NFL Power Rankings: Week 6

Before we get into what was another wild weekend of action, we’ve got to talk about Jon Gruden. The now former Raiders coach resigned Monday night amid the fallout of the emails that surfaced this week. They are full of racist, misogynistic, bigoted language that seriously calls into question Gruden’s character.

I am happy that he will no longer be a coach in the NFL, but I do question why he was not fired. He unquestionably crossed a line, but the fact that his employment status was left up to him is concerning. Gruden apologized profusely, but seemed to be bothered by the fact that he was continually asked about the topic, almost dismissive of the significance of the situation. His apologies felt like he was simply going through the motions, even disingenuous. He just wanted to wipe his hands clean of it and move on, rather than address the damage done by the derogatory comments he made regarding several members of the NFL community.

There is no question that the NFL has a track record for sweeping serious allegations under the rug and often the league chooses to penalize those for drug use way more sternly than racism or even domestic violence. The NFL has certainly come a long way, but there is still a ton of room for improvement. Perhaps we will see future developments as the fallout from this email review continues. One can only hope.

Meanwhile, the NFL season continued to deliver exciting finishes. It helped that seemingly every kicker in the league forgot how to put the ball through the uprights. Let’s review Week 5 and take a look at how the league stacks up.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

1. Arizona Cardinals: 5-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 17-10 vs. San Francisco
For the first time in a while, we have some stability at the top of the rankings. Arizona is proving that it can find multiple ways to win. Sunday was a defensive battle as the Cardinals had their fewest points of the season. However, they contained Trey Lance and did just enough offensively to earn their fifth win of the year. A huge test at Cleveland is up next.

Bills logo

2. Buffalo Bills: 4-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 38-20 at Kansas City
It’s just one impressive win after another for Buffalo these days. Josh Allen had some big plays, but it was the defense that truly won the day. Holding the Chiefs to 20 points is impressive. Add in four forced turnovers, including a pick-six, and you are talking about a dominant performance. While Kansas City has been struggling this year, this was still a big step for Buffalo. It is hard to find a more complete team in the league at this point.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 4-1 (Last Week: 1)
Won 26-17 at Seattle
It wasn’t always pretty, but Matt Stafford put in a gutsy performance and the ground game got it done. Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel combined for 119 yards and two scores. Defensively, Los Angeles was doing a decent job of containing everyone not named D.K. Metcalf even before Russell Wilson got hurt. There were a couple of scares down the field, but the Rams bounced back with an important win in a really tough place to play.

Buccaneers logo

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-1 (Last Week: 5)
Won 45-17 vs. Miami
Goodness Tom Brady looks good. After struggling against the Dolphins towards the end of his time with the Patriots, the 44-year-old aired it out for 411 yards and five touchdowns. Antonio Brown and Mike Evans looked unstoppable for much of the afternoon. On the other side of the ball, the secondary remains a work in progress, but the run defense is the best in the league. The Eagles are up next fresh off a surprising win over the Panthers.

5. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-1 (Last Week: 6)
Won 47-42 vs. Cleveland
What a game! Justin Herbert was nearly flawless as he engineered some second-half heroics. There are certainly some red flags when it comes to the defense, which gave up a ton of yards and points. However, the Chargers made a stand when it mattered most with a fourth-down stop to win the game. The schedule doesn’t get any easier though with a visit to Baltimore on tap.

Ravens logo

6. Baltimore Ravens: 4-1 (Last Week: 7)
Won 31-25 vs. Indianapolis
Trailing 25-9 in the fourth quarter, it certainly looked like the Ravens were headed for an underwhelming upset. Instead, Lamar Jackson turned into Superman, leading a pair of scoring drives, complete with two-point conversions to tie the game. Baltimore certainly got some help from a few missed field goals and a missed extra point by Rodrigo Blankenship, but this was a stunning turnaround. If the Ravens can play anything like they did in the fourth quarter on a more consistent basis, they will be in really good shape.

Browns logo

7. Cleveland Browns 3-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 47-42 at Los Angeles
As long as games like these continue to happen, questions will be asked about the Browns’ status as a true Super Bowl contender. For the second time this season, Cleveland blew a two-score lead against an AFC West opponent. This time, it blew a 27-13 third-quarter lead, only to rally in the fourth quarter and then surrender two touchdowns in under four minutes. It is hard to blame the offense after a 42-point outing, including 300 yards from Baker Mayfield and no turnovers. Life won’t get much easier as the undefeated Cardinals visit in Week 6.

Cowboys logo

8. Dallas Cowboys: 4-1 (Last Week: 9)
Won 44-20 vs. New York
Outside of a two-point loss to open the season, the Cowboys are unbeaten and cruising. Dallas opened things up in the second half, but this game was actually very close before Daniel Jones exited the game. Perhaps the Cowboys always would have pulled away, but the Giants were a much worse team without him, Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay. Focusing on the positive though, Ezekiel Elliott went over the century mark and the team as a whole eclipsed 200 yards. That is a winning formula with the defense playing the best we’ve seen in years.

Packers logo

9. Green Bay Packers: 4-1 (Last Week: 8)
Won 25-22 at Cincinnati
On one hand, the Packers picked up their fourth straight win in a tough road test that required overtime. On the other hand, Green Bay tried its hardest to lose this game, but Cincinnati would not oblige. It is clear the secondary is missing Jaire Alexander. The defense came up with a pair of clutch interceptions of Joe Burrow, but Ja’Marr Chase torched the Packers’ defensive backs on a 70-yard touchdown and had another deep score called back due to a penalty. Winning while ironing out the kinks is still a good place to be.

Bengals Logo

10. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-2 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 25-22 vs. Green Bay
Lose and move up five spots? Seems counterintuitive, but who do you put above them at this point? Cincinnati should have won this game. They certainly looked like the better team for much of the second half. Joe Burrow did not play his best game though and ultimately, the offense blew several chances to win the game. While all the Bengals do is play close games, they seem to be trending in the right direction.

Saints logo

11. New Orleans Saints: 3-2 (Last Week: 17)
Won 33-22 at Washington
Is the Jameis Winston experiment working? On the season, he has nearly 900 yards passing and 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions. However, he has also completed just 60 percent of his passes and continues to be fairly inconsistent. I suppose as long as the Saints win games, they won’t really care how pretty it is. Winston tossed four more touchdowns on Sunday, but went 15-of-30 throwing and New Orleans had the ball for just 23 minutes of game play. Thankfully, the defense forced Taylor Heinickie to play much worse in an important bounce back victory.

Chiefs Logo

12. Kansas City Chiefs: 2-3 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 38-20 vs. Buffalo
Losing is one thing. Losing badly at home and looking overmatched in every phase of the game in another. Patrick Mahomes continues his uneven start to the season. He tossed two more interceptions, matching his season total from 2020. Defensively, Kansas City needs a reset. The Chiefs give up huge plays and tons of points on a weekly basis. With the team unable to run the ball even before Clyde Edwards-Helaire left with an injury, the defense had no chance. Andy Reid has a lot of work to do.

Panthers logo

13. Carolina Panthers: 3-2 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 21-18 vs. Philadelphia
So that’s why the Jets traded away Sam Darnold. Zach Wilson might have his own struggles, but Darnold imploded on Sunday, tossing three interceptions and only amassing 177 yards through the air. He had some help in the ground game as Chuba Hubbard racked up 101 yards. The defense did its job as well, recovering a fumble and limiting Jalen Hurts. This is a troubling loss for the Panthers, who will really hope they can get Christian McCaffrey back for Week 6.

Bears logo

14. Chicago Bears: 3-2 (Last Week: 24)
Won 20-9 at Las Vegas
While Chicago picked up a solid win, its offense took a significant blow with the loss of David Montgomery. Through four weeks this season, he had the fourth-most carries in the league. How the Bears have found success this season has been by running the ball and trusting its defense to win the game. It remains to be seen if Damien Williams can pick up the slack.

Raiders logo

15. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-2 (Last Week: 10)
Lost 20-9 vs. Chicago
Suddenly, the Raiders are in free fall. After two straight comprehensive defeats, Las Vegas lost its head coach as Jon Gruden resigned on Monday. Now, Rich Bisaccia takes over as head coach with the near impossible task of blocking out all of the off-the-field distractions that will inevitably follow in the coming weeks. Derek Carr has clearly regressed after a hot start and Josh Jacobs continues to be one of the least effective running backs in the league. It will be very interesting to see how the team responds in Denver this upcoming week.

49ers Logo

16. San Francisco 49ers: 2-3 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 17-10 at Arizona
The Trey Lance era got off to a pretty lackluster start. The rookie quarterback was solid, but the offense only managing 10 points is definitely an indictment on his level of play. Defensively, it was a good sign to see San Francisco hold Arizona to just 17 points. Kyler Murray looked fairly ordinary as the 49ers ensured he could not use his legs to beat them. It was a winning strategy, the offense just needs to play a bit better.

Titans logo

17. Tennessee Titans: 3-2 (Last Week: 21)
Won 37-19 at Jacksonville
Tennessee shook off the disappointment of its overtime loss in New York by avoiding another letdown. Kevin Byard got in on the action with a scoop and score to set the tone. Then Derrick Henry pummeled the Jaguars defense to the tune of 130 yards and three touchdowns. There are still some red flags, like James Robinson racking up 149 yards and 8.3 yards per carry. Mike Vrabel’s defense is still a weak spot, one that will need to get sorted out as the year rolls on.

