Training camp is upon us, people. We are less than one week away from the return of football. Let the celebrations begin!
Sure, it’s only the Hall of Fame Game, but still. Preseason football is way better than no football.
As teams start preparing for the 2016 season, let’s take a look at where each teams stands in the training camp edition of our NFL power rankings.
32) Cleveland Browns
Sorry, Browns fans. Not even the return of Josh Gordon can save your beloved team from being dead last in these rankings. There are simply way too many holes on their roster. But hey, at least you guys get two first round picks in next year’s draft.
Chip Kelly has come to the Bay Area. Brace yourselves, San Francisco. Even though Chip the coach and not Chip the GM will be heading the 49ers, they will still be lucky to even get five wins this year. A few building blocks are there, but the offense is a wreck and the defense isn’t much better. It’s gonna be a long year for Niners Nation.
30) Tennessee Titans
The Titans’ future looks bright, as they have a lot of young players and two first rounders next year. Surrounding Marcus Mariota with two solid running backs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry was smart on Tennessee’s part. Delanie Walker has also quietly been one of the best tight ends in the league. However, they are still multiple pieces away from climbing out of the cellar in an improved AFC South.
San Diego has a solid passing attack, but that’s about it. Their running game was disappointing, and their defense is below average. If their backfield tandem of Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon improves, they could be decent, but playing in a tough division won’t do them any favors.
Some analysts are higher on the Eagles than I am, but I just don’t see it. First-rounder Carson Wentz still has a lot of developing to do, and the rest of the offense isn’t all that impressive. Even though DeMarco Murray had a down year, he’s better than the likes of Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews.
The defense looks passable on paper, but was the league’s worst run defense and was the third-worst pass defense. New coach Doug Pederson has his work cut out for him.
27) Detroit Lions
Losing Megatron will be a huge blow to Detroit’s offense. The Lions’ receivers aren’t bad, but none of them are that great. Having the league’s worst rushing attack will put even more pressure on Matthew Stafford. Their defense has its pieces, like defensive end Ziggy Ansah and cornerback Darius Slay, but is lacking in talent at linebacker and safety. In a division with two playoff teams and another team who could be potentially in the hunt, the Lions simply don’t have the talent to keep up.
26) Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins could have a bounce-back year on offense. New head coach Adam Gase is fantastic with quarterbacks, so Ryan Tannehill could finally be that breakout candidate people pegged him for last year. The receivers are solid, led by third-year stud Jarvis Landry. If Arian Foster can stay healthy, their running attack could be very good. If not (which is more likely given his injury history), it could be one of the worst in the league.
The Fins’ defense has plenty of big names, but it hasn’t translated well on the field yet. The team gave up the eight-most yards in the NFL. Miami could end up a lot higher on this list come season’s end, but it could also be one of the league’s worst teams.
25) Los Angeles Rams
Want the definition of mediocrity? Look no further than the Los Angeles Rams. They are pretty much the Chicago White Sox of football: a team with a lot of good pieces who just can’t seem to make it work. By the way, I’m a Sox fan. No hard feelings towards them or anything.
They have great talent in some areas (defensive line, running back), but are dreadful in others (wide receiver, offensive line, safety). Most of all, they are led by delusional management who believes they can contend despite the fact they can’t get past .500 for the life of them. This year won’t be any different. With an inexperienced QB in Jared Goff, don’t have too high of expectations for the Rams.
The Bucs fired Lovie Smith in a desperate move to keep offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. While they kept a great offensive mind, it was at the expense of losing a great defensive mind. With an up-and-coming offensive core, the Bucs have a bright future. They have a couple of solid weapons to surround Jameis Winston with. Their offensive line was decent last year, but losing Logan Mankins to retirement will be a huge blow.
The defense has its pieces, but still isn’t there yet. The pass rush is shoddy, the cornerback position is boom or bust and the safeties aren’t very good. They have some solid building blocks, but aren’t a complete enough team to compete in the NFC.
