Week 1 NFL Power Rankings: The Patriots And Then Everyone Else

Football is back! With Week 1 quickly approaching, it’s the glorious time of year when fans of 27 of the 32 NFL teams can come up with crazy scenarios as to how their team will win Super Bowl LII. Sorry Browns, Jets, 49ers, Jaguars and Bears fans, but it just ain’t happening this year. If it’s any consolation though, 10 more fan bases will surely join you in looking ahead to 2018 by Week 5.

With little to go off of beyond the 2016 season, the draft, free agency and some preseason football that is too easy to overreact to, here is our first power rankings of the 2017 NFL season:


1. New England Patriots

2016 Record: 14-2
Projected 2017 Record: 14-2

The New England Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions and boast an even stronger roster entering 2017. Having an unsuspended Tom Brady and healthy Rob Gronkowski to start the season obviously helps, but when you factor in the additions of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks, it's no surprise New England is the heavy favorite to take home their second straight Lombardi Trophy.


2. Green Bay Packers

2016 Record: 10-6
Projected 2017 Record: 13-3

After falling to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game, the Packers shored up last year’s problematic secondary, signed tight end Martellus Bennett and still have future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers leading the offense. Competing in the weak NFC North helps as well, as anything short of a Super Bowl will be considered a letdown season for Green Bay.


3. Seattle Seahawks

2016 Record: 10-5-1
Projected 2017 Record: 12-4

With Russell Wilson at the helm and the “Legion of Boom” fully healthy, the Seahawks are guaranteed to be a team no one wants to face. Much of the offensive burden will be placed on Wilson as he aims to maximize Jimmy Graham’s and Doug Baldwin’s value, but Pete Carroll’s defense is sure to be one of the stingiest in the league. With six of their sixteen games coming against the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers, Seattle should be Green Bay’s biggest competition for the #1 seed in the NFC.


4. Atlanta Falcons

2016 Record: 11-5
Projected 2017 Record: 11-5

All eyes will be on the Atlanta Falcons to see how they respond after last year’s Super Bowl debacle. Returning every key piece certainly helps, but the psychological toll of losing a 25-point lead on the NFL’s biggest stage will be difficult to overcome. On talent alone, the Falcons enter the year as one of the five best teams, but a tough NFC South division could keep Atlanta from avenging last year’s disappointment.


5. Pittsburgh Steelers

2016 Record: 11-5
Projected 2017 Record: 12-4

The Ben Roethlisberger-Le’Veon Bell-Antonio Brown trio is an unmatched QB-RB-WR trio in today’s league, but that’s where Pittsburgh’s greatness ends. The return of speedster Martavis Bryant should help the Steelers’ passing attack, but untimely injuries in recent years have constantly tripped Pittsburgh up. If everyone stays healthy, the Steelers are clearly the second best team in the AFC. But as recent history has shown, that’s a big if.


6. Oakland Raiders

2016 Record: 12-4
Projected 2017 Record: 11-5

As one of the break-out teams in 2016, the Oakland Raiders ooze with Super Bowl aspirations this season. The emergence of quarterback Derek Carr as a legitimate superstar/MVP candidate and the addition of running back Marshawn Lynch has Oakland looking like one of the elite offenses entering 2017. If reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack can get some help on the defensive side of the ball, Oakland can capture its first Lombardi Trophy since 1981.


7. Kansas City Chiefs

2016 Record: 12-4
Projected 2017 Record: 11-5

Year after year, the Kansas City Chiefs continue to fly under the radar. Their 23-9 mark over the last two regular seasons is second to only the Patriots, and Kansas City doesn’t look poised to be taking a step back. While signal caller Alex Smith is far from flashy, he’s good enough to lead the team to victories, and the emergence of Tyreek Hill finally gives the offense some firepower. Backed by a top-5 defense, the Chiefs should be in the 10-12 win range for the third straight season.


8. New York Giants

2016 Record: 11-5
Projected 2017 Record: 10-6

The Giants are coming for the NFC East throne. After adding Brandon Marshall this offseason, Eli Manning’s Odell-Marshall wide receiver duo rivals any other in the league. Last year, the defense took a massive step forward thanks in large part to Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Landon Collins, and should once again be a force in 2017. If the Giants can generate some semblance of a rushing attack with Paul Perkins, they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.


