LOS ANGELES — The final “You’re The Man” rankings of the 2012 National Football League season comes off one of the best Super Bowls of the last few years. The Ravens and 49ers displayed what we love about the big game; the story lines were thick, there were lots of big and memorable plays, there was a freakin’ blackout, a comeback and a goal line stand to decide the Vince Lombardi Trophy’s owner. In the end, the Ravens proved once again you don’t have to dominate the regular season to be crowned champs in the end; you just have to get hot at the right time. And have a quarterback who thinks he’s elite, God and some steroids on your side (allegedly).
As we head into nearly 7 months without real football games being played – though only 10 days until the Combine and 73 until the Draft – let’s take a look at some question marks teams have heading into the offseason, and stay tuned for hopefully other articles about the NFL and who knows what else (probably the Red Sox, Celtics, movies, life in LA and whatever else I can throw together) here at the site. As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars — To pay MJD or not to pay MJD, that is the question. And will they bring in Tim Tebow? Seems like the answer right now to both is “no.”
31.) Kansas City Chiefs — Being a Chiefs fan must be rough these days. How do you think they’re doing talking themselves into Andy Reid right now? At least he trimmed his mustache.
30.) Oakland Raiders — Will they go all-win with Terrell Pryor or bring back Carson Palmer for another go around at nearly 5x as much money?
29.) Philadelphia Eagles — Is Chip Kelly going to stick with Michael Vick to run his hurry-up, college-style offense? Or will he trade up and draft Geno Smith?
28.) Arizona Cardinals — Who’s going to play quarterback? That’s the only discussion Bruce Arians should be having with anyone.
27.) New York Jets — Mark Sanchez started tweeting again, actually he was on a retweeting positive comments binge; just reminding himself people still like him. Will they bring in any offensive weapons for him this offseason, because if they don’t, he might get irrevocably broken next season. (But I tell ya what, JaMarcus Russell rumors don’t appear out of thin air.)
26.) Cleveland Browns — Another team with a new coach. How long will Brandon Weeden be calling the offensive shots? He and Trent Richardson need help.
25.) Tennessee Titans — Is it time for the Titans to cut ties with Chris Johnson?
24.) Detroit Lions — Will this once playoff team find discipline in the offseason? Losing a few knuckleheads is a good start.
23.) Buffalo Bills— CJ Spiller is an emerging NFL star but for the Bills to compete in the AFC East they need to be able to stop the Patriots and the emerging Dolphins.
22.) San Diego Chargers — Now that a new head coach and GM have been hired, will the Chargers make The Leap? Not if they can’t beat the Broncos, which they won’t do with zero running game and a shaky secondary.
21.) St. Louis Rams — The Rams need to make a splash, and they need to reap the rewards of that blockbuster trade with Washington last year. They need a big, household name. Clearly, they can play; undefeated against the NFC champs.
20.) Miami Dolphins — It appears Reggie Bush won’t be back, but the biggest question remains who is going to catch the ball from Ryan Tannehill, since it appears he’ll be a halfway decent NFL quarterback.
19.) New Orleans Saints — Now that Sean Payton is back for the entire offseason, the offense should be back to form, but the Saints need all kinds of defensive help. Will they get it?
18.) Dallas Cowboys — Somehow Jason Garrett still has a job, but others do not. Recently, some questioned if the Cowboys are still Americas team based on their decade-plus of mediocrity. How will this offseason go in restoring that once-great moniker?
17.) Carolina Panthers — Face it, Steve Smith might not like Cam Newton but it’s not Cam’s fault Smith is old and can’t play anymore. The Panthers need a young, big-play receiver or 2013 is going to be a 2012 repeat, which means Ron Rivera will be out of work.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs gave away their best defensive back and then missed the playoffs. I’d say they’d want to get better at stopping people, what with them being in arguably the most talented QB division in football.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Injuries derailed the Steelers this season but finding a running game and some youth on defense are paramount for the black and gold.
14.) New York Giants — It appears the Giants want to be cheaper and younger across the board, let’s see how long that lasts this offseason. Can you buy discounted consistency, too?
13.) Chicago Bears — The defense isn’t getting any younger, it’ll be curious to see how they go about replacing Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and the rest.
12.) Minnesota Vikings — Is Christian Ponder the answer at QB? I’m still not sure. But someone has to be able to catch the ball other than Kyle Rudolph. You gotta give defenses another look besides Adrian Peterson running the ball 30 times a game. Not that you can stop him, but still.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals — Think the Bengals want to go back and change their game plan against the Texans in the Divisional Round to include getting the ball to AJ Green? I’d say so. Still, they need to get better on defense. Especially with the supernova Ravens now kinds of the NFL and AFC North.
10.) Washington Redskins — Clearly, the most important thing facing the Redskins this offseason is the healthy of My Good Friend Robert. All other questions will be deferred until RG runs in a zig-zag line without teetering over like a drunken sorority girl.
9.) Indianapolis Colts — The Colts need some big-time playmakers on defense, because I’m guessing Andrew Luck doesn’t want to come from behind and pull a win out of his ass in 2013 as often as he did this season.
8.) Houston Texans — Matt Schaub finally won a playoff game but having some secondary help might have got him a second.
7.) Green Bay Packers — The Packers were badly exposed by the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which means getting younger and faster on defense should be at the top of Ted Thompson’s offseason priority list.
6.) Denver Broncos — I completely whiffed on the Peyton Manning thing, but the more I think about it, I get the feeling Peyton’s gonna pull a Vikings-era Brett Favre. Remember how great Favre was in 2009? Then remember how terrible he was in 2010? Feel me?
5.) Seattle Seahawks — Top-to-bottom, the Seahawks might be the most complete team in the NFL. Russell Wilson proved he can be a big-time quarterback and their defense is as stingy as summer horse flies. Can’t hurt bolstering the offensive/defensive lines.
4.) New England Patriots — For the second year in a row Tom Brady was outplayed by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots made strange clock management blunders to end the first half and again Wes Welker had a key drop in a situation that could’ve helped put the game out of reach. Is this the end of their decade-long reign or can they fill in the missing pieces – big play receiver, shut down corner, rush edge – to stay at the top?
3.) Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons were 5 yards away from reaching the Super Bowl but their issue isn’t on offense. In the second half against San Francisco they gave up 14 unanswered and couldn’t stop Colin Kaepernick if they were the ones controlling his joystick. How will Atlanta improve on defense this offseason? Being so close to the big game you’d expect them to make a move.
2.) San Francisco 49ers — This is a team than can win the Super Bowl as it is: top-flight defense, an explosive offense and a fiery head coach. While Jim Harbaugh was out-coached Super Sunday by his brother, what the 49ers were missing against Baltimore was a deep threat. It’s clear they missed Mario Manningham, as Randy Moss didn’t give them that stretch of the defense they were expecting. Colin Kaepernick also show signs of what he could be become with a full season under his belt, but why not let him run it down by the goal line? Regardless, he vowed to start preparing for next season immediately, so it appears as if he’s on a mission. San Fran is the class of the NFC, along with Seattle and Atlanta.
1.) Baltimore Ravens — Finally, we’ve found out who’s The Man of this 2012 NFL season. It look 22 weeks but the Ravens emerged from beneath the rubble. Heading into this offseason their biggest question marks are on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, Baltimore’s offense behind Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and company are an absolute force. But defensively, it will be a different-looking Ravens squad in 2013 with the retirement of Ray Lewis (perhaps you’ve heard) and the likelihood of Ed Reed playing elsewhere, not to mention Terrell Suggs is older and banged up. We’ll see if they make moves to sure up that side of the ball in the coming months and in the Draft.