Preseason rankings: AFC
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
July 22, 2005
In the NFL, hindsight is a bullwhip. And no fanny is safe from the sting of an absurd prediction.
Consider that only one year ago, some people looked at the AFC and thought the Broncos were headed for No. 1 ? and they weren't talking about the middle finger quarterback Jake Plummer used to salute fans during his season of frustration. Some thought Peyton Manning and the Colts we ready to solve the Patriots. And still others thought Roethlisberger was an entre served only at Vegan restaurants.
As usual, the season produced plenty of fools. And almost all of them were guilty of doubting New England at some point. With that in mind, this year's preseason AFC rankings don't feature a trendy pick at the top. Instead, the AFC hierarchy begins with the one team that has ended the last two seasons on the same championship stage. For those who would put another team at the top, the whip will be waiting for you in February.
AFC PRESEASON RANKINGS
1. New England Patriots ? New defensive coordinator Eric Mangini will be a fine replacement for Romeo Crennel. As for the offense, Bill Belichick can rely on a great core of veterans to get by without a coordinator. But someone is going to have to step in and replace the leadership of linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
2. Indianapolis Colts ? They've been too cap-strapped to go shopping for a stud linebacker or lockdown corner, but I think that defense has got enough developing talent to be respectable this season. The only thing threatening that offense is the contract status of running back Edgerrin James.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers ? Pittsburgh is a Super Bowl contender again, but those offseason losses in free agency are going to hurt when depth becomes an issue. Having a healthy Duce Staley would be a huge boost, but Antwaan Randle El must pick up the slack left by the departure of wideout Plaxico Burress.
4. San Diego Chargers ? If their pass rush is going to improve, they need to get linebacker Shawne Merriman into camp on time. Meanwhile, mark my words: The Drew Brees/Philip Rivers quandary will be a topic again before the November bye week.
5. Cincinnati Bengals ? If Carson Palmer picks up where he left off last season, and the Bengals get production out of their third receiver, Cincinnati's offense could be scary good. And I predict linebacker Odell Thurman will make a strong push for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
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