Final Season Power Rankings
by Nick Ferraro
1. Pittsburgh â€“ the champions head to a victory parade and the offseason with few holes to fill. If they address needs at WR, CB, and RB, they will enter 2006 as the favorites.
2. Indianapolis â€“ the Colts have key free agents to deal with in Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne. James appears to be a lock to leave. The Colts biggest challenge may be getting over the disappointment of how their season ended.
3. Denver â€“ the Broncos appear to be the favorites to add Terrell Owens for better or for worse. They will need to add a pass rusher and offensive line help, as well to get back to the AFC championship game.
4. Seattle â€“ this yearâ€™s also-rans have a solid young nucleus assuming they can come to terms with Shaun Alexander. Adding talent at WR and DL will maintain their status as the NFCs top dog.
5. Carolina â€“ the Panthers inconsistent season left them on the road for the playoffs and too tired to seal the deal on a trip to the Super Bowl. They need to find a durable option at RB and a second option at WR.
6. Cincinnati â€“ the Bengals made huge strides in 2005. Continuing that upward momentum will depend heavily on Carson Palmerâ€™s return from knee surgery. The Bengals need help at DL, CB, and S. They will be the trendy pick in 2006 if Palmer returns healthy
7. New England â€“ the Pats were lucky the rest of the AFC slipped further than they did. Iâ€™m not sure why so much hype surrounded what was an 11-7 team. There are needs on the OL, RB, WR, and CB that, unless addressed, will keep the Pats from contending again in 2006.
8. Chicago â€“ the Bears were this yearâ€™s surprise story. They enter 2006 as a legitimate contender if they can add some help at OL, WR, and TE in the offseason.
9. Tampa Bay â€“ The Bucs have plenty of defense if Chris Simms can improve and if they can upgrade the OL.
10. New York Giants â€“ the Giants have all summer to stew about getting thumped at home in the playoffs. With a few key additions, you have to like NY going into 2006. They may look back at that bitter loss as a key point in their development as a contender. The LB, OL, and WR positions need an upgrade.
11. Washington â€“ the Skins made a valiant charge to close 2005. Their fortunes in 2006 will depend on 2nd year QB Jason Campbell. The OL needs attention, and the Skins are without a 1st-round pick.
12. Kansas City â€“ Herm Edwards will need to improve the defense and not screw up the offense in KC. The Chiefs need help at DL, CB, and WR.
13. San Diego â€“ The Chargers were widely regarded as the best non-playoff team in 2005. That dubious distinction can be avoided in 2006 with help at OL, WR, and CB.
14. Jacksonville â€“ the Jaguars were a product of a dream schedule. They need upgrades at WR, TE, OL, and CB to make me a believer.
15. Miami â€“ six straight wins to close the season have Fish fans chomping at the bit to get 2006 started. The team needs to find a franchise QB and some help on the OL to contend.
16. Dallas â€“ the Cowboys were a disappointment in 2005. Parcells needs to find playmakers on offense that were not on NFL rosters the last time he won a Super Bowl.
17. Minnesota â€“ Brad Johnson did a great job filling in for Daunte Culpepper. Trading Culpepper, however, would work out as bad for Minnesota as the Herschel Walker deal.
18. Atlanta â€“ 2006 will be a pivotal year for Michael Vick and head coach Jim Mora. Their success will hinge on how successful they are in landing some talent for Vick to throw the ball.
19. Baltimore â€“ the Ravens were the biggest disappointment of 2005.Will Kyle Boller get another shot? If he does, he will have a short leash and a veteran QB looking over his shoulder.
20. Philadelphia â€“ there is a great deal of talent left on this roster despite the implosion of 2005. The Eagles will be right back in the mix if they can get help at WR, DL, and LB.
21. St. Louis â€“ the Rams have to keep Bulger on the field for a whole season and find some people who can make plays on defense
22. Cleveland â€“ the Browns did well to notch six wins. Though they are still a year or two away, playing the Browns in 2006 will not be any fun.
23. Detroit â€“ the Lions have to figure out who will play QB in 2006. They are unlikely to get any value for Harrington, so it figures to be him behind the center again. Itâ€™s hard to win with a QB the rest of the team doesnâ€™t like.
24. Buffalo â€“ the JP Losman experiment didnâ€™t work in 2005, but may he may be better prepared for 2006. Losing free agent WR Eric Moulds would be a huge blow. The defense took an unexpected step backward and needs attention in the offseason.
25. Arizona â€“ a new stadium and another high draft pick for the Cardinals. Dennis Green better get it right if he likes living in the desert.
26. New Orleans â€“ the nomadic Saints had little chance to accomplish anything in 2005. They will likely play with a rookie at QB in 2006, so little will be expected again.
27. Green Bay â€“ injuries doomed what may have been Favreâ€™s last season. There is little reason to return for 2006.
28. New York Jets â€“ if it werenâ€™t for bad luck this season, the Jets wouldnâ€™t have any luck at all. Things have to turn around at some point. The Jets need to find a way under the cap to get on with life without Pennington.
29. Oakland â€“ thereâ€™s a head coaching job available for an owner nobody wants to work for on a team that needs help at every position except WR and RB.
30. Tennessee â€“ it would be nice, as well as smart, for the Titans to let McNair play for a team with a chance in 2006.
31. San Francisco â€“ for some reason I like the Ninersâ€™ chances to get things turned around. They need offensive playmakers, but Mike Nolan is a solid coach.
32. Houston â€“ Houston has a shot to turn things around quickly if Reggie Bush is worth the hype. There is talent on this team.