By Don Banks
July 27, 2010
NFL Pre-Training Camp Power Rankings (cont.)
11 Philadelphia Eagles
Some of the same folks who for years said Andy Reid had to cut ties with Donovan McNabb are now saying the Eagles are headed for trouble with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. I don't see the sky falling in Philly just yet. Give the kid a chance to show us what he's learned the past three years. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Cassel, Tony Romo and Matt Moore performed pretty well after doing the watching and waiting thing.
12 Tennessee Titans
I'm higher on the Titans than a lot of NFL power-ranking types, namely because I think their offense has a chance to be pretty potent if Vince Young can continue to develop his rapport with some of the team's young pass catchers. This isn't the defense Jeff Fisher has been known for throughout his career, but the best coaches find different ways to win in different years.
13 Arizona Cardinals
I never seem to give the Cardinals their due, and putting the only NFC team to win a playoff game in each of the past two years at No. 13 is probably more of the same. But we all know this has a chance to be a different year in Arizona, with Kurt Warner retired and giving way to Matt Leinart at quarterback. But I'm not expecting Leinart to flounder this season, and even though I'll likely pick San Francisco to win the NFC West, Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals have surprised us before.
14 Pittsburgh Steelers
It's pretty obvious the Steelers start their year with some glaring question marks, and none will be more consequential than how they fare in the regular season's first four games without the suspended Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh had an identity problem last year, and Mike Tomlin is promising a return to Steelers football, meaning a physical running game and bruising defense. Sounds easier said than done, especially if Troy Polamalu can't stay healthier than he was in 2009.
15 San Francisco 49ers
I'm not alone in expecting much more from the 49ers this season than last year's maddeningly inconsistent break-even record. San Francisco wasted a lot of good defense in 2009 and it can't happen again. But I think Alex Smith and the rest of the 49ers still-young offensive playmakers are ready to deliver if head coach Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye stay aggressive and don't pull the reins on the passing game.
16 Cincinnati Bengals
The schedule gets a lot tougher the year after you were a surprise division winner, and there won't be any sneaking up on anyone this time around for Marvin Lewis's Bengals. Cincy seems ripe to take a small step back into 7-9, 8-8 territory, but so much depends on whether Carson Palmer and Co. can make anyone fear the Bengals passing game again?
17 Miami Dolphins
I see where my colleague and fellow power-ranker, Peter King, had the Dolphins all the way up to sixth in his mid-May top-to-bottom assessment of the league, ahead of both the Jets and Patriots. That's too rich for me, but the Fish did have a quality offseason and should be better on both sides of the ball thanks to the addition of Karlos Dansby on defense and Brandon Marshall on offense. But we should know lots about the Dolphins early on, thanks to a schedule that includes at Minnesota and home against the Jets and Patriots in Weeks 2-4.
18 Houston Texans
It would be a mistake to see the Texans as having arrived based on them winning their final four games last year to finally finish north of .500 for the first time in franchise history. There's a pretty slim difference between 9-7 and 7-9 in the NFL, and we still need to see Houston win a few big games when the pressure is on to believe that Gary Kubiak's team is moving into top-half-of-the-league territory to stay.
19 New York Giants
Big year in the Big Apple for the G-Men. The new stadium might provide some juice, but if the same old Giants defense that surrendered 45, 41 and 44 points in its last three losses of 2009 shows up again, it'll be a Tom Coughlin death watch all season.
20 Carolina Panthers
The Panthers always seem to surprise us with more wins than expected every other year and that means it's an up-arrow season in Charlotte if the trend holds. But Carolina behaved like a team in serious transition this offseason and that doesn't usually bode big things and playoff runs.
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