23) New Orleans Saints
The Saints have a fantastic offense, but a miserable defense. Drew Brees has yet to have that off year that people keep saying he’ll have. He’s still a top ten quarterback despite being 37. Mark Ingram was very good before his injury, and Brandin Cooks showed #1 receiver ability last year. The offensive line is pretty good as well.
However, the defense is absolutely atrocious. They were the second-worst team in the league against both the run and the pass, and gave up the most points per game. Unless their defense can improve, the Saints won’t be able to make it past third place in the NFC South.
22) Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars had a fantastic offseason this year. On paper, they may be the most improved team in the league. They have a great offense and a defense that looks better than it was last year. The Jags have a franchise QB in Blake Bortles and have surrounded him with plenty of great weapons like the Allens, Julius Thomas, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. The only weakness on their offense is the o-line. Bortles was the fourth-most sacked quarterback last year, and they did little to improve the line besides adding Kelvin Beachum.
The defense was the focal point of the offseason, but there are still some weak spots and injury concerns. The secondary is strong at corner, but is poor at strong safety. Jacksonville could be a team that lingers around the Wild Card race longer than expected.
21) Baltimore Ravens
After a disappointing season which saw 20 players land on the IR, the Ravens have been forgotten by most fans. However, they’ve made the playoffs six times in eight years, so they shouldn’t be taken too lightly. Joe Flacco is a solid quarterback when healthy, and their offensive line is decent. Their running backs and receivers leave a lot to be desired, though.
Outside of Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle, the Ravens’ secondary isn’t all that impressive. The d-line has a great piece in nose tackle Brandon Williams, but not much else. Their linebackers are great, but their outside ‘backers, Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, are entering the tail-end of their careers. Although they have a couple of decent pieces, they have too many holes to return back to playoff form.
20) Chicago Bears
I’m higher on the Bears than most people are. Granted, it’s probably because I’m a Bears fan, but I see this team as better than the “bottom-feeders” the media has portrayed them as. Their front-seven is revamped and dangerous, thanks to the signings of Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Akiem Hicks. The secondary, though, is one of the worst in the league.
Jay Cutler had a bounce-back year in 2015, but it remains to be seen if he can do that well without offensive coordinator Adam Gase. The Bears’ running back committee is decent, but nothing special. Their receivers are very good, especially with the return of Kevin White. The o-line has its solid pieces, but is still unproven in a number of areas. The Bears could surprise a lot of people this year, but they aren’t complete enough to make the playoffs yet.
19) Buffalo Bills
The Bills have a tough schedule, so that alone will be an uphill challenge for them. Their once-great defense is a shell of itself. They did a good job upgrading it in the draft, but their first-round pick Shaq Lawson will likely miss a few games with a shoulder injury. Outside of Jerry Hughes, that leaves the Bills with a very weak pass rush. On a bright note, though, the secondary looks great with the tandem of Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, and defensive lineman Marcell Dareus is very good.
The Bills have a great offensive line and running back group, but their receivers are awful outside of Sammy Watkins. Plus, Tyrod Taylor is still fairly unproven as a starter. Don’t expect anything above league average out of Buffalo.
18) Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons looked like one of the best teams in the league to start the year, but looked like one of the league’s worst to finish it. Devonta Freeman will help put pressure off of Matt Ryan, which will allow him to target Julio Jones, who was nothing short of elite last year. Outside of Julio though, the Falcons don’t have many good targets. Their offensive line was good last year, and will be made even better with the addition of center Alex Mack.
On defense though, things aren’t as positive. Their front-seven is still one of the worst in the league, and the secondary is bleak outside of Desmond Trufant. Atlanta will need to see major strides on defense if they want to make the playoffs this year.
17) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts must be assuming that they’ll be great once Andrew Luck comes back, because their offseason was very quiet. They did very little to change their roster. Their receivers are solid, which will give Luck a lot of great targets to throw to. That is, of course, if their terrible offensive line gives him enough time to find the open man. Frank Gore is still a good running back, but they don’t have much else at the position.
