2011 NFL Power Rankings: Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers Lead the Pack
Taking a look at the upcoming NFL season, several familiar teams look to remain contenders for the Lombardi trophy.
The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers could meet again, but how do the other NFL teams stack up going into the 2011 season?
Will Peyton Manning be healthy early in the season, or will it take a few weeks? Will the Texans finally make the playoffs?
These are all questions we must consider when ranking the teams.
Here is my take.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)
What can I say, the Cincinnati Bengals are the bungles again.
Carson Palmer refuses to play and the Bengals front office won't move him. Cedric Benson is in trouble with the law, and is a free agent.
I hope for his sake the Bengals sign a veteran to take a beating this year, or bring in a decent running back and wide receiver.
Look on the bright side, Bengals fans, the draft will be stronger next year!
31. Washington Redskins (6-10)
The Redskins don't have any legitimate starters on offense other than an aging Santana Moss and a couple of offensive linemen.
At quarterback, they have Rex Grossman and John Beck. Don't look for them to score many points this season.
30. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Charlie Whitehurst looks to be the starting quarterback if Matt Hasselbeck leaves during free agency. He's a game manager at best, which puts a lot of pressure on the running game.
With teams forcing Charlie to throw the ball, it could be a long season for the Seattle Seahawks.
If Pete Carroll brings in Vince Young, they will contend for the division title.
That isn't saying much.
29. Buffalo Bills (4-12)
The Bills aren't going to be very good this season, but there is plenty of potential on their roster.
Ryan Fitzpatrick showed himself to be a decent quarterback last season, along with talented wide receivers and running backs.
Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller are two dynamic athletes who should be on the team for a very long time.
The defense has plenty of potential as well. Only time will tell if this young team will come together.
28. Denver Broncos (4-12)
I know Tim Tebow is a fan favorite, but this isn't college.
Rumor has it that he has just as good a shot to start the season as Kyle Orton. Kyle is an interception machine, and Tebow hasn't proven anything at this level other than he will work hard.
Knowshon Moreno is a good running back, but he isn't a game breaker in my opinion.
The switch back to the 4-3 defense will take time to get used to, but the talent is there.
This is another team that will be looking for answers on offense.
27. Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Cam Newton is a phenomenal athlete and has a ton of confidence, but is he ready to be a starter in the NFL?
This is something the team will decide in the next few weeks.
Right now, either Cam Newton or Matt Moore will probably start, unless there is still hope for Jimmy Clausen.
That wouldn't make sense, however, because Cam Newton is the future.
If the Panthers can stay healthy, look for them to compete every week.
26. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
If it weren't for Chris Johnson, the Titans would be horrible this season.
Vince Young is gone; here comes Jake Locker. This has the potential to be ugly if Locker doesn't live up to expectations...David Carr ugly.
I look for whoever the Titans put at quarterback to get hit and hit often.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)
Poor David Garrard.
The Jaguars wide receivers are still weak, and they draft a potential replacement for Garrard in Blaine Gabbert.
Maurice Jones-Drew is a stud, that's about it.
There are several wide receivers available in free agency that the Jaguars should choose from, unless of course they want a top five draft pick next offseason.
Percy Harvin, perhaps?
24. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
I wonder if Brett Favre has another season left in him?
The Vikings need a quarterback worse than I can describe. They have three guys who are probably career backups at best, with Joe Webb having the most potential.
This would be an ideal landing place for Donovan McNabb or Matt Hasselbeck.
Otherwise, I hope Adrian Peterson is ready to take a beating.
23. Oakland Raiders (8-8)
The Raiders' season hinges on whether or not they retain Nnamdi Asomugha.
This is another potential landing spot for Donovan McNabb and one of the wide receivers that's available. I am in the minority, but I think Jason Campbell is a decent quarterback if given time to throw the ball.
They need to add a go-to guy for whoever plays QB for the Raiders this season.
22. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
The only reason I have them this high is that I believe they will trade for Kevin Kolb.
The secondary is weak and the defense is aging at key positions, but Kolb would certainly provide a spark.
The Cardinals running game is very average, but it could be enough to mix up the play calling for Kolb to be successful.
21. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
The jury is still out on Chad Henne, but he has the tools to be a decent quarterback. The Dolphins also have talent at wide receiver and on defense.
What's going to hurt their offense is the running game.
All in all, look for the Dolphins to be around the middle of the pack.
20. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
The 49ers don't have an above-average quarterback on the roster; luckily, they have Frank Gore.
They have a stout defense and a lot of speed at the wide receiver position, if somebody can get the ball to them.
Jim Harbaugh will be a good head coach; I'm not sure he will be great at this level, though.
19. Detroit Lions (6-10)
I know the Lions are always the Cinderella pick to make the playoffs, but I see them finishing around 8-8 this season.
Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback, but he has yet to stay healthy for a full season. Until he proves he can do so, I'm not going to take the Lions seriously.
As scary as their defensive line is, they still need to score points effectively.
18. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
Tony Romo is the most overrated quarterback in the league.
This is a talented team that won't ever go deep into the playoffs as long as Tony Romo is in a Cowboys uniform.
To top that off, it seems as though this team has too many egos to play together.
At least they have a ridiculously large scoreboard.
17. Houston Texans (6-10)
This team has an awesome offense with an awful defense.
While it may improve a bit, I feel this team is another year away from making the playoffs.
16. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
This is another talented team that never seems to play up to its true potential.
Unless they figure out the special teams disaster and find a head coach who can make important decisions, look for them to bow out of the playoffs yet again.
Something tells me they will be looking for a head coach in 2012.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
I really like this Kansas City Chiefs team.
