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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

09.07.10 at 9:38 am ET
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Opening kickoff is just days away when Brett Favre and the Vikings will try to avenge their conference championship loss and take on the defending Super Bowl champions and the No.1 team in WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings. The Black and Gold have a very difficult task ahead, defending the title and its No.1 ranking. Teams attempting to take that top slot and rounding off the Top 5 are Indy, Green Bay, Baltimore and Dallas respectively.

Rex Ryan and the Jets had a very productive Labor Day weekend after they finally managed to bring back All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. The return of Revis solidifies the Jets as having one of the most feared defenses in league. The ‘Hard Knocks’ stars are at No.7 to start the season. Right behind them at No.8 is their division rival New England Patriots. After a strong preseason, Tom Brady looks poised and ready to put up numbers similar to those in 2007.

No surprises at the bottom of the barrel. The Chiefs, Browns, Bills, Bucs, and Rams find themselves in a very similar position.

Enough exhibition games already, bring on the NFL season:

1. (Last year’s record, 14-2) The Super Bowl champs have earned the right to be called No.1 until proven otherwise. The dynamic duo of Drew Brees and Sean Peyton resemble that of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The Saints championship core is still intact and the team’s defense will greatly appreciate a healthy Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter to patrol the secondary.

2. (13-3) The Colts will be returning many of their starters from their Super Bowl team and will be the team to beat in the AFC this year yet again. Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and the Colts offense will put up huge numbers. On the other side of the ball, Indy has one of the best 1-2 punches at defensive end with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Colts are looking for 12 or more wins for their eighth straight season.

3. (11-5) Green Bay has a great opportunity to hit the ground running as they start their 2010 season playing Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit in three of the team’s first four games. Protecting Aaron Rodgers will be the key to Packers success.

4. (9-7) The loss of Domonique Foxworth and the poor pass rush are major concerns for this team entering the season but this team has always been known for a strong defense and can rely on linebacker Terrell Suggs to bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor 2009 season. Joe Flacco has emerged as on the great young QB’s in the NFL and with new weapon Anquan Boldin along with Pro Bowler Ray Rice, Baltimore’s offense will be tough to stop.

5. (11-5) The Cowboys are the team to beat in one of the best divisions in the NFL, the NFC East. The team’s biggest concern is their aging offensive line that needs to protect QB Tony Romo. Dallas has loads of talent on both sides of the ball and Jerry Jones‘ team has a  legitimate shot of being the first organization to host a Super Bowl in NFL history.

6. (12-4) Holding Brett Favre and the Vikings back will be injuries. Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin need to be at 100 percent for the Vikings offense to be capable of doing what they did last year in the passing game. Unfortunately for Minnesota, Sidney Rice is out for half of the year and Percy Harvin is entering the season with health concerns. Even Brett Favre will struggle to make every game this season. Favre’s consecutive start record, which currently stands at a whopping 285 games, is in jeopardy this year.

7. (9-7) ‘Revis Island’ is back in New York. After months of back and forth feuding, Rex Ryan finally got his wish. The end of the Revis holdout makes the Jets a serious Super Bowl contender. However, with Mark Sanchez behind center, the Jets go into the season having lots to prove on offense. We’ll learn a lot about the Jets in the team’s first three games when they take on the Ravens, the Patriots, and the Dolphins in Miami.

8. (10-6) Preseason injuries could really hurt the Patriots chances of winning their eighth AFC East division in 10 years. The loss of key players on defense like Ty Warren, Leigh Bodden, and Brandon McGowan is a cause of concern for Patriots fans. Bill Belichick will be relying on rookies Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham to make huge impacts on the defensive side of the ball. Not many concerns with the team’s offense, Brady and crew will be a force to be reckoned with and one of the best in the league.

9. (13-3) The Chargers will greatly benefit from being in one of the worst divisions in the league, the AFC West. Although winning their division looks like a cake walk, I don’t see this being the year the Chargers actually make the Super Bowl.

10. (10-6) After sweeping the NFC North division last year, the Bengals will enter ’10 attempting to have back to back winning seasons for the first time in 28 years. The Bengals will be tested throughout the season with the fourth most difficult schedule going into the season. If Carson Palmer and the offense can complement their dynamic defense, the Bengals have a legit shot of a successful 2010 campaign.

11. (9-7) Atlanta has great talent on both sides of the ball. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White highlight a strong offense. First-round selection Sean Wetherspoon and third-round selection Corey Peters will make an immediate impact on defense. If Atlanta’s pass rush can improve from last year, this team can challenge the Saints for the NFC South title.

12. (7-9) The Dolphins finally have that stud wide receiver to pass the ball to and complement there dynamic duo in the run game. Behind one of the best offensive lines in the game, Chad Henne has a great shot to emerge as a solid starting QB in the NFL. Not sure if they are a legit contender for the AFC East title yet, but behind great coaching and leadership, anything is possible.

13. (9-7) Dennis Dixon officially gets the nod at starting QB to start the season for the Steelers. The team’s defense will really have to pick up the offense until Ben Roethlisberger returns following his four-game suspension. Until then, all eyes will be on Troy Polamalu and how he returns from last year’s knee injury.

14. (8-8) The Giants are at their best when their defense wrecks havoc on the QB and that simply just didn’t happen last year. Look for Justin Tuck to be among one of the league leaders in sacks this year on an improved defensive line.

15. (8-8) The NFC West is the 49ers to lose. Although not one of the top teams in the conference, the 49ers can enjoy playing in one of the worst divisions in football. Look for Alex Smith to continue to improve and feed off offensive weapons like Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

16. (9-7) Matt Schaub proved what type of numbers this passing offense can put up after throwing for a league high 4,770 yards. The problem with Houston is in their run game. Rookie Arian Foster will be called upon to handle the bulk of the load after Steve Slaton was tied with the second-most fumbles by a running back in 09′.

17. (11-5) The Kevin Kolb era will begin in Philadelphia Sunday when the team takes on the Packers to open the season. Any Andy Reid coached offense usually puts up big numbers and they are certainly capable of doing that with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy. However, question marks surround the offensive line and I’m not sure if Kolb can lead this team into the playoffs playing a difficult schedule in a tough division.

18. (8-8) I expect Vince Young to continue to build on what he was doing last year, making smart decisions and giving his team a chance to win while Chris Johnson carries the offense on his back. It will be interesting to see if the young 2,000 yard rusher can stay healthy and put up similar numbers in 2010. In 2008 Johnson had 234 carries followed by 358 in 2009. If Johnson can handle a similar workload while staying healthy all year, the Titans can be a competitive team in the AFC but an unlikely one to make the playoffs.

19. (8-8) Entering the final year of his contract, head coach John Fox will be coaching for his job in 2010. It will be interesting to see how Matt Moore and Steve Smith work together and how the team takes advantage of a QB who doesn’t average two turnovers a game.

20. (8-8) Last year the Broncos teased their fans when they steamrolled out of the gate and won the first six games of the season. Inevitably, Denver crashed after the big high. This year, the Kyle Orton led Broncos will be mediocre at best in a lousy division. The loss of Elvis Dumervil, the ’09 sack leader, is huge.

21. (4-12) The Redskins are finally headed in the right direction but that doesn’t mean they will be playoff contenders any time soon. McNabb needs more weapons on offense and the Albert Haynesworth situation could be a distraction all season (that is if he isn’t traded to the Titans).

22. (5-11) Seattle is another team on the right path but still a couple years away from being a real playoff threat. The Seahawks had a great offseason but still are too weak on defense. Expect the Seahawks to give up close to 400 points for a third straight year.

23. (7-9) Expectations are low for the Jaguars and there is little reason to believe they won’t finish last in the AFC South for the third straight year. David Garrard hasn’t proven he can lead this team and be one of the top quarterbacks in the league. It will be fun to see what first-round pick Tyson Alualu can do on the defensive line in his first year.

24. (7-9) It will be interesting to see how much Mike Martz can impact Jay Cutler’s performance in 2010. Cutler’s interceptions in 09′ prohibitted the Bears from having any success. Chicago’s poor offensive line won’t help matters either.

25. (10-6) Arizona’s quarterback situation is reason to believe the Cardinals will struggle to win games this year. Although I agree Matt Leinart wasn’t the answer, Derek Anderson isn’t, either. The Cards will miss the playoffs in 2010.

26. (5-11) Many think the Oakland Raiders will be improved in 2010 with Jason Campbell taking snaps behind center as opposed to JaMarcus Russell. Al Davis’s club should be improved on defense as well, as eighth overall pick Rolando McClain can make an immediate impact on the line.

27. (2-14) The Lions will improve on both sides of the ball but still will have a below average defense and a sub-par offense. Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch will make an impact but a lousy secondary will make the Lions one of the worst passing defenses in the league. However, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for this Lions team and it will be fun to watch Matthew Stafford grow in 2010.

28. (4-12) The addition of Charlie Weis should help Matt Cassell look more like the quarterback we saw in New England in 2008 as compared to the one we saw in 2009. The Chiefs are on the way up but are at least two years away from contending for a division title.

29. (5-11) It doesn’t help that they play in the same division as the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals. Cleveland’s defense is very poor and will struggle to put any pressure on the quarterback.

30. (6-10) Much like the Browns, the Bills are a weak team in a division that has three playoff caliber teams. The Bills lack talent across the board. The one highlight Buffalo fans will be able to take out of this season should be rookie running back CJ Spiller.

31. (3-13) Lots of young talent and potential on this Tampa Bay team; highlighted by players like Josh Freeman, Gerald McCoy, and Aqib Talib. The Bucs are another bottom of the barrel team heading in the right direction but won’t win many games this season.

32. (1-15) Forget winning because that will happen very rarely this year, the most important thing the Rams should focus on is staying healthy on the offensive line and protecting franchise quarterback Sam Bradford as he gains some valuable NFL experience.

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