We begin the season with our first edition of weekly NFL power rankings.
The NFL season officially kicks off tonight with the New York Giants taking on the Dallas Cowboys. To celebrate, Athlon Sports is bringing you the first of many weekly looks at all 32 NFL franchises and where they fall in the most recent Power Rankings:
2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:
1. Green Bay Packers (Week 1: SF)
Only question is depth on defense and losing Desmond Bishop hurt. Still led by the best player in the game.
2. San Francisco 49ers (Week 1: at GB)
Gritty defense packaged with stellar OL and caretaker QB. Home field in the NFC is on the line this Sunday.
3. Houston Texans (Week 1: MIA)
Health on offense might be the only concern this team should have entering what could be a landmark 2012 season.
4. New England Patriots (Week 1: at TEN)
Tom Brady has a stacked collection of pass-catchers and the best head coach in the game upgraded the defense.
5. New York Giants (Week 1: DAL)
Can the defending champs stay on top of a league with so many questions on defense?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 1: at DEN)
The running game needs to be healthy, but Big Ben and aggressive defense still lead the charge.
7. Baltimore Ravens (Week 1: CIN)
Will the preseason offensive philosophy translate to the regular season? Only time will tell.
8. Atlanta Falcons (Week 1: at KC)
Explosive offense could be one of the league's best, so can Mike Nolan improve the defense?
9. Chicago Bears (Week 1: IND)
Jay Cutler and Matt Forte return to the line-up with a loaded defense — which needs a healthy Brian Urlacher.
10. Detroit Lions (Week 1: STL)
Record-setting offense is championship caliber. Has the defense joined the party yet?
11. Denver Broncos (Week 1: PIT)
Could be good enough to earn a bye in the playoffs and has enough holes to finish third in the AFC West.
12. Dallas Cowboys (Week 1: at NYG)
Might be optimistic for a team with issues swirling all over the roster. Can Tony Romo hold them together?
13. New Orleans Saints (Week 1: WAS)
What sort of impact does off-season have on Drew Brees and the Saints playoff hopes?
14. Philadelphia Eagles (Week 1: at CLE)
Michael Vick must stay healthy for this team to make a playoff push. And that has only happened once in his career.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (Week 1: at BAL)
Fundamentally sound, uninpiring team will prove to be very competitive week-in and week-out.
16. San Diego Chargers (Week 1: at OAK)
Norv Turner begins a critical season needing a playoff berth to save his job in San Deigo.
17. Tennessee Titans (Week 1: NE)
Can sneaky good defensive line make up for young, inexperienced offense in Nashville?
18. Buffalo Bills (Week 1: at NYJ)
Defense should be markedly improved, so can offense stay consistent for 16 weeks?
19. New York Jets (Week 1: BUF)
You have to have (Tim Tebow) thick skin to pick this team (Tim Tebow) to make the playoffs (Tim Tebow).
20. Carolina Panthers (Week 1: at TB)
Will all of that talent translate into wins...or just statistics? The defense should only get better.
21. Seattle Seahawks (Week 1: at ARI)
Is Russell Wilson ready to lead a team with a developing defense into the playoff mix?
22. Washington Redskins (Week 1: at NO)
The Skins should be better with RG3, but how much better? He needs some help.
23. Oakland Raiders (Week 1: SD)
An intriguing team with some upside — if the coaching staff develops quickly.
24. Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1: ATL)
Like the rest of the West: A team with nice pieces and interesting upside but lots of question marks.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 1: CAR)
Josh Freeman and a host of young players will attempt to ease Greg Schiano into pro game.
26. Arizona Cardinals (Week 1: SEA)
Offensive line issues could end this season before it begins while solid defense is wasted.
27. Indianapolis Colts (Week 1: at CHI)
Already up a few spots from the preseason due to quick development of stellar rookie class.
28. Miami Dolphins (Week 1: at HOU)
A completely non-descript team that will have loads of growing pains. Both on and off the field.
29. St. Louis Rams (Week 1: at DET)
The offense should be healthier and more talented, but this team will struggle.
30. Cleveland Browns (Week 1: PHI)
Can rookie backfield help the Browns out of the cellar? Only time will tell.
31. Minnesota Vikings (Week 1: JAC)
All-Day Peterson is back but this team has major issues on defense.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 1: at MIN)
Getting MoJo Drew back was huge, but it will be a long year in Jacksonville.
-by Braden Gall
Relate 2012 NFL Content:
Rankings the NFL's Starting Quarterbacks From Best to Worst
Athlon Debate: Which rookie starting QB will win the most games in 2012?
The NFL's Five Biggest Busts of Training Camp
Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez: Who should start for the Jets?
The NFL Hot Seat: Which Coaches Need to Win Now?
Athlon Debate: Did being on Hard Knocks help or hurt the Dolphins?