The team-by-team preview series I was running back in July and early August got bogged down by the time I got to Houston, so I’ll take today to summarize my thoughts about the rest of the league’s teams (in addition to the teams I’ve already covered) in a power ranking format. Then, if you’re looking for a chuckle, you can find my 2013 predictions at the end of the article. IT’S ALL SAID IN STONE. Let’s begin.
End of Preseason Power Rankings
32. Oakland Raiders. Getting Wally Pipped by Russell Wilson is one thing; getting Wally Pipped by Terrelle Pryor is quite another. It’s now looking entirely possible that Matt Flynn may not – repeat: MAY NOT – be as good as when he’s throwing to the 2011 Packers receivers and as a result the one part of the Raiders that had a chance to be decent looks like a quagmire too. All for the better, too, if we’re being honest: if you’re going to suck, suck hard and don’t fall in that 6-10 or 7-9 swamp that the Bills have gotten themselves stuck in every year since 1941. The Raiders seem almost assured of getting one of the top two picks in this year’s draft and hopefully they’ll gain some cap space by 2017. Before then, it’s going to be pretty ugly.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars. The good news is the new coach/GM combo of Gus Bradley and David Caldwell seem to know what they’re doing, which is a vast improvement over everybody else the Jaguars have employed since the end of the Tom Coughlin era. The bad news is Blaine Gabbert is still their quarterback and they still play in Jacksonville. The worst news is they somehow wanted these uniforms.
30. Tennessee Titans. Maybe Gregg Williams’s crazy old uncle defensive tactics will work for a defense that was plenty toothless in 2012 (“I’m sorry, Gregg, what body part was that you wanted us to kill? I forgot.”). If not, then you’re talking about a team with a crap defense, a quarterback who’s inaccurate and a running back who combines three 90-yard touchdown runs a year with 300 one-yard runs. If there’s any fantasy player that’s ever been more hated than Chris Johnson, I’d like to meet him.
29. Buffalo Bills. At least Jeff Tuel doesn’t need to play quarterback now! Full preview here.
28. Arizona Cardinals. It’s kind of brutally depressing when signing Carson Palmer represents a HUGE, MASSIVE upgrade at the quarterback position. Good luck going against the 49ers and Seahawks defenses. Full preview here.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Honestly, the Buccaneers could finish just about anywhere and it wouldn’t surprise me. 13-3 and a first-round bye? Could definitely see it. 4-12 and Greg Schiano ordering his players to start bringing knives and other weapons out on game-ending kneeldowns? CAN’T RULE IT OUT. The most likely scenario to me involves the offense not getting nearly as many big plays as last year (and struggling as a result) and the improved secondary not being able to make up for a lousy pass rush. Also, Darrelle and Rex Ryan realize that the other was the one who got away around Week 6.
26. Minnesota Vikings. They had a great draft, which leaves them well-positioned for the future. Unfortunately, Christian Ponder is their quarterback and Percy Harvin is no longer available to be thrown to. If you recall from yesterday’s receiving regression statistics, Percy WAS the Vikings’ passing game last year when he wasn’t hurt. In related news, Greg Jennings hasn’t been an above-average receiver according to Yards +- since 2010. Uh-oh.
25. New York Jets. Yes, the offense will be a nightmare, but the defense will be good enough to carry the team to six or seven wins, thus in no way saving Rex’s job and actually harming them for the future. If anything, John Idzik should suspend Muhammad Wilkerson and Antonio Cromartie for the season and make enough fat jokes to Rex around the office that he gets fed up and resigns by mid-October. When a fictional resignation and suspension are the best case scenarios for your team’s season, it might be time to reevaluate things.
24. Cleveland Browns. If only Brandon Weeden wasn’t their quarterback. If ONLY Brandon Weeden wasn’t their quarterback. Full preview here.
23. Dallas Cowboys. If all of their starters stay healthy for the entire year, they’ll probably go 11-5. If one of them gets hurt for any period of time? 7-9. Full preview here.
