NFL Power Rankings: Training Camp Edition
NFL Power Rankings: Training Camp Edition
NFL Power Rankings: Training Camp Edition
by Robert Ferringo
Football has returned.
The rigorous training of our modern National Football League warlords has begun in hamlets and towns across this great nation. In obscure locales like Flagstaff and Westminster, 32 NFL teams are being galvanized into adamantine steel. Steel that will then be thrust through the breast plates and aortic valves of unsuspecting and inferior opponents over the next few months. It's going to be spellbinding.
So in honor of the official start of the NFL season I offer you the first installment of the 2007 Doc's Sports Power Rankings. Below are my preseason power rankings and they will be updated a couple times before the kickoff Week 1 on Thursday, Sept. 6.
OK, so here's the deal with our NFL Preseason Power Rankings: these rankings aren't based on where teams finished last year, or where the bobbleheads on ESPN think they'll finish this year, or how certain magazines project them to finish, or how I think these teams will perform in the preseason. My rankings are based on where teams are at - TODAY. That means, if there were a 32-team Royal Rumble for the Lombardi Trophy held right now this is the order in which I think they'd get tossed out of the ring (with the Dolphins as the first ones going over the ropes). I've given a certain level of consideration to how I think teams will fare, but as I mentioned I'm not trying to project right now as much as I am trying to rate where everyone stands right now.
Now listen, I know a lot of you are going to look at these Preseason Power Rankings and think that I hate your favorite team or that I don't know what I'm talking about or that I enjoying molesting Cocker Spaniels. Now, you may not be wrong. But the bottom line is that it's not even August yet and there are still a lot of things that will change. I'm just trying to give you an idea of where I think teams stand and where they may be headed.
I'm also trying to shake up your conceptions of who is going to do what this year. One of the biggest mistakes that square bettors make at the start of each new season is to play teams and view teams through the lens of the previous season. For instance, people will be betting the Jets and Chiefs like playoff teams, or expecting the Colts defense to perform as it did in January, or treating the Jaguars like some lackluster .500 club. All of these approaches would be foolhardy and that's how squares find themselves in a hole before the Autumnal Equinox.
Doc's Sports Power Rankings will be released on Wednesday or Thursday during the season and will be a weekly guide to tips, trends, traps, stats, buzz and bluster about each team heading into the weekend. It's usually a jolly good time.
1) New England Patriots - They are freakin' loaded. They do have several chinks in their armor (which I'll discuss in a separate article) but right now there's no doubt that the Patriots are the team to beat.
2) San Diego Chargers - Those people that are predicting 14 wins for the Chargers again must be smoking some of that sweet SoCal cheeba. Much like the Cowboys, the San Diego players are a bit too cocky considering they haven't accomplished anything in the hardware department. They have talent, but I don't see any situation where a team can lose its coach and top two coordinators and get better. Won't happen.
3) Denver Broncos - If they can just keep players on their roster from dying then they should have a rock solid squad. This has been an emotional year for the Broncos, but I think that all of the off-field tribulations will unite this talented veteran club. The defense is loaded but in the end it's all about the kid from Vandy.
4) Cincinnati Bengals - I may be overvaluing these Thugs and Wife Beaters, but I think the Bengals are set for a bounceback year. I would feel more confident about this call if Odell Thurman had been reinstated. Instead, he's probably trolling around the streets of the Queen City, drunk and high on angel dust, looking for a homeless person to DDT. He's a big, big loss on that defense.
5) Chicago Bears - Had Lance Briggs actually followed through on his promise to hold out the Bears would be somewhere in the low teens. They're getting hated on quite a bit for a Super Bowl team that returned 20 starters, all key special teamers, and most of its depth on both sides of the ball. Playing in the modified division - a.k.a. the NFC North - doesn't hurt, but a brutal early schedule will.
6) Indianapolis Colts - Um, the Colts aren't repeating. And there's a good chance they don't win their division. Yeah, I said it. And it's not because I'm bitter at the team that beat my beloved Bears in the Super Bowl. I'm simply saying that you can't expect a team to improve after losing six starters and a host of key role players.
