NFL Power Rankings Heading Into Week 1

Finally, football is back. After a week of record-setting deals — Aaron Rodgers, Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack — and months of debate, the NFL regular season kicks off Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Here’s a look at New Arena’s NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 1:

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 record: 5-11
Up Next: @ New Orleans Saints

A year removed from a good amount of hype, Tampa appears to be trending towards one of the worst records in the league. Playing in the league’s toughest division, the Bucs will be lucky to win one game against the Saints, Falcons, or Panthers. With Jameis Winston set to serve a three-week suspension, the season will likely go into the tank early. The defense features some talented players — Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David — but the Bucs ultimately seem destined for an overhaul.

31. Cleveland Browns

2017 record: 0-16
Up Next: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

It can’t get much worse for Cleveland. With a 1-31 record over the past two seasons, the Browns should improve drastically this season. Unfortunately for them, a 5-win season would be considered a drastic improvement. The Browns do have decent talent on the roster, but they are likely a few years away from serious playoff contention. The biggest storyline all season long will be the use of Baker Mayfield. Once Cleveland reaches the midway point of the season, don’t be surprised to see Mayfield take over the starting job.

30. Buffalo Bills

2017 record: 9-7
Up Next: @ Baltimore Ravens

Bills’ fans rejoiced a season ago when the team made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. The fleeting moment of joy will quickly turn into despair, as the Bills are a trendy pick to finish last in their division. First-round pick Josh Allen isn’t ready to be a productive starter, and AJ MaCarron and Nathan Peterman don’t excite anyone. The uncertainty surrounding LeSean McCoy will hang over the team until a decision is reached. Overall, the Bills are a likely candidate to take a step back in 2018.

29. Miami Dolphins

2017 record: 6-10
Up Next: vs. Tennessee Titans

The return of Ryan Tannehill is one of the lone bright spots to look forward to this season in Miami — although there are many questions surrounding Tannehill’s future. Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage are promising young backs, but overall the offense appears to be mediocre. Wide-out Jarvis Landry and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are no longer with the team, meaning the Dolphins must replace their two biggest stars. Their schedule isn’t the toughest, but it also isn’t a cakewalk. Miami simply doesn’t have the talent or depth to make noise in the AFC.

28. New York Jets

2017 record: 5-11
Up Next: @ Detroit Lions

Fans of the Gang Green are optimistic headed into the season, due in large part to Sam Darnold winning the quarterback competition. Darnold has done enough in the preseason to convince the coaching staff that he is the man for the job. Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell aren’t the most electric running back duo, but both are serviceable backs. Robby Anderson has potential at receiver, and should be Darnold’s top target. Unfortunately for the Jets, their defense is suspect. Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams have the chance to be great, but the D lacks overall depth. The Jets can realistically hope for a second place finish in the AFC East, but anything past that would be a stretch.

27. Cincinnati Bengals

2017 record: 7-9
Up Next: @ Indianapolis Colts

This may be the final year of the Marvin Lewis experiment. Then again, that has been the sentiment for the past five seasons or so. The Bengals are a hard team to figure out. Andy Dalton is coming off a dismal performance in 2017, but A.J. Green is still lining up at receiver so there is hope for a resurgence. Joe Mixon is a good talent at running back, but the second-year player must prove he is ready to become the man. The offensive line has been poor the past few seasons — the additions of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price should help — and their performance will go a long way in dictating their ceiling this year.

26. Indianapolis Colts

2017 record: 4-12
Up Next: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Until Andrew Luck takes his first hit in Week 1 many fans will be holding their breath. Luck is due to make his return to the field after missing the entire 2017 season. Without Luck the Colts offense was atrocious. A healthy Luck should be enough to win the Colts a few games, but the offense will have to put up a ton of points to overcome a shoddy defense. It would be unwise to completely count out a Luck-led team, but the Colts are likely to have another down year.

25. Arizona Cardinals

2017 record: 8-8
Up Next: vs. Washington Redskins

Starting with the Cardinals, the next 12 teams or so are in similar positions. The Cardinals aren’t the favorites in the NFC West but it would also not be a surprise to see them finish the season with eight wins. Star running back David Johnson is back after a wrist injury ended his 2017 season. Sam Bradford (when healthy) is a good quarterback. The biggest problem will be pass protection, as Arizona’s offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL. If they can protect Bradford — or Josh Rosen —  the Cards could be a dangerous team.