9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2016 Record: 9-7
Projected 2017 Record: 10-6

2017’s Hard Knocks squad has quietly assembled one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. Third year quarterback Jameis Winston looks like a future superstar, and will be flanked by Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and rookie O.J. Howard. Add in Tampa Bay’s strong defense led by Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy, and the Buccaneers seem primed for their first postseason appearance since 2007.


10. Arizona Cardinals

2016 Record: 7-8-1
Projected 2017 Record: 9-7

The Cardinals’ success in 2017 rests squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Carson Palmer. After finishing as the MVP runner-up while leading Arizona to the NFC Championship Game two seasons ago, Palmer and the Cardinals took a tremendous step back in 2016. Injuries plagued much of the roster, as there were few bright spots outside of superstar running back David Johnson. With Tyrann Mathieu back, Patrick Peterson locking down wide receivers and a rejuvenated Palmer, Arizona should challenge the Seahawks for NFC West supremacy.


11. Houston Texans

2016 Record: 9-7
Projected 2017 Record: 10-6

Is 9-7 good enough to win the AFC South in 2017? The Texans are probably hoping so, since they’ve gone 9-7 all three seasons under the tutelage of Bill O’Brien. Much like the past three seasons, Houston boasts one of the best defenses in football, but has a gaping hole at the quarterback position. If first round pick Deshaun Watson proves to be the franchise savior, Houston will run away with the division and could make some noise in the postseason. If not, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney will once again be counted upon to lead this team to another nine-win season.


12. Dallas Cowboys

2016 Record: 13-3
Projected 2017 Record: 8-8

After shocking everyone en route to the #1 seed in the NFC last season, the Cowboys are due to regress. A nightmare offseason filled with suspensions and criminal investigations already has them off to a rocky start in 2017. Ezekiel Elliott was handed a six-game suspension from the NFL, and after appealing, it remains to be seen how many games he will actually miss. But even though he and Dak Prescott seem unlikely to experience the sophomore slump, the defense is poised to take a big step back. Playing in arguably the toughest division in football, the Cowboys would be lucky to win 10 games.


13. Philadelphia Eagles

2016 Record: 7-9
Projected 2017 Record: 9-7

After racing out to a 3-0 start with everyone ready to anoint Carson Wentz the next John Elway, things quickly soured for the Eagles in 2016. Wentz showed glimpses of why he was the second overall pick, but he experienced plenty of growing pains during his rookie season. The additions of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount should make life easier for Wentz, and the defense led by Malcolm Jenkins is more than capable of keeping them in games. With a brutal schedule in 2017 though, it feels like Philly is still one year away from entering the “Super Bowl contender” tier.


14. Tennessee Titans

2016 Record: 9-7
Projected 2017 Record: 8-8

Entering his third year, Marcus Mariota once again faces similar expectations to Jameis Winston as he and his Titans are expected to take the next step and reach the postseason in 2017. The Titans added some weapons for Mariota in the form of Eric Decker and rookie Corey Davis, which should help him improve upon last year’s efficient season (26 TDs, 9 INTs). Boasting one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, Tennessee plays smart, methodical football and is backed by an underrated defense. Anything short of their first AFC South title since 2008 will be chalked up as a disappointment.


15. New Orleans Saints

2016 Record: 7-9
Projected 2017 Record: 8-8

As has been the case in recent years, the Saints’ success will be dictated by the defense. Having placed in the bottom five in points allowed for three straight seasons, New Orleans’ defensive ineptitude is borderline historic. The offense will be elite under Drew Brees, and the addition of Adrian Peterson simply makes them even more balanced and terrifying. A league average defense would be enough to push the Saints to the playoffs, but if the last three seasons are any indication, that’s clearly easier said than done.


16. Carolina Panthers

2016 Record: 6-10
Projected 2017 Record: 8-8

The past two years have been a roller coaster for the Carolina Panthers. A 15-1 regular season and Super Bowl appearance in 2015 seems like a distant memory after last year’s disappointing 6-10 campaign. The true Panthers exist somewhere between those two extremes. Cam Newton is not a perennial MVP, but he is talented enough to get Carolina back to the playoffs. A healthy Luke Kuechly will do wonders for the Panthers’ defense, and the addition of Christian McCaffrey should have this team battling for an NFC Wild Card spot.


