NFL Power Rankings 2012: Under-the-Radar Teams Rising Quickly

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 25:   Lorenzo Alexander #97 of the Washington Redskins celebrates after sacking  Chandler Harnish #8 of the Indianapolis Colts during a preseason game at FedExField on August 25, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Teams rise and fall in the NFL quicker than any other sport.

Franchises that seemed to be going nowhere a few years ago like the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions are now elite contenders. The Indianapolis Colts, formerly perennial postseason participants, are now in a rebuilding stage after finishing with the worst record in football.

Sometimes teams can make big differences from week to week depending on the right set of circumstances.

These squads have not been expected to do much, but so far they have shown they have what it takes to surprise the football world.

Washington Redskins

In limited playing time, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has already impressed in the nation's capital. 

He looks like a legitimate franchise quarterback, and he is part of a team that is slowly putting together the pieces to become a winner.

The defense is anchored by first-round picks Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan as well as the still-effective London Fletcher. On offense, it looks as though second-year player Roy Helu can handle full-time running-back duties.

Even when factoring in potential rookie mistakes for Griffin, do not be surprised if this team can win double-digit games in 2012.

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Seattle Seahawks

It is easy to pick on the NFC West for being weak, but the San Francisco 49ers will not be able to run away with the division this season.

Seattle had a solid defense in 2011, ranked ninth in yards allowed and seventh in points per game. They also added pass-rushing specialist Bruce Irvin in the first round of the draft to help on third downs.

On offense, the quarterback battle is heating up between newcomers Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson. Either player should be an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson, and each should be able to balance an offense that already features Marshawn Lynch, who finished third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns a season ago.

In a wide-open NFC, the Seahawks can surprise people with a run toward the playoffs.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders ended last season with an 8-8 record despite losing star running back Darren McFadden for the second half of the year. Still, most are projecting the team to be toward the bottom of the standings.

McFadden is back and healthy, and quarterback Carson Palmer will have had an entire offseason with the team to get on the same page with his young and talented receivers.

The defensive struggled last season, but new coordinator Jason Tarver will try to turn the unit into a group of stoppers.

Even without it, the offense should be good enough to carry the team to a winning record.

Power Rankings

Rank Team    
No. 1 New England Patriots
No. 2 Green Bay Packers
No. 3 San Francisco 49ers
No. 4 New York Giants
No. 5 Baltimore Ravens
No. 6 Houston Texans
No. 7 Detroit Lions
No. 8 Atlanta Falcons
No. 9 Chicago Bears
No. 10 Denver Broncos
No. 11 New Orleans Saints
No. 12 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 13 Washington Redskins
No. 14 Philadelphia Eagles 
No. 15 Seattle Seahawks
No. 16 Cincinnati Bengals
No. 17 Oakland Raiders
No. 18 Dallas Cowboys
No. 19 Kansas City Chiefs
No. 20 San Diego Chargers
No. 21 Tennessee Titans
No. 22 Carolina Panthers
No. 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24 Buffalo Bills
No. 25 Arizona Cardinals
No. 26 New York Jets
No. 27 Miami Dolphins
No. 28 Cleveland Browns
No. 29 Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 30 St. Louis Rams
No. 31 Indianapolis Colts
No. 32 Minnesota Vikings


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