With just over a day to go before the 2011 NFL season kicks off (how exciting is that?!), the time is ripe for The Pulling Linemen to reveal our first power rankings of the year. Remember, these rankings do not represent how well we think the teams will do over the course of the season; this is just how good or bad we think each team is the day before the season starts. Read, digest, enjoy, disagree, crown us football geniuses or write us death threats for slighting your favourite team, let us know your opinion in the comments below!
|Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews celebrate what could be|
the first of many Lombardi titles for them
The defending champs welcome back JerMichael Finley and Ryan Grant to an already potent offense. They have a serious shot at repeating.
2. New England Patriots: (TD: 3, GS: 3, PG: 2)
The Pats are always a threat with Brady and Belichick. Switching to 4-3 D with hopes Haynesworth can be useful and it will improve their pass rush. Watch their TE’s for a lesson in offensive game planning.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: (TD: 2, GS: 4, PG: 3)
Like the Packers, Pittsburgh return the majority of their roster from 2010. Their speedy WR’s will cause teams metaphorical fits. Their D might cause players literal ones.
4. New Orleans Saints: (TD: 4, GS: 2, PG: 4)
Saints got big up front with the signings of Rodgers and Franklin and have a threating backfield lead by Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Brees should be better now they have a ground game too.
5. San Diego Chargers: (TD: 8, GS: 5, PG: 6)
Moving the kick off to the 35 helps them, as will a full season from McNeill and Jackson on O. There’s enough firepower to take them all the way but can the D adjust with co-ordinator Ron Rivera gone?
6. Atlanta Falcons: (TD: 5, GS: 7, PG: 8)
Sold the farm for Julio Jones who has had people salivating throughout pre-season. Ray Edwards has been bought in to get after the QB which will help an underrated D.
7. New York Jets: (TD: 10, GS 6, PG: 5)
Time for Sanchez to prove he can win them a game rather than relying on the D every week. Got older and slower at WR which is a worry.
8. Baltimore Ravens: (TD: 6, GS: 8, PG: 7)
Vonta Leach + Lee Evans added to the offense to provide bite, 2010 1st rounder Kindle now fit to join still tough D. They really need to get over their Steeler road-block and Joe Flacco must prove he can beat them if he’s to be in B’more long term.
9. Philadelphia Eagles: (TD: 7, GS: 10, PG: 9)
Eagles have questions on the O-Line and at linebacker but a lot of talent elsewhere. Could be a boom or bust year and Reid needs a ring soon. Can Vick be as good as he was in 2010?
10. Houston Texans: (TD: 9, GS: 9, PG: 10)
The AFC South is there for the taking but Arian Foster’s hammy injury is a worry. New 3-4 D looks good but they need the DB’s to improve greatly if they are to break their play-off duck. Gary Kubiak is surely on his last chance. Surely…
|Mario Williams (#90) will move to Outside Linebacker,|
but he'll continue to terrorise quarterbacks
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (TD: 12, GS: 11, PG: 11)
Out to prove that 2010 was no fluke. They are very young in the front 7 which will be an issue vs the more complex offenses they’ll see this year.
12. Chicago Bears: (TD: 11, GS: 15, PG: 12)
O-Line issues re-appeared in pre-season, vital that they gel and protect Cutler. D still looks good but they are one of the teams badly hit by the new KO rule.
13. St. Louis Rams: (TD: 15, GS: 12, PG: 17)
Bradford + McDaniels could be a very fruitful combination for St. Louis. They’ve got lots of weapons around him now too. Could cause an upset this year.
14. Detroit Lions: (TD: 13, GS: 13, PG: 18)
Everyone’s sexy pick to get a wildcard spot but Stafford must stay healthy for that to happen. They are also week in the defensive backfield but hope Suh & Co. can make up for it.
15. Dallas Cowboys: (TD: 14, GS: 19, PG: 13)
Some tip them to bounce back from a disappointing 2010, but we’re not so sure. There’s more hype than talent on this team but there are good weapons on Offense and Ware is a monster, could steal a wildcard from one of the young upstarts above.
16. New York Giants: (TD: 17, GS: 14, PG: 15)
They’ve suffered enough injuries in back 7 of the defense this pre-season to last 3 years. It will seriously hurt them this season as they face very tough schedule. Eli says he’s not a 25-INT QB, but needs to prove it.
17. Kansas City Chiefs: (TD: 16, GS: 16, PG: 19)
Top candidates for regression this year with Moeaki injured and Baldwin falling out with team mates. They’ve stood still in the off-season, and that usually results in moving backwards.