Matt Cassel isn't Tom Brady, but he showed what he was capable of when Brady went down with an injury. They are set at wide receiver and running back, and have confidence that they can win after last season.
I could see them winning the AFC West, which should be a competitive division all around.
14. St. Louis Rams (7-9)
The Rams benefited from one of the worst divisions in the history of football last season, but I was impressed by Sam Bradford.
He showed poise and was confident each week, and I expect him to be given more control next season.
Steven Jackson being one of the best running backs in the NFL helps, too!
The defense needs to improve on last season in order for the Rams to take the division title.
13. Chicago Bears (11-5)
Jay Cutler is fully capable of being a star in the NFL. If he cuts down on the Favre-like interceptions, I have no doubt the Bears will compete with the Green Bay Packers for the division title.
Add Matt Forte, Devin Hester, and a powerful defense and you have a team that is capable of getting to the Super Bowl.
12. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
The Ravens are in the same situation as the Cowboys are with Tony Romo.
Joe Flacco cannot come up big when it matters most, in the playoffs. The Ravens have a good running game but an aging defense.
I see this team taking a step back this season.
11. Cleveland Browns (5-11)
The Cleveland Browns are my surprise pick of the season.
Colt McCoy was my favorite quarterback out of his class because of his accuracy and decision making at Texas.
Last season, he showed what he was capable of, and showed the fearlessness we all saw in college.
Peyton Hillis is a throwback bruiser who hits defenders as hard as they hit him. He's built like a linebacker and is faster than he looks.
Joshua Cribbs is the lightning to Hillis' thunder, and he is a special teams ace as well.
If the defense transitions well to the 4-3, it should help the weak secondary.
I look for the Browns to finish second in the division behind the Pittsburgh Steelers.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)
The Buccaneers are a talented young team all around; unfortunately, they are in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
I can't see them overtaking both the Saints and the Falcons this season, but they will be in the race down to the wire like last season.
Josh Freeman is big and can move, with an arm to match his size.
LeGarrette Blount is looking to prove his doubters wrong again, and I think he will.
A defense riddled with injuries will be back in business and is good in its own right.
9. New York Giants (10-6)
This Giants roster is loaded, much like the Dallas Cowboys.
The difference is, Eli Manning is a good enough quarterback to not cost his team many games.
If the defense steps up and Eli has adequate protection, there is no reason this team should win fewer than 10 games.
8. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Atlanta has a powerful offense and a weak secondary; I compare them to the Houston Texans.
The Falcons have a young franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, a balanced running back who can do it all in Michael Turner and a true No. 1 wide receiver in Roddy White.
Matt Ryan fell apart against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs, but his defense didn't do him any favors.
7. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
I am predicting this is the season Peyton Manning starts to go downhill.
He won't be able to participate in camp due to his recent surgery, and nobody seems to know when he will be healthy.
I'm sure he will be on the field in Week 1, but I have my doubts how well he will do behind a weaker offensive line than he's used to.
We have seen him struggle without a perfect pocket in the past, and if he gets hit too often, he may not play a complete season.
Peyton has been very average in the playoffs, and this isn't going to change now.
The Colts will make the playoffs and fall short again.
6. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
I would have the Saints a bit higher, but I believe they will limp into the playoffs after a tough divisional battle. As mentioned earlier, the NFC South is one of the best divisions in all of football.
The Saints are very deep and talented so there isn't much to say, other than their defense will determine how they fare in the playoffs.
Drew Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
5. New York Jets (11-5)
With one of the best defenses in football, the Jets are going to be in the race no matter who is playing quarterback. Rex Ryan himself could be under center and the Jets would win 10 games!
I am not a fan of Mark Sanchez; he is a classic game manager. His skill set works well for the Jets because the defense is so good.
Make the safe pass, and don't turn the ball over.
They will compete with the Patriots for the division, I see them earning a wild-card berth.
4. New England Patriots (14-2)
Yes, the Patriots are still one of the best teams in football.
Tom Brady is another guy who needs a clean pocket to be successful, and lucky for him, he's had one his entire career.
He's the most accurate quarterback in the NFL, and second only to Peyton Manning when it comes to decision making.
Luckily for the rest of the league, the Patriots don't have any stud wide receivers or running backs.
If they did, we would see another chance at 19-0.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Obviously, I think Michael Vick will pick up where he left off last season.
Not only did Michael prove he still had his athleticism last season, he showed us something he never had when he played for the Atlanta Falcons.
Pocket presence and accuracy.
It helps that he has some of the fastest, most athletic wide receivers in the NFL in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, too.
LeSean McCoy is fast and has good hands, along with the ability to run through defenders as well. He is the perfect running back to pair with Michael Vick.
There are playmakers on the defense as well; this is a complete team.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are an old-school team.
They aren't the fastest, most athletic guys, but they will hit you! Whether it be Hines Ward, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu or another member of the vaunted Steelers defense, somebody will get drilled each week.
The Steelers play football the way it was designed to be played.
Ben Roethlisberger doesn't get the credit he deserves, but he is old school as well.
Ben is the only quarterback in the league who completes most of his passes after being contacted by a defender. He nearly had his nose ripped off his face, yet toughed it out, unlike the pretty boys who play quarterback today.
Ben is a more accurate, smarter version of Brett Favre.
The secondary cost the team a Super Bowl victory last season, along with the loss of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey prior to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers have the team to win it all.
1. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
The Green Bay Packers seemed to be a team of destiny last season.
They were beaten up and had more injuries than anybody, yet they came together at the right time like good teams do.
Aaron Rodgers joined the elite group of quarterbacks with the way he led his team to a Super Bowl victory.
With nearly everyone back and healthy, they will be looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions this season.
Don't count out a rematch from last season!