Here’s the pre-preseason edition of my NFL power rankings. These opinions are mine only and based on where I believe teams are now, before any preseason games, further injuries or major shakeups. I’ll re-rank ’em right before the regular season and then bi-weekly during the first half of the season while things sort themselves out.
1. New Orleans — Still the champs, still on top for now.
2. Dallas — A healthy Dez Bryant makes them scary good if the offensive line holds up.
3. Indianapolis — Never, ever, ever discount Peyton Manning’s ability to get the most of the talent around him.
4. Green Bay — See two above, minus Dez Bryant. If they’re healthy they won’t lose many.
5. New England — I sense a bounceback year for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
6. Cincinnati — Same underrated defense, new (somewhat) and improved (greatly) offense
7. San Diego — Loads of talent but some of it is holding out.
8. Minnesota — This ranking subject to change due to the impending but not yet official arrival of an old quarterback whose name currently escapes me.
9. Baltimore — Too many injuries in the secondary to be ranked any higher at this point, IMO.
10. Atlanta — I see a maturing quarterback, an improved defense and a really dangerous sleeper.
11. NY Jets — On paper, they’re loaded. I won’t crown them until I see some on-field chemistry.
12. Pittsburgh — What didn’t kill the Steelers in the offseason might make them stronger come November.
13. Miami — I think Bill Parcells likes the pieces he’s assembled.
14. Tennessee — Great coaching, solid vets, better than they showed much of last year.
15. NY Giants — Quietly dangerous if they stay healthy.
16. Philadelphia — I think they’ll miss McNabb more than most people think.
17. San Francisco — Lots of good players, but questions at QB keep them in the second tier for now.
18. Houston — “Next year” is always supposed to be the year for these guys, who score with anybody but seem to invent ways to lose close games.
19. Arizona — Tough to instantly replace Kurt Warner and Karlos Dansby.
20. Washington — They’ll beat some good teams but are a few players away from being a legit contender.
21. Chicago — I think Jay Cutler bounces back, but I’m not totally sold yet.
22. Jacksonville — Same story every year, just not good enough in a solid division.
23. Carolina — They’ll run it, but can they throw it?
24. Denver — A looming QB controversy and Elvis Dumervil’s injury aren’t good early signs.
25. Oakland — Jason Campbell is no Kenny Stabler. But he’s markedly better than any combination of Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy.
26. Detroit — Young and far from being really good, but this is a team on the upswing.
27. Cleveland — Could be much better without it actually showing in the W column; or a putrid offense could mask a pretty good D.
28. Kansas City — I’d expect this ranking to be much higher in the second half of the year, but this is a young team with plenty to prove.
29. Seattle — Neither Pete Carroll nor USC will be sniffing the postseason this fall.
30. Tampa Bay — Lots of young guys. Too early to know how many of them actually have promise.
31. St. Louis — Sam Bradford will take his lumps this fall.
32. Buffalo — No quarterback, no O-line, no chance in one of the league’s best divisions.