Get your sleeping bag and stuff your backpack with Ding Dongs and those little balls of paper that explode when you throw them at the ground. Prepare yourself for summer puppy love and letters home to the parents that are full of lies about what a great time you're having. Because training camp is just around the corner!
In the NFL, much like in summer camp capture the flag, somebody's going to lose. Some are going to lose a lot and shoot up this list. It's time for July's Un-Power Rankings, which is just like a regular Power Rankings list except that in this case you don't want to be at the top. As of today, which team is the most "un" in the NFL?
The answer is not that unbelievable.
1. Buffalo Bills (previous: 2)
The Oakland Raiders easily captured the top spot in the previous two rankings. After more consideration, the Buffalo Bills have been vastly underrated in their un-powerness. At least, they have a better shot of finishing with a worse record next season because of the differences in the AFC East and AFC West.
The worst teams in the NFL last year -- the Chiefs, Jaguars, Browns, Lions, Cardinals -- got that way because they struggled at quarterback. Maybe Manuel is the next Josh Freeman, and if that's the case, look out; Freeman had a terrible rookie year and the Bucs went 3-13.
2. Oakland Raiders (previous: 1)
A lot of their success this season depends on how good Matt Flynn really is. The answer is probably somewhere between "okay" and "pretty good." That's not enough to help a team that really lacks talent all over the field.
You might remember that the Raiders had a bad offense last year, but the bonus is that they also had a really bad defense. Only two starters from 2012 return.
3. Arizona Cardinals (previous: 4)
I was almost inclined to "downgrade" the Cardinals today but then I took another look at their schedule. It's Card to believe they'd get more than four wins this year, not just because they play in the all-of-a-sudden brutal NFC West.
In the first half of the season, the Cardinals play the Rams, Lions, Saints, Buccaneers, Panthers, 49ers, Seahawks and Falcons. Arizona starts the second half of the year against the Texans.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (previous: 3)
It's kind of weird that you look at the Jaguars and see a potential Pro Bowl running back returning from injury, the duo of Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts at receiver, a potential sleeper in Denard Robinson, an improved offensive line and a new head coach.
The Jaguars have a lot of potential, but unless some of that potential is in Blaine Gabbert, they could still lose 12 games.
5. Dallas Cowboys (previous: 16)
Every list needs to have a sleeper, right? Well how about this one: The Cowboys look old, worn and vulnerable. Jason Garrett is 21-19 in his career so far and eventually people will stop giving him credit for all the potential they saw in him when he was an offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
Dallas was 30th in the NFL in DVOA in Weighted Defense last year (meaning that as the season went on, it was one of the worst defenses in the league by a significant margin) and yet it drafted a center in the first round and a tight end in the second.
The NFC East seems to regularly shuffle through a new division winner and loser every year, and there's reason to believe that this year the D turns into a big old L.
6. Cleveland Browns (previous: 5)
I like the Browns, and I want them to do well. I understand the arguments that they are getting better. The offseason coaching changes are also encouraging. But they still look like the fourth-best team in the AFC's toughest division. They have real concerns at quarterback.
7. Tennessee Titans (previous: 7)
The Titans are not better than the Texans or Colts. They play against the NFC West. They travel to Pittsburgh and Denver. They drafted a guard. The Titans might be "underrated" on this list because they could actually be a lot worse than I expect.
Just imagine if Ryan Fitzpatrick has to start a handful of games or more.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (previous: 9)
Kansas City hired Andy Reid, traded for Alex Smith and added a franchise offensive tackle. The Chiefs have talent, and everyone sees it. They can't sneak up on anyone.
However, we still have no real idea how much better Smith is than Matt Cassel. Remember when Matt Cassel was Alex Smith?
9. Detroit Lions (previous: 6)
Which Matthew Stafford shows up this year? Few quarterbacks have ever looked so different year to year, but the stats show that a turnaround is quite possible.
Stafford's completion percentage and interception percentage from 2011 to 2012 are similar, but he attempted way more passes for way fewer touchdowns. The bigger issue is that the Lions don't look like they're on the same level as the other three teams in the NFC North.
