The NFL regular season finally starts this Wednesday when the Dallas Cowboys meet the New York Giants in an early and intriguing NFC East match-up. With the start of the new season now upon us, I thought this would be a great time to institute the inaugural iSportsWeb NFL Power Rankings. Read on and let the debates rage.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers start the season at the no. 1 spot. Can they finish there as well?
1. Green Bay Packers
– The Pack went 15-1 last year even with a terrible defense. Not much has changed this year, so they get the inaugural #1 spot of the iSportsWeb NFL Power Rankings.
2. San Francisco 49ers
– The defense is still dominant and they added plenty of weapons around Alex Smith. Now he has to realize his full potential for the 9ers to reach theirs.
3. Baltimore Ravens
– I keep stating the fact that the Ravens were one dropped pass and/or one missed field goal away from at least tying New England, if not beating them, in the AFC Championship. Both the responsible parties are no longer with the team, and I think this is the year Joe Flacco really starts to turn into one of the league’s elite QBs.
4. New England Patriots
– Last season’s Super Bowl runner-up has made some “interesting” roster moves, but the core (and especially Tom Brady) still remain. As long as he’s there, the Pats will still be among the league’s elite.
5. New York Giants
– I don’t subscribe to the theory that the team that won the last Super Bowl should automatically be at the top of the power rankings. Yes, they are the reigning champs, but they aren’t as talented of a team overall as the ones ahead of them. They’re still a darn good team though.
6. Detroit Lions
– Lions fans had better pray that the Madden Curse doesn’t strike Calvin Johnson this year. If Matt Stafford is still chucking the ball down the field to Megatron, and if the Lions can stay out of trouble, this could be a year Detroit hasn’t seen since the 1950’s.
7. Houston Texans
– I really had to pause and ask myself if I though Houston was actually the third best team in the AFC. When I look at the roster, I had no choice but to say yes. If QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson can stay on the field, Houston has a real shot at a special season.
8. Atlanta Falcons
– Matt Ryan is 0-3 in his first three playoff games. You know else in recent history started 0-3? Peyton Manning, and that worked out just fine.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
– The Steelers are getting old, injured, and face a change in offensive schemes. All that can prove to be a big challenge in 2012. But they are still the Steelers.
10. Denver Broncos
– Call this the “Peyton Manning” effect. I wouldn’t normally have Denver in the top-10, even with that defense. Broncos fans need to remember Manning hasn’t played a meaningful game in over a year and a half, so don’t expect too much right away.
11. Dallas Cowboys
– I thought the Cowboys would be a much improved team this year, but after seeing some pre-season games in which they struggled mightily, I can’t consider them an elite team at this point. They’ve got the depth to get there, so we’ll see.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
– Philly is a talented team to be sure, but they were just as talented last year, and couldn’t break the .500 mark. Can Mike Vick and Co. stay healthy enough to make the playoffs?
13. Chicago Bears
– Chicago added some nice pieces in Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush (even with the limited carries he’s likely to get). But the aging defense with an oft-injured Brian Urlacher is a major concern this year.
14. San Diego Chargers
– If you read my NFL season preview (http://wp.me/prUUN-Lwg), you’ll probably notice that I’m predicting San Diego as the AFC West Champs. And you’ll likely notice that I have the division rival Broncos ranked ahead of them. I think Denver is the better team, but the Chargers have a slightly easier schedule. Thus the ranking.
15. New Orleans Saints
– I’m always wary of a players productions following a record year, and after signing a new massive contract. add those two in the same year AND the off season turmoil New Orleans went through, and that could equal a sub-par season.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
– Second-year QB Andy Dalton was a major surprise last year, but I don’t expect teams to let him sneak up on them again. I’m also not sold on BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the main back for this team.
17. Seattle Seahawks
– I really like what rookie Russell Wilson showed us in pre-season, but it is just pre-season. Overall, the teams doesn’t do much to excite me yet, but I think Pete Carroll has them moving in the right direction.
18. Buffalo Bills
– The team, and especially QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, started off hot last season, including an early victory of eventual division champs New England. Then they (prematurely) signed to a him to a big extension and the team subsequently tanked. Until they get the QB situation resolved, this team isn’t going anywhere.
19. Oakland Raiders
If Darren McFadden can stay healthy and Carson Palmer is able to be half as good as he was in Cincinnati, things could be good for this team. But at this point in time, I can’t really see either of those scenarios playing out.
20. Kansas City Chiefs
– I’m not sure Peyton Hillis will be the every down back the Chiefs want him to be, and Matt Cassel needs to get back to the Pro-Bowl Form he showed in 2010. Dwayne Bowe signing his franchise tender is a nice step to helping that.
21. Carolina Panthers
– Cam Newton was jaw-dropping good last year. I can’t see the same kind of numbers a second year. His passing game fizzled a bit as the season ran on last year, and teams will prepare for his running ability a bit more.
22. Tennessee Titans
– Two words: Jake Locker. He hasn’t shown me anything to think he can be anything but a serviceable back-up yet.
23. New York Jets
– Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow have been awful, as the offensive line has been awful. Things aren’t looking to good for the J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!
24. Washington Redskins
– Robert Griffin III looks like he could be the real deal, but he doesn’t have a lot of proven play makers on the team. WR Pierre Garcon looks like he could be the type of deep threat Indianapolis always wanted him to be, but RGIII missed a LOT of deep throws in the pre-season.
25. Minnesota Vikings
– Christian Ponder looks like he might start to flash some real skills, but the jury is still out. A disgruntled Percy Harvin won’t help matters. The only thing that will keep this team afloat will be the Jared Allen-led defense.
26. Indianapolis Colts
– The Colts won’t be as bad as everyone seem to think they will be, but they’ll still be pretty bad this year. Andrew Luck already looks special, but the offensive line and defensive backfield really need to improve.
27. Miami Dolphins
– For the last couple of seasons I have been totally confused with a lot of the moves owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland have made. Drafting Ryan Tannehill #8 overall is one of them, though he is looking like he might justify that choice. The rest of the offense is just terrible, thought, save RB Reggie Bush.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
– The good new is that RB Maurice Jones-Drew ended his holdout and will start in week 1. The bad news is the rest of the team still blows.
29. Arizona Cardinals
– When your choice at quarterback is between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, you no you have issues. Poor Larry Fitzgerald has to miss Kurt Warner every single day.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– The Bucs improved their receiving corps by adding Vincent Jackson, and rookie RB Doug Martin should be an upgrade over LaGarrette Blount. But Josh Freeman looks like he is regressing, and that is never a good sign for an NFL team.
31. Cleveland Browns
– Poor, poor Browns fans. They’ve barely sniffed the playoffs since the team came back in 1996, and that doesn’t look to change this year. I’m intrigued by Trent Richardson, but I have a feeling QB Brandon Weeded is going to struggle early and often.
32. St. Louis Rams
– The Rams will likely win the #1 overall pick next year. Their offense is bad and their defense is worse. Do they draft Matt Barkley even with the $50 million guaranteed they gave Sam Bradford?
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