Look, it’s almost fourth of July weekend, and I miss football. We’re rapidly approaching America’s birthday and I’m missing America’s game. I would watch a preseason game between the worst teams in the NFL on a small black and white television if I knew it was happening live. I miss football that much. So, to help ease my withdrawals, I wrote these, my way, way, way too early NFL power rankings. Enjoy.
Way Too Early NFL Power Rankings
32. Indianapolis Colts
I’m sorry, I just can’t find a reason to get excited about this team. The AFC South should be competitive, as the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, and Jacksonville Jaguars are all talented squads, but the Colts just aren’t. Unless Andrew Luck makes a miraculous full recovery and drags this team to the post-season, there’s just not a whole lot to love. The Quenton Nelson pick was a great one, that counts!
31. Cleveland Browns
Listen Browns fans, I’m sorry. I actually have some very restrained optimism about your chances of improving this season. However, you don’t get to complain about positioning on a power ranking when you’ve won one game in the last two years. Frankly, I kinda hope Tyrod Taylor flops in the preseason and you guys go ahead and throw Baker Mayfield in there, make things entertaining.
30. Arizona Cardinals
It’s not a good sign when your best player is a 35 year old wide receiver. Now, it helps that the 35 year old is coming off of an amazing season, and is objectively one of the best in NFL history, but it still speaks to the rest of the roster. Hopefully, Josh Rosen becomes the starter and sweeps the Cardinals off their feet… but for the time being, the starter is Sam Bradford, and the team’s best hope is a tailback coming off of a devastating injury. Maybe Chandler Jones can play offense?
29. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have some pieces, but they’re hard to figure out. Last year, the team went into a nosedive because Marvin Lewis announced he was leaving after the season, during the season… and then signed a contract extension after keeping the Baltimore Ravens out of the playoffs. Andy Dalton is a decent quarterback, Joe Mixon has potential, A.J. Green is a top five receiver, and when healthy, Tyler Eifert is a dangerous tight end. I just don’t trust them to actually put it together on the field.
28. New York Jets
I actually think the New York Jets have some potential. You have to remember, this time last year, people thought this team was going to go 0-16. The team was completely devoid of talent, and they traded away what they had to build for the future. Now, they weren’t great, but they also weren’t anywhere near as bad as they should’ve been.
They won five games with a horrible roster, and then they added some pieces on both sides of the ball. It’ll be interesting to see who emerges from the quarterback group of Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Darnold to be the starter, and whether Terrelle Pryor can return to form as a wide receiver.
27. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are in the middle of a very awkward transition. The departures of Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry were probably in the best interest of the future of the team, but they did leave holes behind. They did pick up some fun pieces in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Mike Gesicki, but it’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact they can make on day one. Fitzpatrick should make his presence on the field pretty early, but it might take a second for super-athlete Gesicki to get on the NFL level.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
See this? This is a suspension. Let’s eat one. Let’s eat a suspension tonight!
I’m just kidding, but in all seriousness, Jameis Winston hasn’t lived up to the hype, and this suspension certainly doesn’t help. Mike Evans has potential to be a top five receiver in this league, but he can’t seem to break through the glass ceiling, failing to repeat his 2016 success. In a division with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and New Orleans Saints… I wouldn’t be too excited.
25. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are a young, talented, unproven team. There’s a lot of potential on this squad, but potential is absolutely worthless until it becomes production. Is Mitch Trubisky the answer at quarterback? Will Tarik Cohen become a vital part of the offense as a whole? Can Chicago count on Jordan Howard to be more consistent? Will Chicago’s new coaches or free agent class give this offense some depth? I hope so, but until proof hits paper, they get spot number twenty-five.
24. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 last year, and while their miserably low-scoring wild-card bout against the Jacksonville Jaguars was hard to watch, it does say something that they were able to compete with a team that would beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and give the Patriots a run two weeks later. The team cashed in on some of their off-season trades, drafting their quarterback of the future in Josh Allen and a freak linebacker in Tremaine Edmunds.
