|WEEI NFL Power Rankings – Week 4||09.29.09 at 7:27 am ET|
Entering Week 4, the Giants remain the kings of WEEI’s Power Rankings. The Giants steamrolled Tampa Bay and did not allow a single point.
The biggest jump in the rankings probably comes as no surprise. The Cincinnatti Bengals rose up to No. 10 as they made Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers “Kiss the Baby.” The 1-2 Steelers still remain in the top 10 at No. 9.
Expect a lot of movement after next week’s games as there are many key matchups to watch. The Jets head to New Orleans, the Ravens play the Patriots, the Vikings take on the Packers, and the Falcons play the 49ers.
1. (Last week, 1) The one thing lacking from the Giants until Week 3 was their run game. That run game arrived and made a statement at Tampa Bay as Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs totaled 226 yards. As always the Giants D played great. They pitched a shutout and remain the top team in the NFL.
2. (3) Joe Flacco is maturing into a pretty solid quarterback. Flacco turned in another great game on Sunday with 342 passing yards and a touchdown. The Ravens defense continues to force turnovers. We’ll learn a lot about this team when they travel to New England on Sunday.
3. (5) The Colts have proven a lot over the past two weeks. They’ve played in two primetime games on the road and have come out victorious in both. Not to mention they went from Miami to Arizona and prepared on a short week. Peyton Manning and the Colts are a tough team to beat.
4. (6) The 3-0 Saints show no signs of slowing down. On Sunday the Saints did two things that showed they were for real. No. 1, they established a run game. No. 2, the Saints D proved it isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. Terrell Owens wasn’t able to record one reception. Looking forward to seeing what the Saints are made of over the next two weeks. The 3-0 Saints will face both teams from the “City that Never Sleeps” at home over the next two weeks.
5. (9) The Jets stepped up in the fourth quarter and that is a sign of a good football team. The first-place team in the AFC East forced an interception and did not allow a point in the final 15 minutes. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez continued to roll and put his team in a position to win.
6. (10) The Patriots came out with an excellent game plan to beat a very solid team. However, there are many concerns around this football team. Injuries are one problem (Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Laurence Maroney, Randy Moss and Wes Welker). The next major problem is the red-zone offense. The Patriots have scored one touchdown in their last eight tries in the red zone. One stat that has been overlooked following the win against the Falcons is the fact the Patriots only committed two penalties for a total of 10 yards after being penalized 11 times for 89 yards against the Jets. The Patriots will continue to get better as the season rolls on.
7. (7) After Brett Favre pulled off yet another miracle comeback, it’s tough not to like this Vikings team. Unbelievable pass by Favre and an even better catch by Greg Lewis. The Vikings beat a good 49ers team and proved they don’t need Adrian Peterson to rush for over 100 yards every time to win a game.
8. (8) The Chargers are running into similar red zone problems as the Patriots. Phillip Rivers has turned into one of the best quarterbacks in the league and will fix those offensive struggles in the red zone.
9. (2) The defending champs are struggling a bit at 1-2. They had plenty of chances to put the Bengals away but couldn’t get the job done. Kicker Jeff Reed missed another field goal this week and this could be turning into a major problem. The Steelers are too talented of a team to continue to make the mistakes they have over the past couple weeks. Big test for them Sunday against San Diego.
10. (22) I was pretty lonely on the Bengals bandwagon a couple weeks ago. Now, after Week 3, the Bengals chant of, “Who dey, who dey? Who dey think gonna beat them Bengals?” can be heard for miles. Although I believe overall the Steelers are a better team, the Bengals have made two huge statements over the past two weeks by beating Green Bay at Lambeau and now the defending Super Bowl champs. By far, the NFL’s best story this season after three weeks.
11. (11) Two straight weeks of solid football for Jay Cutler and the Bears. Many have forgotten about the QB’s miserable performance against the Packers in Week 1. Cutler showed what he can do on the road on the final drive of the game as the Bears came back and took the lead.
