PRE TRAINING CAMP NFL POWER RANKINGS
With training camps about a month and a half away, there’s no better time to put our arbitrary power rankings together to assess how each team’s offseason has gone, factored in with their returning players and whether or not they’ve had self inflicted disasters hit their teams. It’s been the story of the offseason so far and it’s not over yet.
1. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs re-signed their entire team from last year’s Super Bowl squad. While they’re far from unbeatable, there’s no reason to think for a second they’ve dropped a percentage point in any rankings or aren’t a danger to win it all again.
2. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Tired of duct-taping over their offensive line, the Chiefs have actively re-built it this offseason. Considering that was their one weakness and they addressed it handily, they should remain at or near the top of the rankings once the season kicks off and beyond.
3. BUFFALO BILLS
Have the Bills caught up with the Chiefs this offseason? Probably not, but they’re the closest team in the AFC by a wide margin. I still think it would be a huge mistake, as much as I like Josh Allen, to go ahead and extend him now. Wait it out. Learn from the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles and act accordingly.
4. LOS ANGELES RAMS
Speaking of the Rams, no team addressed its biggest hurdle to returning to the Super Bowl more emphatically, sending Jared Goff and multiple first round picks to Detroit in exchange for Matthew Stafford. LA’s biggest loss is their defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, but they still have the heart of the No. 1 ranked defense together in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. This team, with Goff, manhandled the Bucs last year with a healthy Donald, so this right here is as good as final four as you’re going to predict.
5. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Russell Wilson, after some early offseason trade talk and public dissatisfaction, seems to be content to remain in Seattle. In doing so, he alone keeps them a contender. Their defense stepped up markedly at the end of the season, even as the offense once again constrained its best player. Now they need to meld first half of 2020 RW with second half 2020 defense and then you have a Super Bowl team.
6. TENNESSEE TITANS
Adding Julio Jones to their already potent offense is probably second boldest, championship caliber move of the offseason (so far) after the Rams trading for Stafford. While Jones will be a monster in the Titans O, he does nothing to help their defense, which was one of the worst pass rush units in the league last year. If they get even a little better, they’re a Divisional Round AFC team at worst.
7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers are coming off a 6-10 season where virtually every starter from their Super Bowl team missed time with injuries. By just the law of averages this season they should be healthier. While the NFC West will be a different beast than the one they won in 2019, this is still one of the best teams in football with one of the best coaches in Kyle Shanahan calling the shots.
8. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Steelers stumbled out of the postseason last year after an 11-0 start. As long as Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t gone over the QB cliff, they’ll remain a contender. A young, talented defense and offensive playmakers make them a serious one.
9. CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Browns come into the 2020-21 season with real expectations for the first time and a roster and coaching staff that can actually deliver. I’m glad to see they’ve ignored all the “trade Odell Beckham Jr.” talk, since what you want to do when you have a good team is actually get better. OBJ makes them better. Still, like the Bills and Baltimore Ravens, they need to hold off on any Baker Mayfield extension. Let’s go another year.
10. BALTIMORE RAVENS
It’s spring time, when Ravens fans and writers once again concoct a scenario completely out of their imaginations in which Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman can craft and call an actual NFL passing offense instead of running star QB Lamar Jackson straight into the teeth of the NFL’s concussion protocol with his Pop Warner playbook.
11. LAS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers did the most important thing they could do to improve their team this offseason; they fired their awful coach, replacing Anthony Lynn is hotshot Brandon Staley. Los Angeles has the misfortune of playing in the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs, but if Justin Herbert stays on his QB trajectory with real, legit NFL level coaching, this is a team that will contend and will most certainly make the postseason this year.
12. GREEN BAY PACKERS
The only reason I don’t drop the Packers further down is that, as of this writing, Aaron Rodgers is still on the roster. I’m a firm believer it won’t be that way on opening day. Green Bay has screwed this situation up for the last two years and it doesn’t look repairable to me. It’s time to make the trade and see if Jordan Love can be the guy. And even if he is, they’ll go 6-11 with him as their starter.
13. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Carson Wentz gets a chance to rebuild his NFL career, landing with a loaded playoff team and his former offensive coordinator as head coach in Frank Reich. It’s the perfect scenario for a resurgence and I hope he makes it happen. The low ranking comes from how tough that seems to be for former “franchise” NFL quarterbacks to bounce back after getting cast off.
14. ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Cardinals have improved their offense and defense this season and are remain probably the last place team in the NFC West. That still might be good enough to make the playoffs in a very top-loaded NFC.
15. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Miami ignored the dumbest of punditry and refused to toss Tua Tagovailoa out the door in April’s draft. I expect a significant bump in his second season, especially with no one like Ryan Fitzpatrick (who would be impossible for a rookie QB to beat out) in the way.
16. DALLAS COWBOYS
With the roster the Cowboys boast, they should be ranked higher. With their coaching staff, they should probably be in the high 20s.
17. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Speaking of Fitzmagic, it will be a drop off from Alex Smith at QB, but the bearded wonder should keep this team in contention most of the season. And, if he can’t, they should have no trouble handing the keys to Taylor Heinicke.
18. CHICAGO BEARS
General manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy might have saved their jobs by trading up for Ohio State QB Justin Fields in April’s draft. Don’t be afraid to put him under center earlier, rather than later. Fields looks like the next Dak Prescott to me.
19. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
One of the most boring franchises in the NFL decided to pretty much stand pat this offseason and in the draft. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
20. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
New Orleans was smart to bring back Jameis Winston to “compete” with Taysom Hill for their vacant QB position. Even with his arm strength issues, this team had a lot of weaknesses that Drew Brees could gloss over with his talent and brains. All those issues will show up in glaring detail this season.
21. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Two years before the Raiders hired Jon Gruden they were 12-4. In his three seasons since taking over the franchise, their best finish was last season, 8-8. He’s collected about $30 million in that span, which, if my math is right, is officially $1.57 million per victory.
22. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Joe Burrow is on track to return to the field with a healthier offensive line and some real weapons on offense. Cincinnati’s biggest problem now is its division, which sent three teams to the playoffs in 2020.
23. DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos find themselves in trade rumors with Green Bay for Rodgers and with the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson. Either one would instantly put them in the Top 10.
24. DETROIT LIONS
The Lions leaned into the complete rebuild, amassing picks and players while securing their best draft class in recent memory. Goff is a significant drop off from Stafford, but there’s a good chance with a fresh start and less cerebral offense, he could be fine.
25. NEW YORK GIANTS
New York was a surprise team last year just by not sucking nearly as much as we all thought they would. How much can they build on that with one of the shallowest rosters in the NFL?
26. ATLANTA FALCONS
People have criticized the Falcons for their half-assed rebuild, but I don’t see the issue. If anything, I would have done more to keep Julio Jones and avoid dumping one of the best players in franchise history just because his contract pays him near what he’s worth.
27. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Just four years after a Super Bowl championship, the Eagles find themselves in a near complete rebuild with a new coach and new starting quarterback. I like Jalen Hurts and he was my No. 3 QB coming out of the draft last season. It could work, but it will take a while as there is such a wide chasm between the top teams in the NFC and the chaff like Philly.
28. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
I like Cam Newton and I think keeping him was smart. I don’t see Mac Jones coming anywhere near the starting job this season, but the biggest issue is the talent across the rest of the roster and a suddenly formidable AFC East. It’s something that Bill Belichick hasn’t had to deal with in 20 years.
29. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Sam Darnold says he’s evaluating getting his COVID-19 vaccine, but here’s the thing; a vaccinated team, with full NFL stadiums and fully open cities/states will have a massive advantage this season in playing for a title. Darnold and the Panthers do not have the talent level or championship potential to screw around on getting their shots. The man’s NFL livelihood, as well as his health, is at stake.
30. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Regardless of how good the Jags will be this season, they’ll be significantly more fun to watch. What Urban Meyer has to control is the “leaks” and such in the clubhouse, like those that formed when he signed Tim Tebow to play tight end. Everyone responsible for that should have been fired on the spot. You can’t run an NFL team that way.
31. NEW YORK JETS
A new head coach. A new quarterback and suddenly people are excited about the Jets again. They may not be good this season, but my guess is they’ll be more exiting than their NFC counterpart.
32. HOUSTON TEXANS
Here they are, the absolute worst franchise in the NFL with more problems than I have the energy to list here. They whiffed on trading Deshaun Watson once he made it clear he wanted out, screwing around and trying in vain to placate him. If they’d just capitulated at the time, they’d be looking like geniuses now that all his off the field problems have emerged. Because of the chaos surrounding the team, they were forced to make the absolute worst hire of the offseason, adding former Baltimore Ravens passing game coordinator and architect of the No. 32 ranked passing attack in the NFL, David Culley, as their latest head coach. They also cut J.J. Watt. This is a disaster that will continue to blow up every week and we could be looking at the NFL’s latest 0-16 team by season’s end.
The NFL season begins on Thursday, Sep. 9 and the Week 1 Schedule is already up and taking bets at BetOnline.AG.