Real NFL football is back this week and we could not be happier. As the commercial says…
Let’s get started by checking in where each team stands heading into Week 1 of the 2016 season.
With the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos losing their top two quarterbacks there was a power vacuum created at the top. Stepping into that role as the presumptive favorites to win it all is the team that has led the league in scoring defense four years in a row…
1. Seattle Seahawks
Their defense is still tops in the NFL and with their much-maligned offensive line suddenly looking strong, Russell Wilson has a real chance as an MVP candidate.
2. Green Bay Packers
Releasing Josh Sitton was one thing. Losing him to the Bears had to sting. Fortunately, if any team can absorb that kind of loss it’s Green Bay.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer looked less than perfect during the preseason. He may be the only thing holding Arizona back from a Super Bowl trip. If he’s on point, they could be unbeatable.
4. New England Patriots
No Tom Brady and no Rob Ninkovich for four games is tough. If Bill Belichick can somehow start New England 3-1 he will have reached a new level of sorcery.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall won’t be able to replace, but if Andy Dalton picks up where he left off in 2015 it may not even matter. Cincy is the top challenger to the Pats in the AFC.
6. Carolina Panthers
They didn’t want to pay Josh Norman $15 million a year, so now they’ll be starting two rookies at cornerback. What could possibly go wrong there?
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh has the top offense in the NFL when Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. Trading for Justin Gilbert showed that this team still has a weakness in the secondary, though.
8. Denver Broncos
Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan are gone but heck if this still doesn’t look like an elite defense. All Trevor Siemian has to do is not royally screw up.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are still waiting on Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Jamaal Charles. Expect a rough start to the season in Kansas City.
10. Oakland Raiders
These Raiders would have placed higher but missing Mario Edwards for eight weeks is a big blow for a defense that wants to take the next step forward.
11. Houston Texans
Don’t look now but DeAndre Hopkins may no longer be a one-man show. Houston’s offense has been dramatically upgraded since last season and they look like the class of the AFC South.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
With Dante Fowler, Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey the Jags are starting top-five picks at all three levels of their defense. Is Gus Bradley the right guy to lead them, though?
13. Minnesota Vikings
Trading for Sam Bradford was a desperate move that doesn’t necessarily make them a better football team. If Mike Zimmer can get them to the playoffs again it will be a miracle.
14. Dallas Cowboys
With Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott in the backfield, Dallas may have found their next generation of offensive stars. If only they had a pass rush they’d be a dangerous team.
15. Buffalo Bills
Injuries to rookies Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland have put a real damper on the excitement for the Bills. Tyrod Taylor will carry a heavy load this year.
On paper this looks like the epitome of a .500 team. They’re going to need big contributions from their rookie class to get any higher.
Power Rankings: Where each team stands going into Week 1
Preseason: Winners and losers around the NFL
Highlights: Watch the best of Preseason Week 4
Fantasy Football Taking a chance on Prescott
17. New York Giants
Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard looks like the next big thing in New York. Nobody tell Lena Dunham.
18. Indianapolis Colts
After getting pummeled last season, the Colts had better hope Andrew Luck is back to 100 percent because they’re going nowhere without him.
19. New York Jets
Now that the whole silly and unnecessary Ryan Fitzpatrick drama is over, there’s a lot to like about these Jets. Just not enough to hope for a division title.
20. Baltimore Ravens
When they’re healthy John Harbaugh’s Ravens should usually be considered a playoff contender. Their offensive coordinator may have changed that though.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Sam Bradford is gone and Carson Wentz is slated to start as soon as he’s able. Time to find out if he’s worth the enormous price they paid to get him.
22. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans hit a home run in the draft and added a few quality veterans in free agency. This may be Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s last chance to win another NFL title.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have improved their pass rush and coverage. If Jameis Winston can rein in his mistakes then Tampa Bay can definitely make some noise.
24. Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones has been carrying the Falcons for several years now almost entirely on his own. The load isn’t about to get any lighter, either.
25. Detroit Lions
The Lions were much sharper when Jim Bob Cooter took over last year. If they can build on that work, Detroit is an outside threat to make the NFL playoffs.
26. Chicago Bears
Chicago’s only preseason win came against Cleveland and they’ll start the year with their best defender in Pernell McPhee on the PUP list.
27. Tennessee Titans
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will be highly watchable in this exotic smash-mouth offense. The other side of the ball will be a problem, though.
28. San Diego Chargers
The embarrassing saga of Joey Bosa’s holdout is finally over, but the backwards culture and dysfunction that let it happen is still alive and well.
29. Miami Dolphins
Adam Gase is a bright play-caller. He’s going to wish that the Dolphins still had Lamar Miller and Rishard Matthews, though.
30. Los Angeles Rams
LA will play several early east-coast games and Jared Goff is already on his way to bust status. Jeff Fisher doesn’t want to settle for 7-9, but he may be lucky to win six this time.
31. Cleveland Browns
The Browns are stockpiling 2017 and 2018 draft picks for a very good reason. By Week 4 we may be talking about tanking.
32. San Francisco 49ers
Can you even believe how far this team has fallen in three years? Chip Kelly has the most unenviable job in the NFL in 2016. Good luck with that.