Will the Bills be able to repeat last season’s success? It’s hard to say. Making the playoffs is a gift and a curse, because they will face more difficult competition this season, and until they stop getting blown out by New England twice a year, every year, nobody will take them seriously.
23. Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins weren’t sure if Kirk Cousins was “the guy” for their franchise, so they never gave him a big contract. That’s understanable. What’s less understandable is trading for an older, less effective quarterback, and then giving him a big contract. It’s very confusing, and ultimately epitomizes the state of the team moving forward. If Kirk Cousins couldn’t get you over the hump, what makes you think the NFL’s best game manager will?
22. New York Giants
When you talk about teams that are going to be a blast in Madden, it is impossible to ignore the New York Giants. You’re saying I have an offense with the NFL’s fastest tight end in Evan Engram, Mr. 99 Overall Spectacular Catch, Odell Beckham Jr, and now super-athlete Saquon Barkley? Sign me up. However, Eli isn’t getting any younger, that defense had some real issues last year, and I still have questions about that offensive line.
Then again, it can’t possibly be worse than it was with Ben McAdoo and that mustache, am I right?
21. Denver Broncos
Vance Joseph returned as the team’s head coach, and if that’s not a reason to be skeptical about Denver’s success, I don’t know what is. Case Keenum is a huge upgrade over Trevor Siemian, but that’s not really saying much of anything. The defense should still be very good, but the offense just looks lost. An iffy offensive line, ageing receivers, and another year of unwarranted Devontae Booker hype.
But hey, at least you guys signed Marquette King so all the punts will be entertaining!
20. Dallas Cowboys
There’s no reason for the Dallas Cowboys to be as bad as they were last year. Dak Prescott looked awful without Ezekiel Elliott‘s support, the offensive line didn’t live up to their hype, and the Jerry Jones vs. The NFL drama was more entertaining than anything they put on the field. However, Zeke is back, and behind that line, they should re-establish one of the league’s best rushing attacks, taking the pressure off of Dak and the defense.
19. Detroit Lions
I wasn’t a huge fan of Matt Patricia when he was with the New England Patriots. The Patriot defense was underrated at points, but it was never really spectacular. Just looking at how he schemed against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. I’m not a fan. Not to mention, almost none of Belichick’s assistant coaches have enjoyed any success as a head coach.
Anyway, this team is going to live and die on the arm of Matthew Stafford. They signed a couple of pieces, but they didn’t make any dramatic improvements. It’s hard to get excited about this squad, especially in a division that’s pretty much destined to come down to either Aaron Rodgers‘ Packers or the Minnesota Vikings.
18. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are a bit of a mystery. The 2018 season could be literally anything, and I wouldn’t be surprised. On one hand, it feels like a lame duck season. John Harbaugh is done if the team misses the playoffs, and with the selection of Lamar Jackson in the first round, Joe Flacco‘s days are numbered. The Pittsburgh Steelers are still on top of their game, but a wildcard push isn’t out of the question, especially considering the additions of John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead give Flacco the best receiver group he’s ever had. Throw in rookie tight end, Hayden Hurst, and it’s not a bad looking offense.
There are still some questions about safety play and their offensive line, but this Baltimore Ravens team could finish anywhere from 1 to 32 and I wouldn’t be too surprised, though, judging by where I’ve ranked them here, 32 is probably more likely.
17. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks are in a transitional period, and it’s impossible to gauge how good or bad they’re going to be. Earl Thomas is holding out, Richard Sherman is gone, and rumors regarding a Bobby Wagner trade continue to swirl. Russell Wilson is a top five quarterback, and he’s proven that he’s capable of carrying the team for periods of time, but it’s just hard to imagine them being competitive this year, especially with the rest of the division (with the exception of Arizona) improving.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
The entire future of the Kansas City Chiefs rests on the shoulders of Pat Mahomes, and I’m not convinced. We don’t have much of a sample size, but he didn’t blow anyone away last season when he got in late for his first start, throwing for 284 yards and an interception. My biggest issue with Mahomes? He’s an air raid quarterback, and historically, they’ve flopped in the NFL.
