Every year, the (so-called) experts over at the Brett Favre fan Club, Bristol CT branch (aka ESPN) come up with these ‘Power Rankings,’ essentially ranking teams from 1 to 32.
Here is my stab at this:
1. Pittsburgh: may not be the best team in the NFL on paper, but in the words of the great Ric Flair: “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man”
2. New England: Unless you live in Boston and/or are a Patriots fan, rooting for Tom Brady is like rooting for Rachel McAdams’ douchebag boyfriend in “Wedding Crashers.” Admit it: you had the same sense of glee when Bernard Pollard hit Brady as you did when Vince Vaughn punched Bradley Cooper in the face at the very end of the movie (again, unless you are a Patriots fan). However, props where props are due. Brady is the most poised QB in the league, and with Moss, Welker, and Joey Galloway at wideout, he will hardly look like he was gone come midseason.
3. San Diego: Among the most talented teams in the entire league, the Chargers are a head coach away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Norv Turner just doesnt have the huevos to win the big game.
4. NY Giants: How bad is this team going to miss Spagnuolo, one of top 3 best defensive coordinators in the game last season. I think the defense will still be nasty, but there are big question marks on the other side of the ball. After handing their starting QB a near-$100 million extension, Eli Manning isn’t the only drop-jawed person in New York.
5: Philadelphia: For the first time in a while, Donovan McNabb has a plethora of talent surrounding him on offense… and still has to look over his shoulder at the newly acquired backup QB, Michael Vick. How long before Philly fans start clamoring for Vick to take McNabb’s job ? A tip of the hat to the late Jim Johnson, one of the best defensive coordinators this game has ever seen. You have this Redskins fan’s ultimate respect.
6. Baltimore: I’m a big fan of Joe Flacco. The guy just “gets it,” and his arm is so strong, I half expect to see steam coming off the football when he throws the 15 yard out. Plus, the Ravens are the only team that can stand toe-to-toe with the Steelers and punch them in the mouth. That being said, you cant underestimate the loss of Rex Ryan for the defense.
7. Tennessee: Losing Big Al and D-Coordinator Jim Schwartz will hurt a bit, but they’ll still play great defense and run the football. RB Chris Johnson now refers to himself as “Every coaches dream,” but I think the coaching staff’s dreams were more realized once LenDale White went on a diet; White lost over 20 lbs during the offseason, and his moobs are no bigger than an A-cup now.
8. Minnesota: Brett Favre’s (2nd) retirement = FAIL. The Vikings will love having Favre as their QB … that is, until he leads the league in Interceptions (again) and throws a critical Interception on some boneheaded improvisational play (again). Still, with ‘All Day’ Peterson at running back and the great wall of Williams on defense, the Vikes are the best team in the NFC North.
9. Dallas: The Cowboys have three very good running backs, a mammoth offensive line, and a defense that greatly improved once Wade Phillips took over the playcalling duties. But, they’re only going to go so far as Tony Romo — whom I refer to as “Mr. September” (because that’s the only month he doesnt choke in) — will take them.
10. Indianapolis: There are so many new coaches and coordinators in Indianapolis that the Colts’ players had to wear one of those name tags that says: “Hi, my name is: Peyton Manning.”
11. Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are already one of the best 5 to 7 receiving duo’s the NFL has ever seen, and the Cardinals have improved their rushing game and defense in the offseason. But, beware the Super Bowl hangover.
12. Carolina: I’m not gonna lie, my excitement about the Panthers this season is the equivalent to that of eating soggy cereal. Jake Delhomme and that defense are a year older, and Jonathan Stewart is too talented to not eat into Deangelo Williams’ carries.
13. New Orleans: Since coming to New Orleans, Drew Brees has put up Nintendo-like passing yards. The problem is, a collection of hard-core video gamers could probably put up 17 points on the Saints defense.
14. Chicago: When trying to figure out who would win in a fight between King Kong, a Hurricane, Mike Ditka, or newly acquired franchise QB Jay Cutler each and every one of Bill Swerski’s Super Fans suffered (yet another) heart attack.
15. Seattle: I really like Matt Hasselbeck in a bounce-back year in ’09. When your starting running backs consist of Julius Jones and Edgerrin James, it’s safe to say you’re not looking to be a running team. My main problem with the Seahawks, however, is the fact that I wouldn’t trust Jim Mora Jr. or Greg Knapp to successfully coach ants to a picnic.
16. Houston: If you could mold the perfect wide receiver out of clay, you would end up with Andre Johnson. If Matt Schaub can finally stay healthy for an entire season, the Texans could be a darkhorse team not just in the AFC South, but in the AFC as whole. I’m pretty sure the city of Houston owes Charley Casserly and Mario Williams a big apology.
