Well a lot has changed since I published my Pre-Preseason Power Rankings. Injuries have shook teams and cuts have shocked fans. Some teams made statements that can’t be ignored, while others have displayed the rust that a shortened offseason is expected to bring.
And now we have real football!
The Saints and Packers kick-off a massive first week of action that will see the top two seeds from the NFC in 2010 battle it out, the Steelers-Ravens rivalry resumed, and a host of other important matchups.
So, as we brace for the season to begin, which teams are in the best shape? With these Post-Preseason Power Rankings, I’m offering my opinion. The number in parentheses denotes where I had them in my Pre-Preseason Rankings.
1. Green Bay Packers (1)
The Good: Where do you start? The quarterback, the receivers, the right guard, the pass rush or the run defense? They’re bloody good all over.
The Bad: It’s really hard to repeat. The top team now is very rarely the top team come the end of the season.
The Ugly: They are so good it’s almost unfair.
2. New England Patriots (2)
The Good: He was ‘only’ 33rd on my Top 101 Players of 2010, but Tom Brady is capable of doing it all on a team that fixed it’s major weakness by bringing in plenty of pass rush. Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter could be huge for this team.
The Bad: You trust in the judgment of the Patriots, but they look a little unproven at the safety spot.
The Ugly: It was only preseason, but they struggled with a team that could generate pressure without sending extra men … the same problem they had last postseason.
3. New Orleans Saints (3)
The Good: Have a problem in run defense? Go get Aubrayo Franklin to eat up some blockers and Shaun Rogers to burst through the line. This team got better, and it was already very good.
The Bad: Both men will play second fiddle to the overrated Sedrick Ellis.
The Ugly: Ellis’ presence means teams will continue to be able to get blockers onto the Saints’ linebackers and spring big runs.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4)
The Good: Whether you love or hate Ben Roethlisberger, he’s grossly underrated and makes plays that others can only dream of. Oh and that defense is pretty good.
The Bad: Will James Harrison be the same player he was last year? Offseason surgery seems to have impacted him – if he can’t play 95% of snaps, that’s a big loss.
The Ugly: The offensive line looks like less of a mess – but it’s still a mess.
5. Baltimore Ravens (7)
The Good: The move of Michael Oher back to the right side will get the best out of him. They’re stacked on the line and that will make the offense better than it was last year.
The Bad: Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith? That seems like a lot of faith the Ravens are putting in unproven cornerbacks.
The Ugly: They could really miss the safe, veteran presence of guys like Todd Heap and Derrick Mason.
6. Atlanta Falcons (8)
The Good: It’s been written before, but Harry Douglas looks like a different player. The Falcons have so many weapons in the passing game that they are closer than ever to being able to trade big hits with the offensive powerhouses.
The Bad: In Week 1, they’ll be missing two of the guys who made their offensive line so good last year. Think the Bears are licking their chops much?
The Ugly: They signed Ray Edwards which will improve the defense, but have they done enough to improve the back seven? They’re vulnerable in the middle of the field and there’s little to suggest that’s going to change.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (5)
The Good: They have playmakers all over the field.
The Bad: Did they load up so much on game changers that they neglected other positions? The line looks a little troubling, while the linebackers don’t look like a group of NFL starters.
The Ugly: The reaction when they suffer their first defeat. The pressure on the Eagles, and overreaction to everything they do, could be incredibly tedious.
8. New York Jets (6)
The Good: A talented roster from top to bottom. A head coach who is nothing if not entertaining. The Jets will write some headlines this year.
The Bad: Is anyone else already a little bored of the Jets continually trying to get the Patriots attention off-the-field?
The Ugly: This team is tied to the development of Mark Sanchez. Anyone seen any of that in preseason? (and, yes I’m aware it’s only preseason)
9. Houston Texans (9)
The Good: Continuity is key. The Texans get to bring back all of their starters on an offense that was very good in all respects.
The Bad: The defense is the exact opposite. Even with some of the good signings they’ve made, they’ve got a lot of work to go.
The Ugly: With the Colts in turmoil, if the Texans (the most talented team in the division) can’t take hold of the AFC South now, will they ever?
10. San Diego Chargers (11)
The Good: PFF’s founder Neil Hornsby thinks Philip Rivers is going to ‘break out’ this year. Considering he’s our third ranked QB over the past three years, just imagine how good he could be!