That wouldn’t be a huge issue, but Mahomes’ knocks coming out of college were consistent with the issues that air raid quarterbacks face in the NFL. In college, he was reckless, he consistently threw into traffic, and he struggled to read defenses. And that’s just in college. You might be able to get away with little mistakes against schools like Stephen F. Austin University, but that’s not going to fly in the NFL against secondaries like Jacksonville’s.
15. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans are an incredibly frustrating team. They have so much talent on paper, but it just doesn’t seem to come together on the field. Last year, Marcus Mariota eliminated the Kansas City Chiefs from the playoffs by throwing a touchdown pass to himself. That’s insane! Hopefully, the likes of Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor make a big jump this year, and Derrick Henry is ready to carry the burden of being the starting tailback. They’ll have to fight for positioning in a competitive AFC South, but they do have the tools if new head coach Mike Vrabel can motivate them.
14. Oakland Raiders
It’s such a foregone conclusion that the Oakland Raiders are going to be bad this year that people have lost sight of the talent this team actually has. Recency bias is real, and it’s easy to see why people could think this team will struggle, especially with all of the question marks surrounding the return of Jon Gruden, but it’s not crazy to think a roster that includes Derek Carr, one of the best offensive lines in football, a talented receiving corps, and Khalil Mack could give some teams some real trouble.
And before anyone gets started on their defense, Oakland’s last defensive coordinator was so terrible, he had pass rusher Bruce Irvin playing slot corner on 17% of his snaps. I’m not saying that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, I’m just saying I wouldn’t even try that in Madden.
13. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are the darlings of the off-season. They went on that five game stretch, Jimmy Garoppolo became the King of the Bay, and now everyone expects them to rule the roost in the NFC. It’s been the story of the summer, and frankly, I’m sick of it.
Look, Garoppolo was impressive. He looked a lot better than anything else the team had, and it’s impressive that he took one of the worst teams in football on a winning streak. However, five and a half games is a small sample size, and while he did a lot right, there’s a ton that remains to be seen. Like Jalen Ramsey said, a lot of his production came off of scheme game-planning that wouldn’t hold up when defensive coordinators had time to analyze film.
He’s not too far off base, and I have a fantastic example to prove it. During a post-season run unlike anything any of us had ever seen before, throwing for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions in four games, knocking off Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and then Colin Kaepernick to win the Super Bowl.
That man was Joe Flacco, whose offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, had been fired halfway through the season. Jim Caldwell took his place, and the team had to come up with a new offense on the fly, built on the skeleton of Cameron’s. It’s not insane for a player or a coach to come into a situation and have immediate success because nobody has film on the product. How else do you explain Cam Newton having the second best game of his career so far in his first start? Speaking of which…
12. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers no longer have any excuses. The team went out and drafted DJ Moore, as well as signing Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright to play receiver for Cam Newton. Norv Turner is in as the offensive coordinator, and if the offense doesn’t produce this year, you’re going to have to start blaming Cam Newton. Christian McCaffrey needs to take that next step and become a true running back instead of a modern Reggie Bush, and Luke Kuechly needs to stay far, far, far away from any more head injuries.
11. Houston Texans
If. That’s the word that most accurately sums up the 2018 Houston Texans. If. If this team can stay healthy, and if everyone can be as good as advertised, this can be a dangerous group this season. DeShaun Watson was dominating before he got hurt, and when healthy, J.J. Watt is the NFL’s best pass rusher. A healthy Houston team could do some real damage. Will we see it? That remains to be seen.