The front-seven, which wasn’t all that great to begin with, got worse when Jerrell Freeman left for Chicago. The secondary isn’t impressive either, as they did little to improve a team that was in the bottom ten in the league in pass defense. In a division that did a lot of changing, the Colts stood pat. That will end up haunting them in the long run.
16) New York Giants
The amount of money the Giants spent in free agency means that they are locked in on winning the NFC East. It’ll be tough, but it could realistically happen. They’ve done a great job of surrounding Eli Manning with talented receivers. Sterling Shepard will take pressure off of OBJ, and Victor Cruz might finally play this year. However, the offensive line is still a work in progress, despite improvements from 2014.
The G-Men’s defensive line is scary; a combo of Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison will be imposing for opposing offenses. The team will definitely improve on what was the league’s seventh-worst pass rush last year. The linebackers aren’t much to call home about. The cornerback spot was improved on, but safety is still a weakness. If the Giants want to win the NFC East (considering how weak the division is, it’s not impossible), they’ll have to have significant improvements on the defensive side of the ball.
15) Dallas Cowboys
Some people are already crowning Dallas as the top team in the NFC East, but it seems a little premature of a judgment. The Cowboys are coming off of a horrid season in which they finished 4-12, but having Tony Romo back and healthy will do wonders for them. They will have one of the league’s best running back groups if Ezekiel Elliott pans out. The receiver group is below-average outside of Dez Bryant, but the offensive line is the best in the NFL.
While things on offense are fine and dandy, things on the opposite side of the ball are anything but. Their pass rush is weak to begin with, but having DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended for four games each (Gregory potentially for more) makes things even worse. Outside of Sean Lee, the linebackers aren’t great. Rolando McClain will miss the first ten games and they won’t have help from Jaylon Smith for another year. While the ‘Boys didn’t allow that many passing yards, their defensive backs aren’t that good. None of the corners play at a #1 cornerback level, and the safeties can be best described as “meh”. If the defense improves, the Cowboys will be the team to best in the East.
14) Washington Redskins
The Redskins surprised many and took the NFC East crown last year. They may very well do so again this year. The big headline pick-up is cornerback Josh Norman, who will boost the seventh-worst pass defense in the league. He will be the clear star of an otherwise average secondary. Kirk Cousins had a breakout year, and could duplicate his success in thanks to an outstanding arsenal of receiving weapons including tight end Jordan Reed. The running back group is worrisome, but the o-line is fairly decent.
Outside of the edge rusher group led by Ryan Kerrigan, the rest of the defense isn’t all that great. Norman is the only great DB that they have on the roster, which makes his signing that much more important. They are barely an above-average team. However, in the NFC East, it’s good enough.
13) Oakland Raiders
Rejoice, Raider Nation. Your years of suffering appear to be over. Oakland’s offense is talented all across the board. Derek Carr is improving rapidly, and he has a target with elite potential in Amari Cooper. Latavius Murray is better than a lot of people think, and their offensive line is incredible. If not for Dallas, it would likely be the best in the NFL.
While the defense wasn’t that good last year, the Raiders made some significant improvements over the offseason. Having Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin both rushing the passer will make their sack totals rise. They boosted their d-line with draft picks Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. The defensive backs will also be a lot better in thanks to additions Sean Smith, Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson. Although they’re in a tough division, the Raiders could possibly make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
12) Houston Texans
The Texans were already a pretty good team entering the offseason, but they exit it an even better one. They improved their offense while maintaining their elite defense. Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller are upgrades at their respective positions, and their offensive line is pretty good. Rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller should be solid compliments to star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The defense features arguably the most dominant football player in the world today in J.J. Watt. If Jadeveon Clowney can stay healthy, he and Whitney Mercilus can make their ferocious pass rush even more effective. The linebackers and defensive backs were also very good last year, as the Texans were the tenth-best run defense and third-best pass defense. Their additions should be enough to keep them in the lead in the hunt for the AFC South crown.
