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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Power Rankings: Giants are champs, but every team has big questions


Updated Feb. 7

Best offseason phrase for 2012: No NFL lockout.

Last year was tough to take as the NFL's owners and players squabbled trying to get a new collective-bargaining agreement, even putting the season in jeopardy.

Who didn't grow tired of all the legalese?

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Without free agency this past spring -- in its normal spot -- fans went into detox. The insatiable appetite for NFL information didn't get fulfilled.

In its place were lawyers, union chiefs and arbitrators. Yecch.

But now that there is labor peace again, the NFL will be back to stealing the headlines with every free-agent move and all the offseason decisions that are made.

The calendar can be set again:

February: Scouting combine.

March: Free agency.

April: Draft.

That's the way we like it.

Remember all that talk last year about how the lockout and the labor strife would turn the fans against the NFL? Not a chance. The NFL is a big, bad, money-making machine that grows more powerful by the year.

That little lockout only made you want it more. The television ratings soared this season. The playoff ratings and those for Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI, won by the New York Giants, were better than ever.

That's why the next three months will be so much fun. There are a ton of issues facing teams in the coming week.

What will the Colts do with Peyton Manning?

When does Drew Brees get a new contract?

Can Robert Griffin III push Andrew Luck for the top spot in the draft?

What do the Texans do with Mario Williams?

When does the arbitrator hear the case?

Oops, that was from last year. Just seeing if you're paying attention.

When the Giants beat the Patriots on Sunday night, it brought to an end a season that opened with shortened camps and a hectic free-agency period, spawning the idea that the football wouldn't be as good.

Bad thinking. The football was every bit as good as it has been -- even if the old-timers who yearn for the fullback to be in vogue again hated it.

As we close the books on 2011 with our final CBSSports.com Power Rankings, we do so knowing full well that things will be normal this offseason.

Your insatiable appetite will be fulfilled.

Who wants to talk free agency?


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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