By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Rankings (Preseason Week #3)
PHILADELPHIA — With the 89th NFL Season titled “Believe In Now” fast approaching, hope is springing eternal around the NFL as most teams are wrapping up training camps andheading back to their own facilities.
Even though everyone knows my stance on Preseason football – NFL full prices for exhibition games are agregious to most fans and I am sure I speak for everyone when I say “The Less Preseason games, the better” — I do believe that the third week of preseason is the most crucial.In the third pre-season game, teams usually:
1. Leave their starters in longer (third quarter) before resting them in Week 4.
2. Start implementing their regular season week one game plans, so look for a little more than your usual vanilla play calling and defensive schemes.
3. Study the game film harder to see if they find something from their regular week one opponent.Plus most importantly pre-season week three’s tape is “audition film” as teams are picking the last 5 to 10 players of their 53-man rosters.
With the “Turk” coming soon to end some players NFL dreams: Tuesday (Rosters cutdown to maximum of 75 players) and Saturday (Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players) — the time is now for every player other than team’s superstars to shine.
With the importance of Preseason Week 3, I thought now was a good time to start my weekly rankings of NFL teams including their 2007 records.
1. Giants (13-6) - In case you missed it the G-Men shutdown the record setting Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Sure Strahan, Shockey, and others are gone, but they still remain in my top spot until someone knocks them off their perch.In order to be the man, you have to beat the man…wooo!!
2. Patriots (18-1) - Well they knocked on the door of the ’72 Dolphins, but could not kick it in. With all of the records and names on this roster every team will be gunning for them just like the Super Bowl Champion Giants.Need to watch their injuries as QB Tom Brady (foot), S Brandon Merriweather (leg), and others are banged up.
3. Colts (13-4) - Every year Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, and the rest of the Colts usually produce 12 wins or more.However the Chargers in the playoffs proved that they can be beaten in the playoffs.In Dungy’s last year, the Colts will try to send him out on a good note.To say the least QB Peyton Manning healing from his pre-training camp knee surgery will be the key to the Colts early season fortunes.
4. Chargers (13-6) - After a breakout season, where they finally came close to living up to their immense talent, L.T and his crew are back as everyone’s AFC favorites.It will be interesting to see if head coach Norv Turner and QB Phillip Rivers can reach the AFC mountain top and Super Bowl expectations that every prognistcator seems to be calling for.
5. Cowboys (13-4) - The poster boys from the HBO show Hard Knocks have high expectations after gathering even more talent on paper.In a put up or shut up season, it is win in the playoffs or bust for Wade Phillips, T.O, Tony Romo, and a host of other high-profile characters (last playoff win in 1996).
6. Jaguars (13-5) - After winning a wild card game in Pittsburgh in dramatic fashion but stumbling against the Patriots, this physical body punching team is looking to take the next step and go further in the playoffs.Injuries will be a factor as their receiving core has injuries to Reggie Williams (knee) and Joey Porter (leg) to deal with.
7. Steelers (10-7) - After winning the AFC North in Mike Tomlin’s first season, this division will only get tougher.With a healthy Willie Parker and rookie sensation Rashard Mendenhall in their backfield, look for more running than passing (averaged over 25 passing attempts in ’07) this year.
8. Saints (7-9) - After a year of high expectations that fizzled after starting the season 0-4, the Saints are back looking to get back to the NFC Championship game.With a re-charged QB Drew Brees, RB Deuce McAllister returning from injury, maybe a more professional RB Reggie Bush, and at least four new defensive starters, look for the Saints to make some noise in the NFC South.
9. Seahawks (11-7) - The ‘Hawks after falling in the playoffs at Green Bay again, will attempt to send Mike Holmgren out on a good note. For this expected NFC West champion, RB’s Julius Jones and TJ Duckett join QB Matt Hasselbeck along with a stellar attacking defense led by Lofa Tatupu.
