By: Denery Noone
Denery's NFL Preseason Power Rankings continue with numbers 20-11. If you missed Part I, click here.
20. Philadelphia Eagles 2014: 10-6
The Eagles are a team that will struggle in the talented NFC East. The Eagles are a talented team with guys like Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, Jordan Matthews, and Demarco Murray. However, their biggest problem is that they have an average quarterback at best, who has serious injury problems. Sam Bradford tore both ACL’s in consecutive seasons, and before that his best season was 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. For some reason people tend to forget that, and the Eagles believe that Bradford will somehow both stay healthy and produce. Personally, I have a tough time believing this. Offensively, the Eagles will have to rely on Demarco Murray, but it will be tougher after the Eagles cut their best offensive lineman, pro bowl guard, Evan Mathis. Their defense will be solid with the additions of Maxwell and Alonso, but they will have trouble making enough stops to support that offense.
19. Houston Texans 2014: 9-7
The Houston Texans are another team with a very promising defense but have an offense that will struggle due to poor quarterback play. The first thing that has to be mentioned when talking about the Houston Texans is the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt and that very strong front seven that he leads. Watt and that defense will carry Houston throughout the entire season, especially with the additions of Vince Wilfork from New England, rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest, and a potentially healthy Jadeveon Clowney. Houston was 16th in the league last year in defense, but they should improve even more this year with all of those additions. The thing that is worrisome about the Texans is their offense. They are currently undergoing a quarterback battle in camp between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer. As a Patriots fan I have seen more than enough of both Mallett and Hoyer in my lifetime to tell you that these two are not going to take this team anywhere far in the playoffs. They also lost Andre Johnson to the Colts, and Arian Foster to a groin injury. Expect Alfred Blue and DeAndre Hopkins to carry the offense early while Houston figures out their quarterback situation and Foster gets healthy.
18. St. Louis Rams
The Rams are a team that are really interesting. I think St. Louis got a steal in the trade they made with Philadelphia because Nick Foles is much more developed and proven than Sam Bradford. They drafted Todd Gurley 10th overall in this years draft, who could dominate this league once he becomes healthy. Gurley is a combo back with power and speed. He can run between the tackles and run over defenders, and he can also run off tackle and outside because he has that breakaway speed that he proved both as a running back and kick returner at Georgia. Gurley rushed for 36 touchdowns in two and a half years at Georgia and many of those were more than 40 yards. While Gurley recovers from that ACL injury, the Rams also have a solid option in Tre Mason to take on the load. Their receiving core, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Jared Cook should help Foles out. Their defense is improving off of its 17th rank last season, as they return two studs on the line in Robert Quinn and Chris Long. They have Alec Ogletree who is developing at the linebacker position, Mark Barron and Janoris Jenkins in the secondary, and they added Nick Fairley to make that defensive line even better. The problem with the Rams is the NFC is really good and getting better, and right now, I personally believe that they are not quite there to become a playoff team.
17. Miami Dolphins 2014: 8-8
The Dolphins continue to improve every year by winning the offseason, and they did that once again this year. They went out, and they signed one of, if not the best defensive tackles in the game, Ndamukong Suh, who had 8.5 sacks last season. They added Suh to a defensive line that already consists of Cameron Wake who had 11.5 sacks last season, and Olivier Vernon who had 6.5 sacks last season. They have Brent Grimes to lead their secondary, and they will look to improve upon their 12th rank in total defense from a season ago. They have an improving Ryan Tannehill, who is getting more and more weapons after the drafting of DeVante Parker out of Louisville, and the signings of Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings to go along with Jarvis Landry. There are a lot of promising things about the Dolphins, but they are ranked so low because they are not a playoff team yet. They are not going to beat out the Patriots in the AFC East, and they are not better than the Ravens, Steelers, Bengals, or the Chargers, who the Dolphins will have to contend with for a wild card spot. Therefore, I think the Dolphins are a couple of years away, but they will have plenty of opportunities to prove me wrong this year.
16. Kansas City Chiefs 2014: 9-7
The Chiefs are another team with a good defense and a mediocre quarterback. However, there is one thing I like about their mediocre quarterback, he’s a very good game manager. Alex Smith is not going to go out there week in and week out and rip apart defenses, but Alex Smith will almost always make the right decision, whether it's in putting his line in the right protection, making the correct audibles and reads, and making the right throws and limiting turnovers. Alex Smith only threw 18 touchdowns last year, but he only threw 6 interceptions. Smith was given a lot of grief last year for not throwing a touchdown to a wideout the entire year, and I know that is horrible for an NFL quarterback, but still, Smith was making the correct decisions. He has an emerging tight end in Travis Kelce and an All-pro running back in Jamaal Charles to go along with that very talented defense that was 7th in total defense last season. Look for Kansas City to compete for one of those wild card spots in the AFC.
