By Wesley Kaminsky
After a long off-season in which there were questions as to whether or not there would be a season in 2011, the NFL is back, and better than ever. Following the conclusion of the lockout, it was madness in the NFL, with big names such as Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Donovan McNabb all on new teams. That’s just to name a few.
Heading into the season, teams such as the Patriots and Eagles are in a Super Bowl or bust mentality. These two teams have been the story of the off-season, with the Patriots landing Chad Ochocinco, Shaun Ellis, and Albert Haynesworth, while the Eagles landed Nnamdi Asomugha, and Ronnie Brown, among others.
It seems to me that people are forgetting about the team that won the Super Bowl last season, the Green Bay Packers. They didn’t make noise in free agency, but don’t forget they were without Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley during their Super Bowl run.
Without further ado, here are my NFL power rankings heading into the 2011 season.
- Green Bay Packers: Although the Patriots and Eagles have improved dramatically, I have a hard time placing them above the defending Super Bowl champions. Let’s not forget Aaron Rodgers is just getting better.
- New England Patriots: Last years season ended in disappointment, but the Patriots made noise in the off-season. Chad Ochocinco, meet Tom Brady, I think you will enjoy playing with him.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: It also seems to me that people are forgetting about the Steelers, who were a drive away from winning another Super Bowl. You can’t forget about any team with Ben Roethlisberger.
- Philadelphia Eagles: No team in the NFL was more aggressive than the Eagles this off-season, and in Philly, it’s Super Bowl or bust. Can Vick deliver the Eagles their first Super Bowl in franchise history?
- New Orleans Saints: The Saints beefed up their defensive line, and replaced Reggie Bush with Darren Sproles this off-season. They want to wash the bad taste of losing in Seattle away.
- New York Jets: Was replacing Braylon Edwards with Plaxico Burress really the right move?
- Chicago Bears: Let us not forget that this Bears team was close to reaching the Super Bowl a season ago. The signings of Marion Barber and Roy Williams have made them better.
- Atlanta Falcons: Can Matt Ryan take the Falcons to the next level?
- Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens lost Derrick Mason, Donte Stallworth, TJ Houshmanzadeh, and Todd Heap this off-season, and didn’t replace them. Good luck Joe Flacco.
- San Diego Chargers: After failing to make the playoffs a season ago, the Chargers come into this season healthy, and Phillip Rivers is ready to make a Super Bowl run.
- Indianapolis Colts: Could this finally be the year Peyton Manning misses games due to injury? Colts fans hope not.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Was last season a fluke or are the Chiefs for real?
- New York Giants: After back-to-back second half collapses, Tom Coughlin is on the hot seat in 2011.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The NFC South better be aware of the Buccaneers. They will compete for the division.
- Dallas Cowboys: With Tony Romo healthy, it’s his time to show he is as good as advertised.
- St. Louis Rams: No team is in better shape than the Rams to win the weak NFC West. Sam Bradford will continue to grow.
- Detroit Lions: Can Matthew Stafford stay healthy long enough to lead the Lions to the playoffs?
- Houston Texans: This is it for Gary Kubiak in Houston. If they don’t make the playoffs. Enough said.
- Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals better hope Kevin Kolb is worth all the money they paid for him.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Let’s not forget how close this team was to making the playoffs a season ago.
- Oakland Raiders: With Bruce Gradkowski gone, this is Jason Campbell’s team now.
- Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks success hinges on the play of Tavaris Jackson.
- Tennessee Titans: At what point will we see Jake Locker this season?
- San Francisco 49ers: I thought last year would be Alex Smith’s last shot, but I can safely say this year is. The former number one pick needs to lead the 49ers to a division title or he is done in San Francisco.
- Miami Dolphins: I still don’t understand why the Dolphins didn’t trade for Kyle Orton.
- Minnesota Vikings: Can Donovan McNabb rejuvenate his career in Minnesota?
- Denver Broncos: It’s only a matter of time before the Tim Tebow era starts in Denver.
- Buffalo Bills: It’s been 11 years and counting since the Bills have made the playoffs, and unfortunately, they aren’t any closer.
- Cleveland Browns: The only thing the Browns have going for them is that Peyton Hillis is on the cover of Madden.
- Carolina Panthers: The Panthers made a splash this off-season, but all eyes are on Cam Newton.
- Cincinnati Bengals: You know things are bad in Cincinnati when you’re franchise quarterback would rather retire than play for them.
- Washington Redskins: You’re telling me the Redskins are better off with John Beck, Rex Grossman, and Kellen Clemens, than with Donovan McNabb.