It’s become fashionable to rank the 32 NFL Teams (from first to last) on a regular basis via a so-called “Power Ranking”, so I thought I’d have a go. I’ll try and keep this updated as we go through the season.
Note: This article was written prior to the season opener - Atlanta @ Philadelphia – so bear that in mind if that game has already been played by the time you read this.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)
Last year’s champs stay as no.1 until somebody knocks them off (Atlanta in week 1?). Nick Foles remains at QB until Carson Wentz is ready which should be soon - Foles was huge in the playoffs last year. Defensive line is so strong that they could win games by themselves.
2. New England Patriots (0-0)
On paper, the Patriots remain the class of the AFC at the start of the season. At some point though every dynasty crumbles – is this the year?
3. Minnesota Vikings (0-0)
Football’s best defense wins many games by itself. Offense is better than advertised. Kirk Cousins is a good QB, but good enough to lead the Vikings to the big game? We shall see.
4. New Orleans Saints (0-0)
Ageless Drew Brees means the Saints are always play-off contenders. Exciting backfield duo Ingram and Kamara could raise that 'contendership' to Super Bowl winners.
5. Los Angeles Rams (0-0)
Additions on defense (Suh, Talib, Peters) alongside dominant Aaron Donald were needed to try raise the defense to the level of the offense. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley lead that potent, point scoring offense. Only the strength of the NFC prevents the Rams being even higher on this list.
6. Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Like the Rams (above), Falcons are strong on both sides of the ball. Atlanta will make the playoffs – can they become the first team to play in a home Super Bowl? Only if the 2016 version of Matt Ryan takes the field in 2018.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)
Are the Jaguars for real? Can a strong defensive showing continue to make up for struggles in the passing offense? How far can Blake Bortles take this team?
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
Le’Veon Bell holdout prevents Steelers from being higher. Is age catching up with Ben Roethlisberger? Even if it is, top wideout Antonio Brown will keep this offense strong.
9. Green Bay Packers (0-0)
Rodgers return from injury immediately makes the Packers contenders. Add off-season pick-ups Jimmy Graham and Mo Wilkerson along with a revamped defense and the Packers have a shot (on paper) to go deep into the play-offs.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (0-0)
Can Philip Rivers finally lead this team over the Patriots and Steelers to the pinnacle of the AFC? He’ll get lots of help from a strong pass defense.
11. Carolina Panthers (0-0)
If Christian McCaffrey can give them a bit more from the backfield then Panthers can contend. But you feel that this team really rides its QB (Cam Newton) as much as (or more) than any team in football.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)
Perennial play-off disappointments – can Patrick Mahomes lead them further than Alex Smith could? He has the offensive weapons with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. But so many questions on the other side of the ball.
13. Houston Texans (0-0)
The Texans could be the team that everybody looks at this year. The return of Watson, Mercilus and Watt from injury puts this team into contention in a wide open AFC – assuming that Watt can be a force close to what he was pre-injury.
14. Tennessee Titans (0-0)
Has one of top defensive backfields in the league led by FS Kevin Byard. Offense doesn’t score enough points and will need to improve with Marcus Mariota at the helm if they are to be anything more than fringe contenders.
15. San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
Jimmy G’s 5-0 performance as the starter at the end of last year brought lots of optimism to a previously poor team. But can he continue to overcome the holes that are prevalent on the defensive side of the ball.
16. Dallas Cowboys (0-0)
Dallas welcome back star LB Sean Lee but will miss C Travis Frederick until he returns. If Prescott and Elliott can get the offense moving then they can be wildcard contenders. Otherwise they look like an 8-8 team.
17. Detroit Lions (0-0)
This is a decent team playing in perhaps the NFL’s strongest division. QB Matthew Stafford leads a strong passing attack which also features wideout Golden Tate. Defense needs to step up under the guidance of new head coach Matt Patricia.
18. Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
Strong defense needs the offense to step up to make this team a contender. How long can they keep rookie QB Lamar Jackson on the sidelines?
19. Denver Broncos (0-0)
Can Case Keenum bring last year’s performance to this year’s Broncos? He will need to. Denver has a tepid offense and stays competitive thanks to its strong D led by standout LB Van Miller.
20. Chicago Bears (0-0)
The Khalil Mack deal immediately upgrades this team. Mitch Trubisky is promising and has skills but isn’t a top notch QB yet. The Bears can have a winning record only if Trubisky continues to grow and improve with new head coach Matt Nagy. New wideout Allen Robinson will help.
21. Washington Redskins (0-0)
The Redskins welcome new starter at QB; Alex Smith – but is he an upgrade on Kirk Cousins? Strong O-line helps but running game is not good whilst defense looks average at best.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
Offense is decent with star receiver A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton. Throw runner Joe Mixon into the mix and the Bengals could rack up good yardage. But this is offset by a defense which struggles in every facet of the game despite the play of DT Geno Atkins.
23. Seattle Seahawks (0-0)
Seahawks seem to have lost (or are losing) the defensive stars that made them great a few years back. QB Russell Wilson is one of the best in football but he can’t overcome all of those losses on the other side of the ball.
24. Oakland Raiders (0-0)
Khalil Mack deal immediately downgrades this team and particularly a defense which was already weak. The Raiders season may depend upon whether the 2016 or 2017 version of QB Derek Carr is seen in 2018.
25. New York Giants (0-0)
Upgraded with Barkley in the backfield and a happy (for now) Odell Beckham. But an aging QB in Eli Manning and a defense that doesn’t look like it can stop anybody doesn’t bode well.
26. Indianapolis Colts (0-0)
Can Andrew Luck return to previous heights? How will Frank Reich perform in his first year as an NFL head coach? Can anybody play defense?
27. Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
Sam Bradford can play. Couple Bradford with RB David Johnson, the Cardinals will be in lots of games. But lack of explosive big plays on offense and too many big plays given up by the defense will see them drop to the bottom third of the league.
28. Miami Dolphins (0-0)
Ryan Tannehill's return from injury is critical to this team. But there are too many holes elsewhere for Miami to even get to 8-8.
29. New York Jets (0-0)
This team seems to be in a holding pattern until they are ready for Sam Darnold to start at QB. In the meantime where are the points coming from? Only strength on this team looks like the defensive backfield.
30. Cleveland Browns (0-0)
The Browns will better…I guess they can hardly be worse. Tyrod Taylor is a great short term pick up until Baker Mayfield is ready and the offense has rising star Jarvis Landry and returning Josh Gordon. DE Myles Garrett is a beast.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
Wideout Mike Evans is the offensive star but they have little else until Jameis Winston (when he returns) can show that he is an NFL calibre starting QB. Defense is average.
32. Buffalo Bills (0-0)
This team got to the playoffs last year behind (now departed) Tyrod Taylor. But looking at the roster, it’s difficult to see many positives beyond embattled RB LeSean McCoy. Like the Jets, they look like they are waiting for their great rookie hope at QB - Josh Allen - to step up and start.
Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog