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Found 6 results

  1. All smiles in Jacksonville after the win over the Chiefs Week 5 is just about when the real ceilings of team become apparent--early season coaching missteps are usually corrected by now for main contenders, injuries are beginning to pile up, but not so significant that teams with a real chance are lost to the training table, and defenses are either figuring out how to defend bad offenses or they aren't. Call it the first REAL weekend of football. At least that's what I'm going with this week. Remember, if you don't like where you are in these Rankings...play better! Their Toughest Opponents Might be the Injury Report 1. Green Bay Packers 2. Miami Dolphins 3. New York Jets 4. Las Vegas Raiders The Jets were primed for an upset: scrambling QB vs. Grv, tons of injuries, no WRs to throw to besides Paul Howell…and the Jets pulled it out. Three more injuries to defensive starters put them seriously behind the 8-ball this week at the Dolphins, who look very much like a Ferrari approaching 6th gear, but with an injury question of their own in Marcus Barry. Green Bay is finding new and exciting ways to get emotionally invested in games each week, and the Raiders look like their singular mission is to get back to the Super Bowl (and maybe get Nick Hall an MVP along the way). Clearly in the Playoff Hunt, These Teams are One Injury Away from the Top Tier 5. Philadelphia Eagles 6. Tennessee Titans 7. Jacksonville Jaguars 8. Kansas City Chiefs 9. Chicago Bears The Eagles handling of the Saints in New Orleans was impressive on a couple counts, but it was no coincidence that it came with a healthy backfield. The Titans made minced meat of the Chargers, but yet another ding, this time to Tyler Jones, leaves the Training Staff as the MVP of the Tennessee sideline. The Jaguars, no strangers to exotic offenses, abruptly quieted the Kansas City cheers. Christian Barkley has not been asked to do much more than make a few throws and not turn the ball over, but he put the team on his back and threw darts. The Chiefs fell back to earth a bit, but they still have a solid cushion and a run-based offense that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Bears beat the Vikings again, but three of there 4 wins are against Minnesota and San Fran—not the caliber wins of the teams just ahead of them. The NFC South is the Terry Crews Version of the AFC North 10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11. New Orleans Saints 12. Carolina Panthers 13. Atlanta Falcons 14. Dallas Cowboys Yes, I know that Dallas is not in the NFC South…but they really should be. They are the team that completes the South: run-oriented beasties that counter the slick-passing Panthers, edge-rushing Falcons, dual-threat Bucs, and airing it out Saints. So, for the purposes of this list, Dallas is in the South. Now…at this point, the South is a toss up, just like AFC North. Unlike the AFC North, all of these teams have legit playoff aspirations, and all would be favored by 10 points over any AFC North team. I give a slight edge to the Bucs and Saints, but only because their wins have been in-division and I think they have a bit more consistency (which is crazy to say) at QB than the Panthers and Falcons. If Dallas loses to the Broncos this weekend, they’ll be sent back to the mostly-pathetic NFC East. Slightly Above-Average Teams that Play Brutally-Tough Schedules 15. Houston Texans 16. New England Patriots The Pats are the best 2-3 team in the League, but they aren’t gonna win many more, because they have 6 more games against teams ranked higher than they are here. That, rightly, sucks for the Pats and Reggie Watkins. The Texans have shown some muscle at times, but couldn’t put it together for a home win against the struggling Broncos. And THEY play 7 more games against teams ranked above them here. That sucks for Leshoure and the Houston faithful as well. The other thing these two teams have in common: defend the pass and they have no answers. Who Freaking Knows?…5-11 or 9-7 is in the realm of possibility 17. Washington Redskins 18. Los Angeles Rams 19. Denver Broncos 20. Arizona Cardinals 21. Buffalo Bills The Rams, Cardinals, and Bills all had a bye in Week 5, which was probably good, considering what happened to the Redskins. The blasting at the hands of the Cowboys indicates that Tanner Bowman, as one would expect of a rookie, is going to have some terrible games. Accordingly, Washington is going to have an up-and-down season. I lean slightly toward more ‘up’ than ‘down’ for the Skins, but who knows. The Rams, clearly one of the more talented teams in the League, just hasn’t had a season they are used to, but have the ability to turn it on. The Bills and Cardinals appear to be identical entities: bright spots in a cloudy sky. But the Broncos are coming off a win at Houston that felt less like an aberration and more like a team (and a coach) that have shaken off 4 weeks of rust and are starting to play like division winners again. I know it’s only one week, but says here Denver walks into Dallas and beats the Cowboys for two in a row. ABSOLUTELY Should be in the Top Half of these Rankings 22. Indianapolis Colts 23. Pittsburgh Steelers These two teams are too talented not to be ranked higher. Yes, the Colts have the rest of the AFC South to contend with, and just lost to the Raiders. The schedule can be uncompromising at times. But, c’mon Colts—you have Aaron Shea in his prime. This is getting awkward. (DISCLOSURE: Colts beat the Broncos in week 1) And the Steelers should have walked away with the AFC North this season. They stole Chester Henson and had it all on a platter. Losing to the Patriots in London is only Example D of why this has been a massive disappointment in the Steel City. The Power Rankings are officially angry at both franchises for not being better right now. It’s Up to the Coaches to Makes Some Adjustments 24. Detroit Lions 25. San Francisco 49ers 26. Baltimore Ravens 27. Cleveland Browns 28. Minnesota Vikings 29. Cincinnati Bengals Baltimore, in their close Monday night loss to the Jets, showed some underrated coaching prowess, moving their secondary offense to the wishbone. That move gave them a real chance against the Jets, and opened Brett Fisher to have the best game of his career, albeit against a Gravy-coached team. That type of coaching innovation/adaptation/exploration will be necessary for all these teams, if they hope to be drafting outside the Top 5…let alone make a push for the playoffs. Kudos to Blake Shell and the Lions for getting win #1…boo to the Niners for not realizing they were playing Blake Shell and blitzing accordingly. The Best BAD Team in the League 30. Seattle Seahawks I’ll say it: the Seahawks are bad. Like, almost-lose-to-the-Giants-then-score-3-points-against-the-Packers BAD. And they deserve to be ranked here at present. But…I would wager on the Seahawks to beat the two teams below them, and half the teams ranked #24-29, so…I’m calling them the Best BAD Team in the League. And that makes them kinda fun or funny, in a way. Not Funny Ha-Ha, but Funny Uh-Oh. Who’s Getting a Win First? Answer: Neither 31. Los Angeles Chargers 32. New York Giants I now believe that, given their talent and schedules, neither of these teams will win a game this season. And then in week 7, when the Chargers beat the Broncos, I will bury my face in snow until March.
