Welcome back to another NFL season football fans! After the 8-month long drought of meaningful football, we are now just two days away from the season kicking off. This is shaping up to be a very interesting season in the league. It feels like there are very few teams who seem to have no shot at the postseason this year. There will undoubtedly be surprises that very few saw coming. That’s what makes the league so much fun to watch every year.
This year, it feels like there is a pretty deep group of contenders. Picking the top team out of that group is difficult. Ranking the list of contenders is probably even harder. Every team has flaws. There is not a team that feels head and shoulders above the rest. Even the reigning champs have a couple of question marks after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and departure of high-priced free agents. Yet, I will give it my best shot and fill you in on much of what happened during the offseason for each team. It’s time for the season’s first power rankings to begin.
1. Los Angeles Rams: Lost in Super Bowl
Los Angeles will try to buck the trend of teams who lose the Super Bowl struggling the follow season. New England certainly did, follow up its Super Bowl loss to Philly by taking home the Lombardi. The Rams return the majority of their roster. There was some turnover along the offensive line as both John Sullivan and Roger Saffold departed. However, the front office bolster the defense by keeping Dante Fowler Jr. and signing Eric Weddle from the Ravens. Oh and they also get Cooper Kupp back from injury. LA is far from a lock to win the Super Bowl, but they feel the best positioned to right now.
2. New England Patriots: Won Super Bowl
The champs are here. Winning the title and dropping one spot in the power rankings is not too bad when you consider how much roster turnover the Patriots had this offseason. I already mentioned Gronk moving on, but Trent Brown and Trey Flowers also left for greener (lots of green actually) pastures. New England added some savvy veterans like Ben Watson (suspended 4 games), Demaryius Thomas and Michael Bennett. The receiving core has also been bolstered by the conditional return of Josh Gordon. There are certainly holes on this Pats roster and Father Time will catch up with a number of key contributors eventually, by doubting Bill Belichick is a very questionable approach.
3. New Orleans Saints: Lost in NFC Championship
New Orleans should have been in the Super Bowl and actually caused a rule change this offseason. The Saints return all of its key offensive and defensive contributors. Mark Ingram does depart though after eight seasons in NOLA. This team was explosive to start the season, but really fizzled down the stretch. The lack of proven receiver depth behind Michael Thomas is a major concern, but the addition of Jared Cook at tight end should help alleviate some of the pressure. Latavius Murray also signed on to fill Ingram’s vacated role. If rookie center Erik McCoy transitions well to the pros and the defense takes the next step, the Saints could be hosting an extended Mardi Gras party in February.
4. Kansas City Chiefs: Lost in AFC Championship
Will Patrick Mahomes replicate his 50 touchdown season? Can he lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl? Is he the greatest thing since sliced bread? These are just some of the questions floating around Chiefs’ camp coming off their deepest playoff run in 25 years. Kansas City tried to address its woeful secondary by signing Tyrann Mathieu and drafting Juan Thornhill in the second round. KC also allowed Justin Houston to walk and shipped Dee Ford to San Francisco. Bringing in Frank Clark from Seattle should ease those losses, but the defense once again feels like a question mark potentially holding the Chiefs back from a chance at a title.
5. Chicago Bears: Lost in NFC Wild Card
It is hard to know what to make of the Bears. Chicago shocked everyone by dominating the NFC North last season. It was a great run cut short by a a kick hitting the upright against the Eagles. Mitch Trubisky enters year three without a clear top receiving threat. The collection of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton did just enough to power the passing game. Chicago is very excited about David Montgomery and still returns the best defense in the league, but it is down a few key pieces. Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan both departed in free agency, leaving some holes in the secondary. Da Bears took fliers on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine to help patch it up. The front seven is still fearsome and should be good enough to mask any weaknesses in that back four.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Lost in NFC Divisional
You know who would really like to make Philadelphia forget about Nick Foles? Carson Wentz. The former North Dakota State star has missed the conclusion of each of the previous two seasons due to injury. Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win and divisional round appearance respectively. Philly was likely an inexplicable Alshon Jeffrey drop away from a trip to the NFC Championship game as well. Now its Wentz’s turn to show he has what it takes to lead the Eagles deep into the postseason. The backfield is restocked with rookie Miles Sanders and import Jordan Howard. DeSean Jackson is back for another run. The secondary is finally healthy. If Wentz can stay on the field this year, Philly is going to be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Lost in AFC Divisional
It feels like now or never for the Chargers. Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekler, Hunter Henry and Mike Pouncey are all in contract years. We’ve already seen that Gordon is not happy about entering the season without a new deal. However, Los Angeles needs to make significant progress from the team that was shelled by New England in the playoffs last year. Some improved offensive line play should definitely help solve that. Thomas Davis also adds a veteran presence to the defense, already boasting a stud pass rusher in Melvin Ingram. The AFC West will be tough, but the Chargers are in a good position to finish on top of the division.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers: Finished 2nd in AFC North
Even with Antonio Brown in Oakland and Le’Veon Bell in New York, the Steelers actually feel like a more complete team in 2019. Adding Devin Bush, Justin Layne and Isaiah Buggs through the draft gives Pittsburgh some young building blocks. Mark Barron is also an intriguing free agent signing. James Conner and Jaylen Samuel form a solid backfield tandem and the offensive line is among the best in the league. The front seven is among the better groups as well. If the Steelers can finally find some answers in the secondary, expect them back in the postseason this year.
