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Power Rankings

Well, it's time for our first cut of the hugely popular Power Rankings. And, of course, by popular, I mean "things that get my inbox cluttered with advice on where to take my head out from".

When we last met, the Vikings had no defense, the Ravens had no offense, and the Cowboys didn't have much of anything. After an offseason of change, all three of those teams see their collective stock swing greatly. Well, two out of three.

One note I should mention. If you feel my rankings are stupid or anything and my logic is based in the vicinity of my small intestine, it is likely because of a difference of opinion prior to the season. What that means is that I'm going to give a little more slack to a team like the Jets, because I expect them to be a playoff contender. And I won't put as much faith in a win by, say, Miami, because I'm not going to let one week sway my opinion of what I feel they will be long-term. Attached to the end of the rankings are my initial set of predictions for the upcoming season. You'll remember that last year, I had pegged the defending NFC champion Panthers to come in third, the highly-touted Chiefs to be mediocre, the respectable Titans to suffer a severe drop-off, and the underrated Bills and Jaguars to make playoff runs. So, I think those should earn me a pass for having predicted Dallas to win the NFC East and Minnesota and Indy to square off in the Super Bowl. :bag:

As we did last year, any comments/questions/complaints/death threats should be e-mailed to me at the following address: brown@footballguys.com. If selected, your e-mail will appear in this space next week. And as everyone knows, nothing gets the ladies charged up like seeing a guy's name appear in a fantasy football column!

Rk - Team Name - Record (Last week's ranking)

  1. New England Patriots 1-0 (-)
    Two-time defending champs just keep adding players that fit the scheme very well. Sort of like the anti-Yankees, if you will.
  2. Indianapolis Colts 1-0 (-)
    I love how it's just assumed that if the Colts get home-field advantage, they'll DEFINITELY beat New England. Why is it so automatic?
  3. Atlanta Falcons 1-0 (-)
    How's this one? The Falcons will win, and win a lot this year…and sure Vick will help - but it's the defense that will take them on a deep playoff run.
  4. Minnesota Vikings 0-1 (-)
  5. Cincinnati Bengals 1-0 (-)
    This is the year that Palmer-to-Johnson becomes Aikman-to-Irvin. Except better for fantasy.
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-0 (-)
    So which is actually faster? Willie Parker, or every fantasy owner racing to their league's waiver-wire last Monday?
  7. Philadelphia Eagles 0-1 (-)
    Until I hear about a Donovan McNabb/Terrell Owens sex tape, I won't be satisfied that they have truly forgiven one another. But hey, at least this feud of theirs hasn't dominated the headlines! :sarcasm:
  8. Dallas Cowboys 1-0 (-)
    You've got to love what Dallas has done this offseason, especially defensively. And let's not forget that Parcells did a lot with much less than he's got now, two seasons ago.
  9. San Diego Chargers 0-1 (-)
    So why isn't Drew Brees a one-year wonder? Well, there's Tomlinson, and Gates, and Caldwell, and McCardell, and…
  10. Kansas City Chiefs 1-0 (-)
    Please disregard what you will read later in this article about the Chiefs defense and how long it'll take to come together, ok? Thanks.
  11. New York Jets 0-1 (-)
    Initially, I had written this in the preseason: "The Jets could be scary good. Then again, they could be the Jets." So far, the latter.
  12. Carolina Panthers 0-1 (-)
    This week's loss notwithstanding, I still hold this team in very high regard.
  13. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-0 (-)
    Not really sure what to make of this team. I just have no feeling one way or the other yet.
  14. Baltimore Ravens 0-1 (-)
    I know he's unbelievably talented and all, but at times, Jamal Lewis can really look like he's about the worst player in football. It's such a bizarre phenomenon.
  15. Buffalo Bills 1-0 (-)
    Best line of my draft: "Yeah, you really want to rely on a guy whose name sounds like 'Loss-Man'"
  16. Denver Broncos 0-1 (-)
    Now starting at running back for the Denver Broncos…oops, would you just look at the time. Listen, I'll tell you what -- I'll finish this one in November.
  17. Washington Redskins 1-0 (-)
    Gotta love Patrick Ramsey asking to be traded. There's a huge market for unproven, mediocre, overpaid backup QBs, of course, so he may yet get his wish.
  18. New York Giants 1-0 (-)
    I don't think they are as good as they looked this past week, which explains the lack of respect I've given them this week.
  19. Arizona Cardinals 0-1 (-)
    Wow, when's the last time the 19th-best team in football was considered a division title contender? Oh wait, now I remember. It was way back in 2004, in the NFC West.
  20. Saint Louis Rams 0-1 (-)
    The Rams now have a Martz AND a Schottenheimer on staff. RUN!!!
  21. New Orleans Saints 1-0 (-)
    That win wasn't quite Mike Piazza's walk-off HR in the first NY-played game after 9/11, but it was pretty close. I know I rag on the Saints incessantly, but for one game at least, they came up huge.
  22. Oakland Raiders 0-1 (-)
    I'm picturing an after-school special where Randy Moss and Sebastian Janikowski try to pressure Kerry Collins into doing drugs with them. RATINGS BONANZA!
  23. Seattle Seahawks 0-1 (-)
    Have they stopped looking dead yet? Geez, Mike Holmgren must be more untouchable than Paris Hilton.
  24. Detroit Lions 1-0 (-)
    The Lions did what any team in dire need of a defensive playmaker would do. They drafted a third franchise receiver. Obviously.
  25. Green Bay Packers 0-1 (-)
    OK, so it's one loss. OK, so it's one loss to the Lions. OK, so it's one loss to the Lions by a lot of points. But hey it's not like you lost…your…….best………….receiv…..ahhhhh, sorry.
  26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-0 (-)
    I didn't believe it until I saw the box score, but apparently Joey Galloway is still alive.
  27. Houston Texans 0-1 (-)
    Did they even play this week?
  28. Miami Dolphins 1-0 (-)
    You know, I think Nick Saban will be a success too. But let's hold off on his HOF induction ceremony until at least October, mmmkay?
  29. San Francisco 49ers 1-0 (-)
    Alright, well at least they won't go 0-16.
  30. Tennessee Titans 0-1 (-)
    And now, all that's left of this once-proud franchise is Jeff Fisher's mustache.

