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NFL Power Rankings, Pre-Regular Season 2010

Is parity still alive in the NFL? Well, only 10 of the league's 32 teams have failed to make the playoffs at least once in the past three seasons, so, yes.

But then consider that we had three division champions last season who won by gaudy four- (New Orleans) or five-game margins (San Diego and Indianapolis). So, parity, not so much.

Still, the league does feel more wide open these days, with nothing resembling a true dynasty in sight. At least not when you include the postseason (sorry, Colts). To wit: Can you tell me the only two NFL teams to win at least one playoff game in each of the past two seasons?

That would be the Cardinals and Ravens, and if you got that right, you can go ahead and pass go and collect your $200. Notice who's not on that list: No Colts, no Patriots, no Giants, no Eagles, no Chargers and no Steelers. The bottom line? Every year pretty much is a new year in today's NFL.

With the 65-game preseason schedule finally behind us, it's time to reset our power rankings board and watch the 2010 season unfold. The previous rankings refer to where each team stood as NFL training camps opened in late July. As always, send comments to siwriters@simail.com.

NFL Power Rankings, Pre-Regular Season
1New Orleans Saints
Pre-camp: 2
For a defending champion, there's not been a lot of noise coming out of New Orleans so far, and that strikes me as a very good sign in regards to the Saints' chances of repeating. No holdouts, no trade requests, no players bemoaning that they deserve a larger role or more of the spotlight (Pierre Thomas's contract issue being the lone exception). Saints head coach Sean Payton has a pretty good handle on his guys, and he knows how to keep their eyes on the prize. Now let's see how they deal with the weekly occurrence of being every opponent's biggest game of the year.
 
2Baltimore Ravens
Pre-camp: 3
There's no other way to read the signing of veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh this week but as another indication that Baltimore means business this year. The Ravens are loading up to take their best possible Super Bowl shot, and saw the ex-Bengals receiver as a particularly valuable resource in their quest to overtake Cincinnati in the AFC North. This is a Baltimore offense poised to hang some very crooked numbers on more than a few folks this season. On defense, the Ravens secondary just needs to hang in there and survive until it's healthier.
 
3Indianapolis Colts
Pre-camp: 4
Funny, but I'm not detecting much buzz about the Colts getting back to the Super Bowl to take care of some unfinished business. Maybe it's because Indy faces a pretty tricky proposition this season. The last time a Super Bowl loser returned to the big game and won it the next season was 38 long years ago, when Miami beat Washington in Super Bowl VII after losing the year before. A Super Bowl loser hasn't even earned its way back to the NFL's showcase game since Buffalo made the last of its four consecutive losing Super trips after the 1993 season. So history is decidedly not in Indy's corner this year.
 
4Green Bay Packers
Pre-camp: 5
Aaron Rodgers told me this offseason that he didn't think the 2009 Packers handled their near-perfect preseason well at all. They bought into the hype, thought they were bulletproof, and wound up getting a series of rude wake-up calls in the first half of the regular season. Now, after another strong preseason showing by the Packers offense, there's even more people on the Green Bay bandwagon and even more Super Bowl talk. But I sense Rodgers and Co. won't make the same mistake of overconfidence again, and because of it, I think they keep right on rolling into Week 1 (at Philadelphia) and beyond.
 
5New York Jets
Pre-camp: 1
Darrelle Revis finally coming back to work is great news for the Jets defense, but can anyone be feeling all that confident about a Jets offense that looked just shy of punchless this preseason? So much of the grand design in New York this season rests on Mark Sanchez, and it's entirely possible he won't be up to the task of balancing without the training wheels. I remember Sanchez looking like a deer in the headlights when he faced Baltimore last preseason. New York can't afford that to happen again in Monday night's opener.
 
6Minnesota Vikings
Pre-camp: 7
With the Favre-wooing portion of their season over, it's time for the Vikings to get back down to business in the division they've owned for the past two years. As long as No. 4 is upright, they've got a chance to chase another dose of glory in 2010. But to be dangerously thin at cornerback with their highly-anticipated return trip to New Orleans looming is a far from optimum development. Because I'm here to break the news: That Drew Brees guy can really throw the ball.
 
7San Diego Chargers
Pre-camp: 6
In their opening six games, the Chargers face only one team that made the playoffs last year, so they're going to really have to work at it to pull off another one of their patented slow starts. No Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson weakens San Diego, but maybe not as much as some are projecting. It's a deeper, stronger AFC West this year, but the chances are very good indeed that a sixth division title in seven years is on the way in San Diego.
 
8Dallas Cowboys
Pre-camp: 8
The Cowboys will be one of the featured teams in the yearly debate about the significance of preseason results, because Tony Romo and the Dallas first-team offense looked completely out of sync in August. Maybe they'll flip the switch Sunday night against the Redskins and wipe away the summer doldrums. But if they don't, the sky will be falling in the Metroplex by mid-Monday morning.
 
9Atlanta Falcons
Pre-camp: 9
I think the Falcons' 2010 season actually started last December, when they didn't lie down at 6-7, but fought to win their final three games and finish with a winning record in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. That built some momentum for this team and convinced everyone that 2008 wasn't the fluke, the first 13 games of 2009 were.
 
10New England Patriots
Pre-camp: 10
Don't bury the Patriots just yet, even if their secondary is scary young and they might have to score 34 some days to win. No one will be running away with it the AFC East this season, so if there are early problems, Bill Belichick and his staff will have some time to get a few flaws either fixed or camouflaged.
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