The season is not underway yet but that doesn’t mean we can’t start ranking teams. The preseason is set to kickoff tomorrow so it is time to begin my first NFL Power Rankings of 2015.
1. Green Bay Packers
The Packers come into the season as my Super Bowl pick. Aaron Rodgers is probably the best quarterback in the NFL and he has way too many weapons on offense between Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Davonte Adams and Eddie Lacy. Think the Packers can win based on offense alone? Their 2012 Super Bowl win was due in large part to their second ranked defense. Just saying.
2. Indianapolis Colts
Like Green Bay, this team wins games by scoring points. Andrew Luck is an MVP candidate heading into this season and should have a much improved running game to support him with Frank Gore coming to town. The Colts suddenly have a very deep wide receiving core as well with Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett joining Indy during the offseason. The defense probably still needs some work but with the Patriots weakened, this is my pick to win the AFC.
3. Seattle Seahawks
This is supposed to be the year that the Seahawks finally let Russell Wilson loose. He has more weapons than ever, thanks to the arrival of Jimmy Graham. The offensive line might take a little bit of figuring out with Pro Bowl center Max Unger gone but this defense looks just about as strong as it ever did. Seattle is still going to be very hard to beat.
4. Dallas Cowboys
If they still had DeMarco Murray, they might be number one. The Cowboys defense isn’t perfect but adding Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory will improve it and might even push it to the territory of above average. Tony Romo is thankful to keep Dez Bryant around and Bryant is thankful he finally got paid. Dallas should win the NFC East again and make some noise in the playoffs.
5. New England Patriots
Without Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork or Tom Brady for the first four games, the Patriots are going to struggle. Even after Brady returns, this team is going to have to find a way to generate a lot of points to make up for the weak defense. They remain at five because they are the raining Super Bowl Champions but this team is going to slide a bit if they can’t get on track.
6. Denver Broncos
There are a lot of question marks surrounding this team. The biggest one is how well will Peyton Manning perform. I think this Broncos offense is going to dip some but due to the losses of Julius Thomas, Manny Rivera and Wes Welker rather than Manning’s declining play. Denver is certainly not a lock to win the West this year.
7. Arizona Cardinals
If Carson Palmer returns to pre-surgery form, the Cardinals could very well be the team to beat in the NFC West. Arizona went 11-5 last season despite playing with either their second or third string quarterback under center for 10 out of their 16 games. With Palmer, they were undefeated. Oh and they had the fourth best scoring defense. This is a complete team.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers will struggle without LeVeon Bell in the lineup. Plain and simple. However, with those two games coming against the Bradyless Patriots and the reeling San Francisco 49ers. Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger should be more than enough to beat those two teams.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals will challenge Pittsburgh again for the division. They will also probably end up as one of the wildcards from the AFC. And then they will almost definitely find a way to blow it in the wildcard game. If the Bengals bow out of the first round yet again, expect a new coach in Cincy.
10. San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon could be the missing piece in San Diego. Phillip Rivers is in a contract year too so he will be hard pressed to put up good numbers. The Chargers pair they vamped up offense with a defense that ranked in the top ten last season for yards allowed. They should challenge Denver for the division crown.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Maybe I am over estimating the talent in the AFC West this season but the Chiefs have a vastly improved secondary after getting Eric Berry back and drafting Marcus Peters. Jamaal Charles will still be the workhorse but Jeremy Maclin definitely improves this passing attack and should catch at least one touchdown this season.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Definitely the toughest team to figure out by a landslide. This Eagles team could be a Super Bowl contender or a basement dweller. No one is quite sure. Losing McCoy and Maclin definitely hurt what was a talented Eagles offense. The jury is still out on the health of DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford as well.
13. Minnesota Vikings
I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Vikings this year. They are loaded up at skill positions and Teddy Bridgewater is the reigning Rookie of the Year. The defense was solid but needed some help when it came to stopping the run. Spending their first three picks on defense showed the Vikings were ready to address the problem. They should be a Wild Card team in the NFC.
14. Miami Dolphins
Miami is right on the cusp of being a good team. Ndomakung Suh immediately improves a Dolphin run defense that ranked 24th last season. Once Devante Parker is healthy, Ryan Tannehill is going to have some weapons to work with as well. Miami could sneak into the Wild Card picture by season’s end.
15. Detroit Lions
You can’t pretend that the loses of Nick Fairley and the aforementioned Suh won’t really hurt the Lions rush defense. Matthew is still not an elite quarterback either. Stafford’s record against teams that finish with winning records is 3-24 over the last four years. Tells you all you need to know.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Short and sweet, I am not a huge fan of the 2015 Ravens. Breshad Perriman cannot replace Torry Smith nor can Timmy Jernigan replace Haloti Ngata. This team is going to struggle to throw the ball with Steve Smith Sr. as the only proven receiver on the roster. And he’s 36.
