The dog days of summer are beginning to simmer down, making way for the arrival of the fall – which also means… FOOTBALL IS BACK.
It’s time to prognosticate and come up with a power rankings poll for the NFL heading into the beginning of the season – and since there were no major dropoffs for the two Super Bowl representatives from last year, each has earned the right to sit in the top two spots.
Here’s the latest “KP Poll” – in the form of Preseason NFL Power Rankings:
The KP Poll (NFL Power Rankings – Preseason)
1. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Super Bowl champs earned the right to start off the season at the top. Many don’t realize that last year’s Saints – chock full of offense – didn’t feature a 1,000 rusher. In fact, Pierre Thomas was the team’s leading rusher, with only 793 yards on the ground.
2. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Peyton and Co. overcame injuries and the league’s worst rushing offense to not only still make the Super Bowl, but also threaten to match New England’s perfect regular season a few years ago.
3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Certainly, I don’t expect Brett Favre to match last year’s incredible season, but many should realize that the Vikings – with all their fumbles and blunders in last year’s NFC title game – handed the Super Bowl berth to the Saints.
4. BALTIMORE RAVENS
The one thing that has always been lacking in Baltimore was a passing game – and with the addition of Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth, the Ravens now have that, too.
5. GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers are the trendy pick of many – and it’s hard to argue that considering how solid Aaron Rodgers has been at QB, plus the fact that he should have protection.
6. ATLANTA FALCONS
Atlanta had too many injuries to overcome last year – most notably running back Michael Turner, who not only is healthier, but reportedly in great shape – and ready to rebound.
7. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
People need to remember that New England was still the team that won the AFC East – and Brady has had more time to heal up, plus Wes Welker is back, too.
8. NEW YORK JETS
Sure, there were solid additions, plus there are rumors that Darrelle Revis could have a new deal in place this week… but until then, I’m not buying into the Jets hype.
9. DALLAS COWBOYS
Everyone is drooling over the talent of the Cowboys – and while I love rookie Dez Bryant among others, there’s no fear striking me with Phillips and Tony Romo running the show.
10. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
The Bolts appear to not have much division competition, and therefore could easily be higher on this list. It will be interesting to see how the offense performs with hyped-up rookie Ryan Mathews, along with a few receivers that will need to step it up due to Vincent Jackson’s suspension/holdout situation.
11. CINCINNATI BENGALS
No matter the age or personality, there’s no arguing the fact that the Bengals should have one of the more interesting rosters in 2010 – especially on offense, with Carson Palmer throwing to the likes of Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Jermaine Gresham.
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS
The biggest thing lacking in Miami for the last few seasons was a number one receiver – and that has changed after the ‘Fins dealt for star Brandon Marshall – who instantly adds a big target for QB Chad Henne to throw to.
13. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Eagles have arguably the best batch of young offensive talent in the NFL – and of all the issues they may face in 2010, new starting QB Kevin Kolb is not one of them.
14. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Beanie Wells should continue to improve the running game, and the passing game still features a number of weapons, even with Anquan Boldin gone to Baltimore. The biggest question is QB Matt Leinart – and if he can take his game to the next level.
15. TENNESSEE TITANS
The Titans finished the season strong – and the real question is whether Vince Young can build off last season’s successes and become a compliment to star running back Chris Johnson, who should carry the offense yet again.
16. NEW YORK GIANTS
Many will be quick to note the tough end to New York’s season, but with a number of young weapons – plus veterans returning from injuries, the Giants could recover quite well – or Coughlin could wind up sitting on the hottest seat in the NFL.
17. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
The additions of Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb instantly should improve this team’s win total by a few games, but will the ‘Skins find a consistent run game, while also seeing better production from their offensive line?
18. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Steelers usually find a way – but they are going to be challenged from the beginning with Roethlisberger suspended, Holmes no longer a part of the offense and Mendenhall being a beast of a back, that’s also been injury prone.
19. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The Niners have been slowly but surely improving – and a division title is not out of reach this year, but while they are taking on the attitude of their head coach, there are still a lot of questions at the QB position with Alex Smith.
20. CHICAGO BEARS
The addition of Mike Martz should help give the offense a boost, but in the end – will it be enough to overcome a division that features both the Packers and the Vikings?
21. CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Panthers obviously lost Julius Peppers to Chicago, and while they still have a talented run game, the passing game still has its question marks with Moore and rookie Clausen in the mix.
22. HOUSTON TEXANS
The Texans are talented enough to be a playoff team – but also have enough holes to be buried in the cellar of its division, what with Cushing being suspended, question marks at the RB position – and not mentioned enough, the exit of offensive mind Kyle Shanahan.
23. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
New head coach Pete Carroll made some solid additions to this team – and there should definitely be improvement, but they’ll need the division to struggle in order to creep into the playoff picture this season.
24. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Maurice Jones-Drew is a spark plug that churns out great year after great year, but otherwise, there doesn’t appear to be enough weapons across the board to keep this team afloat in a challenging division.
25. DENVER BRONCOS
Denver is moving in the opposite direction. They dealt away Brandon Marshall and have had a number of preseason injuries, most notably to Elvis Dumervil, who led the NFL in sacks last season.
26. DETROIT LIONS
If not for four games against the Pack and Vikes, I would be confident naming the Lions as the NFL’s most improved team. Detroit still has a ways to go, but I like the combo of Stafford and Best on offense, plus Suh gaining experience on the defensive line.
27. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Hey, what do you know, the Raiders actually made some smart decisions in the NFL Draft – adding some potential impact talents, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Jason Campbell also takes over at QB.
28. CLEVELAND BROWNS
It should be interesting to see how the Browns fare this year – what with all their struggles in ’09, followed by a solid end to the year – and eventual addition of Jake Delhomme at QB and Mike Holmgren in the front office.
29. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chiefs’ biggest improvement should be in the running game – and will feature a talented duo of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. Being in a weak division could help Kansas City, too.
30. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs have a talented young nucleus on both sides of the ball, but sadly, the main talk in Tampa Bay has been the likelihood of tevelision blackouts during the upcoming season – and not much else.
31. BUFFALO BILLS
I love playmaker C.J. Spiller, and think he has a legitimate shot at being this year’s rookie of the year, but other than that, the Bills are in a tough division – and need help at the quarterback position to compete.
32. ST. LOUIS RAMS
The Rams would be smart to give top pick Sam Bradford the starting job – and while he’ll likely struggle more often than not in 2010 – it will be interesting to see how he can improve and learn over the course of his rookie season.