NFL power rankings: Saints holding it down

The first NFL training camps kick off this weekend, so it's time to see where the balance of power lies after another never-ending offseason. The champs top the list, but there are a half dozen teams hot on their tails.

1. Saints: Drew Brees {ridiculous Mardi Gras photo by AP} and the Who Dat Nation hold down the top spot after winning Super Bowl XLIV. To repeat, the Saints will need left tackle Jermon Bushrod, a Towson alum, to shine.


2. Vikings: The Vikings are betting on Brett — and so am I. But even if Favre waffles his way into retirement, the Vikings are still legit.

3. Colts: The Colts have won 12 games or more in seven straight seasons. And they have Peyton Manning — something 31 other teams don't.


4. Cowboys: A popular Super Bowl pick, the Cowboys are loaded on offense. That Dallas defense isn't shabby, either.

5. Ravens: After an up-and-down 9-7 season, the Ravens might have had the league's best offseason (the Anquan Boldin trade was huge). How far they go in 2010 all falls on Joe Flacco.

6. Packers: Led by QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay was on fire down the stretch last season. Sure, the Packers got torched by Kurt Warner in the playoffs, but this is a team to watch in 2010.

7. Jets: Rex Ryan's Jets made a bunch of big-name additions, but they are dangerous because of their young core: CB Darrelle Revis, RB Shonn Greene and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

8. Bengals: It's hard to know which team to expect: the one that went 6-0 in the AFC North or the one that got mauled by the Jets. If Cedric Benson avoids a suspension and plays like he did in 2009, the Bengals should play like the former.

9. Chargers: Star receiver Vincent Jackson and starting left tackle Marcus McNeill are threatening holdouts. That isn't good news for a talented squad trying to break through in the postseason.

10. Falcons: There's a lot to like about the young Falcons. The most likable: quarterback Matt Ryan, who, like Flacco, is trying to join the NFL's elite in his third year in the league.

11. Dolphins: Fear the Fish. The Dolphins added WR Brandon Marshall and LB Karlos Dansby, and Chad Henne, another one of those third-year QBs, is a breakout candidate.

12. Texans: With QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson, the Texans have one of the league's top passing attacks.

13. Patriots: I'm not bold enough to say the Patriots aren't a playoff team, but due to age and injuries, they shouldn't be considered a lock.

14. 49ers: They'll need consistent play from QB Alex Smith to seize the NFC West crown.

15. Steelers: The Steelers are championship caliber, but they have to survive life without Big Ben for a chance to prove it in the playoffs.

16. Giants: The defense was the main reason for last season's Giant letdown. They'll need to fix that or the Tom Coughlin era may soon be over.

17. Titans: I'm not so sure RB Chris Johnson's legs won't fall off after a 358-carry season.

18. Eagles: The Eagles are confident QB Kevin Kolb can win now. Me? Not so much.

19. Bears: Can DE Julius Peppers live up to that $91.5 million deal? Jobs depend on it.

20. Redskins: It will take one heck of a coaching job from Mike Shanahan to tackle the Albert Haynesworth situation and to get the most out of Donovan McNabb and that aging offense.

21. Cardinals: No Warner, no playoffs.

22. Raiders: I'm hitching on the Raiders bandwagon, at least the one that's taking them from laughingstock to mediocrity. Oakland made a smart trade for QB Jason Campbell and had a strong draft. Al Davis is back! OK, maybe not.

23. Panthers: The Panthers lost Peppers, have a QB controversy brewing and don't have much talent at wideout. Carolina will be competitive, as always, but forget about a playoff spot.

24. Seahawks: Seattle is jacked up for the Pete Carroll era. Turning the aging Seahawks around will take time, but I think Carroll, who has a 33-31 career record in the NFL, is up to the task.

25. Lions: The Lions continue to make solid moves up in Motown. Another awesome draft got them DT Ndamukong Suh and RB Jahvid Best, among others. They're not ready to compete, but they're well on their way.

26. Chiefs: This is another franchise stockpiling young talent. I love FS Eric Berry.

27. Jaguars: The Jaguars are a below-average team in one of the NFL's toughest divisions. If they lose Maurice Jones-Drew, it will get real ugly.

28. Broncos: An offensive overhaul was needed, but it will take a couple of years for the Broncos to see what they have in Timmy Tebow.

29. Bills: Who's the QB? Who will protect said QB? Who's going to keep the other team from scoring when that QB throws 25 interceptions?

30. Browns: New general manager. New quarterback. New offense. Same Browns.

31. Buccaneers: They had a good draft, but they have far too many holes to be competitive.

32. Rams: Expect St. Louis to be picking in the top three again in next April's draft.