The only question is, can they actually finish the job this year?
2 Philadelphia: Here's one name to remember this year, Barry Gardner. Gardner is the successor to all pro inside linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, and will have to come through for the Eagles this year. A top rated inside linebacker coming out of Northwestern, Gardner certainly has the pedigree to succeed. Don't be surprised if he has a very solid year. The Eagles will also look for a breakout year from Freddie Mitchell. Although it's unlikely that he becomes their true no.1 wide receiver, he'll replace Todd Pinkston as the no.2 man.
3 Pittsburgh: Defense is still the name of the game, and the Steelers' defense is the best in football. The addition of James Farrior gives the Steelers more flexibility to blitz and take chances this year. He's a better all-around player than Earl Holmes, who was a liability against the pass. Oh and here's something else to think about, the Steelers may have actually improved their offensive line with the addition of Kendall Simmons. Now that's a scary thought.
4 Tennessee: They're back. The Titans one-year hiatus from the postseason should end this year, barring another injury riddled season. Eddie George should be back to his old self after going through a dreadful season last year. George was a shell of his former self, not breaking tackles, and not being able to hold onto the ball at times. With a more dynamic passing attack led by Steve McNair, George won't have to carry the ball 30 times a game anymore.
5 San Francisco: It's no surprise that the 49ers used their first round choice on physical corner Michael Rumph (Miami Fl.). Like the Eagles, the 49ers want to get over the hump against the Rams this year. Their defense should improve to a top five level, with young players like Andre Carter, Julian Peterson, and Ahmed Plummer getting that much better. They'll give the Rams all they can handle this season.
The Rest of the best:
6 Chicago: Robinson's return to the offense will make a big difference.
7 New England: Unless Brady and Smith are one-year wonders, they'll still be solid enough to win their division this year.
8 New Orleans: The trio of Horn, Stallworth, and Pathon has speed, speed, and more speed.
9 Tampa Bay: The defense should play with more motivation. Gruden will have to work some serious magic on that offense.
10 Miami: Ricky Williams will make a difference, but that offensive line is still slightly better than average at best.
11 Kansas City: Man, is their offense scary or what?
12 Buffalo: Getting Bledsoe was key, but this young defense will really improve from last year.
13 Minnesota: They'll really surprise some people this year. Look out for a more determined Randy Moss.
14 Green Bay: Favre's new core of receivers is certainly talented, but they've also got some question marks surrounding them.
15 Denver: Did they really improve their defense this year? I'm not sold on that defensive line's ability to stop the run.
16 Cleveland: William Green is gonna determine how much they improve this season.
17 Dallas: Say what you want about their offense, but that defense is gonna be nasty.
18 Oakland: Their age catches up with them this year.
19 San Diego: They've got a chance to surprise some people if Drew Brees is running the show.
20 Indianapolis: I'm still not sold on that defense, especially the linebackers.
21 Washington: Like Dallas, their defense should be tough, but their offense will be suspect.
22 Arizona: It's Thomas Jones or bust for the Cards.
23 N.Y Jets: Vinny's health is a huge question mark for them. Is Chad Pennington ready to play?
24 Seattle: Like Oakland, age is a key question mark for their defense.
25 Baltimore: If they fill some more holes, they'll be more competitive than most people think.
26 Cincinnati: If they could just find one good quarterback, they could compete.
27 Jacksonville: This ranking is based on the assumption that Fred Taylor won't stay healthy this year.
28 N.Y Giants: They've still got some pretty solid players on that team, but some of their players may have quit before the season has actually started.
29 Detroit: They improved their offense, but what about the defense, especially at the corner spot?
30 Atlanta: A lot will depend on how Michael Vick plays, he'll definitely put on a good show this year.
31 Texas: Their defense will keep them competitive.
32 Carolina: Despite the dead last ranking, I think the Panthers improved themselves, by about two more wins. Don't worry Panther fans, Eli Manning or Byron Leftwich will be wearing Carolina blue next year.