One thing is undeniable at this point of the NFL season. Standings-wise, every team is equal, if only for just a few more days. These power rankings are for Week 1 of the 2011 NFL regular season.
Little has changed at the top of NFL power rankings since last winter. The order of teams has shifted just a bit since last December, but it’s not as if the St. Louis Rams are starting things off in the top 5. One other thing hasn’t changed since the end of last season. The teams at the very bottom of these power rankings are very, very bad.
Week 1 NFL power rankings
32. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals start the season against Cleveland, Denver, San Francisco and Buffalo. Cincy still may start the year at 0-4. Yes, the Bengals really are that bad.
31. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton needs to prove he can win at this level before the Panthers exit the 30s in NFL power rankings. He’ll have quite the array of interesting offensive weapons at his disposal this coming weekend.
30. Washington Redskins: Quarterback Rex Grossman has some talented targets to work with against the Giants, but he’s still Rex Grossman. Many Washington fans and beat writers believe John Beck will be the team’s starting QB sooner than later.
29. Buffalo Bills: The Bills could come away with a surprising victory or two in the first two months of the season. Of course, it’s also possible that the Bills will be 1-5 when the team’s bye week comes around in late October.
28. San Francisco 49ers: You have to like what you see from San Fran’s defense, and the offense even has a few scary weapons. Questions about Alex Smith leading the show and Frank Gore’s ability to stay healthy keep me from placing the 49ers any higher in Week 1 power rankings.
27. Denver Broncos: I see the Broncos as a potential sleeper team, but only if Kyle Orton can build up and retain confidence, and prevent silly, needless turnovers. Don’t sleep on this team’s pass rush.
26. Tennessee Titans: I don’t believe Tennessee will remain this low in NFL power rankings for very long. Right now, however, there’s serious chemistry issues with the team’s offense, and Chris Johnson is going to need at least a few weeks to get “regular season ready.”
25. Seattle Seahawks: So when do the “David Garrard to Seattle” rumors start? Do the Seahawks need to lose a game first? Will it be too late by then?
24. Miami Dolphins: One of the most fun offenses in the NFL in the Madden Universe . In real life, however, Miami’s offensive line remains a legitimate concern.
23. Cleveland Browns: Hear me out here before throwing out the “Homer” comments. The Browns absolutely lack any real depth, but the talent in the team’s starting 22 is there. Besides, thanks to some bad luck for the Colts and an easy schedule, it’s not unreasonable to believe the Browns could be well above .500 six weeks into the season.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars: Luke McCown is Jacksonville’s starting quarterback for the season opener? Luke. McCown. Hmm.
21. Oakland Raiders: The Raiders lost CB Nnamdi Asomugha once the lockout ended, and it showed during the preseason. It could be a long season for a team that was on the rise just one winter ago.
20. Minnesota Vikings: Running back Adrian Peterson will be rushing toward a big fat contract come next winter. That, combined with Donovan McNabb not turning the football over, could result in the Vikings being a scary team later on in the season.
19. Arizona Cardinals: The Kolb-to-Fitz connection showed signs of gelling at the end of August. If Kolb can resist that urge to continuously throw into double coverage, the Cards could be another surprise team come November.
18. New York Giants: No, this isn’t a mistake. Even someone who’s rooted for the Giants for 25 years can’t ignore that New York’s defense has suffered significant losses at literally every position, and the team’s passing game was shaky, at best, during the preseason. The Giants have to prove they can get past such issues against good teams to move up in NFL power rankings this September.
17. Houston Texans: I’m officially jaded when it comes to the Texans. At least there’s no way, none whatsoever, that Houston’s defense will once again be historically horrendous at playing against the pass; well, maybe.
16. St. Louis Rams: If QB Sam Bradford’s weapons actually remain healthy, he may be able to avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump,” and even carry the Rams to a playoff berth.
15. Kansas City Chiefs: I like how Kansas City plays ball, but the team’s schedule after this Sunday makes me very nervous. We all know Matt Cassel is a gamer, but it’s not a good sign that he’s noticeable banged up before the season opener.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Another team very likely to move up in NFL power rankings as the season progresses. The Dallas defense enters Week 1 having spent very little time with new coordinator Rob Ryan, and the ‘Boys face the J-E-T-S at newly named MetLife Stadium on September 11. Yikes.
13. Detroit Lions: I really believe Detroit is a ten-win team if Matt Stafford stays healthy. That’s a big, big “if,” though, one that causes serious concerns.
12. San Diego Chargers: Talent wise, the Chargers are much, much better than 12th best in football.
It’s September, though, which means San Diego hasn’t yet started to actually care about winning football games. Prove me wrong, Chargers. Prove me wrong.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I like the young, talented Bucs, but just a bit less than many other football fans around the country. Tampa Bay will have to come up with more than a couple of wins against talented teams to win ten or more games in 2011.
10. Indianapolis Colts: The only reason I have the Colts so high in my Week 1 NFL power rankings is that I’m not completely convinced Peyton Manning isn’t magically going to find his way into Indy’s starting lineup this Sunday. I guess we’ll just have to see.
9. Chicago Bears: I like the Bears in the underdog role more than most, and actually picked Chicago to defeat Atlanta this coming Sunday. The Bears may be in the top 5 of next week’s NFL power rankings with such a victory.
8. Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore needs a home victory against the Steelers to move into the top 5 next week. Pittsburgh looked pa-retty good during the preseason.
7. Atlanta Falcons: Matty Ice turning the ball over against good defenses is a trend that must cease immediately, as Atlanta begins the season at Chicago. Expecting another 13-win season may be a bit unrealistic.
6. New York Jets: Getting to the conference championship in three consecutive seasons is nearly impossible in this NFL, especially coming off of a lockout. It doesn’t help that the Jets may once again be a Wild Card team this January, one which has played in many emotional, physical football games over the past few years.
5. Philadelphia Eagles: The Dream Team Eagles only at fifth? Philly’s new look offensive line must prove it can keep Michael Vick healthy for longer than just a few weeks.
4. New Orleans Saints: Don’t look now, but it could be argued that the Saints are the most underrated team in all of the NFL. That probably won’t change if the Saints lose at Green Bay this coming Thursday.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh’s offensive line should be improved, meaning Big Ben will have more than .5 seconds per pass play to make a decision before having to scramble to save his life. Sure, Roethlisberger is more than fine when having to throw on the run, but the guy deserves a breather every now and then.
2. New England Patriots: The Patriots aren’t a perfect team, as questions regarding the team’s safeties remain. New England is pretty great, though, and it wouldn’t stun me if the Pats leaped ahead of the champs in NFL power rankings before the end of the month.
1. Green Bay Packers: Would any football fan be completely shocked if the Packers repeated as champs this season? Don’t think Aaron Rodgers has stopped his “Brett Who?” campaign after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy just once.