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Posted May 18, 2010
2010 NFL Power Rankings
1. Indianapolis Colts: New Orleans fans hate that they aren't No. 1 on any 2010 NFL Power Rankings because they won the Super Bowl last year. However, the question must be asked: Would the Saints win the Super Bowl against the Colts again if the Colts had Jerry Hughes and Dwight Freeney (at 100 percent health)? It's possible, but I believe their odds are certainly diminished somewhat and the Colts would be favored in that game. There isn't much to say here other than I expect the Colts defense and offense (with more experience at receiver) to be even better in 2010.
2. New Orleans Saints: I am not the biggest fan of the Saints drafting Patrick Robinson in the first round, but I'd like it if they move 2009 first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins to safety. Charles Brown gives this offense more insurance at left tackle, but we have to be on the lookout for the Saints being a little over-confident and complacent as we have to with any defending Super Bowl Champion.
3. Dallas Cowboys: Walter doesn't like Dallas as much as I do because of Wade Phillips - and I can't blame him. However, I think Dez Bryant even as a rookie is a massive upgrade over Roy Williams. Sean Lee also gives the linebacking corps more speed and playmaking ability. Doug Free is a massive question mark at left tackle (no Cowboy fans can debate this - he's barely played and we have no clue how good he is going to be), but I expect this to be a special season in Dallas. The downside: Tony Romo has absolutely no excuses after they drafted Bryant in the first round. If he can't reach the Super Bowl with this supporting cast, then he will never be regarded as a top-tier quarterback in the NFL.
4. Green Bay Packers: Let's all remember how EVERY football analyst on television (former players and coaches) all doubted Aaron Rodgers in his first season as a starter back in 2008. Of course, they are all smarter than us because they played the game at the highest level, but you can obviously see that playing football and analyzing the game/scouting talent has absolutely nothing to do with one another. Aaron Rodgers will be regarded as the best young quarterback in the game if he isn't already after this season. I love the pickup of Bryan Bulaga in the first round as well as bringing back Chad Clifton, who should be healthy. The defense will be even better with B.J. Raji going into his sophomore season.
5. Baltimore Ravens: WalterFootball.com pegged the Ravens as one of the surprising teams in the 2009 season, and this year we have even greater expectations with Anquan Boldin and Sergio Kindle coming into the fold. I am not sure if Joe Flacco can ever rise up and be regarded as an elite signal caller, but statistically I just can't see him not improve on last year's numbers. The defense will be great as usual, and the only real challenge in the AFC North with Big Ben gone for the Steelers' first four games is Cincinnati.
6. Minnesota Vikings: We'll see if the offensive line can continue to produce at the same level that it has in the last couple of seasons. I think the Toby Gerhart pick in the second round was a waste because he is basically a poor man's Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings don't need another big, powerful running back with fumbling issues. Minnesota and Green Bay are obviously the two big dogs in the NFC North barring a complete surprise from Chicago or Detroit.
7. New York Jets: Hard Knocks this year should be one of its best seasons ever on HBO as we get inside the Jets' locker room and Rex Ryan's crazy mind. You have to love the pickup of Kyle Wilson, and Antonio Cromartie has a ton of potential - I think Ryan will find a way to hide his deficiencies in run support. The story of the offense is Mark Sanchez's development. He holds the key to this sports car, and it will be interesting to see how far along he has developed since his rookie season.
8. Miami Dolphins: Like Walter, I just don't understand why the media is completely sleeping on Miami. They added two elite players to their football team in Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby. This makes any football team MUCH better. We know who these players are as they are well-established and highly productive on the gridiron. The running game should be potent and I expect their red zone offense to be much improved with Marshall's presence. The addition of Mike Nolan should also make Miami's defense a top-eight unit. I love Miami - they had the best free agency of any team in the NFL.
9. Tennessee Titans: I am more high on Tennessee than most, and I have to give Vince Young a lot of credit for maturing both as a man and as a player during the 2009 season. Jeff Fisher is an elite head coach who should get immediate production out of first-round pick Derrick Morgan. If Young can start the 2010 season the same way he finished in 2009, the Titans will be a highly competitive football team.
