Sunday, July 22, 2012

Preseason Power Rankings: 11-17

Jason Babin
11. Philadelphia Eagles: The "Dream Team". That is what many people called last season's Philadelphia Eagles, hyping up a team that was destined to fail. Things were looking good; Michael Vick was coming off an MVP like season, the Eagles 10-6 record earned them the third seed in the playoffs just a year earlier, and newly signed cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were expected to improve an already intimidating defense. By the time Week 6 rolled around, Philadelphia was 1-4, having lost to the Giants, 49ers, Falcons and Bills. The Eagles were unable to get any type of streak going, losing to Arizona one week, and then defeating the New York Giants the next. Philadelphia may be spectacular on paper, but they have yet to put all of the pieces together. Drafting Fletcher Cox should give offensive linemen trouble when having to deal with Jason Babin (18 sacks) as well. Their consistency will improve by the beginning of next year, and they might even top New York in the standings.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Pittsburgh Steelers will not make the playoffs. Yes, you heard me correctly; the Pittsburgh Steelers will NOT make the playoffs. Sure, the defense ranked first overall in total yards allowed and passing yards allowed last season, but this defense is aging, and fast! Assuming Mike Wallace returns by September, the Steelers offense will slip to a sub-par scoring team, and they will have to rely a lot on their defense. Pittsburgh's franchise did not make much of an attempt to add youth to this defense, choosing to draft two offensive linemen in Mike Adams and David DeCastro. Pittsburgh wasn't even able to escape past Denver in last year's wild card game, proving how their dominance in the NFL is gradually slipping away. Ben Roethlisberger had more turnovers (22) then passing touchdowns (21), and he must be more reliable if he wishes to lead Pittsburgh back into the post season.

13. Denver Broncos: Out with the old and in with the new. In this case, Tim Tebow is considered the old, and Peyton Manning the new. It was announced last March that John Elway and the Denver Broncos were signing an injury inflicted quarterback named Peyton Manning. Manning had missed all of last season to a neck injury, and there is no guarantee he can play 100% in 2012. The Broncos on the other hand are coming off of an 8-8 season and a spot in the playoffs. There is no debating that Manning is better then Tim Tebow, so with a all-pro quarterback at the helm, Denver could be lethal. The Broncos have made strides on defense, and have a great running game as well. Manning's leadership skills will shine through while wearing the orange Denver jerseys, and he could make the Broncos one of the best teams in NFL.

14. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys were just one game away from the post season. Had they beaten the New York Giants in Week 17, a different champion would have been crowned last February. Dallas did little to rebuild their team, but they remain a dangerous playoff contender. Tony Romo had one of his best seasons statistically speaking, passing for 4,184 yards and 31 touchdowns. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are two dangerous wide receivers, especially if both stay healthy. Demarcus Ware consistently sacks the opposing team's quarterback, and not much should change in 2012. Newly drafted rookie Morris Claiborne must be the shut down corner Dallas is hoping for, otherwise the pass defense will continue to suffer. New York is destined to come out firing, and the only way for Dallas to compete is to strengthen their pass defense.

15. New Orleans Saints: The "Worst Off-season" is quite obviously awarded to the New Orleans Saints. Not because of their lack of transactions, but because of the Saints Bounty scandal. The Saints organization lies in shambles after losing several players, their GM, and head coach Sean Payton. The Drew Brees contract negotiations continue, but it would come as a shock to everyone if this quarterback were not wearing black and gold this September. All eyes will be on Brees to see if his leadership skills can prevail. Last year's 12-4 record would be a stretch in 2012, but the Saints remain a legitimate contestant in the battle for a playoff spot.

16. Buffalo Bills: The Buffalo Bills are so close, yet so far. The mega-deal made between Buffalo and linebacker Mario Williams caught headlines everywhere, and he should make an immediate impact on this defense. The signings did not stop there, however, for the Buffalo Bills drafted corner back Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina. Offensively, the Bills will need more production out of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, or they will have to rely too much on their running game. Rushers CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson have one of the best running back duos in the NFL, and the two will be dangerous in 2012. The defense has made several strides, but the offense continues to lag behind. If a passing game is formed in Buffalo, they have a chance at playing in the Wild Card Round.

17. San Diego Chargers: A 4-1 start last season made San Diego appear to be the favorite to come out of the AFC South. Sadly, a 6-game losing streak stretching from Week 6 to Week 11 kept them from the playoffs. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns, but the loss of Vincent Jackson will hurt his statistics in 2012. Wide receiver Malcolm Floyd has the skills necessary to be one of the league's best, and he must play spectacularly along side newly-acquired Robert Meachem. Ryan Mathews is an up and coming running back, and if he were to suddenly cool off, rusher Ronnie Brown would take his place. While the offense ranked well overall, the defense was mediocre at best. Rookie Melvin Ingram may not be the biggest linebacker, but he has what it takes to become an elite defender in the NFL. Consistency is the bug thing for this team, and a lot is on the line for Norv Turner; another season spent watching the post season at home and Turner will lose his job on the spot.

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