Summer. Time for barbecues, ball games and beaches. And football. One of the many great things about living and writing in Philly is everybody loves talkinâ€™ pigskin at any time, at any place.
Who cares if itâ€™s only June? Itâ€™s time for the first pre-season ranking of the year. Hereâ€™s how I rank all 32 teams, from top to bottom, with a little blurb thrown in on some. Why just some? Cause thatâ€™s the way, uh-huh, I like itâ€¦ uh-huh, uh-huhâ€¦
1. Pittsburgh Steelers â€“ I know many â€œexpertsâ€ have the Patriots in this spot but sorry, when it comes to things like this, I always reference The Nature Boy, Ric Flair. â€œTo be the man, you got to beat the man.â€
2. New York Giants â€“ Sorry Birdsâ€™ fans. I know the G-Men lost Plaxico, but hell, they didnâ€™t have him for much of last season, either. Osi Umenyiora is back (someone break the bad news to Winston), plus they added Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Rocky Bernard.
3. New England Patriots â€“ Mr. Brady is back, kids. Call it a hunch. Call it a gut feeling. Call it the 3 tacos I had for lunch. Call it whatever you like, but thereâ€™s simply no way B squared deals away a starting NFL QB, even to a buddy, if he thinks thereâ€™s any chance Brady is not back all the way.
4. Philadelphia Eagles â€“ The public relations nightmare of an off-season be damned, this team did extraordinarily well in the draft and free agency. Now of course all this good feeling could go bye-bye if #36 is out for any stretch of time.
5. Baltimore Ravens â€“ QB Joe Flacco will be better in his second year, as will Head Coach John Harbaugh. There is cause for concern on defense with the departure of Rex Ryan, who became the Jets Head Coach. But the scheme will stay the same, as will most of the personnel.
6. Indianapolis Colts â€“ GM Bill Polian is truly one of the sharpest guys in the NFL. He re-signed C Jeff Saturday, a mainstay on the OL. He drafted RB Donald Brown out of UConn and a couple of potential DT studs in Fili Moala out of USC and Terrance Taylor from Michigan.
Note: What do the last two teams have in common? Well unlike the Eagles, these teams re-signed hugely popular veterans (R. Lewis & J. Saturday) who may or may not be past their prime, but they recognized that their value transcends what happens on the field and in the locker room.
7. San Diego Chargers â€“ Like him or not, Philip Rivers has become a big-time NFL QB. Obviously the questions surrounding this team will be focused on LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawn Merriman. But if they come back to resemble their former selves, look out.
8. Atlanta Falcons â€“ Yes Virginia, this team is for real. Like the aforementioned Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan will be that much better the second time around. Adding Tony Gonzalez will not hurt, either.
9. Tennessee Titans â€“ I donâ€™t know how Jeff Fisher does it every year but every year he does it. Did that sound a like Dr. Suess verse or what? They lost Albert Haynesworth, Kerry Collins is 36 and five of their first 6 games of the season are against the Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Texans and Jets. But you know they will find a way to be in the mix come playoff time.
10. Minnesota Vikings â€“ No, that is a not a typo and no I have not had too much cough syrup, at least not today. But if, IF, the Vikes and Brett Favre make a love connection, they will instantly become Super Bowl contenders.
The best of the restâ€¦
11. â€“ 20. â€“ Panthers, Texans, Bears, Cardinals, Dolphins, Packers, Seahawks, Saints, â€¨Jets, Bills
I know some will be shocked that I didnâ€™t include teams like the Panthers and Bears in the Top 10, butâ€¦ sorry, I do not understand giving Jake Delhomme a 5-tear, $42.5 million extension. And as for the Bears, the euphoria over Jay Cutler will be short-lived. His whiny ways wonâ€™t go over big in the Windy City. Book it. And watch out for the Texans. If QB Matt Schaub can stay healthy, a big if for sure, they will be a playoff team.
21. â€“ 32. I could list the remaining teams here but does anyone really care? I didnâ€™t think so. But it is worth noting that a certain team from Dallas falls into this last group.
Now for my rantâ€¦
Not sure how many of you saw this, but earlier in the week Philly Daily News columnist Rich Hoffman penned a glowing story about the wonderful working relationship Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid has with GM Joe Banner.
It made me misty-eyed. It made me feel all warm inside. It made meâ€¦ want to hurl.
It was downright laughable. Look Rich, if you want a job with the Eagles, just come out and say it. Donâ€™t hide behind the masquerade of a Reid/Banner love fest piece. Who do you think are, Dave Spadaro?
My favorite parts were the quotes, especially this all-timer from Reid:
“I’m big on communication, Joe’s big on communication.”
He (Reid) was obviously not referring to the media or fans when he made that statement. He obviously was not referring to people such as Brian Dawkins, either, who for some unknown reason, never heard from Reid or Banner during his contract situation, even as he was being wooed by the Broncos and even though he was the heart and soul of this team for the past 13 years.
But hey, when youâ€™re the â€œgold standard,â€ you decide whom you will speak to and whom you wonâ€™t, right?