Thursday, September 09, 2010

2010 NFL Preview Part Three: Power Rankings, Predictions, & Picks

That's Bob Sanders. Do you remember Bob Sanders? He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. That seems like five years ago. Now Bob Sanders is a forgotten man. Things change fast in the NFL. Rebuilding franchises rebuild in one offseason. Contenders become laughingstocks in the blink of an eye. But Sanders' team, the Indianapolis Colts, are an island in the stormy sea. With or without Sanders, the Colts win. There isn't much in the NFL you can confidently predict; the Colts contending for a title is one thing you can.

Power Rankings:

32. Cleveland Browns
Just wasting our time on Sundays.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs actually host the Browns in week one – a sneaky scheduling move by the NFL to hide the season’s worst game while giving both teams an early opportunity to build some false confidence.

30. Buffalo Bills
Ever since the 2009 season came to a close, I’ve been excited to put the Bills at the bottom of this list and predict a 2-14 season. But then I remembered watching the Tyler Thigpen-led Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, and I remembered Chan Gailey is a true offensive genius, a coach with ingenuity. If the Bills had any semblance of an offensive line, they’d be a tempting sleeper pick. Gailey will inject creativity – in fact, the Bills could debut the most interesting offense in the league – but Buffalo’s lack of talent at every position other than running back and a jarring switch to the 3-4 will prevent them from being anything more than fun to watch on offense.

29. Seattle Seahawks
Is there a single good player left on the Seahawks? Help me out here, Seattle fans. Who’s your best player? David Hawthorne?

28. St. Louis Rams
The Rams have won six games in the last three years. They hit bottom last season, winning just one game while sporting the league’s worst offense and second-worst defense. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, who played just a little more than two seasons of college ball at Oklahoma, will be the starter from day one. Rookie quarterbacks rarely fare well in the NFL, particularly ones with shaky offensive lines, no defense, and no receivers. The Rams should be staring down the barrel of another 1-3 win season. The only thing is, Bradford has been passing the “smell test” in a big way. Granted, we are talking about preseason. But Bradford looks legit.

27. Detroit Lions
The Lions should be better than last year – but they were very, very, very bad last season and very, very, very, very bad the season before. Expecting this team to morph into a playoff contender, or even a .500 football team, is expecting way too much.

26. Denver Broncos
Their best player (Ryan Clady) is coming back from a major knee injury suffered during a basketball game in the offseason. Their second best player (Elvis Dumervil) is out for the season. Their third best player (Champ Bailey) is 32. With the exception of the head coach and a certain rookie quarterback unlikely to see major playing time until at least 2012, there isn’t much to get excited about here.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

24. Oakland RaidersAnother bad team buoyed by hope from the acquisition of one mediocre player (Jason Campbell). 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year Rolando McClain will be more than a mediocre player.

23. Chicago Bears
It’s looking like both teams came out losers in the Cutler soap opera.

22. Kansas City Chiefs
Yet another awful team with aspirations of respectability – but still an awful team with an awful offensive line, awful defense, and awful coach.

21. Tennesee Titans
A closer look at Tennessee’s second half surge in ’09 (an 8-2 finish after an 0-6 start) reveals they beat just two teams with winning records while facing a slate of David Garrard, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart, Peyton Manning (loss), Keith Null, Chad Henne, Phil Rivers (loss) and Matt Hasselbeck.

20. San Francisco 49ers
Not sure where this team slips up. Could be the quarterback, could be the coach, could be an injury to Frank Gore or Patrick Willis, could be a regression on defense – but somewhere there they do figure to slip up.

19. Carolina Panthers
The league’s weakest pass offense in the passing era. Tough team to beat in 1972.

18. Arizona Cardinals
Even if the Cardinals get ’08-’09 Derek Anderson, they still have several extremely talented players and a smart coach. Look for the Cardinals to drastically switch up their offense, eschewing the high variance finesse passing attack for a smashmouth attack featuring a power running game and deep bombs. The Cards still have what it takes to compete in the NFC West.

17. San Diego Chargers
2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year Ryan Mathews and QB Philip Rivers will keep this sinking ship afloat in a sea of weak division opponents. An overhaul is on the horizon.

