NFL 2009 Power Rankings
1. New York Giants – The Giants did very well refortifying their roster in free agency and the draft. Injured starters on the D-line are back. DE Osi Umenyiora is healthy. WR Hakeem Nicks was drafted to replace Plaxico Burress. The defense will be dominant and they won’t miss Plax one bit. I firmly believe that the Giants would’ve been in the Super Bowl without the injuries and Plaxico saga. The Giants are my Super Bowl favorites for 2009.
2. Pittsburg Steelers – Last year’s Super Bowl champs are the second best team heading into the season. Not much has changed and like the Giants, they plugged their holes well. The Steelers could’ve used some help on the O-line. But this O-line got them to the Super Bowl. OL Kraig Urbik was drafted in the third round. But the defense is the highlight of the team. The Steelers have a good chance to repeat as champions.
3. New England Patriots – The Patriots managed and 11-5 record without QB Tom Brady last year. Even with Brady, that record may still have been 11-5 and they would’ve still missed the playoffs. Brady is back. Coach Bill Belichick did the usual roster improvements in free agency and not only addressed short-term deficiencies in the draft, but the long-term ones as well. The Patriots will win at least 11 games and they will go deep into the playoffs.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Eagles fans had to be frustrated last year. The Eagles have maintained a core of a team that has allowed them to reach the playoffs in 7 of the last 9 seasons, and they did it the ugly way last year. Well there will be no shortage of talent for 2009. The Eagles grabbed playmaking WR Jeremy Maclin in the draft and rebuilt their O-line. The defense will be fine without S Brian Dawkins. The Eagles will be a Super Bowl contender but they will need to get by the Giants to go all the way.
5. New Orleans Saints – Anybody that saw the Saints play defense last year would say that this ranking is too high. But I think they turn the corner here. The Saints grabbed DB Malcolm Jenkins in the draft and he will be their centerfielder. This is the year the Saints defense comes together. The Saints already have a Super Bowl caliber offense. They will win 12 games this year and go deep into the playoffs.
6. Minnesota Vikings – When you have Adrian Peterson and an elite defense, playoffs are always a possibility no matter who the QB is. 2009 will be no exception as long as QB Sage Rosenfels gets the start. The Vikings can win 10-12 games with their division. But I foresee another first round exit unless the QB situation continues to improve. Calling Brett Favre.
7. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning always gives you a chance to win. It’s everything else that holds the Colts back. GM Bill Polian tried to fix the “everything else” in the offseason. NCAA leading RB Donald Brown was added in the draft along with two run stuffing DT’s in Fili Moala and Terrence Taylor. It looks like there will be less emphasis on Peyton to win games on his own. The Colts look to run a lot and to stop the run as their formula to success this year. They will have some growing pains on defense but may still challenge the Steelers and Patriots for a championship.
8. Arizona Cardinals – Last year’s reigning NFC champions will find it tough to repeat as the Giants and Eagles get stronger. The Cardinals drafted RB Beanie Wells to balance out its pass-heavy offense. Kurt Warner and Company is capable of winning games in the same fashion as Manning’s Colts. The Cardinals should hope that they won’t have to battle the distractions with WR Anquan Boldin, DT Darnell Dockett and LB Karlos Dansby. But the Cardinals are a capable Playoff team as they proved last season.
9. Tennessee Titans – The offense gets upgraded with draftees WR Kenny Britt and TE Jared Cook. The defense gets DT Sen’Derrick Marks. But Marks inconsistencies will not offset the loss of Albert Haynesworth. The Titans will not win 13 games this year but they should make the playoffs.
10. San Diego Chargers – Norv Turner doesn’t get any respect. But should he? The Chargers will return to form this year. Not in the form of RB LaDanian Tomlinson, but with the pass rush of OLB’s Shawn Merriman and Larry English. The pass defense will be better. That alone will improve the Chargers 8 win total from last year to 10+ wins in 2009. The Chargers also capitalize on a weak division that is in a state of flux.
11. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens have always got by with a dominant defense. They might have struck gold last year with QB Joe Flacco and RB LeRon McClain. Neither were probably expected to make the impact that they did in their rookie years. There were changes to that dominant defense, more so than in the past. Gone are LB Bart Scott and CB Chris McAlister. They also lost key blocker, Lorenzo Neal. These details will prevent the Ravens from winning 11 games like they did last year.
12. Chicago Bears – The Bears have a good defense. But it is not the elite defense that took them to the Super Bowl in recent years. The acquisition of QB Jay Cutler adds another element of respectability to this team. There is are no WR’s in Brandon Marshall or Eddie Royal. We will have to wait and see if WR’s Earl Bennett and Juaquin Iglesias pick up where the other two left off. Nonetheless, the Bears should be good for 10+ wins.
13. Carolina Panthers – The Panthers X-factor on offense will depend on QB Jake Delhomme. One year removed Tommy John surgery, Panthers fans should hope that Delhomme will return to Super Bowl form. Another factor hindering the Panthers is a defense that broke down later in the year. That same defense returns to full strength, but will they break down again and will Julius Peppers become a distraction?
14. Atlanta Falcons – QB Matt Ryan and his Falcons won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. Teams will key in on RB Michael Turner and the inexperience on defense will cost them a few games. The Falcons got a treat in TE Tony Gonzalez. But like the Ravens, the Falcons will not win 11 games this year but could still sneak into the playoffs.
15. Miami Dolphins – Like the Falcons, the Dolphins will not be sneaking up on anyone this year. Opponents will key in on the Wildcat. GM Bill Parcells continues to bring in hard working, blue collar type players. This team is solid but will not take anyone by surprise. The Dolphins will struggle to win 11 games in a tough conference.
16. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys may struggle to surpass mediocrity. Ridding themselves of WR Terrell Owens was a smart move, but they may need more firepower on offense and defense to defeat division rivals Giants and Eagles. The Cowboys will stay at medicrity and will need the Giants and Eagles to falter in order to make the playoffs.
17. Buffalo Bills – The Bills definitely brought more attention to themselves and the city of Buffalo in the off season with the acquisition of T.O. But the loss of Jason Peters may offset the effectiveness of the signing. The Bills upgraded WR and pass rush in the offseason but it may not be enough in a very competitive division. The Bills will be fortunate to win 9 games.
18. Houston Texans – The Texans themselves are in a very difficult position. They too, are saddled in a very competitive league. While the Texans has no shortage of star players (DE Mario Williams, WR Andre Johnson, LB DeMeco Ryans, RB Steve Slaton to name a few), they must face the Colts and Titans twice a year. Like the Bills, the Texans will be lucky to see more than 9 wins. A healthy QB Matt Schaub just might make a difference.
19. San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers don’t get any respect. It’s understandable since they haven’t made the playoffs since 2003. But they’ll turn the corner this year. No B.S. about how the QB’s are unsettled with Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. Hill will start. And his game management style fits the defense that helped the team win 5 games out of their final 8. The 49ers should win at least 9 games and finish over 0.500 for the first time since 2003.
20. Washington Redskins – The Redskins are the unfortunate victims of being stuck in one of the best divisions in football. They might challenge the Cowboys for third best, but that’s about it. DT Albert Haynesworth can’t save this team on his own. QB Jason Campbell may not have what it takes to run coach Jim Zorn's offense. The O-line was not addressed. The Redskins will struggle to win 8 games.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals off season looks good enough on paper. But it seems that most of the players acquired come with some sort of character concerns. This ranges from LB Rey Maualuga in the draft to DT Tank Johnson in free agency. Add that to holdovers RB Cedric Benson and WR Chris Henry and you have a powder keg waiting to explode. The Ravens and Steelers still top the division. The Bengals will struggle to win 8 games.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars share a similar situation with the Bengals. Only 2 years ago, the Jaguars were challenging the Colts for the division. That honor now goes to the Titans. The Jaguars are focused on the core component that makes their team successful. They spent their first 3 picks on linemen this year and their top two picks last year. QB David Garrard is looking to make a comeback, but the Jaguars will struggle to win 7 games as the lines on both sides gel.
23. Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks battled a rash of injuries. The injuries were so bad that it razed their depth as well. Many experts are predicting that the Seahawks will rise to the top of the NFC West again. I disagree. The Seahawks will continue to battle injuries. QB Matt Hasselbeck will not last the entire season. RB Julius Jones is not the future of this franchise and OT Walter Jones will be one year older. The team needs to get younger and it is time to rebuild. The Seahawks may improve to 6 or 7 wins, but their reign over the NFC West came to an end last year.
24. Green Bay Packers – The good news is that if QB Aaron Rodgers can stay healthy, the passing game will continue to remain one of the best. The bad news is that the Packers lack the defense and running game to support Rodgers. The run game is spotty at best. RB Ryan Grant better bounce back. The defense is also transitioning to a 3-4 scheme and will need time to adjust. The Packers will find themselves struggling to win 6 games this year.
25. New York Jets – Tough division. Something has to give. The Jets go into the season matched up against the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills twice each. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez may be the future franchise QB, but his contributions will not materialize this year. The Jets will regress and struggle to win 6 games.
26. Oakland Raiders – The Raiders are in an interesting position. They have been rebuilding for the last 3 seasons. The first of three previous first round picks, QB JaMarcus Russell (2007) is surrounded by RB Darren McFadden (2008) and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009). But did the Raiders do enough to help the defense? 2009 is the time to capitalize on Broncos and Chiefs teams that are in the midst of rebuilding. Winning 6 would be considered progress for this franchise.
27. Denver Broncos – The Broncos won 8 games by outscoring their opponents to compensate for a weak defense. The key component to that offense (Cutler) is gone. New coach Josh McDaniels will rely on more of a systematic approach on offense and defense to get by. There have been a lot of personnel changes on both sides of the ball. The Broncos will struggle to win 5 or 6 games as the team learns its new identity.
28. Cleveland Browns – Like the Jets, the Browns find themselves in a tough situation. Their division gets stronger and the Browns go from one former Patriots assistant coach to another. It’s hard to tell if Mangini will be effective. The QB situation is unsettled, RB Jamal Lewis needs help and the defense will have to survive Mangini’s tweaks. The Browns will struggle to win 5 games.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs hired former Patriots GM Scott Pioli to turn the team around. Pioli has tagged Matt Cassel as the savior on offense and will rebuild the defense around rookie DE Tyson Jackson. Everything from personnel to coaching philosophies are being changed from the previous regime to the current one. The Chiefs will struggle to win 4 or 5 games this year.
30. St Louis Rams – The Rams are another team starting from scratch. New coach Steve Spagnuolo will install his defense. But does he have all the right personnel. Like Hasselbeck in Seattle, QB Marc Bulger will struggle to stay healthy with the Rams. This is another team that needed to get younger and the house cleaning has already started. The Rams will struggle to win 4 games.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers will go from mediocrity to bottom of the pack as they search for a franchise QB. Their defense broke down late last season and the defensive line needs more work to return to dominating form. This will not be the same Buccaneers that have ridden the coat tails of their defense for the better part of the last ten years. What will their new identity be? The Bucs will struggle to win 4 games.
32. Detroit Lions – Not much explanation is needed here. Matt Millen is finally gone and the real building process can begin now. New GM and coach combo, Martin Mayhew/Jim Schwartz have the unenviable task of undoing the damage that Millen brought upon them in the last 9 years. It won’t be tough to improve on 0-16. But anything more than 4 wins will be a tall order.