12. (4) The Falcons were just outcoached and outplayed against New England on Sunday. They weren’t able to establish a run game, their defensive line was pushed around, and Matt Ryan was only able to get Tony Gonzalez the ball once. The Falcons will look to rebound next week at San Francisco. Their offense is filled with too many playmakers to suffer another week like they did in New England.
13. (15) Aaron Rodgers was able to make a lot of big plays against St. Louis as he found his receivers for some huge gains. The Packers’ true ability and strength continues to be a mystery throughout this early season. They won a sloppy game against Chicago in Week 1 but lost to the Bengals at home in Week 2. The win against the Rams didn’t really show us anything. I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat next week when the Packers and Brett Favre’s Vikings go at it.
14. (16) The loss of Frank Gore will hurt the 49ers and will force quarterback Shaun Hill to throw the ball more. From what we’ve seen of the young QB so far he is ready for the challenge. He’s thrown just one interception all year. The 49ers suffered a heartbreaking loss to Minnesota and this team’s talent and character will be tested following that loss and without their star halfback.
15. (14) The Eagles are 2-1 heading into a much-needed bye week. They will rest up, get healthy and be a tough team to beat when McNabb and Westbrook are back.
17. (23) The Broncos‘ record does not reflect the type of team they really are. They have been blessed with a pretty easy schedule to start the season. It doesn’t get much worse than the Browns and Raiders. What’s next for the Broncos, you ask? Cowboys, Patriots, Chargers, Ravens, Steelers. I’d be surprised if the Broncos came away with one win.
18. (12) Being held scoreless into the fourth quarter with an interception and a sack on two drives down the stretch makes it tough to win a game. Plus Kerry Collins didn’t receive much help from his receivers — there were a lot of dropped balls. The Titans have run into some pretty solid teams and must be looking forward to the Jaguars this Sunday.
19. (17) The Cardinals’ defense had no answers for Peyton Manning and the Colts offense. Plus the Cards turned the ball over twice when they were driving in Indianapolis territory. The Cardinals have been under-performing and disappointing so far this season.
20. (20) Jim Mora Jr. made it quite clear after the loss to Chicago on Sunday that the Seahawks will be looking for a kicker to replace Olindo Mare. If Mare didn’t miss two key field goals they could be a lot higher in the rankings.
22. (27) The Jaguars need more than just Maurice Jones-Drew to be successful in this league.
23. (21) The Texans defense that many said would be highly improved this year ranks at 29th in total defense and 28th in points allowed in the NFL.
24. (19) Unfortunately for Chad Pennington, he suffered another major injury on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. Chad Henne is no Matt Cassell. I don’t have much confidence in Henne, especially against teams like the Patriots and the Jets. The Dolphins season is “done like dinner” and they’ve only played three games.
25. (24) The Panthers continue to run into the same problems. Jake Delhomme threw an interception to Terrence Newman, who ran the ball into the end zone to seal the game for the Cowboys. Although the pick probably wasn’t Delhomme’s fault this time, the Panthers always seem to find a way to turn the ball over in the fourth quarter.
26. (30) The Lions jump higher once again after finally getting “King Kong off our back,” in the words of Lions owner William Clay Ford.
27. (25) The Redskins can’t seem to match results with the talent they have on their team. It doesn’t get much worse than a loss to a team that hasn’t won a game since December 2007 following a near loss against the worst team in the NFL, the Rams. Time to hit the panic button.
28. (26) You’ve got to feel bad for a guy like Richard Seymour who goes from playing with Tom Brady to JaMarcus Russell. When Russell figures out he’s not supposed to throw the ball to the other team maybe the Raiders will be able to pull off a W.
29. (28) The Bucs allow an average of over 30 points a game. Maybe if they had the offense of the Saints, Falcons or Patriots they would be able to win a game.
30. (31) The Chiefs were 0-11 on third down and committed 10 penalties in their loss to the Eagles. Scott Pioli has his work cut out for him.
31. (29) Things can’t get much worse for Eric Mangini and the Browns. The Browns have the worst offense in the NFL but that’s not even the worst part. When the players file a grievance against their own coach, a team has hit rock bottom.
