Around the NFL: Ranking the teams, top to bottom

Steve Doerschuk

So, Peyton Manning turned another defense to mush.

Yawn.

Now the NFL season gets interesting.

In anticipation of the first serious wave of games, we rank the teams, top to bottom.

Surprises? That’s for each reader to say.

One instant critic, a teenage son, looked these over and said, “Your rankings are horrible.”

But then ...

Who can agree on much beyond Peyton Manning being the top quarterback in the game. What? Somebody say Tom Brady?

1. Patriots. It’s hard to believe Bill Belichick looked like a stupid hire when Browns fans were booing him off the field after another 2000 loss in Cleveland. Mr. Bill never had more firepower.

2. Colts. Thursday wasn’t just a Peyton Manning thing. What about the Colts defense trivializing Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister?

3. Chargers. Norv Turner has a really tough job: “Hey you guys ... here’s the ball.”

4. Seahawks. Nice stadium, nice quarterback, nice running back, one of the catchiest names in the league (Lofa Tatupu) and a really sharp coach.

5. Ravens. Steve McNair has one last shot at winning a Super Bowl behind a defense that allowed half as many points in 2006 as San Francisco did.

6. Eagles. To hear some people talk, you’d think Donovan McNabb is going on 61, not 31. Andy Reid always knows what he’s doing.

7. Bears. Rex Grossman seems like a great guy, but your uncle Larry is a great guy, too, and he’s not a Super Bowl QB, either.

8. Rams. Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Steven Jackson. Now there’s a one-stop fantasy team nucleus.

9. Jets. Workaholic, football junkie, genius. Eric Mangini is a Belichick clone with nice-guy genes injected.

10. Saints. Drew Brees kick-started a surprise 2006 at Cleveland. Opening at Indy is about 300 miles different.

11. Panthers. Jake Delhomme is looking over his shoulder at David Carr. That tells you a great defense won’t be enough to win it all.

12. Cowboys. Nice defense, but wouldn’t you really rather have a slab of Tony Roma’s ribs than Tony Romo as your quarterback?

13. Broncos. Turning his team into the Browncos wasn’t the brightest idea Mike Shanahan has hatched. He has survived the influx and departure of Cleveland linemen.

14. Steelers. Mike Tomlin is only 34, but don’t hold that against him. Bill Cowher won his first three and finished 11-5 when he was a 34-year-old new boss.

15. Bills. Marv Levy might be the first 100-year-old Super Bowl general manager some day. First he needs better cash flow. But watch Marshawn Lynch run.

16. Giants. “Eli’s coming” as it applies to the quarterback is almost as old as “Eli’s Coming” as it was sung by Three Dog Night.

17. Bengals. Bengal-turned-Brown Shaun Smith insists Cleveland’s defense is better than Cincinnati’s. Scary for Cincinnati.

18. Vikings. Adrian Peterson’s youth and health make it unwise to predict too much too soon.

19. Titans. Vince Young can do only so much with a team that gave up 400 points. Expect Head Coach Jeff Fisher to hit the open market in 2008.

20. Browns. Bottlegate, Butch, Bermuda triangle of injuries, doomed drafts ... hope?

21. Chiefs. Tony Gonzalez is on his last good legs, and Larry Johnson is being worked to death.

22. 49ers. Alex Smith? Frank Gore? Fine. But San Francisco left its defense in the 1980s.

23. Jaguars. David Garrard or bust? Given that choice, bust.

24. Dolphins. Can anybody explain why Nick Saban is bigger than Bear Bryant after running this ship into the ground?

25. Buccaneers. Dear Jon Gruden: Good luck using Jeff Garcia to save your job.

26. Lions. When’s the last time an amazing rookie receiver led a chronically bad team to the playoffs?

27. Redskins. Old Joe Gibbs’ third year back wasn’t a charm. At 67, how much time does he have to break in another QB?

28. Packers. Your wish could be more hope for the planet’s most wonderful football town.

29. Texans. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be expansion teams.

30. Falcons. Any way you eyeball it, these look like the dog days.

31. Cardinals. New Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt loves to golf. Look for him at Hilton Head in January.

32. Raiders. Don’t you miss those “best players, best coaches, best organization” speeches by Al Davis at Hall of Fame inductions?