The Green Bay Packers haven’t done an awful lot this off season, and that’s OK, because when you’re the defending Super Bowl champs, just managing to keep the gang together is a good thing. So when you can do that and welcome back some key players from injury (Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant), you’ve done enough to stay atop my Pre-Preseason Power Rankings.
While the Packers were always going to be No. 1, the Top 10 holds some teams you may not have expected.
1. Green Bay Packers
Reason to be cheerful: The Super Bowl champs are returning with pretty much all of the roster that won them the Lombardi trophy last season. Oh and they get Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant back from injury.
Reason to be concerned: They’ll need Aaron Rodgers all year long. His concussion history combined with the amount of hits he takes will always scare you a little.
2. New England Patriots
Reason to be cheerful: They sorted out some of their pass rush issues by bringing in some talent on the defensive line. If Haynesworth doesn’t work out, then maybe Ellis, Anderson or Carter will?
Reason to be concerned: Do they have an alternative on offense when teams take away the short pass?
3. New Orleans Saints
Reason to be cheerful: They got a lot stronger up front. A space-eater like Aubrayo Franklin and a penetrator like Shaun Rogers will make this team harder to run against.
Reason to be concerned: Their linebackers look a little lightweight. If you get your hands on them they’re pretty much taken out of a play.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Reason to be cheerful: The Steelers remain the Steelers. They’ll pressure quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger will make plays and they’ll win games. It’s what they do.
Reason to be concerned: The offensive line. They fail to impose themselves on teams and invite hits on Big Ben.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Reason to be cheerful: Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, etc, etc. You get the point.
Reason to be concerned: Much like the Packers, the health of their quarterback is a concern. Perhaps more so than the cheeseheads, as teams seemed to figure out the Vick puzzle towards the end of the season. Can he replicate his form from last year?
6. New York Jets
Reason to be cheerful: They kept Santonio Holmes, and that was huge. The roster remains extremely talented from top to bottom.
Reason to be concerned: Take your pick. Did the pursuit of Asomugha see them miss out on players in free agency? And if not you have to continue to worry about the at times erratic Mark Sanchez.
7. Baltimore Ravens
Reason to be cheerful: They weren’t exceptionally busy in free agency, but they’re bringing back a lot of talent. They have that post season feel to them as a team that can run the ball well and has a strong defense.
Reason to be concerned: A lot of this team’s success will ride on Joe Flacco’s shoulders. However, it’s fair to say that he seemed to have stagnated a bit after an impressive 2009 season. He needs to be able to challenge teams deep, so his receivers will need to step up.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Reason to be cheerful: They lost an offensive guard but other than that added to a strong roster. Continuity could be the key for a team that is so well in sync.
Reason to be concerned: What have they really done that will stop teams like Green Bay and New Orleans passing all over them? The back seven (minus the starting cornerbacks) remains an issue.
9. Houston Texans
Reason to be cheerful: Just read this article.
Reason to be concerned: They have the talent but how easy will installing a new defensive system be? Do they know how to win when it matters?
10. Indianapolis Colts
Reason to be cheerful: They’ll always be competitive as long as Peyton Manning is healthy.
Reason to be concerned: But is he actually healthy?
11. San Diego Chargers
Reason to be cheerful: Philip Rivers will be throwing to the guys he wants to be throwing to. He was great last year, but a full season of Gates, Jackson and Floyd will make him better.
Reason to be concerned: Where is the pass rush going to come from?
12. Dallas Cowboys
Reason to be cheerful: They had a down year, but there is so much talent on this roster. Tony Romo is back, and they have talents like Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware on defense. This is a good football team.
Reason to be concerned: Mike Jenkins. With Terence Newman hobbled there’s even more onus on Jenkins to play a lot better than he did last year. If not, this is a secondary that could be abused.
13. Detroit Lions
Reason to be cheerful: Matthew Stafford is looking tremendous in camp, they have an incredible defensive line, they’ve addressed their linebacker issues and they are rolling deep on the talent side.
Reason to be concerned: Can Stafford stay healthy? He’s turning into a bit of a tease.
14. Kansas City Chiefs
Reason to be cheerful: Every time they get the ball in the hands of Jamaal Charles.
Reason to be concerned: Every time they get the ball in the hands of Thomas Jones.
15. Chicago Bears
Reason to be cheerful: J’Marcus Webb is no longer the starting right tackle.
