Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NFL Powerlines: Pre-Preseason Edition

I wonder what this guy has in his little plastic bag??

Can you feel the power? We are only a month away from preseason football, and two months away from the real thing! My NFL Jones is at such an all time high, that I thought I'd break out one of the staples of the football season on this blog...The NFL Powerlines! Yes, for your perusal are my power rankings of the NFL teams as we sit here in mid July. If you're anything like me, and if you are I'm sorry, you are ready for some football. Sadly, my power rankings are all I can offer right now, but we are inching closer to FOOTBALL, my friends!

Last season, I posted a photo of a zoo animal above all my Powerline articles, but that was only on my fantasy football news service, so very few of you were able to see those. I have decided to bring back the gimmick of having an entirely unrelated photo accompanying the Powerlines, but I'm going in another direction this year. I got a Nintendo DS a few months back, and one of the mostly useless features on it is digital camera with not a rather low resolution. However, I have found that it is good for capturing photographs of random people I don't know on the light rail train. I am proud to announce that I will be using random pictures of people I don't know who didn't realize I was taking their picture as the title photos for the power lines this year! It feels a little bit mischievous to do this, and potentially a little bit illicit, but that's what makes it so much fun. Anyway...on to the power rankings!! (Feel the Power)

1. Steelers – Although I have a hard time seeing them repeating, I’m going to give my #1 preseason spot to the team holding the trophy.

2. Giants – Losing Plaxico was apparently a bigger deal that we thought at the end of last year, but for the majority of the season last year, this was the best team going. I think they can get it up and running again.

3. Eagles – Sometimes it seems like Andy Reid is keeping the Eagles afloat with smoke and mirrors, other times they look like a serious force. Either way, they seem to keep winning. Getting McNabb more weapons with Jeremy Maclin and Shady McCoy added to the offense is bound to help.

4. Patriots – The most unlikable team in the NFL has once again reloaded. The biggest question of this offseason in the league is how is Tom Brady going to bounce back from missing all of last season. Is he the unstoppable force of the almost undefeated team of two years ago, or has being married to a super model and being praised as the second coming of Joe Montana made him soft. Here’s hoping he struggles, but I expect the Patriots to once again contend for the Lombardi Trophy.

5. Chargers – Aided by the fact that they share a division with the collective sisters of the poor, the Chargers should cruise to a division title, per usual. This team has the talent to win it all, but you have to remember that they are still coached by the legendary Norv, and then you remember why they haven’t won it all. This team is hampered mightily by the fact that their coach is a humungous liability.

6. Titans – Losing Albert Haynesworth is a big hit for the Titans to take, and I remain hesitant to trust Kerry Collins in the role of starting QB, but this team was so good last year, I can’t drop them any lower than this right now.

7. Ravens – How much longer can Ray Lewis continue to inspire this defense to greatness? The clock is definitely ticking on that, and I think he is due for a massive slide this year. I also don’t trust Joe Flacco to carry the offense, but every year I underestimate the Ravens, and every year they prove me wrong. I’m going to go in the opposite direction to see if I effusively praise them this season if they might finally lapse and underachieve. A guy can hope, as the Ravens are far from my favorite team in the league.

8. Cardinals – The Cards were a lot of fun in the postseason last year, but I have a hard time believing in them as a great team, and believe that they are just an okay team that got hot at the perfect time and rode that wave all the way to being minutes away from winning it all. I think they suffer the year after hangover big time. Still, their run last year is good enough to get them the eighth spot in the pre-preseason poll.

9. Vikings – This is potential great team that is in need of a good quarterback. I know the Vikes are waiting for the end of the fifth annual “Will He or Won’t He Brett Favre Commemorative Media Whore Tour” to end, but am I the only one that thinks even once Brett Favre suits up for them that the Vikings will still be a good quarterback away from being great? Did you see him at the end of last year for the Jets? Ryan Leaf was embarrassed of his performances in December. At some point, you just get old. Vikings also have points deducted because Brad Childress is calling the shots. I cannot see a Brad Childress team doing the smart little things that win ballgames (a la the very good and yet very evil Bill Belichick) The best thing that the Vikes have going for them is that stud running back in their backfield. Adrian Peterson is the man.

10. Colts – I’m not used to seeing the Colts this low, but I just think that age is starting to catch up with these guys. As long as they have Manning, they’ve got a punchers chance, but I think the Colts are due for a subpar year by Indianapolis standards.