24. Oakland Raiders

2017 record: 6-10
Up Next: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Jon Gruden is back in the Silver and Black, but are the Raiders ready to make a push at the playoffs? It remains to be seen whether Gruden is capable of leading a team to the promised land in today’s NFL. Derek Carr and Amari Cooper look to rebound from sub-par seasons. Meanwhile, superstar edge-rusher Khalil Mack has been shipped off to Chicago in exchange for two first-round picks. The defense — especially without Mack — is very weak. Giving away your best player days before the season begins is bold. Giving away a superstar (in his prime) for future draft picks? That is criminal.

23. New York Giants

2017 record: 3-13
Up Next: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Giants will be better than last year, that much is for certain. Odell Beckham Jr. is returning to the field, giving the Giants two possible superstars — the other being rookie running back Saquon Barkley. Left tackle Nate Solder will be instrumental in keeping Eli Manning upright. The first seven games of the season are brutal, but if the Giants are able to make it out with four wins they would feel pretty good about their chances of making a run at the playoffs.

22. Chicago Bears

2017 record: 5-11
Up Next: @ Green Bay Packers

Although the Bears have been a trendy pick around the league, this team is at least a year or two away from legitimate contention. Playing in one of the best divisions in football — Vikings, Packers, Lions — doesn’t do the Bears any favors. After finishing 10th in total defense last season, the Bears defense will once again be their calling card. The addition of Khalil Mack is a huge boon for Chicago’s defense. Mack, one of the best defensive players in football, can potentially turn Chicago into a problem in the North. Allen Robinson and Trey Burton should be favored targets of Mitchell Trubisky, and Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen provide one of the better 1-2 punches on the ground. While they should be competitive, it will be hard to make some serious noise due to the other teams in the North.

21. Denver Broncos

2017 record: 5-11
Up Next: vs. Seattle Seahawks

The Broncos will once again rely on their defense to carry the team to victories. Von Miller leads a very good defense that should finish as one of the league’s best. Offensively, the Broncos are still looking to find their next star running back. Case Keenum will look to be the franchise’s first stable quarterback since Peyton Manning left Denver, while Devonte Booker and Royce Freeman vie for the starting job at running back. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are good options out wide. Denver has talent, but it is unseen how far this team can go.

20. Seattle Seahawks

2017 record: 9-7
Up Next: @ Denver Broncos

The Seahawks seem to be at a bit of a crossroads. The famed Legion of Boom is no longer. The Rams and 49ers are on the rise, and the Cardinals have one of the best players in the NFL in their backfield. Seattle still has Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin (although the latters’ health is a bit of a question mark). The team hopes rookie running back Rashaad Penny will become their next bell-cow in short order. Seattle could surprise some folks and make a run at the playoffs, but the Super Bowl contending days seem to be over for now.

19. Dallas Cowboys

2017 record: 9-7
Up Next: 
@ Carolina Panthers

The Cowboys have been irrelevant since the Dez Bryant catch-no catch debacle in Green Bay a few seasons ago. Zeke Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL, and is the clear focal point of the offense. Dak Prescott will have to improve in the passing game if the Cowboys want to challenge the Eagles in the East. The offensive line is the best in the league, and the defense is capable of shutting some weaker offensive teams down. Dallas should be right around 8-8 yet again.

18. Washington Redskins

2017 record: 7-9
Up Next: @ Arizona Cardinals

The Redskins offense suffered a serious blow when rookie running back Derrius Guice tore his ACL early in the preseason. Adrian Peterson has since joined the team and should provide some depth to the backfield. Alex Smith is a solid quarterback, and should fir the ‘Skins offense perhaps better than Kirk Cousins ever did. The run defense will need to improve drastically if Washington wants to improve upon its 7-win season a year ago. If the defense improves, Washington has the ability to put a little scare into the Eagles.

17. Detroit Lions

2017 record: 9-7
Up Next: vs. New York Jets

The Lions have the misfortune of sharing a division with the Vikings and Aaron Rodgers. Matthew Stafford has plenty of weapons at his disposal — Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson and Ameer Abdullah. Establishing a consistent running game could go a long way in Detroit making the postseason. The only thing working against the Lions this year is their two divisional rivals.

