2011 NFL Power Rankings: Preseason: Top 32 NFL Teams

Max MickeyContributor IIIAugust 12, 2011

2011 NFL Power Rankings: Preseason: Top 32 NFL Teams

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    At the beginning of every season, each team believes they are good enough to reach the Super Bowl.

    And each year, most of the NFL team's bubbles are burst a few weeks into the season, whether that is due to injury or lack of wins. 

    In reality, there are probably about six to 10 teams that are capable of making it to the big game, and each year, there are exceptions that no one believed would have a shot. Such as the New York Giants snatching away the New England Patriots perfect season in Super Bowl XLII.

    I do not expect that to happen this season with all the star-studded rosters in 2011.

    Only February will tell how accurate preseason predictions are, but here are my preseason Week 1 power rankings.  

32. Buffalo Bills

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    2010 Record: 4-12

    AFC East Finish: fourth 

    The Bills outlook for 2011 is not any better than 2010.

    Their only bright spot in 2010 was Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick racked up 3,000 yards, threw for 23 touchdowns and had a QB rating of 81.8.

    He did only play in 13 games, so with a full season, he might be able to make Stevie Johnson an elite receiver, but this will most likely not help them in the win column. 

31. Carolina Panthers

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    2010 Record: 2-14

    NFC South Finish: fourth  

    The Carolina Panthers have a shot at getting a few more wins this year not because of rookie quarterback Cam Newton, but because of their running backs. 

    The Panthers re-signed DeAngelo Williams to a five-year, $43 million contract.

    If healthy, the Panthers have one of the best backfields in the NFL with Williams and Johnathan Stewart.

    I expect both running backs to vault back to the NFL's elite and take pressure off Newton.  

30. Cincinnati Bengals

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    2010 Record: 4-12

    AFC South Finish: fourth 

    Carson Palmer gone, Ochocinco gone, Terrell Owens gone, what's left for the Bengals? Cedric Benson.

    Benson is one of the lone stars left in Cincinnati. He was productive last season generating 1,111 yards rushing but did so on just 3.5 yards per carry.

    With the majority of the offensive load being placed on his shoulders due to quarterback Andy Dalton at the helm, I do not expect his YPC to improve much. 

    It will most likely be a very long season for the Bengals.    

29. Denver Broncos

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    2010 Record: 4-12 

    AFC West Finish: fourth 

    Orton or Tebow?  Orton or Tebow? 

    This question will be repeated all season long.

    Orton will get the starting job at first, as he should being the more qualified overall quarterback.

    But Orton's reign will not last long; the Broncos will lose a lot of games early, and soon, fans will be calling for Tebow to step in and start.

    Orton gives the Broncos a better chance to win this year, but he most likely won't be given sufficient time to prove himself.

    On the bright side, the return of the Broncos star DE, Elvis Dumervil, should elevate the play of the defense.   

28. Washington Redskins

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    2010 Record: 6-10 

    NFC East Finish: fourth

    Mike Shanahan, Redskins head coach, has set the Redskins' organization back several years with the Donovan McNabb debacle last season.

    McNabb was certainly not what he used to be in Philadelphia, but he was clearly the best quarterback in Washington last year. 

    Alas, the Redskins are led by "Sexy" Rex Grossman, who was thought to be a career backup after his departure from Chicago. 

    But Grossman did lead the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006 and held an acceptable 81.2 QB rating in 2011 so anything is possible. 

27. Cleveland Browns

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    2010 Record: 5-11 

    AFC Nouth Finish: third

    One of the biggest shocks of the 2010 NFL season was Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis.

    Hillis racked up 1,177 yards rushing and scored 11 times which was good enough to get him voted on the cover of Madden 2012.

    Hillis also caught 61 passes for 477 yards and two more scores.

    I expect Hillis' numbers to drop with the return of Montario Hardesty who was out all of 2010 with an injury.

    Colt McCoy struggled as a rookie, but that was to be expected but should be better in 2011.  

    The Browns do have an above-average defense, so if their offense can contribute, the Browns could finish around .500 if they are lucky. 

26. Seattle Seahawks

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    2010 Record: 7-9 

    NFC West Finish: first (lost in divisional)

    The Seattle Seahawks shocked the NFL community twice last season. 

    First when they made the playoffs with a losing record and again when they actually won a playoff game. 