7) Baltimore Ravens - I'm not nearly as high on the Ravens as this rating suggests. They have nine starters that are age 30 or older and are in a brutal division. Remember this: Steve McNair has always been peanut brittle and hasn't started all 16 games in back-to-back seasons since 1997-98. If he goes down the Ravens will crumble. Regardless, there's no way they win more than 11 games. None.
8) Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys seem grateful to have the taste of Tuna out of their mouths as the Warden Parcells has moved on. The danger is that the inmates could end up running this asylum. However, they do have the security of knowing that their leader is the man that benched Doug Flutie for Rob Johnson in the playoffs in 1999-00. I get the sense that the Cowboys' season is destined to end under similarly horrifying circumstances.
9) New Orleans Saints - The good news: they bring back 20 starters and were able to upgrade several defensive slots. The bad news: this is still a team that, fueled by raw emotion and the grace of the Football Gods, managed to go just 10-6 last year. They aren't going to sneak up on folks but their talent level can't be ignored.
10) Jacksonville Jaguars - If they had the quarterback of the either of the teams above or below them on this list they might not have anyone above them on this list. The Jags took the predictable step back last season after their team was ravaged by injuries and inconsistency. I love their toughness and running game, but hate their safeties and quarterback uncertainty. However, with their schedule I see 10-6 without breaking a sweat.
11) Philadelphia Eagles - Beware the Birds. This is a salty, veteran crew in a system that's averaged 11 regular season wins per year over the past seven years. D-Nab was the MVP through six games last year. If he comes back - and guys like Westbrook, Trotter and Dawkins can stay healthy - then there's a chance this will be the best team in the NFC due to a cupcake schedule.
12) Pittsburgh Steelers - If I ever smash my head off the pavement at 50 miles per hour I hope that not too many people will listen to what I say afterwards. Big Ben begged to air it out last year and the shell-shocked QB coughed up 23 INTs in 15 games. Now he's talked Mike Tomlin into installing a no-huddle offense. The Berger Kid is either going to be exposed this year or he's going to become elite.
13) Seattle Seahawks - After three straight division titles I do think that it's time for a new NFC West winner. But the Birds are bringing back the best defense (even if it's just an average one) and the most overall talent in the division. Thus, they get the top billing. They were 19th in offense and 19th in defense last season, very average, and I'm not certain they did enough in the offseason to show marked improvement.
14) New York Jets - On one hand I really like Eric Mangini and I think he's installing a solid football system in Jersey. On the other hand, the Jets were the beneficiaries of an embarrassingly easy schedule and have just three wins against winning teams in the last two seasons. I think they come back to reality this year and finish 8-8.
15) St. Louis Rams - Their offense is as loaded as it ever was during their Super Bowl days, but the D is still as easy to pass through as the St. Louis Arch. They were the second-worst team in the league against the rush last season, but chose to upgrade the pass rush in the offseason instead of depth at linebacker. Ugh.
16) Carolina Panthers - They have essentially the same team that everyone had pegged for Super Bowl glory before the 2006 season. Maybe even better if some of the rooks step up. But there are no expectations this year. That's a mistake. John Fox is a wily one, and has bounced back from his past two sub-.500 seasons ('02, '04) with trips to the NFC title game the next year ('03, '05).
17) San Francisco 49ers - Approach with caution. I agree that they made significant moves in the offseason, but let's not pretend that they're Super Bowl bound just yet. I love the foundation they've laid but I still think they're one year (and another offensive game breaker) away from being really, really good. Also, you have to beware of shaded lines on a team that the public will be all over.
18) Arizona Cardinals - See: San Francisco. Just like the Giants and 'Skins in the East, the Cardinals and 49ers are a coin flip when it comes to which will make a move. The X-factor here is the mad scientist known as Clancy Pendergast, the defensive coordinator. He's going to alternate 3-4 and 4-3 looks, and if the defense can respond (and stay healthy) then they have some guys who can do some damage.
