NFL Power Rankings are boring. They are generic. Everyone has their thoughts on which of the teams sitting with 1 win are truly the worst. And we all believe the Rams are the clear Super Bowl favorite, but we are entitled to debate whether the Patriots, Chiefs, Chargers or another contender is the choice in the AFC. But instead of simply ranking the teams 1 through 32, I break them down into one of five categories:
- Super Bowl Contenders
- Super Bowl Pretenders
- Stuck in the Middle
- Fun While It Lasted
- In Need of a Savior
And let’s start with the teams that are in search of some divine intervention.
Praying for an Answer
- Oakland Raiders: The quarterback is being ridiculed for being emotional, their best offensive and defensive players were traded and their head coach/personnel guru/dictator has lost the locker room and created a Grand Canyon sized riff in the front office. Good luck Mr. Gruden. Three first round picks will not be able to fix the mess that exists for the Raiders.
- Arizona Cardinals: Yes, the Cardinals seemingly have their quarterback of the future in Josh Rosen. Their best player, David Johnson, looks stuck in quicksand, while their cornerstone on defense, Patrick Patterson, has gone back and forth as to whether or not he wants out. Larry Fitzgerald is not getting any younger and they have already fired their offensive coordinator. Is the savior new OC Byron Leftwich? Doubtful.
- San Francisco 49ers: I am going to give the 49ers a large pass for much of their failure in the 2018 season. Their franchise QB Jimmy G is out for the year, while their top two backs (Jerrick McKinnon-out for the year and Matt Breida-banged up the last few weeks), have not been able to stay on the field. Their defense has been a mess, in large part to the lack of playmakers on offense that can sustain drives. I will not likely drop the 49ers any lower than here this season, as they clearly have some talent gaps they need to fill this offseason. They compete, play hard and that is all you can ask of this decimated 49ers squad.
- Denver Broncos: It is true that the Broncos have a few more wins then some of the other teams on the list. But the Broncos get the coveted 29th spot because of the mess that is their QB situation. While other teams like the Giants are unsure of their future at QB, they at least have a clear direction of what the plan is. Draft someone high and improve the O-Line. But what has become clear through the first 7 weeks is that Case Keenum is not the answer and with the subsequent arrest and release of Chad Kelly, John Elway is at square one. And do Broncos fans really trust him to select a QB with a high pick in the draft? Nope.
Who does Walter Football think is the most overrated bad team in the league? Find out HERE.
- Buffalo Bills: Again, the play on the field is not indicative of how the Bills have truly been. You cannot expect this team, with either Derek Anderson or Nathan Peterman to compete against an NFL defense. They have their quarterback of the future and he has shown he is capable of winning games. But Kelvin Benjamin appears to have been lost at sea, while LeSean McCoy is also now in concussion protocol. I will give the Bills a pass as well and hope they address the lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, in the offseason.
- New York Giants: Look. The Giants are bad. They have been ripped for not selecting one of the talented QB’s in the 2018 Draft. But you cannot doubt the skill and talent of the guy they did choose Saquon Barkley. But counting on Eli to survive behind that offensive line, which includes FA bust Nate Solder, is unfair. There is no question Eli has regressed, but can you truly say the Giants will not win another 3-4 games this season given the talent on offense? That is why they are ranked 27th, not 32nd. And why I think their savior, who likely will arrive after the 2019 Draft, is just what the G-Men need to leap out of this bucket.
- Indianapolis Colts: Why do the Colts round out the teams looking for a savior? Well, outside of Andrew luck and TY Hilton, where are the game changers on the roster? They are lucky to be ranked where they are and that ONLY occurs because of the presence of Luck, who has come back from his terrible injury to play very well. But with no defensive presence, no offensive line and no true #1 back, the Colts need a lot of help and better act quickly, before Luck’s peak years are in the rear view mirror.
Fun While It Lasted
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The first few weeks gave us the opportunity to reminisce about the old times and Ryan Fitzmagic. But then, as it always does, the Fitzmagic turns to Fitztragic. With Jameis Winston back under center and back under the microscope, it is only a matter of time until his knucklehead personality gets him in trouble. And considering how poor their defense is, it will be a surprise if the Bucs exceed 5-6 wins in total this season.