16. Kansas City Chiefs

2017 record: 10-6
Up Next: @ Los Angeles Chargers

The Chiefs have a chance of making a big jump up the rankings. In Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs possess three electric playmakers. If Patrick Mahomes lives up to his lofty hype, the Chiefs can be a very dangerous team in the AFC. The defense underachieved a season ago, but it isn’t hard to see them improving upon a unit that ranked 28th in total defense. The West will be a competitive division, and the Chiefs seem like the best bet to go toe-to-toe with the Chargers.

15. Baltimore Ravens

2017 record: 9-7
Up Next: vs. Buffalo Bills

If the Ravens want to challenge the Steelers for the AFC North crown, Joe Flacco must perform better in 2018. The additions of Michael Crabtree and John Brown should help Flacco rebound from a dismal campaign last year. Alex Collins and Buck Allen have the potential to be a formidable duo at running back. Unfortunately for the Ravens and tight end Hayden Hurst, the first-round pick is likely to miss two to three games after having surgery for a stress fracture in his foot. The defense is a little older, but still good enough to keep Baltimore in every game. The Ravens will not be a fun team to play.

14. San Francisco 49ers

2017 record: 6-10
Up Next: @ Minnesota Vikings

Jimmy Garoppolo’s arrival late last season was the ushering in of a new era. Garoppolo led the 49ers to five straight wins to end the year, leading many to believe the team has a chance at the playoffs in 2018. Running back Jerick McKinnon is a dynamic presence in the backfield alongside Jimmy G. Kyle Shanahan appears to be the real deal as a head coach, but the 49ers are somewhat bereft of offensive firepower.  With five road games — Vikings, Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, Cardinals — within the first eight weeks, the 49ers have a daunting first half of the season. If they hope to make a run at the NFC West title SF must hope to win at least four of those matchups.

13. Tennessee Titans

2017 record: 9-7
Up Next: @ Miami Dolphins

After winning a road playoff game a season ago, the Titans hope first year coach Mike Vrabel can help propel the franchise further. Joining Vrabel in Tennessee are former Patriots Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler. Lewis, a solid running back, gives the Titans a competent second back alongside Derrick Henry. If Marcus Mariota can take another step forward, the Titans can win the AFC South. They have one of the better defensive units in the league, and the offense has added enough to make the Titans a legit threat.

12. Carolina Panthers

2017 record: 11-5
Up Next: vs. Dallas Cowboys

Playing in arguably the toughest division in football — minus Tampa Bay — the Panthers are a dangerous team. Led by former MVP Cam Newton, the Panthers rushing attack will be tough to deal with. Christian McCaffrey proved to be a dangerous player as a rookie, and should only improve during his second year. If McCaffrey can offer a steady contribution on the ground, the Panthers offense should become especially potent. Led by Luke Kuechly, Carolina’s defense can be dominant. It will be tough for Carolina to match their 11-win season from a year ago, but the Panthers should be players in the playoff race.

11. Houston Texans

2017 record: 4-12
Up Next: @ New England Patriots

Injuries to Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt derailed the Texans 2017 campaign, but with both players set to return to start the year the Texans figure to be a dangerous team in the AFC. Watson was a legitimate MVP candidate before his injury, and we all know the dominant force that Watt has proven to be. A defensive front of Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney is a terrifying proposition. The South will be there for the taking, but the Texans will have to have better luck with injuries this season if they hope to make a run.

10. Green Bay Packers

2017 record: 7-9
Up Next: vs. Chicago Bears

The NFL’s highest-paid player is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is back to full health. The Packers are back to being a problem. As long as Rodgers is the quarterback in Green Bay, the Packers will be a contender. The path to the playoffs is an arduous one, but a Rodgers-led team can never be counted out. The Vikings remain the favorite in the NFC North, but the Packers should be among the top teams in the conference.

9. Atlanta Falcons

2017 record: 10-6
Up Next: @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Falcons enter the season as a trendy Super Bowl pick, but their first five games could end up being crucial to their chances of making the playoffs — @ Philadelphia, vs. Carolina, vs. New Orleans, vs. Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh. If the Falcons manage to win three of those contests, the rest of their schedule sets up nicely for the team to make a run. The offense took a step back without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays, but they have too much talent to linger in mediocrity. Defensively, the Falcons will want to create more turnovers than they did last year. Atlanta should contend with the Panthers and Saints for the South crown.

