Week 1 Power Rankings With How Each Team Could Succeed
Whilst being part of the Gents every year, I’ve put up my pre-season power rankings. This year I wanted to do something different and give a reason how every team could reach the Super bowl or completely fall apart. Despite being a lot of fun, an evening project became a week long project and became somewhat, epic.
So let’s get straight into it. As always if you want to let us know what you think, hit us up @gridirongents on twitter.
They could reach the Super bowl by… A lot going better than anyone expects. For starters Kirk Cousins will have to be more Alex Smith than Brian Hoyer and Alfred Morris will have to have his best season. The defence has some new pieces and all of them will have to play considerably better than their grade. Finally we’d need to see Jay Gruden act like a head coach. Something we’re yet to see.
It could all go wrong if… Well if they carry on the way they’re going. Kirk Cousins has looked better than RG3, but he’s still not looked great. The offensive line seems to have more holes than a golf course and the defence whilst definitely improved, still is pretty bad. The biggest issues come from the front office though, throughout the off season they’ve done nothing but contradict each other. This is a massively disconnected team, with huge communication issues.
31) CHICAGO BEARS
They could win the Super bowl if… Well if all the moves they’ve made over summer work immediately, then maybe they could be successful. Maybe the front 7 has been crying out for a new system. Maybe Adam Gase can immediately turn round the fortunes of Jay Cutler. Maybe this team can win games against Green Bay, Seattle and Arizona in their 1st 3 weeks.
It could all go wrong if… I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as going wrong, but they are definitely up against it. The front 7 will no doubt take time to get used to a 3-4 system. A new offensive coordinator means a new playbook for Jay, with only Trestman seeming to have an immediate effect on Cutler in the past. Then there’s the injuries. Jeffrey, comes into the season hurt, left tackle Jermon Bushrod is hurt and 1st round pick Kevin White will definitely miss a chunk of the season having missed all of pre-season. Finally the opening half of the season is brutal, with games against, Green Bay, Seattle, Arizona, and Detroit, Kansas all before their bye week. It could be a long season for the Bears.
30) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
They could win the Super bowl if… Jameis Winston has an immediate effect. If Winston can work well with large targets like Jackson, Evans and Seferian- Jenkins then they could put up some serious points. The defence would have to look like the 2006 Chicago Bears too (there’s certainly enough ex-Bears on that team). Finally we’d probably need to hide Lovie’s challenge flag…
It could all go wrong if… Jameis spends the season in a crumpled heap behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The secondary last year was woeful too. If they’re as bad as they were last year they’ll lose games in massive shootouts. Finally if we don’t take Lovie’s challenge flag…
29) CLEVELAND BROWNS
They could win the Super bowl if… One word. MANZIEL. Yes if a newly reformed Johnny ‘not football’ steps in and plays the last 10 games putting in the QB performances they’ve been desperate for, who knows. Okay that was kind of tongue in cheek, but this team weren’t a million miles away from a playoff spot last year. To get to the Super bowl they need their defence to step up and keep scores low. If they can do this, Crowell and Johnson behind one of the best offensive lines in the league could sneak them to the playoff and beyond.
It could all go wrong if… erm they’re the Browns. If the Browns secondary suffer a few injuries, they become quite easy to throw on. If they can’t keep the score down they’ll struggle. Plus, let’s be honest… they don’t have an ideal wide receiver corps for a Super bowl run.
28) CAROLINA PANTHERS
They could win the Super bowl if… Cam Newton can stay upright and hit Funchess… a lot. The defence is excellent and should keep scores low, at which point they just need the offence to move the ball.
It could all go wrong if… the line collapses, actually both offensive and defensive lines. the offensive line looked woeful for 2/3 of the season last year and really they’ve done little to improve this, which is a potential worry with an injury prone QB and running back. The defensive line will be relying on the likes of Kony Ealy to create pressure and simply don’t look like the same line as they did a few years ago. The defence is definitely talented but they’ll need to keep the score really low to go an offence light on weapons a chance.
27) HOUSTON TEXANS
They could win the Super bowl if… The defence becomes the best in the league, meaning Clowney needs to be the player they were hoping for and Cushing needs to stay healthy. Foster needs to only miss a handful of games and Hoyer needs a connection with DeAndre Hopkins, similar to that of Schaub and Johnson. The offence basically needs to step up.
It could all go wrong if… Foster misses more than a month, Hoyer suffers the same drop off as last year and injuries hit the defence. If the defence collapses, this team will struggle.
26) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
They could win the Super bowl if… Blake Bortles becomes one of the league’s great QBs. A lot of if’s on this team. So if they can put together a solid defence and if their wide receivers have a good season and if TJ Yeldon can live up to the hype, they should be pretty good.
It could all go wrong if… They can’t get a pass rush going. Dante Fowler Jr was meant to be the difference maker here, but he went down injured for the season. On offence the questions surrounding Blake Bortles work both ways. If he plays like he did during last season rather than this (and last) pre-season, then they’re running on the spot and Gus Bradley might be looking for another team.
25) ST LOUIS RAMS
They could win the Super bowl if… All their draft picks work. If Gurley can get and stay healthy, behind their newly rebuilt offensive line and Foles can take advantage of Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin’s unique skill sets, whilst the defence can play to the level they did last year. This could be a very good team.
It could all go wrong if… Gurley can’t get healthy. Also if Foles plays as average as it is believed he will with limited weapons. The Rams could be hoping for 7-9 at best this year.
24) TENNESSEE TITANS
They could win the Super bowl if… All their new pieces work. This is an offence that will live and die by their offensive line. If they play better than they did last year then Mariota, Sankey and West could move the ball pretty well. On defence they’ll need to move on from last year’s disappointing transition to a 3-4 which could be helped by the addition of Dick Lebeau to the coaching staff.
It could go wrong if… Dick Lebeau and Ray Horton butt heads on defence. Whilst they both run 3-4 defences, they are both very different. On offence we’ve really seen nothing from their weapons to suggest they could be ‘go-to’ guys for Mariota.
23) OAKLAND RAIDERS
They could win the Super bowl if… Derek Carr takes a step forward from being just a guy and can do some good in the redzone. Amari Cooper needs to live up to the hype and mimic OBJ. Khalil Mack needs to step up to become one of the league’s top pass rushers and inspire the entire defence to play lights out. Jack Del Rio needs to prove he’s the answer to a lot of Oakland fans questions. Whatever happens, I think this team improves.
It could go wrong if… They play like the Raiders. I have this slight fear too that Derek Carr will take a significant step backwards despite the addition of Amari Cooper. I mean really we didn’t see him do anything massively special last year, we were just glad he wasn’t JaMarcus Russell.
22) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
They could win the Super bowl if… Drew Brees can make it work with his new weapons. Brees is lining up behind a newly revamped offensive line with Max Unger, a healthy Brandin Cooks and an excellent trio of running backs that can all catch the ball out of the back field.
It could go wrong if… The defence stinks as much as it feels like it will. Last year they were woeful and the loss of Junior Galette and with Keenan Lewis missing a month of play means they aren’t going into the season in the best state.
21) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
They could win the Super bowl if… Navorro Bowman can lead an almost entirely new look defence to success. A lot of rookies will be expected to fill in, in slots left by some very talented players. The Niners will need Jim Tomsula to inspire the team to run through a wall for him. Finally Kaepernick will need to become a more accurate passer, especially with a target like Torrey Smith who has serious issues dropping passes.
It could go wrong if… This team can’t overcome the vast exodus of players they suffered in the off season. On offence there is a real chance that without Gore they might struggle. Vernon Davis looked like a different player last year; if that continues and Kaepernick continues to be a little ‘tuck and run’ happy they could really struggle to move the ball.
20) NEW YORK GIANTS
They could win the Super bowl if… This is a Giants team led by a QB that has been written off several times and yet has won the Super bowl twice. This could easily be the most talented offence he’s had to work with, a year into an effective system that Manning finally got his head around. With OBJ, Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, they could have the most talented group of weapons in the league.
It could go wrong if… Not having a pair of starting safeties is an issue. Which it is. On defence in general this team is pretty weak. In the years they’ve won Super bowl they’ve been able to create defensive pressure by rushing just 4. This year it doesn’t feel like that would be possible.
19) ATLANTA FALCONS
They could win the Super bowl if… Dan Quinn can work his magic on a weak defence, get the most of players like Desmond Trufant and Brooks Reed. On offence they need the running back pairing of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to help Ryan move the ball.
It could go wrong if… The offensive line is as bad as it was last year, for which there is no indication that it won’t be. There’s also a chance that the defence might struggle to adjust to what Dan Quinn wants to do. This is a team that is definite work in progress.
