2009 pre-season Power Rankings
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 06, 2009
By Jonathan Comey
Hopeful Vikings Fan & Power Rankings Czar
Our preseason power rankings are compiled as coldly as possible – not easy in the middle of August.
We came to these rankings based on 2008 regular-season performance (in terms of overall record, points scored and allowed from last season, strength of schedule), postseason performance and obvious impact roster changes (i.e. Tom Brady returns from injury, Albert Haynesworth goes from Nashville to D.C.).
In other words, this is as CHFF-y as you're going to get when the season is still in pretend mode.
1. PITTSBURGH (15-4 in 2008). The Steelers' top-rated defense last year surrendered just 3.9 yards per play – a full half-yard per play better than No. 2 Philly (4.4) and 1.4 YPP better than the league median. (The best of the Steel Curtain, the 1976 Steelers, surrendered 3.8 YPP.) In other words, defense wins championships.
2. BALTIMORE (13-6). Baltimore's D scored more touchdowns last season (5) than they allowed on the ground (4). But will they do it again without defensive coordinator Rex Ryan?
3. PHILADELPHIA (11-7-1). Figuring in sacks and runs, Michael Vick averaged 5.8 yards per dropback with 16 total turnovers in his last full season (2006). Last year, Donovan McNabb averaged 6.1 yards per dropback with 16 total turnovers. Just saying ...
4. N.Y. GIANTS(12-5). How good is the Giants' offensive line? Not only did Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward each top 1,000 yards, but with Ahmad Bradshaw they combined for a Jim Brown-like 5.28 yards per carry (468 for 2,469 with 18 TD). That's a hell of a season.
5. NEW ENGLAND (11-5). The Patriots have been installed as the favorites to win the Super Bowl, but let's not forget that they allowed 24.3 PPG against playoff teams last year – 28.2 if you exclude the Cardinals' embarrassing Week 16 semi-forfeit in the Massachusetts snow (a 41-7 NE win). The Genius has a lot of work to do this year.
6. SAN DIEGO (9-9). If the Chargers can go 11-5 this year, they'll climb over the .500 mark all time (regular season) at 373-372-11. They'd also probably clinch the dreadful AFC West by Week 12.
7. TENNESSEE (13-4). The Titans' defense ranked 31st in scoring defense in 2006, 8th in 2007 and 2nd in 2008. If they keep improving at that rate, they will allow minus-42 points in 2009.
8. ARIZONA (12-8). It's still slightly mind-boggling that the Cardinals not only made the Super Bowl but almost won it. This is a team whose defense has finished in the bottom 10 in scoring defense in 13 of the last 14 seasons, and was 29th last year. In other words, offense wins conference championships.
9. INDIANAPOLIS (12-5). Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning will go down as one of the great QB/coach combos of all time – seven seasons, seven playoff appearances, an 85-27 record (.759) in the regular season and a Super Bowl ring. Manning was 32-32 in four years with Jim Mora.
10. CAROLINA (12-5). Despite a whopping 30 rushing TDs, the Panthers were undone by their defense last year. After allowing just 15.9 PPG in the first half of the year, they yielded 25.3 PPG in the second half and 33 points to Arizona in their playoff loss.11. MINNESOTA (10-7). Brett Favre is the new QB, but who will catch his passes? The Vikings haven't had a receiver top 1,000 yards since 2004 (Nate Burleson).
12. CHICAGO (9-7). Jay Cutler passed for 4,526 yards last year in Denver. If he can keep up that pace in Chicago, he'll need just 52 games to become the franchise's all-time passing leader (current leader, Sid Luckman, 14,686 yards).
13. NEW ORLEANS (8-8). Despite finishing last in the NFC South, the 2008 Saints were 10th in the NFL in point differential (+70) and 4th in the NFC.
14. GREEN BAY (6-10). Yes, the Packers had a league-high nine return TDs, a stellar passing game (93.3 rating) an easy schedule, outscored their opponents for the season ... and still managed to go 6-10. Curse of the Favr-ino?
