NFL: Power Ranking Every QB/RB/WR Combination
In time of uncertainty with the NFL and the players association, trade federation or whatever they are calling themselves these days, embroiled in courtroom banter, it might be a good idea to start to examine where NFL teams actually stand if the lockout is lifted.
As such, here is a power ranking of the quarterback, running backs and wide receiver combinations of all 32 teams.
A special thanks goes to NFL.com for the use of statistical information for this article. Their thorough record keeping is second to none.
Enjoy a fun read instead of a litigation lecture.
32. Carolina Panthers
Seriously, where did you think we would start?
First, the good news. The Panthers had three running backs of note run for over four yards per carry. Jonathan Stewart led the pack with 770 rushing yards (4.3 ypc) and Mike Goodson showed promise with 452 yards (4.4 ypc).
The bad news is that D'Angelo Williams, the Panthers running back with the most breakaway speed, is a free agent and almost definite to leave.
More bad news is that wide receiver Steve Smith has hit the wall and had his worst statistical full season by far. Smith only had 46 catches for 554 yards, and it was the second year in a statistical free-fall.
Brandon LaFell (38 catches) is the only other player on the roster who might even have long-term potential at first glance.
The worst news is that the team's confidence in starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen, three touchdowns with nine interceptions, is somewhere between slim and none.
Slim is a free agent, by the way.
The Panthers were dead last in points scored and in yards on offense in 2010.
31. Washington Redskins
Washington is almost at the bottom of the barrell because they don't have virtually any players at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions that they can count on for 2011.
Let's start with quarterback. Donovan McNabb had his worst year as a starter in throwing 14 touchdown passes against 15 interceptions and in posting a 77.1 quarterback rating. The Redskins would like someone to trade for McNabb but that is unlikely and they will probably release the veteran as soon as player transactions are allowed again.
Rex Grossman is hardly the answer as a starter, and any Miami Dolphin fan can tell you what John Beck doesn't bring to the table.
Ryan Torain, who was drafted by coach Mike Shanahan, is a talented running back. He ran for 742 yards and a 4.5 yard average in 2011, but he hasn't come close to playing a full season yet (10 games last season after just two in 2009) and might not ever be durable enough to be a full-time back. Back-up Keiland Williams hasn't proven to be a realistic option.
The picture at wide receiver might be the most bleak. If the Redskins don't draft a big-time wideout, they are look at trotting out Anthony Armstrong, Roydell Williams and Brandon Banks. Armstrong, an undrafted free agent, is the best of the bunch with 871 yards, an almost 20-yard average per catch, but he is a one-dimensional speedster at this point in his career.
Veteran Santana Moss is a free agent and likely won't be re-signed. It bears mention that if McNabb and or Moss return, the Redskins could be ranked higher.
30. Cleveland Browns
This might be the question of the day. How bad does Cleveland's quarterback and wide receiver situation have to be to rank this far down the list when the Browns have Peyton Hillis at running back?
The answer is atrocious.
Keep in mind that even with Hillis' 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, the Browns were 31st in the league in points scored and 29th in offensive yards. Hillis also accounted for 477 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver making the scenario even worse.
The truth about Colt McCoy is that his 1,576 yards passing and six touchdowns versus nine interceptions even in half a season didn't prove much of anything. His small frame also begs the question of whether he can physically hold up in the NFL.
The best thing that I can say about the Browns receiving corp of Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi is that they are young.
29. Cincinnati Bengals
Everything for the Cincinnati Bengals starts and ends with Carson Palmer at quarterback. If Palmer stays true to his demand to be traded or retire, and all indications appear to be that he is very serious, then Cinci doesn't have a starting quarterback on the roster.
At running back, the Bengals' Cedric Benson is a free agent and saw his yards per carry average drop from 4.2 to 3.5 in 2010. Although Benson did break the 1,000 yard rushing plateau ((1,111) for his second straight year, it's 50-50 whether Cincinnati wants or is able to re-sign him.
