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NFL Power Rankings - Panthers Rule
Chris Pokorny June 27, 2006
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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It's only the offseason, but the preseason will be here before you know it. After the season ended, the draft took place, and minicamp passed, it's time for the first edition of our offseason Power Rankings. Despite the fact that a single game has not been played since the Pro Bowl, several teams have either moved up or down on our chart. One team that has soared? You'll find them first on our list - the Carolina Panthers. Many people are picking them as their early Super Bowl favorites, and it's very difficult to disagree.

On the other side of the extreme, the San Francisco 49ers find themselves at the bottom of the list, which is good news for the Houston Texans, who spent almost the entire season their last year. Several teams made it tough to rank them for a few reasons. In the Dolphins case, can Culpepper stay consistent? For the Bengals, will Carson Palmer be ready? For the Bears, why didn't they improve their offense? Read on for our first rankings of the 2006-2007 NFL season. These rankings were made on June 27th, 2006, marking the first offseason Power Rankings by PFCritics.

Rank Team Comment
1 - Keyshawn Johnson. It may not seem like a big deal, but watch how everything falls into place once 100% of the opposing team's defense isn't focused on Steve Smith.
2 - Personally, I don't think the Steelers will hold on to the second ranking a few weeks into the season. However, unless a team dismantles their players after winning a Super Bowl, how can you justify putting them lower than the top two?
3 - Losing Edgerrin James isn't easy to swallow, but the Colts hope to prove that the system Manning has in place will be just as effective with Joseph Addai.
4 - Don't worry about the Broncos running game, because even if Eric Crouch played the position, he'd gain over a 1,000 yards. The addition of Javon Walker was outstanding, and the Broncos have earned the right to be considered a contender before the season starts.
5 - Losing Steve Hutchinson is never easy, especially when the Seahawks running game was so strong with him. On top of that, Joe Jurevicius, a receiver who finally had good hands for a Seattle team, is gone. Besides that though, there's nothing stopping the Seahawks from easily being the second-best team in the NFC.
6 - Many people are ranking the Bengals low, in the belief that Carson Palmer will miss a few games. That makes them very tough to rank, so understand that I decided to rank them based upon the chance that he will be ready to play by Week 1.
7 - Besides the kicker, what's so different about the Patriots heading into this year compared to the Patriots that won their last Super Bowl? On top of that, they've added the best receiver in the draft, Chad Jackson, and one of the top running backs in Laurence Maroney.
8 - On one hand, you could see the Daunte Culpepper that was atrocious last year, looking clueless on every play. On the other hand, you have the Daunte Culpepper that puts up MVP-like numbers. Combine the second hand with the fact that the Dolphins were the best team in the league the second half of last year, and this team could finally make the playoffs.
9 - I'm somewhat hesitant on the belief that Mark Brunell can repeat his performance from last season, but I'm taking the chance. With the additions of Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Llyod on offense, the Redskins were the only defensive-only type of team to make an attempt to improve a sometimes lackluster offense.
10 - Larry Johnson will be the starting running back, and could challenge Shaun Alexander for the rushing title this year. The team's defense isn't great still, but this will be the year where the Chiefs offense outperforms the massive amount of points they give up.
11 - Last year, Eli Manning was horribly inconsistent during several contests. He will mature a little more this year, and considering the team's massively improves linebacking group, the Giants will be very strong this year.
12 - Jimmy Smith retired on a team where he was probably the best offensive weapon. The Jaguars offense wasn't even that great to begin with, so they'll have to hope their defense carries them yet again.
13 - The Buccaneers didn't make a whole lot of improvements offensively, but unlike the Bears, they've shown potential with what they already have. Chris Simms still has to prove he has enough skill to lead this team.
14 - The addition of Terrell Owens sounds great for the Cowboys, but the real question is whether or not he can finally "behave" and bond with his teammates. We all know the answer to that is "no", so we'll just have to wait and see when the trouble begins.