22. St. Louis Rams. Subjectively, I’d say the Rams are as good or better than each of the next eight teams on the list, but it’s nearly impossible to see them jumping ahead of San Francisco and Seattle and it’s nearly impossible to make the playoffs when you’re in 3rd place in your division. Still, I really like the defense (most underrated pass rush in the league) and I still really like Sam Bradford – if he gets enough time to throw, he’s accurate with his throws virtually all the time. Now he hardly ever gets enough time to throw, but that’s another matter entirely.
21. San Diego Chargers. Another team that could use a bottoming-out season but plays in too weak of a division and has a fading quarterback who’s still probably good enough to keep the offense from completely falling apart. Silver lining, though: at least Norv’s not around anymore!
20. Kansas City Chiefs. I may be wrong – in fact, I probably am wrong – but there’s entirely too much playoff buzz surrounding a team that deserved to go 2-14 last year and is in the first year of a regime change. Alex Smith is an actual NFL quarterback, so that’s good, but Kansas City’s surrounding offensive talent in the passing game last year was abysmal. Good thing Andy Reid’ll have the good sense to run Jamaal Charles 300 times! Oh wait.
19. Cincinnati Bengals. They’re deep and young and completely underwhelming. Full preview here.
18. Chicago Bears. Who is else excited to see Jay Cutler still throw to Brandon Marshall in triple coverage under the guise of a new offense? Full preview here.
17. Indianapolis Colts. Everyone is shouting “REGRESSION! REGRESSION! REGRESSION!!!!!!” so loudly around this team that everybody is forgetting that they’re virtually assured of being better this year. They shored up some of the gaping, GAPING holes on the defense and all the youngsters on that offense will likely be better in year 2 as well. So I can’t imagine the Colts not being better in 2013. Just remember that they’re improving from “four-or-five win quality” to “seven-or-eight win quality.”
16. New York Giants. We always assume this team will end up coming through in the clutch, but at the end of the day it’s tough to see anything more than a team with a good (not great) quarterback and a good pass rush and a bunch of question marks everywhere else. At some point, their .500 finishes will stop surprising us.
15. Washington Redskins. Long-term, they’re easily the best set-up team in the NFC East. Short-term, it’s fair to wonder how RGIII will come back at first after not playing at all in the preseason and EVERY TEAM on the schedule has been spent all offseason boning up on defending the pistol and read option. RGIII is the real deal, but there’s a good chance for some growing pains in 2013.
14. Philadelphia Eagles. Nothing terrifies NFL coaches more than the unknown. And right now, there definitely isn’t a bigger unknown out there than the Eagles’ offense. No one knows how fast Chip Kelly will have them play or what plays will come over from his time at Oregon. All opposing coaches have to go on is the preseason film and there’s zero chance that Kelly gave away any of his regular season plans in those glorified scrimmages. The Panthers and Redskins both used the element of surprise, unorthodox offenses to befuddle defenses in recent years on their way to huge offensive improvements. Here’s betting that the best offensive mind to come out of college football in a while is able to do it, too.
13. Detroit Lions. Too much talent to go below .500 again, not enough depth to seriously challenge for the Super Bowl. Full preview here.
12. Baltimore Ravens. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is a massive retooling year; luckily, they’re doing it in a supremely weak conference. Full preview here.
11. Atlanta Falcons. Julio’s about to become a monster, so the offense will probably be just as good as it was last year. The tough schedule and division may catch up to the defense, though. Full preview here.
10. Miami Dolphins. The most important player to watch in 2013 might be Mike Wallace – as we talked about yesterday, Mr. 60 Minutes was one of the ten worst receivers in football last year but one of the ten best the two years before. In the Miami chapter of the Football Outsiders Almanac, Danny Tuccitto detailed how the most similar receivers to 2010-12 Wallace included the likes of Steve Largent, Terrell Owens, Sterling Sharpe and Keyshawn Johnson – all of whom bounced back from a bad third season with another season like their first two. And if the Dolphins are getting the 2010-11 version of Wallace, then everything else about the passing game falls into place. Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson get to play the complementary roles they’re good at and Ryan Tannehill’s statistics start to look about as good as his play did to the naked eye last year. All of this hinges on Wallace being more like Gary Clark and a lot less like Peerless Price.
