1) Philadelphia Eagles
It might be a bit cliché to put the defending Super Bowl champs on top of a preseason rankings list, but the Eagles are flying into 2018, poised to repeat. They said goodbye to few key pieces in LeGarrette Blount and Torrey Smith but have more than made up for their departures by adding Michael Bennett, Haloti Nagata, and Mike Wallace. They’re also getting a boost from Jason Peters and Darren Sproles returning from injuries. Top to bottom, it’s hard to find a flaw on this roster. The only real concern is if Carson Wentz will be ready for week 1, but reigning Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, is more than capable of holding down the fort for a game or two.
2) Los Angeles Rams
If there’s such a thing as a super team in the NFL, the Rams are it. LA went out and added Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib. That’s an insane offseason that’s hard to pull off in Madden. San Francisco might poise a threat, but it’s hard seeing a scenario where Sean McVay’s club doesn’t win the NFC West and go on a deep playoff run.
3) Minnesota Vikings
It’s not often that a team coming off a conference championship game improves their QB situation, but Minnesota has recently developed a knack for over coming improbable feats. Kirk Cousins’ deal is not only historic for guaranteed money but might be the final piece the Vikings need to finally capture their first Lombardi trophy. He joins a deep and extremely talented team with a Super Bowl or bust mentality. The NFC North will be tougher with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, but I fully expect this team to be alive in late January.
4) New England Patriots
It’s been quite the offseason for Patriot hot takes. With Edelman’s suspension, an alleged power struggle, and Rob Gronkowski retirement talk, you’d swear New England’s dynasty was about to collapse. I’m to hear to tell you it’s not. As long as Brady and Belichick are here, the Pats are a lock to make the AFC Championship game. The AFC East once again appears to be their stomping ground, meaning they’ll probably have a first-round bye, and get two home playoff games on the road back to the Super Bowl. It’s fun to hate New England, I get it, but their run isn’t going to end until they say so. It’s very possible, if not likely, that the season ends with Brady winning his sixth ring to complete his infinity gauntlet.
5) Pittsburg Steelers
This might be the last hurrah for this Steelers squad. Le’Veon Bell is set to leave next March and Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t hidden his retirement thoughts. I know some fans strongly and loudly disagree with me, but I think Mike Tomlin is a quality coach, and with a roster that oozes talent, there’s no reason why Pittsburgh shouldn’t at least make it to the AFC Championship game. This team has been a treat to watch for the last five years and it would be fun to watch their run end with a Super Bowl.
6) Atlanta Falcons
Already one of the best rosters in the league, adding Calvin Ridley and Isaiah Oliver in the draft only heightens their ceiling. The season hinges on how round two of the Steve Sarkisian experiment goes and I’m somewhat confident in saying it will improve (I mean it has to right?) The NFC South will always be tough but there’s enough talent on this squad to keep them in both the division and wild card race. Injuries aside, it’s hard for me to see this team not making the playoffs.
7) New Orleans Saints
There’s plenty of reasons to be excited for the black and gold. The ageless Drew Brees will once again lead a prolific scoring offense that’s aided by one of the better defensive units in the league. Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension sucks, but you don’t need me to tell you that Alvin Kamara is more than capable of leading their rushing attack. I like the addition of Patrick Robinson and I’m anxious to see Marcus Davenport hit the field. Buy stock in the Saints.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars
Really? We couldn’t do anything about the quarterback situation? I get keeping Bortles but not putting any pressure on him is shocking to me. Unless Cody Kessler reveals himself as the second coming of Dan Marino, we’re in for another season of the Jags doing everything possible to take the game out of Blake Bortles hands. Their stellar defense will carry the bulk of the responsibility, while Leonard Fournette will keep the clock ticking. I want to put them higher on the list, but I just have too many concerns on if this strategy will work in the postseason. Not having a QB you can consistently count on makes you so much easier to expose regardless of what’s around him. Look at the Vikings; Case Keenum played a major role in getting them to the NFC title game, but they knew his success likely wouldn’t be sustainable, so they acted quickly in the offseason by grabbing Kirk Cousins. Not saying the Jags can’t win it all this year, I’m just worried that Bortles makes the margin for error too small for a team that will likely have to get past the Patriots again.
9) Carolina Panthers
The pieces are here for a good team. Dontari Poe was brought in to help an already solid defensive unit and D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith, C.J. Anderson, and a healthy Greg Olsen will certainty help offensively. Despite what Kelvin Benjamin says, Cam Newton is among the NFL’s top QB’s and I expect another quality season from the former MVP. My main concern with the Panthers is the offensive line that now may be down three starters entering week 1. The NFC South produced three playoff teams a year ago and history tells us that at least one is going to miss out, but I believe the Panthers have the personnel to stay competitive throughout the season and have a shot at playing in January.
