NFC Power Rankings

The defending Super Bowl champions top our conference rankings, but what about the Packers and Vikings? We have those answers in this must-read but please-don't-take-to-the-bank story.

On Sunday, we looked at the offseasons of all 16 teams in the NFC. Today, publisher Bill Huber puts those teams in the proper pecking order.

No. 16: St. Louis

The Rams were the worst team in the NFL last season at 1-15. If they're smart, they'll let Sam Bradford stay free of mental and physical scars while holding a clipboard.

No. 15: Tampa Bay

The Buccaneers are terrible but at least they might have a quarterback in Josh Freeman. You've got to hand it to them for drafting two receivers, but second-rounder Arrelious Benn has bad hands and fourth-rounder Mike Williams is a proven quitter. More good news for the frugal Bucs: They'll save on pyrotechnics for their pirate ship.

No. 14: Detroit

If Matthew Stafford turns out to be a good quarterback, the Lions have the makings of something special. They're building a team the right way by focusing on quarterback and defensive line. At some point, though, the Lions need to draft offensive linemen because Stafford got hammered last year.

No. 13: Seattle

The end of Matt Hasselbeck's career has been doomed by bad pass protection and horrendous receivers. Maybe first-rounder Russell Okung and second-rounder Golden Tate will solve those trouble spots.

No. 12: Carolina

The Panthers could surge if Matt Moore plays like he did down the stretch last season, when he went 4-1 in place of interception machine Jake Delhomme. If Moore isn't for real, they'll have to throw rookie Jimmy Clausen into the fire.

No. 11: Chicago

I don't like the signing of Julius Peppers and I don't like the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. But, hey, my name isn't Lovie Smith and my head isn't strapped to the guillotine. It seems like the Bears have been in "do something, do anything" mode.

No. 10: Arizona

The Cardinals were rescued from decades of purgatory by Kurt Warner. He's retired, so Matt Leinart — the 10th overall pick in 2006 — gets to run the show. He's thrown 14 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in four seasons. He was brutal in the finale against Green Bay. The knock on Leinart coming out of USC is he didn't love football. That theory seems to have been proven true.

No. 9: San Francisco

How pathetic is the NFC West? The Cardinals are counting on Leinart and the Niners are counting on Alex Smith. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft — yes, instead of Aaron Rodgers — has 37 touchdowns and 43 interceptions in his career. But he showed some signs last season, with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He went 5-5 in 10 starts. The good news is that one team in the NFC West has to make the playoffs.

No. 8: Washington

Daniel Snyder has made a mockery of this once-proud franchise. Maybe he actually gets it now, with a real coach (Mike Shanahan) and a real quarterback (Donovan McNabb). Unfortunately for McNabb, his best receivers are Joey Galloway, who turns 39 in November, and Santana Moss, who turns 31 on Tuesday and is in hot water for his connections with a nefarious doctor.

No. 7: Philadelphia

A few years ago, the Packers decided Aaron Rodgers was a better bet than Brett Favre. The Eagles are doing the same, going with Kevin Kolb instead of Donovan McNabb. Beyond that, can the Eagles protect Kolb? They didn't address an offensive line that allowed 42 sacks and Kolb can't run like McNabb.

No. 6: New York Giants

The defense, even with a bunch of high-profile additions last offseason, stunk in 2009. Maybe new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, top draft picks Jason Pierre-Paul (first round) and Linval Joseph (second), and grossly overpaid free agent safety Antrel Rolle will make a difference on that unit. Still, the NFL is all about quarterbacks and the Giants have Eli Manning.

No. 5: Atlanta

The Falcons plunged out of the playoff picture last year because of injuries to quarterback Matt Ryan (two games), running back Michael Turner (five games), left tackle Sam Baker (two games), top corner Brian Williams (11 games) and first-round pick Peria Jerry (14 games). If they stay healthy, this is a Super Bowl contender.

No. 4: Dallas

Rookie receivers generally don't make an impact in Year 1. The last one to make a big splash was the Saints' Marques Colston in 2006. Maybe Dallas' first-rounder Dez Bryant will break the mold. If so, imagine an offense with Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten catching passes from Tony Romo, who can hand the ball to Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.

No. 3: Minnesota

I could write about the selfishness of Brett Favre, who is about to drag his teammates through another offseason of "will he or won't he." I'm sure they're just thrilled about the prospects of answering one stupid Favre question after another. But by doing so, I'll just solicit 100 e-mails from people thinking I hate Favre. Wouldn't you? So, I won't bother. Besides, none of that affected the Vikings last season and it won't this season, either. But can a 41-year-old Favre duplicate his ridiculous 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions? You're a fool to bet against him.

No. 2: Green Bay

The Packers lost only one starter, Aaron Kampman, and replacement Brad Jones performed better, anyway. If graybeard starting offensive tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher can play at a high enough level and young backups Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang can play at an acceptable level when they're thrust into the lineup, the offense will be even better than last year's unit, which was the highest-scoring offense in franchise history. The questions on defense are obvious. It'll be up to Pat Lee to finally stay healthy and Brandon Underwood to take a giant leap forward.

No. 1: New Orleans

The defending Super Bowl champs will be mostly intact for this season. They didn't make any offseason splashes but didn't need to. Really, the only question mark is quarterback Drew Brees. Say what? Brees is on the cover of the "Madden" video game, an honor that has hurt everyone from Favre to Troy Polamalu to Shaun Alexander over the last decade. Assuming he's impervious to jinxes and a clueless Oprah, Brees — especially in the Superdome with all of those weapons — is great, and Gregg Williams' sharks-to-blood defense is the perfect complement.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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