1. Pittsburg Steelers : Now I know everyone loves to put the Patriots in the number one spot, but the defending SUPER BOWL champions should always be picked ahead of a team that did not even make the playoffs. Their only downfall could be that horrible pass blocking O-Line, who loves seeing their QB, now called B-Burger, getting grounded up by the opposition.
2. New England Patriots: It is hard to deny how good the Patriots can be with Tom Brady back in the line-up, but until he proves that he is back to 100%, no one really knows how good this team will be. Ol’ Billy boy always finds a way to win (even if it is with a camera), so don’t expect this team to be much lower than the 5<sup>th</sup> on the power rankings this season.
3. New York Giants : Not a lot of analysts seem to rank the Giants very high due to the departure of Plaxico Burress and an inconsistent Eli Manning , but it is hard to deny the best offensive line in the NFL as not enough evidence to put these guys in the top 3. Not to mention they have the incredible Hulk running the ball.
4. Arizona Cardinals : I thought these guys were a great team all of last year, but got no respect even after winning their first two playoff games. With MVP caliber QB in Kurt Warner and the best WR in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald , it is hard to not put these guys in the Top 5. The addition of Beanie “I’m going run you over” Wells only makes this offense that much more potent. Who says defense wins games?
5. Atlanta Falcons : This is no doubt the most underrated team in the NFL. With Matt Ryan showing the poise of a seasoned veteran and Michael “The Burner” Turner showing that he belongs as a top 3 RB in the NFL, look for the Falcons to follow up a very impressive 2008 season. Tony Gonzalez will keep Matt Ryan from falling into the dreaded sophomore slump.
6. Indianapolis Colts : Peyton Manning is the only reason this team contends every year. The best QB in the league has a lot to work to do this year with a new head coach and the departure of a leader like Marvin Harrison. The key, though, for this team winning the close games will be the defense and how healthy they can stay throughout the season.
7. San Diego Chargers : It is hard to deny the depth and talent of this team on offense. Philip Rivers has developed into a top five QB in the league and Darren Sproles has shown the ability to be one of the games top X-Factors. This team, though, needs to learn how to win close games and defend the pass in order to go deep into the playoffs. The return of a healthy Shawne Merriman should help.
8. Carolina Panthers : The Panthers fell flat on their face last year in the playoffs due to a generally inexperienced playoff team and a Jake Delhomme that couldn’t do much of anything. Still, this team has one of the top running duos in the NFL, a game breaker in Steve Smith and an at times stingy defense. Look for them to rise up the rankings as the year progresses.
9. Philadelphia Eagles : They have done a lot of good things this season, including a very productive draft where they added weapons in LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin for McNabb. Injury and consistency are still a problem spots for McNabb, but look for him to be big in late season conference match-ups if he can stay on track.
10 . Tennessee Titans : With the departure Albert Haynesworth , the productivity of the rest of the defense will decline. With that said this defensive unit will still be top 3 in the league and a force to deal with. There are still many question marks surrounding their offense with no clear cut QB between Vince Young and Kerry Collins , but Chris Johnson and LenDale "One too many Donuts" White do make a nice 1-2 punch.
11. Dallas Cowboys : The Cowboys have arguably the most pure talent in the league, but can’t win the big games to save their lives. It is hard to tell how the absence of T.O. will affect this team, but it will give Tony Romo a chance to prove his worth as the team’s leader. This is a crucial year for this franchise as they will be trying to prove that they belong among the class of the toughest division in the NFL.
12. Houston Texans : These guys showed a lot of promise last year, playing in some very close games (Colts twice) which they eventually lost. Rookie Steve Slaton also showed off that he wasn’t a fluke “system product” at West Virginia and will be an important part of the Texans offense if he can avoid the sophomore slump. If Matt Schuab can stay health and Mario Williams can continue to develop, look for the Texans to really push the Colts for a top spot in the division.
13. New Orleans Saints : Drew Brees has proven to be a top three QB in the league, challenging Dan Marino’s single season yard mark. The Saints defense has yet to show that they can stop anyone. A college team could have passed all over the slew of under performing CB’s the Saints threw in there this past season. Hopefully the addition of Malcolm Jenkins will allow for some stability at the position.
14. Baltimore Ravens : With the departure of Rex Ryan, the Ravens and their staple defense looks to be on the decline. Not to mention that they’re getting pretty old. If this team wants to contend this year, they will have to stop babying Joe Flacco and allow him to take a good portion of the offense on his shoulders.
15. New York Jets : The Jets have got a slew of young talent and just signed Mark Sanchez to a big rookie contract. It will be interesting to see how early they allow Sanchez to take full reign of the offense. With new coach Rex Ryan, the Jets will obviously take on a defensive mind set. This team might take a year or two to really get in sync.
16. Minnesota Vikings : Over the last three years the Vikings have put together one of the more potent offensive running games in the NFL. With the addition of Percy Harvin , the Vikings are looking to be an elite force in the NFC. Unfortunately they have no leadership on offense, lacking a solidified player at the QB position. Brett Favre anyone?