The NFL season kicks off the preseason in about two months and many teams are completing their plans for roster moves. There are teams who have done a lot and teams who have done hardly anything. Here is a look at where the teams sit after their offseason moves.
The Saints are the champs and until someone can knock them off, they remain on top. A slow off season, they lost a couple of guys, but their core remains the same. Unfortunately for the Saints they play in the NFC South – a division which reverses itself each year. In all but one of the seasons since realignment, the team who finished last the year before won the division the following season. In the one season where the last place team didn’t finish first, the finished second and made the playoffs.
With Peyton at the helm, the number 2 Colts will remain second. They maintained most of their players as well. A few additions through the draft will probably not have a huge immediate impact, but will quietly fill in and become impact players. It’s business as usual in Indy.
The Vikings rank third, but this ranking is completely based on a 40 year old guy returning. With the news that Brett Favre just had ankle surgery which he said that he needs to come back, it looks like the Vikings will be poised for another deep playoff run. While they lost a couple of contributors, they should have their core back.
The Jets are fourth in our survey. They made a surprising playoff run last year with a rookie QB at the helm. Then they made some moves to bolster the team. Letting Thomas Jones go was a questionable call, as was signing LaDanian Tomlinson. Adding two good CBs (Antonio Cromartie via trade and Kyle Wilson through the draft) makes them very solid in the defensive backfield. Overall, the Jets may be poised for another deep run and many people have them as the favorite in the AFC East.
The Ravens, who are number 5, have been a great defense with a decent running game for the last few years. Then along came Joe (Flacco). Unfortunately he didn’t have much to throw to. Enter Anquan Boldin. Now Flacco in his third NFL season, Flacco is poised to break out.
The number 6 team is the Packers who came on strong toward the end of last season. Getting some players back from injury and then ones that were added through the draft will fill in some holes and put them in position to finally beat #4.
The Cowboys are number 7, but they are hard to rank. They have a solid team and if they play up to their potential, they could be in the Super Bowl. If they follow the trend they have been on lately, this could be another disappointing season in Dallas. The off season addition of a big name receiver (Dez Bryant) the offense could be poised to explode. Some questioned the decision to get rid of OT Flozell Adams, but you don’t let a tackle go unless you have a backup plan.
The Patriots, who come in 8th, are considered to be poised for a down year by many of the talking heads, but let me say now, they are still the Patriots. Tom Brady and Randy Moss will still connect. The defense will be improved by some of the young players on the team gaining experience. Though the secondary is a little weak, the Patriots could make another run and it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Bengals were solid last year sweeping their division. In our rankings, they come in ninth. Although the Ravens look better on paper this year, the Bengals could be in the running for another division title. That is barring a collapse like they had last time they won the division.
The Chargers come in tenth, but they lost a legend in LT. However, he wasn’t the LT of a few years ago. The addition of RB Ryan Matthews will make the running game just as good as last year, if not better. They shipped CB Antonio Cromartie to the Jets, but hope that they will be able to shore up that hole. All of these make me a little nervous. The Chargers are in a weak division, but they are notoriously slow starters. They should make playoffs again, but may not be in the elite. However, with QB Phillip Rivers at the helm, this team could end up surprising a lot of people.
The 49ers, number 11, are building on the foundation that coach Mike Singletary created. New faith in Alex Smith, and the fact that he will now be under the same coordinator for two years straight may help the 49ers pick up their offense and the defense is only getting stronger. The 49ers could easily run away with their division.
Number 12 is the New York Giants who play in one of the closest divisions in football. In different predictions, I have seen them ranked from first to fourth. I think they just edge out the Eagles.
The Eagles, number 13 like the Giants are in a tough division. They also may be rebuilding. They just traded a Pro Bowl QB and cut RB Brian Westbrook. While they have people behind the guys that they let go, it always hurts a little to lose veterans.
At number 14, the Texans had their best year ever last year. Their offense was explosive. Their defense was much improved. The addition of another CB will make them formidable once Brian Cushing comes back from suspension. The offense gets TE Owen Daniels back as well as a healthy Steve Slaton at RB. This could mean that the Texans challenge for this division… if only there weren’t a man named Peyton in their way.
The Steelers had a tough offseason. That is why they rank number 15. They traded Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes for a 5th round pick and their Pro Bowl QB can’t seem to keep his hands to himself. Also, RB Willie Parker left in free agency. The long story short is that Pittsburgh would be a top 10 team with key members of their defense coming back from injury. With Big Ben on the side lines for 6 weeks, the Steelers will be lucky to make the playoffs this year.