  2. Tampa Bay sniped the Bears in Florida on Sunday The season is only four weeks old, but some rather obvious trends are emerging already, as are some favorites for postseason spots. Injuries, the main theme of 2021 so far, have played a huge part up to this point, and will only continue to impact performances across the board. Who's rising, who's falling, who has hope, who has none? Read on for this week's answers! Remember, if you don't like where you are in these rankings...play better! Battle For the #1 Seed 1. Green Bay Packers Who are the battling for the #1 seed? Factual consideration could include the Eagles and even the Bears. But I’ll take a more metaphysical approach. The Packers are really battling complacency, the Pipe, and the changing winds of offensive innovation. Can they win again with the same model as 2020? Possibly, but they’ll have to adapt some to stay ahead of the curve. 2. Miami Dolphins 3. New York Jets 4. Kansas City Chiefs 5. Las Vegas Raiders These teams are the most interesting Top Dogs in their respective divisions at present. Yes, you could throw the Titans/Jags/Texans in as well, but – and – will be primetime viewing all season. Only one of these will ultimately get the #1 seed (or not) in the AFC, so the Tier Title is a bit of misnomer. Recent Injury(s) = Some Doubt 6. Philadelphia Eagles 7. Tennessee Titans 8. Chicago Bears 9. Jacksonville Jaguars The clearly miss the spark that Marshawn Miller brought to the offense. Even more now falls on Allen Taylor and Troy White, and if the battle with the Chiefs is any indication, that may not be enough against the best teams in the league. The just got gobsmacked by a triple-injury Sunday, even in a win. The Pipe has clearly settled on TENN as the recipient of most of its hatred. How long can they continue to play at a high level with so few bodies? The desperately missed David Gaines, who went out early in the loss to the Bucs. Brooksheer was noticeably poorer without his top wideout, who will be sidelined for a couple weeks. And the have one of the larger casualty lists in the league, so it’s more a question of “when” rather than “if”. Should the Jags buck the trend and stay healthy, I think they could end up the top of this Tier easily. Could Be #3 Seed, Could Miss Playoffs 10. New Orleans Saints 11. Carolina Panthers 12. Houston Texans 13. Washington Redskins New Orleans beating the Panthers on the strength of Sterling Brown’s rushing and a receiver not named Sean Jenkins leading the team in catches and yards bodes well for the going forward, and really is a validation of how they’ve played up to this point. They addressed their injury-prone WR corps with the trade for Cotton Lewis and that’s what you do when you’re currently staring at first round bye in the playoffs. Could it go off the rails for the Saints? Maybe, but I think they look more of sure bet at this point than the . Tanner Bowman has been fantastic, but the Bye week hit at the worst time: no chance to build on the momentum of their last win. The are beating everyone they “should” beat so far, but the reason they are in this Tier: when the schedule turns nasty in a few weeks, where will they be? will deal with the loss of Mike Latta for a couple weeks, but should continue to play well. I envision Carolina as a classic #5 seed in the NFC. The Last Two Playoff Spots in the NFC Are a STRAIGHT TOSS UP 14. Atlanta Falcons 15. Los Angeles Rams 16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17. Arizona Cardinals 18. San Francisco 49ers That was a quick slip for the and , after looking terrific the first two weeks. At least Atlanta put up a good fight vs. NO and JAX—both losses were at home. Whereas Arizona got steamrolled twice in a row and now have to regroup during the Bye week. (Aside: the Cardinals were the biggest headscratcher for me in the new revealed offensive game plans—why are they running that with that team?) The bounced back with a nice win on Sunday night over the Cowboys, but the Cowboys aren’t REALLY the Cowboys right now, so jury is still out on the 2-2 Rams. The , winners of two straight (when’s the last time we could say that??!) whipped the Bears and did so in style. Says here Tampa takes ANOTHER step up in the NFC South by beating the Panthers this weekend. Not much to say about the after the Bye week, but 1-2 is not good. They have some serious work to do in order to ensure a playoff spot. Hell, they have work to do to stare a winning record in the face. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back 19. Buffalo Bills 20. New England Patriots 21. Dallas Cowboys 22. Indianapolis Colts If Arizona is the hardest team to predict in the league (and they are…), the are the most frustrating. They look excellent in weeks 1 and 3, complete doo-doo in weeks 2 and 4. Kamau Davis has been his mostly consistent self, but everyone around him is riding a giant yo-yo every time out. holds the dubious distinction as the 1-3 team that has looked the best. The need to get healthy ASAP—Luke Williams is not the answer, especially when teams can gang up on the run EVEN MORE now. Also, the defense hasn’t stopped anybody for a while. And…it’s time for honest truth: the , while injury depleted somewhat, are simply not as good as I thought they were at the beginning of the season. They are not the only team that equates that statement (ahem…Broncos, Lions, Rams), but they are most surprising, I’d wager. Can Anyone Figure Out the AFC North? 23. Pittsburgh Steelers 24. Cleveland Browns 25. Baltimore Ravens Where are the Bengals? Look below. Why these three and not the Bengals? These teams have shown consistent effort and a hint of talent. Why can’t I figure out the AFC North? No idea, other than these teams are being asked to carry out game plans that are different from what their skills favor. I expect the to win 8 games (or maybe more), but that’s all I expect out of this division. I’m really disappointed in the after three weeks of playing pretty well—that stinker against the previously-winless was not a good look. Doing Some Serious Draft Evaluations Over Here... 26. Minnesota Vikings 27. Seattle Seahawks 28. Cincinnati Bengals 29. Denver Broncos The got a win that surprised a bit, but the holes in this team are plain as day. The got a win that was actually kind of a loss (16-13 at the Giants—IN OVERTIME—is crazy-making). The dropped a heartbreaker to Steelers, but also failed in the Front Office area, again. And the got taken behind the woodshed by the dirty, rotten Raiders, to extend their streak of unimpressive performances to four in a row. Yes, I’m being harsh on my own team, but our only win is over the Ravens…and they are struggling mightily this season. Injuries have been unkind to a couple of these teams, but it’s not like any have shown moments of brilliance either. Drafting in the Top 10 is a new experience for the Seahawks and Broncos…an experience both are hoping to avoid yet this year. 0-fer, Trades Are Now Open 30. Detroit Lions 31. Los Angeles Chargers 32. New York Giants The were on a Bye, luckily for them. The and were not. It’s impossible to see where the next win will be for these three, and most likely not Week 5: Lions host the Niners in primetime, the Chargers host the Titans (Wheeler will feast on that secondary), and the Giants travel to Atlanta, where Mike Thomas is currently trying to secure a court-ordered stay of execution from Early Davis and Eric Jennings.
