NFL Power Rankings: 21-32
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21. Detroit Lions
Mathew Stafford has to stay healthy. Get used to reading that sentence in every piece about the Lions. They’re hardly “all set” on defense but they’re getting there.
22. Minnesota Vikings
The defense isn’t what it was in ’09 but there’s plenty left. If it weren’t for that one, bothersome need for a quarterback, we might have something here.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
With three weeks to go, they controlled their destiny in the division. Then they finished 8-8 and drafted a quarterback. It could be a long year. It could also be a 10-6 season. The Jags are like that. But drafting a first round QB when you’re already paying big bucks at the position is never a good sign.
24. San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh oozes leadership and it’s easy to imagine him doing good things as an NFL coach. But not this year.
25. Cleveland Browns
They have a solid ground game and Colt McCoy is, at the very least, interesting. Pat Shurmur is their 3rd coach in four years. There’s some talent here but there’s more in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and maybe even (gasp) Cincinnati.
26. Arizona Cardinals
Hard to believe a year ago we were talking about them going for a third straight division title with Matt Leinart taking over. Ken Whisenhunt is now employing his third defensive coordinator since taking over in 2007. A deal for Kevin Kolb could get them in the race in the NFC West.
27. Washington Redskins
It didn’t work out with Donovan McNabb. Rex Grossman and John Beck will battle for the QB job. Mike Shanahan is 30-34 since Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith left his side.
28. Tennessee Titans
With a coaching change and a rookie quarterback in Jake Locker, this is going to be a trying season. The pluses include Chris Johnson and a defense that’s still peppered with useful players. You could make a case that they should be ranked higher.
29. Denver Broncos
John Fox didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. Kyle Orton can still contribute. But this isn’t going to happen overnight.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
Even though Palmer, Ocho and T.O. are out, there are still some groceries left in the cupboard of a team that won the division just 19 months ago. But there’s way too much work to do at quarterback to give them much hope.
31. Buffalo Bills
Their defense has not exactly drawn comparisons to the ‘85 Bears. And Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t make anyone forget about Jim Kelly or Joe Ferguson. They went 4-4 down the stretch but are 1-11 in the AFC East the last two years. Ouch.
32. Carolina Panthers
They play in the tough NFC South and have a rookie quarterback that few people think will come out of the gate hot. My friend John McClain wonders if they will take Andrew Luck if they end up with the number one pick again.