NFL Power Rankings (continued)

With the NFL season starting tonight, I figured it might be a good idea to finish off my rankings before the season gets underway.

21 – Bills – Firing the offensive coordinator before the first game of the season usually isn’t a good sign. Figure in a three game suspension for Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch and the potential for a T.O. blow-up, things could get ugly in Buffalo (and Toronto).

Prediction: 7-9.

Wait a second, that's not Marshawn Lynch!

Wait a second, that's not Marshawn Lynch!

Fantasy player to watch – Lee Evans – Has been a number two WR trapped in a number one WR’s body. With the addition of T.O., the deep threat should see a lot more single coverage.

20 – Broncos – The Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos all can’t go 4-12. It would be a statistical phenomenon. That’s why, despite the awful Jay Cutler fiasco this off-season, I’m buying Belicheck-disciple Josh McDaniel to put together a high-flying offense in the Mile High city. A five-game stretch against Dallas, New England, San Diego, Baltimore and Pittsburgh could be their undoing.

Prediction: 7-9.

Fantasy player to watch – Knowshon Moreno – Every year there is a rookie RB who goes nuts. The former Georgia Bulldog couldn’t have landed in a better spot than Denver, where anybody can rush 1,000 yards.

19 – Texans – The Texans are the Tampa Bay Rays of the NFL. Loaded with athletes and top picks, but just can’t put it together. This year will be no different, as Brian Cushing won’t be able to stop the run all by himself.

Prediction: 7-9.

Fantasy player to watch – Matt Schaub – Has always put up great numbers when he’s been healthy, is this the year he finally stays on the field for 16 games?

18 – Redskins – Love the defense. Love the addition of Albert Haynesworth. Love Clinton Portis as a fantasy sleeper. Don’t love the division. Put them in the NFC West and they’re 10-6, but that could be said about a lot of teams.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Clinton Portis – He’s one of those guys who drops in drafts because you know what you’re getting with him – even though it’s 1,500 yards and 10 TD’s a year.

17 – 49ers – Can’t justifiably have them any higher than this. Love what Singletary is doing in San Francisco, but at least until Crabtree signs, the offense is too one-dimensional.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Josh Morgan –Showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. With a more stabilized situation at QB, Morgan will emerge as Hill’s favorite deep threat.

16 – Panthers – If you watched any of Jake Delhomme’s spectacularly bad, five INT performance in the playoffs last season, you can’t take Carolina seriously.  How far can the running game carry them?

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Jonathon Stewart – Have to give love to my former Ducks. J-stew was awesome last year in a limited role, look for a more equal timeshare with Williams this season.

15 – Packers – It all depends on how well the defense adjusts to the new 3-4 scheme; the offense will be there. If the Packers can contain the run, there’s a good chance playoff football will return to Lambeau field.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Aaron Rodgers – I don’t know how many people realize he threw for over 4,000 yards and had a 28:13 TD/INT ratio. Pretty good for a first full season.

14 – Saints – Is there a more fun team to watch than the Saints? Drew Brees makes the NFL look like a video game. Unfortunately, so does their D. Maybe Malcom Jenkins is the answer.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Marques Colston – The favorite target of a quarterback who will throw for 4,500+ yards? Sign me up.

13 – Ravens – How will they handle the departures of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott on defense? Lewis, Suggs, Reed and Ngata still make up a pretty formidable nucleus. Joe Flacco needs to build on solid rookie campaign for the team to make the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Ray Rice – The Ravens have always been a run-first team and it looks like Rice will get the majority of the workload. 75% of fantasy success is opportunity.

12 – Cardinals – Still the best team in the NFC West, but that isn’t saying much. Card fans must pray for Warner to stay healthy, because they won’t go anywhere without him.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Anquan Boldin – Gets overlooked because he plays next to the best WR in football, but any player who breaks his face and then grabs nine passes and two scores two weeks later is an absolute beast.