15. ATLANTA (11-6). The Falcons last year were 4-3 against Quality Opponents, and just 6-6 against teams .500 or better, and they barely outgained their opponents in these 12 games. The schedule gets tougher this year, too: With the NFC East and AFC East on the docket, instead of the NFC North and AFC West, Atlanta might be a better team with fewer wins in 2009.
16. TAMPA BAY (9-7). When Monte Kiffin took over as defensive coordinator in 1996, the Bucs hadn't finished in the top 10 scoring defenses in 15 years. After he took over, they finished in the top 10 in 12 of 13 seasons. Yes, he will be missed.
17. MIAMI (11-6). Chad Pennington was the sixth different QB to lead the Fish in passing in six seasons (and the best, for sure). Maybe Pat White or Chad Henne will make it seven in a row this year.
18. N.Y. JETS (9-7). Interesting that the two defensive starters to follow Rob Ryan from Baltimore to New York both came into the league as undrafted free agents (LB Bart Scott and S Jim Leonhard).
19. WASHINGTON (8-8). The Redskins quietly finished sixth in scoring defense and fourth in total defense last year, then added dominating DT Albert Haynesworth. But don't worry, QB Jason Campbell, there's no pressure.
20. BUFFALO (7-9). The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999, but difference-maker Terrell Owens has missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons only once in his 13-season career.
21. DALLAS (9-7). There's an awful lot of talent on the O-line and front seven (top 10 on both Hog Indexes last year). It's the secondary that will be under fire ths year (20th in Defensive Passer Rating). Speaking of under fire, is it really possible that Wade Phillips (zero playoff victories) still has a head coaching job, while Super Bowl winners Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden will watch from TV booths and rec rooms this year?
22. HOUSTON (8-8). The Texans are a hot choice to break through, but unless they solve their red-zone issues they'll be going nowhere. They were third in the NFL in yards but just 17th in points in 2008 – the result was a dismal 25th ranking in our Scoreability Index.
23. JACKSONVILLE (5-11). The Jags had the best Offensive Hogs in the NFL in 2007 before being decimated by injuries in 2008. The answer? Draft linemen with their first and second picks, and hope a return to form ensues.
24. SEATTLE (4-12). The Seahawks were hit hard by injury last year, but 4-12 in the ultra-weak NFC West is still a pretty pathetic performance.
25. SAN FRANCISCO (7-9). Jerry Rice isn't walking through that door, Niners fans. But even he would probably only catch 74 passes or so from the firm of O'Sullivan & Hill.
26. CLEVELAND(4-12). The Browns' heavily hyped Offensive Hogs were only 27th last year on our OHI – not a good showing for what is supposed to be the strength of the team.
27. CINCINNATI (4-11-1). Chad OchoCinco's best days (and given name) may be behind him, but consider that before his bad 2008 (53-540-2) he turned in five almost identical seasons that averaged out to 92 catches, 1,374 yards and 8.6 TDs.28. KANSAS CITY (2-14). Last year's starting QB, Tyler Thigpen, can claim the honors as the best third-stringer in the NFL in 2009 – his 76.0 passer rating and 386 yards rushing helped keep the defenseless Chiefs in games last year. But he's behind Matt Cassel and Brodie Croyle on the depth chart this year.
29. OAKLAND (5-11). The Raiders have lost more games over the last six seasons (72) than they did in the 18 seasons from 1963 to 1980 (68).
30. DENVER (8-8). They Broncos were an incredibly weak .500 team last year (25th in point differential despite a bottom-5 schedule). Then they dumped their franchise QB and dumped their incredibly successful zone-blocking scheme at the behest of new 33-year-old rookie head Josh McDaniels. Yep. Sounds like a recipe for success.
31. ST. LOUIS(2-14). The Rams' top two QBs (Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller) are already injured – if this team even climbs into the top 20 this year it'll be an upset.
32. DETROIT (0-16). The Lions were actually a slightly better team than St. Louis last year by the numbers – such as our Relativity Index. But 0-16 is 0-16. Win a game and we'll talk.
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