August 6, 2012

NFL Preseason Power Rankings: Where Do the Giants Rank?

#10 Eli Manning, QB, Giants

Here it is, our NFL Preseason Power Rankings. The Preseason has officially kicked off, and we are less than a month away until the regular season begins. Several teams have greatly improved, while others have done the exact opposite. Where do the defending Super Bowl and AFC Champions land?

 1. New York Giants
Division: NFC East | Last Season Record: 9-7

Analysis: Many people believe the Giants have a serious shot to repeat as Super Bowl champs. "Elite" Manning now has a second Super Bowl win under his belt, and many key players return.

The Giants have done a pretty good job replacing departed players, and on paper, they may have the best roster in the NFL. Manning should have another big season as he has some new weapons at his disposal in Rueben Randle and Martellus Bennett.

Defensively, the Giants will get after the quarterback, boasting a great rotation of pass rushers. If the Giants can stay healthy this season, they could be the favorites to not only win the NFC, but to win the Super Bowl.

 2. New England Patriots
Division: AFC East | Last Season Record: 13-3

Analysis: The defending AFC Champions are even better than they were last year, and are currently the favorites to win the conference again.

Tom Brady is one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the game, and he has even more toys to play with in the additions of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney; And let's not forget about Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, his top 3 targets. The running game could be an issue, but I'm not too worried.

They should be better on defense as well. Even though they lose their top 2 pass rushers, they did draft Chandler Jones, who has the tools to be a premier pass rusher in the league. Ultimately, this Patriots team should win the AFC East, and make another deep playoff run.

 3. Green Bay Packers
Division: NFC North | Last Season Record: 15-1

Analysis: Green Bay has the best quarterback on the planet in Aaron Rodgers, and will be a serious threat to the Giants this year if they can stay healthy.

They have arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL, led by Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Also, Jeff Saturday gives them some veteran leadership on the offensive line.

The Packers are a world class organization that has a Super Bowl contender in place, but once again, if they hope to make it back to the Super Bowl, they must stay healthy.

 4. San Francisco 49ers
Division: NFC West | Last Season Record: 13-3

Analysis: A lot of people believe the 49ers are overrated. On paper, they are a top 5 team, and yet another potential Super Bowl contender.

Alex Smith was very efficient last year, having his best season as a pro. Along with top targets Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree, Smith will have Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, and first round pick A.J. Jenkins to throw too.

They are also very deep at running back, adding Brandon Jacobs via free agency, and LaMichael James via the draft. Plus, they boast one of the top 5 defenses in the NFL. Expectations will be very high for the 49ers, and hopefully they will live up to them.

 5. Houston Texans
Division: AFC South | Last Season Record: 13-3

Analysis: Houston earned its first playoff birth last season, but were slowed down with injuries suffered by quarterback Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. They did lose some key starters on the offensive and defensive line, but they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

If both Schaub and Johnson can stay healthy, this offense will be one of the best in the league, and let's not forget about Arian Foster toting the rock.

Wade Phillips's defense gets a boost with the addition of Whitney Mercilus, who teams up with Conner Barwin and Brooks Reed to form an awesome pass rush. The Texans are another team that has to stay healthy, but could make it to the AFC Championship game if they do.

 6. Detroit Lions
Division: NFC North | Last Season Record: 10-6

Analysis: Several Lions players have had troubled off-seasons, but if they put all of that aside, they'll be a dangerous team in the NFC.

Matthew Stafford finally played a full season, throwing for over 5,000 passing yards. At the same time, wideout Calvin Johnson was arguably the best player in football last year.

If they keep their focus, the Lions should challenge Green Bay for the division title, and they could make a deep postseason run.

 7. Philadelphia Eagles
Division: NFC East | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: The "Dream Team" did not live up to the lofty expectations, and ultimate finished at .500. They look like a Super Bowl contender on paper, as they have improved greatly this off-season.

IF Michael Vick can play a full season, this team should go far in the postseason. They have plenty of offensive weapons which include the best running back in the NFL LeSean McCoy.

I am really impressed with the additions on defense: adding linebacker DeMeco Ryans as well as Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry in the draft. They will challenge the Giants for the NFC East crown, as well as the Super Bowl title.

 8. Pittsburgh Steelers
Division: AFC North | Last Season Record: 12-4

Analysis: Injuries will likely slow this team down this season, and it is a shame because they are real contenders.

I love what they did in the draft, taking David DeCastro and Mike Adams in the first two rounds to help keep Big Ben upright. Not to mention that they have a talented young receiving corps.

Defensively, they're getting a little long in the tooth, so to speak. Although they are an older defense, they are still elite on that side of the ball, and will be an early favorite to win the AFC North.

 9. New Orleans Saints
Division: NFC South | Last Season Record: 13-3

Analysis: Even with the Bounty Scandal looming over them, the Saints are still talented enough to make some serious noise in the NFC.

One of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, Drew Brees has enough weapons on offense to shred teams again this season including Jimmy Graham, the best tight end in the NFL not named Rob Gronkowski.