- Miami Dolphins: Two words. Brock. Osweiler. Yes, he led the Dolphins to a surprising win against the Bears two weeks ago, but when you really on a guy that was basically traded away simply to dump his salary AND the team gave a high pick to do so, that says a lot. Their running game is non-existent and despite the fact they started hot at 3-0, the last few weeks have shown just who they are. A team that has issues at all 3 skill positions on offense and a coach who simply cannot put his team in the optimal positions to succeed.
- Seattle Seahawks: This statement is more for the last decade of success in Seattle, not necessarily the 2018 season on its own. Pete Carroll has done a marvelous job of building a culture of winning in the Pacific Northwest. Russell Wilson has transformed into one of the best leaders and quarterbacks in the league. But when your second-best receiver is someone named David Moore, the defenses identity has completely shifted over the last 3 years and you try and change your offensive identity to a ground and pound team, that is a major shift in philosophy. The run was fun while it lasted, but with the Rams playing like they have and two teams in SF and Arizona who seem to have their situations set at QB for the future, the Seahawks must get younger and quick.
- New York Jets: If the Jets would have found a way to knock off the Vikings last week, this may be a different story. But what that game showed is that Sam Darnold is not ready to take this team to the playoffs and there is work to do on the defensive side of the ball. The likely outcome for this season is that Darnold leads them to 6-7 wins, the team takes a step, but they replace Todd Bowles as the Head Coach. His defensive mindset has not translated to success in that aspect of the game and its time to bring in a Sean McVey type to lead Darnold. The Jets are a good early season story, but one that is just about up in terms of playoff hopes.
- Chicago Bears: Look, I like what I see from Mitch Trubisky and the offense and of course love the aggressiveness to acquire Khalil Mack. But after their thumping of Tampa Bay a few weeks back, the Bears defense has become exposed. Tom Brady is one thing, but Brock Osweiler is another. I love their outlook for the future, given the offensive talent around Trubisky. But as 2018 is concerned, the Bears are just about to experience what the league catching up to you really feels like.
- Cleveland Browns: The Browns, despite having less wins then some of the folks behind them, have the opportunity over the next few weeks to do big things offensively. As a young team, they blew the game against Tampa Bay, but that may be more of an indictment on the terrible coach Hue Jackson. I also am extremely high on Baker Mayfield and what that offense can become. So, while the Browns fall into the fun while it lasts category, there is a lot more optimism then there has been in years around the franchise.
Stuck in the Middle
- Tennessee Titans: If only the Titans had a clue offensively, they may be a contender or at the very least, a pretender. The Titans defense is special, as evidence by the fact they held the potent Chargers offense largely in check last week. However, their offense has not found its stride. Free agent signee Dion Lewis has been pedestrian. Derrick Henry has been awful. And their wide receiving core has done little. The loss of Delanie Walker was immense, but with him coming back from a tough injury in 2019, what is the direction of this team offensively? The defense will keep them in games, while the offense is not allowing them to win it. And that is why they went for 2 and the win last weekend. But to no one’s surprise, they missed it. So the Titans lead the group of teams that are in limbo.
- Dallas Cowboys: Hey Jerry. Your problem is NOT going to be solved by dealing a first round pick for a receiver who has had a subpar season and matching him with a noodle-armed, inaccurate QB. I like Amari Cooper. I like Zeke, but with no offensive line to speak of and a worse version of Cam Newton, I do not like the direction of the Boys. Not to mention their coach is lost and Jerry Jones is blind to see that.
- Washington Redskins: Yes the Skins currently lead the NFC East and have overachieved through the first 7 weeks. However, do we truly trust Alex Smith with that group of receivers? Do we think Adrian Peterson is going to last all 16 weeks? An improved defensive unit has led to this solid start, but in order for them to capitalize on that rebuilt defense, they need to do what Kansas City did. Upgrade from Alex Smith and surround the new QB with playmakers. Not guys like Doctson, Crowder and Richardson.
