The NFL season begins tomorrow as the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in annual Thursday night opener. I will be posting my weekly NFL Power Rankings on Wednesdays throughout the season. As the case from last year, my preseason rankings start with my pick to win the Super Bowl, following by the other 11 playoff teams. Don’t forget to check out my NCAA Top 25, posted on Thursdays during the season.
1 – Denver Broncos (Super Bowl Champions, AFC West Champions)
I know there are question marks surrounding the defense, but how do you stop this offense? This might be Peyton Manning last realistic shot to add another Super Bowl to resume. I say he gets it done.
2 – Atlanta Falcons (NFC Champions, NFC South Champions)
Another great offense with a suspect defense. However, I think last season was a turning point for Matt Ryan and this franchise. The Falcons will be Super Bowl contenders for the next several years, but ultimately Atlanta falls just short in 2013.
3 – Cincinnati Bengals (AFC North Champions)
The Bengals are the sexy pick in the NFL this season, and for good reasons. Cincinnati is explosive on offense and has a very good defense. Still, this is an unproven team with very little playoff experience.
4 – San Francisco 49ers (NFC West Champions)
San Francisco was so close to lifting the Lombardi Trophy last season and many have the 49ers doing that this year. I just believe the NFC West will beat itself up, making its playoff team vulnerable in the postseason.
5 – Seattle Seahawks (NFC Wild Card)
Many are high on the Seahawks, but for the same reasons as the 49ers, I just don’t see Pete Carroll’s squad reaching the Super Bowl.
6 – New England Patriots (AFC East Champions)
The Patriots play in the worst division, which almost guarantees a first round bye. It’s hard to bet against Tom Brady in January, but his weapons don’t scare me anymore.
7 – Houston Texans (AFC South Champions)
Houston is a very good club, but one that continues to frustrate. It would not surprise me if the Texans had another early postseason exit.
8 – New Orleans Saints (NFC Wild Card)
New Orleans is back in the Super Bowl picture with Sean Payton on the sidelines. The defense has too many holes, which means a lot of pressure will be on Drew Brees to carry this team.
9 – Chicago Bears (NFC North Champions)
Call me crazy, but I really like the Chicago Bears. Jay Culter and the offense should be improved under Mark Trestman.
10 – Baltimore Ravens (AFC Wild Card)
Baltimore is due for a set back, but with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, the Ravens are still a playoff contender. Expect them to cause headaches for whoever their January opponent will be.
11 – New York Giants (NFC East Champions)
The NFC East is the biggest crapshoot in the NFL. I would not be surprised if the Redskins, Cowboys or even the Eagles took this division. I’m going with the Giants simply because of Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.
12 – Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC Wild Card)
The Steelers have a ton of question marks, but I believe Pittsburgh sneaks into the playoffs. Mainly, because other AFC playoff contenders will take a few steps back.
13 – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts would be one of those teams due for a step back. Indianapolis was 9-1 in games decided by 7 points or less. It will be tough to repeat that. Still, with Andrew Luck, the Colts could sneak back into the postseason.
14 – Washington Redskins
RG3 and the Redskins will be in the playoff hunt all year long. Ultimately, their defense will keep them out of the playoffs.
15 – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are destined for another disappointing 8-8 season. It’s who they are now.
16 – Green Bay Packers
I am not high on the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers is probably the best quarterback in the NFL, but he will need to throw for over 5,000 yards and 55 touchdowns to compensate for the Packers pathetic defense.
17 – Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson is capable of amazing things. Leading the Vikings back to the playoffs could be one of them. But with Christian Steele Ponder at quarterback, that seems like an impossible task to repeat.
18 – Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick and Chip Kelly seem like they are made for each other. If Vick can stay healthy, Philadelphia could be back in the playoffs.
19 – St. Louis Rams
If the Rams were in any other division, I’d say they would be a playoff team. But surviving the NFC West will be a tough task.
20 – Carolina Panthers
Believe it or not, the Panthers are a team I really struggled with. If Cam Newton shows signs of improvement, Carolina could crash the postseason party.
21 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s put up or shut up time for Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay. The Bucs will give opponents fits, but just aren’t talented enough to beat good team
22 – Detroit Lions
Once again, many people are high on Detroit entering the season. And once again, those people will look like fools by Week 8.
23 – Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill should have more success in his second year in the NFL, but the Dolphins are still a few years away from being a playoff contender.
24 – San Diego Chargers
San Diego annually was a disappointing franchise. Now the Chargers are just an embarrassment.
25 – Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals should be improved under Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer. I just don’t think that will translate to wins this year.
26 – Tennessee Titans
It’s the same tired story for the Titans. Is this the year Jake Locker takes that next step? Can CJ2K return to form? After a few seasons, I have plenty of doubts.
27 – Buffalo Bills
The Bills enter the season with two rookie quarterbacks on their roster, so expect plenty of growing pains in 2013.
28 – Cleveland Browns
Cleveland might on the rise. Seriously. Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson is a good duo to build around.
29 – Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid might be able to turn the Chiefs around, but it’s not going to happen over night.
30 – New York Jets
The circus is in full swing at Jetsland. Rex Ryan is in for a looooong year.
31 – Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is once again on of the worst teams in the NFL. So why is the NFL trying to market this team to the poor saps fans in London?
32 – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders will challenge to Lions 0-16 season this year. I worry Oakland will be able to match it.