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Early season Power poll has Falcons leading the way in the NFC South...


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The Falcons are 6th on the PP list. The saints are middle of the road and the Panthers and buccies fall off the radar screen. Who knows how it will really play out? I'm not shocked by the buccies placement, I am a little surprised by the Panthers though?

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_ylt=ArBj...n&type=lgns

NFL Power Poll: Super Steelers stay on top for ’09

By Vinnie Iyer - SportingNews

Feb 3, 1:06 pm EST

Buzz up!70 votes Print

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now officially the most successful team in the Super Bowl era, winning six of the 43 titles. But just after a couple days to celebrate, the question is can they make it two in a row and seven overall this time next year?

That’s the nature of the NFL clock — it just keeps on ticking, to free agency, to the draft, to minicamps, to training camps, and eventually to the kickoff of next season in September.

At this earliest point of the offseason, it’s difficult to put any team other than the new reigning champs in the best position to also win Super Bowl 44. Recent history, however, tells us we’re better off taking the field at No. 2 through 32:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger is in his Super Bowl-winning prime, and the key pieces of the defense will remain intact. The Steelers need to work on rebuilding their shaky offensive line and with it, rediscover their power running game.

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2. Tennessee Titans. They need to do everything they can to keep tackle Albert Haynesworth as the anchor of their defense. Then they need to pay Kerry Collins and get him some receiving help — perhaps former Giants teammate Amani Toomer. Otherwise, Jeff Fisher has a relatively young nucleus with Chris Johnson that should only get better.

3. Indianapolis Colts. With the coaching change to Jim Caldwell, it’s not automatic the team will respond the same way it did under Tony Dungy. To the players, Dungy’s retirement should signal that the window may be closing, and that means no one will play with more of a sense of urgency than Peyton Manning.

4. New England Patriots. Whether it’s Tom Brady returning healthy or Matt Cassel needing to take over again, the Patriots’ passing game will be championship worthy. You can bet New England will work on injecting power to its run game and more youth to its defense.

5. San Diego Chargers. Will LaDainian Tomlinson be back? Really, the bigger question is Shawne Merriman. The Chargers’ offense can still be productive with LT, but we saw how shaky their pass defense is without Lights Out flying off the edge. With a return to form by the defense, Philip Rivers is capable of leading the team to a title.

6. Atlanta Falcons. If Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff can recognize where they need to upgrade on defense as well as the team overhauled the offense last season, watch out. We already know what Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White can do. Imagine if they add some playmakers around John Abraham.

7. New York Giants. The receiving corps is a big concern, but the Giants should at least keep two thirds of their prolific backfield. Defensively, despite losing Steve Spagnuolo, their pass rush should get a huge boost from Osi Umenyiora and their young secondary should continue to improve.

8. Arizona Cardinals. They have the money to keep Karlos Dansby and their top defensive playmakers around, but they need to keep enough cash around to bring Kurt Warner back and keep him out of retirement. If he’s still the one throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, there’s no reason to think the Cards won’t cruise in the NFC West again and set up for another tournament run.

9. Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens’ defense will miss Rex Ryan and possibly one or two of their starting linebackers. On the other hand, the offense should be improved as Joe Flacco builds on a surprisingly strong rookie season. Overall, it will remain a tough hardnosed team under John Harbaugh. The key will be finishing games against the Steelers.

10. Philadelphia Eagles. The heat is once again on Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb for coming up short in the playoffs. Brian Westbrook’s future health and effectiveness is also an issue. The defense is the team’s best unit, but it’s facing several free-agent departures. Expect another inconsistent season.

11. Minnesota Vikings. The running backs are great. The defense is sound, especially up front. There’s even some promise from the receivers. Of course, the question is, can this team find a quarterback who can deliver in the playoffs? Let the Brett Favre rumors continue.

12. Dallas Cowboys. Everyone knows how talented this team is, and they have many of the same Steelers ingredients. A fine pass rushing 3-4 defense led by DeMarcus Ware, and a fine young strong-armed and mobile passer in Tony Romo. Until they get their heads on straight like the Steelers, however, the results to match the talent just won’t come.