Vikings logo

18. Minnesota Vikings: 2-3 (Last Week: 18)
Won 19-17 vs. Detroit
Minnesota came very close to blowing this game. Greg Joseph’s walk-off field goal secured the win, but against a winless team like the Lions, that is not a win to be proud of. For the second straight week, Kirk Cousins and company struggled. Some of that can be attributed to missing Dalvin Cook, but this team has enough playmakers otherwise to account for that. This team has a few close losses on the year against quality teams, but you would like to see them be a bit more convincing against the NFC North basement dweller.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

19. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-3 (Last Week: 23)
Won 27-19 vs. Denver
Suddenly, things do not seem as bleak in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger played well against a solid Broncos defense. The biggest talking point though has to be the Steelers finally managing to run the ball. Najee Harris led the way with his first 100-yard game in the pros as Pittsburgh finished with 147 yards on the ground. Establishing the run has to be a priority going forward, especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster potentially out for the season.

Denver_Broncos

20. Denver Broncos: 3-2 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 27-19 at Pittsburgh
It is certainly looking like the Broncos were the beneficiary of a very weak schedule to open the season. After a second straight loss in which the defense didn’t not look as strong nor the offense as potent, it is fair to turn the heat back up on Vic Fangio. Denver moved the ball well, but could not turn drives into touchdowns, settling for two field goals in the first half. Teddy Bridgewater tossed a game-ending interception in the end zone on fourth and goal, so this was certainly a close game. Unfortunately, close doesn’t count for anything in the NFL.

Eagles Logo

21. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-3 (Last Week: 25)
Won 21-18 at Carolina
Philly’s offense looked lifeless through nearly 45 minutes of this game. Jalen Hurts did not look sharp throwing the ball, managing just 5.4 yards per attempt on top of an interception. Thankfully, the defense and special teams stepped up to bail the offense out. Three interceptions of Sam Darnold and a critical blocked punt sparked two late touchdown runs from Hurts to pick up a seemingly improbable win. The Eagles will need to be sharper heading into a short week with the Buccaneers on the docket.

Seahawks logo

22. Seattle Seahawks: 2-3 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 26-17 vs. Los Angeles
It is time to panic in Seattle. Dropping below .500 in a home divisional loss and losing Russell Wilson for at least a month is about as worst-case scenario as you can get. Geno Smith showed some ability to bridge the gap, but with the Steelers, Saints, Packers and Cardinals coming up in four of the Seahawks’ next five games, it is hard to see a path to the playoffs without Wilson. None of this even covers the concerns for the secondary in Seattle. Robert Woods was open on seemingly every play and Jamaal Adams misplayed a floating pass to DeSean Jackson. Week 6 will be very telling for what to expect next.

Patriots Logo

23. New England Patriots: 2-3 (Last Week: 19)
Won 25-22 at Houston
Goodness this was ugly. New England scored 16 unanswered points to top Houston. Bill Belichick, notorious for flustering rookie quarterbacks, could not slow down Davis Mills for much of the game. The former Stanford quarterback threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. The biggest issue for this Patriots team is the inability to score touchdowns. Mac Jones has been solid, but the Pats rank 26th in points per game. They showed some grit to complete the comeback, but the Texans lost 40-0 a week ago. This performance left a lot to be desired.

Colts logo

24. Indianapolis Colts: 1-4 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 31-25 at Baltimore
I still don’t know how the Colts lost this game. Leading 22-3 in the closing minutes of the third quarter, it seemed like Indianapolis was well on its way to a much-needed road victory to shake off a lackluster start to the season. Instead, the Colts choked, capped off by a pair of missed field goals and a missed extra point by Rodrigo Blankenship. While it is easy to blame the kicker, Indy’s usually stout defense surrendered over 500 yards and 22 unanswered points. That is inexcusable. Frank Reich has some soul searching to do.

Washington made up logo

25. Washington: 2-3 (Last Week: 20)
Won 34-30 at Atlanta
Seriously, what happened? Two teams in the NFL are giving up at least 31 points per game so far this season. Washington and Kansas City. That is 10.4 more points per game than Ron Rivera’s side allowed a year ago. After adding William Jackson III and Jamin Davis, it seemed like Washington was set to be even better. Instead, the pass rush is nonexistent and the number of turnovers has dropped precipitously. It didn’t help that Taylor Henickie had a game to forget as well, but this defense is the biggest issue.

Falcons logo

26. Atlanta Falcons: 2-3 (Last Week: 28)
Won 27-20 vs. New York
The score looks closer than this game truly was. Despite missing Calvin Ridley, the Falcons offense was clicking. Matt Ryan reached 300 yards for the second time this season and tossed a pair of touchdowns. Atlanta’s defense was phenomenal in the first half as well, holding New York to just three points. The Jets closed the gap to 20-17 in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons closed it out with a late touchdown. Arthur Smith now gets a bye week to figure out how to beat a team that doesn’t play in New York.

Giants Logo

27. New York Giants: 1-4 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 44-20 at Dallas
Let’s not be too hard on the Giants. Before Daniel Jones got hurt, New York was level with Dallas. With Jones, Saquon Barkley, Andrew Thomas, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and more all missing in the second half, everything fell apart. A pair of interceptions from Mike Glennon and some poor run defense ended any hopes of the Giants staying competitive. If possible, a tougher test awaits with the Rams on tap.

Dolphins logo

28. Miami Dolphins: 1-4 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 45-17 at Tampa Bay
Sure, not having Tua Tagovailoa certainly hurts Miami’s top-end potential, but what gives defense? Brian Flores had one of the best units in the league firing on all cylinders in 2020. This year, the Dolphins rank 30th in yards and points allowed per game. Getting your quarterback isn’t going to fix all of that. The pass rush is lacking and the secondary looks overmatched. Tom Brady put up numbers he has never hit in his illustrious career on Sunday. Flores needs to rejuvenate this group as soon as possible.

Texans logo

29. Houston Texans: 1-4 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 25-22 vs. New England
While the result is incredibly disappointing, especially considering that the Texans collapsed in the second half, this was a huge improvement from Week 4. Davis Mills showed signs that he could be the quarterback of the future in Houston, which would be a massive development for this team. The Texans were never supposed to be good this year, so finding some players to fill key roles in the future while remaining competitive is a perfectly fine outcome. Hopefully, David Culley takes some notes on this loss to avoid blowing a big lead in the future.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 0-5 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 19-17 at Minnesota
Detroit is two last-second field goals away from being 2-3 with wins over the Ravens and Vikings. The Lions were fairly mediocre offensively, but this defense continues to impress. Kirk Cousins never looked totally comfortable and they forced two turnovers. Dan Campbell has won over this locker room and has Detroit playing his brand of football. It isn’t always pretty, but it often makes up for the difference in talent. The schedule doesn’t offer up any obvious opportunities for a win, but I think a win will come soon enough for this team.

Jets logo

31. New York Jets: 1-4 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 27-20 at Atlanta
Didn’t the Jets fire Adam Gase? You wouldn’t have known it watching New York’s offense in the first half in London? The offense ran just eight plays in the first 20 minutes of the game. They then had a 16-play drive that ended in a field goal. The defense didn’t do too much to help the cause either outside of forcing a fumble to set up said field goal. Serious questions have to be asked about Mike LaFleur after a fifth straight abysmal start.

Jaguars logo

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-5 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 37-19 vs. Tennessee
Same old Jaguars. A win was always a tough ask, but an 18-point blowout against a team that just got beat by the Jets is not a great look. The team ran the ball well and Trevor Lawrence had some moments, but the defense looked helpless to stop Derrick Henry and failed to force a turnover. Jacksonville has a league low one forced turnover this season and a league-worse -10 turnover differential. Urban Meyer is out of the news with Jon Gruden taking center stage, but the pressure is still on.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 5

What a two-week stretch! I’m back after a week off. I was a bit busy. I got married, then went on my honeymoon. I think that feels like a good reason not to write for a week.

However, it also means that I have a ton to catch up on. As we all expected, the Cardinals are the final undefeated team in the NFL. In much less surprising news, Matt Nagy continues to be criticized and Urban Meyer is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Another slate of surprising results leads to another major shake up in the rankings as we near the quarter-way mark of the season.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

1. Arizona Cardinals: 4-0 (Last Week: 4)
Won 37-20 at Los Angeles
For the third week in a row, we have another new team at No. 1. The Cardinals unquestionably deserve to be here. A statement win on the road in L.A. solidified Arizona as a Super Bowl contender. Kyler Murray is the early frontrunner to win MVP and the defense continues to step up when it matters. Another NFC West showdown is up next with the 49ers.

Bills logo

2. Buffalo Bills: 3-1 (Last Week: 5)
Won 40-0 vs. Houston
Holy hell, that season-opening loss to the Steelers looks more and more like a bizarre anomaly. Buffalo now owns a pair of massive shutout wins. In fact, Denver is the only other team to post a shutout this season. Now Houston is hardly a tough test, but the stat line Davis Mills posted looks like something when you play defense on rookie mode in Madden. He finished 11-of-21 throwing for 87 yards and four interceptions. This Bills defense is for real.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 3-1 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 37-20 vs. Arizona
Maybe this was an emotional letdown after beating the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 3, but this was a costly loss for the Rams. The margin for error in the NFC West is razor thin and now Los Angeles falls back in the division. There are a ton of games left, but some clear problems cropped up on Sunday. Arizona rumbled for 216 yards on the ground. This defense has to step up if the Rams want to win a Super Bowl.

