NFL rosters are mostly set ahead of the 2021 season with free agency and the draft over. Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite meaningful exercise: NFL Power Rankings! Let’s take a look at how all 32 teams stack up. Check out the latest episode of The ODDcast on The SB Nation NFL Show for even more power rankings analysis.
BLG’S NFL OFFSEASON POWER RANKINGS
1 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Games favored to win based on early point spreads: 15) — Only right to start with the reigning Super Bowl champs on top. The Bucs retained all 22 starters from their championship team. With that said, they’re hardly some untouchable juggernaut. They were pretty fortunate last year in terms of injury luck (healthiest team) and an unusually favorable path to a Vince Lombardi Trophy. To their credit, they took fully advantage of it. But things probably won’t be as easy for them again.
2 - Kansas City Chiefs (16) - The last time I checked, the Chiefs still have that Patrick Mahomes dude so they’re probably going to be really good again. Brett Veach has spent KC’s offseason trying to repair the offensive line that undid their opportunity to repeat. One thing I do wonder about the Chiefs is if making deep runs three years in a row will catch up with them a little bit. Just not an easy thing to do year in and year out. The AFC West is also more competitive than it was before.
3 - Los Angeles Chargers (11) - Some will claim I’m too high on the Bolts. That I’m falling into the trap we always do with the Chargers being the sexy breakout pick. But there’s just so much to like about this team. Justin Herbert thrived last year behind one of the league’s worst pass protecting offensive line. The Chargers have only improved upfront by adding the likes of Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler, and Rashawn Slater. Brandon Staley is an upgrade over Anthony Lynn and if anyone can figure out how to keep Mahomes in check, it might be him. The Super Chargers are my AFC team this year. They’re stealing the division from the Chiefs. [Additional BLG note: we had Michael Peterson, an excellent Chargers guest, on The ODDcast to go more in-depth on them.]
4 - Los Angeles Rams (13) - Losing Staley hurts but the Rams upgraded the more important side of the ball by going from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford. There’s a lot of pressure on both the former Detroit quarterback and Sean McVay to produce an elite offense that puts this team in championship contention.
5 - Buffalo Bills (15) - The Bills still have one of the league’s best rosters. I do wonder about what kind of drop-off we might see from Josh Allen, though, considering how his completion percentage jumped up 12.9% and his passer rating jumped up by 24.0 last year. There could be some regression where he still plays well but just not AS good as last year.
6 - Baltimore Ravens (15) - We can all expect the Ravens to be a quality regular season team. Lamar Jackson is 30-7 as a starter with a 102.6 career passer rating. We all know he has to come up bigger in the playoffs, though. Only 1-3 in four postseason games with a passer rating of just 68.3.
7 - Cleveland Browns (13) - The Browns haven’t won a division title since 1989. That’s insane. Cleveland has a real chance to make history this season after a nice offseason that saw them add John Johnson, Malik Jackson, and Jadeveon Clowney. They also did well in the 2021 NFL Draft, adding Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Andrew Berry has assembled a talented roster.
8 - Seattle Seahawks (9) - The Seahawks didn’t do much this offseason to make anyone feel like they significantly upgraded their team. No real big splash in free agency and only three (!) picks made in this year’s draft. But it probably doesn’t matter because they still have Russell Wilson. For now, at least.
9 - Green Bay Packers (9) - It’s hard to know what to make of the Packers with Aaron Rodgers’ future up in the air. The feeling here is that it’s more likely he’s gone than he’s back. How big is the drop-off from him to Jordan Love? Undoubtedly significant, of course, but could the Pack still be a playoff team? Maybe not?
10 - Washington Football Team (3) - Interesting to see the Football Team only favored in three games this year. Washington is being slept on with everyone assuming Dallas is simply going to run away with the NFC East. Washington’s defense is still strong and Ryan Fitzpatrick, for all his faults, is going to have some hot games. Ron Rivera is also the best coach in his division. Don’t count out WFT.