  3. Justin Davis deflects an Aaron Shea pass Week 3 brought a couple of very interesting matchups and performances to the fore. The list of undefeated teams whittled down some, and a couple of previously winless squads got 'W's'. Who's going to stick around the top all season? Who's going to make the long journey up and down the rankings? Stay tuned, as this week we break the ranking apart for some tiered action! Remember, if you don't like where you are in these rankings...play better! The Undefiled 1. Green Bay Packers Pack are the class of the League, though one might have suspected a slightly more convincing win over the Luke Williams-led Cowboys on Monday night. A Green Bay-Miami Super Bowl would be amazing, but the Pack have to get past the über-hot Eagles and the in-division Bears. Miami : Jordan-era Chicago Bulls :: Jets : Isaiah’s Pistons. Can the Dolphins get over the hump of the Jets stranglehold on the East? Oh, and the Chiefs just keep winning. Terrence Rodgers is making a weekly pitch for the Pro Bowl…or is that the MVP trophy he’s staring at…? 2. Miami Dolphins 3. Philadelphia Eagles 4. New York Jets 5. Kansas City Chiefs 6. Chicago Bears One Loss, Feeling Pretty Good 7. Las Vegas Raiders 8. Carolina Panthers 9. Tennessee Titans 10. Arizona Cardinals 11. Atlanta Falcons I was going to label this the “One-loss Contenders,” but really I’m not sure that Arizona and Atlanta ARE contenders. They’ve played well, but the Falcons’ loss to Tampa Bay raised an eyebrow, and the Cardinals looked all sorts of lost against Tanner Bowman and Washington. Titans look legit and just had a stumble, ditto the Panthers and of course the Raiders. Damn, I hate the Raiders. Best Two-loss Team 12. Jacksonville Jaguars Why are the Jags here and not lower in the 2-loss Disappointments? Well, their losses are by 3 to the Titans and by 4 to the Jets. Yes, both were in JAX, which makes me wonder about the mental toughness of this team, but we’re going with the Jags as the best 2-loss team that will bounce back and challenge for a playoff spot. One Loss, Feeling FUCKING GREAT! 13. New Orleans Saints 14. Houston Texans 15. Washington Redskins 16. Buffalo Bills Absolutely all of these teams (yes, even Rome and the Texans) have to feel pretty amazing about being 2-1 right now. Saints are on top because their close loss to the Falcons showed lots of grit. They took Minnesota’s best shot and mostly parried it away. Bills got to Wheeler and took the Titans down a peg. Anthony Ortiz will absolutely win DPOY…he’s just been amazing. What can you say about Tanner Bowman other than wow! He was efficient versus the Broncos in week 2, and off-the-charts against Arizona. Two-Loss Disappointments 17. Indianapolis Colts 18. Los Angeles Rams 19. Cleveland Browns 20. San Francisco 49ers 21. Dallas Cowboys 22. Denver Broncos All of these teams are looking at the standings, shaking their heads, and saying “What?” Denver is the only team to win in Week 3, but looked awful in the first two weeks (though the Washington loss looks much better now, eh?). Indy ran into Carolina, and then got shelled by the Dolphins. The Rams have dropped two in a row without injuries to blame. The Niners got nipped by the Bears and then lost McBride for the season. The Cowboys actually played the Packers pretty tough, but are still staring at the Luke Williams era for a few weeks. I don’t necessarily expect any of these teams to remain down here for too long, but if they are still here around Week 6 or so, shouldn’t we just admit that they aren’t as good as expected? One Win, We’re Working Stuff Out 23. New England Patriots 24. Pittsburgh Steelers 25. Seattle Seahawks 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27. Cincinnati Bengals “Working stuff out…” is almost too kind for the Bengals and Steelers, given their off-season front office turmoil, but it’s mostly apt for now. The Seahawks were lucky to hit the Lions without LeCount for a close win, or else they’d be lower. RJ Stanford, one week after looking like he belonged, crashed back to earth in a bloodbath. Bucs got the win over the Falcons, but need to show MUCH more consistency. One thing is clear in the Bay: DeNorris Jackson is a stud. I have absolutely no idea what is going on with the Patriots—are they the team that beat a no-gameplan Bengals by 30? Or the gang that got zipped by the Texans? Need a Win BADLY! 28. Detroit Lions 29. Baltimore Ravens 30. Minnesota Vikings 31. Los Angeles Chargers 32. New York Giants Lions and Ravens lost close ones on the road, while the Vikings put up 31 against the Saints and lost. The Chargers are beginning to show some life on offense, and it was good to see Easely make a stat sheet. The Giants could very well be in their own category of stink, but we’ll lump them here to avoid piling on. Out of these teams, I think the Ravens get a win first.
  4. The Titans v Jags TNF battle was a rush of color and a hard-fought battle In the Week 2 Power Rankings, we see vast movement, some deserved, some projective, all temporary (except the Packers). Lots happening these days, with whole teams changing hands part-way through the season. Some very simple trends? How about a handful of non-playoff teams from 2020 sitting pretty in the Top 10! Further trends? Injuries are ass. There, that's commentary for you. Sorry these are a bit late... Remember, if you don't like where you are in these rankings...play better! 1. Green Bay Packers The Champs keep rolling. Green Bay was ruthlessly efficient in dispatching the Vikings, getting up 27-0 before the Vikes added two late scores. The Pack is clearly hitting on all cylinders. If there is a small hole in the armor, it may be in pass defense, but that’s a large ‘maybe’. 2. Miami Dolphins In the ever-changing landscape that is the AFC playoff picture, the Dolphins jump into the top spot in the conference and #2 in the Power Rankings. Their easy home win over the Bills, who looked good in week 1, showed that Miami really can be a Mercedes S-Class that runs better at 75MPH than at 60. 3. Philadelphia Eagles The Eagles have had absolutely NO problems thus far on their schedule (this edition goes to print AFTER the TNF game win against the Giants). And they have looked dominant in all contests. The run game is solid, the passing game is efficient, and the defense has looked beastly. (Post-TNF, Marshawn Miller’s injury may be a blow to the run game…) 4. Tennessee Titans Color me surprised when the Titans walked into Jacksonville and knocked off the Jags for the first time in 3 years. It was a physical game, with a couple of injuries on both sides, so likely emblematic of the AFC South Battle Royale that will be the 2021 season. How will the Titans fare without Chris Bell running hard for a couple weeks? With Wheeler, it may be academic. 5. New York Jets The Jets have not looked terribly convincing in their two wins, but two wins they are, and only one other team below them here can say the same. We still wish NYJ would show a bit stronger in the run game, and we’ll keep an eye on the Corey Quinn wrist injury, but the Jets look very much like seasoned veterans that simply know how to win. 6. Kansas City Chiefs Very nice win for the Chiefs at home on Sunday. They had to score 14 in the 4th to force overtime, where Levcik polished off the Raiders with a 46-yarder. Rodgers is looking like the stud many thought he’d be during the 2020 draft, and the defense is showing some true mettle. New ceiling for the Chiefs: 13-3…who would have thought that? 7. Atlanta Falcons The Dirty Birds (is that still a thing?) edged the Saints in overtime in ATL on a Gino Chiaverini 47-yarder. The Saints fought hard, but the Falcons put in a consistent display of strength, getting a TD in each quarter. Wallace/Jefferson/Wilson is turning into quite a trio, and the the front 7 on defense is getting really nice pressure on quarterbacks. 