Browns logo

4. Cleveland Browns 3-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 14-7 at Minnesota
In a week full of ugly games, this was easily the ugliest. Cleveland managed just a single touchdown offensively, but notched a pair of field goals and a two-point conversion to claim an important win. Unquestionably, the defense won the game for the Browns. Myles Garrett and company unsettled Kirk Cousins, who was on a tear through the first three weeks, and bottled up a good running game. Baker Mayfield definitely needs to play better, but this defense looks championship caliber so far.

Buccaneers logo

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 19-17 at New England
A look at the record would indicate that all is going well in Tampa Bay. However, a closer look reveals some concerns. Dallas outplayed Tampa for much of Week 1. The team’s only convincing win came against a horrible Falcons defense. New England was also a missed kick away from knocking off the champs. Defensively, this team has not been as good as a year ago. Injuries are mounting in the secondary. There is still a lot to be positive about, but there are cracks forming in the Buccaneers’ offense.

6. Los Angeles Chargers: 3-1 (Last Week: 11)
Won 28-14 vs. Las Vegas
Honestly, the Chargers are a few penalties away from being 4-0. A convincing showing on Monday night coupled with an upset of the Chiefs has Brandon Staley’s team atop the AFC West. Justin Herbert is playing lights out. The team is imposing its will in the trenches as well. With playmakers at all three levels of the defense, this team is starting to look like a real contender. Another big test looms with a visit from the Browns.

Ravens logo

7. Baltimore Ravens: 3-1 (Last Week: 7)
Won 23-7 at Denver
Baltimore certainly benefited from facing Drew Lock for much of the game instead of Teddy Bridgewater, but ultimately played much better offensively against better competition. Denver’s defense offered a real test. However, it was the Ravens defense that truly won the day. Holding the Broncos to just one touchdown was a good look and neither opposing quarterback had much success. With five sacks and an interception, it seems like this group is playing at a high level. A Monday Night Football showdown with the Colts awaits.

Packers logo

8. Green Bay Packers: 3-1 (Last Week: 8)
Won 27-17 vs. Pittsburgh
Turns out it was just one game on the schedule. The team that slept-walked its way through the season opener has been nowhere to be found since then. Defensively, Green Bay limited Najee Harris and shutdown Pittsburgh’s offense for much of the game. Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb connected for a pair of scores while Rodgers added another on the ground. The Packers seem to be getting into a groove ahead of a matchup with the upstart Bengals.

Cowboys logo

9. Dallas Cowboys: 3-1 (Last Week: 10)
Won 36-28 vs. Carolina
The final score line makes this game seem much closer than it truly was. Dallas led 36-14 in the fourth quarter before Carolina went on a furious comeback bid that came up short. With the rest of the division struggling, the Cowboys are cruising. Zeke Elliott seems to have knocked off the rust, racking up 147 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Dak Prescott didn’t throw for a ton of yards but avoided mistakes and tossed four touchdown passes. Don’t look now but this defense seems to be legit as well.

Raiders logo

10. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-1 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 28-14 at Los Angeles
This loss does not wipe out the fantastic start to the season for the Raiders, but it puts a solid dent in their ambitions. The Chargers led 21-0 at halftime as Derek Carr and the offense struggled to get going. Las Vegas had zero yards of offense at the end of the first quarter while the defense could not seem to stop Justin Herbert. Jon Gruden’s group played significantly better in the second half, but it was not enough to turn the tide.

Chiefs Logo

11. Kansas City Chiefs: 2-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 42-30 at Philadelphia
Oh look, it’s the AFC West basement dweller. I don’t think it will stay that way for too long. However, the concerns over the Chiefs defense are real. Kansas City surrendered 461 yards of offense and 30 points to the Eagles. Thankfully, Patrick Mahomes shredded the Philly secondary for five touchdown passes. The team also went 9-of-10 on third down conversions. The offense is still championship caliber, but the defense needs to find its way back to being at least league average.

Panthers logo

12. Carolina Panthers: 3-1 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 36-28 at Dallas
Despite having a few extra days to prepare for the Cowboys, the Panthers could not find a way to stop Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott. Carolina hung around early and made it competitive late, but got dominated in the third quarter. Dallas punched in three touchdowns to outscore the formerly unbeaten NFC South side 21-0 in the period. The Panthers will look to bounce back against another NFC East side as the Eagles visit in Week 5.

Seahawks logo

13. Seattle Seahawks: 2-2 (Last Week: 18)
Won 28-21 at San Francisco
Seattle was a bit lucky to win this game. Two missed kicks, a muffed kickoff return and an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers certainly set the Seahawks up for success. Credit to Russell Wilson and company for taking advantage when the opportunities presented themselves. However, San Francisco outgained Seattle by over 200 yards and won the time of possession battle. The Seahawks also went 2-for-10 on third down, but also held the 49ers to 2-for-14 in those same scenarios. Things don’t get any easier with a visit from the Rams on a short week.

49ers Logo

14. San Francisco 49ers: 2-2 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 28-21 vs. Seattle
Turnovers and a stagnant offense cost San Francisco its second straight home game. The 49ers could not convert on third down, finishing a lowly 2-for-14 and took too long to truly get going offensively. It also remains to be seen how long Jimmy Garoppolo will be out with a calf injury. There is only so much this defense can do when the offense continues to have drive stalls. Kyle Shanahan has to figure out how to spark his team.

Bengals Logo

15. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-1 (Last Week: 17)
Won 24-21 vs. Jacksonville
This was definitely closer than it should have been. Cincinnati held off Jacksonville with a walk-off field goal. It was good to see the Bengals work their way back from a 14-0 hole, but it is worrying that the deficit existed in the first place. Joe Burrow played really well though, finding C.J. Uzomah for a pair of scores. Finding a way to establish the run would certainly solve a couple of the team’s issues, taking pressure off the defense and Burrow. Still, Cincy is 3-1 and looks much improved from a year ago.

Denver_Broncos

16. Denver Broncos: 3-1 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 23-7 vs. Baltimore
This was a demoralizing loss for the Broncos. Losing Teddy Bridgewater stings. Watching Drew Lock haplessly attempt to lead the offense in his place only worsened the pain. It was Denver’s first loss of the season, but it also served as a major benchmark for the team. After beating up on some of the worst teams in the league, it does not appear that the Broncos truly belong in the conversation with the NFL’s elite.

Saints logo

17. New Orleans Saints: 2-2 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 27-21 vs. New York
Will the real New Orleans Saints please stand up? So far this season, Sean Payton’s side has shelled the Packers, fallen flat against the Panthers, whipped the Patriots and then choked against the Giants. The latest one might be the most confusing showing yet. New Orleans gave up 11 points in the final seven minutes of regulation and then could not stop New York from reaching the end zone in overtime. The Giants finished the game by scoring 17 unanswered points to claim the victory. Consistency might be hard to come by in the Bayou.

Vikings logo

18. Minnesota Vikings: 1-3 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 14-7 at Cleveland
It was a rough week for the offense, but there are some positives here for the Vikings defense. Holding Baker Mayfield under 50 percent passing is a good sign. Sacking him three times doesn’t hurt either. They did a decent job against the run, but the Browns still had 184 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, the offense did nothing to back up the defense. Kirk Cousins barely cracked 200 yards passing and the ground game averaged 2.8 yards per carry. The offensive line needs to play better.

Patriots Logo

19. New England Patriots: 1-3 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 19-17 vs. Tampa Bay
While it was a loss, the defense played incredibly well against a high-powered Buccaneers offense. Mac Jones looked sharp and handled the blitz well all night long as well. In the end, the Patriots came up just short off pulling off a big victory. Things will get a lot easier in Week 5 with a trip to Houston up next. It might not be a 40-0 shutout, but New England should be able to pick up a win.

Washington made up logo

20. Washington: 2-2 (Last Week: 24)
Won 34-30 at Atlanta
Washington, we have a problem! Matt Ryan carved up the defense to the tune of 283 yards and four touchdowns. Cordarrelle Patterson had a field day as well. Luckily, Atlanta’s defense might just be slightly worse. Taylor Heinicke led two touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter to win the game. This is not a winning formula when facing most teams in the league. Ron Rivera needs to find a way to revitalize this defense as soon as possible.

Titans logo

21. Tennessee Titans: 2-2 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 27-24 at New York
Tennessee has already shown this season it is capable of incredible highs and devastating lows. Sunday was clearly one of the lowest points we’ve seen from them in quite a while. The Titans lost a very winnable game on the road against a team with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach. What made it worse was that one of their former players, Corey Davis, played a major part in their loss. Lucky for them though, they still lead the AFC South, because it’s the AFC South.

Colts logo

22. Indianapolis Colts: 1-3 (Last Week: 22)
Won 27-17 at Miami
Indianapolis finally got a win, comfortably beating Miami. It took a little while for the offense to get going, but it closed strong with 20 points in the second half. Jonathan Taylor put together one of the best games of his season and Carson Wentz avoided turnovers. Defensively, the Colts didn’t have too many problems with the Jacoby Brissett-led offense. A much tougher matchup awaits with the Ravens on Monday night.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

23. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-3 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 27-17 at Green Bay
The bottom appears to be falling out for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has no offensive identity and clearly one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Losing to the Packers is more than understandable given their recent form. That shouldn’t excuse the 29th scoring offense and 28th offense in total yards per game. The Steelers also rank dead last in rushing yards. This team has to do something to turn it around quickly.

Bears logo

24. Chicago Bears: 2-2 (Last Week: 27)
Won 24-14 vs. Detroit
While Chicago picked up a solid win, its offense took a significant blow with the loss of David Montgomery. Through four weeks this season, he had the fourth-most carries in the league. How the Bears have found success this season has been by running the ball and trusting its defense to win the game. It remains to be seen if Damien Williams can pick up the slack.