But people may have also thought that in 2011, when Detroit made the playoffs.
10. New York Jets (previous: 8)
The Jets had arguably the best draft, grabbing Dee Milliner to replace Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson to continue upgrading what could be a very strong defensive line, and Geno Smith to possibly replace Mark Sanchez as early as Week 1.
However, Revis was the best player on this team. And it's wishful thinking to believe that Smith is going to do what rookies like Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson did in 2012. I could see the Jets moving down this list, but there's still a shortage of on-field talent.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (previous: 10)
The Eagles are loaded with talent, but it was a lot of talent with no direction last season. If boy bands have taught me anything, it's that you've got to have One Direction.
Lane Johnson improves protection for Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. New head coach Chip Kelly will try to spark some life into the Eagles, while the rest of the league watches to see if it will work. This could be a career year for McCoy, but I don't know if Kelly's college success will translate.
12. New Orleans Saints (previous: 13)
The Saints had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, arguably the worst. And what did they do to turn it around? New Orleans added safety Kenny Vaccaro in the draft, signed OLB Victor Butler (who is already injured) and hired Rob Ryan to coordinate a 3-4 switch. The return of Sean Payton won't be enough in a division with the Falcons at the top and the Bucs and Panthers improving.
If anything happens to Drew Brees and he misses some games, the Saints could be the worst team in the league. Even with Brees, New Orleans is only average at best thanks to an awful defense.
13. Miami Dolphins (previous: 11)
The AFC East still comes down to the separation at quarterback. Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel, Kevin Kolb ... One of those quarterbacks is grateful he's not like the others.
However, Tannehill would be the second-best in that equation, and he might actually have a pretty good team around him now.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (previous: 15)
15. San Diego Chargers (previous: 12)
San Diego upgraded at tackle with D.J. Fluker. It grabbed linebacker Manti Te'o in the second round and wide receiver Keenan Allen in the third. Both Allen and Te'o could have been first-round picks. If Philip Rivers gets more time in the pocket, he has a deep receiving corps that can help him play better.
16. Carolina Panthers (previous: 14)
Cam Newton has the ability to be like the best quarterback in the NFL. On defense, the Panthers double-dipped at tackle in the draft, addressing a major need. With an average defense and a high-flying Newton, Carolina could be 10-6.
The real question is whether or not Carolina's upgrades were as good as division-mate Tampa Bay. I don't think they were.
17. St. Louis Rams (previous: 17)
It seems fitting that the Rams in this edition of the rankings are tied with the Rams of the previous edition.
The Rams look even better this year on paper, but they have to turn The Greatest Show On Paper into wins. What can they do to surpass the Seahawks and 49ers, the top teams in the division and maybe the entire NFL?
18. Minnesota Vikings (previous: 19)
The Vikings took Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round. Unless Christian Ponder plays like someone who's not Christian Ponder this season, I can't see them being better than the Bears and Packers. Minnesota also lost Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield. They do have Adrian Peterson though.
In a draft that most saw as pretty even keel through the first three rounds, it's not quite as impressive to have three first-round picks and then literally come up empty in the next two rounds. Maybe the Vikings' best addition was Joe Webb at wide receiver, since there's no longer a Joe Webb at quarterback.
19. New York Giants (previous: 18)
If the Cowboys fall as I predicted and the Eagles continue to run out of both bubble gum and the desire to kick some ass, then it comes down to the Giants and Redskins. Which team is better?
The Giants are the better overall team, but the Redskins were one of the hottest teams in the NFL in the second half of 2012.
20. Washington Redskins (previous: 20)
The NFC East could again be a wide-open race between four teams with an equal measure of talent and flaws. Robert Griffin III is already the best quarterback in the division, but the Redskins will still have an awful pass defense -- one that almost evens the quarterback playing field against the likes of Tony Romo and Michael Vick.
21. Indianapolis Colts (previous: 23)
Ryan Grigson won Executive of the Year after drafting Andrew Luck and seeing the team improve from the league's worst to a playoff berth. But this should be a much more telling season of Grigson's ability. Is Bjoern Werner the steal of the first round? Does Darrius Heyward-Bey drop fewer passes than Donnie Avery? Anyone gonna play defense?
