|By Rule, Matt Ryan's nickname is ineligible to be used on BDT until he actually wins something or does something to deserve it. Until then, he's Matty Ryan....and that's it.|
Here's Part 3 of the NFL Future Power Rankings! Finally! After over a week!
Starting with #16, we look at a diverse group of teams featuring several up and comers, and a few surprises...as well as a personal favorite of mine. In case you missed teams 32-17, here they are:
16. New York Jets
The Good – Two straight AFC Championship game appearances, the best CB in the NFL, a strong running game, a loud-mouthed coach who unfortunately knows what he’s doing…yeah, there’s plenty to like about this team. Much like their other ‘Not Actually New York’ counterpart, the positives start with the defense. Darrelle Revis is the best cover corner in football. At only 26 years old, he should have plenty left in the tank. If that wasn’t enough, 27 year old David Harris is easily one of the most underrated LB’s in the game. Along with Antonio Cromartie, and several others, the Jets should have one of the best defensive units in the league for several years down the road.
The Bad – Mark Freaking Sanchez. He sucks, pure and simple. There’s no sugar coating it, no rationalizations to be made, no nothing. He sucks. 54.8% completions is simply not gonna cut it in the NFL, especially when you have Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Dustin Keller at your disposal. It won’t be long before the Jets realize they whiffed on Sanchez, and when the transition begins, mediocrity will reign supreme.
Summary – This is one where I will either look completely stupid or I’ll look really smart. Right now, the Jets are a somewhat hot pick after a second consecutive trip to the AFC Championship game. Unfortunately, a lot of the optimism is predicated on Sanchez’s development. As you might have already gathered, I’m basing my prediction on his lack of development…you know, because he doesn’t actually have any skills other than attracting 17 year old chicks.
15. Cleveland Browns
The Good – COLT!!! Perhaps I’m blinded by my huge man-love for Colt McCoy – and I am – but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. McCoy had his ups and downs during his rookie season, but his poise was undeniable. After essentially being guaranteed to not play the entire season, McCoy was thrown into a really tough situation, being thrown into action for a 1-4 team and facing the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though his stats for that game and the season weren’t terribly overwhelming, the fact that he led the Browns to victories over New England and New Orleans, along with razor thin losses to the Jets, Jaguars, and Bengals is more than impressive. He still has a lot to prove, but I’m sold. Overall, Mike Holmgren has a proven track record of success, and his early work in Cleveland suggests good times are coming. When he arrived, the Browns featured Derek Anderson at QB and a fat drug dealer at RB. Now, they have an answer at QB, the Madden cover athlete at RB, and a promising young secondary. And that was just the first offseason.
The Bad – They play in Cleveland, and we all know Cleveland is where sports goes to die. Also, Peyton Hillis is on the cover of Madden, and we all know that’s where football players go to die. So that’s not good. Also, the Browns utter lack of anything resembling a WR is disturbing, to say the least. It’s hard to ask McCoy to take a major step forward when he has to throw to homeless guys picked off the streets of Cleveland.
Summary – I guess I’m hedging a bit on my Browns optimism, but I can’t shake the feeling that they’re on the way up. I like what Mike Holmgren has done in a very short time, and after the big Julio Jones trade, they’ll have plenty more draft picks to work with. Eventually, they’ll have to address their glaring hole at WR. Maybe Greg Little is a major piece, maybe he’s not. Either way, there’s work left to do, but having a young QB like McCoy sure is a great start.
14. Baltimore Ravens
The Good – The Ravens have been a model of consistency for quite awhile now. Having a young, established QB/RB duo like Joe Flacco/Ray Rice gives them a large measure of stability. Overall, they have a lot of talent currently on the team. The defense is anchored by 27 year old Haloti Ngata, and the organization has a penchant for plugging in young players to fill holes.
The Bad – It’s one thing to plug in a replacement for Bart Scott or Adalius Thomas…it’s a totally different thing to replace Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Soon (very soon) they’ll be faced with that HUGE task. Lewis and Reed have been, perhaps, the best at their respective positions over the last decade plus. It goes deeper than that, though. Those two WERE the Baltimore Ravens. They embodied the style of play, they set the tone for the entire team. Even in a great draft, you just don’t replace Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Good luck Baltimore!