32. (32) The Rams rank 28th in total offense and 26th in total defense. Marc Bulger suffered a bruised rotator cuff. How bad can it get for St. Louis?
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings — Week 3||09.22.09 at 12:11 am ET|
The Giants, Falcons and Saints are among a few teams that are “Moving on Up” in WEEI’s Week 3 Power Rankings. Week 2 is in the books, and we saw a lot of surprises. Two of the top three teams (the Patriots and Steelers) tasted defeat on Sunday. The Bengals “Lambeau Leaped” up in the rankings after their big upset win in Green Bay. The Titans dropped to No. 12 after falling to 0-2.
‘¢ This week can be characterized as the week of the bounce-back ‘ the Bills, Cardinals, Texans and Raiders all rebounded from tough losses in Week 1.
‘¢ At the bottom of the barrel you’ll still find the same teams. The Rams remain the worst team in football. The Lions are averaging a one-spot jump per week as they’ve gone from No. 32 to No. 31 and now No. 30.
‘¢ And lastly ‘ sorry, Kristine Leahy ‘ the Patriots have fallen to No. 10 after their loss in the Meadowlands.
1. (Last week, 2) Big win for the G-Men against a tough divisional opponent on the road. Many thought this offense would struggle without Plaxico Burress, but that certainly hasn’t been the case after watching Eli Manning and his young wide receivers go to work.
2. (1) Despite the loss to the Bears, Pittsburgh remains the best team in the AFC. The Steelers could very easily have left Chicago with the “W” if the usually reliable Jeff Reed didn’t miss two field goals down the stretch.
3. (8) Big win for the Ravens against one of the top teams in the AFC. Joe Flacco didn’t put up the same numbers as he did last week but he certainly did enough to get the job done. This is a confidence-builder win, and Ray Lewis and the Ravens are riding high.
4. (7) Atlanta is firing on all cylinders. Matt Ryan looks like a seasoned veteran. (I think it’s safe to say that trading for Tony Gonzalez was probably a good idea.) Ryan and Gonzalez have hooked up 12 times this year for 144 yards. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Mike Peterson has been a force, making tackles and forcing fumbles.
5. (5) It’s simply amazing that Indianapolis was able to win on Monday night after just 14:53 in time of possession. Peyton Manning and the Colts needed just 12 seconds in their opening drive to score a touchdown. The Colts get the job done on offense when they need to.
6. (14) The Saints offense is scary good. This offensive unit is the best in football, and Drew Brees is in line to break Tom Brady’s TD record. The offense isn’t the only unit doing its job. The defense forced three turnovers and returned an interception for a TD, and special teams caused a fumble. However, the defense is still the biggest question mark on this team as the Saints have yet to face a real test ‘ Philadephia without McNabb behind center does not count as a difficult test.
7. (11) The 2-0 Vikings look good in the early going. Brett Favre isn’t hurting his team with turnovers, and is doing enough to help his team win. Adrian Peterson continues to be the biggest offensive threat in the game.
8. (6) The Chargers were forced to settle for field goals in the red zone three times. Philip Rivers was able to throw for more than 400 yards against the Ravens defense, but the Chargers weren’t able to execute when they needed it most.
9. (13) Rex Ryan has brought one hell of a defense to New York. The Jets made a statement on Sunday by not allowing Tom Brady and the Pats to score a single touchdown. Darrelle Revis has faced Andre Johnson and Randy Moss so far this season and completely shut down both of them. Mark Sanchez is a rookie starter, and has thrown just one interception.
10. (3) Brady doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket, and teams are going after No. 12 hard. It’s inevitable that future opponents will copy the Jets’ strategy and continue to pressure Brady and the offensive line. Let’s see how the the Pats respond Sunday when they face another tough test in the Falcons. Look for the Patriots to run the ball more and take advantage of their solid running backs, as I think Belichick realizes Brady has thrown the ball far too much over the past two games. The Patriots sit at No. 10 at this point, but by midseason Brady should be back in his groove and the defense will improve.
11. (18) Great win for the Bears after losing to their division rival at Green Bay last week. Jay Cutler came back this week and proved he was a lot better than his performance last week.
