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NFL 2011 Opening Week Power Rankings
It's finally that time of year. After what has seemed like an eternity, NFL football is finally back and the regular season is only a day away. It will undoubtedly be an interesting season full of heroics and heartache. The most important thing, however, is that football is back.
Enough lollygagging, though. Here are my first power rankings of the 2011 NFL season. Enjoy.
All records shown in parenthesis are from the 2011 preseason.
1. Green Bay Packers (3-1): Only point that needs to be made: they won the Super Bowl. They earned this spot and it's theirs to lose heading into the regular season.
2. New England Patriots (2-2): They have Tom Brady(notes). Enough said? Ok fine. During their first two preseason games, they pummeled their opponents and discovered what could be one of the biggest steals of the 2011 NFL Draft in running back Stevan Ridley(notes). The additions of Chad Ochocinco(notes) and Albert Haynesworth(notes) also helped convince me to put some eggs in the New England basket.
3. San Diego Chargers (2-2): I know that hordes of fans out there feel that the Chargers are extremely overrated, but they're just as talented as last year (#1 offense, #1 defense) and their special teams has undergone massive amounts of improvement. If they get off to a hot start, the No. 1 seed in the AFC could be theirs.
4. New Orleans Saints (2-2): I dare you to take a hard look at that offense and tell me with conviction that they don't have an abundance of talent. The defense isn't too shabby, either. I know there are a lot of skeptics, but I believe that rookie running back Mark Ingram(notes) will be the difference-maker in 2011.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1): Don't worry; I haven't given into the "dream team" hoopla. I do, however, recognize talent when I see it and this roster is loaded. My biggest concern is whether they have enough of it on the offensive line to keep defenses at bay.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1): The Steelers were the runner ups last year and replaced the least amount of players on their 53-man roster of any other NFL team. They have a fairly easy schedule this season, which also helps. However, since 1995, they've never made the playoffs after making it to the Super Bowl the previous season.
7. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): An easy schedule will definitely help the Ravens make their way towards what should be another playoff season. Their biggest obstacle will be the Steelers, who always manage to be a thorn in their side. Can Joe Flacco(notes) and Co. finally deliver and take the Ravens to the promised land?
8. New York Jets (2-2): We've already heard the yearly Super Bowl guarantee from head coach Rex Ryan, but will this year yield the same results as years passed? The better question is: will Mark Sanchez(notes) finally live up to his potential? I have a feeling there are too many missing playmakers such as Brad Smith(notes) for this year to be an exception.
9. Houston Texans (3-1): Apart from their futile attempt against the Vikings, the Texans looked terrific in the preseason. The defense has a new spring in its step under the control of Wade Phillips, but the biggest concern is whether or not Arian Foster(notes) will be ready to go. With a Manning-less Colts team in the division, this could be the Texans' golden opportunity to finally win one.
10. Atlanta Falcons (0-4): The potent scoring offense that the Falcons boasted last year only gets scarier with the additions of several key rookies (Julio Jones(notes), Jacquizz Rodgers(notes)). The pressure is going to fall on the defense to slow down the explosive opposing offenses that make the NFC South such a tough division.
11. St. Louis Rams (4-0): Sam Bradford(notes) is only going to get better as the years go by and the Rams were smart enough to arm him with a few more weapons this season. Their biggest concern will be whether they've found enough talent on defense to keep opposing teams out of the endzone.
12. Detroit Lions (4-0): Remind me all you want about 2008. The Lions looked strong in the preseason and could be a dark horse in the race for the NFC North. It will all come down to whether or not quarterback Matt Stafford can stay healthy for more than a few games.
13. Tennessee Titans (3-1): Surprisingly, the Titans looked much better during the preseason than I was expecting. A number of young players emerged as contributors and both quarterbacks were effective. The biggest impact, however, will come from the return of all-star running back Chris Johnson.
14. Arizona Cardinals (2-2): This entire season will depend heavily on the how successful Kevin Kolb(notes) can be as the Cardinals' starting quarterback. The defense also has some concerns, especially in the secondary, which could lead to some unexpected losses. The easiest 2011 schedule will help, though.
15. Indianapolis Colts (1-3): If Peyton Manning(notes) was healthy, the Colts would be in the Top 8. Now, with Manning out for the opener, things could get hairy in a hurry. Kerry Collins(notes) will have limited success and the Colts' running game isn't exactly intimidating. It might be time to hit the panic button in Indy.
