I know we are only a few games into the Preseason but here are my Power Rankings so far. Let me know what you think!
1. New England Patriots (13-3): Of course a writer for Musket Fire has the Pats in the #1 spot! But all bias aside, a healthy Tom Brady throwing to a newly healthy Gronk plus Welker, Hernandez, Branch, and now Lloyd? They’ll easily be putting up 30 point games. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have been turning heads in practice drills. See you in the Super Bowl.
2. Green Bay Packers (15-1): What goes up must come down. They won’t have another 15-1 season again this year, but they’ll be pretty darn close. The defensive additions will help the league’s worst defense, but I predict it will fail them when it counts.
3. Houston Texans (10-6): Look at that record! They went 10-6 and were so close to beating the Ravens to make the AFC championship game with QB TJ Yates leading them. Imagine what they can do with a healthy Matt Schaub…
4. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): If I were Peyton Manning, I would have chosen the Niners over the Broncos…easily. The 49ers have one of the league’s best defenses and an offense that’s good, in spite of Alex Smith. The additions of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss will aid him in passing while Brandon Jacobs will help shoulder the load of Frank Gore. Look for them to make another NFC championship game appearance, perhaps against the Lions.
5. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Ah the poor Ravens. On paper, they look amazing every year and should probably have won or at least been in a Super Bowl with Flacco as QB by now. People give Flacco a bad rep but the truth is he is a quarterback that can get the job done…most of the time. As long as RB Ray Rice gets the ball most of the time, Flacco can keep them in the game if his receivers hold on to the ball *cough* Lee Evans *cough*
6. Detriot Lions (10-6): If you told me a few years ago that I would one day rank the Lions at #6, while the Colts are #31, I would have laughed in your face. The Lions are legit though, and NFC teams got to see the extent of their offense last year with Stafford finally staying healthy. RB Jahvid Best was a solid running option on a pass-first team until his concussion. Watch for more offensive players to step up and the defense to improve.
7. Atlanta Falcons (10-6): There’s no denying it, the Falcons are a great team on paper. While QB Matt Ryan is usually pretty good, he’s choked in the playoffs each year. When will he finally win a post-season game? This year. Calling it.
8. Chicago Bears (8-8): I’m not a Jay Cutler fan at all. As a matter of fact, I laugh every time he throws a pick! But the Bears will be good this year. WR Brandon Marshall re-uniting with Cutler should tilt the TD-INT ratio favorably and the addition of RB Michael Bush will aid the running game greatly.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): I could be wrong having the Steelers ranked at only #9 on this list, but for now I don’t see them as a better team than the previous 8. The newly beefed up offensive line will greatly aide QB Ben Roethlisberger, but will it be enough?
10. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): They’re no longer “America’s Team,” but they’ll do better than last year. This could be the first year the Cowboys will make the playoffs since 2009. QB Tony Romo needs a coach, though, and I’m not sure Jason Garrett is the man for the job. No playoffs this year = bye bye Garrett.
11. Denver Broncos (8-8): If the Broncos can make it to the AFC divisional round with Tebow at the helm, they can do it with a healthy Peyton Manning. I said…a HEALTHY Peyton Manning. If Peyton can throw like he did, the Broncos will win a relatively easy division. Beyond that, we’ll have to see.
12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9): Dear NFC, watch out for the Seahawks this year. They could give the 49ers a run at the division title, but I only see them making a wild card spot. With Matt Flynn as their first able QB since a young and healthy Matt Hasselbeck, their offense should explode with the help of WR Golden Tate and RB Marshawn Lynch.
13. Philadelpia Eagles (8-8): So much for “The Dream Team” right? The Eagles should do better this year as long as Vick stays healthy, but defenses are no longer wow’d by his ability to run with the ball. He will need to develop better offensive chemistry, especially with WR DeSean Jackson. On the defensive side of the ball, Nnamdi needs to live up to his mega contract.
14. New Orleans Saints (13-3): The Saints deserved every punishment they received this year. The loss of Vilma on defense isn’t huge, but the loss of Head Coach Sean Payton is. The chemistry between him and Drew Brees is enormous and will knock this team hard. They could either rise from the ashes determined to prove everyone wrong, or plummet. I’m gonna go with plummet, but we’ll see.