8. Las Vegas Raiders It remains to be seen if failure to stop the run will be a theme for the Raiders all season, or simply a facet of KC being dominant on the ground (the other ‘evidence’ is the Chargers, so…). But that likely provides the blueprint, however aspirational, in knocking off LV: run, run, keep Nick Hall off the field, run, run, run. Raiders will be fine. 9. Arizona Cardinals How about them Cards?! Zona knocked off the Lions by knocking OUT Rob LeCount. Randye/Ted must be happy about the defensive efficiency and the Fred Tindale Fountain of Youth so far. Not sure anyone would have said the Cardinals were alone in 1st place in the NFC West this early in the season… 10. Chicago Bears Yet another surprise is brewing in the Windy City, as Norris Brooksheer appears to have had the right kind of fire lit under his previously-grass-stained ass. Maybe more surprising is the defense playing so well through two weeks, in this case holding the dangerous Rams to 14 points. And hardly anyone has exploded against LAR with 330 yards passing, 117 on the ground from Honeycutt, and two 100 yards receivers. 11. Jacksonville Jaguars Its always a bit of a shock when Alejandro Aguirre misses a FG, though his 56-yard effort at the end of regulation was really deep. The Jags played well enough to win, but just got inched by the Titans. Two disappointing points from the week 2 TNF: Jags, at home, had no answer for Thomas Wheeler (what does that portend for their games versus Aaron Shea?!), and Christian Barkley’s pick was on one of his only throws downfield. How much longer will Soluna keep Barkley strapped down? 12. Carolina Panthers Nice bounce back in the Monday nighter from Skaggs & Friends. After looking a bit rusty (old?!) in week 1, the Panthers righted the ship and knocked off the high-flying Colts by scoring early and often and then forcing Indy to play catch-up. Panthers appear to be a team that will yo-yo most of the year, but likely will end up solidly in the playoffs, injuries notwithstanding. 13. Indianapolis Colts After dismantling the Broncos in week 1, the Colts ran into a team that needed a week to re-build their chemistry. Indianapolis is still a legit title contender, provided they stay relatively injury-free, mostly because the Miller/Goodwin bookends will keep the defense gnarly, and Shea. This was a chance for the Colts to start 2-0 against two playoff teams from 2020, but they can also be excused for stubbing their toe a little. HOT TAKE: Colts are be 3rd best team in AFC South. 14. Los Angeles Rams My presumptive preseason champ looked REALLY pedestrian against the Bears. AT HOME. Losing Schwartz for a period of time will be a bummer, but the Rams still should have put more than 14 on the board. They are getting nothing from Chacon, and must find some balance, or else Murphy’s arm will fall off. It’s a long season, but week 2’s stinker must give the LAR front office at least a little pause. 15. Dallas Cowboys All games against the Giants (not a real football team) come with a proviso, but the Cowboys had an equal shot of good and bad news after week 2. Winning cures all ills, but it must sting a bit to lose Graham Burnett, even if for a little while. Right now, the ‘Boys clock in between the Eagles and Redskins in the East, and it will depend on injuries, and the preparedness of backups, to keep them there. 16. San Francisco 49ers Example A of how odd the 2021 season will be? San Francisco-Seattle, in years past a marquee bellweather for NFC playoff positioning, was completely lost in the shuffle of Sunday afternoon. The Niners certainly looked better than in week 1, and this will probably be a launching pad for a solid season. But, it was striking just how much shine has fallen off this matchup. 17. Houston Texans If only Houston could play the Chargers (or so) every week. The Texans looked really sharp at home against L.A. The good: 5 sacks will also do you wonders. And Pacheco + Kendall Brandon + Marvin White eases the Leshoure transition certainly. The iffy: losing Lockett for a time hurts the 2RB offense that Houston wants to run. Still seeing 8-8 for the Texans. 18. New Orleans Saints It ended as a L in the record book for the Saints, but I’m actually calling the Falcon game a win for New Orleans. Why? They took a very good ATL team to overtime, on the road. And the game plan clearly is the right one, helping the Saints jump out to a 20-7 lead in the 1st quarter. The Falcons are more talented across the board than the Saints, so talent usually wins out over the course of a game (or season), but the coaching is on the right path. 19. New England Patriots Reggie. Reggie. REGGIE. Really, the Pats were destined to have a QB in line for the Comeback player of the year award no matter who they started. But it was nice to see Watkins play so well. Can the Pats keep it up? Who knows, but the development of Jamel Beckham is a positive, and Elvis Williams getting 6.25 yards a carry certainly helps. 20. Washington Football Team Tanner Bowman, playing against a veteran and (supposedly) intense defense from the Broncos, showed some true grit and quite a bit of talent. 22/33 for 291 and 2 TDs (with a pick) ain’t a shabby second week as a pro starter. Steve Jordan was a tremendous free agent pick-up, and SHW continues to develop nicely. Skins are looking…dare I say…up…? 21. Cleveland Browns Browns played the Jets tough in the Meadowlands, and maybe should be an inch higher. I think the Browns have the best shot in the North, because their OLine is consistently decent, and they can rely on the Sean Bell/Ryan Clark running game. After two weeks, Browns probably should be pretty happy at 1-1 with a close loss to NYJ on the road. Solid. 22. Pittsburgh Steelers This is probably too high for the Steelers, but I have faith in the Front Office. Nice to get a first win for Sage’s men, and to do it in the division was helpful. Stanford, at least in this first week with the team, looks like he may be a good fit, and the defense played very well for 3 quarters. Carlos Washington is going to be a good one. Steelers should challenge the Browns for the division crown. 23. Buffalo Bills Bills looked like world-beaters in week 1, then crashed back to earth in week 2. Ortiz still got his, but man that offense clanked out for real against the Dolphins. Tyron Chambers shows a bit of promise, but his hands are not ready yet. And Kamau Davis has to do better than 17 of 31 for 190 yards. 24. Denver Broncos Wow, where’s the offense? Among the great questions in NFLHC: is it better to get your returning starters a game together in the preseason, injuries be damned? Looking like maybe so, that’s on ownership. Jennings has two picks already, after only 7 last season. And JBB was held to less than 100 yards for only the 3rd time in his career. Really expected better against the Redskins. Broncos have some work to do in the division. 25. Detroit Lions The only reason these guys are below the Broncos is because of the injury bug to bite Detroit. First Keyshawn, now LeCount, down for le count. Slinky’s reaction after week 2’s debacle against the Cardinals was perfect and probably not too far off. After years of being one of the best teams in the NFC, looks like the Loins will take a big step back this year. 26. Seattle Seahawks The Hawks are staring at a defense that hasn’t been able to slow anyone down, and an offense that has yet to get going. The worst part? TWO division losses to open the season, and they’ve yet to play last year’s #1 seed. I’m going to guess (please correct if wrong) that Seattle is playing too aggressively, both on O and D. If they take the foot off the gas a bit, that might let them settle into a good rhythm—just a guess. Either that, or begin to sell off pieces. One Booker T., pls! 27. Baltimore Ravens Since the Ravens are focused on the future, they’ll be happy that the Fighting Brett Fishers played very well in the 4th quarter. Since the rest of the league watches the entire game, the Ravens SHOULD be concerned about their once-fearsome defense. They gave up 24 points to RJ Stanford and a Steelers team offense that by all rights is starting over in the chemistry department. That’s not good. Fisher MIGHT be, down the road, but a little care on the defensive side would be smart. 