The Week 1 power rankings are out on ESPN. Though these rankings usual don't hold much weight with those who closely follow the NFL, as most the time they are based solely off record and hype, it is nice to see what analysts think of you team.
As usual, the AFC West is being being forgotten about. Every team is 10 or below, even though this division showed over the last couple years that they are one of the better divisions in football. Must be that East Coast bias!
Take a Look:
2009: 8-8 (Against the NFC East. The "toughest division in football")
Maybe once everyone starts to notice the loads of young talent this division has, they will start to recognize the juggernaut of a division these four teams will be down the road.
But for now, lets take a look at the rankings ESPN put up and where the AFC West teams should actually be placed...
That Cameraman is excited
Chargers Week 1 Rank : 10th
Criminal to say the least. Surprised that word isn't associated with the Oakland Raiders? So am I.
ESPN tends to put too much weight on the previous years' record. I think they were looking at that embarrassing 9-7 record the Chargers put up last year, they couldn't bring themselves to move them up in the top 10.
3 Reasons the Chargers should be ranked higher:
1) Philip Rivers: I feel that the quality of a team's starting quarterbacks should weigh heavily on deciding where teams should be ranked before Week 1. The teams with the best quarterback are going to be off to a fast start because of, not only their talent, but because they know the system and won't be hurt by the short offseason. Philip Rivers is a top 5, if not top 3, quarterback and should have the Chargers ready to roll come week one.
2) Special Teams: There is a new sheriff in town for the Chargers and his name is Rick...Rick Bisaccia. Steve Crosby's ancient, overrated, ways got kicked out of town this offseason as the Chargers look to fix their embarrassing performance in 2010. If the Charger's special teams is half, heck one-third, as good as they were last year, the Chargers will have no less than 10 wins.
3) Veteran Leadership and Experience: One of the only things the Chargers have lacked over their past half-decade of dominance is veteran leadership. Defense has especially been lacking with the only consistent starter over the last 10 years being Quentin Jammer. This year the Chargers have added Takeo Spikes, Bob Sanders(the most underrated free agent pick up of 2011), and Na'il Diggs. These guys are going to bring much needed discipline to a defense full of young talent. This will be Spikes' first chance to make a playoff game in his 14 year career. If that isn't motivation, than I don't know what is.
2011 prediction: 11-5
Week 1 Rank: 4th
The Days of the Chargers dominating the AFC West are gone, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to win the division. They have some tough games this year: Minnesota Vikings, at New England Patriots, at New York Jets and Green Bay. If they can split these games, the Chargers will be in good shape for a post season run.
My Rankings (Top 5):
Chiefs Week 1 Rank : 18th
I am not sure why ESPN is choosing to forget about the Chiefs. Yes, The Chiefs have had a poor preseason showing, but since when does the preseason mean anything? This team is on the rise. While a repeat of their 10-6 record seems unlikely, it is not out of the question. Teams that can run on a consistent bases seem to do pretty well in the NFL, despite the prowess of the passing game, which is sweeping across the league.
3 reason the Chiefs should be ranked higher:
1) Running Game: The reason the Chiefs were 10-6 last year. Plain and simple. The Chiefs averaged the most rushing yards per game (164.2) in the NFL due to rising star Jamaal Charles and a solid offensive line. The most intriguing thing is that Jamaal Charles didn't even have the most rushes on the team; Thomas Jones took that crown with 15 more carries than Charles. This will most certainly not be the case in 2011, as Charles will look to put the 6.4 ypc average to work and become one of the elite running backs in the NFL.
2) Eric Berry: Berry rewarded the Chiefs for drafting him fifth overall in 2010 with a monster season. This guy is in the mold of Brian Dawkins and Ed Reed with maybe better play recognition than the two perennial pro bowlers. Berry, in his rookie season, had four interceptions and 92 tackles. Look for him only to better these statistics in 2011. Something along the line of 110 tackles and five interception. If you get a chance, watch this guy live; nothing like him in the NFL.