11) New York Jets
Ryan Fitzpatrick has returned, so the Jets are back in playoff contention. He brings a stability at quarterback that they’ve been missing all offseason. Matt Forte should be able to pick up where Chris Ivory left off. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker make a great case for being the best receiver tandem in the NFL. Their o-line isn’t all that talented, but Fitz was only sacked 19 times last year. Losing D’Brickashaw Ferguson will hurt, though.
The defense is very talented, as they are set at pretty much every position except for edge rusher. Their d-line is insanely stacked, and cornerback Darrelle Revis is one of the best corners in the game. With talent on both sides of the ball, the Jets will look to snag one of the AFC Wild Card spots this year.
10) Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have a lot of young pieces on the roster, and look to be a great team for years to come. The likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell will provide a great offensive future for them. While none of them can be considering great just yet, they are promising. For now, Adrian Peterson is carrying this offense on his shoulders and is doing a fantastic job at doing so. He has yet to slow down despite being 31. Minnesota’s o-line is puzzling, as they could either be really good or really bad. Time will tell which one is true.
Their defense also has young, talented pieces, but is coming along quicker than the offense. They have a fantastic secondary, great linebackers and a very good defensive line. With the amount of youth, upside and immediate success they’ve had, the Vikings are a force to be reckoned with.
9) Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals tied for the third-best team in the entire league last year, surprising as it sounds. Despite the running joke that they can’t make it past the Wild Card round, they have been a playoff team since 2011. Andy Dalton is a decent QB with a star receiver to throw to in A.J. Green. Outside of Green, though, the receivers are weak. Losing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones hurt their depth. On a positive note, the Bengals have one of the best running back tandems in the league with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. They also have a very talented o-line led by left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
The opposite side of the ball is also very good for Cincy. Their d-line, led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins, is great, the linebackers are solid and the DBs are still good despite losing Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson. The Bengals enter the 2016 season looking like a solid playoff team.
8) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have been an underrated team for years, but now that the AFC West is a lot more winnable, they may finally get that credit they deserve. They are fantastic at running the ball, as they succeeded even when star back Jamaal Charles went down. Now that he’s healthy, they look to wreck havoc on defenses across the league. Behind a line with a lot of potential, that is achievable. Alex Smith is an underrated QB, but his receivers are very weak outside of Jeremy Maclin. Tight end Travis Kelce is a solid target in his own right, but the Chiefs will need more receiver production if Smith wants to take that next step.
Their defense is one of the best in the league, as they are very talented on the line, at safety and at the linebacker positions. Losing Sean Smith leaves a gap at one of the cornerback spots, though. It will be interesting to see who steps up to grab that spot aside Marcus Peters. The Chiefs will likely find themselves in the playoffs somehow. The question is, will it be as a Wild Card team, or as the AFC West champions?
7) Denver Broncos
The defending Super Bowl champs find themselves lower than they would have hoped. Want to know why? One word: quarterback. Mark Sanchez is not a starting-caliber QB, and Paxton Lynch needs time to develop. They have very good receivers and a solid tailback in C.J. Anderson. Their offensive line is another weakness: both Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez left the team in free agency.
Despite also losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan to other teams, their front-seven is still fantastic. The secondary is even better, led by top-ten corners Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. If their offense can gel quickly and survive with a Band-Aid QB, they will more than likely be a playoff team once again.
6) Seattle Seahawks
After a rough 2-4 start to the season, the Seahawks came back and made it to the playoffs. Behind star quarterback Russell Wilson, the ‘Hawks offense was the fourth best in the NFL. Thomas Rawls looks to build on his breakout season, and with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, he’ll get more opportunity to do so. Wilson has solid weapons to throw to in Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham, the former of which was insanely good late last year. However, their offensive line is…how do I put it nicely…absolute trash. It is without a doubt the worst in the entire league.
