Wednesday, September 9, 2009

NFL Powerlines: Preseason Edition - NFL Power Rankings

This season's Powerlines will be accompanied by photos of strangers on the Denver light rail train who are blissfully unaware that I am taking their pictures. This girl looks like she could use a bit more of that coffee, no?

Here are the rankings that I will look back on in February
and have a hearty chuckle with how ridiculous they are, but
this is how the power in the NFL sits as I currently see it.
Feel free to mock my massive errors in the comments!

1. Steelers – Gotta give the champs some love to open the season. Plus, they didn’t really lose much, so they should continue to be good this season. I’m hoping that Big Ben has a great year since I have him in the message board fantasy league due to an internet outage during the draft that resulted in the computer auto-drafting my third and fourth round picks in a sixteen team league, and getting stuck with Joe Addai and Brandon Marshall instead of picking up a good quarterback in those rounds as I would have done had I been in the draft room at the time. About the only decent starter left by the 5th round was Roethlisberger so…GO BIG BEN!

2. Patriots – I hate seeing them up this high, but they are like the T-1000 from Terminator 2, they just keep coming and coming at you, and they won’t die! My best hope that they fall from this perch is if Tom Brady reinjures himself, and who is to say that he is not going to do so? If he goes down, can you name his backup? If you said rookie Brian Hoyer from Michigan State, you are a rare breed of NFL fan, or else you’re a Patriots or Spartans fan. To be fair, they also just picked up journeyman Andrew Walter, so he may get the job even if he is currently listed at #3, either way, you don’t feel too good about your QB situation after Brady if you’re a Pats fan.

3. Eagles – Despite the fact that he didn’t know a game could end in a tie last year, I still feel like Donovan McNabb is unappreciated in Philly, and I don’t think he has anything to worry about from Mike Vick. They may use the dog fighting felon on some trick formation plays, the only way I see Vick taking over the job is if McNabb gets hurt. (Which, let’s face it, isn’t the most unlikely thing ever.)

4. Giants – Losing their big receiver last season due to a self inflicted gunshot to the thigh killed the momentum they had built up over the course of the season, but with a full offseason to prepare I think they will get back to elite status. I love their defense, especially the line and they have a solid running game, but their weakness is clearly Eli and the sisters of the poor that they have at the wideout position.

5. Ravens – How much do I believe in Joe Flacco? Not a ton, but as long as that defense keeps their intensity near the level it was at last year, Ray Lewis won’t let this team be a bad team. Even if he has lost a step, he is still quite the motivator, and I like the Ravens to be near the top of the heap in the AFC again this year.

6. Chargers – Positives: Just about everything and everyone on the team not named Norv Turner. Negatives: Norv Turner. This is a very talented team led by a very untalented NFL coach. I’d have him at the top of the list of bad coaches in the NFL, but Brad Childress is still in the NFL, so he will have to settle for the silver medal. I like the Chargers to succeed this season as long as Shawne Merriman can avoid roughing up reality TV stars and stick to roughing up opposing quarterbacks. Big plus for San Diego is that they get to have six divisional games, the AFC West should put up about as much challenge as Tila Tequila. I’m pretty sure that the Broncos, Chiefs, and Raiders are already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention already.

7. Packers – This is a little bit nutty, but I have the Packers winning the whole shebang this year. Yup, I’m predicting the Lombardi Trophy will be won by the franchise Lombardi is most closely associated with. I love Aaron Rodgers, love the defense, love Ryan Grant, love this team. Now, me predicting that they win it all may well be the kiss of death for Green Bay, but I have a feeling that they will rise in the power rankings as the season progresses.

8. Colts – As long as they have Peyton Manning, they have a shot. Actually, if you look at my prognostications, I feel they have more than just a shot, as I have them progressing to the Super Bowl. Yup, Green Bay over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. Perhaps I’m insane, but that is my prediction. I’m curious to see Donald Brown and Joe Addai try to establish the run, if they are as successful as I believe they might be, perhaps I’m not so crazy. Okay, I probably am, but I still think the Colts could be really good this year.

9. Titans – I have cooled on the Titans since my pre-preseason rankings. They are still a solid team, but without Haynesworth and with Kerry Collins prominently involved, I think they are just okay, not great like last year.