10. Vikings (8-8) - After barely missing out on the playoffs, the Vikings are a lot of prognisticators pick to go far in the NFC.The keys to the Vikings getting back to the Cris Carter/Randy Moss glory years are RB Adrian Peterson remaining healthy, QB Tavaris Jackson (knee) cutting down on mistakes and a defense full of new faces jelling.
11. Browns (10-6) - ’07 was a great year for the re-birth of the Dawgs after playing like puppies the last couple of years.I still believe head coach Romeo Crennel’s job is on the line, so another playoff contention year is needed. With so many new faces added on defense and a fantasy football trophy case of offensive talent, this could be the year we see the Browns back in the playoffs.
12. Packers (15-4) - After losing in the NFC Championship in overtime to the G-Men, everyone assumed the Pack would be back.However with the whole Brett Favre retirement/non-retirement soap opera finally ending and the legend going to NYC, it has put a huge question mark on this team.Sure they have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but is Aaron Rodgers ready to lead despite being in Favre’s immense shadow.
13. Panthers (7-9) - After an injury plagued year where expectations were not met, head coach John Fox is trying to get off the hot seat.The NFC South is a wide-open tough division, but the Panthers need QB Jake Delhomme (Tommy John elbow surgery in ’07), First-round pick RB Jonathan Stewart, and a defense led by a rejuvenated DE Julius Peppers to step up.
14. Eagles (8-8) - The Birds are back for Andy Reid and QB Donovan McNabb’s 10th season in Philly.The faithful are hoping that additions CB Asante Samuel, WR DeSean Jackson (second round pick), and RB Lorenzo Booker can help bring the Eagles back to the playoffs since ’06.The key will be McNabb’s health, RB Brian Westbrook continuing his ascension to the NFL’s elite, and a speedy defense producing turnovers.
15. Redskins (9-8) - With new head coach Jim Zorn at the controls the Redskins will try to continue their end of ’07 playoff run.The key will be the continued maturation of QB Jason Campbell and RB Clinton Portis staying healthy and more big plays from their defense.The NFC East maybe football’s toughest division so the ‘Skins have their work cut out for them.
16. Broncos (7-9) - I am sorry, but I have to ask the question “Is Mike Shanahan’s time up in Denver?”Even with owner Pat Bowlen firmly in his corner Shanahan has to be feeling a little uneasy.The Broncos need QB Jay Cutler and a defense led by CB Champ Bailey to step up in a division where the Chargers are ahead of the pack.
17. Buccaneers (9-8) - The 2007 NFC South champs have a lot of questions starting with the quarterback position, where Gruden has a collection (Garcia, Griese, Johnson, Simms, and Rattay) but are any of them ready to lead.The Bucs will need to lean on their attacking defense and a running attack led by a recovering Cadillac Williams (knee), a returning Warrick Dunn, and speedster Michael Bennett.
18. Titans (10-7) - V.Y led them to the playoffs again, but more is needed by the quarterback (9 TDs w/ 17 INTs) and Jeff Fisher’s squad in 2007.Expect a nasty running attack built around V.Y, rookie Chris Johnson, bruiser LenDale White, and multi-purpose threat Chris Henry (maybe they should think about the option) to lead the powder blue clad Titans.
19. Texans (8-8) - Had their first non-losing season in ’07, which is something to build upon for GM Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak.Expect to see a more comfortable Matt Schaub at quarterback throwing to a healthy Andre Johnson, but the AFC South maybe the NFL’s toughest division.
20. Jets (4-12) - With the addition of the legend himself Brett “the Jet” Favre (Mr. Madden Football ’09), the J-E-T-Ssoared to the everyone’s must see TV list.But you have to wonder about the learning curve ahead of the future Hall of Fame player after 15 years in Green Bay.Gang Green’s owner Woody Johnson opened his wallett bringing in DT Kris Jenkins, LB Calvin Pace, and OL Damien Woody so the pressure is on head coach Eric Mangini.