The Bad: For a team running a 3-4, that linebacker group seems awfully weak outside of the underappreciated Takeo Spikes.
The Ugly: Can Norv win the big one? This, I doubt.
11. Detroit Lions (13)
The Good: That defensive line doesn’t just look good … it looks like it could hurt a lot of QBs, and bruise a lot of offensive linemen’s egos.
The Bad: It’s going to need to be to protect their coverage unit.
The Ugly: The prospect of not getting 16 games out of Matthew Stafford this year. He looks too good for us to be teased by his potential on such a continual basis.
12. Dallas Cowboys (12)
The Good: They had a bad year. But this was a talented team, and it gets Tony Romo back. Oh, and they may actually respond to their head coach this year.
The Bad: For a team that could win now, it’s a peculiar time to rebuild a line that was working pretty well.
The Ugly: Do you feel confident in their secondary? Thought not.
13. Indianapolis Colts (10)
The Good: They have Peyton Manning!
The Bad: Peyton Manning is injured!
The Ugly: PEYTON MANNING IS INJURED!!!
14. Kansas City Chiefs (14)
The Good: When you give the ball to Jamaal Charles, good things happen.
The Bad: When you give the ball to Thomas Jones, very little happens.
The Ugly: Losing Tony Moeaki when there was no need for him to on the field – that’s a shame for anyone who loves complete tight ends (of which I count myself).
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16)
The Good: Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount are going to make a lot of plays.
The Bad: They’re going to need to because their offensive line will give them no choice.
The Ugly: I’m not looking forward to this excessively bright throwback jerseys that will come out at some point. Blinding.
16. St Louis Rams (17)
The Good: Sam Bradford should only get better, the more trust that is put in him. This is a team with plenty of young talent in a weak division.
The Bad: Is Jason Brown ever going to live up to the contract handed to him?
The Ugly: They’re my favorites to win the NFC West. Is that the definition of feint praise?
17. Chicago Bears (15)
The Good: The defense may be as vanilla as it gets, but it just continues to excel.
The Bad: The offensive line needed a complete revamp. It didn’t get one. The prospect of J’Marcus Webb at left tackle should terrify Jay Cutler and send the premiums rocketing on his health insurance.
The Ugly: This year has the feel of a massive comedown after an unexpectedly impressive 2010.
18. Miami Dolphins (20)
The Good: The defense returns nearly all of it’s starters, and has added some talent. There really aren’t many more complete units out there. Skilled at every spot.
The Bad: The offense … not so much. The line has been over-tinkered-with the past two years, the quarterback inspires little confidence, and the receivers don’t scare teams. You win games by scoring points.
The Ugly: When the regular season starts up will we see the return of Checkdown Chad (especially now he has Reggie Bush)?
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (21)
The Good: They opened up their check book and have made some shrewd signings in Posluszny, Landry, Coleman and Roth. All defensive. That closes the gap.
The Bad: The line really needs to come together. Lots of money and high picks invested in it and it just isn’t good enough right now. It’s time for Eugene Monroe to step up.
The Ugly: Cutting David Garrard seems like a desperation move designed to shake things up. It worked once, when Garrard was the benefactor, but how often does lightening strike twice?
20. Seattle Seahawks (19)
The Good: They made a splash in free agency. Picking up guys like Sidney Rice, Robert Gallery and Zach Miller makes that offense infinitely better.
The Bad: Hoping Tarvaris Jackson can make use of them makes them infinitely worse.
The Ugly: A team without a quarterback isn’t much of a team. They have the look of a team that will drift until it can cozy up to one QB and get behind him.
21. New York Giants (18)
The Good: They have a lot of good players.
The Bad: A number of them are on I.R.
The Ugly: This offseason couldn’t have gone much worse unless Eli Manning joined a cult and decided to give up football – taking Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks and Kareem McKenzie with him. There’s still time.
22. Denver Broncos (28)
The Good: Von Miller is the player everyone thought Aaron Curry would be and he’s only played in preseason.
The Bad: Less throwing the ball means less of Brandon Lloyd’s new found awesomeness.
The Ugly: Josh McDaniels set this team back years with bad draft picks and by getting rid of their top talent. He’s also ensured that the team has become a sideshow to the Tebow Experience. So long as Tebow’s on the roster, the media (and fans) will make him a nuisance.