10) Houston Texans
The Texans IR roster was probably good enough to earn a wild card spot in the AFC last season. Watson, Watt, and Foreman (at some point), are all back to try and recapture the magic the Texans had the first half of the season. The defense and offensive line are concerning to me, but I think there’s enough top end talent paired with what CBS ranks as the easiest schedule in the league for them to have a good season.
11) Green Bay Packers
The best player in the NFL is a much broader debate compared to the NBA and MLB, but I think we should all be able to agree that Aaron Rodgers is the most valuable player in the league. As long as number 12 is on the field, the Packers are Super Bowl contenders. I’m actually a little excited about this defense and there’s enough on offense around Rodgers for Green Bay to start a new postseason streak. The division is obviously tough and they’re lacking in talent compared to the top dogs in the NFC, but I have so much respect for Rodgers that I’m willing to put them this high on the list.
12) Kansas City Chiefs
We can have League Pass teams in the NBA, so I hope I’m not making an ass of myself by saying the Chiefs are my number one Sunday Ticket team. This offense has the tools to be earth-shattering. Now will they? I don’t know, but I’m pumped to find out. As a pseudo rookie, I fully expect Pat Mahomes to struggle a bit this year; but the combination of Andy Reid, a good play action game, and the elite talent group of Kelce, Hill, Hunt, and Watkins, he should still be able to shine. The AFC West appears to be wide open and I’d give KC a solid chance at taking the crown for a third straight season.
13) San Francisco 49ers
Deservingly so, San Fran is the trendiest team heading into the season. The hype started last year after the Jimmy Garoppolo trade that lead to five straight wins; now add Richard Sherman, Jerick McKinnon, and a healthy Pierre Garcon to fan the flames. The Lynch and Shanahan combo have done one hell of a job thus far with this rebuild and a playoff berth in their second year would be incredible for a squad that went 2-14 before they were brought in. Obviously, the Rams should be considered the favorites, but the 49ers should be able to compete for the division title.
14) Los Angeles Chargers
Sigh… the Chargers might be my favorite roster in the league but it’s hard to ignore the fact that this team is cursed. Losing Jason Verrett and Hunter Henry for the year before week one is absolutely brutal. Considering that this has been a trend with this team for the past three years, you’d think I’d finally jump off the bandwagon, but nope. I can’t do it. There’s still too much talent on this team for me to lose hope (yet). Like I said with the Chiefs, this division looks wide open and given the fact that the Chargers have the best quarterback in the AFC West with Philip Rivers (hopefully not a hot take), I think they might actually have the advantage over everyone else. Let’s just pray they can kick field goals this season.
15) Oakland Raiders
I can see this team going anywhere from 6-10 to 12-4. The John Gruden hire is either going to be an overwhelming success or a colossal failure. I don’t see anything in between. What excites me the most is what he does with Marshawn Lynch and this running game. Beast Mode isn’t what he used to be, but there were times last year where I felt he wasn’t being used enough. That’ll change under Gruden. No doubt that Derek Carr struggled last year, but I think a lot of that can be traced back to his back injury that bothered him all season. I expect him and this entire offense to improve. The biggest concern is obviously the Khalil Mack holdout. This teams’ ceiling is significantly lower if 52 isn’t on the field. With a $100 million coach and a division up for grabs, the Raiders are begging for high expectations. I’m curious to see if they’re worth them.
16) Detroit Lions
Outside of Gruden, Matt Patricia is the most intriguing coaching hire of the offseason. Detroit has some fun players on defense, especially in the secondary, so I’m excited to see what Patricia is able get out of them this year. Before going into the offense, I should say I’m a massive Matt Stafford fan and I feel like any offense with him at the helm has a chance to be good. Retaining offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was a massive win in the offseason and adding LeGarrette Blount to an already fun runningback room makes Detroit one of the most interesting teams heading into the season. I think there’s enough here for Lions to potentially sneak into the playoffs for the second time in three years.
17) Tennessee Titans
Despite winning a playoff game last year, the Titans were considered by many to be the worst team in the postseason. While I agree with that opinion, I’m very optimistic heading into 2018. Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur played a big role in Jared Goff’s bounce back year in 2017 and now he’s tasked with turning around a disappointing third year for Marcus Mariota. With one of the best offensive lines in the league, adding Dion Lewis (one of my favorite offseason acquisitions), and what hopes to be an improved second season for wideout Corey Davis, it’s hard to see a world where Mariota isn’t better. With Malcolm Butler joining an already good defense, this club looks like a solid bet to make it back to the postseason.
