The lockout is over, the
is back, training camps have kicked off and free agency has died down after a frantic few days. Now that we have had a chance to survey the NFL landscape, we know which players to watch in 2011 and we have a pretty good idea of which teams will be the ones to beat in January. A few weeks out from
, let's do some pre-preseason power ranking. Let me know what I got wrong.
and Albert Haynesworth to a team that went 14-2 last year is scary, especially when that team has arguably the best quarterback and the best coach in the league.
and the Packers won it all last year with nearly a third of their team on injured reserve. Getting healthy returns from those players is as good as making a big splash in free agency.
They’re no “Dream Team,” but the Eagles have been the story of a wacky offseason. They landed the biggest fish in cornerback
, but their hopes hinge on
another toy in
and boosted their defense with Ray Edwards.
They were hamstrung by the lower salary cap ceiling, but their core remains intact.
Ditto for the Ravens, who have continuity and experience going for them. They lost key free agents, but have faith in their in-house replacements. This team goes as far as
can take it.
Most of their team is coming back, and they added rookie running back
and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. Also, count on Darren Sproles doing a passable
I like what the Bears did in free agency -- Roy Williams should click with
-- but my gut tells me that they won’t duplicate their success from 2010. Right now, though, this spot seems right.
Missing out on Asomugha hurts,
isn’t as good as
and I’m not sold on
. Then again, I doubted them the past two seasons. We know how that turned out.
’s neck injury is a concern. If he’s not himself, they will miss the playoffs.
Usually they are overrated and overhyped. This year, they might just fly under the radar.
They lost their grip on the
in 2010, but Philip Rivers won’t let that happen again.
We know they can score points, but what about the defense? They switched to a 3-4 and also upgraded their personnel with rookies
and cornerback Jonathan Joseph.
They will compete for a playoff spot. Also, look for Hakeem Nicks to play like an elite wideout.
They were one of 2010’s biggest surprises, but their quarterback is still mediocre
The Lions are close to restoring the roar after another fine draft. They will surprise in 2011 -- if
can stay healthy. I know that’s a big if, but they sure have surrounded him with talent.
I wouldn’t count on
finding the fountain of youth in Minnesota like his predecessor,
, did. But even if he is just average, the Vikings will have a bounce-back season.
Another team that had a rough 2010, the Titans will have a new coach and quarterback.
Will they build on last season? It’s unlikely given what the Saints and Falcons have done.
is cluttered again, but I give the early edge to the team with the best QB.
That being said, I really like the additions of
and Zach Miller.
And I think
will get the 49ers heading in the right direction in his first season.
would be wise to give the job to
and give the ball to
They have some talent, but this could be a transitional year for the Jaguars.
101 times for 1,120 and 10 TDs. Just saying.
will warm up to
quickly (write that down, fantasy football fans).
has his work cut out for him. The Raiders lost one of their best offensive weapons in Zach Miller and one of the best defensive players in football in Nnamdi Asomugha.
2010 was a disaster, but this will be an intriguing team with
I was a fan of what they did in the draft, but why aren’t they making moves for the present?
has made magic with no-name tailbacks. Can he do it with QB
Still no quarterback of the future, but that means they will be in the running for
Again the epicenter of turmoil in the NFL, the Bungles erred by not trading