11 - Miami Dolphins (8) - The Dolphins have a talented roster and a good head coach. Do they have a quarterback? It’s too early to be definitively out on Tua Tagovailoa but it’s fair to wonder if he’s truly the answer. It’s not unthinkable the Dolphins might have to turn to Jacoby Brissett to maintain a certain level of competency if Tua is just flat out bad.
12 - Minnesota Vikings (9) - The Vikings’ defense was uncharacteristically bad last season. It’s a safe bet that Mike Zimmer will find a way to get that fixed. The uncertainty in Green Bay could open up a path for the Vikings to win the NFC North. From there, Kirk Cousins will unsurprisingly come up small in the playoffs. But maybe they win one postseason game thanks to a big performance from Justin Jefferson.
13 - Arizona Cardinals (9) - Are the Cardinals as ready to make a leap as they seem to think they are following the J.J. Watt and A.J. Green (who might just be washed) additions? I don’t know. It really comes down to Kyler Murray’s evolution as a passer. We know he’s a mobile threat but he must be better with his arm.
14 - San Francisco 49ers (14) - Many have the 49ers bouncing back in a big way this season. It’s not an unreasonable thought when you consider last year’s poor injury luck and a relatively favorable schedule. Then again, there’s a pretty good chance the 49ers are set to have the worst starting quarterback in their division. Jimmy G isn’t scaring anybody and can’t stay healthy. Trey Lance is wildly inexperienced. They might be more mediocre than people seem to be expecting.
15 - Tennessee Titans (8) - The question here is: how long can Derrick Henry continue to prop up the Titans’ offense? He’s up to 1,407 career touches (including playoffs), with 827 of those coming over the last two seasons. He’s a freak so he might still have a huge 2021 in store but the wear-and-tear will catch up eventually. And there are questions about how good the Titans’ passing attack is if the run game isn’t working. Tennessee was bottom three in pass attempts last year and dead last in 2019.
16 - Pittsburgh Steelers (8) - There’s thought that the Stillers could be really bad this year because Ben Roethlisberger just might be donezo. Given how the 39-year-old looked the last time we saw him, it’s obviously a fair concern. But it’s hard to bet against Pittsburgh with supreme confidence. I mean, it’s an organization that hasn’t had a losing season since 2003. The thinking here is that Roethlisberger might still have something left and the defense will be good enough to keep them in the conversation for a wild card spot.
17 - Dallas Cowboys (10) - Lots of hype surrounding a team that has more question marks than people seem to realize. Is Dak Prescott definitely going to be the same player coming off a major injury? Is an aging offensive line going to be able to avoid cratering again? Is the defense dramatically better? Are we really sold on Mike McCarthy being a good head coach? The Cowboys certainly could make a playoff push given all their offensive firepower but no one should be setting a playoff appearance in stone.
18 - Indianapolis Colts (12) - I’m sorry but Carson Wentz is a downgrade from Philip Rivers. Wentz probably won’t be as bad as he was last year. But this idea that he’s suddenly going to recapture MVP form just because he’s working with Frank Reich again feels pretty naive. Reich couldn’t get him to stop fumbling in Philly and that’s a big issue. This is a guy with 59 career fumbles in 69 games played. The Colts might still win the AFC South because the competition isn’t great. But I’m pretty confident this team maxes out at one playoff win at the very most.
19 - Atlanta Falcons (7) - The Falcons are a prime candidate to bounce back in 2021. There’s ample reason to believe Matt Ryan can still function at a relatively high level. And especially now that he has Kyle Pitts to pair with Julio Jones (barring a trade) and Calvin Ridley. Arthur Smith is an upgrade from Dan Quinn and Raheem Morris.
20 - Denver Broncos (9) - The Broncos will obviously jump up much higher in these rankings if Aaron Rodgers ends up in Denver. For now, the Broncos have a solid roster with an uninspiring quarterback situation. Drew Lock has shown some flashes but he’s ideally more of a quality backup.