28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Bucs went 2 for 14 on 3rd down. Now, the Eagles are pretty good, especially on defense, but a team with a veteran QB and DeNorris Jackson HAS to do better than that. A little help from the defense would be excellent as well. 3 sacks are good, but 31 points allowed (Iggles had a punt return TD) on defense is not stellar. New ceiling for the Bucs: 5-11. 29. Minnesota Vikings The Vikes posed basically no challenge to the Pack on Sunday, waiting until the 4th quarter to score a couple of garbage time TDs. Minnesota was already hoping that Luke Cobb could shore up a semi-pitiful situation at wide receiver, only to lose Sonny Beckett, their top deep threat, to a season-ending Achilles blowout. Yikes, Vikes. With the Bears suddenly looking more than capable, the Purple are battling the Lions for 3rd in the division…or straight to the bottom, if that’s what they want to do. 30. Los Angeles Chargers The Texans are not a great football team—solid, sure, but not great. So, losing to the Texans at home isn’t super good. More troubling: Easley didn’t make a stat sheet. If he’s really going to be the needed talisman on defense, he needs to make EVERY stat sheet. I think that’s fair. New ceiling for the Chargers: 4-12. 31. Cincinnati Bengals Cincy got clocked by the Patriots, 37-7. Let that sink in a bit. The Bengals have some work to do to even be competitive, at least in the short term. And the only reason they moved up one: they’ve scored more than 7 points. 32. New York Giants Wow. Giants are finding new ways to look like hot garbage. Admittedly, this edition is out after the week 3 TNF game, which is likely coloring this opinion slightly. But, damn. 11 points through 3 games. 11. The ghost of OJ Carano demands more than this.
  5. Terrance Rodgers squirts through for a score against the Giants Some serious shifts this week, with supposed underdogs showing up fierce and some would-be contenders eating crow. Injuries, which will be huge all year, reared their head this week, with two 90+ players going down for an extended period. The cream is still above the chaff, and it will continue to separate. Remember, if you don't like where you are in these rankings...play better! Week 1 Power Rankings 1. Green Bay Packers Nothing in week 1’s win over the Panthers changes this position. In fact, probably strengthens it. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: JJ and the Pack are going 16-0!!! 2. Las Vegas Raiders What a beat-down of the Chargers. Raiders look like the presumptive #1 in the AFC and have streamlined their roster to near-Ferrari levels of efficiency AND sexiness. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Nick Hall will set new records passing and the Raiders will win every in-division game. 3. Indianapolis Colts The Colts took advantage of a strong first quarter, then exploited the Broncos after Gary Tomlinson’s injury. Scoring 37 on the road against a division champion gets the Colts the boost to #3. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Aaron Shea is a lock for the MVP, but Rashad Simon’s injury might mean the offense gets one-dimensional as the Mosi Bartos Show. 4. Los Angeles Rams Rams looked solid in their week 1 win, where yet ANOTHER pass catcher led the team. I swear, the Rams just pluck game-breaking receivers out of trees like grapefruit. Defense MAYBE was a bit less stout than 2020. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Walt Peck will be the best WR3 in the League. 5. Jacksonville Jaguars The Dudes from N. Florida looked efficiently and coolly dangerous in dispatching the Texans. The Jags had been getting by with some solid defense and the hard running of Sowell and the clutch play of Raheem, but now seem to be humming at a slightly higher level on offense. Which makes them that much more frightening for the rest of us. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Isaiah Peko’s injury will force Sowell into more PT…setting him up for a big injury…? 6. Miami Dolphins Okay, Miami big-timed the Ravens (with Brett Fisher, but still…) and didn’t get much of a contribution from JC Weldon. That should be SCARY AS HELL to AFC East opponents. Dolphins are deep enough to sustain an injury to all but Brian Brown, as well. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Brian Brown will have his best season to date…and still not win the MVP. 7. Philadelphia Eagles Eagles got the best of the Cowboys in a crucial division game. Trusting the running game, getting Miller involved in the passing game, and letting their defense play footloose and free is a recipe for a nice season for the Birds. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: the Eagles win the East and are the #2 seed in the NFC. 8. New York Jets The Jets snuck out a win over Reggie Watkins and the Pats. Paul Howell was stellar, Wegert was quite good, and the defense was passable. The Jets LOOK a run below the main contenders above, but lots of time (and injuries) to change that opinion. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: the J.E.T.S will win lots of close ball games and they’ll thank their kicker at the end of the year. 9. Tennessee Titans Titans looks like absolute juggernauts…after one game. Wheeler was clearly the correct choice at QB in an oddly deep free agent pool, and his veteran presence and obvious arm talent is a perfect compliment to Kevin Williams and crew catching the ball. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: AFC South is a more loaded division than the NFC West. 10. Atlanta Falcons The Falcons best stat from their week 1 win AT the Niners? Their 8.4 OLine rating. That will go a long way toward keeping Jefferson upright and clean and hopefully efficient, as he mostly was on Sunday. The real key is letting that defense EAT—5 sacks on the veteran SF OLine is boss. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Akili Wallace will run the ball 25 times a game, get really close to 2,000 yards, and challenge for the MVP. 11. Carolina Panthers It’s hard to drop the Panthers REALLY far since they played OKAY against the defending world champion Packers in the season opening Thursday nighter. But…there was cause for concern, certainly, as the ground attack was anemic and the defense looked overmatched by not getting any pressure on Johnson. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Carolina won’t win its division, and may not even finish 2nd. 12. Dallas Cowboys The Graham Burnett era opened with a mistake-free close shave loss at the Eagles. When you rely on the best RB tandem in football, it helps. But the key here is that Burnett put his team in a position to win late with a big 4th quarter comeback, only to see Kirschbaum’s FG in OT win it. That’s solid for a first start. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Javier Grady will be the most productive rookie DE. And the ‘Boys need all new WRs. 13. Arizona Cardinals Nice big jump for the Cardinals. Last week, I said that it was impossible to predict what this team’s season would look like, and I still believe that, even after holding serve at home versus the Seahawks. Rodriguez was his usual efficient, dull self. The defense did a nice job with 2nd-year DE Omar McManus leading the way. And Fred Tindale stepped into the WayBackMachine for a return to his 2018 form. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: The Cardinals are the 2nd best team in the AFC West. 14. Kansas City Chiefs Way to go, Chiefs—that’s how you do it. Throw the ball 6 (!!) times and win. Terrence Rodgers is going to be damn good, and he’ll be the workhorse this year. I hope he holds up. If he does, the Chiefs might see a couple more 27-0 scorelines in their future. Of course, it was against the Giants, but a win is a win. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: the Chiefs will sneak a Wild Card playoff spot. Right? Maybe? 15. San Francisco 49ers I can’t tell is this is an overly-harsh demotion for the Niners, but it’s the start of Losing Teams That Got Exposed A Little on this week’s power rankings. San Fran was pathetic on offense, turned the ball over, didn’t get any pressure on a statue, and couldn’t stop the run at all. At home. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Todd Lester’s best football is behind him, and so is the Niners’ secondary. 16. New Orleans Saints Ayy! The powers that be in New Orleans must have been buoyed by the Power Rankings suggestion they will be the surprise team in the NFC this season. They went out and overcame a 4th quarter deficit (despite losing ANOTHER receiver) to beat Washington. Expected a little more from Sterling Brown, but Devy-to-Jenkins was deadly. And hey, it’s nice to defend against a rookie QB, eh? WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Austin Olson will make the Pro Bowl, and Sean Jenkins is an OPOY candidate. 17. Cleveland Browns I was premature: the Niners weren’t quite the start of the underwhelming homestanders…this the actually the Potentially Bad Teams That Won in Week 1 section. The Browns beat a Bengals team in total disarray, but a win has to feel pretty good to a front office that has been at it, together, for awhile now. Like the Clark-to-Miller connection as usual, loved the defensive effort. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Browns are the…gulp…best team in the North. That means…double gulp…playoffs. 18. Detroit Lions No team had as unsettling a first week as the Lions. Not only to lose, but to also lose Keyshawn for a stretch of time is a gut-punch that Detroit could ill afford. Easily the most high-profile injury of week 1. Just as bad, we learned that Rob LeCount may have slipped a bit since the previous season. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: The D needs some D. Their linebackers are looking suddenly common and the DLine isn’t getting as much pressure as necessary. 19. Denver Broncos Uff da, as we say up here in the frozen hinterland. That was just about the worst possible start, eased only a bit by Indy being a likely first-round bye team. Still, giving up 37 at home was a bad look, and the injury to Tomlinson will be a major bummer for next few weeks. At least the offense looked like it had a pulse. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: JBB got passed by two RB classmates—Rodgers and Sean Bell. 20. Chicago Bears This is a LITTLE harsh for the Bears, winners in Minnesota in week 1. But, they beat the Vikings (again) by just a score (again), so it’s hard to move them higher. Brooksheer may be starting a EFF-YOU season in hopes of keeping his job long-term. And the old-young combo of Holleyman and Medley might just prove to be a worthwhile team after all. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: OLine was thought to be a problem for the Bears…maybe they’ll be okay after a decent performance. 21. Buffalo Bills I’m going to guess the Bills coaching staff and players read the supplemental Power Rankings note about Buffalo in last week’s edition and got rightly pissed and took it out on the Steelers. While the Steelers were, and are, in transition, it was still a nice performance for the Bills. Offense and especially defense worked out, this week at least. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Anthony Ortiz will be an All-Pro at Defensive End…forever. 22. Seattle Seahawks The Hawks didn’t play THAT poorly, but the Cardinals took advantage of some turnovers. The running game doesn’t look convincing, and Jones was all over the place. Seattle has to feel good about the defensive pressure they put on Taylor Rodriguez all game, and the continued development of Kenji Sagatomo, however. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Seattle might only win 6 games this year, unless the team chemistry improves. 23. Houston Texans Texans FO can take heart that there were some positives from their bout with the Jags: Alex Leshoure played decently well, and the receiving corps has life. The re-tooled defense certainly has holes, but tough to gauge against the multiple looks of Jacksonville. I don’t know…Houston showed some good, some bad, mostly bad. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: the Fighting Leshoures could be cellar-dwellers in the South…and still win 7 games. 24. Baltimore Ravens Welcome to the Big Leagues, Brett Fisher! The first-time starter had some really nice moments, and some times where he looked like a first-time starter. The defense displayed an Olé mentality against the Phins, which was supposed to be the strength of their team, so that’s not a great development. And some would expect Moussa Goode to thrive next to a scrambler, but maybe the game plan needs to solidify a bit first. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Ravens, with a 5-11 record, will be the second-best team in the AFC North. Yikes. 25. Washington Football Team The Skins fell down to earth after a solid preseason stretch, with Tanner Bowman struggling in his debut. If the Saints could put pressure on the passer and shut down the run, Washington may be looking at serious problems all season. Here’s guessing the OLine solidifies as the year wears on, but these early times may be rough. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: After a break-out year in 2020, Ricardo Reed may be done. 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers It was a hard-fought loss for the Bucs, who looked like they cared and played hard for the first time in a couple seasons. Taylor Heiden turned back the clock a bit, and smartly DeNorris Jackson got some good run. The defensive secondary needs some coaching up, but there is hope in central FL for the first time in awhile. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: DNJ will Offensive Rookie of the Year. 27. Minnesota Vikings Ragnar and Co. kept it decently close, but it was at home and the Bears aren’t THAT good, so we’ll call it a decently disappointing season opener for the Vikes. Or, more likely, they played about how we all thought they’d play, given the roster growth necessary. Vardell’s toys on offense showed some promise, but that’s about it. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Vikes will take the 4th place in the North, with only a handful of wins. 28. Pittsburgh Steelers I’m guessing that the new Steelers FO didn’t really solidify in time to game plan well, or much at all, before week 1. But there is SOME faith in the roster and the coaching staff to right the ship, eventually. Rob Corp, as the full-time jimmy, has to play better for them to have a chance at even 8 wins. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Pittsburgh’s DLine is the weakest in football. 29. New England Patriots It’s hard to be angry at Reggie Watkins—he played well in his first action in Foxborough. And he almost led an upset of the Jets, which shows that Sleuth has his boys playing decently well. And it was nice to see Jamel Beckham break out, kinda. They’ll need a better run defense, and running game for that matter. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Pats look good enough for 7 wins, and will have no Pro Bowlers. 30. Los Angeles Chargers All those new pieces, and the end result is a drubbing at the hands of the Raiders. You don’t give up 50+ points in the pros, you just don’t. Matty Swift is definitely a 2/2 players (2 TDs, 2 Picks) each game, and new rusher Brannon Austin was, um, less than impressive. Chargers have a long way to go. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Shane Easley is overrated. So is Damian Mason. 31. New York Giants P. U. Ugly loss to the Chiefs in week 1 coupled with the impending sale of the team leaves Believer and Dean^2 completely in the lurch. This is currently the festering boil on the ass of the NFC. Maybe they’ll be able to end Davenport’s holdout and give their fans at least a little hope. Need an owner, though…WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: I love him, but OJ Carano is done. Put a fork in him. 32. Cincinnati Bengals The dumpster fire that is the Bengals just fired their coach, after missing inactives deadline and losing to the Browns. I’m not sure I need to write much more than that. WEEK 1 OVER-REACTION: Get ready for the #1 pick NOW.
