WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 1: NFC dominates top spots
|09.05.13 at 8:47 am ET|
The “Boys of Fall” are back for another year, as the NFL season is ready to kick off. There are many storylines surrounding the 2013 season. Coaches are on the hot seat, rookie QBs are set to start, and divisional rivalries are as nasty as ever.
The NFC West was the joke of the NFL just a few years ago. Now that division dominates the WEEI NFL Power Rankings with the two top spots. The Niners begin the year at No. 1, while the second-ranked Seahawks smell blood and are committed to winning the division behind their ferocious defense. The Falcons, Broncos and Packers round out the top five, while the Patriots (6) are on the outside looking in.
We could see a shakeup as early as next week when the Niners put their lofty ranking on the line against the Packers.
And so it begins, the first edition of the NFL Power Rankings for the 2013 season. Be sure to check back here every Tuesday to see the latest version, and feel free to leave comments at the bottom to eviscerate me because you’re unhappy your team was left out of the top 10.
1. 49ers (11-4-1) — The 49ers win games because of their style of play. It’s hard to find a faster, more physical defense in the league. Offensively, they run the ball down their opponent’s throat and complement the run game with a calculated passing attack. Oh yeah, they don’t turn the ball over, either.
2. Seahawks (11-5) — It’s all about securing home-field advantage in Seattle, because we saw last year what a difference it made when the Seahawks played at home. There’s no reason why this team can’t be a Super Bowl contender. Pete Carroll‘s club plays the game well in all phases.
3. Falcons (13-3) — The Falcons don’t have many weaknesses. They can beat you through the air and on the ground with a balanced offensive attack. They’re also strong defensively and are well-coached. Anything less than a return to the NFC championship should be considered a disappointment in Atlanta.
4. Broncos (13-3) — This Broncos offense is capable of putting up similar numbers to the Patriots’ 2007 squad. The defense may struggle at times, especially with Von Miller out for six games, but Peyton Manning and friends will simply outscore their opponents week after week.
5. Packers (11-5) — The one thing the loaded Packers offense was lacking was a run game. Green Bay went into the draft and selected two running backs who will make an immediate impact. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be a scary team if they can finally add a run game to their high-flying offense.
6. Patriots (12-4) — Offensively, it’s fair to say this Patriots team won’t put up the same numbers we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the past few seasons. However, Tom Brady and company still will put plenty of points on the board, and the defense will continue to improve. You can always count on the Patriots to be well-coached and to limit turnovers while creating them on defense. That formula will lead to another division title.
7. Texans (12-4) — Houston is balanced, talented and capable of reaching the Super Bowl. Whether Matt Schaub can take this team there should be the biggest concern for Texans fans.
8. Ravens (10-6) — Many critics are discussing the loss of starters on defense, but the Ravens will be fine in that area. Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Elvis Dumervil ensure that Baltimore’s D is on par with where it’s been in the past. Offense should be the main concern. Joe Flacco won’t have two of his favorite receivers in Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. That could be the difference-maker.
9. Bengals (10-6) — Maybe it’s the influence of “Hard Knocks,” but I think the Bengals have the potential to be one of the top teams in the AFC. They had a strong draft and added immediate impact players on offense with Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert. A.J. Green isn’t the only offensive weapon opposing teams have to worry about.
10. Bears (10-6) — It’s a new era for the Bears. When Jay Cutler takes center in Week 1, he’ll do so behind four new starters on the offensive line. Kyle Long and Jordan Mills are two very talented rookies who should be able to help improve the protection for Cutler.
11. Redskins (10-6) — It took a long, grueling season plus a nasty knee injury, but Robert Griffin III seems to finally understand the importance of sliding. Everyone knows the success of the Redskins rides on the health of their second-year QB.
12. Giants (9-7) — Health is key in the NFL, and the Giants are pretty beat up heading into the season. Starting offensive linemen David Baas and David Diehl are out, and Justin Pierre-Paul is hurting as well. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see the G-Men stagger out of the gate then turn on the burners later in the year.
13. Saints (7-9) — In 2012, the Saints defense allowed an embarrassing total of 7,042 total yards — worst in league history. Rob Ryan has been brought in to turn that defense around, but questions still remain on how New Orleans will get a pass rush.
