With two full days to go until the 2010 season gets rolling, we decided that we should rank the 32 franchises based on where they are right now.
This isn’t a prediction as to where the teams will finish (we put those in our PFT Season Preview magazine, which went to print way back in early June, so there’s our bum-ankle-style excuse for failure), but a snapshot as to where they are right now.
We’ll update the list every Tuesday, and we’ll allow you to complain as much as you want about whether and to what extent our rankings indicate that we “hate” your favorite team and/or that we “love” one of the many teams you hate.
1. New Orleans Saints: With the Jets, Vikings, Cowboys, and Packers getting all of the preseason attention, the defending champions have been largely ignored. And they surely like it that way.
2. Indianapolis Colts: Until someone in the AFC can knock the Colts off, they’ll continue to be at the top of the conference.
3. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens may be the team to knock off the Colts.
4. Minnesota Vikings: If Brett Favre can stay healthy, this team will be right back in the thick of things come January. Just in time for the season to implode in spectacular fashion.
5. Dallas Cowboys: A glaring weakness at left tackle ultimately could keep the Cowboys from playing in the Super Bowl they’ll host.
6. New York Jets: The Jets get credit for having a very good team, but all that talk doesn’t translate to wins. If anything, it makes getting them even harder.
7. Green Bay Packers: The trendy pick to win the Super Bowl has to prove that it can overcome a still-suspect offensive line and a defense that will be without Al Harris for at least six weeks.
8. New England Patriots: The Pats could quickly plummet if they can’t overcome a rash of injuries.
9. San Diego Chargers: They’ve got an easy path back to the postseason. Whether they can do a better job once they get there remains to be seen.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: If safety Troy Polamalu can stay healthy, the Steelers can climb to the very top of this ladder.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: The recent hype from the arrival of T.O. has obscured the reality that this team faded badly down the stretch last year.
12. Miami Dolphins: The arrival of Brandon Marshall could make a huge difference, if Chad Henne can take advantage of his presence.
13. Houston Texans: The Texans have the horses to get to the postseason, but they need to overcome the suspension of Brian Cushing, and the lack of a high-end threat in the running game.
14. New York Giants: The heat is on coach Tom Coughlin to reclaim some of the attention from the team with which the Giants share a stadium.
15. Atlanta Falcons: Don’t be shocked if the Falcons finish a lot higher than this.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles land in the middle of the pack until their new quarterback proves that he can get it done.
17. Tennessee Titans: It’s time for Vince Young to step up, once and for all.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags could be competitive if they were in any other division than the AFC South.
19. Washington Redskins: Move the ‘Skins to the NFC West, and they’d be the favorites to win the division.
20. San Francisco 49ers: With a soft schedule, the Niners could be the worst team in league history to earn a bye week in the postseason.
21. Denver Broncos: Tebow-fueled optimism notwithstanding, this team went 2-8 over the last 10 games of the 2009 season.
22. Carolina Panthers: A decent defense and a bad offense means that John Fox will be working for someone else in 2011.
23. Chicago Bears: A full 25 years after the Bears lost only one game, there’s an outside chance that they’ll win only one game.
24. Arizona Cardinals: It’s only a matter of time before Larry Fitzgerald tries to finagle a trade.
25. Kansas City Chiefs: Don’t look now, but the Chiefs could be climbing into contention.
26. Seattle Seahawks: If the Seahawks get rid of any more players who were on the roster in 2009, they’ll potentially qualify as an expansion franchise.
27. Cleveland Browns: If Jake Delhomme can continue to play in the regular season like he did in the preseason, the Browns could threaten the Bengals for third place in the division.
28. Oakland Raiders: The decision to dump JaMarcus Russell should prompt the NFL to officially move the team’s record to 1-0.
29. Detroit Lions: The Lions’ first-round pick has sparked more buzz in one preseason than anyone on the franchise has generated in 11 regular seasons.
30. St. Louis Rams: Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford could eat up opposing defenses, as long as his offensive line can keep him from eating through a straw.
31. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Spiller will soon learn how Barry Sanders felt for most of his time in Detroit.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It may be a good thing that this team’s home games won’t be televised in Tampa.