At wide receiver, Terrell Owens is a free agent, and a multi-million dollar option on Chad Ochocinco is not likely to be picked up, leaving the Bengals with Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell as their starting wideouts.
Reserve Jordan Shipley showed a little something for Cincinnati last year with 600 yards receiving, but the team would be well advised to invest in draft picks A.J. Green or Julio Jones.
28. Buffalo Bills
Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't nearly as bad a starting quarterback as some critics might suggest, but he isn't the long-term answer either. Fitzpatrick threw for 3,000 yards with 23 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions in 2010. He didn't have his best games against elite opposition though and struggled down the stretch against Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Chicago and New England. In these games, he had his lowest passer ratings of the season.
Still, the latest buzz seems to suggest that the Bills will not draft a quarterback with the third overall pick in the draft and try to help out their defense with that pick.
Fred Jackson is actually Buffalo's feature back not named C.J. Spiller and rushed for over 900 yards and four yards a clip in 2010, but he is 30, and the Bills would clearly like to turn to Spiller more often.
The Bills' first draft pick last season, Spiller, rushed for just 283 yards and simply doesn't project as a double-digit carry back in the NFL.
What really drags down Buffalo's overall ranking is their inadequate receiving corps, minus Stevie Johnston. Yes, Johnston caught 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns, but his numbers were inflated because the Bills have no other wide receivers who are reliable enough to target. Consider that Lee Evans, Buffalo's next leading receiver, had just 37 catches and appears to be at the end of his career.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
It would seem a little weird to have the Jaguars so low on this list, especially given that they have one of the best running backs in the game of football in Maurice Jones-Drew.
However, "pocket-hercules" isn't getting any younger, and while I am not suggested that a back with 1,324 yards last season despite missing two games is slowing down, he is just coming off arthroscopic knee injury and is generously listed at 5'7" 208 pounds.
Much more imporantly, the Jaguars are a mess around Drew.
David Garrard actually had a decent year statistically, with 23 touchdowns against 15 interceptions and a 90.8 passer rating, but he threw for just over 2,700 yards, which was a markable drop from his last two seasons. More telling is that he seems to have lost the confidence of the team's front office as the futue of this team.
Earlier this offseason, Jacksonville released arguably its best wide receiver in Mike Sims-Walker and is left with 5'8" Mike Thomas as its best target. Thomas caught 66 balls last season but just four touchdowns and is clearly a complimentary player.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Can we finally put Marshawn Lynch's highlight reel playoff run to bed? Sure, it was impressive, but this was a bad offense that had one shining moment.
Starting quarterback Matt Hasselback threw for 17 interceptions and just 12 touchdowns during the year. His passer rating was just 73.2.
The aforementioned Lynch was the team's leading rusher with 573 yards and had an abnormally low 3.5 yards per carry.
At receiver, Seattle deserves some credit for resurrecting the career of former bust Mike Williams. The former USC Trojan is on his fourth NFL team, and the Seahawks managed to get more catches (65) and yards (751) than he had racked up in the previous three years of his career. Whether Williams continues his progression is highly questionable.
Neither Deon Butler or Brandon Stokley are seeing significant playing time based on talent. They are playing out of necessity because Seattle doesn't have anywhere else to turn.
25. Arizona Cardinals
Honestly, its shocking to see the Cardinals here, especially with a receiving corp of Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. While Fitzgerald kept up his end of the bargain for the most part with 90 catches for 1,137 yards, he only found the endzone six times. It was the first time he did not put up double-digit in touchdowns since 2006.
While Breaston put up similar statistics in 2010 to his numbers in 2009, he didn't step up in his full-time starting role in the absence of Anquan Boldin. Doucet's numbers only improved slightly.
The biggest problem though is that none of three quarterbacks to see significant action, Derek Anderson, John Skelton or Max Hall, could hit the broad side of a barn with a beach ball.
