will need some help if they want to improve. Mainly, they need a big-play receiver that can mesh with Bradford and give him a consistent target, ergo many mock drafts projecting Alabama's Julio Jones to be a Ram.
Steven Jackson will need to stay healthy to give them a chance, as well.
The Vikings are one of a few teams in the NFL that are better than their final record, but not as good as people thought. The loss of Sidney Rice hamstrung Minnesota early on and the Vikings never really recovered from losing that threat in the passing game.
The Vikings need to find a quarterback of the future. With no fantastic prospects in the upcoming draft and a mixed bag on the roster, expect Minnesota to get another veteran quarterback.
The Cowboys, like the Vikings, did not live up to preseason expectations. Glaring holes on both lines and in the secondary showed all season, as too many times the defense was burned badly.
Improvements for the Cowboys start with a defensive end, cornerback or offensive lineman to protect Tony Romo. Trying to cut ties with wide receiver Roy Williams or running back Marion Barber for picks or prospects may not be a bad idea, either.
Miami is one of those teams that's so hard to read. One week they look like world-beaters and a dominant force to be reckoned with; the next week they're getting beat at home by Detroit.
If there's a positive from the Dolphins' season, it's that they have one of the most underrated pass rushers in the league in former B.C. Lion Cameron Wake, and star receiver Brandon Marshall. Of course, not having a running game and a consistent quarterback could hurt them.
The Dolphins needs to work on replacing Ricky Williams and possibly Ronnie Brown, as well as figure out who their quarterback will be going forward.
I'm guessing no one thought the Jaguars would be leading the AFC South with one month to go. On the other hand, I bet everyone thought they would choke in those final four weeks—which they did.
Jacksonville has holes, but the defensive line continued to gel through the season and Maurice Jones-Drew did what he usually does. David Garrard will need to be better and more consistent for the Jaguars to have a chance.
Jack Del Rio's job depends on it.
Which Giants team will we see in 2011?
Is it the Giants team that steamrolled through October, or is it the one that choked away the division and the playoffs in eight minutes?
Tom Coughlin's been given one more chance, and he won the Super Bowl the last time that happened. He may need to win another one to save his job.
To say the Chiefs overachieved last season would be a huge understatement. The Chiefs everyone saw in the playoff loss to Baltimore were the Chiefs everyone expected to see. Still, there's a bright future in Kansas City.
Dwayne Bowe blossomed into one of the best receivers in the league, and Jamaal Charles is making waves at running back. I expect the Chiefs to slip back somewhat this season, unless the young players continue to progress and they can find a secondary target in the passing game.
Tampa Bay had a fantastic year, tallying seven more wins than in 2009.
The backfield of Josh Freeman at quarterback and running back LeGarrette Blount could star in Tampa for the next decade, while the young receivers also impressed. The defense will probably be the focus in the offseason. The ends need to be upgraded.
For the first time in a while, the future looks bright in Tampa.
The Eagles were a hard team to figure. In a span of a few weeks, they went from Super Bowl contender to eliminated in the first round.
We know what the offense can do with Michael Vick and company, and they will retain that big-play potential. The defense has to be better than it was for most of the season, even with all the injuries at the end of the year.
The Jets backed into the playoffs and somehow found themselves in the AFC Championship Game again. I see where this team is expected to contend for a Super Bowl, but for all the talk they still haven't hosted a playoff game yet.
The Jets can take that next step, but they fall in the preseason rankings because of the questions surrounding the team's free agents.
The Colts are the Colts, which means they'll still be a Super Bowl contender next year as long as No. 18 is throwing the ball all over the field.
Of course, Peyton Manning can't do it all alone. He needs help. He needs Joseph Addai and Bob Sanders to stay healthy. The offensive line must be able to create holes for Addai and protect their franchise quarterback.
Is the Super Bowl-contender window closing on the Colts?
The Bears weren't expected to do much in 2010, yet they ended up one game away from the Super Bowl.
If Chicago has to go any extended time without Jay Cutler, it could be a big problem. The defense is still solid and the offense does enough to get by, but only time will tell if 2010 was a fluke or the beginning of something big in the Windy City.
The Chargers were near the top statistically in both offense and defense, yet they missed the playoffs.
That won't fly again, especially with the expectations surrounding this team. Having a full complement of targets for Philip Rivers and a healthy Ryan Mathews will help the Chargers, but knowing that heads will roll if the Chargers don't make the Super Bowl again can be the biggest motivating factor.
San Diego's higher-ups won't let last season happen again.
Every season, we say the Ravens will break through and make a big move in the AFC, but they haven't been able to put it all together.
That being said, they are still one of the best teams in the NFL. If Baltimore is going to get back to the promised land, especially with this group, this may be the last chance for the Ravens.
The Saints defense looked vulnerable at times, the offense struggled to find a rhythm and the Saints went through more running backs than Vince McMahon does folding chairs.
Yet New Orleans still managed to finish as the No. 5 seed in the NFC, before falling to Seattle in one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. Where do the Saints go from here?
They still have Drew Brees and Marques Colston, among others. They'll be alright.
The Falcons were the NFL's biggest surprise last season until they fell victim to the Green Bay Packers' buzzsaw. Matt Ryan continued to progress and Roddy White had a career year, but once again the Falcons couldn't get over the hump in the postseason.
Of course, after the Falcons made the playoffs in 2008, they missed the postseason in 2009. If the Falcons miss again in 2011, then questions about whether this team has the mental fortitude to make a deep postseason run will start.
The Patriots were considered the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Apparently that was before Wes Welker put his foot in his mouth.
In the span of an afternoon, the Patriots went from Super Bowl front-runners to being soundly beaten at home in the divisional round. With a young, improving defense and the running attack of Danny Woodhead and company, the Patriots will be back.
Plus, they have that Brady guy.
When you watched the last drive of the Super Bowl last night, were you surprised that Ben Roethlisberger didn't lead the Steelers down for the victory?
Honestly, it seems like that's what the Steelers do. They win those types of games. Regardless of the disappointment of losing the big game, the Steelers will be back. They are too mentally and physically tough not to contend.
OK, the Super Bowl champions have to be No. 1 on the list.
The Packers perhaps surprised everyone by running through the NFC and slicing through the Steelers defense en route to their fourth Super Bowl title. We forget that even though this team was a No. 6 seed that got into the postseason on the season's last day, many picked the Packers to win it all in the preseason.
So maybe it's not that surprising. Either way, the Packers have the tools to be a dominant team for a long time.