Summary – The Ravens have enough young talent to remain a playoff contender for the long haul, but the days of 11 or more wins every season will soon be behind them. Thus far, Checkdown Joe has yet to develop into an elite QB. At this point, I highly doubt that will ever happen, and without an elite defense backing them up, there’s no way the Ravens can compete with the elite in the NFL.
13. Kansas City Chiefs
The Good – Somehow, despite winning their division in 2010, the Chiefs remain a very undervalued team. They may very well have played a bit over their heads last season, but that doesn’t mean the future isn’t bright. Fact is, the Chiefs are loaded with young, up and coming stars – especially on defense. Eric Berry, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, and Javier Arenas are all 28 and under. They form the core of what could be one of the league’s top defenses for years to come. Offensively, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare either. Jamaal Charles has already established himself as one of the league’s most dynamic RB’s. It sorta seems like he’s been in the league for years, but he’s actually only 25! Dwayne Bowe, 27, is coming off his breakout season, and the team recently brought in Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin to ease his burden. There’s a lot of talent on board, and top notch personnel man Scott Pioli is sure to keep it coming.
The Bad – Matt Cassel just had the year of his life, posting an absurd 1.6% INT rate. For some perspective on that, Tom Brady’s career INT rate is 2.2%...so yeah, Cassel’s was REALLY low. On the surface, a QB who throws 27TD’s to only 7INT’s is a clear cut franchise guy. But, is Cassel really that guy? After watching him against Baltimore in the playoffs, I’m leaning heavily towards no. If that weren’t enough, the Chiefs “breakout” 10 win season is a bit fluky as well. Their own division was pretty bad to begin with, and they were blessed with the NFC West, the Browns, the Texans, the Jaguars, the Bills, and the Titans. In all honesty, it’s a bit disappointing they only won 10 games!
Summary – Kansas City is heading in the right direction, but I think there’s a definite ceiling on their progress as long as Cassel is the QB. I like him, I really do – but there is no way he’s in the same ball park as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Ben Roethlisberger. Unless the defense morphs into the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, this team is forever stuck as a second class citizen.
12. Houston Texans
The Good – Well, now that Peyton Manning is officially dead, someone has to win this division, right? Obviously the Jaguars aren’t going to do it. And the Future Jake Locker’s definitely aren’t either (unless they are the Future Andrew Luck’s or the Future Landry Jones’). That leaves one team. As crazy as it sounds, the Texans are the model of continuity in this division (I just threw up in my mouth saying this). Matt Schaub has established himself as a borderline top 10 QB in the NFL, and the supporting cast of Andre Johnson and Arian Foster form the core of an explosive offense. Even with Johnson in his very early 30’s, there’s no reason to think the Texans’ offense won’t be humming for the next half decade or so.
The Bad – Wade Freaking Phillips. As a Cowboys fan, I am qualified to speak on this. He’s old, he’s fat, and he’s very, very confused. All the time. The Texans defense was historically bad last season, so naturally they sought to remedy this by hiring Wade. His big move? Shifting Pro Bowl DE Mario Williams to OLB, a position that almost certainly neutralized his talents. Sounds like a winner.
Summary – We all keep thinking that someday, someday, the Texans will cash in on their fantastic talent. To this point, it has yet to happen. Still, the AFC South has never been more wide open. If ever the Texans are going to make their move, this is the year. If this really is the end for Manning, the Texans could be in a fantastic position to control the division for several years down the road.
11. Detroit Lions
The Good – I’m sure I’ll catch a ton of heat for putting the Lions this high, but I really like the direction they’re going. After years and years of utter incompetence from the front office (hello, Matt Millen), the Lions finally have a real GM and a real coach. The tandem of Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz has slowly transformed the 0-16 joke of the league into a trendy playoff pick…in only 3 offseasons! While I have to see them win before I can crown them, I certainly can acknowledge their upward trend. Ndamukong Suh is THE best young defensive player in football. Period. I can talk about him, Cliff Avril, Stephen Tulloch, and Louis Delmas all day; but it’s their ferocity and attitude that impresses me the most. They really look like they want to hurt you on every single play, and I love that. Offensively, the presence of former #1 pick Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson gives them a chance to be an explosive offense. One of the top young teams in the league, folks. No joke.
