As the NFL season begins this week, our own Nick Springer is starting his weekly power rankings of each NFL team from 1-32.
Carolina Panthers- Previous rank: N/A- Reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton should pick up right where he left off last season, and with the return of number one wideout Kelvin Benjamin, Newton and the Panthers offense could be even more electrifying this season. Defensively, Carolina has nothing to worry about, except perhaps the Josh Norman-less secondary. But when you’ve got Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, that tends to balance itself out.
Pittsburgh Steelers- Previous rank: N/A- As long as Big Ben and Antonio Brown are together, the Steelers are always in contention. Not having Le’veon Bell for the first weeks of the season shouldn’t concern Steelers fans. There are some question marks in the secondary, but the Steelers can probably outscore anyone in the league.
Green Bay Packers- Previous rank: N/A- Similarly to Pittsburgh, the Packers are always in contention as long as number 12 is at the helm. The NFC North has suddenly become Green Bay’s to lose with the injury of Teddy Bridgewater. The Bears offense can’t score on anyone and the Lions, well, they’re the Lions.
New England Patriots- Previous rank: N/A- Even with Tom Brady’s suspension the Patriots are still one of the top teams in the league. They would probably be higher in these rankings if Brady were playing all 16 games. I have faith that Jimmy Garoppolo can lead this team to at least two wins.
Seattle Seahawks- Previous rank: N/A- The Seahawks defense isn’t as dominant as it once was, but they’re still pretty darn good. Thomas Rawls looks like he could be the next beast mode now that he’s healthy, and Russell Wilson always finds a way to make the best play (except for that one time in the Super Bowl, but we won’t talk about that).
Arizona Cardinals- Previous rank: N/A- Arizona returns every player who scored an offensive touchdown in 2015. The time is now for the Cardinals to make a legitimate push for the NFC title and potentially the Super Bowl. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald don’t have much time left. The Cardinals have the defense and they should have a reliable running game in David Johnson. Expect this team to battle Seattle hard for the division title.
Kansas City Chiefs- Previous rank: N/A- The Chiefs have all the tools to win the AFC West, and Jamaal Charles should be healthy and ready to go soon. More importantly, this offense no longer needs to rely solely upon the running back for production. The rise of Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West should help remove the burden on Charles to do it all. My only concern is the pass rush. With Justin Houston sidelined for who knows how long, look for guys like Dee Ford to step up.
Cincinnati Bengals- Previous rank: N/A- The curse of the playoffs is alive and well in Cincy after last year’s dramatic loss to Pittsburgh in the first round. That being said, the talent is there for another playoff run. The question is, can the Bengals get out of their own way?
Denver Broncos- Previous rank: N/A- The defending Super Bowl champs aren’t ranked higher based upon the fact that they will most likely be sending out Trevor Siemian in Week One. Siemian has played one regular season snap and that was a kneel-down which doesn’t really count. The defense is so strong, however, that even if the quarterback situation is problematic throughout the season they could win at least eight games.
New York Jets- Previous rank: N/A- With the Ryan Fitzpatrick situation behind them, the Jets can finally look forward to what should be a strong 2016 campaign. They have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, and a solid secondary led by Darrelle Revis. Look for the Fitzpatrick to Marshall connection early and often this season. The Jets have a solid core, but can they knock off the Pats in the division?
Washington Redskins- Previous rank: N/A- This team is poised for a breakout season, and all the chips are falling into place for them to easily win the NFC East. With no Romo for the foreseeable future, the Cowboys are not in the discussion. The Eagles probably won’t challenge for the division in their first year under Doug Pederson. The Giants are somewhat of a wild card, but Washington fans have to like their chances. Kirk Cousins has finally blossomed into a franchise quarterback, and he’s got plenty of weapons. Just be sure to grab your popcorn for those Giants-Redskins games.
Oakland Raiders- Previous rank: N/A- That’s right folks, the Raiders are a legitimate threat in the AFC. They’ve got a large supply of young talent starting with quarterback Derek Carr. Amari Cooper could grow into one of the top receivers in the league, and Khalil Mack gives opposing quarterbacks nightmares. With all the young talent this team has, they don’t have a ton of veteran experience especially with the retirement of Charles Woodson. Regardless, the AFC West will certainly be in play for Oakland.
New Orleans Saints- Previous rank: N/A- The Saints are probably looking at shooting for a wildcard spot at the end of this season. Carolina is the consensus pick to win the South, but the Saints might have something to say about that. Brandin Cooks is an up and coming talented receiver who has the potential to break out in a big way this season. More questions remain on defense, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Saints in mid-January.
Indianapolis Colts- Previous rank: N/A- Two words sum up this ranking: Andrew Luck. I don’t even know if the Colts will win the South, but Luck (both literally and figuratively) is on their side. Their defense is questionable at best, Frank Gore is old, and the offensive line has been hit by the injury bug. Things could be better in Indy.
New York Giants- Previous rank: N/A- The Giants will be relying heavily on Eli and OBJ this season. The return of Victor Cruz should provide a much need boost to an offense that has struggled mightily in the preseason. It’s hard to gauge the ceiling this team has, but they could very well win the East.
