Just kidding, I’m sure you don’t. And you probably shouldn’t. After all, few things matter less than power rankings when it comes down to it. They exist purely for entertainment and to turn your average mild mannered homer into a frothy mouthed maniac. So, in the spirit of pointless contentiousness, let the hating begin as I rank each team in the NFL. Oh, one last thing, I don’t talk much about draft picks because who the hell knows how that will play out. So….
How I Rank This Season’s NFL…
#1. Arizona Cardinals
I’ve had a subconscious bias against the Cards for the last few years, but it might be time to admit I was wrong. They rank with the 2nd highest scoring offense and the 8th lowest points allowed defense. They did that despite a difficult schedule. Also, unlike the rest of the 12+ win teams, they didn’t see any crucial losses in free agency. I think the addition of Jermain Gresham at tight end was a great move that should help improve on one of their few weaknesses. Still… they are one injury to an oft injured QB away from a plummet to mediocrity.
#2. Carolina Panthers
The only thing keeping out of the #1 spot is the loss of Josh Norman, as overrated as he may be. Their front seven are arguably the best in the league, but they now have a gaping hole in their already weak secondary. Still, a dominant team in the trenches, the Panthers can ball control as well as anyone. The re-addition of Kelvin Benjamin back into the offense should give them a bit more big play potential as well.
#3. Seattle Seahawks
After having one of the best defensive rosters ever built a few years ago, they have been slowly losing talent on that side of the ball. It’s still a fantastic unit, but it lacks the unbelievable depth it once had. On offense, however, things seem to be slowly improving. Wilson, having actually put the offense on his shoulders in 2015, is now eligible to enter the ever hotly debated conversation of “elite” QBs. The one major issue? His offensive line still has potential to be very ugly.
#4. Green Bay Packers
Ugh. I hate the Packers, and this pains me to rank them this highly, but we’re looking at a team that had ten wins in an OFF year. Aaron Rodgers will be healthy after suffering knee and ankle injuries that some believe were a bigger factor than the team let on. A year of development for the receiving corps as well as the return of Jordy Nelson should reinvigorate the offense that was the most efficient in the league two years ago. I’ve learned never to put much stock in whether I think much of the Packers FA and draft acquisitions. They build from within just as well as any team in the league.
#5. New England Patriots
They’d be in contention for the top spot if it weren’t for Tom Brady’s suspension. However, four games does not a season make and this is a team that regularly defies logic, so I’m not going to drop their rank far. When Brady does return, we might be seeing the return of The Boston TE party, thanks to the addition of Martellus Bennett. They have shown the ability to get more out of players struggling to reach their potential than most other teams, and as such, could have found a few gems in FA this year.
#6. Cincinnati Bengals
If it weren’t for the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who gave them arguably the deepest receiving corps in the game, I probably would have had them a couple spots higher. I consider depth at receiver to be extremely valuable. The lack of ability to spread the ball quite as well is likely to result in an increase in incompletions and turnovers. Still, over the last several years, this franchise has done a solid job of building from within and creating stability. I don’t expect a huge drop-off as both units are balanced. Also, Andy Dalton isn’t exactly elite, but he’s surely a step up from AJ McCarron.
#7. Pittsburgh Steelers
I may regret this, because they lost a lot of talent in free agency. Still, a top five offense and a top ten defense last year, despite a tough schedule (seven games against playoff teams). Another team known for building from within and almost always being in contention. They are hard to count out as long as they have the three B’s on offense. The addition of Ladarius Green should further diversify things on that side of the ball, although Martavius Bryant’s suspension stings a lot.
#8. Denver Broncos
They were the prototype for a team built effectively through FA, which is very difficult to do. However, while it worked and they won a Super Bowl, it’s going to come with a big cost. The losses of Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson will be felt, even if neither player plays quite as well in their new homes. Their defense will still likely rank top five, maybe top three, but no longer at a historical level. On the offense, I don’t expect a ton of change either way, but I would definitely still take 2015 Peyton Manning over Mark Sanchez. Without the clear cut #1 defense, that offense will likely struggle.
#9. Kansas City Chiefs
I almost feel like I’m underrating them here, but with so little that actually stands out, it’s tough to really get behind them. The addition of Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle should be a big boost to a team that lives and dies by the run. The loss of Sean Smith to FA could hurt their secondary a fair amount, but I’d still expect an above average defense.
#10. Minnesota Vikings
Fortune favored the Vikings with their schedule last year, and I don’t mean just who they played, but when they played which teams (like the Lions twice in the 1st half of the year). However, I do expect to see continued modest growth on both sides of the ball, and a return to 11 wins is definitely within reach, hence they rank in the top ten. The biggest question mark for me though is still the pass game. I’m not going to sit here and rag on Teddy, other than just to say I don’t think he’s ready to take full command of the offense. I still have questions about their pass catchers as well. However, they can survive on a solid run game and dominant defense, both of which they should have.
#11. New Orleans Saints
Shocker, I realize. It’s a huge jump for them when you look at last years standings to see them up here. But it’s driven by one major factor, the firing of Rob Ryan. He has been awful as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. You can never assume that a new guy will do a better job, but top that with a solid FA that brought some good pieces to the unit and they could easily end up around league average on defense. The offense is still likely a top five unit, and an improved defense will take some pressure off.
#12. Dallas Cowboys
Losing Tony Romo was the difference between winning the NFC East and going 4-12, in my opinion. They certainly aren’t the best team in the league with him, but that offense can easily jump back up to top five status. They still have arguably the best o-line in the league, which is huge. The defense has some issues, especially with pass rushing and getting turnovers, but isn’t terrible.
#13. Houston Texans
I’m not a fan of Osweiller. I don’t think he’ll work out long term in Houston. But… I do completely understand the move. Nor do I think he’ll be any worse an option at QB for them than they’ve had for the last few years. To me it’s essentially a wash, maybe a slight gain, and their strength at so many other positions on the field will likely carry them into the playoff hunt. I think Lamar Miller is in for a big year and the wide receivers will help Osweiller look quasi-competent. Of course the defense is pretty good too.
#14. New York Jets
The Geno Smith question. Can he do what Ryan Fitzpatrick did, or more? I know some Jets fans are bullish. I’ll take my more typical reserved stance here and wait to see. Brandon Marshall had a career year last year, by frequently bailing out his QB, but he’s getting up there in age and I’d be surprised if he can repeat that performance. I’ll be interested to see if Forte still has it in him, because taking pressure off the QB will be a crucial to this offense. The defense doesn’t have to do much better than they did last year to become a very solid unit.
#15. Oakland Raiders
I feel like I’m succumbing a bit to popular opinion on this one, but I do see reasons to think they will continue to get better. For the 3rd year in a row now they have brought in some very solid talent in FA. A few real difference makers, if they transition well. Still, they are a team that is built to pass the ball and I am very conservative when it comes to crowning young quarterbacks as true “franchise” players. I would not be surprised to see Derek Carr come back to earth a bit this year.
#16. Detroit Lions
I don’t need to tell you guys what was good and what sucked for the Lions last year. I’m really not sure what to expect from them in 2016, other than to say I think they have a high ceiling and a low floor. That leaves me giving their rank smack dab in the middle of the pack.
#17. Washington Redskins
I’m afraid that maybe I’m being too hard on the Redskins, but when I got to digging through the specifics of their 2015 schedule, I just wasn’t impressed by their 9 wins. For starters, they only faced off against three teams above .500 and got crushed by all three. Their weak schedule led to an inflated win total and helped Kirk Cousins’ stat line. Still…when you win a division one year, and don’t take significant losses, you have to be considered as a threat to do it again. The last question is, will they have a run game?
#18. Baltimore Ravens
I was hesitant to move their rank this high after the disaster last year and fear that I was just buying into the hype that they’d bounce back. I’m still a little hesitant, but the more I look at it, the more I think that 2015 was at least partially a fluke. Injuries and a whopping seven games lost by less than a TD were big culprits in their win total. The return of some offensive linemen and a decent FA period should help get them back in command of their destiny.
#19. Chicago Bears
They made good off-season moves, but they also lost some talent. Matt Forte has arguably been the most reliable running back in the NFL for nearly a decade now. Their offense will have to adjust. The return of Kevin White presents an intriguing opportunity for a solid duo at wide receiver, but it’s too early to trust him to emerge as a play maker. A lack of depth in general could limit the potential of a passing offense that has at least improved in efficiency under the new coaching staff. The other question is the impact of new faces in the linebacking corps. If they really fit in well, it could elevate the Bears significantly.
#20. Indianapolis Colts
I’m not sure that I think too much of this roster, however, with Luck healthy it’s not hard to see them improving somewhat on offense. But major issues on defense and for the offensive skill positions leave a lot to be desired here and I have major doubts that we’ll see Luck return to his 2014 form quite yet. Likely their only route to the playoffs is through winning the division. Questions about the stability of the franchise have begun to arise.
#21. Buffalo Bills
The Bills somewhat defined mediocrity in 2015. That seems to describe their off-season too. It almost seems like I should rank them higher, but I don’t trust Tyrod Taylor and I’m going to suggest that McCoy isn’t going to be one of those RBs that’s likely to excel into his thirties. Also, they faced both the NFC East and AFC South last year, so take that for what you will.
