The Sports Daily > Redskins Hog Heaven
Ravens and Steelers top the power ranking of Redskins 2012 opponents say NFL players

Redskins vs. Ravens

The players have spoken. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are the Washington Redskins’ top-ranked opponents based on the Top 100 NFL Players of 2012. Beast rivals Eagles, Giants and Cowboys round out the list of top five opponents.

The NFL Network just completed its annual player ranking as voted by the players themselves. It is the perfect fluff piece for the dead zone of the offseason.

Hog Heaven plays along using the unscientific principle that the team with the most ranked players must be the best. We applied judgment when the ranking seemed to lead us astray.

I should confess that Hog Heaven puts little stock in these polls ever since a similar player poll by Sports Illustrated ranked Albert Haynesworth the No. 1 NFL player of 2009, the year he joined the Redskins.

Pro players are as superficial as the rest of us. They are easily persuaded by the last play they saw. It would be more accurate to call the list the Top 100 of 2011. Consider that the players voted Eagles’ left tackle Jason Peters the 42nd best player of 2012. Peters is OUT for 2012.

If this power ranking means anything, and if the Redskins have improved as we think they have, Washington should sweep the bottom five teams on this power ranking and split games with the next four. There are your seven easy wins. Pick off an upset or two of the top four teams and the ‘Skins will hover around .500. Easy.

We’ll have power rankings based on reality in about eight weeks. For now, just for fun, here’s the list of Washington’s toughest opponents showing players and (rank).

1. Baltimore Ravens
Halati Ngata (9)
Terrell Suggs (11)
Ed Reed (16)
Ray Lewis (20)
Ray Rice (22)
Vonta Leach (45)
Joe Flacco (74)

The Ravens have five of the top 25 players. If there were a poll of Top GMs, Ozzie Newsome would top the chart. Newsome knows about player talent. He is already a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Redskins last beat the Ravens in 2000 in a 10-3 defensive affair when both quarterbacks, future Redskins Tony Banks, and future ex-Redskins Brad Johnson, threw for well under 200 yards.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Troy Polamalu (19)
James Harrison (29)
Ben Roethlisberger (30)
Mike Wallace (47)
Maurice Pouncy (49)
Lamarr Woodley (63)

There was a time when the Steelers were one of the few teams the ‘Skins could count on beating. That time ended in November 1991, with Washington’s 41-14 pasting of Pittsburgh. Washington has gone 0-4 since. The schedule-makers were kind this year. The Redskins do not face the Steelers and Ravens until the second half of the season, giving Robert Griffin III time to adjust to the speed of NFL pass rushers.

3. Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy (18)
Jason Peters (42)
Jason Babin (44)
Trent Cole (57)
Michael Vick (70)
DeSean Jackson (71)
Nnamdi Asomugha (79)

Redskins fans are loath to admit it, but the Eagles are loaded. We wonder why Mike Vick escapes the skepticism heaped on Tony Romo. It’s much more fun to heap stuff on the Cowboys, I guess. Hog Heaven sees parallels between the 2011 Eagles and 2006 Redskins with the maxim, “You can’t buy a championship,” on full display. The ‘Skins made the playoffs under trying circumstances the following year. Even with the enormous hole where Jason Peters used to be, the Iggles will be tough contenders this year.

4. New York Giants
Jason Pierre-Paul (24)
Eli Manning (31)
Victor Cruz (39)
Justin Tuck (62)
Hakeem Nicks (90)

The Giants were so enraged at losing to the Redskins that they haven’t lost a game since. Can’t those guys take a joke? New York’s run to the Super Bowl was propelled by two players you never heard of, Jason Pierre-Paul and Victor Cruz. We know them now. It’s a lesson on the value of seeding your team with young talent on a regular basis. The Shanahan-Allen regime, on behalf of Mr. Snyder, takes that lesson to heart. It had better start working someday soon. Real, real soon.

5. Dallas Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware (6)
Jason Witten (75)
Tony Romo (91)

Why has Tony Romo failed to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl? Because, he’s not good enough to carry a deeply flawed team there. The operative words are “deeply flawed team.” Winning the Super Bowl is a team accomplishment. NFL players saw through the Dallas hype and voted just three Cowboys to the Top 100. Romo is ranked too low on the poll, but Ware is the highest rated NFC East player listed. In spite of that, it’s the Cowboys, and they are always a tough outing for the Redskins, but just slightly ahead of the next team on this list.

6. Carolina Panthers
Steve Smith (35)
Cam Newton (40)
Ryan Kalil (99)

I clench every orifice at the very thought of Cam Newton with the ball in his hands. That’s why the Panthers are rated sixth on this power ranking ahead of the Falcons and Bengals. NFL players want to see more of Newton before they rate him in the top 10 or 20. I’ve seen enough. That Panthers-at-Redskins game, to be (over)hyped as Newton vs. RG3, will be some humdinger. You read it here first, folks.

7. Atlanta Falcons
Tony Gonzalez (53)
Roddy White (65)
Michael turner (68)

Wait, what? Ageless Tony Gonzo makes the list, but QB Matt Ryan does not? I had to check that twice. The Falcons are a playoff-caliber team, but a win at home is achievable.

8. Cincinnati Bengals
AJ Green (77)

This power poll is based strictly on the Top 100 Players poll. If it were based on team defense, the Bengals would rank higher. Every team in the AFC North has the toughest defenses the Redskins will see this year.

9. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees (2)
Jimmy Graham (14)

The gods of scheduling gave the Redskins two good things, a BYE in Week 10 and the Saints in Week 1. Maybe New Orleans can overcome the turmoil that surrounds them by the opening game, but there is no better time for the ‘Skins to face them.

10. St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson (37)
Chris Long (84)
Cortland Finnegan (93)

The Redskins have fared poorly against fellow division fourth-place opponents like the Rams. Washington is 2-3 against the Rams dating to the 2006 season.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carl Nicks (76)
Donald Penn (97)

Greg Schiano is a very fine coach, but Tampa Bay goes against conventional wisdom by hiring a college coach to replace Raheem Morris. The NFL didn’t work out for Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino or (ugh) Steve Spurrier.

12 Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson (8)
Jared Allen (13)

The Redskins knocked Peterson out of the game in their last meeting and lost. Peterson is still recovering. The Vikes are near the bottom of the power ranking because that’s where they deserve to be. Then again, the Redskins knocked Peterson out of the game in their last meeting and lost.

13. Cleveland Browns
Joe Thomas (87)
D’Quell Jackson (96)

Browns fans will gaze across the field and dream of what might have been. If the ‘Skins have a “winnable” game, it is this one. Yet, Cleveland’s defense is formidable. So will be the lakeside weather for Washington’s December visit.

Related Links

NFL.com – Top 100 Players of 2012

Pro-Football-Reference.com – Washington Redskins Head-to-Head records