18) Baltimore Ravens
Per the usual, the Ravens will struggle at points during the season but have a solid chance at making the playoffs come December. With a defense that once again looks stout, the pressure is on Joe Flacco and the offense to carry their share of the weight. Drafting Lamar Jackson in the second round was the headliner of the offseason, but the biggest impact he’ll likely have this year is lighting fire under Flacco. Reports say he’s having the best training camp of his career and his preseason performance certainty supports the claims. With a complete overhaul of the receiving corps and an increased pressure to perform, I’m starting to buy into Flacco and this offense. Please don’t make me regret it.
19) New York Giants
The more I think about the Giants, the more optimistic I get. Adding Saquon Barkley and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr is nice and all, but the biggest addition to this team in my opinion, is left tackle, Nate Solder. Their O-Line last season was among the most putrid in the league and while Solder might not be the best tackle in the NFL, just having any form of consistency at that position should lead to drastic improvement. Drafting Will Hernandez in the second round ain’t bad either. Say what you will about Eli Manning (everyone has and will), but he’s proven over and over that he can be a solid quarterback with a good supporting cast. I’m a bit worried about their front seven when it comes to rushing the quarterback, but I think there’s enough pieces here to form a solid defense. With Barkley eating the clock and helping avoid third and long’s, this team should be able to get leads early and hold it for four quarters. The playoffs are definitely an achievable goal for the G-Men.
20) Dallas Cowboys
There’s definitely a scenario where Dallas wins 10+ games en route to their biyearly playoff appearance, but I just think there’s too much that has to go right for them this year. Throughout Jason Garrett’s head coaching tenure, the Cowboys have been a team overly dependent on their top players. For Dallas to have a successful season, they’re likely going to need Tyron Smith and Sean Lee to play 16 games. That simply isn’t going to happen. This team has invested everything into their offensive line, so obviously it’s a major concern that it appears Travis Fredrick could potentially miss the entire season or a large portion of it. On the bright side, this defense has a ton of raw talent to pair with Lee and DeMarcus Lawrence, so I think they have a real chance at being a dependable unit that Dallas can count on weekly. Offensively, Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension is in the past and while the presence of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will be hard to replace, their on the field production shouldn’t be. I want to have faith in the Cowboys but it’s hard to trust a coaching staff that allowed their franchise quarterback to be sacked by Adrian Clayborn six times in one game. Six times!
21) Arizona Cardinals
David Johnson is back and there’s hope that this offensive line isn’t a complete dumpster fire. Adding Sam Bradford to replace the retired Carson Palmer made a ton of sense but you and I both know he’s not playing 16 games. Josh Rosen getting a shot to play at some point this season is what gets me excited. He’s looked solid in preseason and adding Christian Kirk and Brice Butler to catch passes alongside Larry Fitzgerald makes me think this offense could be fun. Bruce Arians retiring was huge loss, but I like Steve Wilks and I think he has enough to work with to pull off a good season.
22) Denver Broncos
Let me start by saying that I LOVE Denver’s draft class. Bradley Chubb falling to fifth overall is still head scratching and pairing him with Von Miller is simply unfair. Second round pick Courtland Sutton has already locked up the third wide receiver spot and should see his production and usage increase as the season goes on. Royce Freeman appears to be the best runningback on the roster and should be named the team’s starter any day now. Case Keenum isn’t the long-term solution at quarterback, but he’s probably the best they’ve had since 2013. Having decent QB play is an improvement for this team and I expect Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas to benefit greatly. Denver has good upside in this division but there are some major red flags that are hard to ignore. A bad offensive line has become a tradition and it’s difficult to have confidence in a team that is waiting for the first opportunity to fire their head coach. There’s a good vibe about this team that I’m starting to buy into, but I can easily see a scenario where fans on taking bets on which week Vance Joseph gets canned.
23) Washington Redskins
I like Alex Smith more than the common man, so I don’t see much, or any drop off from the QB position, especially with an offensive line that’s finally healthy after a disastrous 2017. Smith’s supporting cast is what raises questions. How good is Josh Doctson? Will Jordan Reed be on the field enough to have an impact? Can they find any consistent running game after the Derrius Guice injury? Jay Gruden is a good coach and I like the front seven of this defense enough to think they have potential to compete in the NFC East. No one outside Maryland has high expectations, but I think there might be enough here for the Skins to have a sneaky good year.
24) Miami Dolphins
Miami likely has a higher floor than everyone I’ve ranked below them, but I don’t have much faith in this team. They cut Ndamukong Suh for… reasons… I guess? And despite the divisive nature of Jarvis Landry, I still question who is going to consistently catch passes on this team. Deciding to buy stock in the Dolphins might come down to how big of an impact you think Ryan Tannehill returning will have. I’ll admit that I’m not his biggest fan, but I understand if you believe having their franchise guy is enough for them to contend for a playoff spot in the AFC. I personally just don’t see it happening.