18. Tennessee Titans: (TD: 20, GS: 18, PG: 14)
Chris Johnson is signed up and on board, will he be fresh or rusty? Matt Hasselbeck comes in under centre to hold the reins until Jake Locker is ready. Many are tipping them to cause a surprise and win the division, the D will need to step up for that to happen though.
19. Minnesota Vikings: (TD: 18, GS: 17, PG: 22)
McNabb is in as a stop gap until Christian Ponder is ready but he wants to prove his 2010 soiree with the ‘Skins was an aboration. Having Peterson will help that no end but the Vikes lines are ageing and without Rice they look thin at WR too.
20. Indianapolis Colts: (TD: 24, GS: 24, PG: 16)
No Peyton, no cry. Oh no, wait, lots of cry. Be it Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter filling in it’s going to be a long and nervous wait in Indy for Peyton Manning to get back to full health.
|Peyton Manning and his new deputy Kerry Collins|
21. Jacksonville Jaguars: (TD: 19, GS: 22, PG: 23)
Jacksonville stunned everyone when they cut Garrard this week and announced Luke McCown would be their week 1 starter. He’s not started since week 5 of the 2007 season and that was for Tampa Bay. Expect to see 1st round pick Blaine Gabbert sooner rather than later.
22. Arizona Cardinals: (TD: 21, GS: 20, PG: 24)
‘Zona shipped a 2nd round pick and corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for QB Kevin Kolb and then managed to sign Larry Fitzgerald to a long term deal before Kolb played a competitive down. Clever stuff. They have a shot at the division now they have a QB but the D needs to step up.
23. Cleveland Browns: (TD: 23, GS: 23, PG: 21)
Colt McCoy looks like he could be the guy in Cleveland for a long time, but needs to improve again this year. We like him a lot but the team as a whole lacks depth. Watch out for 1st round pick DT Phil Taylor, he’s been throwing opposing O-Lines around like he was Phil Taylor and they were darts.
24. Miami Dolphins: (TD: 22, GS: 28, PG: 20)
Last chance saloon for Henne and Sparano. Their O has looked very patchy in the pre-season and they need the running game to find its feet quickly. On D though everything looks good. They play fast and aggressive, watch out for Cameron Wake coming off the edge. Blink and you’ll miss him.
25. Denver Broncos: (TD: 27, GS: 21, PG: 27)
A promising pass rush could be nullified by a soft middle. Elway and the front office made the right choice keeping Kyle Orton under centre as he will look after John Fox’s new offense well. Question is can Moreno be the back they need them to be.
26. Oakland Raiders: (TD: 25, GS: 27, PG: 25)
The Oakland team is as ever filled with the fastest guys Al Davis could get his hands on. But this isn't Madden. They also need to be able to block for the QB and those fast guys to get open and catch the ball. Their defense will suffer for the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha. Stanford Routt is no replacement.
This will be Alex Smith's SEVENTH year as San Fran's QB. Can we call time on this now? He's crap and we all know it. They need Frank Gore to be healthy if they are to do anything at all this season. and that's a long shot in itself.
28. Washington Redskins: (TD: 28, GS: 25, PG: 32)
Their defense is promising. It's the guy under centre that is the problem. Rex Grossman makes his long awaited return to a starting job, remember him? If he takes a snap cleanly the play is already a success.
29. Buffalo Bills: (TD: 31, GS: 26, PG: 28)
As ever Buffalo are re-building. We like Ryan Fitzpatrick (He's a wicked awesome Hahvahd Grad after all) but the O-line in front of him is as sturdy as a wet paper towel and beyond CJ Spiller and Stevie Johnson there are few playmakers. They could give teams a battle for about 35 minutes a week, but they'll fade in every game.
|It's been a rough pre-season for Jackson (#7) and it won't get|
any easier when the games start counting
30. Seattle Seahawks: (TD: 26, GS: 32, PG: 29)
31. Carolina Panthers: (TD: 30, GS: 31, PG: 30)
Last years worst team actually weren't that bad. They were plagued by injuries and are now healthy. 1st overall pick Cam Newton starts and will at least be interesting if not successful.
32. Cincinnati Bengals: (TD: 32, GS: 30, PG: 31)
Let's get one thing straight, the drop off from Carson Palmer to Andy Dalton isn't actually that big. But the ginger ninja has looked out of his depth during pre-season and having Cedric Benson locked up isn't going to help. The defense looks like it could be tough but the offense looks rudder-less.