14. Cowboys (8-8) — It’s all about balance in Big D. New offensive coordinator Bill Callahan will be determined to implement a strong running game. The run game will help limit Tony Romo turnovers and open up the passing game. This should be the year “America’s Team” makes it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
15. Colts (11-5) — Andrew Luck had a stellar first year and helped lead the Colts to nine more wins than the previous season. Two areas that needed to be addressed in the offseason were the offensive line and the run game. Indy took care of both by signing Ahmad Bradshaw and tackle Gosder Cherilus. The Colts also used two draft picks on linemen. Luck was sacked 41 times last year. Protecting the franchise QB should be the No. 1 priority.
16. Vikings (10-6) — It may be difficult to repeat last season’s success, but the Vikings should be competitive once again. They have a lot of young talent, with their three first-round draft picks (DT Sharrif Floyd, CB Xavier Rhodes and WR Cordarrelle Patterson) expected to make a significant impact. Adrian Peterson will shoulder the load on offense and Jared Allen will be a menace on the pass rush.
17. Steelers (8-8) — The Steelers appear to be a team that won’t show much improvement from last year but won’t decline much, either. The offensive line still is weak and the run game will be an issue until rookie Le’Veon Bell can return. Defensively, Troy Polamalu is past his prime.
18. Buccaneers (7-9) — The Bucs are a young team led by a fiery coach and should be one of the most enjoyable squads to watch in 2013. If they continue to improve under Greg Schiano, the Bucs are talented enough to compete for a wild card berth in the NFC.
19. Rams (7-8-1) — Sam Bradford may be primed for a career season after the Rams finally went out and got him some offensive line help. Jake Long will be inserted at left tackle and responsible for keeping the fourth-year QB upright. Bradford also has some new shiny offensive weapons that should make a huge difference.
20. Dolphins (7-9) — Those who are predicting Miami to win the AFC East over the Patriots should be drug-tested. The Dolphins are a strong team but nowhere near the same level as elite AFC teams like the Broncos, Ravens, Texans and Patriots. Their run game is unproven, the offensive line has holes, and the secondary isn’t strong enough to stand up against the Bradys and Mannings of the conference.
21. Chiefs (2-14) — Alex Smith‘s addition to the offense immediately solves one major problem the Chiefs dealt with last year: turnovers. Kansas City finished 2012 in a three-way tie for last place in total turnovers. Smith knows how to protect the football.
22. Panthers (7-9) — Running the ball usually is the main responsibility of a team’s running back. However, that hasn’t been the case in Carolina since the arrival of Cam Newton. The Panthers need more production from DeAngelo Williams if the offense is going to improve.
23. Lions (4-12) — The Lions will start the season with a very shaky secondary. That must be concerning to coach Jim Schwartz when quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler are in the division. Chris Houston and second-round pick Darius Slay will start at cornerback.
24. Eagles (4-12) — Chip Kelly will fix many things in Philadelphia, but the Eagles have a major weakness on defense: They can’t tackle.
25. Titans (6-10) — The Titans need Chris Johnson to get off to a strong start to help take some of the pressure off the rest of the offense. This is a huge season for Jake Locker, and he won’t be able to take strides forward if the run game is inconsistent.
26. Chargers (7-9) — The rapid decline of the Chargers over the past couple of years has been troubling to watch for San Diego fans. This year doesn’t look too promising. The offensive line will be one of the worst in the league, the run game is mediocre and they’ve already lost two receivers to injury.
27. Browns (5-11) — It was an encouraging preseason for the Browns as Brandon Weeden played well throughout. Cleveland has young talent all around its roster, and the continued development of those players is key. The hiring of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator should help that development on D.
29. Cardinals (5-11) — You can’t put lipstick on a pig, and that’s exactly what the Cardinals did with their offense for 2013. Yes, Carson Palmer is an improvement from the talentless group the team used at QB last year. However, Palmer won’t be the solution. He’s too careless with the football and doesn’t have a strong run game to support him.
30. Jets (6-10) — I can only imagine how terrible the feeling must be for Jets fans, knowing their team has no shot before the season even starts. Rex Ryan will have plenty of free time next year to watch his son play college football.
31. Jaguars (2-14) — Last season was another disastrous one for the Jaguars. Their offense was stagnant with a poor offensive line and an injured Maurice Jones-Drew. This year, Drew is back and offensive lineman Luke Joeckel was selected with the second overall pick. Jacksonville won’t make the playoffs, probably won’t even compete for a spot, but should be better than last year.
32. Raiders (4-12) — Calling the Raiders the most dysfunctional organization in the league is an understatement.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or send via Twitter to @JoeZWEEI.