17. Cincinnati Bengals

2016 Record: 6-9-1
Projected 2017 Record: 8-8

No team added more talent on offense through the draft than Cincinnati, with running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver John Ross both expected to make huge contributions. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert are both elite talents at their respective positions, and Andy Dalton remains one of the underrated passers in today’s league. The defense lacks dynamic playmakers, but with few personnel changes, this unit should be able to keep Cincinnati in games. After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2010, the Bengals look poised to compete for a wild card spot in 2017.


18. Minnesota Vikings

2016 Record: 8-8
Projected 2017 Record: 7-9

In true Mike Zimmer fashion, the Minnesota Vikings win with defense. Led by Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr, Minnesota’s physicality can often overwhelm opponents. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for their offense. Led by Sam Bradford, the Vikings’ dink-and-dunk offense is too mundane for Minnesota to compete with the best teams. A horrendous offensive line and lack of playmakers will keep Minnesota from the postseason for a second straight year.


19. Baltimore Ravens

2016 Record: 8-8
Projected 2017 Record: 7-9

On the heels of missing the postseason for two straight seasons, the pressure on Baltimore to return to its winning ways is mounting. Much of this pressure will be placed on Joe Flacco, who hasn’t come close to living up to his three-year, $66 million contract. Although there isn’t much talent at the running back position, Flacco will have plenty of weapons to throw to in Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. As always, the defense under John Harbaugh’s tutelage should be a top-10 unit. Simply put, anything short of a postseason appearance in 2017 will be chalked up as a disappointment.


20. Los Angeles Chargers

2016 Record: 5-11
Projected 2017 Record: 8-8

The easiest way to sum up the Chargers’ disastrous final season in San Diego is with one statistic - they were the only team the Cleveland Browns beat in 2016. Suffice to say, things can only improve for LA’s newest team in 2017. Last year’s 5-win season is a bit misleading, as they led in the fourth quarter in many of their losses and boast plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. With Philip Rivers leading the offense and the Joey Bosa-Melvin Ingram tandem hounding opposing quarterbacks, don’t be shocked if the Chargers go from worst to first in the AFC West this season.


21. Denver Broncos

2016 Record: 9-7
Projected 2017 Record: 7-9

Only two years removed from a Lombardi Trophy, the Broncos are the prime example of an unbalanced team. Denver’s defense has a legitimate claim as the best unit in the league, but the team’s dreaded quarterback duo of Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian keeps them on the fringe of the playoff conversation. Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and C.J. Anderson are enticing weapons, but without any consistency at the quarterback position, the offense will struggle. Expect Denver to make life difficult for its opponents week in and week out, but miss the playoffs for the second straight season.


22. Miami Dolphins

2016 Record: 10-6
Projected 2017 Record: 8-8

All it took was a freak Ryan Tannehill injury in practice for Jay Cutler to come out of retirement. Having played under Adam Gase while in Chicago (and experiencing surprising success), in theory, Cutler should thrive playing alongside Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. However, Cutler’s teams haven’t experienced on-field success since 2012. With an average defense and plenty of AFC teams jockeying for a playoff berth, Miami seems unlikely to return to the postseason for the second straight year.


23. Los Angeles Rams

2016 Record: 4-12
Projected 2017 Record: 7-9

The Rams’ hopes in 2017 all start with second-year quarterback Jared Goff, whose 0-7 record and 22.9 Total Quarterback Rating in 2016 need to see dramatic improvement. The additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and Sammy Watkins should greatly benefit the offense, as first-year head coach/quarterback guru Sean McVay is quickly being put to the test working with Goff. With Wade Phillips in charge of the defense and Aaron Donald leading the way, this is a top-five defensive unit. But much like the Broncos, it’s all for nothing if they can’t get any production from their quarterback.


24. Washington Redskins

2016 Record: 10-6
Projected 2017 Record: 6-10

Few teams have more on the line in 2017 than the Washington Redskins. Unable to agree to a long-term deal with quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason, Washington is hoping some on-field success will help during the negotiation process in 2018. However, losing two of Cousins’ favorite receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon to free agency this past offseason certainly doesn’t help their chances. The defense is nothing to write home about, so Washington’s ability to challenge for the NFC East crown will likely come down to the effectiveness of pass catchers Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. If the trio struggles, it will very likely be Cousins’ final season in D.C.