9. Carolina Panthers. Ron Rivera can’t possibly screw them over as badly in 2012. Right? Full preview here.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers. The old nucleus of players developed back in the mid-’00s hangs on one more year and Todd Haley realizes that maybe he should tailor the offense more around what Roethlisberger wants to do rather than what Todd Haley wants to do.
7. New Orleans Saints. They can’t possibly give up 7,000 yards again. Really, it’s that simple.
6. New England Patriots. People have been writing about the demise of the Patriots dynasty since 2005, so we may be unjustified in our worrying, but…this year might really be the demise of the Patriots dynasty. Yesterday’s supporting cast stats showed that Brady has enjoyed the best group of receivers in the league the last two years and it hasn’t been close. And I don’t know if ESPN has pointed this out to you or not, but his receiving core does NOT look nearly as accomplished this year. On the other hand, all Brady really needs is Gronk for this to be an above-average group. And as long as Gronk’s able to play 10 games or so, that long-awaited 7-9 season probably will have to wait for another year or two. SOMEDAY.
5. San Francisco 49ers. For whatever reason, I have a bad feeling about this year’s Niners team. Please note that my worries are all subjective and have nothing to do with the quality of their roster (still one of the two or three best in the league) or their coach (unquestionably the best). I JUST GOT BAD VIBES, MAN.
4. Houston Texans. They’re deep, they’re good at everything (except special teams), they have a very good play-calling coach and they play in a really weak division. Can Matt Schaub make enough throws into traffic to win a Super Bowl? Probably not, but it’ll probably take a long time to figure that out.
3. Seattle Seahawks. Out of the so-called Gang of Four quarterbacks (RGIII, Luck, Wilson and Kaepernick), the one I would bet most heavily on to duplicate or even better his 2012 success would be Russell Wilson. The guy had actual fireballs shooting out of his butt in the second half of the season and is probably the most accurate of the four. If this team plays up to its potential, it would be the most terrifying in the league and it wouldn’t be close.
2. Green Bay Packers. Is it nice knowing you have the best quarterback in the league? PERHAPS. Full preview here.
1. Denver Broncos. No other team this year is more preordained to win 12 or more games than the Broncos. What they accomplish in January (and February?) will be all anyone pays attention to, however. Full preview here.
2013 Predictions That Are Sure to Be At Least 75% Wrong
- (3) New England: 10-6
- (5) Miami: 10-6
- NY Jets: 7-9
- Buffalo: 5-11
- (4) Pittsburgh: 10-6
- (6) Baltimore: 9-7
- Cleveland: 8-8
- Cincinnati: 7-9
- (2) Houston: 11-5
- Indianapolis: 8-8
- Tennessee: 5-11
- Jacksonville: 4-12
- (1) Denver: 12-4
- Kansas City: 7-9
- San Diego: 7-9
- Oakland: 2-14
- (4) Philadelphia: 9-7
- Washington: 8-8
- NY Giants: 8-8
- Dallas: 6-10
- (2) Green Bay: 11-5
- Detroit: 10-6
- Chicago: 7-9
- Minnesota: 5-11
- (3) New Orleans: 10-6
- (6) Carolina: 10-6
- Atlanta: 9-7
- Tampa Bay: 5-11
- (1) Seattle: 12-4
- (5) San Francisco: 10-6
- St. Louis: 8-8
- Arizona: 6-10
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Giovanni Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Defensive Rookie of the Year: ILB Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Defensive Player of the Year: DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
Most Valuable Player: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Pittsburgh over Miami
Baltimore over New England
New Orleans over Carolina
San Francisco over Philadelphia
Denver over Baltimore
Houston over Pittsburgh
San Francisco over Seattle
Green Bay over New Orleans
Denver over Houston
Green Bay over San Francisco
Green Bay over Denver