Originally written on Big Giants Boom  |  Last updated 7/26/12

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 08: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks to pass against the San Diego Chargers on November 8, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
New York - It seems like yesterday the New York Giants were strolling down the "Canyon of Heroes" in celebration of their Super Bowl XLVI victory over the New England Patriots.
Well after months of controversy with the New Orleans Saints in "bounty-gate", signings, trades, multiple arrests scattered across the league and the ever-so boring draft, the 2012 NFL season is right around the corner with several camps opening today.
Here are my top 10 preseason rankings, albeit EARLY rankings (2011 record in parentheses).
Eli Manning and the New York Giants come into the 2012 NFL season as defending champions and hold the top spot in my preseason power rankings. (Photo credit: AP)    1. New York Giants (9-7): The reigning champions will have a tough time defending their crown with one of the hardest schedules in the league. But with Eli Manning running the show and the G-Men pass-rush putting pressure on opponents, the Giants should be able to put up significant wins. The departure of Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham will be crucial spots that the Giants must fill. Will RB Ahmad Bradshaw's ankle be an issue during the season? With little experience throughout the depth chart, the Giants hope not.
2. Green Bay Packers (15-1): With a 15-1 regular season record, a lot people put their stock into the Packers to go all the way. But with a defense ranked among the NFL's worst, they struggled down the stretch, failing to even make it to the NFC championship game. There is no question that the front office addressed the team's defensive need, drafting six players on defense. Aaron Rodgers will lead a stellar offense, but the key is if they can stop opponents from scoring.
3. New England Patriots (13-3): Let's get one thing straight, with Tom Brady as the quarterback the Patriots have a 99% chance of making the postseason, especially with a struggling AFC East division. With the addition of Brandon Llyod as a wideout, the achilles heel of New England will be their defense (sounds familiar). Like the Packers, the Patriots also added some depth to their defense, drafting both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower who will be a part of critical plays during their rookie seasons.
4. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Call it a sympathy pick, but you have to feel bad for the Ravens after last season. Losing to the Patriots in the AFC championship game after a missed field-goal was heartbreaking and the phrase "pulling a Cundiff" became a national sensation. Quarterback Joe Flacco has proved his can play with the big boys after much doubt. With basically the same defense that has characterized the Ravens for years, this team will fight for tops in the AFC.
5. Houston Texans (10-6): Last season, the Texans suffered from a serious case of the injury plague. With an offense led by QB Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, and Andre Johnson, this team could be playing through the winter months if they stay healthy. Not only has their offense been productive, but their defense was exceptional last season; ranking third and fourth in passing and rushing yards allowed. With a weak schedule in 2012, the Texans could do some damage in the AFC South. 
6. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): For some reason, I am still wondering how the Niners made their way to the NFC Championship last season. No question, Alex Smith had a fantastic year, which is quite out of the ordinary. The turnaround seems to be predicated on the coaching of Jim Harbaugh, but it was instant; the 49ers went from a 6-10 team to a 13-3 team in less than a year. With a running game that features two 18-wheelers in Frank Gore and Brandon Jacobs, the offense was able to add some elements to bolster the passing game; Mario Manningham and Randy Moss.
Drew Brees will be without head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season. Can the New Orleans Saints recover from an offseason full of controversy? (Photo credit: AP)
 7. New Orleans Saints (13-3): It is amazing how things can change. The Saints went from becoming America's team and winning the Super Bowl in 2009, to a team riddled with controversy and investigation over player bounties. The suspension of head coach Sean Payton will be more costly than people think. Combine that with the struggle Drew Brees faced in negotiating a contract; that is a nasty recipe. (I mean pay the guy, he is the reason your fans don't wear paper bags over their heads anymore.) Losing Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith will leave gaping holes in the defense, ones that an offense ran by Brees alone, might not be able fill.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): The Steelers have both a balanced offense and defense, but truth be told, Big Ben got knocked around way too much last season. He averaged close to three sacks per game and was sacked a total of 40 times in 2011.  To make matters worse, Big Ben suffered what looked like a severe left leg injury in Week 14, and even though he was able to play on it, he didn't have the throwing power or accuracy needed for the team to make a run in the playoffs (they lost in the first round to the Denver Broncos). If the offensive line can do a good job of protecting Rothlisberger, the Steelers could be a force in the AFC and crack the top 10.
9. Denver Broncos (8-8): Peyton Manning...is that all that I have to say? Not necessarily. Everyone will be watching to see how Manning responds after neck surgery that kept him out all of last season. Not only that, the weather could be a factor as well, since Manning has played a majority of his games in a dome, the weather in Denver is a WHOLE lot different, especially a mile-high off the ground. The Broncos have a young and quick defense, which could act as a buffer if Manning falters due to the layoff.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8): When Michael Vick said that the Eagles could create a "dynasty", the rest of the NFC looked around and laughed. Last season, the 32-year-old QB failed to stay on the field and made poor decisions under pressure, while the defense gave up game-changing plays every week. Coach Andy Reid could be under the gun real quick if the Eagles start off slow, but if Vick stays healthy and uses his weapons; mainly DeSean Jackson and LaSean McCoy; Philly could compete with the Giants for the top spot in the NFC East.
The 2012 NFL season kicks off on Sept. 5 as the defending Super Bowl Champs New York Giants host their divisional rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
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