FOOTBALL. IS. BACK.
And now that it has returned, so has everyone’s favorite meaningful exercise: NFL Power Rankings. That’s right, it’s that time of year to figure out how all 32 teams stack up. Let’s not delay any further so you can have more time to flame me in the comments.
BLG’S WEEK 1 NFL POWER RANKINGS
1 - Kansas City Chiefs - The reigning Super Bowl champions belong at No. 1 until someone knocks them off. The Chiefs are returning a large portion of last year’s championship team in addition to adding a talented rookie like Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Patrick Mahomes is pretty ridiculous and Andy Reid is unarguably one of the best coaches in the NFL. It’s an unfair setup, really.
2 - Baltimore Ravens - On paper, the 2020 Ravens are looking like an improved version of the 2019 Ravens. John Harbaugh’s coaching staff was retained, which is huge. Marquise Brown is healthy and Calais Campbell and Patrick Queen were added on defense. I do wonder to what extent we’ll see Lamar Jackson regress. Maybe not much?
3 - New Orleans Saints - The Saints’ roster is looking pretty loaded. They’re all in on what could very well be Drew Brees’ last season considering he turns 42 in January. That’s why it’ll be funny when they choke in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
4 - Seattle Seahawks - It’s difficult to properly rank the Seahawks. On one hand, they have the best quarterback in the NFL in Russell Wilson. On the other hand, their coaching staff somehow doesn’t realize this. It’s time to Let Russ Cook.
5 - San Francisco 49ers - Totally buy the 49ers having good coaching and a strong defense. Do not fully buy the quarterback despite his starting record (QB Winz). Think the Niners are going to be closer to a 10-win team than a 13-team like they were last year.
6 - Dallas Cowboys - You might think this is too high for the Cowboys but who’s stopping their offense? Life should be way too easy for Dak Prescott with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup at receiver. Having a reliable workhorse running back in Ezekiel Elliott obviously doesn’t hurt, either. Even if the Cowboys’ defense struggles, which it could, their offense will allow them to win shootouts.
7 - Tennessee Titans - Doubt Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 success at your own peril. Perhaps it won’t last but it wasn’t just like he was playing well. He was putting up some elite numbers. And he’ll still have Derrick Henry helping him. I also buy Mike Vrabel as a good head coach.
8 - Green Bay Packers - I can’t shake watching Aaron Rogers look awful in Week 17 last season when Green Bay needed to win to clinch a first-round bye. He was wildly inaccurate and bad for most of that game. Can’t help but think feel that Rodgers just isn’t the same invincible force he once was. Green Bay won 13 game last year but they weren’t quite as good as their record indicated with a 9th overall DVOA finish. They’re going to take a step back, it’s just a question of how much. Hardly a lock to win the NFC North again.
9 - Minnesota Vikings - That Vikings pass rush is looking fearsome with Danielle Hunter, Yannick Ngakoue, and Ifeadi Odenigbo in the fold. Losing Stefon Diggs hurts but adding Justin Jefferson, who’s a dog, will help Minnesota’s offense. Still don’t trust Kirk Cousins in big games considering his poor record against winning teams. But the Vikings are good enough to win the NFC North before inevitably coming up short in the playoffs.
10 - Houston Texans - Wrote this about the Texans heading into the playoffs last year: “They’re 15th in point differential and 19th in DVOA. Their ceiling is one playoff win.” Yep. They needed a comeback performance at home against Buffalo just to win. Deshaun Watson is great and all, which is why they make the top 10, but he’s also going to be working without DeAndre Hopkins moving forward.
11 - Philadelphia Eagles - A healthy DeSean Jackson could make a really big difference for the Eagles, who’ve sorely lacked a viable deep passing game the past two seasons. Carson Wentz should have more skill player support than he did last year, although the offensive line is now a much bigger concern than before. There’s reason to believe Philly’s defense could improve after a 12th ranked DVOA finish last year. Will it be good enough to allow the Birds to stop Dallas from overtaking them as division champions?
12 - Pittsburgh Steelers - Too high for the Steelers with a 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger coming off an arm injury? I don’t think so. Mike Tomlin has earned the benefit of the doubt with zero losing seasons during his tenure.
13 - Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals are primed for a big leap. Maybe even as large as the one the Eagles made in 2017. Arizona’s offense dramatically improved under Kliff Kingsbury last year and Kyler Murray could make a step forward in Year 2. Especially with DeAndre Hopkins in the fold. I’m bullish on the Cards.
14 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Some over-the-hill Boston sports stars generate a lot of unwarranted hype by heading down south. The 2020 Buccaneers are the 2013 Brooklyn Nets. I’ll believe they’re a top 10 team when I see it because Tom Brady, now 43 years old, looked cooked last year.
15 - Buffalo Bills - The Bills had the NFL’s easiest schedule last season. Josh Allen’s limitations will be magnified against tougher competition this year. The 2020 Bills are an obvious regression candidate just like the 2019 Bears and the 2018 Jaguars. Strong defense and a below average quarterback does not equal sustained success.
16 - Indianapolis Colts - Philip Rivers is an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett … but by how much? The 38-year-old should have the Colts in position to win the AFC South but I don’t see Indy making much noise in the playoffs. Perhaps I’m underrating Frank Reich and PFF’s No. 1 ranked offensive line?
17 - New England Patriots - Hard to know what to make of the Pats. No Brady and a bunch of key players opted out of the season. There’s intrigue with Cam Newton but is he truly healthy and effective or is his arm still short? I mean, it’s hard to bet against Bill Belichick’s track record, but I just don’t know what they are. So I’ll stick them around the middle for now.
18 - Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons feel like a forgotten about team despite being that “don’t forget about them!” team the past few seasons or so. They were hot in the second half of their 2019 schedule, which saved Dan Quinn’s job. Can that carry over or are they going to get off to a slow start for the third year in a row?
19 - Detroit Lions - There’s optimism about the Lions with Matthew Stafford healthy. A sneaky MVP candidate, even. But it’s difficult to feel great about Detroit’s overall outlook with Matt Patricia’s conservative coaching style leading the way. Let’s see the Lions prove it because we crown them.
20 - Las Vegas Raiders - Some might consider Jon Gruden a joke but he had the Raiders’ offense ranked ninth in DVOA last year. If they can get defensive improvement from a unit that ranked 31st, they can push for a wild card spot.
21 - Los Angeles Rams - Jared Goff has a 82.24 passer rating through his last 24 games. Is he really going to be much better moving forward behind PFF’s 25th ranked offensive line? Sean McVay’s squad could very well finish last in the NFC West.
22 - Los Angeles Chargers - I had to double check that Tyrod Taylor is the Chargers’ starting quarterback. Probably not the best sign for their outlook. Also, the Bolts’ bad injury luck has already stated with Derwin James out for the season.
23 - Cleveland Browns - “No, seriously! The Browns are going to be good for real this time!” This team obviously deserves no benefit of the doubt. Again, we should believe it when we see it.
24 - Denver Broncos - Drew Lock went 4-1 as a starter in his rookie season but it’s not like he lit the world on fire with a 89.7 passer rating. Lock still has much to improve, especially against tougher competition than he faced in 2019.
25 - Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins outplayed their talent level in 2019. Credit to head coach Brian Flores in that regard. Miami is still flawed but they’re no total pushover. Especially since Ryan Fitzpatrick can still get hot and go off. Could see them improve to being a 7-9 team.
26 - Cincinnati Bengals - I believe in Joe Burrow. He’s really good. Just have to wonder how much not having a full offseason will impact the No. 1 overall. Still think he’s talented enough to where the Bengals will be more competitive than they were in 2019, which isn’t saying a ton.
27 - New York Jets - Still not really sure what to make of Sam Darnold heading into Year 3. His 81.1 career passer rating clearly isn’t good. But it’s not exactly like the Jets have done a great job of giving him support. Joe Douglas got a good return in the Jamal Adams trade but at the expense of the Jets losing a star player in the short-term. Don’t have a lot of confidence in Adam Gase getting this team to exceed expectations.
28 - New York Giants - The way I see it, these Joe Judge gimmicks can go one of two ways. 1) They’re exactly the radical changes the Giants need to fix a losing culture. 2) They’re lame and ineffective high school football level tricks that won’t translate to anything in the professional ranks. Take your pick of which is more likely.
29 - Chicago Bears - It’s only a matter of time until Mitchell Trubisky struggles and get benched for Nick Foles. The Bears might actually be able to go on a run with the latter. Until then, they’re stuck in the suck.
30 - Carolina Panthers - I like Matt Rhule and I’m interested to see what he can do in the NFL. I don’t feel as good about Teddy Bridgewater as the Panthers’ starting quarterback. Yeah, he went undefeated with New Orleans last year. But I remember watching some of those games and feeling like he didn’t play nearly as well as the stats would lead you to believe. Besides, the Panthers lack talent elsewhere on this roster.
31 - Washington Football Team - Dwayne Haskins is arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL and it’s not like he has a ton of great support to help him outside of Terry McLaurin. Adding Ron Rivera and Chase Young certainly helps WFT’s long-term outlook but they still have a lot of work to do.
32 - Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jaguars have been dismantling the defense that led them to the 2018 AFC Championship Game. They’re in a rebuild. Gardner Minshew is a nice player for a sixth-round pick but he clearly has limitations. And he could be replaced by Trevor Lawrence in 2021.