Was that harsh?
Well, so was the fact that out of three, only Anderson had a completion percentage above 50 percent (51.7)
The Cardinals running game was running back by committee again, with Tim Hightower averaging 4.8 yards per carry but totalling just 736 yards on the season. Beanie Wells failed to capitalize on the promise he showed in 2009.
24. San Francisco 49ers
Poor Frank Gore. Every year, he goes about his business and racks up over 1,000 yards or last year, in just 11 games, he ran for 853 yards. His per carry average is always over 4.0, and yet the Niners, in a word, stink.
Gore is probably nearing the end of his days as a feature back despite turning just 28 this May. His running style has him take a pounding and injuries are taking their toll on the former Miami Hurricane.
Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree is coming into his own after racking up 55 pass receptions for 741 yards and six touchdowns last season. The Niners do have a Pro Bowl tightend in Vernon Davis but not much else at the wideout position.
Regardless of who catches the ball, San Francisco and new coach Jim Harbaugh are going to need someone new to throw it. Incumbent quarterback Alex Smith is a free agent and really needs a change of scenery if he is ever going to be successful. That might not even make a difference.
Back-up Troy Smith is also a free agent, and I am guessing that Harbaugh doesn't want go with NFL journeyman David Carr as a starter.
Expect San Francisco to totally revamp their quarterback roster by opening day.
23. St. Louis Rams
As much as St. Louis fans want to get excited about Sam Bradford, realize that the Rams were still 26th in the league in offense with respect to points scored and yardage accumulated. Bradford threw for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns, but he also chucked 15 picks and had a pedestrian 76.5 passer rating.
Quarterbacks also tend to struggle in their sophomore years, so beware in 2011.
Steven Jackson just keeps plugging along with 1,241 more yards in 2010. But he also carried the ball an absurd 330 times to go with 324 runs in 2009.
The wheels on Jackson's bus aren't going to go round and round forever. His yards per carry fell to 3.8 in 2010.
Another huge issue for the Rams is that they might have the league's most limited wide receiving corp. Danny Amendola led the team with 85 catches for just 689 yards. That's an average of 8.1 yards per catch. The argument could be made that St. Louis needs five or six brand new receivers, or Bradford might have a real problem on his hands.
22. Tennessee Titans
The Titans rank 22 and not 32 because of two players.
Running back Chris Johnson didn't put up over 2,000 yards again, but most NFL teams would beg, borrow and steal to get a back that still blazed his way to 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver Kenny Britt hauled in 42 passes for 775 yards and nine touchdowns. He did this while starting seven games, and he would be one of my picks for a breakout performer in 2011 if he had a quarterback to throw to him.
Vince Young has worn out his welcome in Tennessee, and the Titans are on record as saying he won't be back. Back-up Kerry Collins is a free agent, and after 16 seasons, he could be a likely candidate for retirement.
That leaves Nashville to pins its hopes on country singer, I mean quarterback, Rusty Smith. The unheralded Smith has attempted a whopping 40 passes in his NFL career and completed half. I hope new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer likes a challenge.
21. Miami Dolphins
Chad Henne regressed in his second season as a starter, and Miami is openly looking to upgrade either through free agency or the draft.
While throwing for 3,301 yards, he threw for just 15 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He also showed a penchant for not trusting his receivers especially downfield. Whether that was a product of a conservative offensive attack will become more apparent in 2011. Back-ups Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen don't figure to return to the team.
Henne's lack of connection with his receivers is a little hard to understand because it's actually a pretty decent pass-catching group overall. Brandon Marshall was inconsistent, but still caught 86 passes for 1,013 yards and Davone Bess caught 79 passes. Receiver Brian Hartline also caught 43 passes despite missing four games.
The problem for the Dolphins is they lack a pure downfield speedster, but they like the upside of first year players Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore.
Running backs Ronnie Brown (734 yards) and Ricky Williams (673 yards) are free agents, and at least one doesn't figure to be back. Neither appears to be suited for full time duty anymore.