11 – Bears – Cutler is the first legit QB in the Windy City since Jim McMahon. Too bad Cutler’s best WR was a DB two years ago. Could be a frustrating year with expectations so high.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Greg Olsen – I have an uncanny obsession with Miami Tight Ends.

10 – Cowboys – Maybe getting rid of T.O. is just what Dallas needs to get back to the playoffs. Must hope Roy Williams can revert to his 2007 form with the Lions. Never a good thing, though, to be counting on former Lions.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Roy Williams – Severely underrated after difficult time adjusting following the trade.

9 – Giants – Loss of Plax makes Eli Manning a below-average quarterback. Concerns on defense and one-dimensional offense will keep the Giants from returning to the promise land this season.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Ahmad Bradshaw – The Giants will have to run to be successful this year; Bradshaw slides into the spot Derrick Ward had last year as lightning to Jacobs’ thunder.

8 – Falcons – I learned my lesson last year after doubting Matt Ryan. He is for real. Emergence of Roddy White and the Tony Gonzalez acquisition only make Ryan more dangerous.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Tony Gonzalez – Will be amped up now that he’s finally on a contender again. Amazing what a winning environment can do for a player.

7 – Eagles – Top 3 defense will miss the late Jim Johnson. With the workload Westbrook handles each year, you have to wonder when he will break down. But until then, the offense will have plenty of firepower.

Prediction: 10-6.

Fantasy player to watch: DeSean Jackson – McNabb will throw plenty, and Jackson has become his favorite target. Must rid stupid me-first attitude.

6 – Colts – Huge hole left by the sudden departure of Tony Dungy. Coach-on-the-field Peyton Manning will be more important than ever this season. O-line needs to step up big time.

Prediction: 10-6.

Fantasy player to watch: Anthony Gonzalez – Increased role in the offense and third year in the league will lead to a breakout season.

5 – Titans – It’s amazing what laying off the Tequila will do for you. If career fizzles out in the NFL, Lendale White will have one waiting for him in the weight loss industry.

Prediction: 10-6

Fantasy player to watch: Nate Washington – Quietly was very solid for the Steelers, now number one WR in Tennessee.

4 – Vikings – Despite my hatred for Brett Favre, the combination of AD (I’m on your side Oklahoma) and the defense make this team a sleeper Super Bowl contender.

Prediction: 11-5.

Fantasy player to watch: Bernard Berrian – Berrian is a deep threat. Favre loves to throw deep. With defenses needing to stack eight in the box, this is a match made in heaven.

3 – Chargers – Yes, I know what happened the last time the Chargers had this much hype, but with so much talent and their division so weak, they can go 10-6 without breaking a sweat. I think they do better.

Prediction: 12-4.

Fantasy player to watch: Vincent Jackson – With LT getting old and Rivers coming into his own, the Chargers have shifted their focus to the passing game.

2 – Steelers – Probably should be number one but my man crush on Tom Brady is too big.

Prediction: 13-3

Fantasy player to watch: Willie Parker – Has been so overrated that he is now underrated. Mendenhall will not steal his touches.

Yes, this is the best player in the NFL.

Yes, this is the best player in the NFL.

1 – Patriots – It’s almost unfair how veterans in their twilight years go to New England on the cheap. Oh and that Brady guy is back at full strength. I like their chances.

Prediction: 14-2.

Fantasy player to watch: Wes Welker – How do you not love a 5-8 white WR? With Brady back, you can count on 100 receptions.

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NFL Power Rankings

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).

chadAs 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.

Prediction: 3-13.

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.

Prediction: 3-13.

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?

Prediction: 4-12.

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.

Prediction: 4-12.

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.

Prediction: 5-11.

sp_raiders_bengals_f04Fantasy 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.

Prediction: 5-11

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.

Prediction: 6-10

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).

Prediction: 6-10

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.

Prediction: 6-10

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.

Prediction 6-10

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.

Prediction: 7-9

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!