10. Atlanta Falcons: The reports of Michael Turner losing weight really fuel me projecting the Falcons this highly. If Turner can improve his speed and explosiveness, then this will be a scary offense. I love the addition of Sean Weatherspoon in both as an upgrade of their linebacking corps and as a vocal leader on defense. Dunta Robinson is an improvement over Chris Houston, but I'm skeptical because I felt he was overpaid. Atlanta will be nipping on the Saints' heels all season.
11. San Diego Chargers: I love Philip Rivers and the passing game in San Diego, but I'm not a big fan of the offensive line or defense. I just don't see the Chargers being a feared team on the defensive side of the football, and it wouldn't shock me if they blew several big leads next season. With that said, there aren't many teams in the AFC West to challenge them. What else is new?
12. Carolina Panthers: WalterFootball.com didn't like the Panthers last season, but this year both Walter and I are big fans of what John Fox and company are doing. They solidified their offensive line over the past couple of seasons, and I think Carolina's young players will develop on defense. They key here is the quarterback position in an epic training camp battle between Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen. Everyone says Moore knows the offense, but "not so fast my friends." Clausen used the exact same offense under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, and I've been told he already knew 90 percent of the playbook word-ford-word. Moore is definitely the favorite as the incumbent, and even if he beats out Clausen the competition in camp should make him an even better quarterback. I still wouldn't be shocked if Clausen won the job - so this will be interesting to watch in July.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: This is the year where Eagles fans can't complain no matter what happens in terms of Kevin Kolb's production. Of course, I'm talking about Philly fans, which makes my last sentence illogical. This is what everybody wanted - McNabb out, Kolb in. It honestly wouldn't shock me if Philadelphia won 11 games or if it won 7 games. I have no clue what is going to happen with this team, but their depth chart is certainly worthy of being in the top 16 of my power rankings.
14. New England Patriots: I think the Pats being cheap is going to come back to haunt them as far as free agency goes. Nothing excites me about this defense, and we all know that Tom Brady just didn't look the same last season. The Patriots will be good, but their talent level simply isn't as good as the Jets or Dolphins. Who are the young stars on this football team? They've drafted a lot of young players, but who is going to emerge as high-caliber players in this league?
15. Houston Texans: These past few seasons I've really thought the Texans were going to break out, but I'm just going to give up. I don't feel like the defense got any better this offseason unless Kareem Jackson can come in and play at an extremely high level, which is doubtful as a rookie at a tough position. Losing Brian Cushing early on hurts the defense, but Ben Tate should be a big contributor offensively. We'll see, but I've been burned lately by Houston. Maybe they are just the type of team that plays better when they are being overlooked (I guess we'll find out in 2010).
16. Cincinnati Bengals: I like Cincinnati, but I don't love Cincinnati. They have a very good core group of players in place, but the locker room on this team is going to catch up with them. Throughout the offseason I've bashed the Bengals for bringing in criminals to their football team, and I received a lot of hate mail from Cincinnati fans. Of course, we all know who's right after they went out and signed the Jones brothers - Matt and PacMan. Drafting Carlos Dunlap, another lazy pass rusher (see Johnson, Michael) didn't convince me that the Bengals are turning a corner in terms of the type of players they are bringing in. I respect Carson Palmer as a leader, but his arm strength just doesn't look the same. I love the acquisitions of Antonio Bryant and Jermaine Gresham, but it all comes down to too many attitudes in the locker room and Cincy not creeping up on anybody next season like they did in 2009.
17. Oakland Raiders: Raider fans probably hate me for bashing their team so much over the years, but this ranking has to justify that I am not a "Raider hater." I like the Raiders a lot this season, and I feel like they are potentially the NFL's biggest sleeper team. I love the acquisitions of Rolando McClain and Jason Campbell as well as sending Jamarcus Russell packing. This defense should rank in the top 5-6, and I expect Michael Bush to have a career year (make sure to get him on your fantasy team). It honestly wouldn't shock me to see this team win the AFC West, but I just can't make that projection because San Diego is a clearly more talented and productive team on offense - not debatable.