Eagles Logo

25. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-3 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 42-30 at Kansas City
It is really tough to come up against Patrick Mahomes in that form. Philadelphia did its best to hang around early, but I don’t think this offense is really built to compete in shootouts. On the defensive side, this has to go down as a disappointment. After a strong start against the Falcons and 49ers, the Eagles have gotten shredded by the Cowboys and Chiefs. Some of that is a better level of competition, but this defense has to get its act together.

Dolphins logo

26. Miami Dolphins: 1-3 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 27-17 vs. Indianapolis
So it turns out Jacoby Brissett might not be the problem in this offense. He did lose a fumble, but Miami finished with 35 yards rushing on a meager 2.2 yards per carry. That is not going to win many football games. The offensive line is a mess, surrendering three sacks and eight quarterback hits. Even when Tua Tagovailoa comes back, I’m not sure that it will make much of a difference if this is how the team is going to play.

Giants Logo

27. New York Giants: 1-3 (Last Week: 30)
Won 27-21 at New Orleans
In potentially the unlikeliest result of the weekend, New York overcame an 11-point deficit in the closing minutes and knocked off New Orleans in overtime. Daniel Jones topped 400 passing yards for the first time in his career while Saquon Barkley is starting to look like the player we saw before his injury. The Giants have a long way to go. This team had just 10 points through the first 52 minutes of gameplay. Getting a win is huge though.

Falcons logo

28. Atlanta Falcons: 1-3 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 34-30 vs. Washington
Even though the Falcons beat the Giants head-to-head in Week 3, they showed their unmatched penchant for blowing games against Washington and still very much seem to be headed in the wrong direction. Atlanta gave up two touchdowns in the final four minutes and spoiled one of the best performances we’ve seen from Matt Ryan in some time. It is hard to feel overly confident in this team’s ability to close out games when that defense needs to come up with a stop.

Jets logo

29. New York Jets: 1-3 (Last Week: 32)
Won 27-24 vs. Tennessee
Could this be a turning point in New York? Probably not, but it is a really positive sign after a few dismal performances. The Jets scored more against the Titans than they had in the first three weeks combined and Zach Wilson flashed the playmaking ability that made him the No. 2 pick in the draft. He routinely extended plays and had a few explosive throws down the field. There were also a few questionable decisions, but that is to be expected from a rookie making his fourth start. It was good to see Jamison Crowder back in action as well.

Texans logo

30. Houston Texans: 1-3 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 40-0 at Buffalo
Poor Davis Mills. The rookie from Stanford looks totally overmatched and unprepared for life in the NFL. After a solid, but unspectacular first start, Mills was thrown to the wolves and produced one of the worst stat lines we have seen in a while. He finished with a 0.8 Total QBR. Not that he got much help. Houston was held under 50 yards rushing and the defense could only hang on for so long. David Culley will need to revisit the drawing board heading into Week 5 against the Colts.

Lions Logo

31. Detroit Lions: 0-4 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 24-14 at Chicago
Losing while being competitive only gets you so far. Chicago took Detroit’s strength and turned it into a weakness this weekend. The Lions offensive line allowed four sacks and could not get the run game going in earnest. It led to a very underwhelming offensive performance. While Jared Goff threw the ball well, falling just shy of 300 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, he fumbled three times, losing two of them. Detroit’s best bet for success is running the ball, calling play action and keeping Goff clean. Credit the Bears for making that impossible, but this was a tough loss for the Lions.

Jaguars logo

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-4 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 24-21 at Cincinnati
Believe it or not, the Jaguars seem to be improving on the field. Jacksonville came close to notching its first win since Week 1 of 2020. Trevor Lawrence looked much improved as the team built a 14-0 lead. Unfortunately, the Jags could not hold on and ended up losing on a last-second field goal. What is potentially more concerning is how much of a distraction Urban Meyer continues to be. The coach got himself in hot water again with a viral video taking center stage over the weekend. It’s hard enough for the Jaguars to overcome the clear talent deficit it faces. These off-field distractions only make life harder.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

NFL Coaching Hot Seat Tracker: Preseason Preview

It’s almost time for football! Training camp is getting underway and the NFL rumor mill is in full effect. Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and even Chandler Jones could be on the move.

There will be plenty of time to get into all of the potential scenarios for the big names looking for a change of scenery. I wanted to take a look at where every coach in the NFL stands though as we approach the preseason. Every year, we see about seven or eight head coaching openings in the league. Those openings don’t happen without a coach losing his job. Here is an early look at which coaches could be sweating it out at the end of the season. My plan is to update this list at the midway point and again after the regular season.

New York Jets – Robert Saleh
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

A rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. It’s the first time the Jets have ever had both heading into the same season in franchise history. That takes the pressure off everyone here. While seeing a massive turnaround from a 2-14 season would be great, it is not expected. As long as Saleh can show signs that he is putting the pieces in place for future success, that’s all that matters. Besides, after dealing with Adam Gase for two years, Saleh will be a breath of fresh air.

New England Patriots – Bill Belichick
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Could the Patriots really fire Bill Belichick? It feels unlikely. At this point, I think it is more likely Belichick retires or leaves on his own accord than being fired. Still, after a very rocky 2020 season, the Patriots spent a ton of money in the offseason to retool their roster. They also spent a first round pick on Mac Jones. If New England takes a step backward though and the offense flops again, maybe the team could think about making a change. Again, it feels incredibly unlikely, but the expectations are certainly higher for the Patriots in 2021.

Buffalo Bills – Sean McDermott
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
The Bills are entering a clear championship window in the final two years of Josh Allen’s rookie deal. Allen took a massive step in 2020 and put together an MVP-caliber campaign. If he can come close to replicating that performance, Buffalo will be very capable of winning its first Super Bowl in franchise history. In order to get to that point, Sean McDermott needs to get the defense back to its 2019 form. With higher expectations comes increased pressure. It would take a truly miserable season for McDermott to lose his job, but he has to deliver.

Miami Dolphins – Brian Flores
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

Honestly, if the Dolphins went 0-17 and Tua Tagovailoa lost his starting job to Jacoby Brissett, I think Brian Flores might still keep his job. He is a ton setter and a great culture builder. Let’s be clear, I don’t expect the above scenario to come true. Miami came up one game short of reaching the playoffs in an incredibly competitive AFC. Even if Tagovailoa falters again, I think Flores would get a chance to pick another quarterback and continue building the framework of this team.

Indianapolis Colts – Frank Reich
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Which direction are the Colts headed? The team has a championship-caliber roster in a lot of areas. Their front seven is incredible. The secondary should be even better in 2021. The offensive line is definitely among the top five units in the league. They lack a true No. 1 receiver at this point, but they have depth at the skill positions. It now all falls on Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. Indianapolis acquired Wentz this offseason for a decent amount of draft capital, reuniting him with his offensive coordinator from his early days in Philadelphia. If the Colts struggle in what looks to be a fairly weak AFC South and miss the postseason, there could be some significant turnover in Indy.

Houston Texans – David Culley
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

If there was ever a team that could be accused of tanking in the NFL, it has to be the Houston Texans. After releasing franchise icon J.J. Watt amid a massive quarterback controversy on the heels of a 4-12 season, it seems like the Texans are entering a long rebuild. With limited draft capital in recent years, this roster has a massive talent deficit compared to the rest of the league. The roster building is confusing as well, as the team continues to target veteran running backs. Deshaun Watson was likely not going to play this season before his pending legal situation unfolded. Now it seems certain he will not see the field in 2021. All of this is to say, there is absolutely no pressure on David Culley to succeed this season.

Tennessee Titans – Mike Vrabel
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Mike Vrabel has the Titans playing at an extremely high level. They are tough, determined and disciplined, which is usually a product of good coaching. After making a splashy move to land Julio Jones, the pressure is on for Tennessee to make a deep postseason run. With Arthur Smith heading to Atlanta, it is going to be interesting to see if the Titans can maintain their offensive success. A major step backward could see Vrabel come under scrutiny. I think his job is safe, but stranger things have happened.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Urban Meyer
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
It is very bizarre to say a first-year head coach is on the hot seat, but Urban Meyer is unlike most rookie coaches. Meyer comes with a ton of clout from his days at Ohio State and Florida. He also just drafted arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. The heat here mostly stems from Meyer’s checked history with team culture. The league fined the Jaguars $200,000 for OTA violations and slapped Meyer with a $100,000 fine of his own. The fines stemmed from breaking the non-contact rules of OTAs. This comes on the heels of Meyer hiring former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Doyle resigned one day after his hire following a chorus of former Hawkeyes saying he discriminated against them. The Jaguars have a chance to build something special around Trevor Lawrence. There have already been red flags. Jacksonville needs to be sure it has the best possible system in place for Lawrence to succeed.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
With Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh seemingly at its end, could the Steelers opt for a fresh start and move on from Mike Tomlin as well? It certainly feels possible. Despite winning the AFC North and reaching the playoffs, Pittsburgh struggled mightily down the stretch, including a dismal playoff loss against the rival Browns. With no clear succession plan in place and a roster coming up against the cap, the Steelers could look to rebuild with a new coach and a new quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens – John Harbaugh
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
A few years ago ago, it felt very possible the Ravens were set to move on from John Harbaugh. Baltimore missed the playoffs from 2015-2017. Joe Flacco was struggling. The defense was far from its championship-winning dominance in 2012. Lamar Jackson likely saved Harbaugh’s job. Baltimore is now among the top title contenders heading into 2021. Harbaugh feels very safe, but there is always a scenario where he could not be back. There have been concerns around the Ravens offense being too one dimensional with Jackson at the helm. Finally winning a playoff game took the edge off, but if Baltimore somehow misses the postseason in 2021, the heat will be turned up on Harbaugh.

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1994, Kevin Stefanski is among the safest coaches in the league. His run-heavy approach was incredibly successful, utilizing the two-headed attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to great effect. Stefanski also put Baker Mayfield’s career back on the right path. Now, there are still questions that persist around Mayfield, but after investing heavily in the defense, he might not need to do much for the Browns to be successful again.

Cincinnati Bengals – Zac Taylor
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Through two years on the job, Zac Taylor owns an ugly 6-25-1 record as a head coach. Some of that is a product of joining a team in the midst of a rebuild, but this is the year to start seeing some progress. Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future in Cincinnati. Coming off a gruesome knee injury, expectations will be tamped down some for Burrow, but another double-digit loss season could cost Taylor his job. The team needs to take advantage of Burrow being on his rookie contract and can’t afford to waste another year of his development and that salary cap window waiting to see if Taylor can put together a winning formula.

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

Unsurprisingly, the pressure seems to be fairly low on Andy Reid. He delivered the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since 1970 in 2019. He led the team back to the big game in 2020 despite having an offensive line decimated by injuries. It cost the Chiefs a chance at repeating, but Kansas City is expected to be among the top contenders to lift the Lombardi in 2021. As long as Reid and Patrick Mahomes are still clicking, the Chiefs are going to be among the best teams in the league.

Denver Broncos – Vic Fangio
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Maybe this is a bit warmer than Vic Fangio truly deserves, but the Broncos are heading into a pivotal season. The team put a lot of faith in Drew Lock by passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones on draft night. Courtland Sutton is back after missing 2020 due to injury. So is Von Miller. Winning the division is an incredibly tall task at this point with the Chiefs leading the way, but it feels like the Broncos need to be in the playoff conversation for Fangio to keep his job. Another five-win season with suspect quarterback play and a subpar defense is going to trigger a rebuild.

Los Angeles Chargers – Brandon Staley
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

Brandon Staley walks into a fantastic situation. He has a talented defense with a number of proven playmakers. He inherits one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in the league in Justin Herbert. Los Angeles is also stocked with some reliable playmakers on offense with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. The Chargers are simply looking to take a step in the right direction this year. Anthony Lynn was a good coach, but struggled with time management and maintaining leads. If Staley can show an ability to at least be average in those two areas, he will be a major improvement and the Chargers will be at least a league average team.

Las Vegas Raiders – Jon Gruden
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
At what point are the Raiders going to put it all together? Heading into his fourth year of his second stint with the franchise, Jon Gruden has yet to post a winning record or reach the postseason. Las Vegas had its moments in 2020, but on the whole it was a disappointing campaign. If the Raiders don’t show signs of progress, expect a rebuild to follow. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have had ample opportunity to shape this team how they want it to. Now it is time for the results to follow.

New York Giants – Joe Judge
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Only entering his second year, Joe Judge might be a victim of circumstance more than anything else if he were to lose his job after this season. New York had a rocky 2020 campaign, finishing 6-10 and struggling to figure out its direction offensively. The Giants are in for a much better season in 2021. Saquon Barkley should be healthy at some point early in the year. Dave Gettleman invested draft capital at wide receiver and edge rusher, two positions of need. However, if Daniel Jones struggles and New York suffers through another 6-10 season, Gettleman will almost definitely be gone and the Giants will be looking to find a new franchise quarterback. If there is already that much turnover, Judge could be gone as well.

Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Sirianni
Heat Index:
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
It is incredibly rare that coaches are fired after just one season. However, it has also happened twice in the past three years. Steve Wilks only got a single season in Arizona and was fired after 2018. Cleveland canned Freddie Kitchen after a disappointing 2019 campaign. It’s not out of the question for the 2021 season either. I already touched on Meyer. Nick Sirianni is not facing as much pressure as his Jacksonville counterpart, but Philadelphia has never been known for being patient. Sirianni inherits a team with more questions than answers at a number of key positions, namely quarterback. If Jalen Hurts flames out and Sirianni shows no signs of building a positive culture, I could see a scenario where ownership decides to clean house.

Dallas Cowboys – Mike McCarthy
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Speaking of coaches lasting one year with a team, there was some buzz that Mike McCarthy could be done after a single season in Dallas. Even before Dak Prescott went down for the season, the Cowboys looked outmatched. It got much worse after that. McCarthy did enough to somehow earn a second year, but now the pressure is on. Dallas needs to win the NFC East for McCarthy to keep his job. It is an incredibly weak division and the Cowboys have the most talented roster, at least on paper. McCarthy might even need to win a playoff game to truly secure his place in 2022.

Washington Football Team – Ron Rivera
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Ron Rivera seems to have endeared himself well to the fans and to the locker room in D.C. After scraping together a playoff appearance despite a losing record, Washington still has not addressed the quarterback position long term. If it takes a step back in 2021, I don’t think that will be enough to force Rivera out. It would take a truly terrible season to see him lose his job. However, there will be those who feel like Washington’s defense gives them a good chance to repeat as division champions. Expectations lead to increased pressure. Given what we’ve seen in recent years, nothing is out of the question.

Atlanta Falcons – Arthur Smith
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

After impressing as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Arthur Smith has earned the chance to lead a team of his own. The Falcons are coming off a tough season full of late-game collapses and bad injury luck. Atlanta is caught in limbo as well. They have some veteran players that would make you believe they want to contend, mainly Matt Ryan. The front office gave Ryan a vote of confidence, or realized they could not afford to move him, when it passed on Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Instead, they grabbed an elite pass-catcher in Kyle Pitts for Ryan to work with. That feels like a move towards contending in the short term. Then, the Falcons traded Julio Jones to Smith’s former team. Like I said, the team is in limbo. I think that bodes well for Smith’s job security while Atlanta attempts to figure out its direction moving forward.

New Orleans Saints – Sean Payton
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
It is the end of an era in the Bayou. Drew Brees’ retirement leaves the Saints with uncertainty at quarterback for the first time in a decade and a half. New Orleans is also in salary cap hell after loading up to contend in the future Hall of Famers’ final few years. Now, the Saints seem set for a step backward. Where does that leave Sean Payton? He has shown he can win games without Brees in recent years with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill stepping in to lead the team when Brees went down with injury. I think the pressure is likely off for Payton in 2021. It is a year for the Saints to retool their roster and identify their new franchise quarterback. If New Orleans tanks, Payton’s seat could get warmer, but I expect him to be back in 2022.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bruce Arians
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

The only way Bruce Arians is not the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 is if he decides to retire after the season. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers brought back essentially their entire roster to make a run at a repeat. Even if Tampa suffers from a major Super Bowl hangover and misses the postseason, it would be a rash move to fire Arians. He has the trust of Tom Brady, which goes a really long way in securing his position on one of the best teams in the league.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

2020 was a rebuilding year for the Panthers. Carolina rebuilt its defense in the 2020 NFL draft, gave Teddy Bridgewater a try at quarterback and lost their best player for most of the season due to injury as Christian McCaffrey played in just three games. Honestly, going 5-11 was a decent feat given how young Carolina’s starters were on both sides of the ball. Matt Rhule has earned the title of one of the best teachers in the game. His coaching skills were showcased during the Senior Bowl this past January. Given that the Panthers made a move to acquire Sam Darnold, I think the expectations will be slightly higher, but I still don’t think Rhule has anything to worry about heading into 2021.

Detroit Lions – Dan Campbell
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

If Detroit goes 1-16 in 2021, that might just be mission accomplished for the Lions. Avoiding a winless season and setting the team up to find its quarterback of the future would be a solid start to what will likely be a long rebuild. Dan Campbell likely won’t let any of that happen. He is competitive as hell and I think we could see the Lions win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t simply by putting in a ton of effort. Campbell is going to have his team motivated to play every week. Unless his tough as nails persona rubs players the wrong way in the locker room, I think Campbell will be given a few more years to rebuild this team.

Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Drafting Justin Fields likely takes a little bit of heat off Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. However, I don’t think it changes a tremendous amount for how this duo needs to approach the 2021 season. It needs to be clear at the end of the year that Fields is on track to be a franchise quarterback and that Nagy is the right person to help him reach his potential. Nagy was lucky to keep his job following a 2020 season where Chicago’s offense was nothing short of anemic. The combination of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky was tough to watch. David Montgomery having a breakout season made up for some of those deficits, but the Bears need to show major progress offensive. It does not mean they will suddenly become the Chiefs or the Buccaneers, but fewer turnovers and sharper play will go a long way.

Green Bay Packers – Matt LaFleur
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Much of how Matt LaFleur will be judged stems from what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Will management blame him for the fractured relationship with the 2020 MVP? Unlikely, seeing as Rodgers’ issues seem to stem more from how the front office operates. There are two ways to spin LaFleur’s tenure in Green Bay. The Packers have reached back-to-back NFC Championship games and dominated the NFC North. For reference, Seattle was the last NFC team to reach back-to-back conference title games in 2012 and 2013. However, unlike the Seahawks, the Packers have been unable to get over the hump. Could another year where the team comes up short in the postseason raise enough questions about LaFleur’s ability to win the biggest games of the year to cost him his job? That seems bold, but don’t rule it out.

