Early Look at the 2012 NFL Power Rankings

32. Cleveland Browns- I don’t see a franchise QB, nor do I see an above average defensive unit. Offensively the run game should improve, but that doesn’t always translate to wins. Keep in mind that the teams that had Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson, and Maurice Jones-Drew only combined for ten wins last year.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars- If you don’t have a franchise QB then you need a stellar defense and elite complimentary pieces, and I just don’t see that on their roster. I like MoJo and Jeremy Mincey but outside of those two I just don’t see any standouts.

30. Miami Dolphins- This is tough because I look at the Dolphins top draft pick, Ryan Tannehill, and see a lot of potential. The issue I have with the Dolphins is that it looks like they are going to through Tannehill into the fire right away, which does not usually mean a lot of wins for a franchise. Also going against defenses like the Texans, Titans, Jaguars, Bills (twice), Jets (twice), Bengals, and Seahawks is not a recipe for success.

29. St. Louis Rams- The Rams have a lot of young talent and could make a push towards the top of this list in 2015, but as of May 22, 2012 they still have to prove it to me. Bradford is a franchise QB but he needs to stay healthy. If he can do that and find some rhythm with his young WRs then this team may have a chance at a .500 record.

28. Oakland Raiders- The Raiders are going to have a pretty tough year. Carson Palmer is a year older, the defense is clearly worse, and Peyton Manning is now a division rival instead of Tim Tebow. I love the Raiders front four and Run DMC is elite when healthy, but I can’t see them pulling out a better record than 1-5 in their own division at this point.

27. Indianapolis Colts- Indy added the closest thing to a guaranteed hit in this year’s draft with Andrew Luck so that should translate to 3-4 wins in 2012, but lets not get carried away. Luck will have a birth by fire in the AFC South, the Texans have one of the most aggressive defenses in the league and the Titans have a vastly underrated defense. After playing those teams 4 times Luck will still have to try to outscore Brady, escape the grasp of Mario Williams & co. vs Buffalo, and escape Revis Island without a pick-six. Not an easy task.

26. Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil was a great pick up for the Vikings and the added protection will make this a make-or-break year for second-year QB Christian Ponder. If Ponder can use that extra time find Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph more often this year the Vikings could double last year’s wins.

25. Tampa Bay- I may have the Bucs way too high on my rankings, but they had a good draft where I believe they picked up at least three starters. The defense has a ton of talent and is loaded with former first and second round draft picks. If they can play up to their potential on that side of the ball, Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson, and Doug Martin may be able to keep the offense potent enough to win them 5-7 games.

24. New York Jets- Quinton Coples was possibly my least favorite player in last year’s draft. However, I thought that his best fit in the NFL was as a 3-4 DE or a disrupting 3 technique in a 4-3 and Rex Ryan has taken players with less talent than Coples and made them great defenders so we will have to wait and see what happens. Other than that Sanchez isn’t a franchise QB, Tebow is way too up-and-down, and if I were Revis I would be keeping my head down trying to find a way out.

23. Arizona Cardinals- Michael Floyd was one of my favorite WRs last year. I think he can be exactly what Anquan Boldin was in Arizona, the perfect partner for Larry Fitzgerald. Before you get your hopes up though, Skelton and Kolb are a far cry from Kurt Warner so until this team gets a quality QB this team is destined to be middle of the pack.

22.  Washington Redskins- I believe RG3 is a franchise QB and with him as the starter I am very high on this team. The WR group lacks a standout player, but there are definitely quality “B-level” guys that can step up and produce. The defense is strong where it needs to be and can get to the QB with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. On paper this team looks very strong and could even challenge the Giants (who never play that well in the regular season) for a division title.

21. Dallas Cowboys- I’m not a huge Cowboy fan because whenever I look at their roster my first thought is, “Man, these guys have the talent to get deep into the playoffs this year.” And every year they disappoint me with another mediocre .500-ish season. On paper, this is a championship team (aside from the OGs and DEs) but they have to translate that into wins on the field before they crack 20.