15. New York Giants (9-7): The Giants barely made the postseason last year and that was with Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham. Those losses plus the league’s hardest schedule will be too much for Eli Manning to handle. The Giants will miss the postseason.
16. Carolina Panthers (6-10): I’ll admit it, Cam Newton turned me into a believer last season. The Panthers offense may be on the right track, but it’s their defense that will be the death of them. There’s no way it improved enough this year to make the Panthers a playoff threat. Perhaps next year…
17. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Sophomore slump for QB Andy Dalton? Maybe, but the Bengals will still be a competitive team. If they can avoid relying on WR AJ Green too much, their offense will grow. They could be in competition with the Raiders for a wild card spot.
18. Oakland Raiders (8-8): Carson Palmer says the Raiders are a playoff team, and I’m inclined to believe him if he develops chemistry with their offense, WR Darius Heyward-Bey steps his game up a little, and RB Darren McFadden can stay healthy, that is.
19. Buffalo Bills (6-10): The Bills stampeded hard at the start of last season and then became extinct as it went on (oh, puns). QB Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to elevate his game, as does RB CJ Spiller. The addition of Mario Williams will aid the defense greatly and could make the Bills competitive longer this year.
21. Washington Redskins (5-11): The ‘Skins were a competitive team last year when they wanted to be. Many are skeptical, but I predict RGIII will steal the show this year much like Cam Newton last year.
22. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Wow do I feel bad for anyone that’s a Chargers fan. In the 2K’s they had easily the most perfect team, but always lost in the playoffs (usually to the Pats!). This year, analysts have finally given up predicting a Chargers Super Bowl. That window with Phil Rivers has closed unless Head Coach Norv Turner is fired.
23. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Kolb better start living up to his contract early, or Skelton will take over the offense in a heartbeat. Not enough consistent pieces in motion for this team to elevate its game this year.
24. New York Jets (8-8): Once Sanchez throws his first pick (5 minutes into game 1), the NY fans and media will be clamoring for Tebow to start. Neither will elevate this team, and they will sink into a pool of disarray this year. Oh, and Rex Ryan loses his job after failing to make the playoffs again.
25. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9): This team has a lot of heart and could do very well in a weaker division, but the burden of improving falls largely on the shoulders of QB Matt Cassel. If he can be more consistent, the Chiefs may stand a chance.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): The Bucs looked great going into last season, yet the fans were left disappointed. The addition of Vincent Jackson will help QB Josh Freeman, as will new Head Coach Greg Schiano. I don’t see a dramatic improvement this year, however.
28. Miami Dolphins (6-10): They lost their best offensive weapon in Brandon Marshall. RB Reggie Bush is not an every-down back, despite his insistence otherwise. Lead the league in rushing? Maybe in the CFL, Reggie.
29. Indianapolis Colts (2-14): The only reason the Colts are this high on the list is because they have Andrew Luck, who will attempt to revive this team. He has huge shoes to fill and with an offense basically starting over from scratch coupled with a defense that didn’t do them any favors last year, don’t expect much this year.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): There’s no nice way to put it, the Jags suck. This team has been mismanaged for a while and they took a huge step backward by letting QB David Garrard go. Blaine Gabbert is not the answer. The management proved to everyone that they are truly terrible, in case there was any doubt, when they drafted a PUNTER in the 3rd round this year. Poor MJD.
31. Cleveland Browns (4-12): No one knows what to expect from Brandon Weeden, but after watching last night’s preseason game against the Packers, he may do alright. The team around him isn’t good enough to elevate the Browns higher than #31 right now, however.
32. Minnesota Vikings (3-13): Jared Allen is trapped on a team that will take at least 3 years to rebuild enough to be considered playoff contenders. QB Christian Ponder was just ok last year and needs to elevate his game, but with an injured Adrian Peterson and a very disgruntled Percy Harvin demanding a trade, this team should be competing fiercely for the #1 draft pick in 2013.
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