#22. Philadelphia Eagles
An enigma of a team. Can Jim Schwartz get that defense playing up to it’s potential? On offense, will Sam Bradford be starting all year? If so, they probably have a low ceiling, but are likely to be more stable than if Carson Wentz plays significant time. If Wentz does see the field, I don’t see it ending well. On paper, they did gain more talent in FA than they lost, especially on defense, so it is possible that this team will arise as one of the “everything but the QB” teams this year.
#23. Atlanta Falcons
I actually really like their off-season acquisitions, but the Falcons were terrible in the second half of 2015 and that doesn’t bode well. I won’t be surprised if they find a way to turn things around this year, but they have to improve the pass rush, their rushing attack, and commit fewer turnovers before their rank improves. There may be some deep seeded coaching issues in Atlanta.
#24. New York Giants
The flashy FA signings have them shooting up a lot of power rankings, and I understand why, but while I can get behind the potential immediate impact, I can also point to many examples of teams attempting similar things and it completely backfiring. So, will the three major additions pull the team out of the dregs of the defensive rankings? Also, can the o-line improve enough at tackle this year to give them a more efficient offensive attack?
#25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A very difficult team to pin down and therefore rank. In terms of starter talent, the team has fantastic potential. But optimizing that potential is not so easy. The four loss win streak to end the season certainly leaves a sour taste. Still, a new coaching staff always has potential to put things together. I’ll play conservative here, but you have to like the possibilities for them if the new coaching staff clicks.
#26. Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m officially not on the bandwagon yet. Give me one year above six wins and you’ll change my mind. A lot of money spent on four players and I question that any of them are true difference makers. It stinks of desperation from the current coaching staff. Don’t get me wrong, I expect the offense to look flashy and the defense to have mild improvements, probably taking them out of worst in the league, but it doesn’t help them rank higher by much. I still expect turnovers to be an issue on offense and that it will cause them to lose most of the shootouts they seem to be built for.
#27. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams had kind of a rough FA period, losing a fair amount of defensive talent. The bigger issue, though, is that I don’t see the offense improving this year. Jared Goff was considered the most pro-ready of the quarterbacks in the draft, but it’s all relative and I’ll be surprised if he has a great year (I hate on rookie quarterbacks as a general rule). They have a great RB, a well below average receiving corps, and an awful offensive line. Not a place where a rookie QB is likely to have great success out the gate. A year or two down the line and some solid pieces added, and a new coaching staff, and it’s a different story.
#28. San Diego Chargers
I like some of their acquisitions. I don’t like some of their losses. Hard for me to see it as anything but a wash. When you actually look at the teams they beat last year, it’s even more evident just how bad they are. They’ve been one of the more confusing teams over the last decade because many times it seems like they have all the pieces to be a great, or at least mediocre, team and they always fall short of expectations. This year, expectations (and their rank here) will start low, so maybe they’ll have a reversal of fortune. Or, maybe not.
#29. Miami Dolphins
Lower than some people might rank them, but in my view, they were struggling already and they lost more than they gained this off-season. As much as running backs are talked of being a dime a dozen, it’s doubtful that anyone is going to replicate what Lamar Miller did for that offense last year. That will force more pressure on the pass game and I just don’t really believe Ryan Tannehill has shown he’s up to that. The defense may or may not get it’s shit together, but I’ll have to see it to believe it.
#30. Tennessee Titans
They definitely added to the team this off-season, but little of what they added is likely to have a major positive impact on their rank right off the bat. This is a team that could have some superstars in a few years though. There will continue to be growing pains as this team is fielding one of, if not the, youngest team in the league this year. Still, all it takes is a few breakout surprises to completely change everything.
#31. San Francisco 49ers
Very little happened with them in the off-season to make me think there will be significant movement up for them, except maybe Chip Kelly. But with so little talent for him to work with offensively, it’s hard for me to get excited. I’m not a Chip guy though, anyway, so I may be underrating the situation. He might take them a few places out of last place in points scored.
#32. Cleveland Browns
Here’s the thing. I’ll actually be surprised if the Browns finish the year with the worst record again. But, as the most disjointed franchise in recent history (yay! It’s not the Lions!), they just don’t have the benefit of the doubt that some other teams do, and rank bottom of the pile. In terms of specifics, given the quarterback situation and a wide receiver corps made up almost entirely of rookies, it’s hard to see their pass game as anything but worst in the league. Thanks to losing two of their best offensive linemen in free agency, and a general lack of running back talent, their run game will probably struggle too. The defensive side of the ball isn’t looking much better as they gave up the 4th most points in the league and didn’t add anyone that is likely to make a huge difference day one.
There it is. I can’t wait to hear about what a moron I am from all of you. Come at me bros. nom nom nom 🙂