Minnesota Vikings – Mike Zimmer
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Mike Zimmer said after the 2020 season that Minnesota’s defense was the worst he ever coached. Enter Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, Dalvin Tomlinson, Chazz Surratt and Patrick Jones II. Now, it falls on Zimmer to get the most out of this new talent. Kirk Cousins is locked in through 2022, but another lackluster season from the Vikings could get the wheels turning on a rebuild. Especially if Aaron Rodgers does not play this season, this is Minnesota’s division to lose. Failing to do so would be a major letdown that would likely cost Zimmer his job.

Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
An underperforming defense, inconsistent play and a disgruntled star quarterback are a recipe for losing your job as a head coach in the NFL. Pete Carroll has the Seahawks in the mix as a playoff regular, but they have not made it past the division round since their 2014 Super Bowl loss. With Russell Wilson complaining this offseason about his offensive line, it certainly will turn up the scrutiny on Seattle’s performance this season. Another early playoff exit highlighted by a team that can’t quite put it all together could spell the end of Carroll’s tenure.

Arizona Cardinals – Kliff Kingsbury
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Entering his third year in charge of the Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury needs to start producing some results. Arizona came close to reaching the playoffs in 2020, losing the tiebreaker to Chicago for the final spot. However, after starting 5-2, the Cardinals limped to a 3-6 finish. I mean limped literally as well because the team started to struggle right around the time Kyler Murray suffered an ankle injury. Murray still has three years left on his rookie deal, which gives Arizona a fairly lengthy Super Bowl window, but this year feels like an important one to show some progress after signing veterans like J.J. Watt, Malcolm Butler and James Conner to an already talented roster.

Los Angeles Rams – Sean McVay
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
While Cam Akers certainly strikes a blow to Los Angeles’ title hopes, it should not drastically change the team’s expectations for 2021. After making the bold move to acquire Matthew Stafford, the Rams are positioning themselves as championship contenders. Taking all of that into account, I still think Sean McVay is entrenched in the organization that he can weather an underwhelming season. Long praised as one of the great offensive minds in the sport, McVay has proven himself to be valuable to this franchise. After all, the team is only three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Not to mention, the Rams upset the Seahawks in Seattle with an injured Jared Goff at quarterback. I think McVay is likely safe, but expectations are high for this Rams team heading into 2021.

San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Shanahan
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

After slogging through a ridiculous season of injuries, the 49ers seem poised to bounce back in a big way in 2021. However, the team is also facing a changing of the guard at quarterback after selecting Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in April. I think that actually increases the likelihood Kyle Shanahan keeps his job. He is praised as an offensive guru who has developed several quarterbacks in his coaching career. On top of that, he and general manager John Lynch signed six-year extensions following a Super Bowl appearance. Shanahan will be around for a while in San Francisco.

Way-too-early 2021 NFL Power Rankings

Welcome to the NFL offseason. The Buccaneers put a bow on the 2020 season by steamrolling the Chiefs 31-9 in a lopsided Super Bowl. Now, all 32 teams shift their focus to 2021. After a year like none we have ever seen before, we are heading for an offseason like none before.

There are at least a dozen teams that could make a change at quarterback. The NFL combine will not be taking place as usual either due to COVID-19 restrictions. On top of all of that, the salary cap is set to decrease by close to $15 million. This sets up one of the most interesting and pivotal offseasons in recent memory.

With tons of key players potentially switching teams, there is bound to be a lot of movement in these rankings before we get anywhere close to the start of the 2021 season. As it stands though, this is how each team stacks up following Super Bowl LV, as well as a quick look at each team’s biggest free agents.

Chiefs Logo

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2020 record: 14-2
Key free agents: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Charvarius Ward, SS Daniel Sorenson, OLB Damien Wilson
Even coming off a drubbing in the Super Bowl, no team is better positioned to make another run at the Super Bowl than the Chiefs. The core of the team is signed through at least 2021 and Kansas City’s front office has done well in recent years to find solid contributors in the draft. As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, it is going to be hard to pick against him and Andy Reid.

Buccaneers logo

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Chris Godwin, OLB Shaquille Barrett, LB Lavonte David, TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Antonio Brown, K Ryan Succop
Tampa Bay will not be going anywhere as long as they have Tom Brady. Yes, Brady will be 44 next season, but this team is built for success all across the roster. There are a number of critical free agents the team will need to lock up, but players like Gronk and AB are likely to stick around to keep chasing rings. There are probably a few other veterans around the league that would do the same thing. Call it the Brady effect, but this team is going to be a front runner to repeat.

Bills logo

3. Buffalo Bills
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: G Jon Feliciano, OT Darryl Williams, LB Matt Milano, CB Josh Norman, DE Trent Murphy, TE Tyler Kroft
Make no mistake, the Bills are for real. Buffalo has the offensive firepower and defensive grit to be one of the best teams in the league in 2021. Without a ton of crucial free agents, the front office could get aggressive in pursuing another corner across from Tre’Davious White or a more reliable tight end. If Josh Allen can come anywhere close to repeating his performance next year, Buffalo will be back in the postseason.

Packers logo

4. Green Bay Packers
2020 record: 13-3
Key free agents: RB Aaron Jones, C Corey Lindsley, CB Kevin King, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Allen Lazard, TE Robert Tonyan, DE Montravius Adams
Once again, the Packers found themselves on the doorstep of the Super Bowl, but could not break through. This team is still really close to putting it all together and finally getting Aaron Rodgers his second ring. Green Bay has some key offensive pieces to re-sign in Jones, Lazard, Lindsley and Tonyan, but this roster is pretty solid throughout. With the right additions at cornerback and along the offensive line, this team should be primed for another deep playoff run.

Ravens logo

5. Baltimore Ravens
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Matt Judon, DE Yannick Ngakoue, OLB Tyus Bowser, C Matt Skura, RB Gus Edwards, WR Willie Snead
It was a rocky start to the year, but what we saw from the Ravens in the second half of the season points to this team’s championship credentials. Baltimore has some clear holes to fill in the front seven on defense with Judon, Bowser and Ngakoue all out of a contract. The offensive line could use a boost and Baltimore is desperate for another receiver, but the foundation is still strong.

Browns logo

6. Cleveland Browns
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Olivier Vernon, SS Karl Joseph, DT Larry Ogunjobi, WR Rashad Higgins
I am very bullish on the 2021 Browns. Cleveland has arguably the best offensive line in the league, a deep group of offensive playmakers and a solid front seven. The secondary should be a bit healthier this season, but the Browns also have enough cap space to make a signing or two to bolster the unit. Baker Mayfield does not need to be Superman for Cleveland to take the next step. If he can avoid turnovers, this team should be in the thick of the division title race.

7. Los Angeles Rams
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Austin Blythe, OLB Leonard Floyd, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Troy Hill, TE Gerald Everett, SS John Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, LB Sam Ebukam
Los Angeles created themselves a two-year window to go win a championship by acquiring Matthew Stafford. The Rams’ biggest obstacle to accomplishing that goal will be finding a way to supplement the roster with limited draft capital. L.A. is projected to be $25 million over the cap as of right now. They are likely going to lose a lot of their key role players. Stafford is not a mobile quarterback, so if the Rams cannot find a way to protect him, this is going to be a really ugly collapse.

Seahawks logo

8. Seattle Seahawks
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: LB K.J. Wright, RB Chris Carson, DE Bruce Irvin, G Mike Iupati, DT Poona Ford, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Shaquill Griffin, G Ethan Pocic
Seattle played two halves of a great season. The offensive was unstoppable in the first half while the defense looked helpless. In the second half, the offense ground to a halt while the defense found its stride. It all culminated in a disheartening first-round playoff loss. The Seahawks have some critical free agents to re-sign and a number of holes left to fill. Russell Wilson will give them a chance to be great, but the supporting cast is not ideal. Mike Iupati’s retirement is just another sign that this front office needs to invest in the offensive line. If the Texans have taught us anything, it’s that you need to keep your franchise quarterback happy.

Dolphins logo

9. Miami Dolphins
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Ted Karras, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Davon Godchaux, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
It all falls on Tua Tagovailoa now. With a solid amount of cap space, a few premium draft picks and a great coaching staff, Miami seems to have the foundation in place to be successful this year and beyond. The theme of this offseason will be finding Tagovailoa some help. Miami knows it needs to find a No. 1 receiver and to solidify the offensive line. Expect the team to be in the running back market as well. With a strong offseason, the Dolphins could definitely push themselves into the top five.

Titans logo

10. Tennessee Titans
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Corey Davis, TE Jonnu Smith, DT Da’Quon Jones, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, LB Jayon Brown, K Stephen Gostkowski
Tennessee could not take that next step forward after an AFC Championship run in 2019, but the Titans did well to avoid falling apart as well. It is clear the Titans have a formula that works. They just need to reinvest in the front seven on defense to get back on track. Jadeveon Clowney did not work out and you can bet the front office will be looking for some pass rushing help this offseason. Some really interesting free agent decisions exist too in Corey Davis and Jayon Brown.

49ers Logo

11. San Francisco 49ers
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: OT Trent Williams, CB Richard Sherman, FB Kyle Juszczyk, DE Solomon Thomas, CB K’Waun Williams, RB Jerick McKinnon, FS Jaquiski Tartt, RB Tevin Coleman
How does a 6-10 team that lost both its offensive and defensive coordinator end up 11th? Well when pretty much your entire roster is hurt and you still find ways to win football games, that inspires a lot of confidence for when you do get Nick Bosa and company back on the field. This is going to be a crucial offseason for the 49ers, who could be a player in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. Cutting Jimmy Garoppolo would get this team up to roughly $45 million in cap space, so big decisions lie ahead.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

12. Arizona Cardinals
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: CB Patrick Peterson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Kenyan Drake, G J.R. Sweezy, DT Corey Peters, OLB Markus Golden, OLB Hassan Reddick, OT Kelvin Beachum
The future still seems bright in Arizona, even after a rough finish to the season. Kyler Murray is clearly the team’s franchise quarterback. The defense had some bright spots. This team is still a few key pieces away from truly contending and the front office has some tough decisions to make regarding Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. Finding a new running back will be on the to-do list as well. This offseason is critical for the Cardinals.