If New Orleans can have Jonathan Vilma for at least 8 games, they'll be in much better shape, though they have already replaced him. It will be hard to win without Head Coach Sean Payton, especially with the Falcons, Panthers, and Bucs all improved, but don't count out the Saints.

 10. Denver Broncos
Division: AFC West | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: This team made it past the first round of the playoffs with Tim Tebow at quarterback. What do you think they will do with one of the greatest quarterbacks ever?

Peyton Manning immediately makes this team a Super Bowl contender, and he has a good amount of weapons to work with. Also, this Denver defense is very underrated, and could help them win some games.

They will only go as far as Manning will take them. I doubt they will make the Super Bowl, but with #18 under center, it is very possible.

 11. Atlanta Falcons
Division: NFC South | Last Season Record: 10-6

Analysis: Honestly, the Falcons should win the division this year. They are a complete offensive team, they can hurt you with their ground game, and spread you out with their passing attack.

They didn't get to improve much through the draft, but I love the addition of Asante Samuel. With him, Brent Grimes, and Dunta Robinson, they'll be hard to pass against.

 12. Chicago Bears
Division: NFC North | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: Chicago was 7-3 before Jay Cutler went down during one of his best seasons by far, and finished 8-8. The Bears passing attack will be much better this season. The Bears finally have a number one receiver in Brandon Marshall, and a solid number two in Alshon Jeffery.

And as expected, their defense is one of the best in the league. With a healthy Brian Urlacher leading the way, as well as Julius Peppers coming off the edge, the Bears will almost certainly make the NFC North race very interesting this year.

 13. Baltimore Ravens
Division: AFC North | Last Season Record: 12-4

Analysis: The AFC North will be very tough again this season. The Ravens still seem to lack another play maker in the passing game, but Joe Flacco is expected to have a big year with the hand he's been delt.

You can never forget about Baltimore's consistently elite defense, led by future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Terrell Suggs went down this offseason, so you have to wonder where the pass rush will come from. Nonetheless, they should be in the playoffs this season.

 14. Cincinnati Bengals
Division: AFC North | Last Season Record: 9-7

Analysis: A young Cincinnati Bengals team surprised everyone by making the playoffs last year. This time around, they are a better team, and it will be interesting to see how Andy Dalton and A.J. Green progress this season.

They lost plenty of veterans this off-season, but made up for it with an awesome draft, adding: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, OG Kevin Zeitler, DT Devon Still, and WR Mohamed Sanu among others.

They won't be competing for a Super Bowl any time soon, but will be very competitive almost immediately, and will be a team to watch in the future.

 15. Dallas Cowboys
Division: NFC East | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: The Cowboys always seem to disappoint me and many others with their constant underachieving seasons. QB Tony Romo is heavily criticized, but no question he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

Offensively, they will have to count on Miles Austin saying healthy and Dez Bryant staying out of trouble, but they should be very good on that side of the ball. Also, I love the way DeMarco Murray emerged and he'll be the feature back this season.

The defense is what held Dallas back last year. They still don't really have another great pass rusher besides DeMarcus Ware, but their back seven is much improved. Rookie Morris Claiborne is a future shutdown corner who will pair with Brandon Carr and Mike Jenkins in hopes of shutting down Hakeem Nicks/Victor Cruz/Rueben Randle & DeSean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin.

Are they a Super Bowl contender? I would have to say no, because they still have to make some improvements. Besides, the Giants and Eagles are both better teams right now.

 16. Buffalo Bills
Division: AFC East | Last Season Record: 6-10

Analysis: In my opinion, the Bills will have a better season than the Jets, as the latter team just has too many distractions going on.

Drafting Cordy Glenn could give them a blindside protector for Ryan Fitzpatrick, while the Bills will have a very good running game. Overall, their offense will be above average at best.

They have made the most improvements on defense. Adding Mario Williams and Mark Anderson improves one of the league's worst pass rushing teams. I also like the addition of Stephon Gilmore in the secondary. I see Buffalo as a borderline playoff team as of right now.

 17. Kansas City Chiefs
Division: AFC West | Last Season Record: 7-9

Analysis: The Chiefs have one of the most talented teams in the NFL. They have a strong chance to make the playoffs.

Matt Cassel is not a franchise quarterback, but he should be able to get the job done and they can challenge the Broncos for the AFC West title. However, look for the Chiefs to move on if Cassel fails this season.

 18. New York Jets
Division: AFC East | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: Mark Sanchez vs. Tim Tebow. The media has blown this up and it seems to be the most talked about thing in sports. Mark Sanchez should win the job, but his confidence will undoubtedly be shaken, if not already.

The playoffs is not out of the question, but I see them as more of a borderline playoff team. There just isn't enough help for Sanchez on offense. Meanwhile the defense, while still very good, may be losing its edge.

 19. Carolina Panthers
Division: NFC South | Last Season Record: 6-10

Analysis: Cam Newton was sensational last season, and could have an even better sophomore season. This could be a perfect opportunity for Newton to potentially led the young Panthers to a division title.

The talent is certainly there. A three headed monster on the ground that includes: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson. And don't forget that Newton will be involved in the running game. Steve Smith coming off of an incredible 2011 season, along with Brandon LaFell, rookie Joe Adams, and a healthy David Gettis make this an almost unstoppable offense.