    Hasselbeck is gone, Tavaris Jackson is in and has brought Sidney Rice. 

    The NFC West is still wide open, but I expect both the Rams and 49ers to be better this year, which hurts Seattle's chance of getting back to the playoffs. 

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    2010 Record: 8-8 

    AFC South Finish: second

    The Jaguars had a decent season in 2010, and were in the playoff hunt up to the end of the season. 

    I have ranked the Jaguars so low because they can't seem to get their quarterback situation figured out.

    Garrard struggled last season and is injury-prone. Also, they have a terrible defense which ranked 27th in 2010. 

    These are two of the most important elements to winning in the NFL.

    The Jaguars will not reach the playoffs or their previous season win total in 2011.  

24. Arizona Cardinals

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    2010 Record: 5-11 

    AFC West Finish: fourth

    The Cardinals showed what they can do when they have a great quarterback when they went to the Super Bowl, and they have showed what happens when they do not have a good quarterback when they only won five games. 

    Once again, the Cardinals have a quarterback in Kevin Kolb.

    Kolb is a little untested, but he should boost Larry Fitzgerald back to an top three wide receiver.

    The Cardinals have a very good shot at winning the NFC West, and I expect them to climb the power ranking ladder as the season progresses.  

23. San Francisco 49ers

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    2010 Record: 6-10 

    NFC West Finish: third 

    In 2010, the 49ers were a sleeper Super Bowl pick, needless to say they did not live up to their expectations. 

    It has been said for the past few seasons, but I expect this is Alex Smith's last shot, or he will be officially labeled a bust and turn into a backup.

    Running back Frank Gore missed five games in 2010 and failed to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time since his rookie year. 

    The addition of Braylon Edwards should greatly help Alex Smith and take pressure off the young Michael Crabtree.

    The 49ers are another team that has great potential to sneak up the power rankings.   

22. Tennessee Titans

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    2010 Record: 6-10

    AFC South Finish: fourth 

    The Titans are another team that showed how important a good quarterback is in 2010. 

    Vince Young couldn't control himself off the field, and Kerry Collins couldn't control anything on the field. 

    It is unfortunate for the Titans that Young needed a change of scenery because he would have been a better starting option over the newly acquired Matt Hasselbeck

    Chris Johnson looks poised to return as the No. 1 runner in football in 2011.

    Also, the Titans announced they are planning to make Johnson the highest paid running back in the NFL.

    The Titans are capable of making a playoff run, but they still need to put all of their puzzle pieces together.  

21. St. Louis Rams

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    2010 Record: 7-9

    NFC West Finish: second 

    Sam Bradford had a very impressive rookie season throwing 18 touchdowns,15 interceptions and over 3,500 yards. 

    The Rams added Mike-Sims Walker from the Jaguars to give Bradford a legit No.1 receiving option.

    Bradford will also have Mark Clayton back from injury who was a favorite target early in the 2010 season. 

    Steven Jackson will continue to take pressure off Bradford, and the Rams will be in the thick of the NFC West title race.  

20. Minnesota Vikings

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    2010 Record: 6-10

    NFC North Finish: fourth

    The Vikings window to win a Super Bowl closed when Brett Favre threw the final pass of his career into the arms of Saints cornerback Tracy Porter in the 2009 NFC Championship game.

    They still have a chance to make some noise with Adrian Peterson and new veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb.

    McNabb is coming off his worst NFL season, but he is still a better option than Tavaris Jackson.

    The real problem for the Vikings this year is not their own talent, but the talent of the NFC North which is arguable the best division in the NFL.  

19. Detroit Lions

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    2010 Record: 6-10

    NFC North Finish: third 

    The Lions are a strong sleeper pick to make the playoffs. Their whole season will rest on the previously injured shoulders of Matthew Stafford

    Stafford played beyond well in his short stints in 2010. He threw six touchdowns and just one interception in his three games. 

    Stafford to Calvin Johnson will be a common announcement this season.

    This connection on top of the Lions young aggressive defensive line will be a frightning sight for opponents in 2011. 

18. Miami Dolphins

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    2010 Record: 7-9 

    AFC East Finish: third 

    The Dolphins have a lot of young talent on their team in QB Chad Henne, WR Brandon Marshall and new addition RB Reggie Bush.