Colts logo

13. Indianapolis Colts
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: DE Justin Houston, DE Denico Autry, WR T.Y. Hilton, S Malik Hooker, CB Xavier Rhodes, TE Trey Burton, RB Marlon Mack, WR Zach Pascal, QB Jacoby Brissett
Not included in that list of free agents are Philip Rivers and Anthony Castonzo, both of whom retired. For the third straight year since Andrew Luck retired, the Colts do not have a plan at quarterback. Perhaps Jacob Eason is the answer, but it is hard to feel too strongly about a player who has yet to attempt an NFL pass. Meanwhile, Indy has a bunch of free agents at key positions on defense and several players close to needing extensions. Thankfully, the Colts have nearly $80 million in cap space to reshape this roster.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

14. Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: WR Juju Smith-Schuster, RB James Conner, OLB Bud Dupree, OT Alejandro Villanueva, DE Tyson Alualu, FS Sean Davis, LB Robert Spillane, CB Mike Hilton, OT Zach Banner
Pittsburgh’s offensive line is in shambles and Ben Roethlisberger is mulling retirement. Big Ben will probably be back, but the Steelers are going to need to rework his contract to avoid a $41 million cap hit. This offense has a number of critical needs and the Steelers have limited cap space to work with. Maurkice Pouncey is gone as well after announcing his retirement. All eyes will be on the draft for Pittsburgh. Don’t be surprised if a couple of big-name players walk away in free agency.

Saints logo

15. New Orleans Saints
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: QB Jameis Winston, DT Sheldon Rankins, FS Marcus Williams, DE Trey Hendrickson, CB P.J. Williams, TE Jared Cook
When you are $70 million over the cap and your future Hall of Fame quarterback is about to retire, you are in for a pretty steep drop. There is still plenty of talent on the roster, but New Orleans has a number of major question marks. With key players on defense headed for free agency and no cap space to re-sign them, the Saints could be headed for a rebuild. I think they will be aggressive in trying to stay competitive, but it is hard to see the path forward right now.

Cowboys logo

16. Dallas Cowboys
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: QB Dak Prescott, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, C Joe Looney, OLB Aldon Smith, S Xavier Woods
This ranking mostly stems from the belief that the Cowboys will bring back Prescott. Before his injury, Dak Prescott was putting up MVP-type numbers. Dallas’ offensive line was decimated by injuries as well and the defense crumbled. Still, with the offensive firepower at Prescott’s disposal and a number of key players returning from injury, this Cowboys team should be in the mix to win the NFC East.

Vikings logo

17. Minnesota Vikings
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: FS Anthony Harris, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Eric Wilson, LB Todd Davis
The Vikings have very few free agents to tend to. Anthony Harris and Ifeadi Odenigbo are quality starters, but Eric Wilson and Todd Davis were rotational players this year and could easily be allowed to walk. Minnesota’s defense needs a huge turn around in 2021 after a very disappointing 2020 season. There is room for improvement on the offensive line as well. This is a make-or-break year for Kirk Cousins and potentially Mike Zimmer.

Panthers logo

18. Carolina Panthers
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OT Russell Okung, G John Miller, RB Mike Davis, LB Tahir Whitehead, WR Curtis Samuel, OT Taylor Morton
Reports have placed the Panthers in the middle of conversations for Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. It is clear the front office feels it needs to upgrade at quarterback. With a young defense, there is a lot to like in Carolina. One major area for concern is the offensive line. Three of the team’s starting linemen are headed for free agency. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers spend some draft capital to rebuild their offensive front.

Patriots Logo

19. New England Patriots
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: QB Cam Newton, G Joe Thuney, CB Jason McCourty, RB James White, DT Lawrence Guy, C David Andrews, DE Adam Butler, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Damiere Byrd, CB J.C. Jackson, DE Deatrich Wise
New England is primed for a makeover this season with tons of cap space, several key free agents and, potentially, a new quarterback on the way. The Patriots will have a bit more talent, specifically on defense, with several players likely to return after opting out of the 2020 season. Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him to overhaul this roster.

20. Los Angeles Chargers
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: OLB Melvin Ingram, TE Hunter Henry, C Mike Pouncey, LB Denzel Perryman, G Dan Feeney
Los Angeles is headed in the right direction, but this team still has a long way to go before it is ready to compete for a title. The Chargers are breaking in a first-time head coach in Brandon Staley and have a patchwork offensive line. Mike Pouncey definitely won’t be back either after announcing his retirement. Justin Herbert gives this team a bright future, but there is still a ton of work ahead.

Giants Logo

21. New York Giants
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: DT Leonard Williams, OT Cameron Fleming, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, WR Austin Mack, RB Dion Lewis, RB Wayne Gallman
New York had some significant highs in 2020, taking the Bucs to the brink and beating the Seahawks in Seattle. Unfortunately, those were few and far between. Getting Saquon Barkley back will help this offense, but the team is still lacking playmakers. It seems like Joe Judge has reset the culture though and given the team a much brighter outlook. This defense is underrated and is capable of keeping New York in games.

Bears logo

22. Chicago Bears
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: WR Allen Robinson, QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, FS Tashaun Gipson, G Germain Ifedi, DE Mario Edwards
Chicago has a big decision to make this offseason. Consensus seems to be that Trubisky is not the answer at quarterback, but the Bears are not well positioned to find his successor. With Robinson unlikely to return, and an uninspiring offensive line, this is not exactly a prime spot for free agents quarterbacks either. How the Bears answer their quarterback question is going to determine their outlook for 2021.

Washington made up logo

23. Washington
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: G Brandon Scherff, DE Ryan Kerrigan, CB Ronald Darby, QB Kyle Allen
Washington’s defense is one of the best in the league. Now it needs to invest its resources in building an offense to match. Alex Smith is one of the league’s best comeback stories ever, but he is not the long-term answer at quarterback. He might not even be the short-term solution. With a sizable amount of cap space, Washington could get aggressive in finding some free agent additions, but everything hinges on the quarterback.

Raiders logo

24. Las Vegas Raiders
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: DE Jonathan Hankins, DE Takkarist McKinley, WR Nelson Agholor, LB Raekwon McMillan, OLB Vic Beasley
This franchise has been stuck in neutral for the past five years. Since a short-lived playoff run in 2016, the Raiders have been toiling away in obscurity and mediocrity. Derek Carr likely isn’t the answer at quarterback. Las Vegas’ defense is still one of the worst in the league. This team had it’s moment in the sun after stunning the division rival Chiefs, but it feels 8-8 is the ceiling given who the Raiders currently have on their roster.

Denver_Broncos

25. Denver Broncos
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OLB Von Miller, FS Justin Simmons, SS Kareem Jackson, DT Shelby Harris, WR Tim Patrick, A.J. Johnson, RB Phillip Lindsay
Denver’ s offseason is going to be dictated largely by the decision the franchise makes at quarterback. There is some buzz about Deshaun Watson being interested in the Broncos. Drew Lock is still developing, but if the club is going to make a move like that, it would accelerate this team’s timeline significantly. They still have some key pieces on defense to lock up and a major decision looming regarding Von Miller. There is plenty of room for upward mobility.

Falcons logo

26. Atlanta Falcons
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: C Alex Mack, RB Todd Gurley, SS Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, DE Charles Harris, K Younghoe Koo
Where in the world is this team headed? They still have Matt Ryan under contract through 2023 with a pretty easy out after 2021. The future of the club is going to be determined with what the Falcons decide to do with the fourth overall pick. Atlanta has a ton of options. They could find a successor to Ryan, pick their favorite non-QB prospect, or trade down and restock the roster. It is a tough call for new general manager Terry Fontenot.

Eagles Logo

27. Philadelphia Eagles
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: OT Jason Peters, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Vinny Curry, S Jalen Mills, RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward
Carson Wentz is in Indianapolis. Zach Ertz is likely to follow. The Eagles are in salary cap hell and headed for something of a rebuild. Philly has an intriguing young quarterback to work with in Jalen Hurts, but there are question marks all over this roster. Not to mention, the Eagles have a first-time head coach who is a relative unknown. This team does not have the cap space to replenish this depleted roster right away. It is going to be two years before we see the Eagles competing in the NFC East again?

Bengals Logo

28. Cincinnati Bengals
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: CB William Jackson, WR A.J. Green, WR John Ross, DE Carl Lawson, DT Mike Daniels, K Randy Bullock, P Kevin Huber
The key to this offseason will be protecting Joe Burrow. After the former Heisman winner spent much of 2020 running for his life, rebuilding the offensive line is the focal point. Expect the Bengals to be aggressive in the draft and free agency looking for ways to upgrade its current unit. Cincinnati has a few key free agents as well with William Jackson and Carl Lawson. There is a good chance that one of them departs, opening up another need on that Bengals defense. Cincy will need to stay patient, finding long-term solutions instead of short-team patches.

Texans logo

29. Houston Texans
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: DE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, CB Gareon Conley, CB Vernon Hargreaves, DT P.J. Hall, DE Carlos Watkins
Things look bleak in Houston. Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson wants out. J.J. Watt is gone. The roster has holes at cornerback, edge rusher, running back and wide receiver, just to name a few. Under normal circumstances, the Texans could be well-positioned to land a top prospect to accelerate this rebuild. Instead, Houston does not have a pick in the first or second round. The organization maintains that it wants to keep Watson and rebuild his trust, but it is looking like this team might be headed for a long rebuild.

