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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NFL Power Rankings 2012: Season Preview Edition

2012 NFL Preview: Power Rankings and Ratings
After a full training camp and preseason, the following rankings have been adjusted accordingly.  There weren't huge changes, but some teams deservingly went up or down the list.

The core of the ratings are based on statistical projections in 20 critical categories. Everything from personnel/coaching changes, player projections, past performance, continuity, training camp reports, and preseason indicators are factored in.  This ensures a good balance of objectivity and subjectivity across the board.  Each category crosses a notable threshold in statistical ratings and the size of each group will change as data accumulates.

With so many questions for each team, expect significant changes after 2-4 weeks of the season.  I'll update the ratings on average once a month to reflect an acceptable amount of data, but I might do an extra update midway through September after we get an initial look at real performances/results.
With that, let's see which teams are trending where as we head into the regular season - and if you disagree with something, you know where to find the comment box...

Trending Contenders
Three spots might not seem like a lot, but climbing to the top of the power rankings is big. If they have an exploitable weakness, I'd like to know what it is.
Losing Desmond Bishop was a tough blow to a D needing to improve. That said, nearly impossible to be as bad as last year. Spotlight on young D guys glaring.
Encouraging signs on defense, but will still come down to secondary.  O-line is a red flag, but we went down that road last year and it turned out just fine.

Trending Playoff Hopefuls
With a healthy defense, opposing QBs will be begging for draw plays and screen passes. Dropped from contender status until Vick proves they're worth it.
Bump up the rankings for positive steps in preseason. Well coached and poised for a run. Still need to prove they have a pass rush and win big games.
Slight move up the charts assuming key pieces on D stay healthy. DeCastro injury puts sudden warning lights on O-line again. CB depth also a concern.
Now that we've seen Peyton I'm comfortable leaving them this high. He still needs to show he can throw an accurate deep ball. Questions still linger...

Sean Payton's absence might have been overblown by many (myself included).  Questions on all three levels of D will remain all year. In Spags they trust.
I projected a conservative improvement on D, which is enough to raise their overall stock. Now they have to do it on Sundays. Secondary will make or break.
Preseason hinted that the offense is poised to improve.  I'm still not sold on their D without Suggs/Johnson and an aging Lewis/Reed.  Time will tell..
The G-men haven't done anything in the preseason to doubt their contender potential, but the toughest schedule and an injured secondary hover over them.
Injuries remain the biggest problem for a Cowboys team that can't afford to have them. Secondary seems vastly improved which could keep them in every game.
No change for the Bears. The new offensive philosophy needs to come together on gameday.  O-line concerns have not gone away.
Leave it up to the Chargers to force-feed the kool-aid down my throat again. I'm cautiously optimistic about the changes on D. Injuries on O-line are huge issue.
I see SF high on most power rankings around town. Not for me. I'm on the same page as sharp outlets like The Football Outsiders. A fall from grace is pending.
Barely made the cut among the top 16. I still love the potential, but pessimistic criticism is legit. It's all on Cassel's shoulders.  Flowers's health is also vital.
CAR gets a healthy rise up into "playoff hopeful" status. The linebackers will give them a chance on D.  Lack of CB depth might cripple their odds though.
In my July ratings I had Flynn penciled in. Wilson gets the nod and provides hope for the playoffs.  D could be great, but linebackers/pass rush could disappoint.

Trending On the Bubble
Their D should return to dominance in 2012 if safeties hold up.  No hope in hell at a playoff run with that offense though. No change in sight until get a new QB.
Gruden is expanding the playbook, but will it matter?  Underrated D will continue to fight for legitimacy - especially with Carlos Dunlap on the sidelines.
The worries about Fitzpatrick are real. Unless the offense improve when the live bullets fly, they are going nowhere. The D-line is no joke, but the rest of the D?
A strong D is a plus, but can Raheem Morris improve the secondary? O-line must stay healthy to give RG3 a chance. Might have a group of #2 WRs and no #1. 
Hasselbeck was better short-term, but Locker is the right move. Not sure how good the kid can be this year. I still wonder about that secondary, too.
Right side of O-line shaky after Joseph injury. Freeman is still inconsistent. Linebackers will determine fate on D, but secondary should be great. 

Trending "With the 1st pick in the NFL draft..."
Gabbert gave us some signs of hope in preseason, but stalled vs BAL. MJD cloud hangs over them.  Need more pass rush or D won't reach expectations.
Nothing was learned in preseason. Strong in the trenches, bad in the air.  McFadden health still X-factor. New schemes a big step in right direction.
So much talent on both sides of the ball is circling the drain thanks to the O-line and QB quandary.  On the bright side, miracles do happen.
I still have personal high expectations for this team, but I have to put them where they belong when I look at it objectively. WR, O-line, run D are problem areas.
The only thing scarier than Ponder's inconsistency is the options he has at WR. Youth in secondary is also worrisome. AP might be getting rushed back too soon.
I had this team here in July and all my concerns materialized. The offense has very little hope unless Tannehill surprises. D wants to be great, but they won't be. 
Goals for 2013: stop the run, become efficient in red zone, and protect the QB. All three will keep this team in the basement, along with an uninspiring Weeden.
I didn't give Luck a slimmer of hope due to his surrounding cast. Turns out it might not matter if he's ready for prime-time. How high can he take them?

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