NFL Power Rankings – B&T Editor’s Pre-Draft Edition
By Luke Sims
Welcome to the B&T Power Rankings. The place where we rank the teams on their record, front office actions, and overall craziness. Expect some arbitrary explanations, some in-depth analysis, and your fair share of surprises.
Today, we bring you the Free Agency, Pre-Draft Edition. Hate ’em? Love ’em? Agree? Disagree? Leave it in the comments.
#1. Baltimore Ravens: You’ll see a lot of lists putting the Giants here. But really, if the Ravens hadn’t missed a catch in the end zone or a field goal, I honestly believe they would have hoisted the Lombardi in February. They’ve done enough in free agency to ensure they will field a competitive team in 2012. Expect more of the same from Baltimore next year.
#2. New York Giants: It’s tough not to put the Giants in the top spot, but after/during free agency it just appears like their “streamlining” process may hurt them more than anticipated. Look for some solid pickups in the draft, but losing some veteran talent like Deon Grant will hurt, I assure you.
#3. New England Patriots: It’s hard to argue against the Patriots’ success last season and the actions they’ve taken in free agency. I still think they are super weak on the defensive side of the ball, but that could improve with the draft. Stallworth and Lloyd will help the high-flying offense continue to bury weaker foes throughout 2012.
#4. Green Bay Packers: How did this team not go to the Superbowl? Oh well. Despite my family’s home state boasting a powerful team all season, the Packers failed to make it to the big game. Fortunately they’ve been wise (read: cautious) in free agency and look to be as successful as ever. Maybe it will translate into a Superbowl this next year.
#5. Chicago Bears: Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush are coming to the windy city. Oh and Mike Martz isn’t going to be calling any plays for the Bears. Oh, and they still have Matt Forte. Oh and Jay Cutler does really well with Marshall. Oh….yeah I feel like this list could go on forever. If I had to pick a candidate for a Superbowl run in 2012, my money would be on the Bears. As much as it hurts my Minnesotan heart to say it, the Bears may be the team to beat next year in the NFC North.
#6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This is the only “big spending” free agency team that makes it into my top ten (sorry Washington). The Bucs are setting themselves up for success following the Raheem Morris era. They will only get better with the draft.
#7. St. Louis Rams: Yes, the Rams are this high and they deserve it. Trading out of the #2 spot when there’s nobody worth the value is a tougher thing to do than it appears. While they haven’t been very active thus far in free agency, look for the Rams to wait patiently for some new toys in the draft. It’ll all be worth it in St. Louis in April.
#8. Denver Broncos: I refuse to count the Peyton Manning signing as “big spending.” He’s one player, he’s great, he’ll make the Broncos more competitive. But Manning alone doesn’t bring the Broncos this high on the list. It’s mostly John Elway. He’s managed to jettison a brewing locker room problem by trading Tim Tebow, he’s saying all the right things, and he’s managed to make Denver a super attractive landing spot for any rookie coming out of the draft. The Broncos are sitting pretty heading into April.
#9. San Francisco 49ers: How this team is going to function with Alex Smith feeling like a rejected puppy is beyond me. But if anyone can make it work, it’s Jim Harbaugh. Keeping Ted Ginn Jr, signing Mario Manningham, and keeping Carlos Rogers instantly re-affirm that San Francisco is a legitimate threat in the weak NFC West.
#10. Seattle Seahawks: A third NFC West team in the top 10? Yeah, you better believe it. This division just got a whole lot more competitive. And with the signing of Matt Flynn and Jason Jones, the Seattle Seahawks may just be able to keep up. Pete Carroll’s team is coming into 2012 with some teeth. I’m calling it now, don’t be shocked when the Seahawks play like a real NFL team this year.
#11. New Orleans Saints: Greg Williams has marred the Saints for years. Sean Payton is rightly punished for the bounty scandal. But the Saints are still the Saints. They’ve done a good job of keeping their roster strong and if the rumors of landing the Bill Parcells come true, then the Saints probably won’t suffer a drop-off in the coaching department. Oh and Steve Spagnuolo is taking over the defense. For a terrible PR offseason the Saints have done pretty well.
#12. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have been incredibly quiet this free agency. While I’m not going to say I’m shocked, I’m kind of disappointed. Losing Hines Ward to retirement won’t affect their passing game, but they could definitely use his leadership and blocking still.
#13. Atlanta Falcons: They kept John Abraham and have done pretty much nothing else this offseason. For Mike Smith and Co. that’s pretty good. While I question the hiring of Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator following his dismal Jacksonville stint, and I’m wary of the drop-off following ex-OC Mike Mularkey since he’s moved to Jacksonville, I still think the Falcons have the talent and confidence to go far. Unless they botch the draft.
#14. Detroit Lions: Locking up Megatron for a while is a key move. Oh, and signing a million free agents is probably helpful as well. Matt Stafford and Co. are certain to light up the scoreboard for a few more years, and I expect the defense to improve through the draft. Look for the Lions to be confident heading into the season.