25) Cincinnati Bengals
Nothing about this team is sexy, but don’t be too quick to overlook them. Andy Dalton is fine. This defense is fine, and I like the upside this offense has if Joe Mixon and John Ross make big leaps. Cincy isn’t a threat to win the division, but I can see them hanging around all season and finding their way into a wild card spot. I enjoy making these power rankings because it allows me to speculate, but the one thing I can say on here with absolute certainty, is that Marvin Lewis is immortal and he’ll keep his job regardless of this seasons outcome.
26) New York Jets
The Eagles are Super Bowl champions, the Jaguars are serious contenders, and the New York Jets have three good quarterbacks. We’re officially in an alternate dimension. Teddy Bridgewater is healthy and Josh McCown is dependable as they come, but we’re all waiting for Sam Darnold to be announced the starter. The Jets O-Line is among the worst in the league, so I’m worried about Darnold getting crushed in his rookie year, but it’s hard to sit the third overall pick for a season. Especially when he’s played well enough to earn the job. I don’t think this a playoff club just yet; so instead of defining this season as a success based on wins, we should judge based on player development and laying the foundation for a winning culture.
27) Chicago Bears
One of my favorite sayings in sport is that it doesn’t matter how better your team got in the offseason, what matters is who are you better than. There’s no doubt this is an improved football team with a rebuilt offense headlined by head coach, Matt Nagy. Roquan Smith was one of my favorite players coming out of the draft and I expect he’ll elevate what is already a solid defensive unit. So, obviously the Bears should be a prime candidate for a huge leap this season, right? In terms of winning more games, no, I don’t think so. The NFC North is stacked with three other teams that should be playoff contenders. The NFC in general is rough with the East looking improved and the South coming off a year where they sent three teams to the postseason. With only six available playoff spots, I just don’t see the Bears getting in. They should be fun and competitive, but I believe they’re at least another year away from contention.
28) Seattle Seahawks
I love Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, and Bobby Wagner. That’s about it. The greatest rebuild in modern NFL history has unfortunately ended after an impressive six-year run. Kam Chancellor is retired, Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett have moved elsewhere in the NFC, and Earl Thomas has been a no-show throughout training camp. This leaves their defense suspect and unlikely to receive much help from an offense that possesses one of the worst O-Lines in the league. Your floor is always going to be somewhat high when you have an elite quarterback like Wilson, but another season where he’s running for his life for 16 games doesn’t give me much confidence. Everyone has to rebuild at some point in this league, but already having a good QB with a quality coach and front office gives me hope that Seattle can return to relevancy in the next few years.
29) Cleveland Browns
The biggest improvement a football team can make is adding a competent quarterback. The Browns added two. Tyrod Taylor appears to be the starter, which makes sense considering he’s the definition of stability at the QB position. If Baker Mayfield does hit the field, I think his preseason has shown he can play well at this level. Josh Gordon is (hopefully) ready to put his past behind him and lead a revamped wide receiver room with Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and possibly Dez Bryant. This is all exciting but what really gets me hyped about the Browns is watching Myles Garrett develop into a professional game-wrecker. I believe Cleveland still needs a year to develop a healthy culture (probably by making a coaching change at some point), so I’m not thinking playoffs yet.
30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston’s suspension raises questions about his future with the Bucs and in the league. Not the best situation to head into a season. With all the respect in the world, the Bucs are clearly the worst team in the NFC South and have a rough schedule that’ll make it difficult to gain traction in the conference. At least the defensive line will be fun.
31) Indianapolis Colts
Watching Andrew Luck play in 2018 will be one of the great joys of my life. I’m a gigantic fan of the Geico caveman and I’ll be praying to the football gods that I’ll get to watch him play 16 games. Unfortunately, I’ll also have to watch one of the worst defenses in the league that’ll struggle to keep Indy in a tight division race. The offensive line should improve with the addition of Quenton Nelson, but it’s hard to ignore the lack of play makers on offense compared to the rest of the AFC South. Another high draft pick might be what they need to get back to being a consistent playoff team.
32) Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen has been a hot take magnet on Twitter since draft night, so seeing him play well in preseason has really warmed my heart. My fear is that he’s going to get destroyed this season behind the human turnstile the Bills call an offensive line. LeSean McCoy will help, but there’s not much else on this offense to give me confidence that Allen is going enjoy a successful rookie campaign like Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott. It might be the worst offense in the NFL that isn’t going to get help from the defense. I love this secondary, but there’s not much up front. There’s just a severe lack of talent overall, but a good draft pick next April will help.