The ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings are out. Here are my thoughts on where the AFC North teams are ranked:
Baltimore (3rd): The Ravens spanked the Bengals on Monday night on national television, but if I had a vote, I would have Baltimore fourth or fifth overall rather than third. Green Bay, which lost just one regular-season game last year, and possibly Houston, which had a very similar Week 1 as the Ravens did, would be the teams I probably would have ahead of the Ravens. This isn’t to take anything away from Baltimore, as clearly its offense will be much more difficult to defend in 2012 than in previous seasons. But I am still concerned a bit with the defense that isn’t as good as it has been in the past. On Monday, until the game was out of reach, the only way the Ravens pressured the quarterback was from blitzing defensive backs. For some reason, the Bengals refused to pick that up and block it. I still see the Terrell Suggs injury as a massive problem.
Pittsburgh (11th): When looking at teams ahead of Pittsburgh in the Power Rankings after Week 1, I can’t make a firm argument that the Steelers are misplaced at 11. But I don’t think there is any shame in losing Sunday night in a difficult place to play in a game that two prominent defensive starters (James Harrison, Ryan Clark) didn’t dress and the right side of the offensive line was injured in the first half. Pittsburgh was firmly in my top five for my personal preseason power rankings, and there is no reason to think that they are no longer a big-time contender. But for where we stand today, Dallas at 10 is probably the only team I would put behind the Steelers.
Cincinnati (18th): As I somewhat alluded to with my response to Baltimore being ranked third overall, I feel as though Monday’s game was slightly more of a reflection on how poor Cincinnati is rather than how dominant the Ravens are. Of course, it was a combination of both, but the Bengals played a very poor game. In reviewing their roster, what areas are they clearly above average? I would say they are above average with their No. 1 wide receiver (A.J. Green), left tackle (Andrew Whitworth), with Geno Atkins at one defensive tackle spot and probably at tight end (Jermaine Gresham). That’s about it. Now, their deficiencies are not as glaring as the true bottom-feeders of the league, but their secondary and interior offensive line are clearly problem spots. I would have the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Panthers, Titans, Bills and Seahawks ahead of Cincinnati.
Cleveland (31st): This is spot on. The only team in the NFL that I would rank worse than the Browns is Miami. Our voters placed the Colts behind Cleveland rather than Miami, but that is an argument for another time. At home, the defense was impressive Week 1 against an extremely rusty Michael Vick, but the offense, specifically the passing game, gives this team little hope of competing. Maybe the Browns can and will go back to their original plan of having the entire offense go through a now-healthy Trent Richardson, which could help. But for now, the Browns belong at 31.