#15. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are far more solid than many people realize. Keeping safety Reggie Nelson around is good for the defense, as is re-signing Pacman Jones. The Bengals were strong last year and they’re only getting stronger with some good looks heading toward the draft. Don’t be surprised if they play much better than #15 throughout the year.
#16. Houston Texans: With the way the Texans have handled free agency thus far, I can’t justify putting them higher than #16. The team I think should have gone to the Superbowl (if Matt Schaub hadn’t gone down last year) is limping following being picked apart in free agency by the crows and vultures that are other NFL teams. How the front office allows so many key players to walk is beyond me. But maybe they know something we don’t? I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
#17. Washington Redskins: I think this is a little high, but at the same time it’s kind of tough to not like that the Redskins are trying to spend themselves out of irrelevancy. Mike Shanahan has got to be pissed that he’s stuck coaching the Redskins. But on a positive note, they’ll be getting the quarterback they want in the draft.
#18. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys are starting to do things right. Kyle Orton will probably push Romo to be the quarterback he should be (a Superbowl winning one), and the team is usually competitive anyway. I just hope they don’t take their roster overhaul too far.
#19. New York Jets: Yay, the Jets traded for Tebow! And that will help…how? If you’re as confused as me, then you’re probably reading the same news I am. The Jets have more things to focus on than getting a better second-string quarterback. Apparently their locker room wasn’t all that great last year or something. That said, Rex Ryan is as boastful as ever, but it’s been nice to have him drowned out by Manning news. If you believe what’s coming out of New York, then the city may just boast another Superbowl in 2012. If you don’t, then you’re probably wondering why they’re even at #19 on this list.
#20. Philadelphia Eagles: Last year the Eagles learned they can’t buy a championship. While pretending to be the New York Yankees in 2011 was fun, this year they’re focusing more on true development and are looking to the draft for some success. I fully expect them to do just fine.
#21. Tennessee Titans: Grabbing Kamerion Wimbley was nice. Failing to get Manning wasn’t. Nor was telling Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker they aren’t good enough to get them to the playoffs/Superbowl. I would put the Titans lower, but honestly the strength of their roster is hard to argue with.
#22. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are a hollow shell of a football team under Norv Turner. I just don’t see this team getting any higher on this list unless Norv is fired or they win at least five of their first seven games. With the talent on the roster (including bringing in Eddie Royal) the Chargers should be a replica of New England. But they did let Vincent Jackson walk. It’s tough to think the Chargers will get any better in 2012 than they were last year.
#23. Jacksonville Jaguars: Re-signing the majority of a championship level defense isn’t anything to scoff at. The Jaguars have plenty of questions heading toward the draft, but at least their defense will make them competitive in 2012. I expect the team to rise higher than this throughout the year, but I don’t expect it to be much higher unless Blaine Gabbert progresses considerably during the offseason.
#24. Buffalo Bills: You signed Mario Williams. Congratulations. You’re still irrelevant.
#25. Oakland Raiders: How the Raiders let Michael Bush walk is beyond me. How the Raiders plan to continue to be competitive when they shot themselves in the foot with the Carson Palmer trade last year is beyond me. How the Raiders intend to get by without any real defensive backfield is beyond me. I’m baffled, and I think that the new front office is trying its hardest to get out of a mess that baffles them too.
#26. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will be a good team in 2012. But until I see what they do in the draft, Cam Newton and Co. aren’t getting above #20.
#27. Kansas City Chiefs: I don’t quite know how the Chiefs will return to playoff form in 2012. I also don’t know how Peyton Hillis and Brady Quinn will really help in the answer. Maybe they’ll do fine come April.
#28. Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings seem to be grasping at straws. Or maybe that’s just pessimism from me. Minnesota hasn’t set themselves up to be more competitive with the Bears and Packers yet and they sure won’t catch the Lions. Unless Christian Ponder becomes Warren Moon or Randall Cunningham, the Vikings won’t be able to compete in a tough division. And unless the draft yields a good spell-back for Adrian Peterson, expect it to be a long season for a team with an injured rusher.
#29. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals failed to get Peyton Manning. I love Ken Whisenhunt and I love the talent in Arizona. But they’ve proven again and again that unless they have a very, very good quarterback they’re pretty much useless. I think John Skelton is better than Kevin Kolb. But Kolb’s trade value is pretty much nil right now. The Cardinals will be in the basement of the NFC West yet again in 2012.
#30. Cleveland Browns: You are the Cleveland Browns. You’ll still be the Cleveland Browns. And that’s not a good thing.
#31. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts aren’t last only because they’ll have Andrew Luck next year. What does that say about their free agency thus far? Nothing. And that’s probably a positive for them.
#32. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins failed to sign Peyton Manning, the Dolphins failed to sign Matt Flynn, the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins failed to re-sign Chad Henne, and the Dolphins have no shot at a good quarterback in the first round of the draft. The best thing going for the Dolphins? They somehow managed to convince ex-Packers OC Joe Philbin that Miami would be a good place to try head coaching. It won’t be.
– Luke N. Sims