By Don Banks
July 27, 2010
NFL Pre-Training Camp Power Rankings (cont.)
21 Denver Broncos
Tebow-mania has sucked up all the oxygen in the Mile High City and made the Broncos a little difficult to read, but the story that will determine the outcome of the season is the state of Denver's defense. It was the shocker of the year for the first six weeks of 2009, and then it virtually disappeared. I don't like the chances of us seeing a significant rebound under newly elevated D-coordinator Don Martindale.
 
22 Washington Redskins
When you get considerably more competent at both head coach and quarterback, you've got a chance to make a sizable jump in the standings. That's what Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb mean in the short term. But better still won't be enough to spell playoffs in the NFC East.
 
23 Jacksonville Jaguars
Six games against the likes of the Colts, Titans and Texans is tough enough. Throw in having to tackle the NFC East and trips to Dallas and New York this season, and the math gets very challenging for Jack Del Rio's off-the-radar club.
 
24 Seattle Seahawks
I'm convinced Pete Carroll will be better than his first two NFL head coaching incarnations, and I'm high on many of the Seahawks personnel moves this offseason (especially in the draft). So why is it I still have them in the mid-20s, which is the same as nowheres-ville in the NFL? Because getting Seattle back to respectability appears to be at least a two-year undertaking.
 
25 Oakland Raiders
Tom Cable remains and JaMarcus Russell is gone, and that's a good step toward relevancy for the Raiders. If Jason Campbell can thrive under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain adds instant impact, seeing Oakland finish .500 is no fantasy.
 
26 Chicago Bears
So many things have to come together for the Bears to legitimately push the Packers and Vikings in the NFC North, and a fast start is almost mandatory given the pressures that rest on almost everyone in Chicago's organization this year. But at Dallas, home against Green Bay and at the Giants in Weeks 2-4 adds a degree of difficulty to the season's first month.
 
27 Detroit Lions
There are quality building blocks coming together on defense -- safety Louis Delmas, linebacker DeAndre Levy, and now defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh -- and that's the kind of strength up the middle that can fuel a resurgence in Detroit. But the Lions' work won't be done overnight.
 
28 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs had a very solid top of their draft and I'm expecting Josh Freeman to flash a few more times than he did in the final two months of last season. That should equate to modest progress in Tampa Bay, where youth continues to be the predominant theme in every direction you look.
 
29 Kansas City Chiefs
When I visit Chiefs camp late next week, I'm guessing Kansas City's second-year general manager Scott Pioli will tell me that season one of his rebuilding project was more challenging than he ever dreamed. But rookies Eric Berry and Dexter McCluster at least add some sizzle and real promise on each side of the ball.
 
30 Cleveland Browns
I want to believe the Browns at least have a plan for the future with Mike Holmgren installed as football czar, but then I come back to that Jake Delhomme signing and my doubts about this team's direction remain largely unchanged.
 
31 Buffalo Bills
Right here and now I'm willing to go on record and guarantee that Chan Gailey's feat of having never missed the NFL playoffs as a head coach will end in 2010. Then again, it has been 11 years since Gailey got the opportunity to put that streak on the line.
 
32 St. Louis Rams
There's nothing in the NFL like the fresh hope of drafting a franchise quarterback, but as the Rams' Sam Bradford era begins, patience and pass protection should be the top two goals in St. Louis.
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