Miami does appear committed to adding a few running backs to the roster through draft or free agency and this picture could alter dramatically with time, but for now, this offense has a lot of questions.
20. Detroit Lions
I am not sure that there is a cooler nickname in the NFL than "Megatron" for the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson. Though, I am open to a player being labeled Optimus Prime.
Seriously, Johnson caught 77 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns, and I don't think he has scratched the surface of his immense potential yet. The addition of Nate Burleson (55 catches) certainly helped Johnson, and so will a consistent quarterback if the Lions ever planning on having one.
This brings me to the number one concern about Detroit. Two years ago, the Lions selected Matthew Stafford first overall and gave him over $40 million in guaranteed money according to reports.
Well, "the franchise" has played in just 13 games over two seasons and has suffered multiple injuries to his throwing shoulder. The latest cost him most of 2010 and included joint repair.
Shaun Hill did a serviceable job in relief of Stafford, but he won't lead the Lions to success in the long-term.
The Lions also need a workhorse running back because Jahvid Best is ideally suited for a change of pace role, as evidenced by his 3.2 yards per carry as the team's primary runner.
19. Minnesota Vikings
Riddle me this. How can you have arguably the league's best running back in Adrian Peterson and yet finish 23rd in the league in yards and 29th in points?
Simple, actually; you rely on a 41-year-old Brett Favre to reclaim the magic he had in 2009.
Predictably, Favre finally failed to cheat "Father-time" and retired for real at the end of the 2010 season.
I'm serious this time.
So providing that Favre is really gone, the Vikings will turn the quarterback reigns over to Joe Webb?
Who? I thought he played basketball a long time ago and won a slam dunk competition. No, that's Spud Webb. This is Joe Webb, and he actually showed some moxie in a win over Philadelphia late in the season. But he has two career starts and has not thrown a touchdown pass.
Expect the Vikings to bring in a veteran and former Minnesota quarterback of the future, Tavaris Jackson, to leave through free agency.
Minnesota has talent at wide receiver, providing they can re-sign Sidney Rice, who is scheduled for free agency, and that Percy Harvin can finally shake the migraine problems that have affected him for so long. It bears mentioning that Harvin still had 71 grabs in 2010.
18. Denver Broncos
Offense has not been Denver's problem or the reason that they finished with a dismal 4-12 record in 2010.
Quarterback Kyle Orton passed for 3,653 yards and 20 touchdowns with only nine interceptions. While these statistics won't get him in the Hall of Fame, Orton has proven that he is an above average quarterback in the NFL.
Where in the world did Brandon Lloyd come from? 77 catches for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns accounts for about half his career totals. Lloyd is going into his ninth year!
How will this one-year wonder be impacted by the departure of Josh McDaniels and the arrival of John Fox?
That's a darn good question, but if I were Fox, I certainly wouldn't change anything Lloyd did to prepare for last year.
Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney had decent, if not stellar, seasons.
Running back Knowshon Moreno racked up 779 yards on the ground and missed three games. 2011 could be the year he breaks the 1,000 yard plateau and he figures to benefit from Fox's more ground-centered attack.
17. Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden finally began to live up to the hype from being the Raiders' first round draft pick and fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft. McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 507 yards receiving and added three more scores as a pass catcher.
McFadden needs to stay fresh, which highlights the important of Oakland re-signing back-up Michael Bush.
Jason Campbell started 12 games at quarterback for the Raiders and did very little to dispell the notion that he is too inconsistent to lead a team to glory. Campbell threw for 13 trouchdowns and eight interceptions and just 2,387 yards. Campbell's completion percentage dropped to just 59 percent in 2010, and he was sacked 33 times.
One of the biggest factors that holds Campbell or any other Raiders signal-caller back is that the team just doesn't have any productive wide receivers with the possible exception of Louis Murphy. The third-year player out of Florida caught 41 passes in 2010 for 609 yards, but just two touchdowns.
Raiders tightend Zach Miller, the team's leading receiver by far, is scheduled to be a free agent, and if he leaves, the problems at the wide receiver spot will be even more apparent.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Based on reputation and statistics (the Cowboys ranked seventh in the league in both yards and points scored), you would think Dallas would be much higher on this list but rarely do their offensive skill players produce in the clutch.
Miles Austin got a multi-year contract last offseason and then his production decreased a bit, even though he was a starter for all 16 games last season as opposed to nine in 2009. This leads to the logical conclusion that Austin might not be completely comfortable being the primary receiving option.
Dez Bryant flashed brilliance in his rookie campaign with 45 catches for 561 yards and six touchdowns, but his off the field problems (lawsuits against him that total multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars) have to curb fans enthusiams.
Roy Williams hasn't had over 600 yards or 40 catches since 2007, when he played with the Detroit Lions.
It's time for Dallas to move on from Williams.
Tony Romo's recovery from a broken left clavicle and more importantly, his lack of playoff success, has critics putting his impressive statistical numbers to the side, and rightfully so.
Dallas would appear to be set at tailback with three talented runners in Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and Marion Barber except that none of the three are a full-time option and Dallas has not found the optimal mix. Barber is running out of gas and averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per carry in 2010.
15. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are back! The team returned to the playoffs in 2010 due to some incredible individual performances.
Running back Jamaal Charles cemented his status as one of the best backs in the league with 1,467 yards rushing and a ridiculous 6.4 yards every time he got the handoff. Thomas Jones actually carried the ball more frequently than Charles and added 896 yards to the league's best rushing attack.
Quarterback Matt Cassel found his stride in his second full season with Chiefs. A year ago, he threw as many touchdowns as picks, 16. In 2010, Cassell threw 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions during the regular season. Over the same one-year span, his passer rating went from 69.9 to 93.
Dwayne Bowe had his best season by far as a pro with 72 catches for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. His star is clearly on the rise. The problem is that the Chiefs have very little behind Bowe at wide receiver. Their next best wide receiver, Chris Chambers, had 22 catches for 213 yards. That's not going to get it done, as Bowe will be double and triple covered in 2011.
14. Chicago Bears
Who knows what lasting effect the Jay Cutler knee injury drama from the NFC Championship game will have on the Chicago Bears?
What is clear is that the Bears didn't perform extraordinary well on offense in 2010.
They ranked 21st in points and 30th in yards per game.
Yes, there were only two teams with less yards on offense (289.4 yards per game) than the Bears in 2010, and the Bears still made the NFC Championship.
Cutler's decision making is still suspect, as he threw 16 interceptions last season. In fairness, this was a marked improvement from 2009, when he threw 26 picks.
Matt Forte is a consistent, durable running back who rushed for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns, but he doesn't scare defenses or force them to game plan differently.
Johnny Knox has turned into an outstanding deep threat for Cutler and gains almost 19 yards per catch, but he needs help, and Earl Bennett and crew aren't cutting it.
13. New York Jets
The uncertainty regarding free agents to be Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards probably has the Jets ranked lower here than they should be.
However, it would seem highly unlikely that New York can keep both players given their potential salary demands. Both player caught over 50 passes, and it's a little surprising, but Braylon Edwards was actually the more productive player, with 904 receiving yards to 746 for Holmes despite just having one more catch.
Yet, Holmes would appear to be the favorite to re-sign with the Jets at this point.
At running back, the combination of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene was surprisingly effective. Tomlinson actually had the better year statistically, but he'll be 32 years old soon with a lot of mileage on his tires, and it's questionable how much longer the Jets can count on him.
During the regular season, Mark Sanchez is an average quarterback, but when he makes it to the playoffs, the light somehow turns on for him. In 2009, his quarterback rating went up nearly 30 points in the postseason. Last year, it went up nearly 20 points.