11. Cowboys – I have an infatuation with Tony Romo, he’s my favorite player in the NFL, and I really wish he had a real coach in place to lead him. The Cowboys are the NFC version of the Chargers in that they are way too talented to underachieve as often as they do. Wade Phillips will have that effect on you, though. Jerry Jones really needs to get himself a real head coach.

12. Panthers – Jake Delhomme is not very good, but he’s better than he looked against the Arizona Cardinals. He looked like a guy who had been paid off by the mafia to throw the game, he was that bad. He was worse than that bad, I daresay he had the worst game that I can remember in playoff history. The Panthers may have had a better shot of winning if they punted on first down every drive. Not good.

13. Saints – Drew Brees is like the Dan Fouts of 2009. He plays on a ridiculously good offense, he’s a ton of fun to watch, his defense isn’t very good, and even though everyone pretty much likes him, no one expects him to do anything in the postseason. I think Drew just needs to grow a huge beard and complete the effect.

14. Bears – We are going to see how good Jay Cutler actually is very quickly this season. It’s easier to look good behind Denver’s solid offensive line when you’re throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal than it will be with the swinging door that is the Bears O-Line and the Pu Pu platter that is the Bears receiving corps. Here are the illustrious gentlemen Jay is scheduled to be tossing the ball to: Devin Hester, Rashied Davis, Desmond Clark, Earl Bennett, Brandon Rideau, Devin Aromashodu, John Broussard, and Greg Olsen. (Not exactly Swann and Stallworth, here.)

15. Redskins – On paper, the acquisition of Albert Haynesworth should propel the Skins to new heights, however, Washington’s history with free agents is spottier than the cast of 101 Dalmatians. That uncertainty combined with the awkward season for the incumbent quarterback makes me learly of the Washington. Jason Campbell had the 50% off sticker liberally applied to him before he was whisked off the trading table when the trades the Redskins hoped to make never materialized. How well he responds to the lip service that he is Jim Zorn’s guy will go a long way to determining if the Skins can be competitive this year or not.

16. Falcons – Matty Ice seems like the real deal at quarterback, but I am not going to be surprised if he suffers from a sophomore slump. Is Michael Turner going to be able to keep up his production at such a high level? I’m curious to see this team, as they were the uglier Cinderella that got knocked off in the playoffs by the cuter, more sexy Cinderella last January.

17. Packers – This may be too high for a Packers team that finished 6-10 this year, but I really believe that the Pack were a good team this year that just had all the breaks go against them. I think they return to around .500 or better this season, as they are only two years removed from hosting the NFC Championship Game. I really believe that Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback, and he may begin to make the leap this season. Packers fans will probably more easily embrace him if they see their beloved #4 don a purple uniform. I’m dying to see this play out in the NFC North.

18. Dolphins – This team went 1-15 two years ago, benefited from a last place schedule and a Tom Brady knee demolition and snuck into the playoffs as the AFC East Champion. I think they fall back to earth this year.

19. Jets – How long before Mark Sanchez is taking his lumps as a rookie, Week 4? Week 3? This is an okay team, but they are probably a year or two away from making some real noise. The best luck they had all year was having Sanchez fall to them at #5 in the Draft, I don’t think they get that lucky again all season, but that was a pretty big one. I think he may be a very solid NFL QB.

20. Seahawks – The Seahawks are too good of a franchise to fall prey to becoming one of the dregs of NFL society. I don’t know that they make the playoffs this year, but I think they rebound from the dreadful season they endured last year.

21. Jaguars – This may be the least interesting team in the NFL. Maurice Jones-Drew, Torry Holt, and David Garrard? No thanks. Those new uniforms sure are spiffy, though. Oh wait, no, they are actually pretty ugly and boring, perfect for the Jags!

22. Texans – Oops, we have another contender for least interesting NFL team. Gary Kubiak needs to start showing something if he wants to keep his post as head man of the Texan Empire.

23. Buccaneers – No more Gruden, does this mean they aren’t going to stockpile mediocre quarterbacks anymore? I’m depressed, although I still am amused that they hold the rights to Jake Plummer. Good trade there, guys. “Let’s send over a draft pick for a guy who has announced his retirement.” Oops!

24. Bills – The Bills are ten times more interesting now that they employ the services of one Terrell Owens, too bad I don’t think they are going to be much better of a team as a result. You still have to block the defense in order for Trent Edwards to actually be able to throw it to T.O.