25. Indianapolis Colts

2016 Record: 8-8
Projected 2017 Record: 6-10

Much like the days with Peyton Manning, Indianapolis can only win games when Andrew Luck is on the field. With the former No. 1 pick’s Week 1 status up in the air as he returns from shoulder surgery, the Colts’ fate in 2017 is a complete mystery. If Luck misses time and Scott Tolzien is handed the keys to the offense, the Colts are a virtual lock for a top-5 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If Luck returns, he is an MVP candidate and the Colts become contenders for the AFC South title. With the Colts remaining silent on his progress, right now, your guess is as good as mine.


26. Detroit Lions

2016 Record: 9-7
Projected 2017 Record: 6-10

Despite playing without future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson for the first time in his career in 2016, Matthew Stafford (somehow) put together the most efficient season of his career (71.6 QBR). With eight 4th-quarter comebacks orchestrated by Stafford last season, it’s safe to say he won’t repeat those heroics in 2017. Detroit’s underwhelming defense and complete lack of a ground game will catch up to them this season. Expect Stafford to be excellent, but unable to mask his team’s deficiencies en route to their 26th straight season without a postseason victory.


27. Buffalo Bills

2016 Record: 7-9
Projected 2017 Record: 5-11

After bringing in a new head coach in Sean McDermott and a new general manager in Brandon Beane, Buffalo looked ready to improve upon last year’s 7-9 season. Tyrod Taylor had been handed the keys to the offense once again, and a Rex Ryan-less squad looked like *try not to laugh* New England’s top challenger in the AFC East. Then, the Bills turned No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins and No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby into Jordan Matthews, E.J. Gaines and a few 2018 draft picks. It’s a fine long-term move by Buffalo, but an 18th straight season without reaching the playoffs now looks like a lock.


28. Jacksonville Jaguars

2016 Record: 3-13
Projected 2017 Record: 5-11

It’s hard to avoid the bottom five when your two starting quarterback options are Blake Bortles and Chad Henne. The defense should be one of the best in the league with Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye leading the way, but it’s difficult to win in this league if the offense can’t put up points. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette will be tasked with taking pressure off the quarterback, and if successful, he will win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. If Fournette doesn’t win, it’s all but guaranteed that Jacksonville missed the playoffs for the 10th straight season.


29. Chicago Bears

2016 Record: 3-13
Projected 2017 Record: 4-12

2017 should be another year of growing pains for the Chicago Bears. After signing perennial back-up Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million contract ($18 million guaranteed) this offseason, Chicago drafted Mitch Trubisky second overall, creating a bizarre quarterback competition. With an underwhelming defense and little offensive talent beyond running back Jordan Howard, expect Trubisky to take the reins by Week 10 (coming off their bye) when the Bears are already out of postseason contention.


30. Cleveland Browns

2016 Record: 1-15
Projected 2017 Record: 4-12

It feels weird listing the Browns anywhere but last when comparing them to the other 31 teams. It could be viewed as a testament to the job Hue Jackson is doing, or the lack of direction the two teams below them are showing. Since the Browns currently have a quarterback battle between Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler, it’s pretty safe to assume it’s the latter. Coming off a 1-win season, I’m going to go out on a limb and say they win at least 4 games. Quarterback is still an issue, but with a good offensive line, a solid rushing attack and some playmakers on defense, Cleveland will not have the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.


31. San Francisco 49ers

2016 Record: 2-14
Projected 2017 Record: 3-13

Offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan has taken over head coaching duties and looks primed to return the 49ers to prominence. There’s only one issue though – either Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley or CJ Beathard will be leading the offense this season. In other words, Shanahan might be the perfect man for the job, but San Francisco doesn’t have the right personnel in place to get back to winning in 2017. They added some interesting pieces in the draft on the defensive side of the ball in Reuben Foster and Solomon Thomas, but after going 0-14 against teams not named the Rams in 2016, expect similar struggles en route to a top-3 pick in the 2018 Draft.


32. New York Jets

2016 Record: 5-11
Projected 2017 Record: 1-15

The NFL proudly distinguishes itself as a league that prevents any franchises from tanking, but the Jets certainly seem to be challenging this notion in 2017. Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty all figure to get reps at quarterback throughout the season, which is another way of saying the Jets have no interest in winning this year. With a quarterback-rich draft class in 2018 featuring the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, expect one of the three to be New York’s starter when next season kicks off.


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