The NFL Preseason is in the rear view mirror, with Week 1 kicking off on Thursday as Carolina travels to Denver as -3 road favorites. Here’s how I have all 32 teams ranked heading into the regular season.
1. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton and Carolina’s offense are poised to rank among the most potent attacks in the NFL. Watch out for the Funchess/Benjamin WR duo!
2. Seattle Seahawks - Russell Wilson gave an MVP caliber performance in 2015, but his ability to repeat that effort could be stunted by the Seahawks offensive line woes.
3. Green Bay Packers - The Packers come out of camp with a full complement of healthy weapons for Aaron Rodgers, good news after Rodgers numbers took a big hit without Jordy Nelson last year.
4. Arizona Cardinals - Arizona returns just about every key player on both sides of the ball from a team that ranked among the NFL’s elite in 2015.
5. New England Patriots - If Tom Brady was at quarterback, this team would be ranked #1. But with Jimmy Garappolo behind center, the Pats take a modest tumble in my rankings.
6. Kansas City Chiefs - Andy Reid’s squad sure isn’t getting much hype for a team that won 11 straight games down the stretch last year , rebounding with a vengeance following their 1-5 start.
7. Cincinnati Bengals - Without offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and WRs Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu, can Andy Dalton finish as the #2 rated QB in the NFL again?
8. Pittsburgh Steelers - Pittsburgh’s power rating must adjust for the suspensions of Le’Veon Bell (short term) and Martavis Bryant (long term), two impact weapons for Big Ben.
9. Denver Broncos - Gary Kubiak’s squad won the Super Bowl last year despite playing with an ancient, noodle armed quarterback. Yet they still feel much weaker in ’16 with Trevor Siemian at QB.
10. Minnesota Vikings - I understand that Shaun Hill probably wasn’t the answer for a full season. That being said, if Sam Bradford actually takes snaps for the Vikes, this ranking could decline precipitously.
11. Dallas Cowboys - Dak Prescott was your classic rookie star in August, lighting up second and third string defenders in passive packages. How will he fare on opening day vs. Steve Spagnuolo’s blitzes?
12. New York Jets - The Jets will be underdogs in each of their first six games, facing a truly brutal opening slate – five of their opponents rank among my Top 8 NFL teams heading into the season.
13. Washington Redskins - The Redskins' signature win in 2015’s nine win campaign came against the 8-8 Buffalo Bills and this year, they’ll be facing a first place schedule, not a last place one.
14. Houston Texans - The Texans two most important players in the trenches—sackmeister JJ Watt and left tackle Duane Brown – were activated from the PUP list, primed to suit up on opening day.
15. Indianapolis Colts - The Colts arguably had the worst preseason of any team in the NFL, dealing with significant injury woes that are expected to linger into Week 1 and beyond.
16. Baltimore Ravens - Last season’s injury riddled debacle resulted in the first losing season for Baltimore in the nine year John Harbaugh era.
17. Oakland Raiders - Oakland hasn’t won nine games since Rich Gannon retired, but the Raiders are lined at 8.5 wins heading into 2016, needing nine victories to cash an over bet.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Under Lovie Smith, the Bucs had the best statistical showing of any NFL team with a losing record in 2015, outgaining foes on a yards-per-play basis by more than the Panthers or Patriots!
19. Buffalo Bills - Rex Ryan’s solution to fix a defense that plummeted downwards in every statistical category last year? Hire his brother – architect of the worst D in the NFL in 2015 – as his new coordinator.
20. New York Giants - The Giants passing game is loaded with question marks, starting with oft-injured WR Victor Cruz. Cruz has only 337 receiving yards and one TD since 2013!
21. Detroit Lions - Without the retired Calvin Johnson to fixate on, reports out of Detroit are suggesting that Matthew Stafford and the Lions passing game could get better, spreading the ball around
22. Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons were the biggest enigma of the 2015 campaign; good enough to be the only team to beat Carolina in the regular season, but bad enough to lose to the Saints twice and the 49es.
23. San Diego Chargers - The Chargers have the best QB in the division in Philip Rivers, but they are still projected by the betting markets to finish in last place for the second consecutive season.
24. Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins aren’t short on overall talent if Ryan Tannehill can find his mojo working under "QB whisperer" Adam Gase and his impressive young staff.
25. Chicago Bears - Head coach John Fox took the Panthers and the Broncos to the Super Bowl in his second year in each city. That ain’t happening in Chicago with Jay Cutler playing behind a suspect OL.
26. Los Angeles Rams - This past offseason, Jeff Fisher became the first NFL head coach to keep his job following four consecutive losing seasons since Fisher did it back in the 90’s with the Oilers/Titans.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars - If Blake Bortles can avoid the red zone meltdowns that have plagued his early NFL career, the Jaguars are live to move up these rankings in a hurry…..
28. New Orleans Saints - On paper, the Saints don’t look much better than the team that has gone 7-9 three times in the last four years, and QB Drew Brees just keeps getting older.
29. Philadelphia Eagles - GM Howie Roseman is doing everything he can to undo Chip Kelly’s myriad of roster moves as the team looks to adjust back to a more conventional style of play.
30. Tennessee Titans - The Titans power running game blew opponents off the ball in the preseason. If that translates to September, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry are both primed for big seasons.
31. Cleveland Browns - Cleveland’s offense might not be too bad – there’s at least some hope for RG3 and his receiving corps. The Browns defense, however, looked positively woeful in August.
32. San Francisco 49ers - I debated long and hard whether to rank the Browns or 49ers dead last. San Fran got the nod for worst team in the league because at least there’s hope for the future in Cleveland.
Find Teddy’s picks and write-ups at Sportsmemo.com. Follow him on Twitter @teddy_covers.