Jaguars logo

30. Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 record: 1-15
Key free agents: OT Cam Robinson, CB Tre Herndon, WR Dede Westbrook, WR Keelan Cole, WR Chris Conley, CB D.J. Hayden, TE Tyler Eifert, P Dustin Colquitt
A new era is coming in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer takes over as head coach and presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence will be the team’s new franchise quarterback. Things are definitely looking up, but the Jaguars have a lot of work to do still. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson offer exciting building blocks on defense, but the cupboard is pretty bare in the defensive playmaking department. Jacksonville’s secondary was one of the worst in the league in 2020. With a number of receivers headed for free agency, there is a clear need there as well. Lucky for the Jaguars, no one has more cap space this offseason, so Meyer and new general manager Trent Baalke will have every opportunity to reshape the roster.

Jets logo

31. New York Jets
2020 record: 2-14
Key free agents: FS Marcus Maye, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Brian Poole, LB Jordan Jenkins, S Bradley McDougald, CB Arthur Maulet, LB Tarell Basham
The Adam Gase experiment ended with a resounding thud as the Jets played their way out of contention for the No. 1 pick. New York now has a huge decision to make about Sam Darnold’s future. It is very possible he is traded this offseason to make way for a new rookie quarterback selected with the second overall pick. The Jets are also still in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, but it is seeming less and less likely they are the winners. At least the organization landed Robert Saleh to be the team’s next coach. His arrival should bring some much needed leadership to the locker room, but also means a scheme change and a likely massive roster turnover. New York is going to be busy this offseason.

Lions Logo

32. Detroit Lions
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: WR Kenny Golladay, DE Romeo Okwara, WR Marvin Jones, DE Everson Griffin, WR Danny Amendola, LB Jarrad Davis, S Durron Harmon, K Matt Prater
Welcome to the bottom of the pile, Detroit. With Kenny Golladay headed for free agency and Matt Stafford now in SoCal, the outlook for the Lions is not very inspiring. It is hard to get excited about anyone on this roster at the moment. Jared Goff gives new coach Dan Campbell a reclamation project, albeit an expensive one. The defense needs an overhaul after some poor roster building in recent years. With a ton of future draft capital now available, the future is a bit brighter in Detroit, but 2021 is going to be a year where this team bottoms out, sheds veteran contracts and looks to rebuild the foundation of the franchise.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

8 teams that should sign Colin Kaepernick

If the 2019 NFL season taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of teams who have neglected the backup quarterback position. The teams that sufficiently addressed it (Kansas City, Tennessee) weathered the storm when their starter was ineffective or hurt. Meanwhile, teams that clearly had no real succession plan (Detroit, New York Jets) saw their seasons unravel with sudden, er, absences at the position. Does mononucleosis count as an injury?

 

colin-kaepernick
Kaepernick has been out of the NFL since 2016 after he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality in America. (Wikimedia Commons)

Finding a backup quarterback is important and there aren’t many players more qualified for the job than Colin Kaepernick. With the NFL admitting it mishandled the national anthem protests in 2016 and commissioner Roger Goodell even going as far as encouraging teams to sign Kaepernick, the door finally seems to be for the former 49ers quarterback to return to the league. Sure, he has been out of the league for a few years, but Kaepernick has the experience and talent to be a spot starter.

Don’t believe me? Let’s compare Kapernick to the league’s average backup quarterback. I compiled every backup quarterback’s stats into this Google Sheet.

On average, the NFL backup completes around 61.1 percent of his passes and averages roughly 6.95 yards per attempt. Additionally, they throw a touchdown on 3.8 percent of their throws while 2.7 percent of their attempts result in an interception. The average backup also has a career winning percentage of 46 percent in the regular season. These numbers look much worse if you remove some of the long-time former starters currently in backup roles like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub.Β 

Kaepernick by comparison completed 59.8 percent of his passes for an average of 7.3 yards per attempt. He threw a touchdown on 4.3 percent of his passes and an interception on just 1.8 percent of them. His career regular season win percentage sits at 48 percent. Additionally, Kaepernick has playoff experience, including a Super Bowl appearance. Flacco and Nick Foles are the only current backup quarterbacks who have started a Super Bowl.

The biggest knock anyone could possibly have on Kaepernick is his ability to hold onto the ball. He averaged almost eight fumbles per season over his five years as a mostly full-time starter.

If you want to put a label on what Kaepernick represents to the NFL right now in terms of position value, it is a high-end backup. Those averages, which he mostly matches or beats, don’t factor in his running ability either. His mobility is a plus for any team evaluating him.Β 

Without a doubt, Kap could still cut it in the NFL. Let me make this clear though. I don’t think Kaepernick has what it takes to be a starter in this league anymore. He is 32 and has some mechanical flaws he is not going to fix now. However, he is still good enough to win a game if his number is called. From his workout in 2019, he clearly still has the arm strength and the zip on his throws to make plays. Kaepernick should be no team’s first option, but there are much worse plan B’s. Here are the eight teams that should consider signing Kaepernick for the 2020 season.

Denver_BroncosDenver Broncos
With Drew Lock sufficiently entrenched as the starter for the Broncos, this could be an ideal situation for Kaepernick to work his way back into the league. Denver’s current quarterback room outside of Lock includes Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien and Neal Riley. Driskel is far from a reliable backup having struggled in stints filling in for Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford over the past two seasons. He is 1-7 as a starter and has completed under 60 percent of his passes in his career. It helps that Denver’s current running backs coach Curtis Modkins was the 49ers offensive coordinator during Kaepernick’s final season in San Francisco.

Titans logoTennessee Titans
Few teams had a better quarterback situation last year than the Titans. When Marcus Mariota proved to be ineffective as the starter, Ryan Tannehill came in and worked wonders all the way to the AFC Championship game. With Mariota now in Las Vegas, Tennessee is left with Logan Woodside and undrafted rookie Cole McDonald on the roster. Neither one of them has attempted an NFL pass. The front office made a wise move last year to find a stable backup plan. Kaepernick would give the Titans the same assurances that Tannehill provided for them last year.

Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the future in Cincinnati, but with Andy Dalton now in Dallas, the solution to a Burrow injury is unclear. Ryan Finley tanked in two appearances last season. Jake Dolegala is a fellow second year player who did attempt a pass last season. If Burrow were to go down, there is no one reliable to step in for the Bengals at quarterback. My biggest hang up with Kaepernick joining Cincinnati is I think they need someone who can start this season to ease Burrow into the NFL. I’m not sure Kaepernick quite fits the bill after so much time off.

Patriots Logo

New England Patriots
The Patriots have clearly latched their wagon to the Jarrett Stidham train. I’m not sold on him as the long term answer after only four career passes, but the rest of the quarterback situation in New England is nothing to trust either. Brian Hoyer is back for another stint, but the Pats actually cut Hoyer last season after the preseason, and he struggled in relief of Jacoby Brissett after signing with the Colts. New England’s other two options at the position are Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith, two undrafted free agents from the 2020 class. Rumor has it the team is interested Cam Newton, but Kaepernick could also make a ton of sense.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

Arizona Cardinals
No one will be replacing Kyler Murray any time soon. However, when you have a mobile quarterback, particularly one with as slight of a build as Murray, there is always the risk of an injury arising. Arizona’s current backup plan is Brett Hundley. He has more interceptions than touchdowns in his career and a completion percentage south of 60. The only other options on the roster include Drew Anderson and Chris Streveler, both of whom have never attempted an NFL pass. Kaepernick has a similar play style to Murray, even if he cannot replicate the level of production. I could see him being a good fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s modified Air Raid system.

Los Angeles Rams logoLos Angeles Rams
Who is currently backing up Jared Goff? John Wolford, Bryce Perkins and Josh Love are all undrafted free agents L.A. signed over the past two years. None of them have taken an NFL snap. Goff might be one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the league, but the Rams certainly need a better replacement plan if he were to get hurt. Kaepernick might not be the most seamless fit in the Rams system given his struggles as a play-action passer, but I trust Sean McVay to find some creative uses for his arm and legs. Even four years removed from football, he would provide a much more reliable solution if Goff were to suffer an injury.Β 

Seahawks logo

Seattle Seahawks
Don’t even begin to argue with me that Kaepernick would not be an upgrade over Geno Smith as a backup quarterback. As a Jets fan, I watched him struggle wildly to perform on a consistent basis and regularly commit back-breaking errors in important moments. Luckily for Seattle, Russell Wilson is one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league. Still, finding a better replacement than Smith would be smart. Pete Carroll has been open in his support of Kaepernick, admitting he regrets not signing him previously. The team met with Kap prior to the 2017 season. His ability to extend plays with his legs is not on the same level as Wilson, but he could help Seattle avoid a massive fall off if Wilson were to go down injured.Β 

Ravens logo

Baltimore Ravens
This last one is less about the team’s need at the position and more about the offensive scheme. Baltimore has the league’s reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson. Though Jackson has proven to be durable and smart about avoiding unnecessary hits, they have a clear backup plan in Robert Griffin III. They even have two young, dual-threat college quarterbacks on the roster behind RGIII. Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are definitely both project players, but this has the feel of a very sound quarterback room. However, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers while Kaepernick dazzled the football world with two deep playoff runs. I’m not saying Roman would be able rekindle that kind of magic, but given what Jackson has been able to do in this system, I think Kaepernick could find some level of success in a backup role.Β