16. Minnesota Vikings
Picking the Vikings to fall off the cliff and go 6-10 this season has become fashionable. I get it, and I agree with it. The wheels are coming off. Brett Favre is 40 and hobbling. Both lines are starting to fall apart. Sidney Rice is gone for at least half the season. Percy Harvin could miss any game at any time with migraines. The defense is nothing special. Chester Taylor is gone.

But the Vikings still have this guy on the team, entering his fourth year in the league. He’s good.

15. Philadelphia Eagles
I really have no idea what to expect from this team so I tossed them in the middle along with the

14. Cincinnati Bengals

13. New York Giants
The Giants were one of the league’s most frustrating teams last season, looking like an early juggernaut while blasting a bunch of bad teams, then completely and somewhat inexplicably falling apart. On paper the G-Men had the best lines in the league, but they just sort of stopped playing well. If they play well, everyone will slap their foreheads and ask “how did we forget about the Giants?” If they play poorly, everyone will note this team was clearly in decline entering the season.

12. Washington Redskins
Not sure why this team isn’t getting more respect entering the season – all the pieces are in place.

11. New York Jets
Rex Ryan, Darrelle Revis, Mark Sanchez, Kris Jenkins, Nick Mangold, Bart Scott, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, Santonio Holmes, David Harris, Antonio Cromartie, Braylon Edwards, Brian Schottenheimer, Jason Taylor, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, Brad Smith, Kyle Wilson, Mike Pettine, Jim Leonhard, Nick Folk, Joe McKnight, Mike Westhoff, Tony Richardson, John Conner. This bevy of stars, a slew of veteran acquisitions, and Hard Knocks have made the Jets the most compelling team in the league. There’s no question the Jets are loaded on both sides of the ball as well as the sidelines. But Sanchez, who I ranked #3 in last year’s LVP race behind JaMarcus Russell and Jake Delhomme, is the starting quarterback. This feels like a powder keg ready to explode – but it also feels like a team that could win it all.

10. Houston Texans
The Texans have arguably the best offensive design in the league, an underrated crowd, and a load of young talent on defense. Like the ’08 Titans, ’08 Panthers, and ’09 Saints, the Texans have quietly been bubbling below the surface the last few seasons and go into this season without much hype.

9. New Orleans Saints
Two key differences between the ’09 and ’10 Saints: They have two cold-weather December road games (@Cincy, @Baltimore), which have always given Drew Brees problems, and Darren Sharper will start the season on the PUP list.

8. Miami Dolphins
Just feels like a playoff team.

7. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens boast the Titanic of NFL rosters – deliciously stocked at every position except the secondary, which has holes bigger than the Unsinkable after striking the iceberg.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers
2010 NFL Defensive
MVP Troy Polamalu and a loaded defense will keep the ship afloat until the return of Ben Roethlisberger in week five. At that point, the Steelers will become a serious contender.

5. Green Bay Packers
The Pack appear primed for a championship run – but this isn’t the first time this decade they’ve gone into a season with high expectations. Team record the last six seasons:
2004: 10-6
2005: 4-12
2006: 8-8
2007: 13-3
2008: 6-10
2009: 11-5

4. Dallas Cowboys
For the fourth straight season, the ‘Boys enter battle with one of the most talented starting lineups in football. And for the fourth straight season, the ‘Boys enter battle with very weak reinforcements. This is a team continually gambling on good health. If they get it, they could go the distance; if they don’t (as in 2008), the next thing you know, Jon Kitna is running for his life and they’re losing games to the league’s bottom-feeders. Dallas starts the season high in the power rankings, but don’t expect them to stay lofty unless everyone stays healthy. And check out the Dallas road schedule: @Washington, @Houston, @Minnesota, @Green Bay, @NY Giants, @Indy, @Arizona, @Philly.

3. New England Patriots
Too many pieces (Ty Warren, Leigh Bodden, Logan Mankins) on the shelf for them to be any higher, but they still have the best coach and 2010 NFL MVP Tom Brady. Two years removed from ACL surgery, with a cache of fresh receivers and a shaky defense, expect Brady to be chucking it often and efficiently.

2. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are loaded everywhere you look, have Matt Ryan entering his third season, and may have finally solved the team’s most glaring weakness (cornerback) with the signing of Dunta Robinson. The schedule starts a little rough, but the Falcons should pick up steam as the season moves along.

1. Indianapolis Colts
Picking anyone else to win the Super Bowl is foolish. Indy has won at least twelve games each of the last seven seasons. The Colts do not have questionmarks, only strengths.

Power Rankings and Predicted Records:

32. Cleveland (3-13)
31. Tampa Bay (3-13)
30. Buffalo (5-11)
29. Seattle (5-11)
28. St. Louis (7-9)
27. Detroit (6-10)
26. Denver (5-11)
25. Jacksonville (5-11)
24. Chicago (7-9)
23. Oakland (7-9)
22. Kansas City (8-8)
21. Tennessee (7-9)
20. San Francisco (8-8)
19. Carolina (8-8)
18. Arizona* (8-8)
17. San Diego* (8-8)
16. Minnesota (8-8)
15. Cincinnati (7-9)
14. Philadelphia** (9-7)
13. New York Giants** (9-7)
12. Washington* (9-7)
11. New York Jets** (10-6)
10. Houston (9-7)
9. New Orleans (9-7)
8. Miami** (10-6)
7. Baltimore (9-7)
6. Pittsburgh* (12-4)
5. Green Bay* (11-5)
4. Dallas (8-8)
3. New England* (11-5)
2. Atlanta* (12-4)
1. Indianapolis* (13-3)

* Division Winner
** Wild Card

AFC Championship: Colts over Steelers

NFC Championship: Falcons over Redskins

Super Bowl XLV: Colts over Falcons

Week One Picks:

Also like:

Dolphins -3 over BILLS
JAGUARS -2.5 over Broncos
STEELERS +2.5 over Falcons
REDSKINS +3.5 over Cowboys
RAMS +4 over Cardinals
CHIEFS +5.5 over Chargers
EAGLES +3 over Packers
PATRIOTS -4.5 over Bengals

If forced to choose:

Ravens +2 over JETS
SAINTS -4.5 over Vikings
SEAHAWKS +3 over Niners
BUCS -2.5 over Browns
Lions +6 over BEARS
Raiders +6.5 over TITANS
Panthers +7 over GIANTS
Colts -2 over TEXANS

Lock career record: 4-3
Really like career record: 17-15-1
Also like career record: 83-80-3
If forced to choose career record: 159-159-6
All games career record: 263-257-10


Blogger Zach said...

Tom, your picks record is almost too mediocre to believe.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous smokkee said...

LMFAO @ the Bolts going 8-8 this season. if they don't go 12-4 after playing through the AFC West and NFC West, it would be a sin.

9:49 PM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

8-8 is an enthusiastic projection for a team without an offensive line, wide receivers, a defense, or a coach.

10:39 PM  
Blogger tranquilchaos said...

Hey now! Norv Turner does an excellent job of taking the focus off of the teams lack of talent, and putting the focus on his own lack of talent.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about a report on the fact Boulder is on FIRE!

10:06 AM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

It's coming anonymous. Takes me a while to process and write about it.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Jeremiah said...

This is one of the better NFL prophecies I've read. I like that you are forming different opinions from the norm about the Chargers, Falcons, Vikings, etc. It's so much better than the "power rankings" panels that just pick all the playoff teams from last year and shuffle them around a bit. Actually it seems like every year its the playoff teams plus Houston as everyone's emerging team.

I think you're nuts putting the Falcons at #2, but that's why I like your rankings.

Great spin on the Denver/Chicago situation.

This will be the year of the mediocre. Look at how bad those West divisions are...

Several teams could be 10-6 or 6-10 for one reason or another. Chargers, Chiefs, Bears, Redskins, 49ers, Texans, Dolphins, just to name a few...

1:28 AM  
Blogger 81Trucolors said...

Epic post. Can't wait to watch football with you and pay off multiple beer bets owed.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

Nobody can ever say that your predictions aren't bold. I like the analysis and hope you're right about the Falcons. 12-4 would be sweet. Saints at 9-7 though? History says they won't win the South but I don't know if they'll drop 7 games.

5:58 PM  
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