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NFL Preseason/Training Camp Power Rankings

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It’s early August, which means these NFL Power Rankings should be taken with not only a grain of salt but the whole freakin’ salt shaker, too. In fact, throw in some pepper, too for trying to rank the NFL teams this early is an exercise in flying blind.
Eli Manning Lombardi Trophy  

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to getting in my first NFL Power Rankings of the 2012-13 NFL season.

NOTE #1: Unlike my regular season NFL Power Rankings, where I rank the top 10 teams only – reason being no one really cares about any team outside the top 10 (unless you’re a fan of that particular team), I will rank all 32 NFL teams.

NOTE: #2: The number in parenthesis for each team represents that team’s strength of schedule (based on their 2012 opponents record in 2011) with 1 being the most diffcult and 32 being the weakest.

1. Giants (1) – Altogether now (cue Ric Flair): To be the man, you have to beat the man. The New York Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs and for that reason alone, they deserve to be #1. At least for now. Sorry kids, but Eli Manning is arguably the most-underrated player in the league. But alas he is too boring – if winning two Super Bowls can be considered boring, as the ESPNs of the world fall all over themselves in their coverage of that other New York football team who by last count, hasn't won a damn thing.

2. Packers (31) – Last year the Packers’ defense finished dead last, allowing over 411 yards per game. They addressed their needs head on, drafting defensive players with their first six picks in last year’s NFL Draft. So one would think they would be better this tear for they have no place to but up, right? Oh yeah, the Packers still won 15 games last year. Seems they have a pretty good offense.

3. Patriots (32) – Like the Packers, the Patriots’ defense last year did not exactly strike fear in opposing teams’ eyes. Finishing just ahead of the Packers D (#31) they took used their first 6 picks in the NFL draft on defensive players. And also like the Packers, the Patriots still managed to have a “pretty good year” ending the regular season with 13 wins. Apparently having Tom Brady under center and Bill Belichick on the sidelines can help overcome other inefficiencies.

4. Ravens (T4) – Yes Ray Lewis is still playing and yes Ray Lewis is approaching AARP age. But he, along with the rest of the Ravens will have much to play for this year, including revenge. After losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game by three points, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, et al will be back. Despite the loss of Terrell Suggs until at least November, they will be right in the thick of it when the dust settles.

5. Niners (T24) – Either Jim Harbaugh is a motivational genius or Alex Smith really is a pretty good NFL quarterback. I think it’s the former rather than the latter. One also has to wonder how Smith’s psyche will be after watching his team flirt with Peyton Manning. But with a defense that allowed the second-lowest points per game (14.3), the Niners should have no problem cruising to another division title in a very weak NFC West.

6. Texans (T29) – Quick: Who was that playing QB for the Texans at the end of the season? Time’s up. It was the immortal TJ Yates, who played admirably in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, but he clearly is no Matt Schaub. With Schaub back to go along with Arian Foster and Andre Johnson and a very stingy defense (4th in points allowed), this could be the year the Texans take the next step.

7. Steelers (T14) – Once again the Steelers’ defense did their job, allowing the fewest points per game. It was the Steelers’ offense, specifically their offensive line which was the main reason for their disappointing season which saw QB Ben Roethlisberger get sacked 40 times. They’ve bolstered their O-Line but Roethlisberger recently revealed he has a slight tear of the rotator cuff in his right throwing shoulder, which he suffered during a game last November against the Ravens.

8. Bears (T20) – The Bears, in case you forget, were one of the best teams in the NFL last season until QB Jay Cutler’s season-ending injury. Matt Forte is back at RB and they brought in Michael Bush from the Raiders to spell him. They also acquired WR Brandon Marshall, who can be diva-esque at times, but is also a very good NFL receiver.

9. Falcons (T24) – Any team that trots out Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Michael Turner has to be a team to be reckoned with. Former Eagle Asante Samuel  joins a talented yet under-achieving defense.

10. Lions (T20) – I don’t care what’s happened in the off season and the Lions’ players penchant for running afoul of the law. The fact is this is one very talented team with a fiery head coach in Jim Schwartz who can get this group – the Raiders of the Midwest if you will, to fly right and win some ball games.

11. Eagles (7) – Thought long and hard on this one, kids. I argued with myself – hey don’t knock until you try it, about moving the Birds up or down this list. I try to be as objective as I possibly can and right now, this spot is the right spot for the Eagles. Spare me the “dynasty” talk. I don’t care what Michael Vick says. I only care about Michael Vick can do… on the field.

12. Saints (T11) – Ok Drew Brees, it’s time to earn all those millions. Can anyone remember any team in any sport having such a tumultuous off-season as the Saints have? Me neither. But, the roster is still loaded with talent. The Saints are a team that could go into a funk and win 4-5 games and we would all understand. Or they could use their offseason as motivation and win 11-12 games. Not many teams have that kind of broad spectrum of fortunes associated with them.