3) Todd Haley: One of the more underrated coaches in the NFL. Personally, I thought he should have won coach of the year for leading the Chiefs to a 10-6 (The chiefs had a combined record of 10-38 over the past three seasons) and their first division title since 2003. The guy is a offensive mastermind who can successfully utilize players such as Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster, Jamaal Charles, Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin and Thomas Jones. The only question mark surrounds Matt Cassell. Can he deliver on his contract? Will his ribs heal up? A coach can only do so much.
2011 prediction: 8-8
Week 1 Rank: 12th
The main reason this team will have two less wins in 2011 is the strength of schedule. The Chiefs (along with the Chargers and Broncos) have the third toughest schedule in the NFL this season. Another couple things that are holding this team back from a better record is their youth and Matt Cassel. If they can figure out how to deal with those two things, than the Chiefs could surprise people again this year. The people that were, apparently, not surprised enough in 2010.
My Rankings (10-15):
15. Lions (yes, the Lions)
Raiders Week 1 rank : 22nd
Another underrated AFC West team? Yes. Although the Raiders are not criminally under-ranked, they are under-ranked. The Raiders had the second best rushing team (behind the Chiefs) in the NFL last season, Darren McFadden finally lived up to the hype, and Michael Bush showed that he could start for a hand full of teams.
Though questions still remain: can Jason Campbell (who will finally have two consecutive years under the same offensive coordinator) give the raiders some stability at the quarterback position? Can a young receiving core, with no clear cut number one, fill the void left by Zach Miller? Can an offensive line starting rookie Stefen Wisniewski and second year player Jared Veldheer repeat their run blocking prowess of 2010? We shall see...
3 Reason the Raiders are Under-ranked:
1) Darren McFadden (Just watch this. Forget my explanation): People are going to get a long look at how good Darren McFadden really is 2011. In his 2010 campaign, Darren McFadden totaled 1,664 yards while scoring 10 touchdowns. His season went generally unnoticed by the public due to the fact that Al Davis has created the Raiders into the butt of many a NFL jokes. For all you fantasy football junkies, look for Darren McFadden to be a top 5 pick next year.
2) Defense: The most underrated part of the 2010 Raiders. The Raiders ranked second against the pass, and were tied for the second most sacks. Both of these statistics can be attributed to an unrelenting pass rush consisting of Kamerion Wimbley, Richard Seymour, Lamarr Houston, Matt Shaughnessy and Tommy Kelly. This group is easily the most underrated defensive front in football.
3) Speed: Based on how Al Davis evaluates talent and how he subsequently drafts, the Raiders have to be the fastest team in the NFL. Although, Davis obviously overvalues speed, speed still kills in the NFL. With players such as Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Denarius Moore, Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Stanford Routt, the Raiders are definitely not lacking the "quicks" department. The question is: Does speed equal a good football player?
2011 prediction: 7-9
Week 1 Rank: 20th
The Raiders have very similar problems as the Chiefs: Growing pains, an unproven QB, lack of depth; but that didn't keep them from moving up two spots in my rankings. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders utilize McFadden and Bush. They form one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL today, but will the Raider coaching staff be able to harness their potential.
My Rankings (18-22):
Broncos Week 1 Rankings: 27th
Now, being ranked the 27th best team in the NFL doesn't leave much room to be overrated, but, somehow, I think the Broncos managed to get over-ranked in the ESPN power rankings. Call me crazy, but I think they are the front runners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. They should get him involved in some high altitude training now! John Elway version 2.0?
3 reasons that the Broncos should be ranked lower:
1) The AFC West and Schedule: There is a lot of competition in the AFC west this year...minus the Broncos. They have to play the Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders, twice while, also, playing the Jets, Patriots, Bears and Vikings. They will be lucky to get two wins out of these games.
2) Kyle Orton? Tim Tebow? Who cares: The Tim Tebow media circus has made way too much news out of what is going on in Denver. The headlines should be asking about how many games they need to lose to get Andrew Luck, not asking which underwear advertisement Tebow will do next. If I were a Broncos fan, I would be hoping for a defeated season at this point.
3) Defense?:The Broncos were 31st against the run last year and 25th against the pass. 25th seems generous considering teams only had to run to win games against the Broncos last year. Yes, Elvis Dumervil was out the whole year, but one player doesn't make a defense.
2011 prediction: 3-13
Week O1 Ranking: 31st
It will be a three team race in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes and the Broncos have a darn good chance