19) Kansas City Chiefs - On one hand, I love what they're doing with the focus and dedication on the defense. On the other hand, if Larry Johnson puts his diaper back on and isn't in top form (if he plays at all) then this team may not win five games. And I think one of two words is going to sum up the Brodie Croyle Experience: petrifying or revolting.
20) New York Giants - Jesus this is a flaky, shaky, scary team. I recommend not making any major moves for or against the G-Men this year. On one hand they have all the makings of a team ready to implode - lame duck coach, underachieving malcontents on offense, no locker room leaders, a quarterback dangerously close to losing the confidence of the fans, players and media, and R.W. McQuarters. That's a recipe for Disaster if ever I saw one. But be warned: the Giants play their best when everyone doubts them.
21) Washington Redskins - The Redskins are basically the Giants, only with a quarterback that's still too young to hate. The pieces are there for them to make a decent move, but there are still too many question marks to think they'll do anything but go 6-10 or 7-9. I will say that I am a big Jason Campbell fan, though. The kid can play.
22) Detroit Lions - Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before. The Lions are a "sleeper" this year. Let's forget for one second that they are 24-72 during the Millen Dynasty and instead focus on the fact that they're being lead by Jon Kitna. Kitna's a good enough guy, but in his 10-year tenure the best team he ever quarterbacked was a 9-7 Seattle squad back 1999. Oh, and if Millen were to suit up right now he might be the Lions' best linebacker. That's a problem.
23) Houston Texans - I have to admit that I'm a closet Texans fan. I don't know what it is, but I get a solid vibe from this team and think they can be a decent earner this year. I don't think they'll win more than seven games, but I think they will be able to hang within some monster lines. Schedule makers must hate puppies and Texans; in a five-game stretch from Oct. 28 to Dec. 2 Houston plays four times on the road.
24) Green Bay Packers - Brett Favre is back to bilk unsuspecting worshippers into ill-conceived bets that overestimate his faded power. Good times. Defensively, this might be the best Packers unit since the Reverend roamed the sidelines. They stood pat in free agency and had a shaky draft, so there's not much reason to think they'll top last season's 8-8 mark.
25) Buffalo Bills - This year is the stereotypical step backwards before a potentially big step forward next season. They torched most of their defense in the offseason, and now their 11 projected starters average just two years of NFL experience apiece.
26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Apparently backup quarterbacks grow on trees in the Greater Tampa area because the Bucs have three of them. We saw in Cleveland and Detroit what Jeff Garcia does with subpar talent around him.
27) Oakland Raiders - They have a slashing, violent, vulgar defense and two solid running backs. That's a solid foundation on which to build. Jamarcus Russell is going to struggle quite a bit this year because I question his ability to digest a game plan and recognize NFL defenses. But he'll still make more plays than they got out of their QB's last year and that can only mean improvement.
28) Minnesota Vikings - I will admit it: I think I saw the same spark in Tav Jackson that the Minnesota management did last year in his limited duty. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't suck or that the Vikings wideouts aren't on par with the receivers at a mediocre Mid-American Conference school. I guarantee that the Vikes don't score more points in one game than the number I have them ranked at right now.
29) Cleveland Browns - The Brownies are flaunting some of the most overrated offensive players in the league - Kellen Winslow, Brady Quinn - so it's easy to assume they'll be better than they actually are. They are still very much The Gimp in that brutal NFC North.
30) Atlanta Falcons - Right now Mike Vick has the Falcons bent over one of his rape stands. The defense is in shambles and the offense is learning a new system. Oh yeah, and their coach is used to game planning for Connecticut and South Florida. Awesome.
31) Tennessee Titans - Fade Vince, fade Vince, fade Vince. The offense is shaky, at best, after letting any semi-productive players go in the offseason. Although they lack depth, they do have some nice things cooking on defense. But that's not enough. Also, I'll be impressed if they win more than one road game with their schedule.
32) Miami Dolphins - There's actually a chance that (Ms.) Cleo Lemon could be the opening game starter under center for the Fins. The defense is old and not nearly as strong as last year's No. 4 ranking suggests, and the offense is, well, like a 240-pounder in a bikini on South Beach.
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