There is still work to be done on defense, but do not be surprised if the Panthers can make the playoffs in just year 2 under Ron Rivera.

 20. San Diego Chargers
Division: AFC West | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: Don't expect too much out of the Chargers. The talent is still there, but there is work to be done.

I expect the Bolts to finish third in the division, but they should be very competitive. Philip Rivers is coming off of a poor statistical year, while his number one wideout Vincent Jackson is gone.

Looking at their defense, they look like they will be in the middle of the pack. While I wouldn't expect them to win the division, there is still a possibility of playoffs.

 21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Division: NFC South | Last Season Record: 4-12

Analysis: This is a lot of people's surprise team this season. Coming off of a disappointing 4-12 season, Head Coach Greg Schiano will look to establish the running game with rookie Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount.

Josh Freeman now has the necessary weapons to succeed on offense, with new wideout Vincent Jackson and tight end Dallas Clark. They are young, and they definitely have a shot at the NFC South championship.

 22. Seattle Seahawks
Division: NFC West | Last Season Record: 7-9

Analysis: Seattle is an interesting team. They may not win the NFC West, but they have gotten much better, and it could show this season.

First, they have to figure out who the starting quarterback will be this season. Matt Flynn most likely will get the nod, and there is enough talent on both sides of the ball for this team to do well. They just aren't an elite team.

 23. Tennessee Titans
Division: AFC South | Last Season Record: 9-7

Analysis: The Titans seems to overachieve almost every year. When they don't have high expectations, they do pretty well.

This year may be no different, and the future looks very bright with Jake Locker at quarterback. Their two play makers on offense, Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt will have to remain healthy for them to have a good year.

 24. Arizona Cardinals
Division: NFC West | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: The Hall of Fame Game showed why Kevin Kolb is not guaranteed the starting quarterback job. In fact, the Cardinals finished 5-2 with John Skelton under center.

Whomever the starting quarterback is, they should have their fair share of success with some of the nice additions on offense, such as rookie WR Michael Floyd.

 25. Oakland Raiders
Division: AFC West | Last Season Record: 8-8

Analysis: It's tough to figure out the Raiders. They seem to be close to winning the division every year, but come up short.

They will most likely finish last in the division this year, as they don't have the talent to be very competitive. Plus, they haven't had many high draft picks to improve the last few years, not to mention Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden will have to stay healthy.

 26. Washington Redskins
Division: NFC East | Last Season Record: 5-11

Analysis: Second overall pick Robert Griffin III is the franchise quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Expectations are surprisingly high of him this season.

Their offense will certainly be explosive, with Roy Helu in the backfield, and deep threat receivers Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan, they will be fun to watch. The offense is a work-in-progress, while the defense will win them at least a few games.

Watch out for the Redskins this season. I was a bit skeptical at first, but this team can definitely pull off some upsets and surprise a lot of people this season.

 27. St. Louis Rams
Division: NFC West | Last Season Record: 2-14

Analysis: New Head Coach Jeff Fisher won't be leading the Rams to playoff appearances right now, but he will get this team going in the right direction.

He'll look to establish the running game, taking pressure off of young quarterback Sam Bradford. Steven Jackson is still the workhorse, while Isaiah Pead will spell him on occasion.

Also, Fisher has brought in former Titans corner Cortland Finnegan, which led to them having a great draft. They'll be a very good team in the future. For now, they're at the bottom of the league.

 28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Division: AFC South | Last Season Record: 5-11

Analysis: The Jaguars could be better than a lot of people think. However, they could also be a favorite to land the #1 overall pick in next year's draft.

The pressure is on for Blaine Gabbert to succeed, and he has been given two very good receivers in Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson.

IF, the MJD contract situation can be resolved, they may be in good shape. If not, all bets are off.

 29. Minnesota Vikings
Division: NFC North | Last Season Record: 3-13

Analysis: Adrian Peterson is expected to miss some time this season, but could be back well before the midway point.

Young quarterback Christian Ponder has a blindside protector, but there aren't enough weapons for him to succeed. Meanwhile, there are still several holes to fill on defense.

 30. Indianapolis Colts
Division: AFC South | Last Season Record: 2-14

Analysis: I actually don't think the Colts are the worst team in the NFL. They are still pretty bad, but I really think Andrew Luck (the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning) will be good enough for at least two wins.

There are still some important pieces from the Peyton Manning era that will certainly help Luck's development this season, but they are still in rebuild mode.

 31. Miami Dolphins
Division: AFC East | Last Season Record: 6-10

Analysis: Miami's defense is average at best, and their offense will be very limited. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill will start for the Dolphins at some point this season, but how soon?

It doesn't matter much, as they just don't have the pieces in place to compete in the AFC East.

 32. Cleveland Browns
Division: AFC North | Last Season Record: 4-12

Analysis: Brandon Weeden will start for the Browns, and he'll have Trent Richardson to hand the ball off to. I like the addition of Josh Gordon via the Supplemental Draft, but other than that, this will be a long year for Browns fans.