23. Buffalo Bills (24)
The Good: The Bills have a good vibe to them. They’re getting better, Chan Gailey is molding them into what he wants them to be, and they have Kyle Williams. He’s about as fun a defensive tackle as there is to watch.
The Bad: As fun as they’ll be, will anyone notice? The AFC East is a brutal division and the Bills get no face time.
The Ugly: Why, every year, do they try and demote Fred Jackson only to find out he’s the best back on the roster. He’s been such a consistent player these past three years, he deserves more recognition.
24. Oakland Raiders (22)
The Good: If pre season is anything to go by (and it rarely is), watch out for Rolando McClain to have a big year. He could be a star in six months time.
The Bad: I’m sorry, but you can’t ignore how bad that offensive line could be this year. The tackles are going to get taken to task with such regularity Jason Campbell may as well take the snap from the fetal position.
The Ugly: Every time I hear Hue Jackson speak I sense this horrible pandering to Al Davis. Maybe it’s been hearing the wrong interviews, but it speaks volumes for the politics over performance culture in Oakland.
25. Washington Redskins (26)
The Good: Like a Rubik’s Cube, if you change something around enough then eventually you’ll hit on a winning formula. It’s the Redskins way.
The Bad: Oh, but it totally won’t be this year. Teams will have success running on them, and the offense will take a big step back when playing meaningful games against defenses that care.
The Ugly: What kind of world are we living in when the big quarterback competition over preseason is one where Rex Grossman earns the starting job?
26. Arizona Cardinals (25)
The Good: Larry Fitzgerald likes Kevin Kolb.
The Bad: Will he still like him when the season is done?
The Ugly: The NFL is a pass-happy league. So you need pass rushers coming off the edge and offensive tackles keeping your quarterback clean. The Cardinals may have the worst set of these in the entire league.
27. Tennessee Titans (29)
The Good: At least Jake Locker isn’t getting thrown to the wolves.
The Bad: The Titans had a good team last year. The weak spot was the offensive line. So what do you do? You change pretty much everything except for the offensive line. Doh!
The Ugly: Is anybody surprised when we hear ‘Kenny Britt’ and ‘legal troubles’ any more? Odds on another issue developing before the bye?
28. Minnesota Vikings (23)
The Good: Locking Chad Greenway down was a smart move. Consistently one of the best linebackers in the game.
The Bad: Losing Sidney Rice and Ray Edwards, trying to replace Bryant McKinnie with Charlie Johnson? Are they shooting for a high pick?
The Ugly: Wasting Adrian Peterson behind that offensive line. Imagine what he could do elsewhere.
29. Carolina Panthers (27)
The Good: They didn’t let any of their good players get away, locking them up over the long term. That was huge and will pay dividends for years.
The Bad: This year, however, they’re at the mercy of Cam Newton. That means they’ll run a lot, he’ll throw more interceptions than you’d like, and they’ll get blown out on more than one occasion. Plenty of highlight – and lowlight – reel plays.
The Ugly: Go back and look at some of the selections the Panthers have made in the top rounds of the past few drafts. Now, if you’re a Panther fan, smack your head on the table.
30. San Francisco 49ers (30)
The Good: They have a complete blank slate with a new coach. A chance to wipe the stink off the Singletary regime that did more harm than good.
The Bad: Losing Aubrayo Franklin and Takeo Spikes will hurt a dominant run defense. More than you could probably think.
The Ugly: Alex Smith is still a 49er. How, I’m not sure. But they can’t/won’t get rid of him. The only question is will the fans start booing him after the first incompletion, or the second?
31. Cleveland Browns (32)
The Good: Colt McCoy looks like the real deal for this offense. He makes the Browns a fun team to watch develop.
The Bad: Outside of Joe Haden, how many playmakers do they have on defense? This could be a tough transition.
The Ugly: They could take a giant leap forward and still be a million miles away from the Ravens and Steelers. That’s a confidence crusher.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (31)
The Good: A.J. Green could be a beast in the NFL.
The Bad: Though, with Andy Dalton throwing the ball, he may see more chances to make tackles after interceptions than to haul in nicely-placed deep balls.
The Ugly: No team is less committed to winning than the Bengals. They’ve made a statement of intent by not trading Carson Palmer: pride is more important than winning. I don’t know about you, but winning makes me feel proud.