12. Houston Texans
Oh, if the Texans only had a defense. Houston ranked ninth in points (24.4) and third in yards (386.6) on offense in 2010.
All Arian Foster did in his second year in the league is lead the league in rushing for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Andre Johnson is arguably the best receiver in football. He caught 86 passes for 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns, but missed three games and would be more productive with better receivers across from him.
Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are not legitimate second or third receivers despite catching over 50 passes, which is credit to quarterback Matt Schaub, who put up another stellar season.
Schaub threw for over 4,000 yards for the second year in a row, but his true value can't be measured until the Texans go to the playoffs or Schaub finds a new team.
11. Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice is a difference maker for the Baltimore Ravens, as evident by his 1,220 rushing yards and his 63 catches for 556 yards last season. But when he isn't healthy, the Ravens aren't nearly as effective. Rice clearly wasn't himself in the playoffs against Pittsburgh, where he had 19 total touches for 64 yards, and the report was that he just came out of the hospital with a virus.
I firmly believe that if Rice had been healthy, the AFC would have had a different Super Bowl representative.
Based on numbers, Joe Flacco had a stellar season with 3,600 yards and 25 touchdowns through the air.
But he seems exceedingly nervous in big spots and was sacked 40 times in the regular season. Given that Baltimore's offensive line isn't that bad, you have wonder if Flacco can get out of his own way at times.
At receiver, Baltimore is getting ready for social security benefits. Anquan Boldin is 30 and his body is registering 35. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is 33 and Derrick Mason is 37. Against Pittsburgh, Baltimore's old guys were outplayed by the Steelers' young guns.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Quick, raise your hand if you saw the development of Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman coming.
The third year pro had an outstanding season, leading the Buccaneeers to a 10-6 record while throwing for nearly 3,500 yards. His decision making skills were exceptional for such a young signal caller, which is evident by his 25 touchdown passes against just six picks.
Truth be told, Freeman's emergence was spurred by the impact of three phenomenal rookies.
LaGarette Blount wasn't even signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bucs. That honor went to the Tennessee Titans, who waived him.
Tampa Bay picked Blount up on waivers, and he promptly ran for 1,005 yards and averaged five yards a carry. He is also a great example of why you don't need to select a running back early in the draft.
The Buccaneers' magic extended to wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. Williams quit playing football at Syracuse University, yet he somehow managed to catch 65 passes for 984 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first year in the NFL.
Benn chipped in 25 catches for 395 yards, and while neither receiver is a sure thing for the future, it sure seems as though the team got great value for a fourth round pick (Williams) and a second round pick (Benn).
9. New York Giants
The Giants could easily be ranked higher on the list, except for one simple factor: Eli Manning.
Despite ranking in the top ten in offense in 2010, Manning's poor decision making as evidenced by 25 interceptions often put the G-men in difficult spots.
Yes, Manning can spin the football, and yes, he did have 4,002 yards passing with 31 touchdowns, but if you look at his performance after the bye week last season, he was maddeningly inconsistent. In the final nine games, he had a passing rating well over 100.0 three times. He also had a passer rating under 64.0 four times.
Leading to further questions about Manning is the fact that wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith are pretty good. Collectively, they accounted for 187 catches, 2,535 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Ahmad Bradshaw had a standout season at running back. He toted the rock for 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns. Brandon Jacobs had a renaissance by chipping in over 800 yards and nine touchdowns. He also averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
8. Atlanta Falcons
For all the hype that goes with Matty "Ice", Ryan is still just going into his fourth year and hasn't won a postseason game yet. He did, however, have a stellar 2010 with 3,705 yards passing and 28 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.
I wouldn't put Ryan in the elite class yet, but he is very close.
Michael Turner bounced back from injury plagued 2009 to rush for 1,371 yards, but also rushed for his lowest yards per carry (4.1) in his seven year career. Turner is 29 but has low mileage on his tires due to backing up LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego during the first few years of his career.
