It may seem like a little early for power rankings, but it may be best to put one together before the barrage of news coming out of training camp and the misleading preseason games start to skew our opinions. So based off of what they did last year and how their offseason went, here are the pre preseason top 10 teams in the NFC:
10. New Orleans – Sean Payton returning to the sidelines should give the Saints a boost, but New Orleans had the most passing yards in the NFL last year, so that part of the offense can’t get much better; rather, it’s the defense that needs to be better this year. Drew Brees is going to give them a chance to win just about every week, but unless the defense shows serious improvement, the Saints shouldn’t plan on being much better than a .500 team, which isn’t going to be enough to get to the playoffs in the NFC.
9. Chicago – On the one hand, the Bears won 10 games last year, but on the other hand, they changed coaches and didn’t really upgrade the talent on their roster. There are also questions about their quarterback. If Marc Trestman can make something out of Jay Cutler, the Bears should be in the same position they were last season: on the edge of the playoff race.
8. New York Giants – The Giants should be a lot higher, but there are still questions about how much they improved their linebackers and their secondary during the offseason. As long as they have Eli Manning, and as long as he has Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, New York is in decent shape, but what they need is their pass rushers to rebound after a poor season last year. Without assurance that their pass rush will be better in 2013, the Giants remain on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.
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7. Washington – If Robert Griffin III was healthy, the Redskins are easily a top-5 team, and they may even crack the top-3 in the NFC, but if he’s not on the field, or if his legs aren’t healthy, Washington is a different team. Outside of Griffin, the roster is largely the same with the addition of some secondary help and a few ancillary offensive skill players. If Griffin is healthy, this could be a dangerous team in the NFC, but until he proves that he’s healthy, it’s tough to rank them too high.
6. St. Louis – The Rams had one of the best drafts in the NFL, adding a ton of speed to their offense to help out Sam Bradford, who will also have the luxury of Jake Long watching his back this season. The St. Louis defense is in decent shape, so if they can figure out their running game and Bradford can click with all the speedy weapons he’s been given, the Rams should be able to secure a winning record and fight for a playoff spot, despite playing in a tough division.
5. Minnesota – There are still serious questions about Christian Ponder, but Adrian Peterson is a great safety valve to have. They rode Peterson to a 10-win season last year, and they may be able to do that again. On top of that, the Vikings added three first round draft picks, and lured both Desmond Bishop and Greg Jennings away from the Packers, so they added quite a bit of talent to their roster. If Ponder can limit his mistakes, between Peterson and the talent Minnesota added in the offseason, they should be a top-5 team in the NFC this year.
4. Atlanta – The Falcons were close to the Super Bowl last year, but fell a game short. The window to get to the Super Bowl is still open, but it appears far more likely that Atlanta will take a step back in 2013. They have a good quarterback and arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league, but they’re defense wasn’t reliable last year, and their roster is starting to get old. They should win their division again, but they may not be one of the NFC’s elite anymore.
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3. Green Bay – The mere presence of Aaron Rodgers is enough to place the Packers among the top-3 teams in the NFC. He doesn’t have the supporting cast that he used to have, but the team drafted Eddie Lacy at running back, and Randall Cobb is a heck of a weapon to have, so Rodgers should have enough around him to give Green Bay one of the best offenses in the NFL. If the defense can hold up its end of things, the Packers will be in good shape to reach the top of the NFC.
2. Seattle – Now that they have a quarterback that can complement their defense, the Seahawks should be near the top of the NFC; as good as he was last year, Russell Wilson should be even better in year two. Also, despite not having a first round pick, Seattle managed to add some talented pieces in the draft. Wilson and the Seahawks got their feat wet in the postseason last year, and now they’re ready to assert themselves as one of the leading Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.
1. San Francisco – On paper, San Francisco has the most talented roster in the NFC. They have one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league, they have a stout defense, and they had a great draft. Until proven otherwise, we have to enter training camp assuming that the 49ers are the class of the NFC.