13. Green Bay Packers. The Packers defense was terrible all of last season, causing a transition to a 3-4 that’s likely to come with more bumps. Quietly, however, Aaron Rodgers had a very good first season as a starter, and the Packers lost many close games that could easily turn to wins in his second year. With Mike McCarthy on the hot seat, look for him to have his team fired up again.

14. New Orleans Saints. Looking for a Cardinals copycat? Taking a page from Arizona and Clancy Pendergast, the Saints were wise to hire an aggressive defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams. They need an attacking style on that side of the ball to match what they have offensively. Drew Brees can carry a team like Warner — more consistency and better road results are key.

15. Denver Broncos. The Broncos are about to have an exciting, explosive offense. Expect Josh McDaniels to get plenty out of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, similar to Brady/Cassel with Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The running game and defense need to be upgraded, however, to avoid another .500 fate.

16. Carolina Panthers. The defensive meltdown down the stretch leaves plenty of worries, and Julius Peppers is likely to leave as a free agent. On top of that, Jake Delhomme’s playoff struggles raise new concerns at quarterback. The schedule doesn’t have last year’s breaks, either. Besides, history isn’t kind to reigning NFC South champions.

17. Miami Dolphins. With sound fundamentals including winning the turnover battle, the Dolphins survived in many close, low-scoring games. Now that everyone has figured out the Wildcat, the offense needs more punch, and Miami’s defense also needs to make more big plays. That’s especially true with the Patriots coming back loaded.

18. Houston Texans. For the third straight offseason, you can bet they will be the darling sleeper contenders for many an NFL pundit. Yes, they do tease us with great production from their balanced offense in one game, only to fizzle with poor defense, turnovers and mental mistakes the next week. They also are stuck in a division with the Titans and Colts, so .500 seems likely again.

18. Chicago Bears. They were 9-7 with Kyle Orton as their starting quarterback last season. There are many reasons to love what Chicago has in the running game with Matt Forte, and the defense still has a strong backbone at linebacker. But in a passing league, it’s hard to trust their passing game.

20. New York Jets. Rex Ryan is a good hire, and his coaching should have an immediate impact on the defense, especially linebacker David Harris, cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Kerry Rhodes. We all know what the big offensive question is: to be or not to be for Brett Favre. If he doesn’t return, they’re stuck scrambling for an answer at quarterback.

21. Buffalo Bills. **** Jauron gets another year to see his rebuilding plan through, and there seems to be some promising young pieces on offense, defense and special teams. You wonder, however, if they are too conservative to compete in what’s become a pedal to the metal league.

22. Washington Redskins. Jim Zorn seemed to have a passing game working in Washington, but then the struggles for quarterback Jason Campbell set in. It’s good they have Clinton Portis to keep the ball moving, but they just don’t get enough big plays on either side.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars. See Buffalo and Washington. They have the right idea with toughness based on the running game and defense, but as we’ve seen with the Steelers and Cardinals, you can’t win a Super Bowl without a clutch passing combination.

24. San Francisco 49ers. Mike Singletary had this team playing very well down the stretch, and his fine sideline influence should carry over well in ’09. The pieces are there with running game and defense, and the team needs to take a long look at Shaun Hill as a full-time starting QB — something it should have done early last season.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jon Gruden got the most out of what this team had the past few seasons, and losing Monte Kiffin will be felt on the defense. Then there are the typical concerns of finding consistency at quarterback and running back. Raheem Morris is likely to have a tough first year, with a tough schedule not in his favor, either.

26. Seattle Seahawks. Thanks to a rash of injuries to the offense and a disappearing defense, the Seahawks lost their strangehold on the NFC West, watching the team that displaced them go all the way to the Super Bowl. Although better health, especially in getting Matt Hasselbeck under center, will help, they are also going through a major coaching transition to Jim Mora.

27. Kansas City Chiefs. Chiefs fans should hope for an exciting trifecta: Hiring Todd Haley, trading for Cassel and drafting Michael Crabtree. Adding that to Dwayne Bowe, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Johnson would give them an offense certainly capable of captaining a big turnaround in a rather weak AFC West.