    Henne has the talent to become an unquestioned everyday starter but will have to cut back on his interceptions.

    The Dolphins have lost both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but second-round draft pick Daniel Thomas along with the spark-plug Reggie Bush are suppose to fill their gaps at running back.

    Even if the Dolphins have a great season, there is still little chance they will get past the New York Jets and New England Patriots.  

17. Oakland Raiders

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    2010 Record: 8-8

    AFC West Finish: third

    The Raiders are one of those teams that could go 11-5 or 5-11. A lot of it depends on Darren McFadden's health.

    McFadden had an impressive 5.2 YPC, and with a full season, he could be a top three back in the NFL.

    To win, the Raiders are also going to have to trust Jason Campbell. They did not give him a fair chance last season, benching him very early on.

    Campbell has a lot of talent and should be able to do well for the Raiders in 2011.  

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    2010 Record: 10-6 

    NFC South Finish: third

    Tampa is one of the best teams in the NFL in terms of age and talent.

    Josh Freeman has emerged as a outstanding quarterback.

    LeGarrette Blount has the talent to be a top 10 running back, and Mike Williams had one of the best rookie seasons for a wide receiver in the past decade.

    There will be a lot of pressure on this young Bucs teams, and if they are able to rise to the occasion, they will have a very good chance at making the playoffs.  

15. Dallas Cowboys

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    2010 Record: 6-10

    NFC East Finish: third

    The Cowboys were a team that was very highly-touted going into the 2010 season, and they fell flat on their faces. 

    It did not help that Tony Romo was injured for most of the season either. 

    The Cowboys cut some of their fat a.k.a. Roy Williams and Marion Barber ( who both went to the Bears). 

    I would expect them to be in the playoff hunt late in the season. 

14. Kansas City Chiefs

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    2010 Record: 10-6  

    AFC West Finish: first (lost in Wild Card)

    The Chiefs flew under the radar all last season, and I expect them to do the same again. 

    They had the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL led by Jamal Charles and his superman-like 6.4 YPC. Matt Cassel also had a great season throwing 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. 

    The Chiefs only added to their prolific offense when they drafted wide receiver Johnathan Baldwin and signed Steve Breaston from the Cardinals.

    The Chiefs will not go down easy as the defending AFC West champions.   

13. Houston Texans

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    2010 Record: 6-10 

    AFC South Finish: third 

    The Houston Texans have one of the best offenses in the NFL, unfortunately, they tend to give up more points than they score.

    The Texans addressed this in the draft taking three defensive players in the first two rounds.

    If the Texans can get their defense under control they will be a force to be reckoned with.

12. New Orleans Saints

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    2010 Record: 11-5

    NFC South Finish: second (lost in Wild Card)

    The Saints were able to fight off the Super Bowl hangover and get back to the playoffs. 

    Drew Brees had a career worst 22 interceptions, but most people do not realize interceptions are common for Brees who has thrown 15 or more interceptions in six of his nine seasons as a starter. 

    The Saints should have a solid running game with a healthy Pierre Thomas and rookie Mark Ingram. 

    Though it will be a chore for Brees and the Saints to get past the Falcons. 

11. New York Giants

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    2010 Record: 10-6 

    NFC East Finish: second

    The Giants were just on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.

    Unfortunately for the Giants, it could be a similar scenario this year.

    Unless the Eagles implode, the Giants are most likely looking at a wild card playoff slot.

    There will most likely be several teams in the NFC with a 10-6 record who do not make it in 2011.

    Eli Manning and Ahmad Bradshaw will have to guide the Giants late in the season.  

10. Chicago Bears

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    2010 Record: 11-5 

    NFC North Finish: first (lost in conference championship)

    The Chicago Bears are a team still in search of their identity.

    Obviously, their defense is tops in the league ranking fourth in points allowed in 2010, but their offense has been inconsistent. 

    Jay Cutler had a rough first year in Chicago, but last season, he cut his interceptions in half despite having a weak wide-receiving core and being sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL.

    Matt Forte also had a great season with over 1,600 total yards and will put up similar production this year.

    The Bears added a few pieces to aid their offense line and have put themselves in position to make another deep postseason run.  

9. Indianapolis Colts

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    2010 Record: 10-6

    AFC South Finish: first (lost in Wild Card)

    The Colts are not used to playing in the wild card round, and it showed last season when they were upset by the New York Jets.