17. Green Bay: If there was ever a time to use the oxymoron “deafening silence,” it would be to describe the media coverage of the Packers’ training camp this year, sans Brett Favre. I would love to see what happens if Favre does the Lambeau leap as a Viking. Anyway, Packers’ Running Back Ryan Grant is going to run for 1300+ yards and 8+ rushing TD’s – take that to the bank.
18. Atlanta: The guy is talented and poised beyond his years, but I’d like to see Matt Ryan win more than 10 games and/or a playoff game before we annoit him the next Peyton Manning. I love Michael Turner, but it’s going to be difficult for him to run for over 1500 yards this season with no moist-and-chewy defenses like Detroit, St. Louis, and Kansas City (the 3 worst teams in ’08) on their schedule this year .
19. Miami: If a Jets fan told you they would have still rather have had Brett Favre over Chad Pennington ’08, they’re either lying, delusional, or a raging Packers homer in disguise. The saying usually goes: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure;” between the Dolphins and Jets, Miami’s ‘treasure’ was the Jets discarding trash in place of a bigger, smellier piece of trash.
20. Cincinnati: Look out for the Bengals defense in ’09, I think they’re really going to surprise some people. However, it’s safe to say that the fate of Marvin Lewis’ job as coach of the Bengals rests firmly on the elbow of QB Carson Palmer and the Twittering thumbs of Chad Ochocinco.
21. Washington: If QB Jason Campbell can’t prove that he has “it” this season — and so far, early returns aren’t good — his days in Washington are numbered. And with Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, and Jon Gruden all avaiable to coach and looking to do so after the ’09 season, it’s safe to say that Jim Zorn is on the hot seat too. I’d put the odds of him being the first head coach fired in ’09 at around 255%.
22. Jacksonville: There’s a report that the Jaguars may black out over 10 of their games in ’09. A few more losses, and the Jags’ players may start blacking out what Del Rio is broadcasting as well. If the Jaguars’ coaches were smart, they’d look 750 miles north up I-95 and realize they have a better version of LeRon McClain on their team – his name is Greg Jones, and if utilized correctly, he has a chance to be an absolute beast.
23. NY Jets: If the Jets PR/Marketing department started a campaign called “Viva El Sanchez !,” I would probably furnish half my wardrobe from this campaign’s merchandising. My rookie-RB-to-make-waves-in-’09 pick ? Shonn Greene.
24. Buffalo: If T.O. thought Jeff Garcia was gay, Donovan McNabb was fat, and Tony Romo was racist (due to his bromance w/ Jason Witten), I say the next insult he hurls upon a starting QB (poor Trent Edwards) is “Transvestite.” Color me jaded, but somehow I don’t see the marriage between a small-market team in a city mired in winter for 51.89 weeks of the year and a ridiculously insecure 34-year-old egomaniac wide receiver with a ranging case of the dropsies working out too well.
25. San Francisco: How many millions of dollars did the 49ers franchise have to throw away before they realized their “QB of the future” had small hands and smells like cabbage ? (fine, I made that 2nd part up, but you get the point). Little known fact: QB Shaun Hill had over 1870 yards passing in the 49ers last 8 games of ’08; project that over 16 games and he would have finished in the top 8 in the NFL.
26. Oakland: Memo to Jamarcus Russell: If you would just put down the bacon cheeseburger and actually go watch some film, maybe your organization wouldn’t feel compelled to bring in someone to take your job. Fine, you can even take the bacon cheeseburger with you into the film room, if you insist. In a related note: Al Davis is living proof that Nosferatu actually exists.
27. Denver: After the first quarter of the Broncos first preseason game, head coach Josh McDaniels is already in danger of losing his job. So far, Broncos fans view the McDaniels era as fondly as Iraqi journalists viewed George Bush.
28. Kansas City: Former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards believed “You play to win the game.” Ironically, now that he’s no longer the coach, the Chiefs have a better chance of actually do so (winning, that is). I’m calling it now: Since he finally managed to keep his nose clean and mouth shut for an offseason, Larry Johnson goes for over 1,000 yards in ’09.
29. Cleveland: I think the Browns fans are pulling for “none of the above” to win the QB competition between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. Choosing between the two of them is like asking whether you’d like six turd sandwiches or half a dozen shit taco’s.
30. Tampa Bay: They have a new general manager and head coach, neither of whom have NFL experience at those positions. Their new offensive coordinator was fired from his last job. Their new defensive coordinator replaces a legend. They unceremoniously released the franchise’s (arguably) most popular player. They have two castoff retreads and a rookie greener than a leprechaun competing for the starting QB job. But, hey, look on the bright side: that Pirate ship on the side of the stadium is still kinda cool.
31. St. Louis: For Steven Jackson, the Great-Player-to-Terrible-Team ratio is through the roof.
32. Detroit: To not be the cellar dweller, you have to beat someone… anyone ! Jim Schwartz should start Daunte Culpepper for the season opener and let Stafford sit on the bench for at least half a season. Stafford needs more “seasoning” and throwing him in there to get his brains beaten in isn’t the way to give him that.