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NFL Power Rankings, Training Camp Edition

1

2008 record: 11-5 New England Patriots

The rest of the league should be concerned, very concerned, about how motivated Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots might just be as the season arrives. New England hasn't won a playoff game in more than 18 months, and there is that little matter of an imperfect ending to a perfect season to make amends for. I see the Patriots defense getting younger and better, and that could make for more than a few blowouts in Foxboro this fall.

2

2008 record: 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers

I see no glaring holes when I study the defending champs, but the business of repeating in today's NFL is so fraught with the unexpected challenges that it would make me a bit queasy if I bled black and gold. As I pointed out the other day in commenting on Ben Roethlisberger's off-field legal issues, the last time Pittsburgh had a Super Bowl title to defend (in 2006), the follow-up was a season-long letdown.

3

2008 record: 9-6-1 Philadelphia Eagles

Donovan McNabb has had his contract addressed and offensive weapons upgraded. Other than the team-wide pall cast by respected defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's battle with cancer, these Eagles have had an outstanding offseason. And those are the kind of indicators you look for when you're doing a pre-training camp power ranking.

4

2008 record: 12-4 New York Giants

Every NFL analyst and his or her brother have the same question mark when it comes to the G-Men: Who's going to replace Plaxico Burress as the New York receiver who must be game-planned for? At the moment, we don't see a veteran on the roster who can fill that glaring need. But sometimes you find out some pretty significant stuff in training camp. Players emerge, jobs are won. Think Marques Colston in New Orleans in 2006.

5

2008 record: 8-8 San Diego Chargers

Astute observers of SI.com's NFL coverage might note a propensity on my part to consistently over-rate two teams, one in each conference. They would be your San Diego Chargers and your New Orleans Saints. I don't know why, exactly. Maybe I just over-value offense and like the symmetry of Drew Brees having been traded to make room for Philip Rivers. Maybe I love the uniforms. Whatever it is, here I go again.

6

2008 record: 11-5 Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens, in their hearts, believe Derrick Mason is going to unretire in the near future and relieve some of the current angst at receiver. Baltimore has its question marks -- namely replacing defensive coordinator Rex Ryan with Greg Mattison -- but let's not forget that this Ravens team did some serious damage last January and might just be tough enough to push the defending champion Steelers all year long.

7

2008 record: 13-3 Tennessee Titans

I don't think there's really anything fluky about the way the Titans won last season, and even with the loss of Albert Haynesworth in the defensive middle, last year's blueprint for victory should continue to work just fine. But there's no way I could rank Tennessee ahead of Baltimore after it lost that devastating playoff opener at home to the Ravens.

8

2008 record: 9-7 Dallas Cowboys

This is admittedly higher than most of my peers have the Cowboys rated this preseason, but it's time to win in Dallas, and the pressure that Tony Romo and Wade Phillips are under this year should be a clarifying motivation. Something just tells me that Jerry Jones's new $1 billion-plus football palace will bring out the best in his team, which has experienced its share of big-stage fright in recent years.

9

2008 record: 12-4 Carolina Panthers

Okay, it was about as ugly as any playoff-opening home loss in memory. And the Panthers defense got shredded more than a few times down the season's backstretch. But this was a 12-win team in one of the NFL's toughest divisions last season, and that absolutely has to count for something. Right?

10

2008 record: 12-4 Indianapolis Colts

Speaking of 12-win teams that pulled a fold job in their opening game of the playoffs, a lot of people are pretty nervous about the Colts this season. And I'm kind of one of them. I'm not saying that Indy can't win without Tony Dungy around, but I'm not penciling them in for an automatic 12 wins any more. Those days may be gone for good.

11

2008 record: 9-7 Arizona Cardinals

Out of respect for what the Cinderella Cardinals accomplished, it seems to me that the least we can do is make sure they're right here on the cusp of our top 10. But keeping the magic of last season's playoffs alive in the desert is going to be nigh impossible. So much in Arizona revolves around Kurt Warner and the dicey proposition of keeping him upright for another 16 games.