  6. Lots of changes this offseason. Lots of changes in the inner-workings of the NFLHC system, and plenty of changes to franchise front offices and personnel. That makes for the most wide-open season in recent memory. By my reckoning, any of about 8 teams can win the title...and that's NOT counting a Green Bay-like rise from the ashes. Here's to a new season, full of ups and downs, heartbreaks and happy endings. Let's get it on! 1. Green Bay Packers Call me crazy, but render unto Caesar what is rightfully Caesar’s. Absolutely no one saw the Packers winning it all last season at the start of 2020--an incredible job by inspiral in two short seasons with his beloved Pack. 2. Oakland Las Vegas Raiders Ugh. Although it seems impossible, the Raiders actually got better in the offseason. Nick Hall has an actual back-up QB in Lawyer Johnson, Major Morris and Shah Vereen have a year of seasoning (a recurring theme in this Rankings), and Malcolm Davis and A’Shawn Ellison look like two fantastic prospects on offense and defense, respectively. God, I hate the Raiders. 3. Los Angeles Rams Arguably the best regular season team in 2020, the Rams doubled-down on their pass-first offense by re-signing all their big names. True, they didn’t really address the run game, but it may not matter since basically everybody is back, including the Front Office. Look for the Rams to fly high again. 4. Jacksonville Jaguars A big jump up for a team that made serious moves in the offseason AND let all their young talent develop together. Soluna and UBL’s men could very well upset the AFC apple cart of Raiders/Jets/Colts and win it all this season. The addition of Ron Rice may be just the piece they need. 5. Indianapolis Colts The other marquee AFC South team to add an impact DE this offseason, the Colts and Anthony Miller are almost TOO good a fit. Aaron Shea has MVP written all over him, and the addition of a serviceable running game may ultimately bring balance to this force of nature squad. 6. Carolina Panthers The Panthers did…basically nothing this offseason, choosing to go for broke with the unified team that lead them to the #1 seed in the loaded NFC last year. Losing Rice will hurt, no doubt, but Skaggs finally got the Playoff Win monkey off his back. Will that free him up to be EVEN MORE SKAGGS? Is that even possible? While the PanthStars are #6 right now, look for them to finish somewhere in the Top 10, but not in the Top 5…(hot take). 7. New York Jets The Jets lost some pieces in the offseason, some by choice (Charlie Paul), some not (Zion Adakwa), so it remains to be seen how the new pieces (a couple excellent new WR options) adjust to new surroundings. However, I wouldn’t bet against Jumbo and Gravy. They’ve been too good for too long. Though they’ll have to hold off the hard-charging Dolphins in the East to keep their crown. 8. Philadelphia Eagles I have basically no proof for this selection, seeing as they missed the playoffs and didn’t REALLY have a big offseason. But they just have so much amassed talent, both on offense (where the passing game should improve due to a more reliable running back committee) and defense (Martin Whiting and Rodrick Milligan are two of the best LBs in the conference). Eagles gonna fly this year, methinks. 9. Miami Dolphins No team had a BETTER offseason than Miami. They got all their top talent re-signed. They drafted incredibly well (hello JC Weldon!), and had all the right free agent and training camp info break their way. Plus, Smackems is figuring out this team. A little birdie says that the Dolphins will be battling the Colts, Jags, and Raiders for supremacy in the AFC this season. 10. Dallas Cowboys Some unknowns dot the Cowboys landscape this season, but there is enough on the good side of the ledger to not drop them too far from their second round playoff exit. Graham Burnett could very well be the real deal, but we just don’t know. At least TRod, with his lower ceiling but higher floor, was a known quantity. But really, it doesn’t matter when you’re gonna hand off to Abraham and Robinson running behind that Offensive Line. 11. Detroit Lions Lurking in the background this offseason, the biggest tremor for the Lions was losing Franz Kafka from the GM seat. The Lions have some excellent pieces and we now know Rob LeCount’s ceiling (12 wins, maybe a Playoff win or two), so it will be interesting to see if the talent around him develops or stagnates. Slinky/Jacobs are still a formidable combo in the FO, but have they given their team enough JUICE this offseason? 12. San Francisco 49ers This is another NFC team that seemed to float a bit this offseason: no marquee moves, no grand turnover, just trusting the development of a solid roster (even if McCray seems to have stalled, slightly). The Front Office is great, Duncan is a consistently solid coach, this feels a bit like the Jets of the NFC. The ONLY question mark: how will the rookie at Center handle the burden of directing the OLine at this increased speed of the pros? 13. Denver Broncos A talented team that has endured a bit of a rocky offseason. Training Camp sluggishness and a shift in the Front Office right before the draft leaves a distinctly acrid aroma around the Mile High HQ entering 2021. The staff feels good about Deyonte Davis bookending Chuck Johnson, and we love the offensive skill positions plus the line. The defensive secondary will once again be the great unknown for this team. In Jieret We Trust, and if he can figure out the backend, this team could be special. 14. Tennessee Titans The Titans got a LOT better this offseason, picking up a QB, further building around Tyler Jones (who WILL be the Defensive MOP this season), and simply getting healthy. Wheeler is gonna LOVE throwing to Kevin Williams and company, and Bubada’s stat-laden roster building will begin to see some serious upside very soon. Just too damn bad they play in the same division as the Colts/Jags. Otherwise… 15. Atlanta Falcons This may be way too low for the Falcons, who still have a roster littered with studs. The loss of R.C. Rone will be bigger than some realize, as he held that entire unit together. But that may be offset slightly by the emergence of Eric Jennings on the DLine opposite Early Davis. And…it appears Akili Wallace is going to get to 10 wins or he’ll strangle someone. 16. Seattle Seahawks Team Transition in the NFC West sees a sea change in their roster entering 2021. Jarius Jones was very good when healthy last season, and the defense surprised with sack masters Jordan and Glenn. But Jordan left in free agency, and the Hawks are pinning some big hopes on Josiah McCray at WR2. Here’s hoping their young but promising OLine keeps Jones upright and creates some seams for Booker T. and Marcus Williams. Their stellar LBs may have to have career seasons AGAIN for them to stay with opposing offenses in the toughest division in football. 