Roddy White had a mind-boggling 115 catches for 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010, but the Falcons need a better second option than Michael Jenkins if they are going to prolong White's career.
7. Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning is still a great quarterback.
He threw for his most interceptions, 17, since 2002. He also threw for 4,700 yards, the most in his career, but that's inflated by the fact that the Colts couldn't run the football.
Manning also didn't show the ability that he has in the past to the perform in the clutch. He lost close games against New England, Philadelphia and Dallas and threw nine interceptions in those games.
The most telling performance was against the New York Jets, where he had a chance to put the visitors away in the playoffs but had to give way to kicker Adam Vinatieri, and ultimately left too much time for the Jets to come back and win.
I'm not fitting Manning for his retirement chair again, but there is a reason that the Colts might be looking for an eventual successor to the veteran entering his 14th season.
Manning's receivers still put up tremendous statistics. Reggie Wayne caught 112 passes for 1,355 yards, although he just had six touchdowns. A equally startling indictment of Wayne, however, was his one catch, one yard performance in the aforementioned playoff game. Wayne's yards per catch also went down for the fifth year in a row (12.2 ypg in 2010) and was the lowest of his career.
What drags down the Colts overall rating the most is the marginal success of Joseph Addai, a free agent, and Donald Brown. While their mediocre performance might be more a result of poor offensive line play, neither back passed the 500-yard mark on the season.
6. New Orleans Saints
For all the criticism that New Orleans never stopped celebrating after winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago, their offense was downright prolific during the 2010 season.
Drew Brees did throw a career high 22 interceptions, but he also chucked 33 touchdown passes and threw for over 4,600 yards. His passer rating of 90.9 is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Brees continues to benefit from some of the more underrated receivers in the game today. Ho Hum, another year, another 1,000 yard plus receiving year for Marques Colston. His output of 1,023 isn't eye-popping, but he has failed to rack up 1,000 yards only once during his career in 2008, when he played in just 11 games and started six.
The Saints would love to get more out of Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, but with Lance Moore rebounding (66 catches last season after just 14 in limited duty in 2009, and the emergence of tight end Jimmy Graham), there are only so many balls to go around.
Chris Ivory, out of Tiffin University (I had to look it up), was a pleasant surprise with 716 yards on 5.2 yards per carry, but he is going to have to produce for another year, and Pierre Thomas is going to have to rebound from injury before the Saints have a complete attack.
5. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are a total enigma. They ranked second in the league in points with 27.6 per game and first in yards with 395.6 per game. Philip Rivers is the slot machine that keeps on giving to his team with 4,710 yards passing and 30 touchdowns.
Yet, the Chargers best wide receiver had just 37 catches. That would be Malcolm Floyd, who accounted for 717 yards. Patrick Crayton was the Chargers next best wideout with just 28 catches.
However, the key is in the details here. Floyd averaged over 19 yards a catch and Crayton over 18 yards per grab. Rivers spread the ball out so much that he had 10 players catch over 20 passes. That doesn't even count Vincent Jackson, who played in just five games. A full season out of Jackson will pay unlimited benefits for San Diego.
The big question mark is whether running back Darren Sproles will return as an unrestricted free agent. It seems unlikely because Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews seem to have a good handle on the running game, but do you want to guess who led the team by catching 59 passes?
Yes, that would be Sproles, who also had a full yard better average than Tolbert and Williams in carrying the football.
4. New England Patriots
The numbers for Tom Brady are beyond phenomenal. In 2010, he threw for 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions for a passer rating of 111.0.
He did all of this while New England jettisoned Randy Moss and with a hybrid type offense that got 87 catches out of a pair of rookie tightends.
In terms of wide receivers, the Patriots could use more, which pushes their overall ranking on this list down. Wes Welker has proven to be an excellent slot guy, but he averaged 9.9 yards per catch last season. Deion Branch (48 catches for 706 yards) certainly has chemistry with Brady (Ok, who doesn't?) but a bigger target would make this offense even more lethal if possible.