10. Panthers – How does Jake Delhomme rebound from one of the worst games a quarterback has ever played? If he is able to forget his horrendous playoff showing at home versus the Cardinals, the Panthers may be back on track to be an elite team again, but you’ll forgive me if I’m a little hesitant to place any trust in Delhomme. The saving grace for Carolina is that they have a solid defense and a very stout running game.

11. Cardinals – I’m not high on old quarterbacks because they tend to break down, and Kurt Warner definitely qualifies as an old quarterback., but if he is able to stay healthy, he is exceptionally solid. I don’t think this team is as good as it looked during their playoff hot streak that landed them one defensive stand away from a championship, but they are a very solid team that should contend for the playoffs again. The only competition I see for them in the NFC West is in Seattle, and right now I think Arizona holds the advantage between those two teams. (Although I could see the Seahawks put it together and surpass the Cards if things go right for them.)

12. Saints – Drew Brees is very good, and if he had anything close to a decent defense, he might be able to win a championship. Right now, though, he doesn’t have the talent on the other side of the ball, and I think that will keep the Saints in the middle of the pack this year.

13. Cowboys – Tony Romo lost a lot of drama over the offseason, ejecting both Jessica and T.O. from his life, and that has to be a good thing for the Cowboys, but I’m not sure there is enough in Dallas to win right now. The fact that they play in a brutal division doesn’t help, and I see a lot of potential for a Cowboys collapse this season, but I also see enough pieces for them to potentially be a factor. Let’s just say I don’t have a good pulse on my expectations and could see them anywhere from 7-9 to 12-4, which is a pretty big variance. Lets just see how they play out.

14. Vikings – Adrian Peterson is amazing, and the Vikes D is stout. Brett Favre is old, and I don’t see him being a huge boon to the Vikings, who I think would be good either way. I am not as high on Minnesota as many who have them contending for a Super Bowl, because so much depends upon the very old arm of Favre, and I just don’t think he is great anymore.

15. Bears – Can Jay Cutler deal with being behind a much shakier offensive line than he had in Denver? Can this aging defense still get stops when they need to? Are Bernard Berrian and Devin Hester good enough receivers to make the offense go? I don’t have any answers to these questions, and until I do, I’m not willing to buy what the Bears are selling. They might be great, but they might be 8-8.

16. Falcons – Matt Ryan looks to be the real deal behind center, and Michael Turner was a beast running the ball last season, but I think they may have a bit of a falloff from their playoff perch of a year ago. They are still a solid team, but I don’t see them improving from last year’s results.

17. Texans – This team has become the hot sleeper pick of this offseason. I have to admit that I am at least partially buying into the hype. I like Matt Schaub and his offense, as when you have weapons like Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels, and Steve Slaton, that is a good sign. Plus, I find this team to be very likable. It doesn’t hurt to have the man who backed up John Elway for the majority of his career as your head coach. I will be cheering for Kubiak’s boys this season, hopefully to at least a wildcard berth as that is where I have them predicted.

18. Redskins – As much as I like Haynesworth for the Titans, he scares me with the Redskins, as Daniel Snyder has a history of overpaying for players who come in to Washington and under perform. Jason Campbell can’t have a ton of confidence in the franchise either, after being shopped all over during the offseason. I also wonder how much Clinton Portis has left in him. I just see a team that has a ton of questions, and while talented, I wonder how united the locker room will be. Although they are a decent enough team, I predict a last place finish in their very tough division.

19. Seahawks – This team was ravaged by injury last season, and I have to believe that they will be much better this season. I love that they added TJ Houshmandzadeh (although I defy anyone to spell his name without looking it up) to their receiving corps, and I like Matt Hasselbeck, if for no other reason that he seems like a decent quarterback, and he is bald, which always wins points with me. If they are able to put it together this season, I could see them giving the Cards competition for this division.

20. Dolphins – Last year everything went perfectly for the Fins. I just can’t believe that will happen again this year. Let us not forget that they are only one season removed from going 1-15. Tony Sparano did an amazing job last season, and he appears to be a competent NFL coach, but this team seems primed for a let down this year.

21. Jets – The history of rookie quarterbacks starting their first year in the NFL is not a long and storied one. Usually they take their lumps, and despite the fact that Flacco and Ryan both did well last year, I am not ready to believe that Sanchez will have the same charmed life. The defense is good, but there are a lot of questions on the offensive side of the ball for the J-E-T-S, I am predicting a mediocre season for them.

