With the draft finished and free agency basically over until June 1, we decided it was time to see how the NFL's 32 teams stack up.
Something immediately apparent is that the Patriots still have some work to do to convince the prognosticators that they can repeat their Super Bowl run. Pats fans have never been afraid to voice their displeasure with Power Rankings, and they probably won't be happy with what they read below (although maybe not as mad as Redskins fans). But remember, it's only the offseason.
Since it is the time of year when optimism is rampant, we've listed why each team should be optimistic heading into 2002. However, it wouldn't be any fun if we listed only the positives, so we've included reasons to be pessimistic for each team, too.
||Tampa Bay Bucs
Optimistic: Core of Super Bowl team returns intact.
Pessimistic: There's nowhere to go but down.
||Optimistic: Team only seems to get better with age.|
Pessimistic: But that age has to catch up to them at some point.
||Optimistic: They still have Donovan McNabb and he'll keep them near the top of the NFC.|
Pessimistic: Hugh Douglas' production won't be replaced by a rookie or anyone else on their roster right now.
||Optimistic: While Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland are improving, the Steelers are still the class of the AFC North.|
Pessimistic: Anyone want to wager on Tommy Maddox having the same success in 2003 he had in 2002?
||Optimistic: Steve McNair just seems to win and 2003 should be no different.|
Pessimistic: Eddie George isn't getting any younger -- 3.4 and 3.0 yards per carry the last two years is not good.
||Optimistic: Offseason additions should improve defense.|
Pessimistic: Running game is still a big question mark.
||Optimistic: Two words: Michael Vick|
Pessimistic: But can he follow up 2002 with a step forward?
||Optimistic: Ricky Williams was everything the Dolphins hoped for and should be just as good in 2003.|
Pessimistic: Until the Dolphins find a way to win late in the season, who cares?
||Optimistic: Brett Favre is coming back, which is all Packers fans need to hear.|
Pessimistic: Will talk of Favre's future be a distraction?
||Optimistic: With Deuce and Brooks, offense should continue to improve.|
Pessimistic: They'll still find a way to stumble down the stretch.
||Optimistic: Chad Pennington emerged as a star last season and should continue to improve.|
Pessimistic: But will his lack of arm strength catch up to him?
||Optimistic: If defense can improve a little, they'll be dangerous.|
Pessimistic: Priest Holmes' health status sure doesn't sound good.
||Optimistic: With Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and a healthier Edgerrin James, Colts offense should be explosive.|
Pessimistic: We're still waiting to see Manning win a playoff game.
||Optimistic: Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens will keep the 49ers in contention.
Pessimistic: Tai Streets came on last year, but this team is still too reliant on Owens.
||Optimistic: Offseason additions on defense should help one of the league's most porous defenses.|
Pessimistic: Despite the improvements, they're still probably the No. 4 team in their division.
||Optimistic: The Rams still have the talent and with health should return to top form.|
Pessimistic: Kurt Warner might never return to the level of an elite QB.
||Optimistic: Mike Shanahan will turn Jake Plummer into an above-average NFL QB.|
Pessimistic: Plummer is what he is and not even Shanahan can change that.
||Optimistic: Jeremy Shockey should continue to get better, meaning the whole offense will be better.
Pessimistic: Still not sure they have enough to stay with the Eagles.
||Optimistic: Won last three games and enter 2003 believing they've turned a corner.|
Pessimistic: Defense is still not close to being playoff-caliber.
||Optimistic: Matt Hasselbeck emerged as No. 1 QB and Koren Robinson emerged as No. 1 WR.|
Pessimistic: Defense is still shaky and counting on Hasselbeck might be risky.
||Optimistic: After making the playoffs last season, 2003 should bring even better things.|
Pessimistic: The Browns were lucky to make the playoffs last year and actually took a step back with offseason losses.
||Optimistic: With a healthy Ray Lewis expected back, defense should be better than average.|
Pessimistic: It won't matter how good the defense is if the offense can't find the end zone.
||Optimistic: Offseason additions -- especially Laveranues Coles -- will make 'Skins better.|
Pessimistic: Can second-year QB Patrick Ramsey avoid Steve Spurrier's quick hook.
||Optimistic: Addition of David Boston gives Drew Brees much needed weapon.|
Pessimistic: He might have been old, but the Chargers will miss Junior Seau.
||Optimistic: Team took a big step forward in John Fox's first season.|
Pessimistic: Despite some additions, offense is still far from being on a playoff level.
||Optimistic: Anthony Thomas is apparently in great shape.|
Pessimistic: Kordell Stewart is not the answer at QB in Chicago.
||Optimistic: Marvin Lewis seems to have things on the right track.|
Pessimistic: It's too easy to say, but Mike Brown is still in charge and they're still the Bengals.
||Optimistic: The day he walked in the door, Bill Parcells made the Cowboys a better.|
Pessimistic: They have three years to win, because that's about as long as Parcells will be around for.
||Optimistic: Suprisingly active in free agency, Hugh Douglas and Mike Peterson will help on defense.|
Pessimistic: Mark Brunell might not have enough left in the tank for another playoff run.
||Optimistic: Steve Mariucci should be good for at least a few wins.|
Pessimistic: A two-game improvement would still make Detroit just 5-11.
||Optimistic: More weapons and experience should make David Carr happy.|
Pessimistic: They're still going to struggle to score points.
||Optimistic: At leasy Emmitt Smith will sell more tickets.|
Pessimistic: Losses of Jake Plummer and David Boston would be hard for a good team to overcome -- and this team wasn't good.