10. Green Bay Packers
If we’re being completely honest, this team lives and dies on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. It doesn’t seem like their secondary has improved too much, and the Minnesota Vikings are just as strong as they were last year. However, if Rodgers bounces back and learns to adjust to life without his favorite receiver, there’s no reason the Packers can’t make some noise in 2019.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
This team has it all, on paper. On paper, this team should run away with the chaotic AFC West and make a real push as the AFC’s four seed, potentially spoiling some off-seasons. The trio of Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen should cause some real problems for defenses in 2018. However, you just get that feeling that the Chargers are gonna Charger it up somehow. Maybe it’s injuries, maybe it’s choking, maybe it’s the fact that this team hasn’t won a meaningful game in the history of the franchise, but something is just missing for this team.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons should be so much better than they are. They have so much talent on both sides of the ball, but they just can’t seem to return to 2016 form. Maybe Steve Sarkisian is holding them back, maybe that season was just an aberration, but all I know is, when I look at that roster, I see too much talent to leave them out of the top ten. Hopefully, Julio Jones returns from his holdout soon and he helps bring Calvin Ridley along.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
The slam-dunk, home-run, easy-peasy obvious pick to be AFC North Champions will remain a threat in the AFC as long as they have a great offensive line, the best running back in football, and the best receiver in football. However, you do have to wonder how much fuel is left in Ben Roethlisberger‘s tank, and at some point, whether or not he’s holding the team back.
Against New England and Jacksonville, the two best teams in the AFC, Roethlisberger threw as many interceptions as touchdowns last year. In those three games, Roethlisberger threw the ball 143 times for 1,062 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. You just have to wonder what that team might be like with someone more conservative, say, an Alex Smith, under center.
6. Los Angeles Rams
I am not as in love with the off-season that the Los Angeles Rams had as everyone else is. Sure, this team is unstoppable on paper, and they’ll be a blast to play with in Madden, but it bothers me that Sean McVay is only 32 years old, and he just brought the volatile personalities of Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh into his locker room. Not to mention, their schedule won’t be a cakewalk like it was in 2017.
However, this team is still loaded. The offense boasts a newly proven franchise quarterback in Jared Goff, the reigning offensive player of the year in Todd Gurley, and an underrated receiving group. At the very least, they have the tools to make some noise.
5. Minnesota Vikings
People love quarterbacks, so it’s easy to see why all the buzz has been about Minnesota going from Case Keenum to Kirk Cousins this off-season, but let’s be real, offense isn’t what makes this team tick. Sure, they’ve got talent on the offensive side of the ball, but it’s Minnesota’s defense that brings home the bacon.
They didn’t get the press that the Jacksonville Jaguars or Philadelphia Eagles did on defense, but their defense did work. They led the NFL in points (15.8) and yards (275.9) allowed per game, in no small part to the NFL’s most underrated secondary. Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith are two of the very best at their positions, and they just don’t get enough respect.
Weirdly enough, if you watch the NFC Championship game, Harrison Smith was just off. He missed tackles, he was out of position, and he was just off. How’d that work out for the team?
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
The old adage is that defense wins championships, and nobody in the NFL has a better defense than the Jacksonville Jaguars. They do just about everything well. They absolutely suffocate the passing game, they beat the hell out of quarterbacks, and their linebackers are so athletic that you can’t escape them for big plays. This team was two questionable penalties away from knocking off the Patriots in New England. Sure, Blake Bortles is mediocre and the offense is holding this team back a little, but when your defense holds teams to seventeen points a game? You don’t really need elite offense.
3. New Orleans Saints
Despite their position on this ranking, this is the team that I’m predicting to represent the NFC in next season’s Super Bowl. This team has the perfect blend of excellent coaching, a franchise quarterback, and young talent. There are pieces all over the board, and I really think this Saints team can make a push. Think about it, if it weren’t for a freak play, they would’ve been in the NFC Championship game instead of the Minnesota Vikings. I’m just saying, maybe this is the year that Drew Brees passes Peyton Manning in the record books, wins his second Lombardi, and rides off into the sunset.
2. New England Patriots
All of the off-season drama in New England has been an absolute blast, but at a point, does it matter? From the sound of things, this nonsense isn’t new, and that hasn’t stopped the Patriots from dominating the AFC for the better part of the last twenty years. Many people are anxious to declare the reign of terror over, but I’ll believe it when I see it. For now, let’s go ahead and pencil the Brady Bunch in for the AFC Championship. After all, they’ve played in the last seven, winning more than half of them.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Duh? You can’t have off-season power rankings and list the defending champions anywhere but number one. I don’t necessarily think the Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in football, but I also picked against them every single week of the playoffs and I was wrong, so who knows? Carson Wentz will be back eventually, but Nick Foles will fill in admirably, and that defense should pick up right where it left off.