The Patriots don't feature running backs, and there is some thought that the Patriots could look that way in the draft, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis did rush for 1,008 yards and a 4.4 yard per carry average.
3. Green Bay Packers
James Starks was a late, but pleasant surprise for the Packers with the 315 rushing yards in the playoffs. Regardless, Green Bay will be happy to get Ryan Grant back from the season-ending ankle injury he suffered in week one against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2009, Grant ran for over 1,200 yards, so his return will make the defending champs event tougher. Don't overlook Brandon Jackson, who actually led the team with 703 rushing yards last season and provides an important check down option in the passing game.
Bottom line is that the Packers will have a better running game than people think in 2011.
Then, you have Aaron Rodgers, who is clearly peaking as a quarterback right now. Forget his statistics of 3,900 yards plus passing and 28 touchdowns. He was a clinical surgeon in three of the team's four playoff games, and his passer rating of 109.8 in the postseason was literally unfair to the opposition.
Rodgers primary receiving option is Greg Jennings, who hauled in 76 passes for 1,265 yards with 12 touchdowns. Jennings has officially established himself as one of the best wide receivers in the league.
Green Bay needs to look for a number two, as Donald Driver is getting older, more fragile and finally saw his production dip.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The comeback player of the year, Vick, had nothing short of a sensational season with a 100.2 passer rating thanks to throwing for 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns against just six interceptions in 12 games.
A fair question is whether Vick can do it again and there is a perception that the league started to catch-up with him towards the end of the year. Still, the Eagles signed Vick as their franchise player and guaranteed his return in 2011.
LeSean McCoy averaged 5.2 yards per carry and seems to fit perfectly in the Eagles run first offense. The Birds could use a better complementary back to spell McCoy. Late addition Jerome Harrison averaged 6.0 yards per carry after coming over from Cleveland and bears watching.
The only thing the Eagles' offense lacks at the skills positions is a consistent, bigger wide receiver. DeSean Jackson is the best deep threat in the game (averaging an astounding 22.5 yards per catch), while Jeremy Maclin is plenty dangerous in his own right (70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns). Even third receiver Jason Avant caught 51 balls in 2010.
However, no receiver is over 6'0", and that could explain some of the Eagles' red zone troubles. Still, this is the definition of a high octane offense.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashard Mendenhall keyed the Steelers run to the Super Bowl with 230 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the postseason. While Mendenhall is more of a workhorse back then a dynamic presence, he is going into just his fourth season, and his best years are ahead.
Isaac Redman is a 6'0, 230 pound back-up who averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season. The Steelers could improve on Mewelde Moore but also have Jonathan Dwyer in the fold.
Receiver is where the Steelers have an incredible abundance of talent. Hines Ward might be 35, but he still caught 59 passes for 755 yards, and he always seems to perform in the clutch. The emerging superstar is Mike Wallace, who caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards. That's 21 yards per catch folks. 10 catches went for touchdowns.
Emmanuel Sanders showed a tremendous amount of promise in his rookie year (28 catches with seven more in the postseason), especially in very limited duty, and Antonio Brown also has upside. Even Antwaan Randle-El seemed to be rejuvenated in his return to Pittsburgh.
Ben Roethlisberger is somewhat of an enigma. Due to his early season suspension, he only played in 12 regular season game and threw for 3,200 yards and only 17 touchdowns. But, the number that stood out was his five interceptions, a career low. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger was simply pedestrian in the playoffs, throwing for as many picks as touchdowns, four, and having a passer rating over 20 points lower than he did in the regular season.
Still, Roethlisberger has been remarkably durable and only figures to improve with a full season and his young wideouts becoming more mature. This offense has a tremendous amount of upside and currently has the best combination of quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers in the NFL.