12. (4.) The Titans suffered a bad loss to the Texans after a solid performance against the Steelers in Week 1. Tennessee has fallen to 0-2. Matt Schaub and the Texans receivers tore up the Titans D.
13. (9) The Cowboys played the Giants tough, but Tony Romo wasn’t at the top of his game. Romo was very inaccurate, but he should be able to bounce back next week against Carolina.
14. (15) Kevin Kolb will more than likely make the start for the Eagles next week against Kansas City. In his first pro start, Kolb made some good throws but also made some bad decisions and turned the ball over three times.
15. (12) After a great win against the Bears last week, the Packers suffered a tough loss to the Bengals at home. Green Bay has to protect Aaron Rodgers better or it will be a long season. Rodgers was sacked six times on Sunday. Tackle Chad Clifton left the game in the third quarter with a sprained ankle, and it’s possible he could miss next week’s game against the Rams.
17. (17) The Cardinals bounced back well this week, and that offense finally showed what it is capable of. It will be interesting to see how Arizona plays against a tough team in the Colts next week. This will be a good test to see what this Cardinals team is made of.
18. (20) The Bills showed some character on Sunday as they bounced back and beat the Bucs. Fred Jackson turned in a very impressive performance and the Buffalo running game will only get better when Marshawn Lynch gets back from suspension. This offense is very talented.
19. (22) The Dolphins fought hard and came away from the game Monday night with some positives. Chad Pennington and the Miami offense put together some great drives and took control of the game. If it wasn’t for Ted Ginn Jr. letting a couple of balls go off his fingertips in the end zone, the Dolphins might be celebrating a win.
20. (10) Matt Hasselbeck has a fractured rib and his status is unknown for next week. Assuming he doesn’t play, the Seahawks have to rely on Julius Jones and their running game to shoulder the load while Seneca Wallace fills in for Hasselbeck.
21. (25) The Texans looked like a completely different team on Sunday, as their offense was in complete control and manhandled the Titans D.
22. (26) If there were 15 more seconds on the clock, the Bengals probably would have blown another win. Cincinnati should be riding high after upsetting the Packers in Green Bay and after great performances from Cedric Benson and Antwan Odom.
23. (24) Not many people thought the Broncos would start the season 2-0, but look at who they have defeated.
24. (19) Even though Jake Delhomme played a lot better this week he still ran into the same “ole” problems when he threw an interception in the red zone during the fourth quarter. The ’08 NFC South champs are 0-2 and it doesn’t get easier next week when they travel to Dallas to take on a hungry Cowboys team.
25. (21) The Redskins couldn’t score one touchdown against the Rams ‘ enough said.
26. (27) It’s difficult to believe the Raiders beat the Chiefs on Sunday after a very poor performance from JaMarcus Russell.
27. (23) The Jaguars are almost as pathetic as their fans … or lack thereof. Time to move the team to Los Angeles.
28. (28) The Bucs are in for a long season. Thirteen penalties for more than 100 yards isn’t the formula for success.
29. (29) Watching Eric Mangini and the Browns struggle puts a smile on the faces of Patriots fans.
30. (31) The Detroit Lions are showing signs of improvement after jumping out to a 10-0 lead against the Vikings.
31. (30) The Chiefs continued to burn themselves with mistake after mistake ‘ nine penalties for 70 yards and one huge personal foul penalty during the Raiders’ winning drive Sunday.
32. (32) The Rams continued to struggle on Sunday. The team has scored 7 points in the last two weeks. Steven Jackson’s performance was the one bright spot on Sunday for St. Louis.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 2||09.15.09 at 7:21 pm ET|
To quote Glenn Ordway, “You learn nothing after the first week of the NFL season.” But we’re going to analyze and rank the teams anyway. Among the teams that moved up this week are the Seahawks (17 to 10) and the Jets (18 to 13). The Bears (18) and the Panthers (19) are two teams that dropped dramatically in the rankings.