22. Bills – Not sure why these guys were so gung ho to gain the services of Terrell Owens, but they have him on a one year deal, and he needs to perform for them if they are going to do much. I am interested to see how Trent Edwards does with T.O. This team is much more interesting than they were last season, but I don’t know if they are much better. Did you know that if Edwards goes down that something called “Gibran Hamdan” will be behind center tossing passes for the Bills? That can’t be a good sign.

23. Jaguars – David Garrard is surely somewhere between the great quarterback he was two years ago and the miserable quarterback he was last year. I’m curious to see how he rebounds from an off year. I also am not entirely on board with the Maurice Jones-Drew love fest that occurred during fantasy football drafts across the country this year. He’s good, but I heard of people taking him second or third overall in some leagues, which seems insane to me.

24. Bengals – Although many people are expecting a huge year from Carson Palmer this year, I’d like to see some signs that he is the quarterback he was before Kimo Von Oelhoffen destroyed his knee in the 2005 playoffs before I sign off on the Bengals being back. There is definitely an upside to the Bengals, but I want to see it before it gets reflected in my power rankings.

25. Browns – This team may be the worst in the league this year. I don’t feel a lot of good vibes emanating from Ohio this NFL season, and especially not from Cleveland. When you are refusing to declare who will be starting at quarterback so that you can keep your opponent guessing, that probably means that you are not feeling great about either guy. It’s never a good sign when your starting quarterback is a multiple choice question. I think I’d go with Quinn, but even if you go with Derek Anderson, neither option is overly exciting.

26. Chiefs – The biggest question surrounding this team is whether or not Matt Cassell is the quarterback who tore up the NFL last season, or the guy who wasn’t good enough to even start in college. This is a young team that should improve this year, but will still take their lumps throughout the season.

27. Buccaneers – If Josh Freeman is your future answer at quarterback, you better hope the questions are not very tough. I saw enough of him playing for my K-State Wildcats to have a hard time believing he is going to be the real deal in the pros. For now, Byron Leftwich is going to man the position, and the excitement for Tampa football this year is not exactly at a fever pitch, I’m guessing. I’m not expecting a whole lot from the Bucs this year.

28. Broncos – Appropriate that the Broncos will break out their retro AFL brown and yellow gear, as when they wore those uniforms, they were an abysmal team. Although I love the new uniforms, I’m a little bummed that the formula seems to be return to the uniforms equals return to being abysmal. The Broncos have collapsed so much in the season, that Bronco fans are actually HOPING that either Chris Simms or Kyle Orton are healthy enough to be able to play for them the first week of the season to avoid having to start rookie Tom Brandstater. All this is going down because Pat Bowlen and Josh McDaniels couldn’t share their toys with Jay Cutler. I’m hoping that McDaniels knows what he doing, even as all signs point to him having no idea what it is that he is doing.

29. Raiders - When the Raiders and Patriots make a trade, I automatically think that the Pats got the better of it, even before I know the players involved. If Richard Seymour makes much of a difference at all for the Raiders this year, I’ll be shocked. Plus, the Pats will probably get a top five pick in 2011. Someone really needs to stage an intervention with Al Davis. Can you imagine his friends and loved ones getting together in a room and saying, “Al, we love you to much to let you keep running the Raiders.” Actually, I find it hard to believe that there are too many people that love Al. A much more likely scenario is the only person who cares for him is a closeted gay assistant who secretly crushes on him, ala Waylon Smithers with Mr. Burns. Either way, something needs to be done in Oakland.

30. 49ers – This team’s quarterbacking situation is even more dire than the Broncos, and that is truly saying something. Shaun Hill and Alex Smith aren’t making anyone in San Francisco forget Steve Young. I hope Mike Singletary is able to make a go of it, because that dude is interesting, but the 49ers have not exactly had a solid offseason. Returning to the Montana era colors is a good start, now they just need Montana era talent. They drafted a talented headcase who seems to think he should be paid like a sixth or seventh overall pick, despite the unfortunate circumstance that he was drafted 10th overall. Michael Crabtree is costing himself so much money by just not signing, that it makes me sick.

31. Rams – The Rams may improve a ton just because they are no longer coached by the remarkably inept Scott Linehan, but the cupboard is far from full in St. Louis, and I feel they are several years away from being a decent team at this point.

32. Lions – The Lions haven’t won a game that counted since early December 2007, safe to say they are due, but starting a rookie quarterback is probably not the fast track to winning. I have to believe they’ll get a victory or two in 2009, but not much more than that.

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