9. Atlanta Falcons: Finished 2nd in NFC South
No team was more ravaged by injuries last year than the Falcons. With a healthier defense, a retooled offensive line and the return of Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator, I am optimistic about the Falcons this season. They have depth at the skill positions and some intriguing talent on defense. If Vic Beasley can regain some of his 2016 form and Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen pick up where they left off before their injuries, the Atlanta should be a lot closer to what we saw in the back-to-back playoff appearances. Matt Ryan is an MVP-caliber quarterback with one the best receiver cores in the league. Keep an eye on these birds.
10. Minnesota Vikings: Finished 2nd in NFC North
There is no question 2018 was disappointing for the Vikings. Coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship game (a beatdown though it was), expectations were high for Minnesota. Instead, the Kirk Cousins-led offense sputtered and the defense could not do enough to carry them to the postseason. The Vikings invested a lot of draft capital into the offense and Dalvin Cook should be back in action as well. With possibly the best receiving pair in the league now with Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs, Minnesota should be knocking on the door of the playoffs once again.
11. Cleveland Browns: Finished 3rd in AFC North
This is easily the highest I have ever had the Browns in the power rankings to start the season. Cleveland went out and acquired Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon from the Giants this offseason. It also added Sheldon Richardson and Greedy Williams. While many are picking the Browns to win the AFC North, that offensive line has me a little worried, particularly after shipping Kevin Zeitler to New York. And while Baker Mayfield was amazing last year, this will be his first full season as the starter and Freddy Kitchens first full year as the coach. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but an ample amount of them to be cautious as well.
12. Green Bay Packers: Finished 3rd in NFC North
Talk about turnover. The Packers fired Mike McCarthy last year, replacing him with Matt LeFleur. Rumor has it Green Bay will run the ball a bit more this season, a wise choice with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams available to carry the rock. Aaron Rodgers is still trying to find a second weapon to rely on in the passing game behind Davante Adams. If Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Jake Kumerow can finally step up, this offense should get back to where we expect it to be. Defensively, the secondary is deep, but pass rushers are hard to find. The Pack took fliers on ZaDarius Smith and Preston Smith. Rodgers is talented enough to overcome a lot of this, but he could desperately use some help after being stranded for the past several seasons.
13. Houston Texans: Lost in AFC Wildcard
Seem low for the Texans after reaching the playoffs last year? Maybe it is. They had an extremely busy offseason, adding Laremy Tunsil to bolster the offensive line, a move it desperately needed to make. However, it lost Jadeveon Clowney, a blow no matter how you look at it. Elsewhere, Deshaun Watson also needs some help from someone not named DeAndre Hopkins, a task made harder with Lamar Miller suffering a major knee injury. The defense is still one of the better ones in the league, led by J.J. Watt. The secondary took a few hits, but adding Bradley Roby should help mitigate any losses. In a tougher AFC South, the Texans need to play at a high level to make it back to the playoffs.
