ADVERTISEMENT

Mark Craig's NFC power rankings

  • September 8, 2012 - 6:09 PM

NFC POWER RANKINGS

1. Packers

Defending league MVP Aaron Rodgers carried a defenseless team to a 15-2 mark. Using their first six draft picks on defenders should help the Packers boost that side of the ball.

2. Cowboys

It's always risky picking the Cowboys to be good. That's usually when Tony Romo lets you down. But this team is loaded with even more talent after an offseason spending spree on the secondary.

3. Giants

Yes, Eli is an elite quarterback. No, Tom Coughlin isn't on the hot seat. Winning two Super Bowls in five years does wonders for perceptions, don't 'cha think?

4. 49ers

This could be a letdown season because no way Alex Smith plays as error-free as he did a year ago. However, the defense is too good to let San Francisco fall too far.

5. Saints

Yeah, Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma were suspended for the year. But Drew Brees wasn't. Plus, the Saints have a built-in motivator to carry them through the season.

6. Eagles

Some of us got suckered by last year's Dream Team hoopla. But now that they're a sleeper pick, we'll project the Iggles as a playoff team.

7. Bears

The strength of the NFC East makes it tough for the Bears to come out of the North as a wild-card team. Jay Cutler and the offense will be outstanding, but the defense has the usual age-related issues.

8. Panthers

With their health returning on defense, the Panthers should have a winning record and contend for a playoff spot behind second-year QB Cam Newton.

9. Falcons

Atlanta is coming off consecutive playoff berths for the first time in franchise history. But franchise QB Matt Ryan still is looking for his first playoff victory. So let's all chill on the "Matty Ice" nickname.

10. Lions

Everyone feels good about the Lions after their first playoff berth since 1999. It was the best offensive season ever and 21 starters return overall. Maybe it's an old habit, but does anyone else sense a Motown letdown?

11. Cardinals

Defense is what carried the Cardinals to a 7-2 finish after a 1-6 start a year ago. If the QB position gets straightened out -- a big if -- receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. could help carry Arizona into the playoffs.

12. Rams

Jeff Fisher, who won 147 games with Houston/Tennessee, and QB Sam Bradford is a combination that should get the Rams turned around quickly. But it could take a year.

13. Vikings

The Vikings should be better than they were last year. Of course, that's not saying much. Anyone who claims they know which direction Christian Ponder's career will end up is purely guessing.

14. Seahawks

Sorry, but it's hard to believe Russell Wilson or Matt Flynn is the answer at quarterback. This is the same outfit that put its trust in Tarvaris Jackson last year.

15. Buccaneers

One of last year's most disappointing teams collapsed after winning 10 games in 2010. Six of the Bucs' final nine losses last year were by double digits. Coach Greg Schiano will need at least a year to turn it around.

16. Redskins

Playing in one of the league's toughest divisions will make Robert Griffin III's transition to the NFL much more difficult in Washington than Luck's transition in Indianapolis. Washington's last NFC East title: 1999.

MARK CRAIG

© 2014 Star Tribune