Reason to be concerned: J’Marcus Webb is the starting left tackle. Jay Cutler’s health insurance premiums just went up.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reason to be cheerful: They have some talented, young players on offense. Josh Freeman in particular is the kind of player who can negate the negative impact of such a poor offensive line.
Reason to be concerned: They spent all that cap room on a guard who has struggled (Joseph), a tackle they benched (Trueblood) and a punter (Koenen).
17. St Louis Rams
Reason to be cheerful: Rumor has it Sam Bradford may actually throw deep this year.
Reason to be concerned: Does the “throw as many linebackers at the wall and see what sticks” approach really work? Did it work for them last year?
18. New York Giants
Reason to be cheerful: They managed to keep Ahmad Bradshaw.
Reason to be concerned: This offseason hasn’t gone well for them. They had issues with Osi Umenyiora, lost Kevin Boss, and failed to add to a roster that took a hit.
19. Seattle Seahawks
Reason to be cheerful: They may have gotten the best vertical deep threat in the league in the form of Sidney Rice.
Reason to be concerned: Their quarterback situation doesn’t fill you with hope. But then they got to the playoffs with Matt Hasselbeck playing poorly.
20. Miami Dolphins
Reason to be cheerful: That defense is one of the best in the league. Talented all over and led by real playmakers like Cameron Wake.
Reason to be concerned: They’ve put themselves in an impossible situation with Chad Henne where the fans almost want him to fail so they can move on. If they move on to Matt Moore then they’ll soon long for the steadier hand of Henne.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
Reason to be cheerful: They identified some problems in coverage and addressed them with Posluszny, Landry and Coleman.
Reason to be concerned: They created a quarterback controversy. It may have been needed for the future, but could it derail a possible playoff push?
22. Oakland Raiders
Reason to be cheerful: That defensive line will cause a ton of pressure. They’ve got potential studs at every spot.
Reason to be concerned: Any quarterback behind that offensive line is going to have other things on their mind than just getting the ball to a receiver. Namely keeping themselves healthy.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Reason to be cheerful: Uhm … ugh … when one window closes another one opens? The picking up of Christian Ponder at least shows they realized their window was shut.
Reason to be concerned: We all knew Ray Edwards was leaving, but losing a top talent like Sidney Rice is a big blow. This once talent-heavy team doesn’t seem quite so happy.
24. Buffalo Bills
Reason to be cheerful: Watching Kyle Williams.
Reason to be concerned: They need to find some edge pass rush and relying on Shawne Merriman to be that guy seems like a long shot at best.
25. Arizona Cardinals
Reason to be cheerful: At least they have a quarterback they’re invested in.
Reason to be concerned: That quarterback is the unproven Kevin Kolb and they paid a fortune for him.
26. Washington Redskins
Reason to be cheerful: They had an excellent offseason where they managed to upgrade the talent on their roster.
Reason to be concerned: They have a lot of new personnel that they’ll be trying to get the best of. It could take quite some time for them to gel into an effective unit.
27. Carolina Panthers
Reason to be cheerful: They were able to resign an awful lot of their players.
Reason to be concerned: These were the same players who “earned” them the number one pick in the draft.
28. Denver Broncos
Reason to be cheerful: They’ve seen sense and will be riding the Kyle Orton train.
Reason to be concerned: Which just means every time he does something wrong, we’ll have to hear about Tim Tebow non stop. The media just found a new circus to invest in.
29. Tennessee Titans
Reason to be cheerful: Derrick Morgan will be back from injury. I’m reaching here.
Reason to be concerned: Issues at nearly every position on the team. The Titans have talent, but they look like a team that will do well to avoid getting humped too much this year as their roster took a big downgrade during the offseason.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Reason to be cheerful: As long as they have Justin Smith and Patrick Willis they’ll have two of the best players in the league.
Reason to be concerned: It’s a real shame about the rest of the roster. All aboard the Alex Smith train? Thought so …
31. Cincinnati Bengals
Reason to be cheerful: They overhauled their roster. They’re young and there is some talent there.
Reason to be concerned: This “bite your nose off to spite your face” approach. That’s not what winners do, and the Bengals don’t appear to be winners.
32. Cleveland Browns
Reason to be cheerful: In Joe Haden, they have a cornerback who looks like he could be a shutdown.
Reason to be concerned: New Head Coach, new offensive and defensive systems, lack of new talent after losing old players, and a tough division. The Browns are once again rebuilding.
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