Well, we made it. After an offseason that left the season in question while the coronavirus cost other leagues a season, the NFL is set to kick off the 2020 season. As for how the teams stack up, here’s how the NFL Power Rankings look heading into Week 1:
Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, Tier 1: The tried and true contenders
1. Kansas City Chiefs
One of the more obvious picks to start a season in some time. The most important pieces are back, the Chiefs are the reigning champs, and the team may have even gotten better in some spots. Obviously, Kansas City is far from guaranteed another Super Bowl, but at this point, this team is the clear favorite.
2. Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson was the most recent quarterback to get the “He can’t win the big one” national narrative treatment at the end of last year. That’s a pretty tired trope at this point. Time and time again, quarterbacks get hit with that but prove it to be wrong. Still, Baltimore could stand to develop a couple more offensive weapons and solidify some depth on defense. Other than that, management just needs to keep this group together as long as possible.
3. San Francisco 49ers
This might prove to be a make-or-break year for Jimmy Garoppolo. The team is ready to contend for a championship, but Garoppolo did not look like a championship-caliber quarterback at the end of last year. Even when the team was winning its way to the Super Bowl, the 49ers were only throwing a dozen passes or so a game.
4. Seattle Seahawks
Dating back to this time last season, the Seahawks looked like a team possibly on the brink of a rebuild. Fast forward to the present, and Seattle is a top-five team. Russell Wilson is a perennial MVP candidate, the offense Is developing weapons around Wilson, and the defense should be back to form, if not improved. Though its a far cry from the Legion of Boom days, the Seahawks defense is nothing to scoff at.
Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, Tier 2: A half-step away
5. Tennessee Titans
The Titans get bump just for being a preparation nightmare. The style they play, with the personnel the team has on the roster, makes Tennessee the most unique team in the league. Just when it looked like we were heading toward an NFL where 60 passes a game was the norm for every team, the Titans came along and proved Derrick Henry can deliver big wins with 30 rushes instead.
6. New Orleans Saints
In a vacuum, the talent on the Saints’ roster perhaps warrants New Orleans being a couple of spots higher. But let’s face it, one of these years, Drew Brees will show his age – or at least something of a weakness. Plus, the Saints may face a little more in-division competition than in the last couple of seasons.
Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, Tier 3: Hoping it all comes together
7. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay can beat anybody but can lose to anybody as well. The Packers’ season may hinge on two things: being able to stop the run more successfully than last season, and figuring out who Aaron Rodgers can rely on as offensive weapons around Davante Adams and Aaron Jones.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers referred to his relationship with HC Matt LaFleur as “hashtag friend goals.”
— Olivia Reiner (@ReinerOlivia) September 9, 2020
8. Dallas Cowboys
It isn’t so much a talent thing in Dallas – the team has that in spades – but, rather, questions revolve around Mike McCarthy’s fit as head coach after arguably underachieving in Green Bay. There are some off-field concerns as well as it remains to be seen how the Dak Prescott contract situation will play out after he ended up taking the franchise tag of this year. The Cowboys, however, have as much offensive talent as anyone, including Kansas City.
9. Buffalo Bills
It’s been somewhere in the neighborhood of two decades or more since the Bills have had such a clear path to a division title now that Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay. Buffalo may have the league’s best defense and Stephon Diggs provides some needed big-play ability on offense.
10. New England Patriots
This team would probably have dropped a few spots lower if Cam Newton hadn’t landed in New England a few weeks ago. The Patriots were by far the worst-hit team with players opting out because of COVID-19, and the defense wasn’t in a great place anyway. But Bill Belichick deserves as much benefit of the doubt as anyone in sports.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It may be a bit trivial to make whatever happens for the remainder of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s careers from here on out a referendum on who mattered more to their joint past success. Nevertheless, it will be fascinating to see Brady in a new uniform and system. They have weapons, but the defense may struggle at times.
12. Minnesota Vikings
The biggest downer for Vikings fans may be in realizing the team has been, and is, league average. However, they receive a bit of a bump because they look as sure a bet to get second or better in their division.
Minnesota Vikings Cornerbacks by Age
Kris Boyd – 23
Mike Hughes – 23
Holton Hill – 23
Jeff Gladney – 23
Cameron Dantzler – 21
— Luke Inman (@Luke_Spinman) August 22, 2020
13. Houston Texans
No DeAndre Hopkins. A head coach who has (justifiably) under fire in the past, and a roster that features key players that can’t seem to stay on the field. Deshaun Watson may have to make some lemonade out of offensive lemons without Hopkins around.
14. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are big, physical, and nasty. But Philip Rivers looked close to washed toward the end of 2019. Indy may regret going with Rivers over bringing in someone else or even going back to Jacoby Brissett, who played really well for a large amount of last season.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Philly just hasn’t been able to recoup that winning recipe since winning the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Carson Wentz was once discussed as an MVP candidate, but if his production doesn’t translate into wins, it’ll feel like empty calories.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh may not deserve this spot, if things come together and the team stays healthy, the Steelers will almost undoubtedly move up the NFL Power Rankings. At the same time, Pittsburgh’s season could go south in a hurry if Roethlisberger gets hurt again or has taken a step back in recovering from the last ailment.
Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, Tier 4: Looking to make a leap
17. Denver Broncos
John Elway and the Broncos upper-management really focused on putting as much skill-position talent around their quarterback as possible, through the draft and other means. Turning over the keys to Drew Lock, though, isn’t the safest bet in the league.
18. Chicago Bears
There are teams where getting a year older is a good thing. The Bears are one of those teams. Chicago’s defense is championship level. The offense, however, is the opposite. The Bears won’t be going anywhere meaningful this season unless Mitch Trubisky takes a huge leap.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 4, 2020
19. Cleveland Browns
There are boatloads of talent up and down the roster in Cleveland. But there just seems to be something in the ethos within the Browns organization that prevents a winner. If Baker Mayfield struggles early, things could get pretty dicey here.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Being a year older is largely a good thing for Arizona. Kyler Murray figures to continue to grow and head coach Kliff Kingsbury has a year of experience under his belt. The challenge now will be to surround the QB and coach with young talent to supplement what they have and keep growing as a franchise.
Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, Tier 5: Moving in opposite directions
21. Los Angeles Rams
The defense should be good again. But the Rams had to sort out its salary cap conundrum this offseason and that led to letting some pieces walk out the door. Losing running back Todd Gurley may not hurt as much as it would seem on face value, but Jared Goff took a step back in 2019, to an alarming degree.
22. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta made a run in the latter portion of last season to almost get into the postseason. That run saved many jobs around the organization. Still, this feels like a team on the brink of a top-to-bottom rebuild. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are enough for the team to try and make a run at a title, but those days appear to be decidedly in the past here.
23. Miami Dolphins
A year ago this time, there were conversations about Miami openly tanking and fielding one of the worst teams in NFL history. While the 2019 Dolphins didn’t set the league on fire by any means, the team was better than anticipated. Moving into this range represents tremendous growth from last year. The biggest question is when they turn the QB position over to rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
24. Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas appears all over in different NFL Power Rankings, even appearing around the top-ten. The team was much-improved last season over the prior year, but this ranking is primarily a question on whether or not Las Vegas has a quarterback on the roster that can deliver the squad meaningful wins.
25. New York Giants
Saquon Barkley may be good enough to win games by himself. But if the defense can’t stop anyone, Barkley’s effectively will adversely be affected. Plus, the team will have to prove an ability to move the ball through the air to stop opposing teams from stacking the box against Barkley.
26. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were in somewhat of a transition anyway, then the roster got hit with the injury bug in a bad way. In terms of the team’s long-term best interest, bottoming out this season may not be all that bad.
27. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow has his work cut out for him to improve last season’s worst team. The Bengals will be improved, but it’ll take time for them to find their footing with Burrow under center. Look for this team to struggle early but hit their stride late in the season after any chance of a postseason run has washed away.
Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, Tier 6: Who’s on the clock?
28. Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Problem is, just about every other spot on the Panthers depth chart comes with question marks.
29. Detroit Lions
There are whispers around league circles that the Lions will prove to be a sneaky good team. We don’t see. This season may prove to be the beginning of the end for Matthew Stafford, at least in terms of his time in a Lions uniform. A hard franchise reset may be coming.
Highest graded passers to contested targets since 2015:
Tom Brady – 94.5
Patrick Mahomes – 94.1
Russell Wilson – 94.1
Matthew Stafford – 93.5 pic.twitter.com/NMPonermV0
— PFF (@PFF) September 9, 2020
30. New York Jets
The Jets could win some games as underdog’s but looking at their schedule, its hard to see a path to any more than a handful of wins.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Whether the team is trying to set itself up for drafting Trevor Lawrence or an organizational move to a different city. Regardless, it’s all bad for this season.
32. Washington Football Team
Washington may have the least talented roster in the league, and about the only thing the team leads the league in is bad karma.