We’re now less than a month out from the kickoff of the regular season. Not much has changed since we made our last power rankings before preseason football began, but we’ve gotten our first look at what direction teams are going in with new head coaches and coordinators scattered around the NFL.
Here are your NFL power rankings as we inch closer to regular season football.
32. Miami Dolphins
Feel the excitement of yet another empty season in South Florida. Take the unique flavor of a second-year quarterback, who was deemed expendable enough to be sent on to greener pastures. Take stock of the impressively consistent holes at almost every position. Consider all these things as the season drags on and the losses pile up, sending them back to the drawing board. If there’s a reason to watch it’s the offhand chance Fitzmagic is on display for a three- or four-game stretch.
31. Cincinnati Bengals
Zac Taylor has inherited the Andy Dalton enigma. A.J. Green will spend considerable time on the sideline and the offensive line is a patchwork quilt full of holes. With all three division rivals looking to make a serious playoff push, the lumps will come fast and furious.
30. New York Giants
Saquon Barkley is a lot like Barry Sanders in many ways. One way is that he’s a spellbinding talent on a team that’s poised to do absolutely nothing. Eli Manning likely hasn’t discovered the fountain of youth, has a depleted wide receiver corp, and will spend his golden years staving off a challenge from Daniel Jones. The drama and pain will be real.
29. Arizona Cardinals
OK, so the Birds brought in the undeniably handsome Kliff Klingsbury and his favored pupil Kyler Murray. But new beginnings are hard and the NFL is a far different animal than college. Patrick Peterson disqualified himself for six games, meaning his mates will have to learn a new defense without their best weapon. Then there’s the deep NFC West. It’d be fun to be wrong about these low expectations. Don’t count on it.
28. New York Jets
Adam Gase brings a fresh new take on the bold classic of trying to whip Gang Green’s offense into some for of competent. Le'Veon Bell should help. Sam Darnold showed flashes. Quinnen Williams could be an immediate star and Jamal Adams is as fierce as any secondary figure. It’s not totally out of line to have some optimism here, as it’s hard to imagine things going horrible wrong instead of 5-11 wrong.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They love to thrown the damn football and will continue to do so. Bruce Arians not so long ago took a middling Colts team over and brought them to the playoffs. Jameis Winston has a great No. 1 target in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin is going to make big strides, and points should come fast and furious. The Bucs will go as far as the defense bends, but doesn’t break.
26. Washington Redskins
The Skins caught several bad breaks last season after a 6-3 start. Dwayne Haskins was to be the savior but early returns suggest he hasn’t been blowing many doors off in training camp. On the other side of the ball, they’ve assembled a cadre of young talent, including Landon Collins and Montez Sweat. A division crown isn’t out of the question if several things fall into place. But it’s a lot of things.
25. Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen had to play behind a terrible offensive line last year, and didn’t play all that well. He has a tandem of aging yet still effective running backs. The offseason saw the replacement of 60 percent of the line. The defense will be good again. But Allen has significant strides to make, more than one can make in a single offseason.
24. Detroit Lions
Quietly, the Motor City Kitties have assembled the best defensive line in the NFL by going out and getting Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels. That unit should help the secondary and put the offense in good position. Matt Stafford has become a bit of a checkdown artist in recent years and the emergence of Kerryon Johnson is begging for a ball-control strategy. It may seem odd but the Lions will rely a lot on the late heroics of Stafford and, perhaps more notably, Matt Prater to swing a lot of close games. A 12-loss season is in play, but so too is a 10-6 surprise.
23. Oakland Raiders
It’s a Hard Knock life for Jon Gruden, who is now the ringmaster of an absolute circus driven by a clownish Antonio Brown. Derek Carr is being motivated by praise for Nathan Peterman, so things have already gotten very weird. They’ll get weirder.
22. Denver Broncos
It’s never a great when the solution to all one’s quarterbacking problems is 34-year-old Joe Flacco, who isn’t elite anymore. On the bright side, Phillip Lindsay could be the best running back in the league without most of the plaudits. Vic Fangio certainly knows about defense and the weapons are there to utilize in the hopes the Broncos can regain that Super Bowl-ish stifling form.
21. Tennessee Titans
Mike Vrabel cares deeply about football. This genuine weirdo would cut off his penis in order to win the Super Bowl. Luckily for him, that’s not going to be a promise he’ll have to make good on this year. If Mariota is healthy, they’re a middling team. If not, things won’t go well.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
Nick Foles has captured magic and elevated teams to surprising heights when it matters most. He’ll be a dramatic improvement over Blake Bortles because, hell, who wouldn’t be? The defense allowed less than 20 points per game last year but produced nearly half the turnovers from the stunning 2017 side. A more opportunistic group of ballhawks could put the Jags in position to be a tough out in the playoffs.
19. San Francisco 49ers
All hail the rejuvenated Jimmy Garoppolo. If this stable of unproven wide receivers steps up, the points could come in bunches. Kyle Shanahan has the chops to create an offensive juggernaut and here’s to expecting big things in the Bay Area.
18. Carolina Panthers
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Not to sound like the old-school football guy here, but it could really be addition by subtraction for Ben Roethlisberger. Not having the egos of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell around will make things so much smoother.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson needs to show that he, a quarterback, can throw the football. If he does, the Ravens will be a multifaceted team. If he can’t, then they’ll be one-dimensional and a non-entity.
15. Dallas Cowboys
This assumes the Ezekiel Elliott situation gets resolved. The team, of course, should pay Dak Prescott, who is criminally under-appreciated. America’s Team could smashmouth its way to the Super Bowl if the chips fall correctly. Load up on this longshot bet.
14. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings hope a new offensive coordinator (and a healthy dosage of play action) will give them a top-ten unit on that side of the ball. If Garrett Bradbury is the real deal, a good center can change the entire complexion of the offensive line. As a Mike Zimmer team, they’ll be fine on defense. They finally acquired a kicker who might solve their issues, but any Viking fan will tell you to hold onto your skepticism until you see proof with your own eyes. Kirk Cousins needs to show much more than he did last year to consider the Vikings a threat to do just about anything, though.
13. Cleveland Browns
The Browns are going to play fast, and proved they can be quite dangerous. Despite Cleveland informing Washington pre-game the Browns would be running a hurry-up offense to start their first preseason match-up, Baker Mayfield completed all but one of his passes in a two-minute drive that ended in a touchdown, even without all of his key contributors. Still, Cleveland remains all potential. How they handle their first bout of adversity will be a good measure of how real this team is.
12. Houston Texans
Acquiring Duke Johnson may prove to be a very good move. Lamar Miller is… fine, I guess? But Johnson showed explosiveness and a propensity for big plays while catching passes out of the backfield in Cleveland. The Jadeveon Clowney situation remains unresolved, though, and they didn’t make any moves to immediately address their Swiss Cheese offensive line. Houston seems primed to repeat last year as a good team with too many concerns at important positions to be a real threat.
11. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons will presumably be starting two rookies on their offensive line in a classic “trial by fire” situation. That can work out, but it can also fail disastrously. But as long as Julio Jones remains healthy (a rather large if), they should be a decent to good team. After several key defenders missed all of last season to injury, it’s not crazy to think that unit will need a few games to ramp it up to their full potential. With Matt Ryan under center, you can’t count them out, but it’s tough to consider them an elite team for now.
10. Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson will drag this team as far as he can, no matter what happens. How much everyone else can contribute to that effort will determine their ceiling. Someone needs to step up in the backfield and at the No. 2 receiver spot behind Tyler Lockett, while Bobby Wagner will have his work cut out for him trying to keep this defense at an elite level. Still, I’d put my money on Pete Carroll getting this team to the playoffs once more, even in what should be a tougher NFC West .
9. Green Bay Packers
We haven’t been able to see much of Matt LeFleur’s new offense in Green Bay early on, so it’s impossible to judge how much it will help or hinder Aaron Rodgers’ abilities. At the very least, the superstar QB should be healthy and mentally engaged in 2019– which was not the case last season. This may yet be the best Packers defense we’ve seen in some time, but they’re relying an awful lot on the improvement of young players to feel confident. Rodgers remains Rodgers until further notice, though. They’ll be fine. The question is if they can be great.
8. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is still suffering from a calf injury that occurred in May, so that’s not great. But he and the team have been insistent that he’ll be ready for Week 1. Should this be the case, the Colts will have one of the top offenses in the league and a defense with some talented pieces. Their pass rush is suspect, however, and who will be the top pass-catcher after T.Y. Hilton is as murky as it was a year ago. They’ll be a good team, and perhaps even great if Luck can stay on the field.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Melvin Gordon’s holdout stands out as the one blemish on an otherwise productive offseason for the Chargers. Keenan Allen will be excellent per usual, and Mike Williams should benefit from a healthy offseason. Health has always been the big thing for the Chargers, and the luck they’ve had in that department of late makes it tough to be rely on them. But they’ll be competitive and have the pieces for an elite pass rush. If Philip Rivers can get even just 80 percent of the production he had last year, the Chargers will be very tough to beat.
6. Chicago Bears
The Bears will have a great defense again this year, even if Vic Fangio headed to Denver in the offseason. Matt Nagy will continue to try and make life easy for Mitch Trubisky. That combination alone makes for a dangerous team. Trubisky’s development will define how far this team can go, and it’s reasonable to expect some regression after an absurd year from the defense. They have enough smart football minds and elite players to hang around as championship contenders, but few will really believe it until Trubisky shows his progression.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
It’ll likely take a bit for Carson Wentz to get back into form as the season starts, but Doug Pederson has proven he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Offensively, the Eagles will be good once more. They still have most of the major pieces of their defense, but their secondary remains suspect. Overall, it should be a similar team to last year. A healthy Wentz shifts the team from playoff contenders to Super Bowl threats.
4. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams collapsing like a house of cards on the biggest possible stage is an impression that will last for some time. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Sean McVay is still a football savant who will engineer yet another record-breaking offense. Aaron Donald remains the best player in football. If Wade Phillips can put together a league-average unit on defense (with some help from Contract Year Marcus Peters), the Rams may yet make it back to the big game. You can’t count them out, but their ceiling can only be reached by more consistent defensive performances and Jared Goff’s ability to make something out of nothing when the scheme fails him.
3. New Orleans Saints
Going from Mark Ingram to Latavius Murray is a slight downgrade, but that’s the only position on the roster that suffered a loss this offseason. The Saints still have Drew Brees, an elite pair of tackles, and plenty of talent on the other side of the ball. Their defense was much better in the second half of 2018, and if they can put that performance together wire-to-wire, they’ll be as tough as any team to beat in 2019. Barring officiating errors, New Orleans should be favorited alongside the Rams to reach the NFC Championship game once more.
2. New England Patriots
The Patriots will be relying on their defense and run game more than they have since 2004. They’re in a good position to do so; the defense was essentially perfect when it mattered last year outside of the AFC Championship Game, and their offensive line remains a strength of the team. Tom Brady remains Tom Brady. Life, death, and the Patriots. We know the drill.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
There’s little reason to think Kansas City won’t pick up where they left off last season. Patrick Mahomes should regress after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 TDs in his first season as a starter, but everything he did last year defied expectations, so why should his follow-up season be any different? The team overhauled their defense, and while there’s no guarantee they’ll be better than last year, it’s hard to be worse. The Chiefs will be the cream of the crop next season, with the next generational superstar leading the way.