OK, so training camp doesn't officially start for all teams until the third of August. But, the first one (the Bills) starts next Friday, and I'm craving some football. So, without further ado, my 2009 Training Camp Power Rankings:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers- As much as it pains me to put them first on the list, I have to say they are the best team. They do not necessarily have the best, or most talented, team. But they do have the fewest weaknesses and the best young quarterback in the game. So there you go, Steelers fans. A little love from one of your most avid haters.
2. Tennessee Titans- OK, so maybe a little high. But last year I thought for sure that they were going to be the AFC champions, and with some playoff experience, I think it again. I would have them one, but Albert Haynesworth is gone.
3. Indianapolis Colts- Before the Patriots? Yeah, Peyton Manning is better. You heard it here, and, well, probably only here. I expect rebound seasons from Bob Sanders and Joe Addai. And expect the defensive line to wreak havoc.
4. Philadelphia Eagles- My early pick for NFC champs. Donovan McNabb will enjoy having a target like Jeremy Maclin, and Brian Westbrook has a young back in LeSean McCoy to give him some rest. So, with the help of rookies, the Eagles earn my fourth spot.
5. New York Giants- Expect Brandon Jacobs to have a huge year, with the loss of Plaxico Burress. They, again, would be higher, but the loss of Plax was huge. Therefore, they will rely heavily on their defense and ground game.
6. Baltimore Ravens- A perennially great defense combined with the growing skills of a young quarterback, they will be back in the playoffs. Keeping both of their big name linebackers (Lewis and Suggs) was big for them.
7. Arizona Cardinals- A lucky run when they hit the playoffs got them to a superbowl. Cue the confetti and the streamers. I'm not saying they won't be a contender next year. I'm just saying I don't expect superbowl. But I like the addition of Beanie Wells, who will definitly help in the ground game along with Hightower.
8. New England Patriots- I know what you are thinking: "Finally!" However, I find it ridiculous to put them first, second, or third on a power rankings list when they didn't even make it to the playoffs last year. Where was the run game when Brady went down? Answer: nonexistent. But Brady to Moss will be back, and that's something, I guess.
9. Chicago Bears- Man oh man. First the Steelers, then the Pats, now the Bears?!? I feel so.... dirty. But seriously, I think the Bears will win the NFC North and threaten for a serious playoff run. I'm guessing their defense will return to dominant form. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte in the backfield; just sounds pretty, eh, Chicago fans?
10. Carolina Panthers- I expect them to repeat as NFC South champs, but I don't think Steve Smith will be that productive. Expect a HUGE year from DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. They would be higher, but I'm not a fan of Jake Delhomme. Not one bit.
11. Atlanta Falcons- The NFC South will be competitive once again this year. I'm excited to see Matt Ryan's sophomore campaign, as well as Michael Turner's as a starter. The addition of Tony Gonzalez was huge, but I am prone to wonder about their defense.
12. New York Jets- A suprise at 12, I think Rex Ryan has implemented a winning strategy into the Jets. Even with a rookie (or close to it) quarterback starting for them, I think the improvements on defense will be monumental. Monumental enough for a wild card, perhaps.
13. Cincinatti Bengals- My sleeper pick. I think Chad Ochocinco, erm, Johnson, uh, whatever, will have a comeback season. He is definitely still one of the most talented wide receivers in the league, in my opinion. I think Palmer and Ochocinco will lead them to a winning record, maybe even a wildcard spot.
14. Minnesota Vikings- Hmmmm... Interesting situation here. I'm amazed with the talent in their running game. Their defense is spectacular. Their special teams is terrific. What does that leave? Oh yeah, that all important position behind the center. Quarterback. I'm not impressed with Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. But, and I used this last year, they aren't that Favre away. Yikes... still as bad as last year.
15. Miami Dolphins- Great season last year. I'm looking for a letdown, though. Chad Pennington kind of fell off after good seasons in New York, and I don't know what to expect from him this year. I also don't know if the wildcat will work again, but I love the addition of Pat White.
16. New Orleans Saints- Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Darren Sharper... a lot of stars. But will it translate to wins this year? Is the defense improved enough? As many questions as stars.
17. Houston Texans- A lot of talk about playoffs in Houston. But I'm wondering about Matt Schaub. Will he be healthy enough to get the ball to Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton?
18. Kansas City Chiefs- Another sleeper pick. I really like the Cassel-to-Bowe connection, and their defense improved just with the addition of Mike Vrabel. I'm sure Pioli has at least gotten the boat particially turned around.
19. Seattle Seahawks- Defense: improved. Check. My only questions are the running game and health. I don't believe my team is on the decline. Rather, we were just a team riddled with injuries. I think this is a fair judgement, and a fair placing, for my power rankings.
20. San Diego Chargers- Talented team, but they just seem to crumble when the season starts. Its like they never play to their potential. I don't know what to expect from the Chargers this year: 10-6 or 6-10? I have no idea.
21. Green Bay Packers- Could be a surprise in the NFC North, but its maybe the most improved division in football. So Aaron Rodgers will have to work extra hard, and Ryan Grant needs to step up. I mean, was he even on the field last year???
22. Buffalo Bills- T.O. A good acquisition, in my opinion. I think it'll be a rough start with Marshawn Lynch being suspended for four games, but they could hit their stride towards the middle of the season. But I think the AFC East is just too tough.
23. Dallas Cowboys- Another interesting team. They could go 15-1 and win it all, or they could have the number one overall pick in 2010. Its teams like this that make me think that power rankings shouldn't be made a week before training camp.
24. Tampa Bay Buccanears- I'm looking for another average year for the Bucs. Quarterback troubles ripple through the whole franchise and they will make it hard for anything to get rolling in Tampa.
25. Washington Redskins- This is a team that I get to number 25 in my power rankings and say to myself, "Hmm. How'd they slip this far? Wait... How'd they do last year?" Kind of a lackluster team. A lackluster quarterback, a lackluster set of receivers, a lackluster coach. But then again, they always seem to overperform. So the jury's out on this one, but for now, they are 25 due to the lack of reason to be higher. If that makes sense.
26. Oakland Raiders- I could see them making a splash in the AFC. But most likely they will have about three great players (McFadden, Miller, Asomugha) and then the rest will be mediocre to awful. I had high hopes for Russell last year, and he was bad. So, I'll say they'll be bad again.
27. San Fransisco 49's- A good team talent-wise, but I still consider them a weak team. Until they find a permanent solution at quarterback, they will struggle. And I'm just gonna through out a guess: Shaun Hill isn't the answer.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars- Another team like the Redskins. I don't think they'll do enough to make a splash in the tough AFC South. David Garrard: will he live up to his contract?
29. St. Louis Rams- Steven Jackson will be O.K., I have a feeling. Marc Bulger, however, won't be. Maybe next year they'll have Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford, but for this year, they need a QB.
30. Denver Broncos- Yikes. A disaster in Denver. First Shanahan, then Cutler, and now Marshall is disgruntled. And I'm not sad to put them at 30, because they gave up their first round pick next year to my team. Yikes. Yikes, yikes, yikes.
31. Cleveland Browns- How do they have two capable quarterbacks, yet they don't win? How do they pass on two good runningbacks this year in the draft? Do they want to lose?
32. Detroit Lions- Until someone dethrones them, the Lions are the worst team in the league.
So, there it is, in all its glory. Thoughts?