Their defense, though, is still stacked. Their d-line is great, they have talent at linebacker and the original Legion of Boom is back. Despite the fact that Wilson will have trouble behind an atrocious line, the Seahawks will still likely be an elite talent.
5) Green Bay Packers
I stated that I was a Bears fan earlier in the article, so naturally I hate the Packers. Bias aside though, the Packers are well-coached, stable, and an all-around great team. Aaron Rodgers is a top five quarterback, and their receiver duo of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb is a top ten tandem, assuming Nelson returns to top form from his ACL injury. Packers fans hope that Eddie Lacy’s P90X program will bring him back to his former glory, which is likely to happen. He has one of the league’s best offensive lines to help him with that.
Besides inside linebacker, the Packers seem set at every defensive position. Having Clay Matthews going back on the edge will see an increase in production out of him. They have a tough division rival in the Vikings, but if the Packers can edge them out, it’ll be a smooth road back to the NFC North crown.
4) Pittsburgh Steelers
In a recent article of mine, I ranked the Steelers’ trio of Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown as the best offensive trio in the league. Their offense is even more than those three elite players, believe it or not. They have one of the league’s best backup running backs in DeAngelo Williams, who will fill in well at starter during Bell’s (likely) four-game suspension. Even without Martavis Bryant, they have other solid options at receiver, as well as tight end Ladarius Green. If Maurkice Pouncey stays healthy, their o-line could play at a top ten level.
Their defense is night and day. When stopping the run, they’re in the top five league-wise, but they were the third-worst pass defense last year. If first-rounder Artie Burns and the rest of the secondary steps up, the Steelers have a great chance to reach the Super Bowl.
3) Carolina Panthers
If not for the departure of Josh Norman, the Panthers would be even higher on this list than they already are. Reigning MVP Cam Newton gets his #1 target back in Kelvin Benjamin, so the offense will become even more scary than it already is. Greg Olsen is one of the league’s best tight ends, and Jonathan Stewart is a very good running back behind an offensive line that is strong at almost every position.
Their front-seven is one of the league’s elite. Carolina’s defensive line is downright scary and the linebackers are fantastic. However, their secondary is dreadful. Only two of the team’s top five defensive backs are returning this year. If the Panthers can overcome that one obstacle, they could be the favorites to reclaim the throne atop the NFC.
2) New England Patriots
For once, the Patriots didn’t stand “pat” in free agency (I’m awful at puns). Adding tight end Martellus Bennett will make life even easier for Gronk, who is easily the best tight end in the league. The Pats have no clear front-runner at running back, but they should be fine with whomever they choose. After all, they have Tom Brady. And while their receivers aren’t that good outside of Julian Edelman, Brady can make players better than they actually are. That shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Despite Jerod Mayo’s retirement and trading Chandler Jones, their front-seven is still decent. Adding Terrance Knighton and Chris Long will help their already solid linebackers. The secondary stepped up like crazy last year, and looks like one of the better ones in the NFL today. If the Pats do well in Brady’s four-game absence, they can easily make it far in the playoffs.
1) Arizona Cardinals
Top to bottom, the Arizona Cardinals have one of the most stacked rosters in the NFL. Carson Palmer has an amazing support cast – the Cardinals’ receivers and running backs are deep and talented. If David Johnson continues his play from late in 2015, he will be a top five back in the league. Their offensive line is also very good, as they gave up the sixth-least amount of sacks last year.
The Cards’ d-line is led by Calais Campbell and rookie Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche has well-documented off-the-field issues, but if anyone can fix him, it’s Arizona’s head coach, Bruce Arians. The trade for Chandler Jones gives the Cards a reliable pass rusher off the edge, which was something they needed.
Safety-turned-linebacker Deone Bucannon could be one of the best inside backers in the league next year. And what can be said about Arizona’s stellar secondary that hasn’t been already? Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson are both two of the best DBs in the NFL. If all goes well, we could be seeing the Cardinals in the Super Bowl come February.