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Pre-training camp power rankings

How they stack up as teams prepare to return to work

Posted: Monday July 16, 2007 10:45AM; Updated: Monday July 16, 2007 3:47PM
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Running back Joseph Addai and the Colts' offense may have to carry the team this season after they lost several defensive starters in the offseason.
Running back Joseph Addai and the Colts' offense may have to carry the team this season after they lost several defensive starters in the offseason.
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It's time. Eight days until the first full squad (Pittsburgh) reports. Sixty days until opening night (New Orleans-Indianapolis). From the sounds of my Sirius satellite radio -- which somehow found programming every day of my vacation for the NFL Channel (how do you do it, Bob Papa?) -- all of you are ready, and have been ready for weeks.

Not much has changed since the draft, though. With a couple of exceptions, there has been little movement in how I thought the teams stacked up since April. Here goes:

1. Indianapolis: If the Colts are to win the title again, and I think they enter the season with a good chance to go back-to-back, they may need Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Ron Meeks to have the best coaching years of their career. Gone: starting corners Nick Harper and Jason David, former starting safety Mike Doss, starting weakside linebacker and 2006 leading tackler Cato June and in-the-rotation defensive lineman Montae Reagor. Interesting schedule. Indy could easily start 5-0 (New Orleans, at Tennessee, at Houston, Denver, Tampa Bay) and struggle after the Week 6 bye. How about this punching-bag four-pack: at Jacksonville, at Carolina, New England, at San Diego -- in the span of 21 days. The Colts will have to outscore teams all year, and I believe they will.

2. New England: Maybe the interior run defense is better than it played at Indy in the second half. It had better be Sept. 16 when LaDainian Tomlinson and a very good offensive line come east to Foxboro. Two years ago, LT went for 134 yards on 25 carries in a 41-17 Charger rout of the Pats in New England. I like the Patriots now because you can't overstate the importance of this offseason's best free-agent haul ... maybe ever, particularly when it comes to the receiver corps. Tom Brady can finally outscore people.

3. San Diego: Best depth, 1 to 53 on the roster, in the NFL. And maybe, if Philip Rivers can play in the Manning-Brady league, this will be the Chargers' year. Any of the first three teams on this list can win the Super Bowl, which should surprise no one.

4. New Orleans: I'm counting on Reggie Bush being more versatile and just plain better. It's ridiculous that he rushed for a fullback-like 3.6 yards per carry last year. He'll be at least a yard better because he knows the best carries are sometime the zero-yard gains, which are better than the seven-yard losses. He's already learned that -- in December, Bush averaged 5.1 yards per rush. The Saints scored 30 or more points six times in November and December last year. I expect 10 of those days this year.

5. Chicago: The Bears should win home field advantage in the NFC again because of their weak division, but two things scare me about Chicago: Rex Grossman at quarterback and Lance Briggs' potential holdout. I've had enough of the e-mails defending Grossman. Those don't mean anything, Bearaholics. The way a QB plays matters, and Grossman has to be 25 percent better for this team to win a Super Bowl. Moreover, Brian Urlacher won't be Urlacher without Briggs, who makes the Chicago defense so versatile because he's an athlete and hitter on par with Urlacher.

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