These aren't your grandfather's power rankings. What? Your grandfather is afraid of computers? OK, but they aren't your father's power rankings, either. None of this "the Super Bowl champion has to be ranked first throughout the offseason" bullcrap. The beauty of power rankings is that they're meaningless, arbitrary, subjective and not based solely on wins and losses.
And let's face it: the Giants are good, but they only won nine games during the 2011 regular season. They got hot at the right time and won it all. But it's a new year now, and the G-men haven't exactly dominated the offseason. So if I'm going to rank teams based partly on what's happened in March, April and May, there's no way a nine-win team that did little to bolster its roster is going to lead the way -- especially when you consider that only one NFL team has successfully defended its title this century.
Nope. I'm probably going to regret this in t-minus 150 days, but I'm leading with the NFL's most talented team on paper. And honestly, I don't even think it's that close. Does that mean I'm predicting this team will win it all in 2012? No, because too many factors will be emerge between now and next February. But if I had to pick a roster to ride with tomorrow, it'd probably be this one.
1. Philadelphia Eagles: The 2011 offseason champs dramatically improved the defense in both free agency and the draft. And this year, they'll have a full offseason to mesh.
2. Green Bay Packers: Well, they were 15-1 last year....
3. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower might immediately improve the defense on a team that won 13 games in 2011.
4. Houston Texans: Cap constraints caused them to incur losses on both sides of the ball, but it's nothing this roster can't handle. And you'd have to think they'll have better luck with health in 2012.
5. San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith is gonna have more weapons. But he's still Alex Smith. We'll see.
6. New York Giants: They had a decent draft, aside from first-rounder David Wilson, but the defending champs lost some quality players in free agency and signed pretty much nobody. Plus, the rest of the NFC East got better.
7. Detroit Lions: Only getting better, but I really wish they brought in some corners to cover guys like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, and whoever the hell plays for Minnesota nowadays.
8. Denver Broncos: If Peyton Manning can stay healthy and Denver's defense can deliver an encore performance, they're the best team in the AFC West.
9. Kansas City Chiefs: People, they made a playoff push last year without Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry! Not thrilled with the Dontari Poe pick, but love what they did in free agency with Stanford Routt, Peyton Hillis and Eric Winston.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: With the Steelers continuing to fall back to the pack, the AFC North will be very wide open in 2012.
11. Baltimore Ravens: I have my doubts about the speed at which Terrell Suggs can return to form.
12. Chicago Bears: Remember the path they were on before injuries derailed them last year? They're healthy now, and they've only gotten better. That said, why do they keep ignoring the offensive line?
13. Dallas Cowboys: The secondary could be a strength now, and the pass rush was never the main problem. Plus, the offense is only going to get better.
14. Atlanta Falcons: Boringest offseason in the league. We saw them lose Curtis Lofton and draft six guys no one's ever heard of. Default favorite in the NFC South, but beware the Panthers.
15. Cincinnati Bengals: A fairly average team had an above average draft and replaced their mediocre running back with an average one in free agency. For that, they're graded as "slightly above average" in my books. Expect them to battle though.
16. Seattle Seahawks: The defense could be great and they've bolstered the offensive line. It all falls on Matt Flynn now.