20. Seattle Seahawks- As one of my sleepers this year, I think the Seahawks have a chance to make the playoffs if Matt Flynn or Russell Wilson can step up and be “that guy”. If not the defense and running game will at least keep them competitive in most games.

19. Buffalo Bills- I will admit that the Bills are a confusing team to me right now. The front four could rival the Lions and the Eagles as the most talented rushers in the league, and with solid defensive backs/linebackers they easily have the best defense in the division. The confusion comes from the idea that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the answer to the Bill’s QB woes. Despite Ryan Fitzpatrick’s long-term deal, I just don’t know if he is the QB that can lead them into the playoffs. If he puts up top 12 numbers I think the Bills have a chance. If not I think they will be have a tough time getting a wild card spot with competitive divisions like the AFC North and South.

18. Kansas City Chiefs – When Eric Berry is healthy; I think he is one of the top 4-5 safeties in the league. He is the cherry on top of an elite defense, and that defense is what will keep them in the hunt for a playoff birth. That being said, I don’t think that the Chiefs will have the offensive firepower to overwhelm either the Chargers or Broncos to win that division.

17. Carolina Panthers- Cam Newton had a phenomenal rookie season and with a year under his belt this offense could be very potent. My problem is that I still don’t know what that defense is. Can they stop the gashing runs that killed them in 2011? Can they consistently get to the QB? That is what it will take to pry the division out of the hands of the Saints and Falcons.

16. New Orleans Saints- Drew Brees is one of the top 3 QBs in the NFL, so this is about as low as I will ever put the Saints. I didn’t love their draft, and the bounty scandal will cost them time from Will Smith and an entire missed season from Jonathan Vilma. More importantly the Saints will have to deal with the loss of head coach Sean Payton for a year and make no mistake he is a HUGE part of that team. Whether he is making crucial adjustments in between offensive series or whether it is preparation on Monday, Sean Payton was key to the success of that team. Forget playoffs and the Super Bowl, the Saints may have a tough time getting out of their division. I think the Panthers are hungrier and the Falcons are habitual contenders now. I predict a tough year for the Saints organization.

15. Atlanta Falcons- The Falcons have a talented WR group, a savvy TE, an above-average offensive line, a good stable of RBs, and a franchise QB. Take all those pieces and add in a good head coach and an underrated pass defense and that could make for a very intriguing team. The only problem is the Falcons may be weak psychologically after being demolished in back to back playoff games and it could affect the “drive” they will need to have a 9+ win season.

14. San Diego Chargers- Though I’m sure they won’t look like it the first four games of the season, the Chargers have a chance to win the AFC West. They have the firepower on offense to go 4-2 in the division even without former star wide out Vincent Jackson. With Melvin Ingram attacking the edge and Eric Weddle terrorizing WRs the Chargers have a enough talent on both sides of the ball to threaten Peyton Manning and the Broncos for the division crown.

13. Chicago Bears- Even though they are much improved on paper with the additions they have made at WR, the weakness of the offensive line and an unhappy star RB will keep this team out of the playoffs. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall have the potential to put up very impressive stats, but in the end and aging defense and a banged up QB (which is what the future probably holds for Jay Cutler) I don’t see them overcoming teams like the Lions or Packers twice a year, which would give them 4 loses in their own division.

12. Philadelphia Eagles- Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy might be the most dangerous combination QB/RB tandem in the league, but I don’t trust the WRs. DeSean Jackson seems more selfish after every interview and I don’t think Maclin can be a bona fide number one option in this league. While I do think the defense will be enough to keep them in the playoff hunt the Giants will be too tough for them to take the division title. It is not all bad news though; they do have a good chance for a Wild Card birth with the only competition most likely coming from the NFC South and North.