15. San Diego Chargers 2014: 9-7
The Chargers are a team that will always be able to compete for a wild card spot because they have Philip Rivers, who recently signed a new deal worth $83.25 million and has $65 million guaranteed. Rivers had 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions last year, and he has solid options in Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead, and newly drafted Melvin Gordon. Rivers’ biggest problem is that in big games he tries to do too much to make things happen and he ends up forcing a lot of balls, which is why he had such high number of interceptions and the Chargers always have a tough time in those big games. Their defense is lead by All-Pro safety Eric Weddle, as well as Brandon Flowers, and has emerging players Jason Verrett, Melvin Ingram, and Manti Te’o. The Chargers will have a tough time with the Broncos in the AFC West but like the Chiefs, they will compete for a wild card spot in the AFC.
14. New York Giants
The Giants are a team that I really like heading into the 2015 season. Eli Manning had a career year in 2014 with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He had emerging superstar Odell Beckham Jr. take over the NFL with his freakish hands, great speed and playmaking abilities. He is getting Victor Cruz back from a knee injury as well, and with Beckham on the other side, expect Cruz to face more one on one coverage in the slot, and expect him to take advantage of that. They also signed Shane Vereen, who is a great receiving running back, and who will help Manning out in the check down, and will reduce the number of times he forces balls, which is something he has had a problem with in the past. The Giants biggest question mark comes from their defense. They were 29th in total defense last year and allowed 25 points per game, something that they need to improve greatly if they want to compete for a playoff spot. They made a nice start by firing Perry Fewell, and hiring Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive coordinator for the Giants back in 2007 when they shut down that undefeated Patriots team in the Super Bowl. On defense, they have Prince Amukamara, who is coming off of his best season as a pro, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a rookie Landon Collins, and a four-fingered Jason Pierre-Paul. I predict that the Giants will be a serious contender for a playoff spot in the NFC.
13. Minnesota Vikings 2014: 7-9
The Vikings are another team that I really like to compete for a playoff spot in the NFC. The biggest thing that happened to the Vikings this offseason was the return of Adrian Peterson, arguably the best running back in the NFL. Peterson will make this offense so much more dynamic, especially now considering they have a legitimate quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater is entering his second year, after starting 13 games last season for the Vikings, having 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and a 85.2 passer rating in 2014. Bridgewater is poised for a breakout year in 2015 after proving that he can handle the pressure of being a starter, and that he can make the plays necessary to win some football games. His weapons consist of Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Wallace, and Kyle Rudolph. Patterson and Wallace will both have chips on their shoulders after unexpectedly down years in 2014, and once again the return of Peterson will take some of the pressure off of Bridgewater. Minnesota was 14th in total defense a year ago, and they drafted Trae Waynes. Xavier Rhodes coming back for his second year, so expect that secondary to be much improved despite having some growing pains.
12. Arizona Cardinals 2014: 11-5
Arizona started 9-0 in 2014 and then lost Carson Palmer to a torn ACL and finished 2-5, ending their season with a loss to the Panthers in the wild card game. My guess is, they probably would have beaten Carolina last year had Palmer stayed healthy, but they had to go with Ryan Lindley and his incompetence turned out costly. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they are getting Carson Palmer back this season. Palmer is similar to Alex Smith in terms of the fact that he’s a solid game manager, does not make mistakes and relies on that solid defense. He has Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, a returning Andre Ellington, and an emerging John Brown out of the slot. Their secondary is solid, led by Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Their d-line is still talented after losing Dockett, as they still have Calais Campbell. The Cardinals will compete for a playoff spot once again this year.
11. Cincinnati Bengals 2014: 10-5-1
The Bengals are a team that will consistently be playoff contenders with Andy Dalton at quarterback. However, that is the farthest I believe that Dalton can take them. Dalton is a quarterback who is capable of putting up big numbers with A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, but he has trouble making smart decisions all the time. He has high interception numbers and he puts his defense in bad situations at times. Their defense is led by their d-line with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, and they have Leon Hall and Dre Kirkpatrick anchoring the secondary. The Bengals are also in the tough AFC North with the Steelers and Ravens, so expect them to compete but have a tough time with those two teams.
Look forward to Part 3 coming out soon!