17. Carolina Panthers
This division should be marginally better than it was a year ago, but still not good. And the Panthers should still win it. The defense looks solid and Cam Newton has a good rapport with Kelvin Benjamin. That offensive line is shaky at best thought. Newton could be in for a long year.
18. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are going to look very different from last season. C.J. Spiller is gone in favor of LeSean McCoy. Matt Cassell takes over Kyle Orton’s role. Kiko Alonso is now an Eagle. And Rex Ryan is now calling the shots. The Bills are one of those teams that, if they had a quarterback, they would be really good.
19. New York Giants
Injuries once again plague the Giants and the season hasn’t even begun yet. Will Beatty will miss most of this season with a torn pectoral muscle. That means Ereck Flowers will be thrown into the starting role. Having a rookie left tackle protecting Eli Manning’s blindside is not comforting.
20. Houston Texans
Like the Bills, the Texans have just about all of the pieces in place, except for at quarterback. They at least have a group with some promise. It will be interesting to see how the franchise fares with Andre Johnson though. A lot is riding on DeAndre Hopkins being a true number one receiver.
21. New York Jets
Probably the only team in the league that benefits from having their starting quarterback’s jaw broken. Ryan Fitzpatrick knows the system from his time with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey in Buffalo. The Jets could compete this year, or completely fold and go 5-11.
22. Atlanta Falcons
Offense has never been the problem for Atlanta. Still the Falcons bolstered their ground attack with Tevin Colemon. On the other side of the ball, Dan Quinn arrives from Seattle to rejuvenate the league’s worst statistical defense. I think Vic Beasley is a bust (see Gohlson, Vernon for comparison) but only time will tell.
23. New Orleans Saints
Giving Drew Brees more time to throw the ball was a good decision. The Saints need some of their gambles, like C.J. Spiller and Stephone Anthony to pay some immediate dividends if New Orleans has any hope of returning to the playoffs in 2015. It’s a slight chance but with Brees under center you never know.
24. St. Louis Rams
How on Earth the Rams front office convinced the Eagles that Sam Bradford was worth Nick Foles AND draft picks is beyond me. If Foles stays healthy, the Rams could be a sleeper team to challenge for a wild card spot. However, Foles doesn’t have the same targets he did in Philly.
25. Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler is a marked man in Chicago. However, Adam Gase is pretty good at coaching up quarterbacks. With Kevin White and a fully healthy defense, the Bears should improve this season. Based on how tough the division (ok mostly the Packers) look though, it might not be by much.
26. San Francisco 49ers
It’s amazing that just two years ago, this team was a crazy Seattle interception away from being in the Super Bowl for what would have been a second consecutive season. Now, the 49ers are the basement dwellers in the NFC West in terms of talent. This is going to be a long year for the Bay Area football.
27. Cleveland Browns
Yeah I know the Browns almost avoided a losing record and weren’t eliminated from the playoffs until Week 16 but Cleveland is still a mess. After letting Brian Hoyer walk, the Browns found themselves with Josh McCown and the science experiment still known as Johnny Manziel. Pair that with the fact that former quarterback Terrelle Pryor might be Cleveland’s best receiver and you understand why they are ranked where they are.
28. Oakland Raiders
The beginning of the David Carr era was less than stellar but there was some promising moments for the young quarterback. With a real weapon in Amari Cooper and a potential possession receiver in Michael Crabtree, Oakland’s offense could be at least average. Especially with Latavius Murray in the backfield. Watch out for that kid on highlight reels.
This ranking could change very quickly if Washington finally finds a competent quarterback. The running game is there and the defense is starting to come along with some bright young corners and a couple of potentially impactful pass rushers. If RGIII comes close to his 2012 form, Washington will be better this year.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
Losing your first round pick mere weeks after signing him to a season-ending injury is rough and yet it totally seems to for the Jaguars. With reports Justin Blackmon will never play again, the Jags keep losing out on young talent. However, Blake Bortles seems to be the exception.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They might have finished with the worst record in football a season ago so the Bucs are already in better shape than a season ago. This team is still lacking in talent but locking down the talented guys they have like Lavonte David is how Tampa needs to continue to rebuild.
32. Tennessee Titans
Without a clear running back or wide receiver set to start for Tennessee the offense will probably struggle. Pair that with the fact that they have a rookie quarterback and it’s almost a guarantee. The defense doesn’t look much better but bringing in Brian Orakpo is a step in the right direction. The Titans probably won’t be leaving the NFL cellar anytime soon though.