18. Detroit Lions: If Jeff Backus can live up to the expectations that his coaching staff hypes up, then the Lions could also threaten to have a 9-10 win season. I think Matthew Stafford will make a huge leap forward in his sophomore season, and I love what the Lions have done in the offseason defensively. Even though Kyle Vanden Bosch is a shell of his former self, he is still going to provide much needed leadership. I like this coaching staff, and their front office has an eye for talent. This team should no longer be a pushover in their division - Viking and Packer fans will find that out in 2010.
19. New York Giants: In the past I've really been a proponent for the Giants, but I just don't feel like this team has the same spark it used to. The defense seems to have lost its dominance and the running game/offensive line looked anemic at times in 2009. Their draft class will likely take some time to develop, and the Giants are simply the third- or fourth-best team in the NFC East. Yes, it wouldn't shock me if the...
20. Washington Redskins: ...Donovan McNabb-led Redskins finished ahead of the Giants next season. I'll take that a step further and say it wouldn't shock me if they surpassed the Eagles. This team made huge upgrades at head coach and quarterback, and McNabb has a bigger chip on his shoulder than any other player in the NFL. Please, e-mail me with a player that has more to prove than McNabb. He was traded away because the Eagles wanted to go with the younger quarterback in Kolb, and he wants to prove they made a huge mistake by not being loyal and sticking with one of the best quarterbacks of the last decade. Brian Orakpo will also be better in the 3-4. However, expect Trent Williams to have a Jason Smith-like rookie season. The Redskins are the toss-up of the NFC.
21. San Francisco 49ers: Mel Kiper Jr. said it best after the 49ers selected Mike Iupati in the first round last month, "When you select a guard in the first round, you better be sold on Alex Smith." It's now or never for Smith. He has a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Michael Crabtree, an improved offensive line, and an emerging team around him. However, I don't feel like the 49ers did enough defensively in the offseason especially in terms of their pass rush. Of course, all you have to do is win your division to make the playoffs, and the NFC West is a complete joke. It might only take seven wins to secure a playoff berth. Pathetic.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: If Ben Roethlisberger wasn't missing for the first four games, the Steelers would be much higher in my rankings. This said, I expect the Steelers to stumble out of the starting gate at 1-3 or 0-4. Even going into the September Tampa humidity is going to be a challenge with this football team. I like Pittsburgh's defense and the addition of Maurkice Pouncey up front, but their offense won't score as many points without Roethlisberger for four games and Santonio Holmes for 16 games.
23. Chicago Bears: The best thing about being a football analyst in the media is that fans never remember what you say unless it pertains to your team, but we can make an exception. Bears fans don't remember that I predicted their team to make the Super Bowl last year - so don't complain for the No. 23 ranking. I love Mike Martz for Jay Cutler's fantasy value, but I hate Mike Martz because his playbook is very impractical especially with the Bears anemic line. I think many fans could argue that I have Chicago too high, but it isn't my fault that there are 7-8 really crappy teams in the NFL with no quarterback or future.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It is ALL about Josh Freeman's development, but the reports out of Tampa regarding his work ethic have been tremendous this offseason. I am not sure whether it will translate to better production, but it is encouraging nonetheless when a quarterback is putting in the time off the field to help his team win. Tampa feels like it made huge upgrades at their weakest positions: wide receiver and defensive tackle. The defense should be a lot better as they play more zone like they have in the past, but the offensive line and running game is still a cause for major concern. If the Buccaneers are going to surprise people, then Raheem Morris needs to improve as a game manager and Josh Freeman has to be spectacular.
25. Seattle Seahawks: You have to love the additions of Leon Washington and Russell Okung to this offense, but you also have to believe that Matt Hasselbeck will not stay healthy, and I just don't see Charlie Whitehurst as the answer despite his physical talents. The defensive line didn't get any better and we can't expect Earl Thomas to be great as a rookie (free safety is a difficult position that requires a learning curve unlike offensive line, running back, and linebacker). Also, Pete Carroll is a huge question mark as a head coach - the college to NFL transition rarely goes over smoothly.
