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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Training camp edition

07.20.10 at 7:48 am ET
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Training camp is right around the corner, and what better way to kick off the start of the NFL season with an edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings?

The Saints and Colts remain at No. 1 and 2 respectively coming off their Super Bowl appearances. Jumping into the top five are the Ravens, who enjoyed an excellent offseason in which they added a Pro Bowl wide receiver and watched their division rival Steelers lose their starting quarterback for 4-6 games.

With much offseason hype surrounding the Jets, Rex Ryan’s gang sits at No. 7 after adding many key players to their roster. The Patriots are looking up two spots at their AFC East rival at No. 9.

Feel free to leave your comments and opinions below.

New Orleans Saints1. The Saints will try to be the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2003-04 Patriots. The pass defense certainly will need to improve if they want to repeat.

2. Indy goes into this season trying to win 12 or more games for the eighth straight season — an unprecedented run of success for Peyton Manning and friends. Like many of the teams in the NFL, the defending AFC champs have some players threatening a holdout. Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis both are looking for new contracts despite the fact that two years remain on both of their current deals.

3. The Ravens finally have a big-name receiver to catch the ball. The addition of Anquan Boldin will make Baltimore a very difficult team to beat.

Green Bay Packers4. The Packers must protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked 57 times last season. Rodgers is turning into one of the premier QBs in the game and can lead this team to a championship if given the chance by his offensive line. Green Bay also has the luxury of playing Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit in three of the first four games.

Dallas Cowboys5. The Cowboys clearly are the favorites to win the NFC East this year with their weapons on the defensive line and the array of talent ready to catch passes from Tony Romo.

Minnesota Vikings6. Brad Childress visited Brett Favre in Mississippi on Monday, which probably means he wanted to find out when the 40-year old QB would be showing up to training camp. No one in football believes Favre won’t be back. The NFC North race guarantees to be an exciting one between the Vikings and Packers.

New York Jets7. Many are giving the Jets the AFC East before the season starts after the great offseason additions. But there are many question marks surrounding this team. Replacing Thomas Jones will be a difficult task. How will LaDainian Tomlinson perform in the cold weather? Can Mark Sanchez lead a team to a Super Bowl in just his second year?

8. Chargers GM A.J. Smith said he expects star receiver Vincent Jackson to hold out until Week 10. Philip Rivers is one of the best QBs in the game but doesn’t have a lot of options when throwing the ball. Starting left tackle Marcus McNeill is holding out as well and it doesn’t look like that issue is going to be resolved anytime soon.

New England Patriots 9. The key to the Patriots’ success in 2010 will be whether the defense has improved since 2009. Rushing the passer will be essential for New England to be successful this year. It will be interesting to see if rookies Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes will be able to make valuable contributions to the front seven.

10. The Giants will have their work cut out for them in one of the toughest divisions in football. The G-Men finished 30th in the NFL last year in points allowed with 427.

11. Matt Ryan’s play dropped off in ’09, but that quite possibly could have been as a result of the poor running game the Falcons had. A healthier and rejuvenated Michael Turner should solve that problem. I fully expect Atlanta to compete for a playoff spot in 2010.

Miami Dolphins12. Miami has added some great talent on both sides of the ball with Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby, but Chad Henne still is an unproven quarterback who needs to demonstrate he can win games.

Cincinnati Bengals13. With Ben Roethlisberger suspended for 4-6 games, the window of opportunity for the Bengals to make it to the playoffs for a second straight year is very good. Rey Maualuga is just one of the leaders on a defense that should improve again in 2010.

Pittsburgh Steelers 14. It will be difficult for the Steelers to have a successful 2010 season with star QB Ben Roethlisberger suspended. Not only will they have to break in a new quarterback for the start of the season, but they’ll also be battling in a division with a much improved Ravens team and a solid Bengals squad.

Carolina Panthers15. John Fox will be fighting for his job this season and could be one of the first coaches fired if the Panthers don’t get off to a solid start.

San Francisco 49ers16. The retirement of the Cardinals’ Kurt Warner means the 49ers are the favorites to win the NFC West, a feat the organization hasn’t accomplished since 2002. With the Niners possessing one of the best defensive players in the game in Patrick Willis, and tons of playmakers on the offense (Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree), the NFC West is theirs to lose.

Houston Texans17. The Texans will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in 2010. They finished their ’09 campaign with the first winning season in franchise history, rattling off four straight wins and just missing the playoffs. However, the suspension of Brian Cushing and the discontent with Andre Johnson could be too much of a distraction to overcome in Houston.

18. There’s relief in Tennessee, as Chris Johnson and the Titans have agreed in principle to a new contract. Never doubt the capabilities of Jeff Fisher. This team could surprise many this year.

19. If the Eagles couldn’t get it done with Donovan McNabb, they most certainly won’t be able to win the NFC East with Kevin Kolb taking snaps behind center.

Washington Redskins20. Any time a team trades for a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who has played in 16 playoff games, you know that team is headed in the right direction. Led by Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb, the Redskins now have an asset on their team they haven’t had in a long time — players and coaches that offer leadership and have experience winning. Don’t overlook the upgrades this team has made to its offensive line as well, adding Trent Williams and Jammal Brown.

Seattle Seahawks21. The Seahawks had a very productive offseason, drafting players who can immediately make an impact on the team. The key to the team’s success has always been protecting Matt Hasselbeck, and by drafting Russell Okung to do just that on the offensive line, it will greatly improve Seattle’s chances of competing for a division title.

Denver Broncos22. Not quite sure what to make of Josh McDaniels yet. In his one full season as Denver coach he has traded Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall and drafted Tim Tebow. Whether they are good moves or not … well, we’ll see.

Jacksonville Jaguars23. The start of the 2010 season means it’s time for David Garrard to step up and prove he is more than just a mediocre quarterback. Ownership has made it clear it is expecting a playoff berth this season, so the heat is on for Jack Del Rio and Garrard to produce.

Arizona Cardinals24. The loss of Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin will be too much for the Cardinals offense to recover from.

Chicago Bears25. All eyes will be on Jay Cutler this season after a poor first year in Chicago, when he threw 26 interceptions and turned the ball over in the red zone repeatedly.

Detroit Lions26. The Lions are finally doing things a little differently in Detroit and are adding solid talent to key positions. Kyle Vanden Bosch and first-round draft selection Ndamukong Suh makes up for a very solid defensive line. Detroit could be a team that surprises many and rattles off seven or eight wins.

Kansas City Chiefs27. The Chiefs quite possibly could have the best 1-2 running back combo in football with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.

Oakland Raiders28. The Raiders finally gave up on JaMarcus Russell and replaced him with a competent quarterback who can help the team win games. However, Tom Cable lacks the leadership qualities a coach should have.

Cleveland Browns29. The Browns offense can’t get much worse than it was in ’09, but an improvement is not likely. Eric Mangini will be fighting for his job all season.

Buffalo Bills30. The Bills’ 2010 season will be over before it begins, with it being a near certainty that the team will finish last in the AFC East division.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers31. The youth movement in Tampa Bay doesn’t excite fans now but could very well in the future. With young talented players including Josh Freeman, Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, the Bucs could be in a prime spot to compete in two or three years.

St. Louis Rams32. St. Louis and Sam Bradford are on the verge of making history by reportedly signing a contract giving Bradford the most guaranteed money in NFL history. Still, the Rams have a long way to go to being the “Greatest Show on Turf” again.

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