Instead of completing a power ranking, I decided to make a draft order for 2012. I based the ranking on strength of schedule, anticipated quarterback play versus pass defense, but mostly through observation during the preseason.
I am sure that there will be changes after a few weeks have passed, but this is a ranking to show where teams will end up at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Please feel free to share your thoughts, as I will probably revise some teams based on good points that posters make.
So, with the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft the...
- 1. Carolina Panthers (3-13): The Panthers have more needs than any other team in the league. They lack playmakers everywhere. I could see them auctioning off this draft position to gain more picks to fill their many holes.
- 2. San Francisco 49ers (3-13): The Niners have some talent on defense and offense, but have a horrible situation at quarterback. If Andrew Luck comes out, I wonder if they move up one spot to get him and reunite him with Harbaugh.
- 3. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12): The Bengals have very good young talent on the offensive side of the ball. The defense and offensive line, however, need a huge infusion of talent: specifically a pass rusher and another cornerback.
- 4. Washington Redskins (5-11): I actually think the Redskins will be a decent 5-11 team, if that makes sense (turnovers will doom their season). They really need a quarterback, however, as neither Beck nor Grossman look like winners.
- 5. Tennessee Titans (5-11): Jake Locker will be starting fairly early in the season. Tennessee’s defense needs some more talent to combat the offenses in their division and the AFC. Chris Johnson's holdout will also affect this team negatively.
- 6. Kansas City Chiefs (5-11): Kansas City needs a quarterback badly: Cassel is this generation’s Scott Mitchell (Dan Marino’s back-up that was traded to Detroit and flopped). The Chiefs may also look to upgrade the cornerback position.
- 7. Miami Dolphins (5-11): Another team needing a quarterback. New head coach, Rob Ryan will look to build up the defense in order to compete with Belichick and his brother. Mike Nolan will be in Dallas after Ryan takes this job.
- 8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): While the Bills could use a quarterback, I expect that Chan Gailey will focus on building up the defense. Buffalo could also use playmakers at wide receiver (he used 5 WR sets as an offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh).
- 9. Seattle Seahawks (6-10): Pete Carroll really did a great job last season with limited talent. Seattle needs upgrades in talent everywhere. The fact that they play well at home and play the 49ers twice keeps them drafting here.
- 10. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10): Jack Del Rio also did a nice job coaching this team up last season. Garrard will be replaced around the middle of the season, however, and the Jaguars need upgrades everywhere.
- 11. Oakland Raiders (6-10): The Raiders defense took a huge hit with the loss of Nnamdi this offseason. Oakland needs better talent, not faster players, on both sides of the ball. A new quarterback not named Pryor would also help.
- 12. Chicago Bears (7-9): While Cutler makes plays, he also throws a lot of interceptions, which will haunt the Bears in 2011. The offensive line needs a lot more talent, and the defense could use some new faces.
- 13. Minnesota Vikings (7-9): The Vikings have some talented players on both sides of the ball, but lack playmakers in the secondary, and are a step slow in coverage at linebacker. McNabb will run his normal dink-dunk, and throw deep offense.
- 14. New York Giants (7-9): Injuries and poor offensive line play will derail the Giants season in 2011. The Giants need some improvements on defense, but the offensive line will hold this team back.
- 15. Denver Broncos (8-8): The Broncos are actually headed back in the right direction. Denver will run the ball more, but the defensive front seven needs a few more playmakers (Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil excluded).
- 16. Indianapolis Colts (8-8): Even if Peyton Manning does return for the first game, it is obvious that the Colts have done a poor job of surrounding perhaps the greatest player in the game with talent. It reminds me of the Cowboys of the late 90’s.
- 17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8): This is an up and coming team, although I think Freeman is another version of Jason Campbell (Oakland). This is a fairly solid roster, but a few more playmakers on both sides are needed to be a playoff team.
- 18. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): Poor offensive line play and linebacker inexperience will prove too much for the Eagles to overcome. Vick has struggled with turnovers in the preseason: expect that trend to continue throughout 2011.
- 19. Baltimore Ravens (9-7): Joe Flacco runs hot and cold: the Ravens offensive line also looks inconsistent. The Baltimore defense could use an infusion of youth at several positions, and another pass rusher opposite Suggs.