26. Arizona Cardinals: What is the identity of this football team? Is Matt Leinart seriously the answer? Can Derek Anderson correct his accuracy issues that he has had in the past? Will Chris Wells' ball security improve? I can't figure out who this team is, and without Kurt Warner's leadership I expect a remarkable drop-off in offensive yardage and scoring.
27. Denver Broncos: I think this is going to be the year defensive coordinators figure out Josh McDaniels' gimmick offense. With Kyle Orton or Brady Quinn under center, it won't take much to stop this passing game. The Broncos are going to be very bad this year, and we can't forget their offseason's biggest loss - Mike Nolan. This year I expect Bronco fans to turn on Josh McDaniels for trading away two of the organization's best two players and hate him for drafting Tim Tebow, or at least that's what I'm hoping for.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: This team didn't get any better than last year. Tyson Alualu is not an upgrade over John Henderson. Mike Thomas/Jarrett Dillard are not capable No. 2 receivers, so expect Mike Sims-Walker to see a ton of double teams. Who is THE leader on this football team? I don't see it.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Lessons in how not to build a football team, courtesy of Scott Pioli and company.
Step 1: Trade for a weak-armed quarterback who completed high percentage passes in the shotgun to Randy Moss and Wes Welker on a Super Bowl contending team. This also negates drafting a very talented quarterback in Mark Sanchez at No. 3 overall since you already have a fraud in Matt Cassel.
Step 2: Pass up on the best defensive prospect in the 2010 NFL Draft (Aaron Curry) and make a massive reach for a defensive lineman (Tyson Jackson).
Step 3: Don't do anything relevant to upgrade your football team in free agency.
Step 4: Draft backups in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
I'll give Pioli credit for drafting Eric Berry at No. 5 overall (though I would have preferred left tackle Russell Okung there) and hiring Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, but this football team is doomed thanks to Pioli's decision-making.
30. St. Louis Rams: At least the Rams have nowhere to go but up with Sam Bradford. I loved the pick of Rodger Saffold in the second round, and Steven Jackson should be even better in 2010 (scary). Chris Long really needs to step up this year - he isn't getting criticized enough for not living up to being a No. 2 overall pick.
31. Cleveland Browns: Whenever you need a good laugh this season, be sure to check out the Browns game highlights on NFL.com. Cleveland fans disagree - they think Jake Delhomme to Mohamed Massaquoi is going to keep defensive backfields up at night. Please, this team is a joke.
32. Buffalo Bills: There was a lot of reaction to my C.J. Spiller blogs - not a surprise since Bills nation is very legitimate in their fan support. Here is an intelligent e-mail from Lou B.:
As for people that argue that Spiller is a "great player" (that just sounds too much like Al Davis. Great, my Bills are turning into the Raiders East. FML), that is just asinine... running back is a position that where quality can be found later in the draft, especially now that the vast majority of teams use two complementary backs. Spiller could end up being a very good NFL player, but picking him is a luxury pick, not a need pick.
In short, I could not agree more with your assessment of both the Bills' draft as well as the current state of affairs in Buffalo. It is getting harder and harder to root for this team because it gets tougher and tougher when you really don't have any hope.
"Hope" is the perfect word to describe why I hate the Bills 2010 NFL Draft so much. Lou is right, this team has no hope. There is no young, talented quarterback to lead the organization. There is no offensive line in place to give this offense stability. The general manager is 70 YEARS OLD. Buddy Nix will be taking naps during the halftime of games (and it looks like he did on Draft Day). The hiring of Chan Gailey is one of the most questionable coaching hires in the last five years.
Honestly, where is there hope? Whenever a franchise puts their hopes and dreams onto the shoulders of a running back, they always suck. Look at Barry Sanders - arguably the greatest running back of all-time, and the Lions never did anything worth mentioning. Of course, the fans in support of the Spiller pick just can't wait to see him tear up NFL defense like he does on YouTube. The Bills are now the Raiders of the AFC East as Lou says - of course the Raiders fans always supported their draft picks so maybe those Bills fans are onto something.