11. Tennessee Titans- The Titans are my sleeper team this year. In an offensive league driven by QBs and aerial offenses, I think that the Titans have the best WR group in the AFC. Kendall Wright will be the perfect fit between a playmaker like Kenny Britt and a deep threat like Nate Washington. If the Titans start Jake Locker (who you know has a rocket arm if you watched last year’s games) they may be the fastest team per player in the league, which would make their offense a matchup nightmare. Steve Hutchinson and Kamerion Wimbley are under the radar signings that could have probably given the Titans at least two wins in close games last year against the Saints, Jaguars, Falcons, and Bengals. Lastly, people seem to forget that the Titans were the only team with a 9-7 record to miss the playoffs and arguably their best offensive player was injured in week 3.

10. New England Patriots- I may be in the minority, but I don’t think that the Patriots will be any higher than 30th defensively this year. Chandler Jones was vastly overrated and I am surprised that the Patriots of all teams took him so early. Dont’a Hightower is very good but I’m not sure how he, Brandon Spikes, and Jerod Mayo all can be on the field at the same time.
That being said the Patriots proved last year that even if you have a terrible defense you can get to the Super Bowl if you have a star QB. Even though Welker’s will probably see a reduced role this year with the contract situation and Belichick’s love of throwing everyone off, that doesn’t mean that Tom Brady will be any less stellar. Brady will attack the middle with Gronk and Hernandez and will make any team that considers beating them understand that it will take at least 3 TDs unless you have a DE the initials JPP on the other side of the ball.

9. Denver Broncos- Peyton Manning has returned. I know he is coming off of an injury, but any time I have ever bet against Peyton he has made me look like a fool. Manning will have weapons like Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Jacob Tamme on offense and anything short of 30 points a game would shock me.

On the defensive side Manning may have déjà vu with Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller playing the parts of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Much like the tandem of the Colts, those two guys can ruin an offensive coordinators day if they are playing with a lead.

8. Cincinnati Bengals- This summary is short and sweet. The Bengals have all the pieces they need to win a Super Bowl in my mind. If they can look as good on the field as they do on paper then we may have a new dominant force in the AFC North.

7. Baltimore Ravens- Ray Rice isn’t happy and Terrell Suggs could be out for the year. All is not doom and gloom in Baltimore though, I think Courtney Upshaw is comparable to a young Suggs and the Ravens have plenty of time to incentivize Ray Rice before the season starts. Only time will tell, but we do know that the Ravens have an amazing locker room and have a great coach. That alone will get them 8 wins.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers need to beg Mike Wallace not to hold out. If he holds out they could fall to the 12-15ish area if they aren’t careful. Wallace takes the top off of a defense as well as anyone else in the league and without him and Ward I’m not sure who Big Ben’s go-to-guy is.

4 (Tie). Houston Texans & Detroit Lions- These were too hard to separate, I look at them and see two VERY similar franchises.
This year will tell us who these teams are. Both have amazing #1 WRs, both have incredibly potent defenses, and both just overcame long droughts of missing the playoffs. The QBs are both VG but not elite, and both will have a tough time keeping them healthy. However in both cases, if both can make it out of their division’s with the top record and a healthy squad, then these teams have the chance to be contenders for the conference championships.

3. Green Bay Packers- The Packers lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, but had an amazing 15-1 record in the regular season. If I were a betting man I would say that I think Rodgers wants his championship title back, and the one thing that no team in this league can beat is a motivated Green Bay Packers organization.

2. San Francisco 49ers- The 49ers are a young team that had a first-year head coach in a shortened season and STILL dominated their competition. This is another team that lost to the future “Champs”, but the 49ers did so in large part because of miscues not ineptitude or a lack of being prepared. The 49ers are all back on defense and have added weapons on offense. Now that they have had a taste of success, lets see how they respond.

1. New York Giants- Who else could it have been? Eli Manning and co. are mostly still intact and the core of that team is young and talented. The Giants had a great draft as always thanks to General Manager Jerry Reese, and I would not be shocked to see a repeat of last year’s Super Bowl run. And for all those teams that thought JPP was a terror last year, he is just scratching the surface of his potential and opposing OTs should be very afraid.

About Will Lomas

Grew up in a town in Tennessee named Dyersburg, and played ball there. When I realized I was too small to play college ball, I found my passion in breaking down game film, analyzing athletes, and finding the little things that decides whether a player is good, bad, or great.

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