Updated July 28
Training camp is here, which means optimism is everywhere. Yes, even in places like Detroit and Oakland.
And of course, it means we're waiting to see if that Wrangler guy leaves the tractor to throw footballs again rather than texting with his favorite reporters.
|Carson Palmer's return gives Cincy a chance to contend in the AFC North. (Getty Images)|
There isn't a player or coach in the league who won't tell you his team doesn't have a playoff chance, and they mean it. OK, some coaches know better and they'll lie like Michael Vick to the commissioner, but players truly believe it, even those who play for the Lions.
Why wouldn't they? Every year, we see teams that didn't make the playoffs the previous season come crashing into the postseason party, waving their invitation in the faces of those who were certain they would get one, only to be left waiting at the velvet ropes without one.
Even I'm optimistic at this time of the year, and, if you know me, that's as strange as hearing those rumors about Tony Romo and that Blame It On Rio girl -- or should I say "cougar" now.
Cue the cat noises to irritate Jessica Simpson.
With camps opening, it's time for our first "real" CBSSports.com Power Rankings of 2009. This batch has no looking-back data included. It's all forward thinking, which is why some of the slotting will drive you batty.
Take a look at the No. 13 and No. 17 spots. Those two teams are guaranteed to infuriate. You will cry that the Cincinnati Bengals in the No. 13 spot are way too high and the Minnesota Vikings in the No. 17 spot are way too low.
They're that way for a reason: Quarterback. The Bengals get theirs back in Carson Palmer, and when he's on the field he's a top-five passer. The Vikings don't have a top-15 passer, even if Brett Favre does decide to play.
Which team should be No. 1?
None of these teams
Total Votes: 41,487
Vikings fans and coaches are pinning their hopes that Favre plays. They think he can back off a defense and let Adrian Peterson run wild. No more eight in the box. Did I miss something last year when Favre couldn't throw the ball down the field for the Jets? Who's he backing off?
The Patriots sit in the top spot because they have the deepest team with the best coach and they get Tom Brady back. That doesn't mean they're the Super pick yet. I will make that choice later in the summer, but you can bet they will get strong consideration.
The top 10 features all the usual suspects, which is why I'm a little nervous. There will be three or four teams that make it to the top 10 before the season ends that aren't there now. It happens every year.
Cincinnati could be one. So could Green Bay. Or Houston. Or Carolina. Or just about anybody.
That's the greatness of the NFL. The college season will be decided by a handful of teams. Pencil me in for Florida vs. Texas right now (have you seen their schedules?). But in the NFL, there are 20 teams that have Super chances, which is why there is so much optimism around the league in July and August.
Heck, I'm even Mr. Sunshine. Maybe that guy who sticks his ass in my face getting his luggage out of the overhead on my first flight of my training camp tour won't annoy me. Maybe that two-hour delay for mechanical reasons won't irritate me. Maybe getting lost driving through farmland to get to Terre Haute, Ind. -- have you played count the silos? -- won't get my blood boiling.
It's July, even a curmudgeon like myself can feel the wave of optimism. Of course, like the hope of some NFL teams, it's bound to fade by September.