12

2008 record: 11-5 Atlanta Falcons

I realize that on paper the Falcons easily look improved from the stunning 11-5 turnaround success of last season. Tony Gonzalez for Matt Ryan to throw to? Rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry to help stuff the middle? What's not to like? It's just that teams making the kind of one-year jump that Atlanta did in 2008 often fall back to earth a bit the following season. It's the law of averages, or gravity, or something.

13

2008 record: 9-7 Chicago Bears

Don't label me a Bears believer just yet, but even if No. 4 reports to Minnesota, it'll be Chicago who upgrades its quarterback position the most among NFC North teams this season. My colleague Peter King had the Bears all the way up to No. 4 in his MMQB power rankings in May, but I'm not quite ready to go that ga-ga over Jay Cutler landing in the Windy City.

14

2008 record: 8-8 New Orleans Saints

Here for your enlightenment and amusement is my annual over-estimation of the talent on hand in Saints-dom. But hear me out: Gregg Williams at defensive coordinator is an upgrade in my book, and the beleaguered New Orleans defense is bound to have better luck with injuries than it did in 2008. And yep, that's the best I can do.

15

2008 record: 11-5 Miami Dolphins

A lot of what I believe will hold true in Atlanta this season I could echo for the Dolphins. While I see all the makings of a sound foundation having been laid last year in South Florida, duplicating last year's 11-5 rags-to-riches scenario is going to be difficult without the element of surprise or a schedule that in 2008 included games against the NFL's two weakest divisions (the AFC and NFC West).

16

2008 record: 10-6 Minnesota Vikings

Attention, Vikings: It's less than three days before the start of training camp and do you know where your starting quarterback is? The Favre Watch has made a mockery of trying to project Minnesota's current state of readiness to defend its division title, but I suppose by the time we roll out our next edition of the power rankings we'll all know more. Please let that be the case.

17

2008 record: 9-7 New York Jets

It was pretty predictable we in the media were going to love the Jets in the Rex Ryan era, given the ex-Ravens defensive coordinator never met a question he didn't like -- which leaves him in somewhat stark contrast to his taciturn predecessor. But it's not just hype. New York has a chance to be a surprise playoff team this year, and if its rookie QB gets hot, things could really get fun.

18

2008 record: 8-8 Houston Texans

In the NFL, you have to make other teams respect you, and the Texans will never do that until they move out of their nice, safe 8-8 neighborhood and start running with the big boys. No painfully slow starts allowed this year in Houston. And no late-season losses to Oakland, either.

19

2008 record: 6-10 Green Bay Packers

While I'm giving all of Green Bay's defensive changes -- from switching to the 3-4, to hiring Dom Capers, to drafting B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews -- a thumbs-up, I have a hard time seeing all those pieces coming together quickly enough for more than eight or nine wins this year. But coming off last season's desultory 6-10 record, that's progress.

20

2008 record: 4-12 Seattle Seahawks

Last season showed us how much Matt Hasselbeck really means to the Seahawks' success. This year, with him back healthy, the same thing could be said. Seattle isn't a team with 4-12 talent, but it isn't a team with 12-4 talent, either.

21

2008 record: 7-9 San Francisco 49ers

If the 49ers can get some efficient quarterbacking out of either Shaun Hill or Alex Smith, they might be able to squeak out enough 13-10 wins on the strength of their improving defense to make some real noise in their division. The gap between an also-ran 7-9 and a title-winning 9-7 in the NFC West is ever so slight.

22

2008 record: 7-9 Buffalo Bills

Don't get too caught up in the T.O. drama, because his first year in town usually goes reasonably well (there was that little matter of an accidental overdose/purported suicide attempt in Dallas in 2006, but we digress). The bigger issue is whether or not the Bills' offense can consistently challenge opposing defenses, thereby saving the jobs of **** Jauron and his staff.