Miami got a few huge additions bumping them to 16th. They could easily move up in these rankings by the first week if things mesh well. WR Brandon Marshall gives them a good receiver. They also made additions on the other side of the ball via the draft and free agency. They are looking much better, but now what remains to be seen is how they come together.
Atlanta had a ho-hum year last season which led to their number 17 ranking. Their offense was OK, but their defense wasn’t great. They aren’t among the elite, but the Falcons will put together some wins this season.
Number 18 Washington took the team that they had last season and then blew it up, gathered some rubble and went looking for rebuilding materials. They added a Pro Bowl QB and two Pro Bowl RBs. They also got a couple of receivers. They got rid of their struggling QB and a few of their backup RBs. Not to mention the changes they made on the line and on defense. They are a completely remade team and new head Coach Mike Shannahan has won before and is hoping to do it again. The Redskins could be in the hunt by the end of this season.
The Cardinals, number 19, have been the kings of the NFC West for the last couple years. Then they lost Kurt Warner to retirement and traded Anquan Boldin to the Ravens. They lost a few defenders and didn’t really get any solid replacements. This actually might be higher than they deserve.
Tennessee was the top of the AFC two years ago, but last season started off 0-6. This year they wrap up the top 20. They made some changes and then pulled some wins together. They got rid of some baggage this off season, but they lost some important pieces, too. Head Coach Jeff Fischer will have his work cut out for him this year, but with RB Chris Johnson almost anyone can win 8 games.
The Jaguars are one of my picks to surprise, hence they are 21st. They have a decent team, but last year injuries killed them. They made a few bad moves, in particular using their first round pick on a guy they probably could have got in the second round.
At number 22, the Broncos shocked the world yet again by trading Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins. Then a couple weeks later, they traded up in the draft to get QB Tim Tebow. HC Josh McDaniels may have something up his sleeve, but a Broncos team that returns less than half the starters they had two years ago is probably not the wagon to jump on.
The number 23 Bears went hunting in free agency knowing that they didn’t have a lot of hope in the draft (when you don’t have your first couple of picks, it makes things tough.) They brought in Julius Peppers at DE and Chester Taylor at RB. They also got OC Mike Martz. This combo could lead them to surprise some and actually make a run this year.
At 24, this is a lot higher than the Raiders are ranked by most. However, QB Jason Campbell is a major upgrade at quarterback. The defense was decent last year, so a competent QB will mean a few more wins. Campbell isn’t going to take them to the Super Bowl on his own, but he’s a big step up from JaMarcus.
The Panthers rank 25th after they cut their starting QB from last year (Jake Delhomme). They handed the reins to Matt Moore and then drafted a young QB named Jimmy Clausen. Fortunately for the Panthers, they have a decent offensive line and a good running game to lean on until one of these guys can take over.
The 26th rated Seahawks have made a number of changes to their team, but none of them are enough to bump them very high. The draft was very good to them, but until they get a new QB at the helm, they aren’t going to be a dominant team.
The Lions are up to number 27 after adding some big pieces this year. The defensive line is much improved with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ndamukong Suh. Head Coach Jim Schwartz is making an impact in Detroit. They won’t be Super Bowlers this year, but Detroit may be climbing out of the gutter this year.
Kansas City Chiefs fans have watched their team struggle the last few years. They start ranked 28th. Bad drafts and injuries have led to them picking high in the draft. They just don’t have a lot of talent right now, but Scott Pioli is working on fixing that.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are rebuilding at number 29. They really focused on their defensive line in the first couple of rounds this year. If rumors are true about the improvement of Josh Freeman, the Buccaneers could continue the trend in the NFC South of the team that finished last in the division wins it the next year. Bucs fans, don’t count on it.
The Bills, ranked 30th, tried to draft the best player available. In doing so they got another running back for an already crowed backfield. The Bills will have a long row to hoe this year as they go through the always tough Patriots and the much improved Jets and Dolphins.
This could be the year that the number 31 Rams get out of the gutter… And I might fly to work tomorrow… Anything is possible. Sam Bradford will prove to be a good tackling dummy for the rest of the NFC West for the next few years – or until the Rams shore up a dismal offensive line.
The bottom of the pile is the number 32 Browns, who cut their top two QBs. Then they traded away some talent. Then they picked up a washed out QB and a QB who has played more receiver than QB. In all, the Browns managed to get worse over the offseason. It is all part of new GM Mike Holmgren’s plan to get Jake Locker next spring.