These are my NFL Power Hrankings headed into Week 1 of the 2013 NFL Season. It’s hard to come up with a foolproof way to evaluate these teams before the season, especially when they are all completely honest about how vanilla everything is throughout the preseason.
For the inaugural edition, I tend to go with my gut, and who I would place money on if the teams played each other right now. Obviously, I can’t wait to adjust after Week 1. But until then, shall we?
ALSO — Week 1 gambling picks are at the bottom.
1. SAN FRANCISCO – So close to Seattle, so I’ll give the preseason tiebreaker to the Niners, for coaching and road performance reasons. WR could be a trouble issue. Also, Jim Harbaugh could whoop Pete Carroll.
2. SEATTLE – Like I said, trouble on the road last year. Could be a factor.
3. GREEN BAY – I love the Packers, and I love the prospect of the Packers flying under the radar. If Rodgers gets protection and the RB situation is truly improved, will put up truckloads of points.
4. HOUSTON – For my money right now, the best team in the AFC. They also have maybe the best player in all of football on the defense in JJ Watt. Schaub isn’t great, but he never has been. They get to take advantage of an incredibly favorable divisional schedule.
5. NEW ENGLAND – Belicheck + Brady = Benefit of the doubt. Right now, at least. And the fact that they may get Gronk back in the next two weeks is just a bonus. I think the new pieces on offense will be fine. And Aaron Hernandez is safely tucked away in solitary confinement, no longer traveling around America murdering everyone whose path he crosses. Gotta be good karma, right?
6. DENVER – Why aren’t people making a bigger deal about the loss of Elvis Dumervil and the suspension of Von Miller? Plus, seems to be an assumption that Peyton will stay healthy. He might, but they’ll have to show me.
7. ATLANTA – Very close to the Saints, and I’ll give them the slight edge because they may be a bit more well-rounded. But I think they rely on some old stars, and I think Mike Smith is a bit overrated. Also, there are more Georgia fans than Falcons fans in Atlanta, which is bizarre and troubling.
IF THEY GET HOT…
8. NEW ORLEANS – Love the offense and love Payton’s return. Defense is definitely shaky, but that won’t matter when they score 50 points a game. I hope that they score 50 every single game, throwing Vegas and the NFL into a panic, and Sean Payton starts wearing a Bane mask on the sidelines.
9. BALTIMORE – The Ravens lost a lot, but I have to stick to my Head Coach + Quarterback equation and keep them in the top-10 for the time being. Cincinnati could easily win the division, though. And let’s not so quickly forget how many breaks they had go their way last year to get into the postseason, then the Super Bowl. That’s why they’re in this group.
10. CINCINNATI – Or they could easily continue to be a .500 team under Marvin Lewis, lifetime head coach. Also, Andy Dalton is a ginger.
11. NEW YORK GIANTS – Coughlin + Eli. Always have big years under the radar. NFC East is shaky, and Giants are strong away from home. I think Giants fans are pretty significantly less trashy than Jets fans, which says a ton about Jets fans.
12. INDIANAPOLIS – Plenty of talk swirling about regression for the Colts and Andrew Luck. They also had a negative point differential last year in the regular season and were badly exposed in the postseason. That being said, for now, I still like them better than everyone below them.
13. WASHINGTON – For some reason I can’t stand RG3. He just annoys me. I stumbled upon 5 minutes of an ESPN documentary about his wedding and was shaking the entire time. Take THAT, RG3.
14. PITTSBURGH – Put the Steelers on a rung below the Giants in the category of “teams that people discount even though they have done it a million times and then end up being sneakily good.” Tomlin + Roethlisberger.
15. DALLAS – No idea what to make of Dallas, but Tony Romo had a massive year last year. And the year before that. They can score this year, and I won’t need to look at Rob Ryan anymore when they’re on TV every Sunday night.
16. ST LOUIS – Love the Rams, think they could absolutely be a factor in the NFC, but have no idea what they have right now. On a neutral field, they would probably be dogs to everyone ranked above them. I am nothing if not consistent.
17. CHICAGO – There is a bit of the unknown for Chicago, as they shift from the Lovie Smith era to the Marc Trestman era. They did work to improve the OL, and still have superstars on both sides of the ball. Could sneakily contend for the NFC North if Cutler stays upright and the D creates turnovers. A 10-win team last year that addressed their offensive line issues? Color me interested.
JUST NOT BUYING IT YET, BUT WHO KNOWS?
18. KANSAS CITY – More of the unknown. Really want to rank them higher, just because of the astronomical upgrades in both their head coach and quarterback. They also drafted a franchise left tackle, and have Pro Bowlers on both sides of the ball.
19. DETROIT – I hate Jim Schwartz. And have no idea what to make of Detroit. But, Calvin Johnson. Also they got unbelievably unlucky last year in spots. Also, do yourself a favor and Google Matt Stafford’s girlfriend. She seems nice.
20. MINNESOTA – I hate Leslie Frazier. And have no idea what to make of Minnesota. But Adrian Peterson.
21. CAROLINA – Cam Newton has somehow, for some reason, been removed from some conversations about the best young quarterbacks in football. I would take Newton, without a doubt, over RG3, Kaepernick, or Wilson. Close with Luck.
22. PHILADELPHIA – I hope that Chip Kelly, Michael Vick and the Eagles are fun as hell to watch.
23. CLEVELAND – People love the Browns this year. That’s cool. Rob Chudzinski comes from a PRETTY suspicious coaching tree. In fact, guys that are all much better coordinators than head coaches. I present to you, the Chud tree: Marty Schottenheimer, Romeo Crennel, Norv Turner and Ron Rivera. Slightly concerning.
24. TAMPA BAY – Great secondary, good defense, terrible quarterback.
MR. CLOWNEY, YOUR TABLE IS READY…
25. BUFFALO – EJ Manuel intrigues me, and they certainly have some pieces, but I just don’t think they’ll be any good this year. And could end up JUST not terrible enough to not get a big time draft pick.
26. MIAMI – Meh. I Get the impression that Dolphins fans are worse than Heat fans, and just as bad as Marlins fans. All the good Dolphins fans seem to be outside of Miami. Is this a phenomenon unique to Miami?
27. ARIZONA – Carson Palmer has suddenly turned into the savior in Arizona. Carson Palmer. I think they’re still pretty bad. Especially since their first-round pick, OL Jonathan Cooper, just broke his leg. They could go 1-5 in the division pretty easily. They probably will be dogs in every division game expect for home against the Rams, and that could even be close.
28. TENNESSEE – The Titans have a Jake Locker problem, and have done a pretty good job spending their money in ways that won’t really help them over the next 3-5 years. It might help them get JUST not terrible enough to get a blue chip draft pick. Also have the thing going on that the Falcons have – they play second fiddle in their city and state to the SEC.
29. SAN DIEGO – Philip Rivers is terrible. Didn’t he used to be not terrible? People in San Diego can’t even watch the games.
30. JACKSONVILLE – Ladies and gentlemen…Blaine Gabbert!
31. NEW YORK JETS – I don’t even hate Rex Ryan anymore. I don’t. I hope the Jets are even worse than this, and I will watch every Rex Ryan press conference, all season long.
32. OAKLAND – Somehow, someway, convincingly worse than the Jaguars and the Jets. I would lay close to a touchdown if either of those teams was playing the Raiders tomorrow on a neutral field.