13. Broncos (2) – It’s Peyton’s place in Denver of course and as he goes, so go the Broncos. To say Peyton has a chip on his shoulder would be an understatement. But he is not alone of course as he has Willis McGahee coming off a 1,000-yard season and DeMaryius Thomas, an up and coming star at WR.

14. Bengals (T14) – Sophomore slump for Andy Dalton? Maybe. But with WR AJ Green, TE Jermaine Gresham and a top 10 defense, the Bengals should be knocking on the playoff door again next year.

15. Cowboys (T11) – This is going to be the year Tony Romo… well you can fill in your own blank, and if you’re a Cowboys fan you probably want to fill the blank with something that resembles a playoff win. To help Romo & Co, the ‘Boys upgraded their defense bringing in CB Brandon Carr, LB Dan Connor and S Brodney Pool, among others.

16. Chiefs (20) – Todd Hailey is gone. Enter Romeo Crennel who was at the helm when the Chiefs handed the Packers their one and only regular season loss last year. Also in is new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who like Crennel, has the Patriots pedigree and he is sure to install the same offense that has made Mr. Brady so successful.

17. Chargers (6) –  The fortunes of the Chargers, like many other NFL teams, lie with their QB. In the first 10 games last year Philip Rivers threw 17 interceptions and the Chargers’ record was 4-6. In their 6 games, he threw 3 picks and their record in those games was 4-2. Hmmm, a QB who throws too many picks and thus team suffers. Sound like another NFL team you know? SEE: Eagles, Philadelphia

18. Jets (T20) – I’ve seen the Jets ranked as low as #28 in some preseason rankings. That’s a bit too low I think because I think Skinny Rexy will get this team back on track and Tim Tebow  will be the same galvanizing presence he was in Denver.

19. Panthers (10) – You have to give QB Cam Newton tons of props. He had his detractors coming out of college – admit it, you didn’t think he would be anywhere near as good as he was last year. Now, however, the bar has been set rather high and there will be no accepting of a sophomore slump.

20. Bills (T29) – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson are all three main cogs in the Bills offensive scheme. But the biggest and most important cog the Bills added in the off season was Mario Williams. He was brought in to do one thing: attack the QB, especially a certain T. Brady.

21. Seahawks (T11) – New QB Matt Flynn comes in with a great deal of expectation and excitement. Can he capture the magic he had spelling Aaron Rodgers last year and do it for an entire season? That of course remains to be seen. If he can the offense can be pretty potent when you add in RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Sidney Rice, third-year wideout Golden Tate, and possibly.....T.O.?!

22. Titans (28) – If only WR Kenny Britt can stay out of trouble – he’s had eight runs in with the police since being drafted in 2009 – the Titans could be a very good team, at least offensively.

23. Raiders (T18) – Perhaps too high on the list, I happen to think the Raiders, behind a full season of Carson Palmer, could be… well., they could be ok, which is to say better than last year.

24. Redskins (T24) – The obvious comparisons between Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III started essentially the moment Roger Goodell announced RG3’s name at the draft. Of course Cam had Steve Smith to throw while Griffin has Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss. Advantage: Newton.

25. Dolphins (T18)  - Reggie Bush played out of his mind last year and while he opened a lot of eyes, the question is can he do it again?

26. Buccaneers (27) – One of, if not the most disappointing team last year, the Bucs are depending heavily on QB Josh Freeman returning to the form he displayed in 2010. The addition of WR Vincent Jackson will surely help Freeman return to that form.

27. Jaguars  (T14) – Obviously the Jags’ hopes and dreams are contingent on RB Maurice Jones Drew and whether he ever reports to the team as he sits out over a contract dispute.

28. Rams (T4) – Signing Pro Bowl center Scott Wells to protect QB Sam Bradford was a good start but there is clearly a lot more work to be done for the Rams' return to respectability.

29. Vikings (T8) – Like the Rams, the Vikings brought in an offensive lineman to help a young QB – in their case rookie Matt Kalil and Christian Ponder, respectively. But like the Rams, the Vikes have a long way to go before re-entering the big dance.

30. Cardinals (T8) – Defensively the Cardinals, with Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Sam Acho and Adrian Wilson, are a pretty sold group. And offensively with all-world WR Larry Fitzgerald and highly touted rookie WR Michael Floyd, they should score some points. Yet their ranked #30. Oh yeah, their QB is either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton.

31. Colts (T14) – How the mighty have fallen. Was it that long ago the Colts could be penciled in for 12-13 wins? All eyes will be on Andrew Luck of course as he attempts to become the next face of this once proud franchise.

32. Browns (T3) – Just what the Browns needed, the third-toughest schedule in the entire league. Rookie RB Trent Richardson will sell tickets for sure and with a new ownership group in place, the Browns only have one way to go – up.

 

Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a freelance copywriter/blogger currently looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has over 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via email,TwitterLinkedIn or his website.

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