28. Cleveland Browns. The Browns are counting on the honeymoon period of Man-Genius to be enough to spark one of the 2007’s most disappointing teams. Romeo Crennel definitely gave him something to work with in the 3-4 defense, but can Eric Mangini get some key underachieving offensive players to help the team score points again? Oh yeah, they also play in a division with the Steelers and Ravens.

29. Cincinnati Bengals. Carson Palmer’s comeback would give this team a lot of hope. Then there are the same old issues of offensive line, running game, a mercurial No. 1 receiver who might lose his starting mate and a defense that never seems to improve under Marvin Lewis. Oh yeah, they also play in a division with the Steelers and Ravens.

30. Oakland Raiders. Looks like the Tom Cable era won’t be canceled, and if he can rerun what worked down the stretch, all is not hopeless. They have a talented backfield featuring Darren McFadden, but they desperately need JaMarcus Russell to take the next step in his development and the defense to somehow hold up without Rob Ryan.

31. St. Louis Rams. Spagnuolo’s hiring will be key in getting the most of Chris Long and the defense, but it really comes down to Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson playing their best to lift the offense. Unfortunately, upgrading both lines remains a priority.

32. Detroit Lions. What the Falcons and Cardinals did in the NFC should give them hope, and they should work first to build around their two most skilled players, Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith. For Jim Schwartz, it starts with getting a competent, consistent quarterback and just getting that first win early.

Vinnie Iyer is the NFL projects editor for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

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And at the top of the NFC at that. I have actually began to accept this as a good thing. Atlanta will

be shocked into reality.

Everyone of those teams on that 09 schedule from **** will be aiming to take down the paper giants now.

Matty Ice , Vanilla Ice, whatever, is now a marked man, and just like his tendencies to throw primarily to the left side of the field,

or propensity to throw floating passes off his back foot, defenses will adjust.

have a good day. ^_^

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And at the top of the NFC at that. I have actually began to accept this as a good thing. Atlanta will

be shocked into reality.

Everyone of those teams on that 09 schedule from **** will be aiming to take down the paper giants now.

Matty Ice , Vanilla Ice, whatever, is now a marked man, and just like his tendencies to throw primarily to the left side of the field,

or propensity to throw floating passes off his back foot, defenses will adjust.

have a good day. ^_^

Thanks for the coaching pointers...we'll keep that in mind! :lol:

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And at the top of the NFC at that. I have actually began to accept this as a good thing. Atlanta will

be shocked into reality.

Everyone of those teams on that 09 schedule from **** will be aiming to take down the paper giants now.

Matty Ice , Vanilla Ice, whatever, is now a marked man, and just like his tendencies to throw primarily to the left side of the field,

or propensity to throw floating passes off his back foot, defenses will adjust.

have a good day. ^_^

And what was your prediction for the Falcons in 2008?

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'...

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Who cares what Vinnie Liar...I mean lyar opinion is.

These will be change after F/A and the draft so who cares.

5 AFC teams better than anyone in the NFC with the top team in the NFC being the Falcons shows you why no ones ever heard of him unless you like to fish.

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Who cares what Vinnie Liar...I mean lyar opinion is.

These will be change after F/A and the draft so who cares.

5 AFC teams better than anyone in the NFC with the top team in the NFC being the Falcons shows you why no ones ever heard of him unless you like to fish.

I noticed that too! Those teams are no doubt good but to have all five better than any NFC team is nonsense. That where this ranking lost me.

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I like what I see, but in my opinion, Carolina should be much higher, I'd say just inside the top 10, and New Orleans is about right, love to see the falcons at #6..

No doubt but, along with the recognition comes expectations that need to be lived up to. We went 11-5 under the radar last year and along with that success will come nationally televised games and every team gunning for us!

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The Giants,Eagles,and Vkings(when they sign Garcia)are all better than ATL and as a matter of fact I think the Saints will be the team rising out of that division.

I like the 49ers to make a big improvement in the NFC and the Texans to do the same out of the AFC.

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