The Bad – I would make some wise crack about Detroit here, but for the sanity of all Lions fans, I’ll pass. Seriously though, the entire thing depends on health. As good as Stafford has looked, he can’t be a franchise QB if he’s at home in a sling. Two season, two trips to the IR…not a good thing. He’s not the only injury concern. Calvin Johnson has played a full 16 game slate only once in four years, and Jahvid Best is a concussion (or other random injury) waiting to happen. Dealing with injuries to a right guard is one thing, but dealing with injuries to your star QB, Pro Bowl WR, and starting RB is absolutely crippling.
Summary – This is a really big year for Detroit, as they have an opportunity to make a huge statement to the rest of the league. Given the stability (and competence) at the top, filling their remaining personnel holes shouldn’t be a major issue. As long as Stafford stays upright and studly, they have their cornerstones already figured out. Not many teams can say that…unfortunately, one of those teams happens to be the division rival Packers. There’s always the Wild Card!
10. Dallas Cowboys
The Good – I know people talk about this every single year, but there really is a ton of talent on this team. Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff…the list of stud players in their prime goes on and on. Even 2010 underperformers like Mike Jenkins and Felix Jones could feasibly have monster comeback seasons in 2011! I know how clichéd it sounds, but there really is no substitute for talent. The Cowboys have it, and that makes them dangerous. In addition, the Cowboys amazing stadium and unlimited resources make them a destination target for future players. We’ll see what they can do with all the talent, but at least it’s there.
The Bad – Management. Pure and simple. Given the aforementioned resources and talent, there is literally no reason this team shouldn’t have been competing for Super Bowls every single year. Yet, here we are, coming off a horrific 6 win season. Totally unacceptable. Ever since his much publicized spat with Jimmy Johnson, Plastic Face Jerry has turned into a total dictator when it comes to running the football operations. Unfortunately, he more closely resembles Al Davis than Bill Belichik. As he gets older, I’m terrified this will only get worse, resulting in him actually morphing into Al Davis…jogging suit, face barnacles and all.
Summary – Even as I place my beloved Cowboys into the top ten, I am preparing myself for further heartbreak. Every time I get my hopes up, they crush my spirit and make me want to abandon football altogether. Maybe I’m a sadist, but I keep coming back for more. Bias aside, the objective side of me sees a team that is fully loaded and ready to make a run. I will now go drown myself in a pool of my own tears.
9. Atlanta Falcons
The Good – Matt Ryan. After a disappointing second season, Ryan rebounded with a strong 2010, leading the Falcons to the #1 overall seed in the NFC. His biggest weapon, Roddy White, is only 30 and is coming off an incredible 115 catch season. All in all, Ritch McKay has done an excellent job of building this team. They have great balance in their offense, a strong defense, and a young core. Above all, they have what most other franchises covet the most, a young franchise QB.
The Bad – The Falcons are a really trendy Super Bowl pick at this point, so I’m going against the grain by putting them at #9…especially in a Futures ranking when Matt Ryan is the QB! Here’s the thing. The Falcons weren’t exceptionally great last year, and neither was Matt Ryan. It’s a myth! Their expected W-L record, based on their points scored vs. points allowed, was actually only 11-5. The major contributing factor to their “extra” 2 wins was a fantastic (albeit lucky) +14 turnover margin. Also, the Falcons were an astounding 7-2 in games decided by a TD or less. As Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com has continually pointed out, those are all non-sustainable figures. As for Matt Ryan, his exceptionally low INT rate (likely to rise) made him appear better than he was. What isn’t mentioned is his below average Y/A+ figure (91), and his lower-than-you-would-think QB Rating of 91.0. He’s certainly good, but let’s not lump him in with Rodgers and Brady just yet, OK? Finally, John Abraham represents their only pass rush threat, and he’s 67 years old now. So there’s that.
Summary – I talked about a lot more bad than good, but that’s because you’ve all probably been inundated with more Falcons love than you know what to do with. I’m more than willing to eat my words if they go crazy and win the Super Bowl this year, but there’s no evidence to suggest they are that type of team. I love Matt Ryan, but I don’t think he’s the type of guy to put a team on his back. Given that, this team will be depending heavily on a RB with high mileage, an over 30 WR, and a senior citizen as their only pass rusher. And no, I’m not putting Julio Jones in the HOF yet…rookie receivers scare the crap out of me.