17. Baltimore Ravens While the Ravens won the ‘competitive’ AFC North last season and had a good showing in the Playoffs, getting rid of Watkins and relying on Brett Fisher might be too much a change this season to remain in that lofty place. While I certainly think it is the best move for the future of the franchise, I think the Ravens simply take a step back this year. I see 7-9, 8-8 if their lucky, and on the strength of that defense. 18. Houston Texans Rome, in his ever-tinkering fashion, has his hands on some seriously impressive chess pieces. Can he put together the right series of moves to deliver what cmcgill is looking for in Houston: the Playoffs? Here’s guessing the answer to that question is “yes…eventually.” I see 9-7 for the Texans, with their incredibly tough division slate hindering what will otherwise be a solid campaign. Leshoure for MVP…in 2025. 19. Arizona Cardinals This is the hardest team in the league to rank. There’s really amazing stuff happening in Arizona, with a great GM and a consistently good head coach. But the pieces seem to be individually greater than the sum of their parts. Will Taylor Rodriguez equally his under-the-radar efficiency of 2020 throwing to THIS crew of WRs? Will the investments on defense turn into a cohesive unit that flies to the ball? Obviously, the youthful talent is intriguing, but it seems that 2021 will be more of the same as 2020, but with a bit more stability in the QB slot. 20. Kansas City Chiefs Another tinkerer, Mimsy is seriously rolling the dice this year: Is Erasmus McCready a starting QB in the AFC West? Does it matter, when you have Terrence Rodgers (who absolutely MUST get 25 carries a game)? How will the reshaped defense hold up facing the Broncos and Raiders 4 total times? Anything from 4-12 to 10-6 is possible with this team…I’m dead serious. Here’s guessing it is closer to the former than the latter. 21. Washington Football Team Hello, Football Player! Meet your new teammate! All the new faces around D.C. must feel like the first weeks of college—new QB Tanner Bowman being protected by new LT Walter Adair is just the most critical of the new teammate interactions in the early part of this season. Washington opens with a tricky schedule—first action versus a Denver team that knows itself pretty well. They’ll find out quickly if they have the right stuff cooking there on the Potomac. 22. New Orleans Saints The Saints are my pick for Most Pleasant Surprise of 2021, for two reasons: the defense can’t be worse (and in fact will be better…Garrett Holliday will help there), and Vollmagnet is the coach. Voll just gets it. He’s the primary reason why Devereaux-Jenkins-Brown-Miller-Delaney will get to…ready for it…8 wins. The Saints are back, and they’ll have some stinkers, but they’ll also sneak up and bite a few folks. 23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Like their NFC South brothers in New Orleans, the Bucs appear to ready for a little renaissance as well. How much of a bump up will depend on how much Weeze56m relies on DNJ to take the heat off of Taylor Heiden. It really is Heiden’s put up or shut up year. Can he will this team back to respectability? Will he allow Jackson to help? Can the defense, which still has unreal talent in places, stiffen up and stop letting folks walk all over them? Says here the Bucs have a nice year. I sure hope so. 24. Cleveland Browns Honestly, this is the LEAST volatile team in the most volatile division in the League. Just with slightly less high a ceiling as the Ravens. Since the Clark holdout, the Browns have mostly made the right moves. We’ll see if it pays off. But even then, this roster seems tailor made for 6-10. So, given their division, I’ll say 5-11 seems right. 25. Minnesota Vikings This very much feels like Vardell’s last shot at a big splash. The Vikings, in an unusual display of clarity, went out and drafted Vardell a real weapon in Luke Cobb. Currently in the slot, Cobb should provide a boost…how big of one is up to the OLine, which is long in the tooth. The defense MUST get pressure on opposing QBs or its going to be a long season on that side of the ball. The Vikes could jump up to 7 wins…maybe. The NFC North got better, mostly, so we’ll see how that impacts the Vikings as the 3rd best team there. 26. Pittsburgh Steelers The ownership struggles one week before the season starts are just too damn bad. Letting Davenport hold out for a whole year is crushing to morale, and probably the least smart roster move by talent: Rob Corp is serviceable, Davenport is special. Yes, he wanted too much money, but you gotta get something out a talent like his… Whomever goes on to own and coach this team will have some work to do, but will have a solid roster to do it with--IF they can put it all together. BIG IF. 27. Los Angeles Chargers I’m happy to say that this is probably too low for the La Jolla Chargers of Los Angeles County. They had a tremendous offseason—easy to do when drafting Shane Easley—and while it’s too bad to let Anthony Miller go, it may be addition by subtraction, given the scheme shift. Matty Swift is going to have ups and downs again, but little by little, Pumph is doing good things here. I’d say 4 wins would be pretty solid, and 5 would be darn magic spell. Take it and run with it. 28. Chicago Bears This is definitely too low for the Bears, but the Brooksheer/MoFo conundrum is too much to overlook. The Bears needed playmakers on defense (outside of Ivory Hall) and they needed help on the OLine. They really got neither in the draft and none in free agency. So…how did they get better? Remains to be seen. Right now, I’ve got them slotted into the penultimate spot in the NFC rankings. 29. New England Patriots Werner or Watkins? Which octogenarian will be slinging the rock in Foxboro? Does it matter, since the organization seems forever on the cusp of derailing. Plus they have to play the Dolphins twice, the Jets twice, and do so without any semblance of an identity, on offense or defense. 30. Buffalo Bills See: New England Patriots. 31. New York Giants This team is in a free-fall. Ownership change, bad player and cap management, and iffy coaching have left the Giants in the basement of the NFC. In fact they are indeed lucky that the following team just imploded… 32. Cincinnati Bengals Cancelled games? Really?! C’mon, man. Even after the change in ownership, there are still doubts that this team will be run effectively. Hell, I’m concerned we may have cancelled REGULAR SEASON games when the Bengals are involved. All that talent, and no way out…