    [By the way, please tell me I'm not the only one who wants to see a mustache-based reality show featuring like Fisher, Ron Jeremy, Mr. Pringle, Stan Van Gundy, Keith Hernandez, John Oates, Tom Selleck and Cap'N Crunch. They could do all sorts of things guys with mustaches do. They could, ya know, have contests to see who would be the better fireman, eat the most brats, and hold a mafia-style jumpsuit competition. C'mon people, if we want to hit the big time, we've got to start thinking outside the box.]


  31. Chicago Bears 0-1 (-)
    Man…at least the Titans have Jeff Fisher's mustache. What the heck do the Bears have?
  32. Cleveland Browns 0-1 (-)
    Well, it could be worse. I mean, you could have Trent Dilfer as your starting QB right? Oh wait…Yeah…Sorry.

NFL PREDICTIONS
(Note: commentary and predictions were written prior to Week 1 games)

AFC

EAST
1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Miami Dolphins

One of the seemingly easier divisions to project, at least at this point. How can you not have the 2-time defending champs winning? The Jets, meanwhile, are everyone's sexy pick for AFC Champ. A lot hinges on Chad Pennington, for obvious reasons, and I like his chances to succeed. The Jets may not have caught the Pats just yet, but they've certainly closed the gap. As for the Bills, this kind of a defense will keep them in a lot of games. While they may not make a lot of noise this year, watch out for them in 2006. With a year of experience, Losman will become a star - soon - in this league. And the Dolphins? They are still several players away from contending just for respectability, let alone a playoff run.

NORTH
1. Cincinnati Bengals
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. Cleveland Browns

I know, it's not popular to predict the 15-1 team to not win the division the second time around, but I have a hard time shaking the image of Ben Roethlisberger over the season's second half (particularly in the playoffs). I know he's another year older and more experienced, but now he's lost his favorite passing target in Plaxico Burress. Things just always seemed to go right for the Steelers last year, and while I don't anticipate a huge drop-off, I also don't expect a 15-1 season. The Bengals are a team on the rise and Marvin Lewis' defense will show up for the full 16 games this year. It wouldn't be the first time that a great defense was made more from the coach/coordinator than from the collective talent assembled. I absolutely LOVE the Bengals offense, and fully expect them to join the ranks of the league's elite units in '05. The Ravens' offense should improve with another year of experience out of Boller, but I'm more concerned with them slipping just a bit defensively. They've got playmakers all over the field, sure. But I wouldn't be completely shocked to see Ray Lewis and co. take a slight step back. That may be all it'll take to keep them from postseason play. The Browns - are putrid. They are your likely winners of the Matt Leinart sweepstakes at this point.