14. Seattle Seahawks: Lost in NFC Wildcard
If you are a fan of old-school, smash mouth football, the Seahawks are your team in 2019. With an improving offensive line, the dynamic duo of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny and of course Russell Wilson, Seattle is going retro. It was the only team to run the ball more than it threw it last season. With Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor all gone, it is truly the beginning of a new era though. Adding Jadeveon Clowney should help, but it is possible these key veteran departures could be too much for this team to overcome. Even with Bobby Wagner leading the defense, Seattle has some work to do to replace that leadership.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Lost in NFC Divisional
On one hand, I get it. Paying a running back a ton of money seems like a questionable way to spend cap space. However, this is probably the most complete running back in the NFL we are talking about. Ezekiel Elliott powers that Dallas offense and I would be very wary of them making the playoffs, much less winning the NFC East if his holdout carries deep into the season. Sure there is other talent in Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, but the Cowboys are a bit short on proven skill position players. They are counting on Michael Gallup to take the next step and Jason Witten to pick up right where he left off after a year in the broadcasting booth. Thankfully, the defense does not seem to have too many holes, which should keep Dallas in the mix if the offense sputters.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Lost in AFC Wildcard
Baltimore had a tough offseason. Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, ZaDarius Smith and Eric Weddle walked away, signing with new teams. The Ravens did fill the void by bringing in Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram, but it wasn’t enough to make it feel like the team had taken the next step. Surrounding Lamar Jackson with talent is the key, but there is no one right now that inspires confidence right now. Marquis Brown is explosive, but Willie Snead and Chris Moore are far from elite receivers. There are a lot of question marks on this offense and more on the defense than we are used to.
17. Denver Broncos: Finished 3rd in AFC West
Another year, another quarterback for Denver. This one though has the best resume of anyone since Peyton Manning hung up his cleats. Joe Flacco is no Manning, but he is a former Super Bowl MVP. With Emmanuel Sanders looking healthy, some solid tight ends and two young receivers coming up, this passing game should improve in 2019. Pair that with a lethal defense and this has the makings of a sleeper playoff team. Denver just needs to find a way to survive the juggernauts in the West.
18. Tennessee Titans: Finished 3rd in AFC South
Defense wins championships and Mike Vrabel has built a defense worthy of championship contention. He bolstered the group with veteran pass rusher Cameron Wake. Now if only the offense could find a way to support it. Marcus Mariota is in his finally year of his rookie deal and is out of excuses. He has a better receiving core after Adam Humphries joined this offseason. Derrick Henry is playing better and Tennessee still has Dion Lewis as well. Not having Taylor Lewan the first four games due to suspension is going to be hard, but this is the Titans year to either break through or look at a rebuild.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars: Finished 4th in AFC South
I’m buying the Jaguars turning things around this year. I know Nick Foles is not going to suddenly become Tom Brady, but he will be an upgrade from Blake Bortles. He has tons of big game experience. Leonard Fournette obviously needs to improve after a rocky season. It also remains to be seen just how good this receiving core is, led by Dede Westbrook. Defensively, Jacksonville is still stacked. Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, Marcel Dareus, Calais Campbell, Myles Jack and now Josh Allen. This is an explosive group with tons of talent. The Jags feel like the team that could grind their way to a playoff appearance.
20. Carolina Panthers: Finished 3rd in NFC South
Which Panthers team are we going to see this year? The one that started 6-2 or the one that finished the season 1-7 after that? Much of that will depend on Cam Newton’s health. He has been banged up throughout his career. Carolina can rely heavily on Christian McCaffrey once again, but the difference between the Panthers being a postseason contender or a middling team will be Newton’s health. Luke Keuchley will have even more responsibilities with Thomas Davis gone. Edge rusher Brian Burns is making some early noise, but the corners remain a bit of an unknown. The Panthers are a quality team, but we’ve already seen how inconsistent they can be as a group.
21. San Francisco 49ers: Finished 4th in NFC West
The 49ers will almost undoubtedly be better in 2019 simply due to staying healthier and being a bit luckier. No one had fewer interceptions than San Francisco did last season and that was after losing Jimmy Garoppolo. With him back, Tevin Coleman and Deebo Samuel making plays and more talent on defense, the Niners are creeping into .500 territory. Make no mistake, this team is still a few pieces away from truly competing. We’ve already seen the struggles for Jimmy G coming back from his torn ACL in the preseason. If Nick Bosa can finally get on the field, this should be a fun team to watch on both sides of the ball.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Lost in Divisional Round
When I started working on this, the Colts were top 10 team. Then Andrew Luck retired. It’s easy to forget this team started last year 1-5. Indianapolis clearly showed what it was capable after that, finishing the regular season 9-1 and beating the Texans in the Wild Card. After boasting the best rookie class in the league last year, the Colts still have things to be excited about, but hopes of a Super Bowl walked out the door with Luck. The addition of Justin Houston gives Indy a proven pass rusher, so maybe the defense can find a way to carry it to another postseason appearance, but I’m not ready to put that much faith in Jacoby Brissett.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Finished 4th in NFC South
Time for the Bruce Arians era. For what feels like the 5th year in a row, there is a flickering of optimism surrounding this team. It still remains to be seen if that optimism will ever result in the Bucs taking a step forward. There is no question Jameis Winston will need to show some consistency this year if he hopes to still be on the roster next season. After an up and down year, Tampa does not feel like a true playoff contender, but should be more competitive in the NFC South.