The Colts should hope so because competition for a Wild Card spot in the AFC will be much tougher this season than it was last season and they have a lot of new faces on the team again.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (previous: 22)
Potentially, we may never have a more perfect example of a cornerback's value than Darrelle Revis joining a defense that finished last in the NFL in passing yards allowed. But he's not alone, since the Bucs also drafted cornerback Johnthan Banks and signed safety Dashon Goldson.
Tampa lost its last 10 games in 2011 and five of its last six games in 2012. Can Freeman and the Bucs finally avoid another late-season fall?
23. Chicago Bears (previous: 21)
Don't forget that the Bears still had one of the most dominant defenses in the league last year and finished with the best record (10-6) of any team that did not make the playoffs.
Other quarterbacks have shown inconsistent talent in their twenties only to become great quarterbacks in their thirties. Is Jay Cutler going to be the next one to do that?
24. Baltimore Ravens (previous: 24)
It might seem like everyone important to the Ravens left after winning the Super Bowl, but not really. This team still has Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw, Lardarius Webb, and it added Elvis Dumervil, Matt Elam and more.
Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh have won a playoff game for every year they've been in the league together, since 2008.
The Ravens might be the most overrated (read: underrated. Keep up) team on this list.
25. New England Patriots (previous: 29)
In Week 1, the Patriots' top returning receiver from last season might actually be Julian Edelman. That's because Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead are gone, while Rob Gronkowski could still be (I'm going to say "will be") sidelined.
Still, Tom Brady is good enough to make this one of the best teams in the AFC. Plus, the Patriots play run defense now. It will be interesting to see which players besides Danny Amendola step up this year. And Amendola doesn't exactly have a history of being Wolverine-healthy.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (previous: 26)
I've got to say that I admire the Bengals so much for sticking with Marvin Lewis. The 2013 season could be his most successful year as a head coach yet, possibly ending in a Super Bowl berth.
Scarier yet: Nearly all of the most important pieces on this team were 25 or younger last season.
27. Houston Texans (previous: 25)
If they can stay healthy, the Texans will have run out of excuses as to why they're not going further than the Division round of the playoffs. Houston has a Hall of Fame receiver, maybe the best running back in the game and one of the best defenses in the league, not to mention that the Texans play in the AFC.
Just get it done.
28. Green Bay Packers (previous: 27)
"Forgot About Dre" should the soundtrack to the Packers' 2013 season.
More hype surrounding the league's young quarterbacks has caused many to overlook Aaron Rodgers, still the NFL's best. That means that the Packers are the best team that everyone has mostly forgotten about this year.
29. Atlanta Falcons (previous: 28)
There has been talk about the "Falcons' window closing," but Matt Ryan is only 28. The window is just fine.
30. San Francisco 49ers (previous: 31)
It's really a tossup between the 49ers and Seahawks in the NFC. For the overall list, I decided to move one of them above the Broncos since Denver plays a much easier schedule. (Every schedule in the AFC is easier.)
31. Denver Broncos (previous: 30)
Congrats, Peyton Manning! On your schedule you get to double-dip the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers, plus the NFC East. Manning and the Broncos have games against the Titans and Jaguars too. And the Patriots now appear to be considerably weaker.
A gluttonous Manning literally rolls into 13 wins.
32. Seattle Seahawks (previous: 32)
The most difficult thing about ranking the Seahawks last?
- People will call me biased. However, which rankings don't have Seattle in the top (or in this case bottom) three?
- Russell Wilson isn't "proven." I should add that neither are Luck, Griffin or Colin Kaepernick by those standards.
- Playing in the NFC West. Where the 49ers are also the class of the NFL, and the Rams are perhaps the most up-and-comingest team in the league.
Having one of the top five teams in the NFL last year and adding Percy Harvin, Christine Michael, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Antoine Winfield, the Seahawks appear to have the best 53-man roster in the league.
Now, Seattle just needs to go out there and actually win a Super Bowl, or nobody will ever take the team seriously ever again. People not taking the Seahawks seriously? Can't be true.