The top five best, worst and most improved offensive lines in the NFL

There’s a secret that most good fantasy football owners don’t want you to know: Knowing how good (or how bad) an offensive line is could be the difference between you making the playoffs in your league, and winning the whole damn thing.

The bottom line is that the offensive line is the key to whether or not an offense is going to be successful in any given season. They’re the reason why guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brews are able to rack up terrific passing yards year in and year out, and why Brandon Jacobs, Michael Turner and Adrian Peterson continue to be solid fantasy backs. So knowing which O-lines are quality and which act like revolving doors to their team’s backfield will give you an edge on draft day.

Below is a ranking of the top five best lines, the top five most improved lines and the top five worst lines in the NFL heading into the ’09 season. Use these rankings as a tool to help you make better decisions on draft day and to also aid you when you’re stuck between a couple of players in later rounds.

Granted, we’re not advocating bumping certain players to the top of your pre-draft rankings just based on these rankings. The Lions offensive line is the worst in football, but if Kevin Smith is there for the taking in the 5th round, by all means jump on him. This article is purely meant to be a helpful aid; obviously you still have to use solid judgment on draft day.

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Five ’08 NFL playoff teams with issues heading into ’09

Vinnie Iyer of did an interesting piece on five NFL playoff teams who have big issues heading into the 2009 season.

Ray Lewis1) Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco has had a great start to his career, but to take the next step as a quarterback, he probably could use a young receiver with No. 1 potential. The more pressing issues, however, are with Baltimore’s backbone, its defense. First, it’ll be a challenge to find a coordinator and play-caller to match Rex Ryan, who left to become head coach of the New York Jets…

2) Philadelphia Eagles. To some extent, the Donovan McNabb question was answered, at least for the ’09 season. His support system may be different, however. Aging offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan will be free agents. Top guard Shawn Andrews will need to come back from back surgery, and also may need to move outside. Backup running back Correll Buckhalter also wants to explore options out of Philadelphia. Defensively, stalwart safety Brian Dawkins could also walk…

3) Carolina Panthers. Will Carolina need to address the quarterback position after Jake Delhomme’s six-turnover fiasco against Arizona in the divisional playoffs? It seems unfair to judge Delhomme on his first truly bad playoff game, when his play and leadership has been huge for the Panthers in the big picture. But still, with his age (34) and the fact he’s just one year removed from major elbow surgery, it might be time to draft a project passer to groom. In addition, Delhomme’s Pro Bowl left tackle, Jordan Gross, can become an unrestricted free agent….

4) Indianapolis Colts. Tony Dungy and general manager Bill Polian were hoping for a smooth coaching transition with Jim Caldwell taking over, but it hasn’t been necessarily easy in the early going. Offensive coordinator Tom Moore, 70, and offensive line coach Howard Mudd, 66, nearly opted to follow Dungy into retirement. Defensive coordinator Ron Meeks flat-out resigned on Tuesday, and Caldwell fired special teams coach Russ Pernell. Caldwell isn’t a Dungy clone — there will be a different feel around the team….

5) New York Giants. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo left to be head coach of the Rams, and there’s a chance offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride gets the same gig with the Raiders. The unit that Gilbride may leave behind has plenty of issues…

Iyer goes into more detail on every team, so check out the entire piece.

I agree on all of Iyer’s takes, although these problems are nothing new for any playoff team. Good teams have their coordinators stripped from them to become head coaches in other cities. Star players in contract years bolt for bigger paydays elsewhere, while other standouts get another year older or slower.

All five of the above teams have the potential to face major change and that’s what makes them a risk not to make a repeat playoff appearance next year. The most interesting team is the Ravens because they have so many questions to answer about their defense, which has been their identity the past eight or nine years.

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