1. (Last week, 1) The Steelers don’t need a run game when they’ve got a guy like Ben Roethlisberger under center. Their defense was of championship caliber, and they beat a tough Titans team. The only question mark going into next week’s game at Chicago and beyond is how will the secondary respond without Troy Polamalu. Tyrone Carter and Ryan Clark seem ready to step up.
2. (4) One of the big question marks going into this game was how would Eli Manning perform without Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. Manning spread the ball around to Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss, and it was clear those players were capable of filling Plaxico’s shoes. Osi Umenyiora is back with a vengeance, and that Giants defense is scary with Justin Tuck and Osi on the ends.
3. (2) On Monday night, Patriots fans left Gillette Stadium happy — but shocked. The Patriots looked very shaky against a mediocre team. The Bills did a great job of getting pressure on Tom Brady, and I think everyone agrees Tom Brady didn’t play to the level we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. But all that being the case, check out these numbers: 378 passing yards, 39 completions and 2 TD’s. It will be scary when Brady is back at the top of his game. Any other team would have lost that game, but the Patriots are the exception. They get the key turnovers and produce under pressure.
4. (7.) The Titans played their hearts out in Pittsburgh on opening night, and proved that last year’s team was no fluke. Playing on the road against the Super Bowl champs is no easy task, and the Titans almost pulled it off. Former Steeler and current Titan Nate Washington said after the game, “‘The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t beat the Tennessee Titans, the Tennessee Titans beat the Tennessee Titans.” The Titans have something to prove, and will start with the Texans on Sunday.
5. (3) This time it was the Colts defense that stepped up. Stopping Maurice Jones-Drew multiple times in the red zone is no easy task. Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne hasn’t lost a beat. We’ll see how Peyton responds to the absence of Anthony Gonzalez on the field next week.
6. (5) LaDainian Tomlinson? On the sidelines with the game in the balance? Shocker! Once again, LT watched his team from the bench. The self proclaimed “best back” in the NFL isn’t even the best back on his team. Philip Rivers showed why he is one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league with his Bradyesque comeback.
7. (8) As Jon Meterparel would say, “Take a bow Matty Heisman. Take a bow.” Matt Ryan continues to improve, and with Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons are a scary team. The defense that was under such scrutiny going into the season almost had a shutout to open the season.
8. (10) It’s starting to look like the Ravens offense is ready to step up and compliment that defense. Joe Flacco passed for over 300 yards and 3 TD’s. They’ll be a dangerous team if the offense can continue to put up numbers like they did against the Chiefs.
9. (13) How bout dem Cowboys? Tony Romo and the Cowboys don’t need Terrell Owens. Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Jason Witten, Marion Barber and Felix Jones help make Dallas one of the best offenses in the league. And, who didn’t love Williams’ snarky rip of Terrell Owens after the game.
10. (17) The Seahawks played well in their shutout win against the worst team in the league. But even though they played the Rams, Seattle can take a lot of positives out of this win. Julius Jones ran for over 100 yards, Matt Hasselbeck spread the ball around, and the defense shut out St. Louis, which is difficult to do against any NFL team.
12. (16) I don’t know what to think of the Packers game against the Bears. Jay Cutler looked awful, and some of the calls Lovie Smith made caused fans to scratch their heads. Positives: The defense looked solid in the 3-4 and Aaron Rodgers proved he can come from behind and win a game.
13. (18) The AFC East doesn’t look like so much of a lock as it did before the season started for New England — the Patriots have some challengers. Mark Sanchez played great and the Jets blitz packages kept the Texans offense on its toes. I might have considered ranking them higher if I didn’t have to see Rex Ryan in a wet shirt. I don’t care if it was Ryan’s first win as a head coach — the “Gatorade Shower” is a tradition that should be practiced only at the end of championship games.
14. (14) I don’t care how many TD passes Drew Brees threw — when a team allows the Detroit Lions to put up 27 points on the scoreboard,whether on special teams-offense-or-defense, they will not move up in the power rankings. The Saints stay at No. 14 with a mediocre defense and an explosive offense.