25. Bengals – People have been talking up the Bengals this offseason saying they are finally going to make the leap. Maybe they do, but I need to see it first.

26. Chiefs – I’m intrigued by the move for Matt Cassell. It’s a strong and bold move for Scott Pioli in his inaugural year in charge of the Chiefs. It may turn out great, and Cassell may be the answer, of course, he has only one season under his belt at starting QB at any level higher than High School. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he may not be as good as everyone thought he was last year. He may, and it’s a great chance to take for a team that has been mediocre for awhile in KC, but I’m not positive it will work and I’m not positive it won’t. (Bold prognosticating there, eh?) Losing Herm Edwards is addition by subtraction, and I think things are finally starting to move in the right direction for the Chiefs.

27. Broncos – I am going to trust in Josh McDaniels and believe that he knows what he is doing, because otherwise my only choice would be to rank the Broncos in the bottom six of the league and I’m not sure I’m ready to do that…Oh wait. Yes I am. Sigh. Hopefully the Broncos can get it together and have a solid season, but lets just say my hopes are not high. I’m halfway covering my eyes in anticipation of the Kyle Orton era beginning in Denver. For the record, I really hope I’m wrong.

28. 49ers – Do you believe in Shaun Hill? Yeah, me either. The 49ers do have the coach most likely to drop his pants to make his point, but I’m not sure how much that translates into wins. I don’t care either, the NFL is a better place when Mike Singletary a.k.a. Coach Crazy is in the league.

29. Browns – Shouldn’t Brady Quinn have grabbed the reins of this team by now? I can’t believe that we are still debating Derek Anderson vs. Brady Quinn. Losing Romeo Crennel can’t possibly be a bad thing, but is Eric Mangini the right coach to lead you to the promised land? The dearth of good NFL coaches is staggering.

30. Rams – This team is now very young, very inexperienced, and probably still not very good. Marc Bulger is not 86 years old, it only feels like he’s that old. (Actually, it was rather depressing to look up his age and realize that he is only 32 years old and is actually several months younger than I am.) The Rams are in full on rebuilding mode, I don’t expect much. (Which means that they’ll probably win the NFC West.)

31. Raiders – There is a chance that the Raiders are not the worst team in the AFC West. That doesn’t mean they’ve gotten better, it’s just that the rest of the division…Not so good.

32. Lions – There aren’t a lot of rules when cobbling together a NFL rankings list, however one of them is this: When a team finishes 0-16 the prior year and chances are good that they will be starting a rookie at quarterback in the upcoming season, that team has to be rated last. I feel for Lions fans who haven’t celebrated a victory since two days before the Christmas of 2007. Bold Prediction for this season: The Lions will win at least one game!


Anonymous said...

The Jaguars may not be interesting (Not sure how you came to that conclusion considering MJD is a keg on legs) but it won't matter when they are in contention for a playoff spot next year.

Craig Dodge said...

That's a fair point, Sam. Jones-Drew is a man, but he alone isn't enough to make the Jags interesting. They could make the leap to playoff contention this year, but I think they're more in the 7-9 or 8-8 range. Solid, but not spectacular. I'm not sure that's enough to get em into the postseason.

Anonymous said...

Garrard is underrated too... I watched pretty much all the games last year (even sitting through the embarrasing game on Monday Night to the Texans as well as being swept by the state of Ohio) and I am willing to throw everyone under the bus in defense of Garrard... I know people like to talk about how the Jags grossly overpaid him, ( i.e. Bill Simmons) but most people just do not have much of a clue when it comes to the jags... While I am unfairly taking out my frustrations on your blog, its bothersome that people don't realize that last year was one of the rare instances where it is everyone else's fault (Save for MJD, Fred Taylor, and Greg Jones). The defense gave up leads late in the 4th quarter every game for the first 5 or 6 weeks, the receiving corp was easily the worst in the league, and the offensive line already had a bunch of guys done for the season before Week 1... Its hard to blame a QB when he has to run for his life every play, throw to WR's that aren't open and will just drop the ball anyway, and if by some miracle the team gets a lead, the D completely blows it.

Now my rationale for the Jags being a playoff contender is their easy schedule, they will have a healthy O-line that is one of the better lines in the league, and the fact that the AFC South will not be all that great next year. Houston is this year's popsicle team, the Colts lost a ton of coaching, (and are another year older) and come on, you know the Titans are due for one of those years where everything falls apart based on injuries, bad breaks, and players that caught lightning in a bottle falling back to earth (basically what happened to Jax last year).