15 - Last year, the Chargers were the best team that didn't make the playoffs due to several upsets. This year will be somewhat of a learning process for Phillip Rivers, but they still have a shot at a wildcard.
16 - Why are the Bears ranked so low? Without question, their defense was fantastic last season. However, that's the only thing they've improved upon. Why not improve their offense instead, so they can be relatively dominant on the offensive side of the ball too?
17 - Reality is starting to sink in for Atlanta fans: Michael Vick has to become a quarterback if they're going to move beyond average again.
18 - The Vikings came on strong at the end of last season, but are they really anything better than average? Most of the games that they won during that stretch were not really dominant, they just...won.
19 - Steve McNair sounds like an outstanding pickup for the Ravens, especially since he will be re-united with Derrick Mason. Here's the problem though: Once McNair gets injured as he usually does, it's right back to Kyle Boller. Yikes.
20 - The Rams did horrible last year, but don't forget that they could actually succeed without Mike Martz calling in plays. Bulger will be healthy again, and their offensive weapons from years past will be back to go along with an improved secondary.
21 - Cleveland gets the vote as the team that did the best job in free agency, snagging the best center on the market as well as Joe Jurevicius, someone who has been a consistent offensive player in the NFL. Kellen Winslow will be back, but the team will miss Braylon Edwards for about six weeks.
22 - The Cardinals have a chance to upset the league and be the surprise of the year. Ironically, I said the same exact thing about them last year, as did everyone else. They've got a Colts like offense now though, with three solid receivers and Edgerrin James in the backfield.
23 - There is no way the Packers will duplicate their injury-filled season from last year, but on the same hand, they haven't improved a lot either. In fact, Favre will be without Javon Walker. I agree with his decision not to retire, but unless this team finds outstanding chemistry under the new coaching staff, they won't make the playoffs.
24 - The past few years, Jeff Fisher's teams have fought very hard, but lacked experience. Their experience is growing, and they've added two players that could be the future of this team (and even make an impact this year) in LenDale White and Vince Young.
25 - It'll be nice to have Donovan McNabb back, but the Eagles still do not have a go-to-guy for him to throw to. On top of that, it won't help that Terrell Owens will be dying to cause havoc on them twice a year.
26 - Craig Nall, Kelly Holcomb, and J.P. Losman will battle it out for the starting quarterback job. Holcomb would give them the most success, but he'd get injured by Week 6 if he was named the starter. The other two quarterbacks would probably be third stringers on other teams.
27 - What a mess this team has turned in to after their Super Bowl season. Kerry Collins, who underachieved, is gone. Now, he is replaced by Aaron Brooks, a career underachiever. It doesn't seem like this team is going to do much better this year.
28 - The Lions organization deserves a boost in the rankings for the simple fact that Joey Harrington is finally GONE. It took them look enough to give up on the guy. Things are better now, but not drastically - do you really think Jon Kitna or Josh McCown are the saviors?
29 - The Saints will definitely be better this season after Hurricane Katrina basically put their season on hold last year. Also, the Saints have finally cleaned house and added some impact players in Drew Brees and Reggie Bush.
30 - Reggie Bush will definitely...what? Ah, yes, that's right, they selected Mario Williams instead. I still question the move, but Williams will make an equal impact as a defensive player in the long run.
31 - Who is going to be the Jets starting quarterback? Will we suffer through another season where Pennington's shoulder aches, and has to be benched because of it? That, plus the fact that Curtis Martin continues to age puts the Jets at the bottom of the AFC.
32 - Alex Smith threw one lonely touchdown last year. The 49ers will certainly benefit from the editions of Vernon Davis and Manny Lawson, but they still have several years to go before they can even think about playoff contention.

Do you have an opinion on this article? Do you want direct fantasy football advice from one of our writers? You can e-mail us at pokorny@pfcritics.com. Be sure to label your subject line appropriately so we don't think it is spam. Please include your name (can be a screename), city and state. We guarantee a response to any questions or comments you have, and will publish them in our next mailbag session if appropriate.

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