23

2008 record: 8-8 Denver Broncos

Sometimes I think the task of separating the bottom 10 teams in these power rankings is significantly more challenging than identifying the top 10. Is Denver a disaster waiting to unfold in coach Josh McDaniels' rookie season, or are the Broncos merely executing a plan the rest of us have yet to comprehend?

24

2008 record: 8-8 Washington Redskins

The Giants are the only NFC East team that has put together more than one 10-win season in the past four years, so why does it feel like the Redskins are perennially looking up at all three of their division rivals? I'm not quite sure, but if you believe these preseason power rankings, they'll be doing it once again in 2009.

25

2008 record: 4-11 Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals desperately need a quiet year in which the focus remains on the field and their once-potent offense steps back toward relevancy.

26

Last Week: -- Kansas City Chiefs

Is anybody but me eager to see some of the ongoing renovations taking place at Arrowhead Stadium? As for the on-the-field improvements, I think it's going to be upgrades all around in K.C. this year.

27

2008 record: 9-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Did anyone in the NFL have a more puzzling offseason than the Bucs? They're being universally written off to the rebuilding class of the league's lower echelon, and I can't really argue with that assessment.

28

2008 record: 5-11 Oakland Raiders

I do think Tom Cable is the right man for the job as it currently exists in Oakland -- I just question whether anyone can actually prosper in that setting. At this point, merely snapping the Raiders' six-year streak of double-digit loss seasons would be baby steps in the right direction.

29

2008 record: 5-11 Jacksonville Jaguars

Things seem to be in the get-worse-before-they-get-better stage for the Jaguars, but then it's hard to imagine what would constitute a step down from last year's 5-11 debacle.

30

2008 record: 4-12 Cleveland Browns

The Browns aren't the chic pick of pundits and TV schedule-makers this year, but then that role didn't suit them too well in 2008. If nothing else, Eric Mangini should bring a sense of discipline that was sorely lacking last season.

31

2008 record: 0-16 Detroit Lions

Consider it a strong vote of confidence for the beginning of the Jim Schwartz era that I didn't doom the winless Lions to dead last right off the bat this season. But next to last still speaks to how much work remains in Motown.

32

2008 record: 2-14 St. Louis Rams

Investing in Steve Spagnuolo's future was a move I believe will pay dividends at some point in the future. Solid coaching is the foundation of success in the NFL. But this year, a bright future may be hard to see in St.

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Im Liking articles like this more and more each day.

I would love to have another year to fly under the radar. I hate having everybody jumpping on our bandwagon, expect this and that from the team, and as soon as we're not meeting up their expectation, everybody gonna go bananas and down talk to team.

Im not hating on our team, or dont want our credit to be due.

But i rather have nobody pay attention to us, then the season come we just go on do our business and smashh other the team in pieces :D

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@DoYouSeeWhatHappensLarry

Just saw TBLebowski the other night. Hilarious. Wish I coulda watched it with friends... my gf fell asleep.

On topic though:

This guy is garbage. He consistantly says 'I know they shouldn't be this high, but they are on my list!!' And too many of his explanations are counter-intuitive... non-insightful... No thanks! :rolleyes:

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Wow he is trying to find a way to hate

Exactly...that's what just bugs the ish outta me...if you don't like our team or chances this year, gimme a real reason other than "well, the '73 Jets and '68 Chiefs both went 11-5 off a losing season, but finished last in the division the next year, sooooo...I predict the Falcons to do the same!"

So effin lame...

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i think they dont give us a chance b/c they want to be the ones that say i said they couldnt do it

then when it happends they'll say "well mike smith got it down the odds were against him but he pulled it off good coaching"

blah blah blah

we the new patriots around her we are the team to beat so forget everyone else and all the doubters

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this guy can't be serious? the panthers ahead of us. :lol:

I thought the same thing, I don't take most of these power rankings seriously, they're so biased and ill informed it's ridiculous. Most of them look at who was in the playoffs last season and put them toward the top and fill in the blanks as to who they like and don't like, with no actual honest basis as to why except they like the teams logo's. JMO....

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