- Atlanta Falcons: It is sad to write that the Falcons do not even fall into the “Pretenders” category, but given the state of their defense (injuries and performance), despite their explosive talent on offense, they are a team squarely in the middle. If their offense catches fire there is a chance for a 2nd half surge. But health is the number one concern and with Matt Ryan not getting any younger, it may be time to sell some pieces and reload for 2019.
- Detroit Lions: Lets be honest. Are the Lions a serious contender to make the Super Bowl? No. Do they have a ton of offensive weapons at receiver and running back? Absolutely. But can they get enough out of their defense to make a deep run? No way. And that is why, despite having arguably the best 1-3 at wideout and a top 10 QB, the Lions remain in limbo. Eventually, with the guidance of Matt Patricia, the team will adhere to his coaching style and make a leap on his side of the ball.
- Green Bay Packers: The only reason the Packers do not make the “Pretenders” list is because of the uncertainty over the long-term health of Mr. Rodgers. A 100% healthy Rodgers, with a full complement of healthy wide receivers, would leave me no choice but to slot them up. BUT, with a less than 100% knee, two wideouts coming off injury (Cobb and Allison), little to no running attack to speak of and a defense that at times has been shredded, we need to see a bit more from the Packers before considering them as pretenders. As a 9.5 point underdog this weekend against the Rams, there is a chance the Packers may be too far back to even make a run at a playoff spot. Much like the Colts with Andrew Luck, it is time for the organization to look in the mirror, realize the investment they made in Rodgers and do everything they can to make a run at a title realistic.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars: Boy oh boy how things can change in this league. After a thumping of the Pats in September, many were anointing the Jags as an AFC Title game lock. After being crushed by the Chiefs, Cowboys and Texans, the Jags are 60 minutes of bad football against the Eagles away from a 4-game losing streak. The defense has lost all respect for the QB (thanks Jalen Ramsey for the soundbites) and Bortles is back under center. Another ugly performance, this one in London, may cause the Jags front office to leave Bortles overseas, while making a desperate play for a QB prior to the trade deadline.
- Carolina Panthers: If you know me, you know I am NOT a Cam Newton supporter or believer. His accuracy, demeanor, leadership and ability to motivate others is always in question. In a big spot, he comes up small. In Super Bowl’s, he does not dive for fumbles. With that kind of attitude and inability to win big games on the road, I am slotting the Panthers in at number 12 and earmarking them as a pretender.
- Baltimore Ravens: Do you trust Joe Flacco? Really? The guy that many pundits believed would not be the starter by the mid-point of the season is all of a sudden going to lead his team to a Super Bowl? The defense looks solid, as well as the trio of receivers that were signed (Crabtree, John Brown and Snead), but with a lack of a dominant running game to offset the deficiencies of Flacco, is this team built for a deep playoff run? Nope.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Look, at any given time, the Steelers offense can wake up and realize it is one of the more explosive units in the league. And they have had their moments when they have excelled (at KC, vs. ATL). However, given the nature of the Le’Veon Bell situation, the defense clearly taking a step back ever since the loss of Ryan Shazier and the age of Big Ben, it does not seem like all the pieces are fitting into the puzzle correctly for the Steelers in 2018. It started with a tie on opening day against Tyrod Taylor and Browns and continued in an ugly home loss to the Ravens. At any point, this team can catch fire. But to me, it is more likely the locker room catches fire and this goes up in smoke.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Notice a trend here. The 3 AFC North contenders all fall short of being considered Super Bowl contenders. Despite the emergence and consistency of Andy Dalton, development of Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon, and the consistency of a somewhat steady defense, the Bengals at times this season have been exposed. As was on display last weekend at Kansas City, their offense did not show up to a team that had just given up 43 points to the Patriots. And the defense was ransacked in allowing Patrick Mahomes to achieve his 6th straight 300-yard game. That will not cut it. And that is why they are a pretender.8. Houston Texans: Yes, the Texans are red-hot, as they have won four straight games after getting off to a horrendous start, however, just how good are they? They lost to the Giants. At home. And their four-game winning streak? That has come against the Colts, Cowboys, Bills and Jaguars. Not exactly a murderers row of opponents, especially with the Jags struggling as much as they have. The Texans are likely going to win their division, but something seems wrong. Is it the defense not being in sync? Is it the rust from Watson coming back from injury? Is it a lackluster Head Coach. It may be all of the above. But the mix and fit seem off in Houston.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: The defending champs make the “Pretender” list. The Eagles remain the class of the NFC East, but is that saying much considering how medicore the rest of the division is and the Quarterback play within it? Alex Smith and Dak Prescott are nothing more than game managers, while Eli is clearly done. The Eagles should still win the division easily, but given their lackluster start, will be hard-pressed to go on the road to New Orleans, Minnesota or Los Angeles and win multiple games in the playoffs. Just not going to happen. The Super Bowl hangover myth is true, at least for this year in Philly.
