Last week, we covered teams 1-10 in the NFL Power Rankings. Today we’ll cover 11-21:
#11- New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton is back, so is Drew Brees and the rest of their explosive offense is back, and the bounty issues are not. While I have a tough time seeing this team make any kind of deep run with the defense that they currently have, they can score with anyone. Drew Brees is still an elite QB and still has plenty of weapons.
#12- Dallas Cowboys
Yes, I know Tony Romo STILL hasn’t won the big game, but he is still really good. The fact that the Cowboys trailed in every single game and came one drive away from making the playoffs, says a lot about their resilience. As long as Romo can once again lock his demons from the past “do or die” game debacle, I think the Cowboys should be in as a wild card team.
#13- New York Giants
Trust me, I wish I could rank the Giants lower because of the embarrassing stretch run they had last year, but they always seem to find a way to be in the playoffs. They will miss Bradshaw more than they think though, especially if their receiving corp. has health issues again.
#14- Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the Steelers many questions on BOTH sides of the ball, I still have them in front of the Indianapolis Colts, but not by much. The only reason I have them in front of the Colts is because of the two quarterbacks. Big Ben is still a playmaker when healthy and could still make this team look better than they really are.
#15- Indianapolis Colts
This might seem a little low for a team that went 11-5 with a rookie quarterback, but I actually struggle to put them this high. The Colts season last year, although very inspiring and a great story, is very deceptive. Most of their wins were very close, Luck had a LOT of turnovers, and they were outscored by 30 points overall. I expect the Colts to take a big step back.
#16- St. Louis Rams
I have the Rams at 16 based on two things: their potential and what they did against the 49ers last year. The Rams showed that they are not far off from where they need to be. Actually, if the Rams had beaten the teams that they “should’ve” beat, they would have been right in the playoff hunt (New York, Detroit, Miami?). They definitely need Danny Amendola back and have a couple other areas that could be addressed, but as a whole they are certainly trending upwards.
#17- Chicago Bears
I think the hiring of Marc Trestman could do wonders for Jay Cutler and the offense if everyone buys in. The offensive line definitely needs improvement, as does the running game. The defense is still solid though. This Bears season will once again rest in the hands of the offense.
#18- Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton and the offense really seemed to figure it out down the stretch, averaging almost 28 a game over their last 9. They need to find a more consistent run game to surround Newton with, but the rest of the offense and defense is good enough. We’ll see if Newton can take the next step.
#19- Minnesota Vikings
While league MVP Adrian is a monster, the rest of the offense isn’t. I am not sold on Ponder and I worry that AP won’t be able to repeat his ridiculous season from last year. Defense is still solid though, so maybe they will surprise people once again.
#20- Miami Dolphins
A pretty solid nucleus, a lot of cap space, and a lot of draft picks are a good combination. Also, the fact that the Dolphins share a division with the rebuilding Bill and Jets means the Dolphins could surprise a lot of people next year. Need a big time WR and OT though.
#21- San Diego Chargers
I still haven’t given up on Philip Rivers…. but I am getting there. Rivers’ QB rating has declined every year for the past four years, as have the Chargers. Once again, this season the Chargers will go as far as Philip Rivers goes. It is that simple.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson