Time for the Sports Dude to do some actual analysis. With the NFL season right around the corner, it’s time for everybody’s favorite: the Power Rankings. With pre-season hope still riding high for every team, except possibly the Raiders and the Bengals, one could make the case for any team to top the list, but this is just one simple blogger’s point of a view (albeit a knowledgeable, yet overly-confident college student).
As always, there’s the chance these rankings could very well end up being completely meaningless, but I’m just going to disregard that because at least for right now, I’m 100% not wrong.
Along with my prediction for each team, you’ll get one fantasy player who will exceed expectations (completely free of charge!) How about them apples?
32 – Bengals – What do you get when you put together an already bad NFL team, a publicity stunt appearance on “Hard Knocks,” and a player who legally changed his name to a grammatically incorrect spelling of his jersey number in Spanish? Answer: an even worse NFL team. I pity Bengals fans this season.
Fantasy player to watch: Cedric Benson – After never living up to expectations in Chicago, the former number four overall pick quietly had a nice run as the starter last year; could flourish in full-time gig.
31 – Lions – I like what Jim Schwartz brings to the Lions and I guarantee that they will win more games this year than they did last year, although I don’t think it will be by much. Matthew Stafford will be a good NFL quarterback, but not this year. Rookie quarterbacks are almost never successful, especially when they are thrown into bad situations.
Fantasy player to watch: Brandon Pettigrew – With Calvin Johnson sure to draw double and triple teams, look for Stafford to use Pettigrew as his security blanket a lot this season.
30 – Rams – Marc Bulger has been awful the past two years, and that was when he had Torry Holt as a go-to receiver. Who is he going to throw to now, Randy McMichael?
Fantasy player to watch: Steven Jackson – Is there a single player more important to his team’s offense than him this year? Jackson will get plenty of touches, health is the key.
29 – Browns – Will finally hand starting gig to Brady Quinn. Unfortunately, that means they will have to take their lumps as Quinn learns on the job. I do like what Mangini will bring to the defense, but it’ll take him more than one year to turn things around.
Fantasy player to watch: Braylon Edwards – Let’s just say I was visibly angry when my buddy Alon grabbed him right one spot ahead of me in the draft. Could be a top-5 receiver this year at a 6th round value.
28 – Raiders – Until Al Davis goes away, the Raiders will continue dwell in mediocrity (or worse), but there are some exciting pieces to work with. Darren McFadden, Justin Fargess and Michael Bush form a legitimate three-headed monster of a backfield that will take pressure off of developing quarterback JaMarcus Russell, but until someone steps up to help All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha, the sieve-like run defense will be their undoing.
Fantasy player to watch: Darren McFadden – As talented as Adrian Peterson, just needs the help in the trenches; could emerge as a fantasy stud this year. Keep an eye on Zach Miller as well.
27 – Chiefs – Not sold on Matt Cassel outside of New England. When you trade Randy Moss, Wes Welker and a top-5 O-line for Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley and the rotting corpse of Larry Johnson, you unquestionably take a step back. Heck, give me Moss and Welker and I could put up 3,000 yards.
Fantasy player to watch: Dwayne Bowe – A near lock for 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not sexy, but he will produce.
26 – Buccaneers – Let me get this straight, Byron Leftwich is the starting quarterback? Really? This is the same team that stockpiled like five quarterbacks two years ago. What happened? Washed up quarterback, new offensive scheme and a defensive-minded head coach. Without even knowing the number, I’ll take the under on every single of their games this season.
Fantasy player to watch: Kellen Winslow Jr – Over 1,100 yards in 2007 and then crashed with the rest of the Browns in ’08. I feel a major comeback with the change of scenery this season.
25 – Jets – They have the same issue as the Lions: starting a rookie QB. Difference is, Mark Sanchez only had one full season under center in college. Is he talented? Yea, no doubt. Would Kellen Clemens be any better? Probably not. But remember, there have only been three quarterbacks to lead their team to at least seven wins in their rookie season: Dan Marino, Kerry Collins and Matt Ryan (as multiple readers have pointed out, Big Ben and Joe Flacco have done so as well, my mistake).
Fantasy player to watch: Defense/ST – Even though Pod Vader from the Fantasy Focus on ESPN isn’t a fan, I think defensive mastermind Rex Ryan will implement a run-first scheme that will keep the defense rested and off the field, and the scoring low.
24 – Seahawks – Quickly becoming a media darling in the putrid NFC West. I wish former-Oregon Duck Max Unger all the best, but I just don’t see it.
Fantasy player to watch: Matt Hasselbeck – With his receivers healthy again, I could see the gritty Hasselbeck re-emerge as a premier QB in the NFC.
23 – Jaguars – Unfortunately they play in the toughest division in football, and even more unfortunately, three of their first four games are against the AFC South. The other game? The NFC champions Arizona Cardinals. Quite possibly could start the year 0-4.
Fatntasy player to watch: Torry Holt – Had 8 straight 1,000 yard season before the Rams fell apart last year. May be getting older, but the crafty veteran will be the favorite target of surprisingly effective David Garrard.
22 – Dolphins – They had a magical Cinderella season last year, but with the inevitable year-after curse and an off-season for teams to figure out the Wildcat, the Dolphins will come crashing back to earth. Of course, with Parcell’s running the ship, there’s always a chance Miami will jump the Bills and have a shot at the Wild Card come December.
Fantasy player to watch: Anthony Fasano – Fasano was a favorite red-zone target of Chad Pennington last season, totally seven touchdowns. Fasano should see an increased workload between the 20’s this year as well.
Come back tomorrow for teams 21 through 11.
If you have a disagreement with any of my rankings, please feel free to make your argument in the comments!