Super Bowl Contenders
- New Orleans Saints: Of all the teams left, each of whom I think can make a deep run in the playoffs, the team I have the least faith in going on the road and winning in January is the Saints. If they somehow get homefield, that is a different story. But at the rate the Rams are playing, it does not seem likely. The Saints did go on the road for an impressive win at Baltimore, but then again, that is Joe Flacco in October, not Kirk Cousins or Jared Goff in January. In a loaded NFC, the Saints scare me, as long as they are indoors on the fast track at home.5. Los Angeles Chargers: What the Chargers are doing is quite impressive. Winning games on both sides of the ball and playing to their strengths. Deep shots to Tyrell Williams. Moving the chains with Keenan Allen. Resting Melvin Gordon for a more competitive spot (although Tennessee gave them everything they can handle). But the most impressive thing is they are doing this without any contribution from Joey Bosa. Once Bosa returns, assuming he is healthy, his tank will be at full for the stretch drive. Yes, they lost at home in Week 1 to the Chiefs, but can you see the KC defense at this point in time slowing down a fully functional Chargers offense? And if Bosa makes an appearance, that will be a major game-changer from their earlier meeting. The Chargers are going to be a team no one in the AFC will want to see come playoff time.
- Minnesota Vikings: Of the four teams remaining, the Vikings slot in where they do because of consistency from Week One to now. With the loss of Dalvin Cook until week 11 seeming more and more likely, their offense will suffer. Not against the likes of the Jets, but when they go up against better defenses that can key on their amazing duo at wide receiver. The addition of Kirk Cousins has proven to be the right move given the struggles of Case Keenum in Denver and his winning mentality will take them a long way. We have seen the Vikings play a shootout already once this season in Los Angeles and if I were to pick how it would shake out now, the Vikings would be on the road for the second straight season in the NFC Title game.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Despite having one less loss than the Patriots, the Chiefs are one slot below as they lost the head to head matchup. Do I trust Mahomes in the playoffs in Foxborough? Nope. Do I trust him against the Pats in Arrowhead? Yep. And that is the key and mission for the Chiefs until playoff time. Get homefield advantage. They are a different team at home and assuming they get their defense healthy, they will be a very tough out if the field runs through the Midwest.
- New England Patriots: The Pats entire organization and fan base took a collective breathe when it was revealed that Sony Michel is week to week and not out for the season. He has emerged as a true workhorse back, capable of making big plays in the running game. With the emergence of Josh Gordon, less stress will be put on Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman and the receiving core, which should also allow things to open up for Gronk once he is healthy. All the Pats need to do is stay the course and stay even with the Chiefs to attain homefield advantage. Given the division, that should be doable. Are they the best Pats team ever? No. But just as in every season since he has taken over, the Pats continue to improve week in and week out, until they peak right around January. And by winning four straight, it looks like that trend will continue.
Can you imagine the Rams anywhere outside of the top 2? Someone can. Find out why HERE.
- Los Angeles Rams: What can I say. The Rams have the best offense in football, the potential 2-time MVP, an innovative coach that knows where to put his players to achieve their utmost potential and a defense that is only going to get healthier and better as the year goes on. It appears the road to the Super Bowl will go through LA. Although the Falcons were able to win their last season, this team is deeper, more suited for McVay’s system and now, more experienced.