On Wednesday, the 2012 NFL Season will get underway as the Dallas Cowboys take on the New York Giants. The Bay Area's own San Francisco 49ers will open on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, while the Oakland Raiders will debut on Monday Night Football against the San Diego Chargers.
There were plenty of surprises in the league in 2011, like our own 49ers going 13-3 and making an appearance in the NFC Championship game. It was so surprising given they were in the bottom half of the league in most power rankings prior to the start of the season.
And power rankings are the be-all, end-all, you know. They're fun to do, they're fun to read, and that's why each week I'll be providing you with my own rankings, which may or may not differ from every other list you see out there. Now, let's get started with our rankings for Week 1 prior to it all getting underway.
Blaine Gabbert is not a good quarterback, and Maurice Jones Drew is not going to carry this team on his back. At least, he won't carry them to a winning record.
Cleveland's defense was very good a season ago - a surprising change. But their offense is built on a rookie quarterback, a rookie running back, the best left tackle in the league and three receivers who do exactly the same things.
It's hard to imagine Sam Bradford doing anything other than passing for 150 yards with no touchdowns each week. He has no weapons to speak of and that defense won't be able to do everything.
Ryan Tannehill is not going to have a strong year without some time to develop. Miami should have considered this a sunk season to give him time to learn. Instead, he's going to go out there and get pummeled. But hey, maybe he'll be like Alex Smith and be a decent signal caller by the time 2018 rolls around.
It's going to be tough for the team to lean on Adrian Peterson, even if he comes back true to form. Christian Ponder might actually surprise some people, but for now, there's too many issues on this roster, with a rapidly aging defense. The window is closing for Jared Allen.
Robert Griffin III probably has a bright future ahead of him, but it's going to be tough for him out of the gate. He's got a lot of offense to learn, and a large lack of support around him.
It's hard to imagine the Colts being as bad as they were a season ago. Andrew Luck is the realest deal out there and that team is better than many will give them credit for.
Arizona continues to be rated highly by other power rankings but it's hard to see why. They can spend as many early picks on offensive weapons as they want, John Skelton isn't going to be the guy to get them the ball when they need it.
Last year was an odd year for the Buccaneers, who seem to have a lot of pieces. They should be a good team, if Josh Freeman can get his head on straight. Doug Martin is hoping to have a strong rookie season to give Freeman some help.
22. Oakland Raiders | Silver & Black Pride | LS: 8-8
Unfortunately, Carson Palmer has to learn a new offense again. Fortunately, he doesn't have to do it on such short notice.
Chris Johnson will make this offense work. Or he won't.
Few quarterbacks inspire less confidence than Russell Wilson. Fortunately for Seattle, John Skelton and Sam Bradford are two of them. That defense is on the up-and-up to be sure.
More than anything, the Chiefs need to be consistent. Matt Cassel is in a division with Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers and will never get the mad respect, but he has what it takes to win some football games, that's for sure.
Will Cam Newton improve and continue to prove doubters wrong? If he does then I'll be counted among those who were, in fact, proven wrong.
They've added some pieces on defense, and Fred Jackson paired with C.J. Spiller should be a fun rushing attack, provided Ryan Fitzpatrick can keep up the good, but not great, work that he's known for.
16. Dallas Cowboys | Blogging The Boys | LS: 8-8
Middle of the pack is the reality for Tony Romo and the Cowboys of today,
This will be a fun ride, to be sure. If Peyton Manning doesn't shatter into a pile of glass and dust, he could actually make the Broncos a respectable team. Now if only he had some decent weapons.
Last season, both Cincinnati and Cleveland made that division interesting for a couple weeks, before falling far, far behind. A.J. Green is explosive and surely has a great career ahead of him, but that sophomore slump is a little concerning.
13. San Diego Chargers | Bolts From The Blue | LS: 8-8
Rivers is severely underrated, but Ryan Matthews really needs to pull it together. Will that happen? Who knows if he can stay healthy at this point. But San Diego is a better team than they were last year and should be in the playoff picture once again. Not to mention they've always had Manning's number.
Will they actually be as good as advertised? Probably not, but they've got so many good players that smart money is on them actually performing well instead of vastly under-performing.
Matt Ryan may not be getting any better, but his weapons sure are. This team will be in the playoffs.
That defense still has some serious holes. They just signed Drayton Florence off the street less-than a week ago and he will be a starting cornerback. Sure, they'll sack your quarterback, but you can run and pass on them for days. Still, that offense showed a season ago it's just about on the level of New Orleans and Green Bay.
They've been good forever at this point, and Mike Wallace will actually play, even if he's unhappy. It should be a fun season for them, but their window is closing with that aging defense.
Drew Brees is really, really, really, really, really, really, really good.
The Texans hype train is out of control, as it should be. Their defense went from bad to amazing in one season, and barring injuries, that offense can hang with the best of them. What's scary is the fact that they took such a big step in a season's time, that means they're one step away from going back to the way they were.
Baltimore is exactly the kind of team that can survive one of its best defensive players going down with an injury. No, they don't have insane depth, they just have a great coaching staff, a great scheme and a great attitude. They're be right there once again.
4. San Francisco 49ers | Niners Nation | LS: 13-3
There's few questions about the San Francisco defense. They'll carry this team to the NFC West crown regardless. The big question is whether Alex Smith can maintain that kind of turnover ratio, because that will dictate how close they get to repeating their performance.
They're just so good. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. It's just insane. Brandon Lloyd was a solid pickup and this offense should roll along just as it always has. The difference between playoffs and a Super Bowl will depend on the progression of the defense.
2. New York Giants | Big Blue View | LS: 9-7
It's hard to imagine Eli Manning having that great a year again. Still, they remain relatively unchanged this year and should be in the playoffs again, but it's a tough schedule, to be sure.
1. Green Bay Packers | Acme Packing Company | LS: 15-1
Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL and that offense is loaded top to bottom. That defense also isn't too shabby, provided they can actually get some coverage going on in the secondary. Having a lot of interceptions is nice, but they need to work on stopping big plays on top of executing them.