Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Pre-Season Rankings 2006

ESPN’s staff has ranked the 32 NFL teams heading into training camp. Not surprisingly, the Steelers and Seahawks are the top two teams. Readers might be surprised, though, to see how those teams are ordered given how the Super Bowl went.

We’re pretty sure it won’t make Steelers fans happy, but the Seahawks open on top after coming up just short in 2005. These rankings were compiled from seven members of’s football staff. Each of the seven ranked the teams from 1-32, and the average of those rankings was used to determine our offseason Power Rankings. Of our seven voters, three had Seattle No. 1, three had the Steelers No. 1 and one had the Colts in the top spot.

The Seahawks lost some key players in G Steve Hutchinson and WR Joe Jurevicius, but most importantly they were able to re-sign the NFL’s reigning MVP, RB Shaun Alexander. Losing Hutchinson will hurt, but don’t expect it to have too much of an impact on Alexander. He might not be able to match last season’s amazing numbers (1,880 yards rushing and 28 TDs), but he’ll be in the neighborhood.

As for the Steelers, they lost some key players this offseason (Antwaan Randle El, Chris Hope, Kimo von Oelhoffen). But assuming Ben Roethlisberger really is ready when the season starts, Pittsburgh will be fine. Big Ben is the key at this point. All the reports are positive, but he obviously suffered some major injuries to his face, and until he gets back on the field we really won’t know what kind of an impact it might have on his season.

A number of teams made big moves from the last time we ranked them (after Week 17). The Cowboys made perhaps the offseason’s biggest move, signing Terrell Owens, and jumped from No. 16 in our final rankings to No. 7 this offseason. The Dolphins, who finished 2005 on a six-game winning streak, moved all the way up to No. 8 (from No. 14) and look poised to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East. Assuming he’s healthy, Daunte Culpepper gives the Dolphins the top-flight QB they’ve lacked since Dan Marino left town.

The top 10:

NFL Pre-Season Rankings 2006 1 (2) 	Seahawks 	13-3-0 	Super Bowl losers have struggled in recent years, but the Hawks appear equipped for another run.<br />
	2 (6) 	Steelers 	11-5-0 	Obviously the injuries to Ben Roethlisberger weren't as serious as they could have been. But as much work as it sounded like he needed on his face, it's not going to be an easy road back.<br />
	3 (1) 	Colts 	14-2-0 	With the versatile Edgerrin James now in the desert, Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai have big shoes to fill.<br />
	4 (3) 	Broncos 	13-3-0 	Between Jay Cutler and Javon Walker, they've brought in their QB-WR tandem of the future.<br />
	5 (9) 	Panthers 	11-5-0 	There's some question about how Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Smith will get along. As much as both guys want the ball, they also want to win and the Panthers should do enough of that in '06 to keep both WRs happy.<br />
	6 (4) 	Patriots 	10-6-0 	Yes, the Pats lost some key players this offseason. But are you really ready to hand the AFC East to someone else with Brady and Belichick still at the wheel?<br />
	7 (16) 	Cowboys 	9-7-0 	Dallas' offseason was all about T.O. If Owens is the player he was in his first season in Philly (77 receptions for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs), Dallas could be very good.<br />
	8 (14) 	Dolphins 	9-7-0 	If Daunte Culpepper is as healthy as it sounds, the Dolphins got a steal in getting him for a second-round pick.<br />
	9 (8) 	Bengals 	11-5-0 	Tough offseason for the Bengals with all the off-the-field issues. On the field it's pretty simple -- Cincinnati's season rests on the health of Carson Palmer's left knee.<br />
	10 (12) 	Redskins 	10-6-0 	Will this offseason's free-agent spending spree be the one that finally pays off for the Redskins?

What’s particularly interesting to me, as a Cowboys fan, is that, not only is a team that finished last year 9-7 and out of the playoffs listed at #7, that’s the case despite three of the NFC East’s four teams ranked in the top 11 (Redskins #10, Giants #11) and the 4th (the Eagles) a respectable #18. Finishing that strong despite playing against one another would be impressive, indeed.

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You don’t have the Bears on your Top 10!? These rankings are horrible…

Posted by George | July 29, 2006 | 07:40 pm | Permalink

the bears have no offense and will not make the playoffs this year. p.s.-you just lost Cedric Benson.

Posted by joel | August 5, 2006 | 12:22 pm | Permalink

What about the Chiefs? Maybe not in the top 10, but I think there may a defense improvement this year and these may lead to AFC West dominance. I don�t believe the Broncos will be as good as #4 on the Top 10.

P.S other than that.. This a good analysis


Posted by Eli | August 8, 2006 | 03:39 pm | Permalink

Those bums in dallas will have a season of chaos and misery all due to that poison cancer owens. Their quarterback will be a sitting duck because he has the mobility of a cigar store Indian.The eagles will win the division.That’s right! You heard it first

Posted by Tim Brown | September 1, 2006 | 08:52 pm | Permalink

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