NFL Power Rankings Week 1
Welcome to the inaugural edition of NFL Power Rankings! Week 1 presents a unique challenge. We don’t fully know what to expect seeing as how there is no 2017 track record. It’s more of an educated guess than usual. What happened in 2016 has basically no bearing starting Thursday night. With that in mind, here’s how the Power Ranks shake out for Week 1.
New England Patriots
Power Ranking: 1
Week One: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I know this is a huge shock… The Kansas City Chiefs come to town to try and knock off the defending Super Bowl champs in the opening game of the season. The Chiefs have a good defense and usually not a matchup I would target. They don’t scare me in the least under these circumstances. If I drafted a Patriot player on offense, I’m starting them. Even with the loss of WR Julian Edelman to an ACL injury, QB Tom Brady still has a lethal set of weaponry. WRs Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan are both in line for big games. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs handle TE Rob Gronkowski. Safety Eric Berry will have his hands full in coverage. Mike Gillislee and James White are probably the only two RBs worth starting in Week 1. New England is the clear favorite at the start of 2017.
Power Ranking: 2
Week One: at Green Bay Packers
The Seahawks have a dynamic offense outside of their questionable offensive line. The defense has the potential to be one the best Seattle has had in the past 5-6 seasons. Adding DL Sheldon Richardson for what amounts to pennies was robbery. Seattle will need to put up points to keep pace with Green Bay, and Russell Wilson starts on his MVP campaign in style. The Seahawks are my pick to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC this season and even though I picked the Arizona Cardinals to win the division, I’m not feeling great about it. This is a loaded team with only one flaw.
Power Ranking: 3
Week 1: at Chicago Bears
The Falcons set out on their path the redeem themselves from the biggest choke job in Super Bowl history in Chicago. Matt Ryan and company should be able to replicate most of their production from 2016 even with a new offensive coordinator. They have maybe the best RB duo in the NFL in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Julio Jones is arguably the best WR in football. Add in a solid offensive line, an improving young TE and a defense on the rise, Atlanta is a team to be reckoned with.
Power Ranking: 4
Week 1: at Cleveland Browns
There’s a ton to love with the Steelers offense this season. QB Ben Roethlisberger may be getting up there but can still get it done. There may not be anyone happier in the NFL to see WR Martavis Bryant back on the field. RB Le’Veon Bell carries concerns with injuries, suspensions and the fact he held out the entire preseason. WR Antonio Brown also has a claim to the best WR in football title and will have more room to operate with Bryant back in the fold. The Steelers defense could surprise some people. Pittsburgh actually dipped into the free agency pool to add CB Joe Haden recently. They have a good bit of talent; it’s just a matter of if they can come together.
Green Bay Packers
Power Ranking: 5
Week 1: vs. Seattle Seahawks
Everyone knows that QB Aaron Rodgers is one of the two best quarterbacks walking the planet. He also has his entire offense healthy and ready to roll. WR Jordy Nelson is now a full 2 years removed from his ACL surgery, Randall Cobb looks to rebound off an injury plagued season, and Davante Adams is ready to build off his career season. RB Ty Montgomery has the sickle cell trait hanging over him but if he can stay on the field and pass protect, his ceiling is enormous. TE Martellus Bennett brings a new dimension to the position, and the defense can’t be much worse than it ended last year. Rodgers has the ability to drag teams way less talented to the promised land.
Power Ranking: 6
Week 1: vs. Oakland Raiders
That’s right; I am all in on the Titans this year. Tennesse gets the Oakland Raiders Week 1 and this could easily be the most entertaining game of the week. Young gun QBs Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota face off and I could not be more excited to see Mariota with some real weapons. Tennessee added WRs Eric Decker, Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor and TE Jonnu Smith. The offense is deep at RB with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and the offensive line is top five in the NFL. Could the Titans run more 3 WR sets since they have the corps to do it? The defense still has questions to answer, but this team could make a deep push into the playoffs this season.
Power Ranking: 7
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
Arizona is in regroup mode after a vastly disappointing 2016 season. QB Carson Palmer looks to rebound after a rough 2016 season and is in a prime spot to have a big year. RB David Johnson and WR Larry Fitzgerald are in line to succeed along with Palmer. Johnson especially has been vocal about hitting 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. The hardest part is to figure out who will be the Cardinals second WR, but as long as John Brown is healthy, you can start him. He’s really had to fight to stay on the field. The Arizona defense brings a lot to the table and can carry the offense through any rough patches.
Power Ranking: 8
Week 1: at Tennessee Titans
Fresh off a massive extension, Derek Carr leads the Raiders into the 2017 season. The Raiders are a chic pick to win their division and make noise in the playoffs. Oakland may have the best offensive line in the NFL and a dynamite duo of WRs in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The forever awesome Marshawn Lynch heads up the RB corps, even though it’s unknown how he will stand up to the NFL grind. TE Jared Cook is a big upgrade at the position for Carr. The biggest flaw seems to be the entire defense past DE Khalil Mack. They can win the AFC West and maybe even a playoff game. They can’t win the big games with their defense.
Power Ranking: 9
Week 1: at Washington Redskins
The Eagles could have a sneaky good offense…if they have a run game to help Carson Wentz. I’m not sure Wentz is quite ready to handle a one-dimensional offense, so getting a run game going will be essential. If LeGarrette Blount can’t get the job done, someone like Wendell Smallwood will need to. Wentz will enjoy having a wide receiver as talented as Alshon Jeffery throughout the season, and even Torrey Smith could help this offense stretch the field. TE Zach Ertz is in line for a bigger workload with Jordan Matthews being shipped to Buffalo. CB Ronald Darby helps the secondary, but it seems that is the clear weak spot on the Eagles defense. The front seven looks excellent on paper and will help lead Philly to the NFC East title.
Los Angeles Chargers
Power Ranking: 10
Week 1: at Denver Broncos
The Chargers face a stiff challenge by going into Denver for their season opener, but this team is up for it. The good news is the offensive line is in better shape than last year and WR Keenan Allen is healthy coming into the year. He and Tyrell Williams form an excellent 1-2 punch at receiver while second year TE Hunter Henry looks to take the reigns from Antonio Gates. QB Philip Rivers and RB Melvin Gordon are the two players that make the Chargers offense go. The defense is underrated, led by DE Joey Bosa. It’s unwise to sleep on this team headed into 2017.
Power Ranking: 11
Week 1: vs. New York Giants
Dallas made a huge leap in 2016 due in large part to QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. 2017 brings a lot more questions, mostly in the form of how many games Zeke actually plays. He is currently suspended for 6 games, but there is serious doubt of whether it stands up in court. Dallas could withstand the loss and tread water without him. WR Dez Bryant needs to rebound after a down year by his standards. The defense is easily the worst unit on the team meaning Dallas will have to run the ball and play keep-away as much as they can.
Power Ranking: 12
Week 1: vs. New Orleans Saints
I do think the Vikings could quietly have a pretty good offense all season. People don’t think QB Sam Bradford is any good and he’s always hurt. The past two seasons he’s only missed three games, and one wasn’t even due to injury. He has a full off-season in the offense, and WR Stefon Diggs is ready to put 2016 behind him. Fellow WR Adam Thielen and TE Kyle Rudolph will help Bradford lead an efficient offense. Rookie RB Dalvin Cook will seemingly shoulder most of the load in the backfield. New acquisition RB Latavius Murray lost a lot of time to injury during training camp. Their defense should be able to hold its own most weeks, led by CB Xavier Rhodes.
Power Ranking: 13
Week 1: vs Jacksonville Jaguars
With DeAndre Hopkins getting headlines with his new contract, it’s obscured the fact that left tackle Duane Brown is in the middle of a holdout. That is a major hit for the Texans and their offense. Hopkins is their lone proven wideout with WR Will Fuller having a broken collarbone. They have RB Lamar Miller, but he was relatively inefficient in 2016. In addition, they’re starting Tom Savage at QB while waiting for rookie DeShaun Watson to be ready for the NFL. The only reason they’re so high is because of their defense. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus can take over any game. The Texans just need average QB play to have a chance every week.
Power Ranking: 14
Week 1: vs Philadelphia Eagles
The Washington offense should be a high powered attack this year. Kirk Cousins is(again) playing for a lucrative long-term contract and welcomes in WR Terrelle Pryor. WR Jamison Crowder will build upon his breakout season from last year and TE Jordan Reed will try to stay on the field. RB Rob Kelley has held off rookie Samaje Perine and will be the starting back in a good offense. The defense is not anything special but I’m a big believer in Cousins and his passing weapons. The jury is out on if former coordinator Sean McVay leaving will derail the offense.
Power Ranking: 15
Week 1: at San Francisco 49ers
QB Cam Newton is seemingly healthy coming off a shoulder injury and should be ready to roll. WR Kelvin Benjamin also looks healthier than he did at any point in 2016. We finally get to see RB Christian McCaffrey in a real game setting and I feel like he can be the best rookie RB in 2017. Jonathan Stewart will still see plenty of carries at the early part of the year. However, I suspect CMC will take this job over. The Panthers won’t be near as good as their 15-1 season two years ago, but they’ll be a good team this year.
New York Giants
Power Ranking: 16
Week 1: at Dallas Cowboys
The biggest storyline coming into the year is the health of Odell Beckham. He hasn’t played since taking a nasty hit in the pre-season, and there were rumors he might not play the first couple of weeks. It does seem that worry has passed, but it will be worth keeping an eye on. We’ll get to see what Eli Manning and Brandon Marshall have left in the tank, if anything. Rookie Even Engram looks to make an impression along with second year back Paul Perkins. The Giants have an solid excellent defense and many would argue they deserve to be higher on this list. This is one of those gut feelings that I don’t have any real reason for. I’m just not buying them at this point.
Kansas City Chiefs
Power Ranking: 17
Week 1: at New England Patriots
The Kansas City Chiefs look all kinds of mediocre on offense. They released WR Jeremy Maclin and lost RB Spencer Ware to a knee injury for the season. QB Alex Smith is average to start with. Now he really only has WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce to lean on. While expectations are already high for rookie RB Kareem Hunt, he doesn’t have a lot of help around him to make things work. The Chiefs defense is perennially good and this year should be no exception. I won’t count out Coach Andy Reid but he’s got an uphill climb in 2017 for a winning record, let alone a playoff berth.
Power Rank: 18
Week 1: vs Arizona Cardinals
The Lions just gave QB Matthew Stafford a huge contract extension to keep him from hitting free agency next year. He has a nice WR corps to work with, including Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay. Detroit hopes RB Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick can get the job done in the running game. TE Eric Ebron has been an enigma so far in his career but he’s still very young.The defense looks pedestrian at best and the Lions are probably lucky to hit .500 this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Power Ranking: 19
Week 1: at Miami Dolphins
Tampa has an interesting offense and it looks like the best one on paper QB Jameis Winston has ever led. Mike Evans is a top WR in the NFL and DeSean Jackson should be able to take some pressure off of him. Jackson is the best complimentary WR Evans has worked with in his young career. The biggest thing that could hold this offense is Winston makes some terrible decisions at times. Coach Dirk Koetter won’t be shy about leaning on the run game if Winston struggles at points. RB Jacquizz Rodgers will hold down the fort for 3 weeks until suspended Doug Martin comes back. The recent addition of Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward is a big boost for the defense. The Bucs are still one year away from being really good.
New Orleans Saints
Power Ranking: 20
Week 1: at Minnesota Vikings
The Saints will be missing WR Willie Snead due to a suspension for the first three games but it won’t hurt them too badly. QB Drew Brees won’t miss him too badly with the other members of the offense. Second year WR Michael Thomas will build off his spectacular rookie season and Ted Ginn will get plenty of run. I’m not sure if he can catch the ball, but he’ll be out there. The Saints hope TE Coby Fleener can be more effective than he was last season. It’s difficult to predict how the three headed monster plays out at running back. Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram, and Alvin Kamara all need to be fed. The Saints defense will be their undoing as they settle for another season of being an also ran.
Los Angeles Rams
Power Ranking: 21
Week 1: vs Indianapolis Colts
Possibly a surprise near the middle of the pack, the Rams check in at 20. First, the difference between Coach Sean McVay and whatever Jeff Fisher was doing last year is total opposites. Secondly, many seem to have given up on QB Jared Goff already. New Coach Sean McVay wouldn’t have come to LA if he didn’t believe in Goff.Everyone seemed to be in agreement he needed to sit out last year. I won’t put too much weight on 2016. I’m excited to see how different this offense looks with McVay and new weapons Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett. RB Todd Gurley is pretty excited as well because his job should be a little easier. The defense will have a little less pressure on it this year.
Power Ranking: 22
Week 1: vs Los Angeles Chargers
Brock Osweiler may be back in town, but that certainly doesn’t mean the Broncos solved their QB issues. Starter Trevor Siemian rightfully wears the dreaded “game manager” tag. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both could be among the fantasy elite in a better situation. C.J. Anderson will have to hold off Jamaal Charles and De’Angelo Henderson in the backfield and this backfield looks like a mess. It’s just a very pedestrian offense at every spot except WR. The defense took a hit with the release of safety T.J. Ward but should still be able to dominate more weeks than not.
Power Ranking: 23
Week 1: vs Baltimore Ravens
Andy Dalton has been a very popular sleeper option at QB all off-season. He has been underrated for his career but I feel like the offensive line could hold this offense back. Dalton has never been the best QB statistically under pressure in his career. WR A.J. Green will still get his every week and TE Tyler Eifert is a touchdown machine when he’s healthy. Rookie RB Joe Mixon will fight for playing time behind Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. I don’t know why this is because he’s clearly the best talent at RB, but the Bengals also drafted him and all his baggage in the second round of the NFL draft. There’s just not many spots on the roster the Bengals are above average.
