Several NFL Columnists here at RantSports.com were asked to create power rankings listing all 32 teams in order from best to worst. NFL Network manager Jeric Griffin compiled the lists to make one collaborative effort: the 2012 RantSports NFL Power Rankings, Offseason Edition. After looking over the list and noticing after 10 things started to change between the team’s list and mine, I decided to publish my own power rankings which may or may not have had a hand in elevating the St. Louis Rams to 30. I also apologize in advance if I anger anyone.
So here we go with the final 10 teams:
10. Chicago Bears 2011 Record: 8-8
This is the first of three teams from the NFC North in my top 10. At first I thought I was being overly confident in the abilities of the Midwest teams, but clearly I am not. Not according to the collaborative power rankings, anyway. And as you guys know by now I don’t like being negative about anyone but Mike Martz was/is an idiot. There, I said it. Last season Mike Tice did the best job anyone could ask for considering the offensive line talent (Gabe Carimi aside) that he had to work with and I think him taking over as offensive coordinator is a good thing. Many of the sacks Jay Cutler took were because Martz was an idiot and had idiot play-calling. Just watch any game from the last two years, and you too will be saying “Hey, that’s an idiot of a call”. For example, in the Saints’ 30-13 victory over the Bears in week two last year, Martz called 52 pass and 11 run plays. The result? 45 passes for Cutler, one scramble and six sacks. All six sacks came in the final 25 minutes of the game. With every receiver that caught a pass (with the exception of Sam Hurd) 6 foot or under it makes it harder for the wideouts to get open, forcing Cutler to take more time and wearing down the line from shielding him the entire contest. Adding 6’4” Brandon Marshall (whether he’s bat-crap crazy or has a mental disorder) and drafting 6’3” 216-pound Alshon Jeffery gives Cutler two large targets (no pun intended, Alshon) to throw to. The contract situation with Matt Forte is frustrating to say the least. The Pro-Bowl RB rushed for 997 yards and three touchdowns on 203 before going down with a sprained MCL in week 13 and missing the rest of the season. Before the injury Forte was leading the league in total yards as he also posted 53 receptions for 490 yards and a score. The Bears added Michael Bush in March, and while Bush has been an extremely competent running back (he played in all 16 games last year, staring nine and rushed for 977 yards, seven TDs on 256 attempts) he is no Forte. The defense was rather unbalanced last year – ranking fifth in the league in rushing, and 28th in passing, and didn’t add much through free agency or the draft to make an improvement on paper. Sixth round draft selection Isaiah Frey (Nevada) could be one of the steals of the draft, but he has to get through two other cornerbacks on the depth chart for the opportunity to start; one of those corners being Charles Peanut Tillman and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. We’ll just have to hope the veteran crew guided by a veteran staff can stay healthy in 2012.
9. Detroit Lions 2011 Record: 10-6
The only real problem keeping the Lions from being higher in my power rankings is uncertainty. As talented as Nick Fairley, Mikel Leshoure, Ndamukong Suh, and Titus Young are, their lack of self control at times on and off the field is a major flaw. Initially, I thought last year’s lockout had something to do with it; the team seemed undisciplined and unconditioned, but the problems continued after the season ended. The injuries at running back were more than misfortunate and lead to another kind of immaturity – how developed has Leshoure become as an NFL back? How deep into the season can Jahvid Best play without getting (what appears to be) a career-ending concussion? No one knows, and that’s a problem. If Matt Stafford can stay healthy for a second-straight complete season, if the offensive line can hold up and protect Stafford, if Calvin Johnson can overcome the Maddon Curse, if the running backs can avoid injury, if the defense figures out how to stop the run, if they don’t lose half the team the first few games to suspension, the Lions could make a repeat trip to the postseason. They certainly have the talent, it’s the uncertainty of the execution that I’m worried about.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 Record: 12-4
Okay, so here’s the thing with Pittsburgh: there’s so much I like about them, I have no idea why I have them as low as eight. Quarterback? Check. Depth at Quarterback? Double check. Receivers, running backs, offensive line? Triple check. Sure, the defense is aging. But last year’s first round draft pick, Cameron Heyward, along with a slew of young defensive talent is just sitting patiently behind the vets. Just sitting there, learning. Soaking up knowledge. Why? Because the vets still perform at a high level and the Steelers are perennial playoff contenders. If it ain’t broke…
7. Baltimore Ravens 2011 Record: 12-4
I’m still not sure how or why Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) slipped to Baltimore as the third pick of the second round, but I’m sure the team doesn’t care about the how or why. Playing alongside Ray Lewis, Upshaw will learn from one of the very best all-time linebackers. A team historically built on defense, Baltimore has grasped the need for wide receivers who can stretch the field by signing Jacoby Jones in free agency, and drafting 6’5” Tommy Streeter (Miami FL) who dazzled folks at the combine with a 4.40 second 40. Ray Rice is in contract negotiations with the team and missed OTAs and mini-camp because he hasn’t signed his tender as the team’s franchise player (technically he isn’t a member of the team), so second-year back up Anthony Allen got the bulk of the first team reps. The Ravens drafted some insurance at RB when they selected Bernard Pierce (Temple) in the third round of the draft. Unfortunately for Pierce, who has the tools to be a quality NFL starting back one day, he missed some recent practices with a tweaked hamstring. Baltimore is definitely worthy of number seven on my power rankings especially if they can come to an agreement with Rice and if the curious case of Ed Reed gets cleared up. The future Hall of Famer and eight-time All Pro Safety missed the entire mandatory mini-camp reportedly because he is contemplating his football future.