16. Cleveland Browns (1-3): Brett Favre(notes) should be a coach because whatever he told Colt McCoy(notes) during their time together worked. If McCoy can play during the regular season the way he played during the preseason, the Browns may just have a fighting chance. The biggest question mark is how effective the defense can be without Rob Ryan.
17. Chicago Bears (2-2): The Bears looked awful throughout the preseason and are really going to have some issues keeping Jay Cutler(notes) on his feet. They may have won the NFC North last season, but the defending Super Bowl champs and an up-and-coming Lions team might have other plans in 2011.
18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2): Now that Rob Ryan is in Dallas, the defense looks like a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, the offense is the exact opposite. They were one of the lowest scoring teams during the preseason and will need a big season from Tony Romo(notes) and Co. if they hope to even sniff the playoffs.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2): There's no denying that this team has a plethora of talent. Unfortunately, the majority of that talent is extremely young and inexperienced. Especially with both the Saints and Falcons only getting better this offseason, this season really could go either way for the Buccaneers.
20. Minnesota Vikings (2-2): After a horrid first preseason game, the Vikings showed vast improvement throughout the next three games and started actually playing like a team. They have the talent, but there are a few positions that might just keep them from notching more wins than losses. If only they were in the NFC West.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (0-4): Their AFC West crown in 2010 still seems like a fluke. Matt Cassel(notes) is overrated and, for some reason, they've decided that Jamaal Charles(notes) needs to share even more of his touches this year. Their schedule gets a lot tougher in 2011, and it'll reflect on their final regular season record.
22. New York Giants (2-2): The injury bug took a huge chunk out of the Giants' roster this offseason. Unfortunately, it also ate a large helping of morale for dessert. Sprinkle in some Eli Manning(notes) miscues and you've got a concoction that's starting to smell like something that's been sitting out in the sun too long.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3): The last time the Jaguars decided to get rid of their starting quarterback with the first regular season game knocking on the door, they went 11-5 before losing in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. The only difference is that this time around, the next best option is Josh McCown(notes). Yikes.
24. Washington Redskins (3-1): They looked good in the preseason and the departure of characters that created turmoil will be beneficial. However, I simply can't overlook the fact that Rex Grossman(notes) is the starting quarter. No matter how well he plays to start, he can't carry this team for an entire season. The only reason they aren't lower is that they have one of the easier schedules in 2011.
25. Carolina Panthers (1-3): Although it wasn't exactly magical, Cam Newton's preseason performance was enough to earn him the starting spot. He'll make plays, but the whole "they're in the NFC South" thing could keep them from being competitive in 2011. The toughest schedule in the NFL doesn't help either.
26. Buffalo Bills (1-3): The pieces are slowly falling into place for Chan Gailey and his Bills. Unfortunately, I still don't think they're at that next level. Considering the fact that they have to play the Patriots/Jets four times per year and have the second-hardest schedule in 2011, another Top 10 pick in the draft isn't out of the question.
27. Miami Dolphins (3-1): The fact that Chad Henne(notes) is still the starting quarterback for the Dolphins says enough to justify this ranking. If I was a Miami fan, I'd be wishing on my lucky stars that the NBA lockout ends soon.
28. Seattle Seahawks (2-2): When their backups were in against opposing backups, they looked solid. When their starters were in during the first quarter, I had to look away. The Seahawks need an answer because Tarvaris Jackson(notes) certainly isn't it.
29. San Francisco 49ers (2-2): Much like their NFC West foes at No. 28, the 49ers' issues start at the quarterback spot. Alex Smith looked sloppy during the preseason and rookie Colin Kaepernick(notes) wasn't any better. 49ers fans might not be chanting "in Harbaugh we trust" for much longer.
30. Oakland Raiders (0-4): By the time the preseason was over, the Raiders had scored three touchdowns. Yes, it was the preseason. But when you can't score one touchdown per game against a bunch of NFL no-names, something's wrong.
31. Denver Broncos (2-2): The Broncos are still feeling the effects of the Josh McDaniels hangover. And even though everything seems all hunky dory in Denver with Kyle Orton(notes) starting at quarterback, something tells me that things will really start to unravel as the regular season gets under way.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3): He got better towards the end of the preseason, but rookie quarterback Andy Dalton(notes) still looks like a high school freshman in his first varsity game. The overall roster isn't terrible, but quarterback struggles nullify talent in other departments. Welcome to Cincinnati, Andrew Luck?
Gil Alcaraz IV has been a diehard NFL fan since the age of nine. From the NFL Draft to the Super Bowl, and everything in between, he never misses a beat when it comes to the NFL. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV as he provides insight and analysis on everything newsworthy involving the NFL.
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