    Peyton Manning is starting to show his age and will be entering this 2011 season with yet another injury. (Manning had surgery in the offseason on his neck)

    The Colts will make the playoffs in 2011, but I would not be surprised by another early exit.  

8. New York Gets

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    2010 Record: 11-5

    AFC East Finish: second (lost in AFC Championship) 

    The Jets were again halted in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row. But they showed great promise knocking off both the Colts and the Patriots in the playoffs. 

    Sanchez improved some on his rookie year throwing 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

    Sanchez has weapons all around him, and now in his third year, he will have to perform better for the Jets to advance to the Super Bowl.

7. Baltimore Ravens

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    2010 Record: 12-4

    AFC North Finish: second (lost in divisional)

    The Ravens are a team that will have a shot at the title for at least three to five years. 

    Joe Flacco played very well last season with a QB rating of 93.6.

    Where the Ravens real offense lies is in Ray Rice. 

    Rice had a good year rushing for over 1,200 yards, but he will have to improve on his four YPC in 2011. 

    The Ravens aging defense was helped by the lockout giving them more time to rest, and I expect the Ravens to come out red hot this season. 

6. San Diego Chargers

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    2010 Record: 9-7

    AFC West Finish: second 

    The Chargers have showed the NFL the importance of special teams. Last season  (in terms of yards), the Chargers had the No. 1 offense and defense in the league.

    Unfortunately, their special teams were so bad, that it cost them at least three games.

    On top of their impressive overall defense and offense, Philip Rivers is arguable the best quarterback in the NFL.

    Rivers threw for 4,700 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions, and that was without his No. 1 target in Vincent Jackson. 

    The Chargers will not allow their special teams to cost them games this season and will be one of the best teams in the NFL. 

5. Atlanta Falcons

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    2010 NFL Record: 13-3

    NFC South Finish: first ( lost in divisional)

    The Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan were unbeatable at home until the playoffs when the eventual Super Bowl champions came to town and beat them by 27 points in their own dome. 

    The Falcons have one of the best running back and wide receiver combo in the NFL in Michael Turner and Roddy White. The two combined for over 2,700 yards and 22 touchdowns. 

    The Falcons defense is in the middle of the road but has the talent to be great. 

    The Falcons should not have any problems remaining atop the NFC South.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    2010 Record: 12-4

    AFC North: first (lost in Super Bowl) 

    Due to his suspension, Ben Roethlisberger only played in 12 games, but he played very well in those games throwing over 3,200 yards. 

    The Steelers have one of the best defenses in the NFL, ranking second in 2010.

    With a full year of Big Ben, the Steelers should surpass their win total in 2010 and make another run at the Super Bowl.   

3. Philadelphia Eagles

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    2010 Record: 10-6 

    NFC East Finish: first (lost in Wild Card)

    The Eagles have been dubbed the "dream team" because of their many offseason acquisitions.

    Some of their new stars are; CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, QB Vince Young, RB Ronnie Brown and several others.

    There is no doubt that the Eagles have an extreme amount of pure talent, but the Miami Heat have shown that throwing a bunch of talented athletes together does not automatically equate to a championship. 

2. New England Patriots

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    2010 Record: 14-2

    AFC East Finish: first (lost in divisional)

    The Patriots are consummate professionals.

    They are always building and growing while they are still winning.

    This year, they have added Albert Haynesworth DT from Washington and Chad Ochocinco from Cincinnati. 

    Bill Belichick and the Patriots will have to reel in these "wild children" and make them part of their championship-caliber organization.

    One of the quiet surprises from last season was BenJarvus Green-Ellis who had over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    If Green-Ellis can put up similar numbers this season, the Patriots will be a Super Bowl Favorite.   

1. Green Bay Packers

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    2010 Record: 10-6

    NFC North Finish: second (Super Bowl champions)

    The defending champion Green Bay Packers are the clear-cut favorite to repeat and take the Vince Lombardi trophy home two years in a row. 

    This season, they will have running back Ryan Grant healthy, who was injured all of last season as well as tight end Jermichael Finley. 

    Reigning Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will begin their 2011 campaign by trying to dethrone the defending NFC North champion Chicago Bears.

    The Green Bay Packers will have their work cut out for them in a very tough NFC North, but I would expect another very deep playoff run in 2011.