Sunday, July 22, 2012

Preseason Power Rankings: 18-24

Andre Johnson
18. Carolina Panthers: The big news that came out of North Carolina last season was the superb season from Cam Newton. The clear choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Newton broke 10 rookie records, 12 NFL records, and 5 franchise records. Newton can do it all, wether it be a pass downfield to Steve Smith, or rush for a first down, defenses are absolutely dumbfounded by this young sensation. The running back trio, consisting of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert, is undisputedly the best in the league. Luke Kuechly is one of the best all around defenders to come out of last April's draft, and his impact will be apparent as early as Week 1. After Newton and their fabulous running game, though, there is not much depth on this Panthers roster. New Orleans has left the NFC South wide open, and if all goes well, Carolina might be able to slip into the number one spot.

19. New York Jets: If there is one team who has stolen all of the headlines this off-season, it is the New York Jets. Rex Ryan and company have a hard time avoiding the spotlight, and after signing quarterback Tim Tebow, not much had changed. Mark Sanchez appeared to struggle in 2011, causing the Jets to miss the playoffs at 8-8. This quarterback duo gives Rex Ryan an endless amount of plays and offensive setups to choose from. The Jets have shown they can compete (lost AFC Championship 2009 & 2010), but a horrible offense held them back. New York has one of the best pass defense in the NFL, led by corner back Darrelle Revis. Quinton Coples helps the defense, but the best rookie drafted is wide receiver Stephen Hill, who in many ways resembles Calvin Johnson. Defense will not be a problem, but if the Jets wish to compete in a competitive AFC East, the offense must improve immediately.

20. Seattle Seahawks: In the eyes of football fans, Seattle seemingly wasted a first round pick on defensive end Bruce Irvin, where several highly rated ends were still on the board. Seattle's defense could have used a rookie pass rusher like Whitney Mercilus, who ranked first in the nation in terms of sacks last season. For the most part, the Seahawks did a great job of shutting down the opposing teams offense (7th overall in points allowed per game with 19.7). Backup up quarterback sensation Matt Flynn finally has been given the chance to start, signed by Seattle in the off-season. Pete Carroll is dealing with a hit or miss scenario when coaching Flynn, for he has only started two NFL games. Receivers Mike Williams, Sidney Rice, and Kellen Winslow are three reliable targets for Flynn to choose from. Breakout star Marshawn Lynch proved to be a top running back last season, and has even high expectations to start off 2012. The Seahawks are on the brink of success; one final push, and Seattle can become one of the NFL's best.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Statistically speaking, the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the best pass defenses in the league. Shocking, right? Considering safety Eric Berry was injured, and that they ranked 27th overall in total sacks, it is hard to figure out how they did so well in this area. Brandon Flowers is one of the best shut down corner in the league, and had a lot of pressure to cope with in 2011. It is also strange how the offense has so many weapons, but they ranked 31st overall in points per game. Jamaal Charles and newly acquired running back Peyton Hillis will be a great new duo next season. The passing game on the other hand, with Matt Cassel leading the show, has weapons like Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster, and Kevin Boss. The Chiefs have made baby steps towards yet another playoff appearance, but several things must be fixed before that can happen.

22. Arizona Cardinals: Arizona may not have given star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald a top-notch quarterback this past off-season, but they did select receiver Michael Floyd with the 14th overall pick in the draft. Signing Floyd will draw defenders away from Fitzgerald, where as in the past, up to three corner backs attempted to shut down the star Cardinal. Kevin Kolb and John Skeleton will fight for the starting role throughout the duration of training camp, Kolb appearing to be the better option. Arizona's strength on defense was sacking the quarterback (7th overall). Otherwise, this group fell into the "average" category; not an outstanding defense, but not really the bottom of the chain either. Arizona could be next year's sleeper team, as was San Francisco in 2011. Once Kevin Kolb can consistently put up great numbers each and every Sunday, the 49ers may have a challenge inside their own division.

23. Tennessee Titans: Last March, Titans running back Chris Johnson tweeted he will lead the league in rushing yards by the end of 2012. This is the Chris Johnson that rushed for 2,008 just three years ago. However, this is the same Chris Johnson who was unable to score a touchdown up until Week 5 of the 2011 season. The Titans running back gained 10 pounds in the off-season, so it would not surprise me if there was a sudden spike in Johnson's statistics next season. The passing game has a new face in wide receiver Kendall Wright, a small, talented rookie from Baylor. Surprisingly, the defense held up well last season, not giving up many points to the other team. Tennessee could do a better job sacking the quarterback (31st overall in 2011), therefore helping their pass defense. The Titans came close towards a spot in the playoffs last season, and have a chance at duplicating their luck if Johnson turns his game around.

24. Oakland Raiders: Oakland missed out last April by not owning a single first or second round pick in the draft. As a result, the Raiders have officially fallen off of the radar. Running back Darren McFadden has had extreme difficulty staying healthy, so there is no guarantee he can play all 16 games in 2012. The Raiders lack a reliable wide receiver, which will only hurt quarterback Carson Palmer. The Raiders defense is not one who causes offenses to tremble in anticipation, which will most likely stay the same next year. I predict the 8-8 record of 2011 to only worsen by 2012. Oakland is many years away from becoming a Super Bowl contender, especially with so many holes needing to be filled

No comments:

Post a Comment