Power Ranking: 24
Week 1: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Outside of RB Jay Ajayi, I truly don’t know how this offense is going to function. QB Jay Cutler is a total wildcard. Coach Adam Gase has pulled an okay season out of him in 2015 but “okay” won’t support all of the wide receivers in the offense. Cutler was also content with going to do TV analysis and doesn’t have the best track record of working hard. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dolphin offense take a step backward this season and the defense won’t be able to make up the difference. Miami won’t be back in the postseason this year.
Power Ranking: 25
Week 1: at Cincinnati Bengals
Here’s my biggest issue with the Ravens – Joe Flacco just returned to practice. It’s a lot to ask of an offense to be a well-oiled machine on the road with limited reps with your starting QB. Both RB Danny Woodhead and Terrance West should see plenty of opportunities this upcoming season. Jeremy Maclin will be a good fantasy wide receiver for the season, even though I don’t believe the Ravens will not lead the NFL in pass attempts for the third year in a row. A major question mark that we should start to see clarity on is who is the Ravens TE? Nick Boyle could be a popular waiver name after Week 1. The defense will be good as always. The offense just won’t be able to hold up their end of the bargain.
Power Ranking: 26
Week 1: at Los Angeles Rams
QB Andrew Luck is officially out for Week 1 and possibly longer than that, given the Colts trading for QB Jacoby Brissett. Scott Tolzien is your starter at QB, which is bad news for all Indy skill players aside from Jack Doyle. Both T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief take a major hit while Luck is out. RB Frank Gore will see loaded fronts and now has former Washington RB Matt Jones behind him. Jones may not be anything special, but the Colts backfield could be a messy spot if Gore finally succumbs to age. This defense is awful and people will realize just how bad this roster is without Luck in a hurry.
Power Ranking: 27
Week 1: vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Rookie DeShone Kizer will be under center for his first NFL game, which surprises me a little. Kizer is talented but very raw. 2016 saw QB Cody Kessler play fairly well given his surrounding cast. I thought he would start while Kizer was brought along. RB Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will both be integral parts to the offense. WRs Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman should be able to accumulate some stats when games are already out of reach. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has some young talent but will most likely be in for a long season.
Power Rankings: 28
Week 1: vs Atlanta Falcons
Whew boy, does the Bears offense look bad on paper. Whether it’s Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky is in at quarterback, Chicago has little going for them outside of Jordan Howard. Glennon gets the start in Week 1, but he may want to go back to the bench when he sees his wide receiving corps.After Cam Meredith suffered a gruesome knee injury, both Kevin White and Kendall Wright are vying for the number one WR role. Chicago is devoid of offensive talent and while the defense isn’t terrible, this is just flat out a bad team.
San Francisco 49ers
Power Rank: 29
New Coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t have a ton of talent to work with on either side of the ball. This could lead to a good spot for certain pieces from the offense for fantasy, even if that means poor results on the real football field. The 49ers will be playing catchup a lot so we can expect plenty of volume from the main players. WR Pierre Garcon should thrive in this offense but doesn’t have a ton of help. QB Brian Hoyer is clearly just a stop gap. RB Carlos Hyde is talented and I’m a bit surprised the 49ers didn’t trade him. This roster is a total teardown and Hyde won’t be around by the time the plan is executed. There is some young talent on the defense, but they’re far from being a good unit.
Power Ranking: 30
Week 1: at Houston Texans
The defense looks pretty good on paper, led by a good mix of veterans like DL Calais Campbell and young star CB Jalen Ramsey. It’s a shame the offense is led by QB Blake Bortles, who has appeared to regress in a major way. WR Allen Robinson showed visible frustration with Bortles in camp and this seems to be a bad situation for the entire passing game. The Jags drafted rookie RB Leonard Fournette in the hopes of going back to old school, smash mouth football. It’s nice to want to do certain things, but I don’t expect that to happen. Negative game scripts will put more on Bortles and Jacksonville will struggle again.
Power Ranking: 31
Week 1: vs New York Jets
The Bills offense is clearly worse than they were at the start of the pre-season. They traded away WR Sammy Watkins to the Rams and then saw WR Anquan Boldin retire. Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy are left to pick up the pieces in the offense. That’s if Taylor even starts the whole season. Coach Sean McDermott says that QB Nathan Peterman is ready to start. Buffalo has waved the white flag on 2017 and is looking towards the future.
New York Jets
Power Ranking: 32
Week 1: at Buffalo Bills
This rank might not change much throughout the season. The Jets are totally devoid of talent at almost every position. The offense is a total train wreck, and I have a hard time seeing the defense stay motivated all season. The goal is to have the #1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.