Jacksonville Jaguars- Previous rank: N/A- This ranking is based upon pure faith above all else. I really feel like this could be the Jags’ year to win the South. They have the potential to be one of the most explosive offenses in the league even though they’ve looked horrible in the preseason. They essentially are getting two first round picks on defense with Jalen Ramsey and the return of number three over pick Dante Fowler Jr. from last year. Even if their defense improves marginally, they can win 10 games.
Baltimore Ravens- Previous rank: N/A- The Ravens are going to have a hard time getting to the playoffs this year. They’re the third best team in the North behind Pittsburgh and Cincy. This division is always close and Baltimore will have to find a way past at least one of those teams to potentially grab a wildcard spot. If that’s going to happen, Joe Flacco will need some help. Perhaps Breshad Perriman can prove his worth.
Buffalo Bills- Previous: N/A- The Bills are another team I’m not quite sure how to feel about. The Ryan bros are reunited for better or worse, and this has to be Rex’s last chance to prove himself as a top tier coach. Buffalo’s got some talent on both sides of the ball, but the Pats are still there. Add onto that the Jets look pretty good and things suddenly aren’t looking very great in Buffalo.
Houston Texans- Previous rank: N/A- The Texans might be a common pick to win the South, but I’m not going to buy into Brock Osweiler quite yet. I am a huge DeAndre Hopkins fan. The guy’s an animal, and any defense with J.J. Watt can be a force. Not to mention that Jadeveon Clowney is healthy and ready to prove his number one pick status. I’m still not on the Texans train yet, but I could be persuaded with some impressive wins early in the season.
Atlanta Falcons- Previous rank: N/A- Matty Ice and Julio Jones are going to have their work cut out for them this year. Don’t expect much help from anybody else on the Falcons’ offense besides Devonta Freeman. Defensively, Atlanta has holes that could become season long problems. And unfortunately, the Falcons probably don’t have the firepower to keep up with New Orleans and Carolina.
Minnesota Vikings- Previous rank: N/A- I originally had the Vikes ranked much lower. After their big trade with Eagles, Minnesota is suddenly back in the playoff picture. Well, sort of. Sam Bradford is a quality starter, but until I see him produce on the field the Vikings are probably out of things for now. That could change very quickly however.
Dallas Cowboys- Previous rank: N/A- As you’ve probably heard by now, Tony Romo is out for at least the first half of the season. The stats for this team when a quarterback not named Romo starts are atrocious. That being said, the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league, and Dak Prescott has looked strong in the preseason. Until he starts producing in the regular season though, the Cowboys don’t stand a chance of making the playoffs, barring Tony Romo somehow coming back early. The addition of Mark Sanchez also gives Dallas another option, albeit not a very good one.
Chicago Bears- Previous rank: N/A- The Bears might have had a shot at a playoff spot Friday night, but after Minnesota’s acquisition of Sam Bradford that opportunity has gotten a lot smaller. Chicago is an interesting team. I don’t trust their offense with Jay Cutler, and the defense has plenty of question marks as well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Previous rank: N/A- I’m a big fan of the Bucs, but firing Lovie Smith was a huge mistake. On top of that they’re in a very tough division. The Bucs have talent, but it’ll be interesting to see how they stack up against the likes of Carolina and New Orleans. I think they could squeak ahead of the Falcons.
Los Angeles Rams- Previous rank: N/A- So far it looks like the Rams’ gamble on Jared Goff won’t pay off this season. Goff has struggled mightily in the preseason and won’t even be the starter for week one. The questions at quarterback are very concerning, but perhaps Todd Gurley can balance some of that out. Defensively the Rams look good, but can their offense score?
Tennessee Titans- Previous rank: N/A- The Titans are taking somewhat of an old-fashioned approach to this season, and they aren’t shy about their game plan. This team wants to run the ball a lot. In a league where throwing the ball has become the norm, can a traditional ground and pound team succeed? The Titans will hopefully answer those questions by the end of this season.
Philadelphia Eagles- Previous rank: N/A- The trade with Minnesota will definitely help the Eagles long term, but now they’ll be throwing Carson Wentz into the fire. If you ask me, Philly should start Chase Daniel instead. It’ll be interesting to see if Philadelphia fans feel the same way.
Miami Dolphins-Previous rank: N/A- Are the Dolphins doomed to finish last in the AFC East? The Pats, Jets, and Bills all have more talent than Miami. It doesn’t help that they open the season at Seattle and at New England.
San Francisco 49ers- Previous rank: N/A- Don’t let the Colin Kaepernick situation distract you from the fact that the 49ers are a long way from competing in the NFC West. The defense isn’t horrible, but the offense is bad no matter who is starting at QB. This is Chip Kelly’s last chance to make a name for himself at the pro level. Philadelphia was a failure, and it’s now or never for Chip.
Detroit Lions- Previous rank: N/A- No Megatron means Matthew Stafford will have to look elsewhere for big plays. Ameer Abdullah could breakout this season for Detroit. The Nebraska product should be the feature back for the Lions. The defense is suspect with end Ezekiel Ansah being the lone star.
San Diego Chargers- Previous rank: N/A- Even with the recent Joey Bosa agreement this season looks pretty bleak for the Chargers. The defense has a number of issues, and the offense pretty much falls on Phillip Rivers and Keenan Allen.
Cleveland Browns- Previous rank: N/A- Unfortunately for Browns fans, this ranking probably won’t change throughout the season. Just about the only positive here is that RGIII and Josh Gordon look like they’ve developed good chemistry.