21 - New England Patriots (7) - They acted out of character and spent a ton of money in free agency. Was it worth it? I have my doubts. This feels like a team that made a desperate attempt to get back to the top but actually just raced out to the middle of the league. Cam Newton is coming off a bad year and Mac Jones might offer some competency but his ceiling is only so high. We’ll continue to see that Tom Brady was more responsible for the Pats’ success than Bill Belichick was.
22 - Chicago Bears (4) - There’s rightfully excitement about Justin Fields in Chicago. Will he start right away? He should. Playing Andy Dalton is just a waste. That being said, there could be some rookie growing pains for Fields to go through.
23 - New Orleans Saints (11) - Why are the Saints favored to win 11 games this year? Sure, Sean Payton is a good head coach. But Jameis Winston is a turnover machine and Taysom Hill isn’t a viable long-term option under center. I don’t get it.
24 - New York Giants (5) - There’s pressure on Daniel Jones to erase any doubt about him being the Giants’ franchise quarterback. Dave Gettleman made an effort to improve his receiving corps. But Gettleman’s first-ever trade down also added future flexibility for the Giants to pivot away from Jones if he’s just not the guy.
25 - Carolina Panthers (5) - The Panthers seemed to be all in on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes before his off-field issues emerged. Then it felt like they made a panic trade for Sam Darnold instead of just being patient. I think Matt Rhule is a good head coach but between Teddy Bridgewater and Darnold … I don’t love his QB choices.
26 - Las Vegas Raiders (6) - Arguably the most juiceless team in the league. Their market is the most interesting thing about them. Derek Carr is the least desirable starting quarterback in the league in terms of being stuck with a guy who’s too good to get rid of but not good enough to win anything with. Jon Gruden is still owed over $66 million after going 19-29 over the last three years.
27 - Philadelphia Eagles (2) - I considered putting the Eagles at No. 1 since they have DeVonta Smith now. All jokes aside, there’s a chance Philly could be better than expected. They look good in the trenches (on paper, at least) and a new coaching staff could make a difference. Then again, that staff is very inexperienced. And while I believe Jalen Hurts has some worthwhile potential, he’s currently in the conversation for being one of the worst starters in the league. Again, this team has the potential to prove people wrong. They just hardly deserve the benefit of the doubt after Howie Roseman has repeatedly overseen bad offseasons since 2018.
28 - Cincinnati Bengals (2) - Adding Ja’Marr Chase is fun and all but, uh, who’s protecting Joe Burrow? The Bengals allowed him to get hit way too often last year. Burrow is coming off serious injury and it remains to be seen if he’ll be 100% from the jump. Zac Taylor hasn’t done much to inspire confidence.
29 - Jacksonville Jaguars (2) - Urban Meyer has won wherever he’s been but, as many college coaches have come to find out, the NFL is a different beast. The onus is on him to prove he can hang. There’s certainly reason to believe one of the NFL’s youngest rosters has upside, especially now with Trevor Lawrence in the fold. We’ll see just how much promise they can show in Year 1.
30 - New York Jets (4) - Joe Douglas has slowly but surely been working to improve the Jets’ roster. The feeling here is he has them pointed in the right direction. There’s still work to do, though, and Zach Wilson must prove himself. Wilson feels like a boom or bust candidate at quarterback.
31 - Detroit Lions (0) - I feel like the Lions have a chance to be a little more respectable than this low ranking indicates. I actually think Detroit is on the right long-term track with Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes leading the way. But it’s hard to have much faith in Jared Goff. The Lions’ offensive line offers stability but they lack adequate weapons to prop up their starting quarterback.
32 - Houston Texans (0) - I’m guessing not even Texans fans would deny they’re the worst team in the league. There’s just not much to be excited about in Houston. They should be playing Davis Mills to see what he has in a lost season but watch them waste time with Tyrod Taylor.