I had the Bengals too low at No. 16 in my pre-camp power rankings, and this is a corrective measure that I will continue even further if they go into Foxboro and handle the Patriots in the opener. The defense is legit in Cincy and the Bengals definitely added some shiny new weapons to their downfield passing game.
The first month of the season is pretty critical for Mike Singletary's team. Three road games and a home-opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints is no picnic to start with. But if San Francisco's newfound maturity is going to make a difference this year, it might as well show up good and early.
Here's another team I think I slighted in my pre-camp rankings. Sorry, G-Men. New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will be the story of the season in New York. If his impact turns around the unit that melted down before our eyes last year, the Giants will be back in the land of the NFL's elite. Now buckle that chin strap good and tight, Eli.
I've heard some whispers of doubt around the league about whether or not Kevin Kolb will be ready for his close-up this season in Philly. If he's not, it won't take long for the pressure to mount. I'd say a loss at home to Green Bay on Sunday, followed by a Donovan McNabb-orchestrated win for Washington against Dallas that night sounds about right in terms of a timetable.
I don't know quite what to make of the Titans, but I still get the feeling their season will follow roughly the same trajectory as Vince Young's season. Even with Chris Johnson around, Young sets the tone for Tennessee, good and bad.
The NFL schedule-maker didn't do Houston any favors, giving the Texans their game of the year -- a home date against the hated Colts -- right off the bat in Week 1. The opener can be so tricky anyway from a don't-make-too-much-of-it approach, but for hope-laden Houston, another loss to the guys with the horseshoes on their helmets could prove beyond deflating. On the flip side, a validating win and the Texans will probably ride that high into October.
Still don't quite understand the level of impatience with Matt Leinart's game, especially when Derek Anderson is your next best starting option at the moment. But this wasn't really about Anderson as much as it was just a vote of no confidence in Leinart, and some real intrigue in the potential of rookie quarterback Max Hall.
I was fairly certain the Steelers were going to weather their Roethlisberger-less first month of the season in decent 2-2 shape, but now I'm thinking that might have been optimistic. I do believe the more mobile and athletic Dennis Dixon was the right call over Charlie Batch at QB, but if Pittsburgh hits its Week 5 bye at 1-3, I'm not going to be all that surprised.
I'm going to have to see more from the Fish to consider them playoff contenders. This week's opener at Buffalo should be a win, but then let's see what Miami can manage in the brutal seven-game stretch that follows. The Dolphins draw six 2009 playoff teams and the Steelers in that span. If their postseason hopes survive that, consider me convinced.
Giddy with bravado, earlier this week I picked the Raiders to win an AFC wild-card spot. But why jinx them with an automatic bid into my top 12 in these power rankings? Let's let them earn their way into rarefied air. Let's not forget, it has been eight years since Oakland even amassed a half-dozen wins in a season.
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.