SOUTH
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Houston Texans
4. Tennessee Titans

This division should feature the least turnover from last season, in terms of the quality of teams and how well they do in 2005. None of the bottom three teams made quantum leaps either in terms of personnel or performance in the preseason, so I would expect Indy to come away with the division title fairly easily. The Jags will once again make a playoff run and come up short, cementing their place as the Oakland Raiders of the 21st century. Houston and Tennessee will be out of contention by midseason.

WEST
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Denver Broncos
4. Oakland Raiders

While I do see the Chargers slipping to about 9-7, I don't see any of the other teams in the division giving them much trouble out west. I think the Chiefs have improved defensively, but I don't feel they are anywhere near a good defensive unit just yet. It'll take some time for all of those players to gel, and by that time the playoffs may have passed them by. Denver looks good on paper, but unfortunately for them there are three other teams in that division who look even better on paper. The Raiders look unbelievable on paper offensively. Unfortunately, they look like they're on toilet paper defensively. You see what I did there? I suggested that they are so bad defensively that you'd put their names on toil…ah, nevermind.

NFC

EAST
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. Washington Redskins
4. New York Giants

Believe me, I don't want to pick the Eagles to win the division. I really don't. I wish there was another way. I'd love to pick Dallas to take the division crown, but after getting burned last year I think I'll pass this time around. I've learned to never rely too much on a Drew Bledsoe-led team. That said, the Boys from Big D will make it interesting at least. No clinching the division in Week 14 this time around. And despite the woes of the Redskins and Giants, I fully expect them to be two of the most competitive 3rd-and 4th-place teams in the NFL.

NORTH
1. Minnesota Vikings
2. Detroit Lions
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Chicago Bears

This is the time for Minnesota to make a Super Bowl run. They've got some defensive playmakers, the offense is still good enough with Culpepper leading the charge. Of course, Moss will be missed and there's no way to replace his dynamic gamebreaking ability, but they will succeed going with quantity if not quality. The run game should also be much-improved as the season wears on, and I expect Michael Bennett to enjoy a very good season as long as he remains on the field. Detroit won't so much be a contender as they'll be the lesser of two evils. I expect a huge drop-off from the Packers, so Detroit will rise to second place by virtue of Green Bay's badness. A .500 season is within reach, but it'll take a large step forward by Joey Harrington to do so. The aforementioned Packers will suffer due to horrible defense and a woefully inadequate offensive line (my, how times change quickly in the NFL). The Bears weren't going to contend even with Grossman, and this excellent defense will go to waste as the offense struggles to put up 10 points per game.

SOUTH
1. Atlanta Falcons
2. Carolina Panthers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I love the Falcons. No wait, let me rephrase that. I LOVE the Falcons! I think they are ready for all challengers, and I think Michael Vick is about to take his game to the level of unstoppable. With just a slight improvement in his "quarterbacking" skills, Vick can become an even better version of Donovan McNabb. As for the defense, I've had them ranked amongst the league's elite units ever since our rankings debuted in May so I'm obviously all over them. Expect a Super Bowl run for this bunch. Carolina will rebound and challenge for the division crown, as I think they are one of the NFC's better teams as well. Julius Peppers will contend strongly for defensive player of the year, and the team will make some noise come January. The Saints are going to be everyone's emotional favorite, but realistically speaking that isn't likely to carry them very far. While I do think Aaron Brooks is a much-improved QB, and the rest of the offense is set up for a fantastic season fantasy wise, I don't think the defense will come anywhere near being good enough to make a run at the postseason. The Bucs are in shambles for 2005, and Jon Gruden has gone from "hotshot genius" to "irrelevant" about as quickly as Lindsay Lohan lost and regained her breasts.

WEST
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Saint Louis Rams
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. San Francisco 49ers

When in doubt, go out on a crazy limb and see what happens. Obviously, no one is picking the Nines to win this division. And I just can't see myself putting too much faith in someone named Martz or Holmgren to come up with big wins. It's not so much that I like Arizona; it's that I hate the rest of the division so much, I can't decide who is the least worst. It wouldn't shock me to see the top 3 teams go 6-10, splitting with one another and sweeping the Niners in head to head matchups, and the Niners go 0-16. Ok, it would shock me to see that…but it's not completely inconceivable.

PLAYOFFS

AFC
1. Colts
2. Patriots
3. Bengals
4. Chargers
5. Jets
6. Steelers

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Patriots over Colts

NFC
1. Falcons
2. Vikings
3. Eagles
4. Cardinals
5. Panthers
6. Cowboys

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Falcons over Vikings

SUPER BOWL
Patriots over Falcons

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