15. (6) If it wasn’t for the injuries to Donovan Mcnabb and starting right tackle Shawn Andrews, the Eagles would have moved up in the power rankings after a great performance against the Panthers. However, you can’t expect much from Kevin Kolb. Eagles fans should pray that Mcnabb will be back on the field by Week 3.
17. (9) The defending NFC champs lost to a mediocre team on Sunday. They had a total of 12 penalties and turned the ball over twice, but this Cardinals team is talented on both sides of the football. This offense can be explosive.
18. (12) The Bears can’t be this bad, can they? Cutler made some terrible decisions, and that resulted in 4 interceptions. However, the Bears still had a chance to win that game if it wasn’t for Lovie Smith being absolutely clueless. Dumb challenges and play calls was the main reason why the Bears looked unprepared and sloppy against the Packers.
19. (11) How much longer will Jake Delhomme be taking the snaps in Carolina? The Panthers have a tough schedule, and can’t afford to turn the ball over as much as they have in recent games.
20. (22) The Bills shocked everyone but themselves on Monday night; actually I think they did shock themselves. The Bills have potential to give a lot of teams trouble this year. However, a loss like the one they suffered Monday night can really hurt them. Let’s see how they bounce back against a bad Tampa team next week.
21. (19) The Redskins made a valiant effort to comeback in beat the Giants, but at the end of the day the Giants were just a better team. It’s not that the ‘Skins are a bad team — the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys are just all better.
22. (20) Four turnovers, three of them fumbles. The Dolphins looked more like the 1-15 team in 2007 then the 11-5 team of 2008.
23. (21) The Jags’ D can come out of this game with a moral victory after holding the Colts offense to just 14 points. M.J. Drew turned in another great performance but he’s the only high point of that offense.
24. (27) A win is a win, but the Broncos can’t expect balls to just drop in their hands all season.
25. (23) The Texans looked real bad at home against the Jets on Sunday. Matt Schaub looked pathetic against the Jets D. The Texans came into that game unprepared and it showed.
26. (25) The Bengals will improve this season — I’m convinced of it. Carson and Chad will find that groove, and it begins next week against Green Bay.
27. (30) The Raiders performance was more shocking then the Bills performance on Monday night. Oakland has some young talented players, and Richard Seymour played great after just a few days in that system. But how can anyone have faith in Jamarcus Russell?
28. (26) The Bucs had some bright spots on offense with Cadillac Williams coming back and rushing for over 100 yards, but they still have a long way to go in a tough division.
29. (29) I’m interested to see what Eric Man”genious” has up his sleeve to help fix this team. Congratulations to the Browns for scoring their first offensive touchdown in 7 games.
30. (28) Matt Cassel needs to get back on the field for the Chiefs to move up. With the play of the Raiders, the Chiefs become the worst team in the worst division in football. Congratulations.
31. (32) Detroit showed some life Sunday when they put up 27 points against the Saints. A moral victory for the Lions. Matthew Stafford had some good moments and some not so good moments but there is light at the end of the tunnel for this Lions’ offense.
32. (31) Pathetic and pitiful are the first two words that come to mind when I see the St. Louis Rams logo.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 1||09.09.09 at 9:34 pm ET|
Football is finally here! To mark the start of the season WEEI.com is introducing its weekly NFL Power rankings. Count on the rankings to be posted every Tuesday throughout the season and feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.
1. You’ve got to beat the best to be the best. The defending champs have one of the best defenses in the league, led by 2008 Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. And, they’ve got a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who has proven can win the big game.
2. With the offense the Patriots have they can send 11 rookies out on defense and still outscore their opponent. Who says Brady can’t match his 2007 career year? Joey Galloway compliments Wes Welker and Randy Moss nicely, plus he has a plethora of running backs to keep opposing defenses on its toes. The Patriots defense will need some time to gel, but come playoff time, the Patriots’ D will be a force.
3. Yes, they lost Tony Dungy, but they still have Peyton Manning. It’s also ridiculous that they had to travel to San Diego for their playoff game after finishing the regular season with a better record.
4. Great coach, solid defense and a proven winner at quarterback. The Giants will be a major threat to win the NFC this year.