8. Los Angeles Chargers

2017 record: 9-7
Up Next: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The rest of the AFC was thankful the Chargers missed the playoffs last year. After starting the season 0-4, the Bolts went on a 9-3 tear. They enter the new season as the favorite in a competitive West. Philip Rivers has a bevy of dangerous weapons — Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Mike Williams — and their defense is one of the best in the league. Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Casey Hayward lead a unit that will be stout against the run and pass again this season. If the Bolts can find a reliable kicker (four losses were by three or fewer points), they will be a tough team to beat.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 record: 13-3
Up Next: @ Cleveland Browns

Until Le’Veon Bell decides to show up at Pittsburgh camp fans will be on the edge of their seats. Bell would leave too much money on the table by sitting out games, making it unlikely he doesn’t play in Week 1. In Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have one of the most talented trios of all-time. The offense will have no problem putting up enough points to win,  but the defense may be a hindrance. Replacing Ryan Shazier is a huge task. The Steelers defense was never the same after Shazier’s injury a season ago, and will need to compensate for his loss if they want to advance further in the playoffs. The AFC is not as strong as the NFC, making the road to the Super Bowl a little easier for the Steelers.

6. New Orleans Saints

2017 record: 11-5
Up Next: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A miracle play kept the Saints out of the NFC Championship last season, and they begin 2018 as one of the lead contenders to make a run at the Super Bowl. The Saints offense is potent. Led by Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Mark Ingram — once he returns from suspension — the New Orleans attack is amongst the best in the league. Cameron Jordan is one of the best defensive players in the league, and Marshon Lattimore is poised to join him among the elite. The Saints will be a team nobody will want to play.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

2017 record: 10-6
Up Next: @ New York Giants

After a surprising run to the AFC Championship last season — a game which they should have won — the Jaguars should once again be one of the top teams in the AFC. The Jags defense is absolutely terrifying. Perhaps the best collection of defenders since Seattle’s Legion of Boom, Jacksonville can win a lot of games strictly due to their defense. If Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette can buoy a better offense, we may be looking at the new king of the AFC.

4. Minnesota Vikings

2017 record: 13-3
Up Next: vs. San Francisco 49ers

Another team with a clear defensive edge, the Vikings have the look of a true Super Bowl contender. The Vikings are loaded at every level defensively, and many believe the addition of Kirk Cousins at quarterback will be a boost for the offense. Cousins, a healthy Dalvin Cook, and a good group of receivers puts Minnesota’s offense amongst the best in the conference. The North isn’t the easiest division, but the Vikings should be a factor come January.

3. Los Angeles Rams

2017 record: 11-5
Up Next: @ Oakland Raiders

The Rams were the biggest winners of the offseason. Not satisfied with just advancing to the playoffs, the Rams swung for the fences this offseason. The Rams made trades for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, adding immense talent to their secondary. Brandin Cooks was also brought in to replace Sammy Watkins and give Coach Sean McVay a new toy to play with. If a defensive line featuring Aaron Donald wasn’t intimidating enough, the Rams added Ndamukong Suh. With Todd Gurley and Jared Goff leading the way offensively, and the defense being full of stars, the Rams are thinking Super Bowl or bust.

2. New England Patriots

2017 record: 13-3
Up Next: vs. Houston Texans

As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick roam the halls at Foxboro, the Patriots will be the favorite to win the AFC. Although the end of the road may be close, the Patriots have to enter the season as the pick to reach the Super Bowl. Rob Gronkowski remains the league’s best tight end. Brady is one of the two best quarterbacks — Aaron Rodgers being the other — and Belichick is the best coach in the league. Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, and a few other teams will have a shot at dethroning the Patriots, but until that happens, its the Pats conference to lose.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

2017 record: 13-3
Up Next: vs. Atlanta Falcons

The defending champions come in at No. 1. There is a lot to like about this team. Carson Wentz will be back sooner than later. Michael Bennett has joined the roster to add to an already stacked defensive line. Philadelphia have tons of talent on both sides of the ball. The only thing that may work against the Eagles is the dreaded ‘Super Bowl hangover’. Until someone knocks them off, the Eagles have earned the top spot.

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