Since the large majority of starters will not be playing in the fourth preseason game, I figure that now is as good a time as any to make my first power rankings of the 2009 NFL season. They may slightly contradict earlier posts because of recent developments (Flacco being a stud, the Brandon Marshall saga, Favre, etc). Anyways, here we go:
32) Kansas City Chiefs. You know it's not looking good when you're starting QB may be out for a month and your offensive coordinator gets fired two weeks before the season. Can we really expect too much from Larry Johnson?
31) Cleveland Browns. This team just bothers me. Dropped passes, inconsistent run game, and a Swiss cheese defense won't help Brady Quinn if he gets the nod.
30) Detroit Lions. Sadly, this is a compliment. They're making strides towards bolstering their offensive line, and not drafting another wide receiver. Hopefully Stafford will be the bright light at the end of the very dark tunnel.
29) Denver Broncos. What a mess. Without Cutler, their passing attack is less intimidating. Now, Brandon Marshall may not even be in a Bronco uniform. These players just don't seem to like Josh McDaniels.
28) St. Louis Rams. There is potential in St. Louis if three things happen: Jackson stays healthy, Bulger stays healthy, and Spagnuolo is able to motivate the defense. If one of these things goes wrong, however, it'll be another disappointing season.
27) Oakland Raiders. They are a very young team that, if healthy, could challenge the Chargers. Russell needs to step it up and McFadden needs to complete 16 games. Their organization is holding them back.
26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This depends completely on quarterback play. If Leftwich is able to lead their offense down the stretch, they might find themselves in the playoffs. Facing them is a tough division, a below average defense, and uncertainty at running back.
25) San Francisco 49ers. Too many question marks will keep them out of the playoffs this year. Given a few more years, Mike Singletary may restore 49er glory.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars. Though he wasn't the starter, the loss of Fred Jackson will force Maurice Jones-Drew to carry the ball more. They also don't seem to have the all-around consistency to be a major threat.
23) Cincinnati Bengals. Just like the Rams, they need three things to happen: Carson Palmer must play 16 games, Chad Ocho Cinco has to mature, and Cedric Benson must earn his paycheck. Oh, and the defense needs to show up. Four things.
22) Buffalo Bills. The absence of Marshawn Lynch will cripple them early on, and having TO may not make up for it. If they can get better in November and December, they could make a run for a Wild Card.
21) Dallas Cowboys. If Roy Williams is plagued with injury throughout the season, the Cowboys can kiss their playoff hopes good-bye.
20) Miami Dolphins. Though they had success last year with the wildcat, most teams have begun to figure out how to dismantle it. They also won't have the luck they had last year with no injuries to their starters.
19) Seattle Seahawks. This could be a surprise team out of the dismal NFC West. Hasselbeck looks healthy, and T.J. Houshmanzedah will help.
18) Arizona Cardinals. Despite them making the Superbowl last year, many doubt this team (including me). Warner is a risk at his age, and their running game is rarely utilized. Plus, their defense is abysmal.
17) New York Jets. Their defense looks great, and their running game will get better if Leon Washington gets more touches. Sanchez may not have an immediate impact, especially with the lack of a star receiver to help him out.
16) Houston Texans. They're one year away from making it into the playoffs for the first time ever. If Shaub stays healthy, that may come a year earlier.
15) Chicago Bears. Jay Cutler will give this team what the Bears franchise has always needed: consistency at quarterback. Forte, Hester, and Olsen will see huge returns.
14) Washington Redskins. Campbell looks much better, and Haynesworth on defense will have a large effect on the NFC East. They just may not have enough to get the Wild Card spot with such a tough division.
13) New Orleans Saints. Their offense ranks in the top 3, while their defense ranks in the 15-25 range. Improve the defense, improve the record.
12) Philadelphia Eagles. Most people have them ranked higher, but they've lost so much on defense. Outside of Vick, they have had quite a few valuable pickups on offense. Vick won't make an impact until his second year back.
11) Baltimore Ravens. I thought Flacco would have a sophmore slump, but he's looked great in preseason. Their biggest setback is their loss of Rex Ryan on defense.
10) Minnesota Vikings. Put aside Favre, and you still have one of the best runningbacks and defenses in the league. Throw in a veteran that knows the system, and you may have at least a division title.
9) Tennessee Titans. Losing Albert Hayensworth may not be too much of a detriment, the system made him good, not the other way around. Kerry Collins is another year older, though.
8) Green Bay Packers. They could be the sleeper pick to win the conference. Rodgers is in MVP form, and their transition to the 3-4 defense went much smoother than expected.
7) Atlanta Falcons. Most people focus on Matt Ryan, but their defense appears to be improving the most. Injuries and holdouts at receiver could hurt them, but Gonzalez may cancel that out.
6) Carolina Panthers. Their only real weakness is inconsistency at quarterback. Despite Delhomme's poor playoff performance, however, he was solid during the season. Their running attack is one of the best in the league, too.
5) New York Giants. Their receivers will either be the end of them or bring them to the Superbowl, since Eli Manning needs a deep threat. Canty, Bernard, and Boley will add tremendous depth to their already stellar defense.
4) San Diego Chargers. With Merriman and Cromartie back from injury, their defense will take a major step forward. Rivers, Gates, Tomlinson, Sproles, Jackson, Chambers... get ready.
3) New England Patriots. While everyone is focusing on Tom Brady, they've quietly added key players to their defense. The loss of their offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and a surgically-repaird knee could keep them out of the Superbowl this year, however.
2) Indianapolis Colts. Most people forget they won their final 9 regular season games last year. Manning comes into this season healthy, but without Tony Dungi they'll have to work under a new system.
1) Pittsburgh Steelers. This is not just because they won the Superbowl. 20 of their 22 starters are back, plus the coaching staff remains intact. A fairly easy schedule almost guarantees a playoff spot and division title. Plus, their defense is nasty.