5. You can mark the Chargers down with a perfect 8-0 record in their division. Plus Shawne Merriman is back. If Merriman can stay on the field and not get distracted by his bisexual girlfriend Tila Tequilla, the Chargers will be a threat in the AFC.
6. If all reports are true Brian Westbrook is healthy and ready to go for the start of the season. It’s going to be a defensive nightmare for opposing teams that have to game plan against Philly’s offense.
8.With a full season under his belt, Matt Ryan is primed for another great year. Plus, the addition of Tony Gonzalez will compliment Michael Turner and the run game very well. John Abraham is a force coming off the line — he had 16.5 sacks last year, finishing third in the NFL.
10. OK, Bart Scott is gone, but the Ravens still have Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Bill Belichick’s binky, Ed Reed. Any defense with those three guys is going to be solid. Plus, Joe Flacco can only get better after having a very successful rookie season.
11. The Panthers are in a strong division, and have to travel to New York to face the Giants and New England to face the Patriots at the end of the season. They’ll also be playing in 13 straight games, as they are one of the unlucky teams that has a bye in week 4. Still, they’ve got a great run game and speed on the defensive line with Julius Peppers and rookie Everette Brown.
12. The Bears have a relatively easy schedule — they have nine games with teams that finished last season under .500. Jay Cutler seems comfortable, and fantasy owners all know what Matt Forte is capable of doing. The Bears win the division.
14. Drew Brees and the Saints offense can put up some major numbers this year, especially if Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush can stay healthy, but the fact remains that defense wins games. The Saints ranked 23rd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed in 2008.
15. The Vikings have the best running back in the game, but you can count on Adrian Peterson getting less touches this year because you know Brett Favre is going to try and sling the ball all over the field. Favre throws 25 INTs in 2009.
16. Their defense is very capable of becoming a solid top tier unit in the league with young and talented guys like Aaron Kampman and AJ Hawk. The season will tell how they perform in the new 3-4 defense, and how they respond to their new defensive coordinator (former Patriots assistant Dom Capers.)
18. The J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets will miss the playoffs again this year, but they’ve looked good. Mark Sanchez has played well in the preseason and they have a strong running game.
19. The addition of Albert Haynesworth won’t put them over the edge to make the playoffs unless 2-3 NFC teams suffer a huge debacle.
20. The worst team to win the AFC East since 2002 . Plus, coaches will be more prepared to stop the Wildcat this year.
21. Maurice Jones Drew is a stud that can put up great numbers, but their defense is well below average.
22. In a sudden move of desperation and panic, the Bills fired their offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. I do like 11th overall pick Aaron Maybin making a major impact on that defense.
23. Being in a division with the Colts and the Titans doesn’t help. I can’t see Matt Schaub playing in all 16 games without getting injured either.
24. I’ve been waiting for Vernon Davis to have a breakout season for the past three years, but it still hasn’t happened. The 49ers have a great run game and some really talented linebackers, but their passing game will struggle yet again.
25. I admit you could say I’m a little emotionally attached to this team after watching “Hard Knocks” over the past few weeks, but I think they have a lot of potential. I’m anxious to see if Carson Palmer and Chad Ocho Cinco can be dominant again, and I love linebacker Rey Maualuga.
28. Matt Cassel is back at practice, but is starting the season already banged up. The Chiefs only registered 10 sacks last year on defense. The number of sacks should grow this year, but not dramatically.
29. Someone please send a memo to Eric Mangini and tell him not announcing his starting quarterback is not going to matter one way or another. The Browns are still going finish in last place in their division. Plus, I think everyone knows Brady Quinn is getting the nod.
30. When your head coach is beating up his assistant coaches, don’t expect more than a four-win season. Jamarcus Russell is still unproven and its looking like there could be a serious problem with DE Richard Seymour still not reporting.
31. What happened to the greatest show on turf?
32. The worst of the worst. Unlike the Steelers — who are proven winners — the Lions are proven losers and rookie QB Matt Stafford has to prove he can win games before they can move up in the power rankings.