21. Cardinals (8-8) - After an ’07 season where everything fell apart down the stretch for the Cards, this fantasy football dream team is back again.However I can honestly say that this year I will not be suckered into picking the Cardinals to surprisingly win the NFC West (hopefully they will prove me wrong).Head Coach Whisenhunt will need to settle an unsettled quarterback situation with Matt Leinhart and veteran Kurt Warner vying for playing time.
22. Bills (7-9) - After an ’07 where they battled injury after injury the Buffalo (Sometimes Toronto) Bills are looking to make some noise in the tough AFC East.With a young roster including rookie of the year candidate DB Leodis McKelvin and recovering LB Paul Posluszny (knee), look for the re-tooling Bills to continue to fight.
23. Bears (7-9) - After a 2007 up and down season, head coach Lovie Smith is going with QB Kyle Orton at quarterback.Orton and new running back Matt Forte will need to carry an offense that does not have a marquee wide receiver against divisional supposed lead team the upstart Minnesota Vikings.
24. Ravens (5-11) - After an offseason of change that saw Brian Billick head to the booth, QB Steve McNair retire, and young head coach John Harbaugh take over, the Ravens want to get back to the playoffs.Harbaugh has been tough on this group in training camp and hopefully dividends will payoff in the top-heavy AFC North.
25. Lions (7-9) - After QB Jon Kitna’s brash 10-win season boasting didn’t come to fruition, the Lions are back trying to make the playoffs.With Kitna and the receiving tandem of WR Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams leading the way maybe the Lions can finish the job in ’08 to help take head coach Rod Marinelli off the hot seat.
26. Bengals (6-10) - After a very inconsistent ’07 season featuring bickering and more off the field problems, the Bengals are looking to get back to their 2005 heights (AFC North Champs).The task of returning to glory will be a tough one on hot seat head coach Marvin Lewis.Lewis will need to lean on WR Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson QB Carson Palmer, but first the two of them must get on the same page.
26. Raiders (4-12) - It seems every year the Raiders head coach is on the hot seat with venerable team architect Al Davis and ’08 is no different as Lane Kiffin tries to rejuvenate the Silver and Black.Kiffin will have the services of strong-armed quarterback JaMarcus Russell unlike last year’s training camp.The key will be adding some offense to adefense that is loaded in the secondary.
29. Chiefs (4-12) - In a make or break ’08 season, the very young Chiefs and their on the hot seat head coach Herman Edwards better lean on powerful running back Larry Johnson.With QB Brodie Croyle at the helm and a non-descript set of WR’s expect to see Johnson left, Johnson right, Johnson up the middle.
31. Falcons (4-12) - The ’08 season has brought a new coach, a new franchise quarterback, and supposedly a new attitude to a franchise that struggled in the post Michael Vick ’07 season.Former Jags assistant Mike Smith will take over the reins as head coach and Bill Belichick understudy Tom Domitroff is the new GM for owner Arthur Blank. Look for a rebuilding season this year as the O-line and quarterback Matt Ryan are young.
30. Dolphins (1-15) - There is a new sheriff in town and his name is VP of Football Operations Bill Parcells.The Tuna has gone about making the ‘Phins into his own image (tough and disciplined) after a disasterous ’07.With the Parcells’ gang (GM Ireland, head coach Tony Sparano, TE Fassano, NT Jason Ferguson, and others) in town look for a better year from last year’s laughingstock.
31. 49ers (5-11) - Finished high in the NFL’s draft order for another year as questions abound on offense.Scoring guru Mike Martz was brought-in to infuse some life into QB Alex Smith, RB Frank Gore, and a non-descript set of WR’s.Already Martz’s has instituted his “guy” QB J.T O’Sullivan as the starting quarterback, so head coach Mike Nolan and Smith better have their resumes ready if this team falters.
32. Rams (3-13) - After a tough ’07 where injuries were everywhere, head coach Scott Linehan is on the hot seat with the new ownership group.Maybe Pro Bowlers QB Marc Bulger and WR Tory Holt can rekindle “The Greatest Show on Turf”, but without holdout RB Steven Jackson that is a tall order.