24. New York Jets: Finished 4th in AFC East
Years of mediocrity could finally be coming to an end in New York. However, for the Jets are on their third coach in six years, meaning the direction of the franchise has changed once again. They also held onto Mike McCagnan through the NFL draft and then fired him in the middle of the offseason. A fresh start was probably needed, and there is some hope still in the form of Sam Darnold. The other major storyline playing out on Broadway this year will be the return to action for Le’Veon Bell. If he can regain his level of dominance he had in Pittsburgh, perhaps the nine-year playoff drought will finally be snapped.
25. Buffalo Bills: Finished 3rd in AFC East
The Bills are not ready to challenge the Patriots quite yet, but there is no question they closed the gap. That has more to do with what happened in Buffalo this offseason and less to do with any developments in New England. Adding John Brown and Cole Beasley should help Josh Allen’s progression. Even after cutting LeSean McCoy, the Bills look much stronger and deeper across the whole offense. Considering this is traditionally a talented defense, perhaps Buffalo can make some noise this year.
26. Oakland Raiders: Finished 4th in AFC West
It’s hard to know what to make of Oakland. There is no question this team got better during the offseason after addressing a bunch of needs with its three first round picks. There are still some major holes though, as Oakland lacks a proven receiver and still needs help throughout the defense. The Raiders will be more competitive this season without question, but they are playing in a tough division with a roster full of young players. There will be some growing pains.
27. Detroit Lions: Finished 4th in NFC North
I have been yelling it from the rooftops for years now. The Lions will never be a good team as long as Matt Stafford is the quarterback. Detroit enters another season with a ton of question marks across the roster. It let Ezekiel Ansah walk and replaced him with Trey Flowers, a smart move, but years of poor drafting has left the defense in shambles. Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson and TJ Hockenson should form a solid trio of skill players, but with an average line and not much depth, it looks like another disappointing season is coming in the Motor City.
28. New York Giants: Finished 4th in NFC East
No team shed more top-tier talent than the Giants this summer, sending Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon to Cleveland and letting Landon Collins walk to Washington. With a porous offensive line and a battered defensive front, it looks like a long year for the Giants. Eli Manning is still the starter, even with Daniel Jones waiting in the wings. This is a massive transitional year for New York that could ultimately decide Pat Shurmur’s fate as the team’s coach.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Finished 4th in NFC West
If nothing else, Arizona will be a lot more fun to watch this season. Between Kyler Murray taking over at quarterback and Kliff Kingsbury coming in as the new coach, the offense should definitely receive a jolt. The line still isn’t great, but the franchise has turned the corner in it’s rebuild. Don’t expect much immediate success, but success for this team should really be judged by how well it progresses with Murray at the helm. Look for Byron Murphy to play a major role early on as well with Patrick Peterson suspended the first six games of the year.
30. Washington: Finished 3rd in NFC East
This ranking is not indicative of Washington’s offseason. Landing Dwayne Haskins and Landon Collins give them building blocks to push this team forward. Expectations are low though for any team that plans to start a rookie quarterback at some point. However, there is a lot of potential for this team to outperform those expectations. Derrius Guice is back after he missed his rookie year with a torn ACL. The defensive line also boasts a pair of former first round picks in Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne. Considering how good this team was last year before Alex Smith got hurt, there is still potential for Washington to make a playoff push.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Finished 4th in AFC North
If there is anyone stuck in the middle of an awkward transition, it is the Bengals. They are still holding onto the veterans from the previous era who will not be on the team the next time Cincinnati reaches the playoffs. Topping the list of holdovers is Andy Dalton, who is on his last leg with the franchise. Dalton has never won a playoff game and hasn’t made it back to the postseason since crashing out in 2014. That isn’t for a lack of skill position talent with AJ Green, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and Giovani Bernard surrounding him, but the Bengals might have the worst offensive line in football other than potentially the Dolphins.
32. Miami Dolphins: Finished 2nd in AFC East
Speaking of the Dolphins, welcome to the bottom of the pile Miami. That’s what happens when you trade your stud left tackle, starting middle linebacker and most reliable receiver less than a week before the season. Who am I kidding, the Fins would’ve been here anyway. This is a team banking on Ryan Fitzpatrick delivering some of his magic once again, who also brought in Josh Rosen to see what he could do. Miami is the clear frontrunner for the first pick heading into the year and there is a good chance that won’t change much.