- 20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Kolb really does make a difference, and the defense has some playmakers. The Cardinals are not that far removed from the playoffs, and some more pressure players on defense will make them better in 2012.
- 21. Houston Texans (10-6): The legend of Wade the defensive genius is perpetuated. In reality, the Texans have an extremely talented offensive team with many playmakers. With a good match-up, the Texans could advance in the playoffs.
- 22. Cleveland Browns (10-6): This is a team built around a solid defense and a tough running game. That will be enough to get into the playoffs, but Colt McCoy needs more weapons around him to make any type of deep run.
- 23. New Orleans Saints (10-6): The Saints have a great quarterback and the interior of the offensive line is solid: the tackles, however, are questionable. The defense still gives up too much yardage and will only succeed if they get takeaways.
- 24. Detroit Lions (10-6): The Lions are a tough match-up for any team. An explosive offense with a rock-solid defensive front four. Some more linebackers and secondary talent will make this team a Super Bowl contender.
- 25. St. Louis Rams (10-6): The Rams have a good offensive line, a young, quality quarterback, a great running back, and a good defensive line. Some better secondary play and some offensive weapons would have the Rams contending for a Super Bowl.
- 26. Atlanta Falcons (11-5): This team is loaded at the offensive skill positions. The secondary has a future star in Grimes, but needs a few more pressure players. The offensive line also needs some more talent, and will limit their playoff success.
- 27. San Diego Chargers (11-5): The Chargers defense is the weak point on this team (if the special teams are fixed). San Diego’s offense will carry them into the playoffs, but such a one-sided team may go one-and-done.
- 28. New York Jets (11-5): At first I thought this team got worse during the offseason, but I think they are actually about the same. Rob Ryan’s brother really needs a DeMarcus Ware type pass rusher that can just get pressure without all the tricks.
- 29. Green Bay Packers (11-5): The Packers are very good on both sides of the ball, but a lack of a running game will catch-up to them. The defensive and offensive lines are the weakest spots on this good young team.
- 30. New England Patriots (11-5): New England needs more talent on the offensive line (as the Lions showed). The Patriots defense is not the intelligent, flexible, playmaking unit that helped Brady win three Super Bowls.
- 31. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Offensive line problems will limit this team, but the Steelers are so strong on defense and the offensive skill positions that they are the front-runners to the Super Bowl in the AFC.
- 32. Dallas Cowboys (12-4): The Cowboys offensive line will no longer limit the offense. Playmakers like Felix, Dez, and Miles will be unstoppable at the end of the season. As the offensive line and defense improves throughout the season, with young players improving weekly, new playmakers will emerge: Demarco Murray, Sean Lee, and Bruce Carter. Veterans will also emerge as playmakers as the team peaks in December, January, and February: Mike Jenkins, Anthony Spencer, and Orlando Scandrick. Witten, Ratliff, and Ware will continue to be All-Pro players, while Romo will raise his game behind a well-balanced offense with solid protection. Superior coaching will unlock the potential this team has been wasting since 2007.
I could see Denver getting a few breaks and actually finishing 9-7 or 10-6 and threatening for a playoff spot. The Redskins are another team that could do better than 5-11, as are the Buffalo Bills (could do better than 6-10).
One quick point I took away from the Cowboys game that gave me great hope for this season: the players listen and respond to Garrett. After losing to San Diego last week, Jason had one clear, defining message: turnovers without takeaways lead to losses. This week, Dallas did not turn the ball over and got an interception.
It seems to me that Garrett is trying to teach this team how to win. Scandrick came out after the game and noted that yards do not lead to wins or losses. Orlando even noted that San Diego had the best offense and defense last season in terms of yardage, but missed the playoffs.
For too long, this team was consumed by individual statistics. Michael Strahan even alluded to that by stating that the Pro Bowl was "Dallas’ Super Bowl". Bradie James has finally admitted what most fans already suspected: this team was bogged down by a sense of entitlement.
I believe that all of the cries for leadership were really misplaced opinions that were picking up on the lack of focus on this team. A lack of focus towards a common goal: winning the Super Bowl.