6. Houston Texans 2011 Record: 10-6
Shortly after the release of the collaborative rankings, I gave you a post about the Texans landing perfectly at the sixth spot. Here’s my take on the Houston Texans.
5. San Francisco 49ers 2011 Record: 13-3
In a weakened NFC West Division, the Niners are poised to go 13-3 again. I’m not as negative about QB Alex Smith as others are. Smith was more than competent last season (17 TDs, 5 INTs, 3144 yards) and has more weapons this year. The signing of Randy Moss was a little surprising, but when he decides he wants to play he’s one of the greatest receivers of all time. Mario Manningham is a good compliment opposite Michael Crabtree, and they have speedy wideouts in Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, and undrafted Chris Owusu (who Coach Jim Harbaugh is familiar with going back to his Stanford days). Then there’s the ground game. Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James will all have specific roles in the offense, and if one of them gets sidelined with an injury another should slide right in a la 2011 New Orleans Saints. Then there’s the defense which had four players voted to start in the 2012 Pro Bowl. This team should easily win the NFC West for the second straight year.
4. Philadelphia Eagles 2011 Record: 8-8
It seems every year the expectations are high for Philly, and this year is no different. What is different is there is a definite sense of urgency in the City of Brotherly Love, which may not be so brotherly if Andy Reid can’t go deep into the playoffs. Their 2012 draft was so good it almost isn’t fair; AND THESE GUYS WON’T EVEN START. On paper, this is one of the most talented teams in the NFL. From the receivers to the running backs, defensive line to the secondary – this team is loaded with ability and depth. That makes for a scary combination. If Mike Vick can get back to his 2010 rating of 100.2 and not repeat the 84.9 rating of last season, this team could be once again in a battle with their NFC East foe Giants for the division.
3. New York Giants 2011 Record: 9-7
Just like the two teams at the top (one and two in my rankings), NYG addressed one of the biggest areas of need in the draft – a running back. Unfortunately for them, I don’t think it’s necessarily the one they had their eye on. By the end of the regular season (if not by week one) David Wilson should take the feature back role from Ahmad Bradshaw, and they still have a plethora of receivers for Eli Manning to throw to. Add in one of the fiercest defensive lines in the NFL and the sum equals a highly successful football team.
2. Green Bay Packers 2011 Record: 15-1
The Packers were close to the Promised Land last year – REAL close. The reason they didn’t was simple – their defense was awful. Just like the Pats, however, the Pack addressed that in the draft. Nick Perry will join former Trojan teammate AJ Hawk to solidify a linebacker corps that needed a pass rushing OLB. Jerel Worthy could see ample playing time behind an aging Ryan Pickett, and Casey Hayward covered the SEC receivers like a blanket while at Vanderbilt. Signing undrafted rookies Marc Tyler (USC) and Duane Bennett (Minnesota) didn’t give them a premier RB, but it did give them two players who should see success in the ZBS. They also have a guy named Aaron Rodgers, and he’s pretty good.
1 .New England Patriots 2011 Record: 13-3
It’s hard not to put the Patriots at the top. With one of the worst defenses in the league in 2011, they still made it to the Super Bowl. They certainly knew where they were weakest, and addressed it during the 2012 NFL Draft – their first six draft picks were all defensive players including Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Due to off the field issues, Alfonzo Dennard fell to the seventh round, but with a veteran locker room full of leaders, it was one of the best scenarios for him. They also added a ton in free agency and have one of the most solid coaching staffs, which all adds up to them being the best team in the NFL.
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