18) NEW YORK JETS
They could win the Super bowl if… Whoever ends up at starting QB can make the most of the likes of Marshall and Decker, then the offence might do enough to win games, so long as the new look Todd Bowles defence can keep the score down. The Jets need the entirely revamped secondary to play to their full potential.
It could go wrong if… their offence can’t move the ball, which is a definite possibility. The QB situation is frankly a mess. Fitzpatrick isn’t particularly reliable and Geno has proved to be a total liability.
17) BUFFALO BILLS
They could win the Super bowl if… LeSean McCoy can recapture some of his 2013 glory. For this to really work though they’ll need the defence to play to their full potential and keep the score low.
It could go wrong if… The QB battle that took all summer ends with Tyrod Taylor completely failing to move the ball. Also there is a real chance that LeSean McCoy just doesn’t get healthy this year. The offence could fail to make this team relevant.
16) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
They could win the Super bowl if… Philip Rivers lives up to his new contract. Rivers last year was excellent in the 1st half of the season, MVP worthy in fact. However he really dropped off towards the end of the year. Melvin Gordon should help take the pressure off a little and could be a much needed piece for the Chargers. The defence could really benefit from a fully fit secondary with Verrett, Flowers and Weddle all set to start.
It could go wrong if… They can’t get over the gaps on this team. The offensive line is still a mess and Keenan Allen is still yet prove himself as a stand out target. There’s also a chance that the Melvin Gordon pick up might backfire (can anyone say Trent Richardson).
15) CINCINNATI BENGALS
They could win the Super bowl if… They take the next step. Win a playoff game. This has become a huge issue now. If they can simply get past the 1st stage, momentum could carry them to the big game. They have the talent in almost every area. Almost.
It could go wrong if… They have the same year they’ve had for the last 4. There is a very real chance that it’s time to move from Dalton to McCarron if Dalton can’t get it done. If it does go wrong, we could see a head coach and a QB out of a job.
14) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
They could win the Super bowl if… It turns out that Jeremy Maclin was the missing piece. There is a chance that an ability to stretch the field is exactly what this team needs after a season of scoring no touchdowns at receiver. For this to work though they need another strong season on defence, potentially with Justin Houston finally breaking that sack record.
It could go wrong if… Alex Smith can’t take advantage of his wide receivers. Alex Smith needs more than 7 yards per completion to make this team relevant, otherwise they end up in the playoffs against a team that can throw all over them like the Colts. Smith could be just good enough to take them to mediocrity and that is a problem.
13) DETROIT LIONS
They could win the Super bowl if… That defence can look just as good as last year minus Ndamukong Suh, which is a tough ask. Ameer Abdullah needs to be the player he’s been hyped up to be and become part of a triple threat in the backfield. This offence is loaded, so they just need Stafford to perform.
It could all go wrong if… Well, Stafford doesn’t perform. There comes a point where, like Cutler, Dalton and Smith, an average QB just isn’t enough. Stafford has a chance to turn it around, but he simply needs to look past his number 1 receiver.
12) DALLAS COWBOYS
They could win the Super bowl if… It does turn out that literally anyone could run behind their offensive line. They also need their defence to perform as well as last year, a year they had been written off as one of the worst defences of all time, but were saved by some Marinelli magic. Finally Romo and Dez need to be as good as last year. If they can do that, not only could this team win a Super bowl, but Dez will establish himself as the out and out number 1 receiver in the league.
It could all go wrong if… They can’t run the ball, which is looking pretty likely with their current backfield. There are concerns in the secondary too. The loss of Orlando Scandrick is pretty huge, leaving them to rely on rookie Byron Jones, ex-1st round pick Morris Claiborne and huge free agent signing Brandon Carr, of which the last 2 have been something of a disappointment.
11) ARIZONA CARDINALS
They could win the Super bowl if… Carson Palmer stays healthy. Injuries destroyed the team last year and by the time they reached the playoffs they were exhausted, with a 3rd string QB leading the team. This year they need a little luck on their side. As good as they were at overcoming injuries; they couldn’t possibly win the Super bowl without key players.
It could all go wrong if… The loss of Todd Bowles turns out to be a huge blow for this defence. The scheme the Cards used last year was fairly unique, utilising big defensive backs to fill in for line-backers, making them a perfect defence to counteract fast paced, no huddle offences that don’t allow personnel changes. No Todd Bowles means we might see some slight defensive changes that stops them being quite so dominant.
10) MIAMI DOLPHINS
They could win the Super bowl if… They take the next step forward. Tannehill needs to become an elite curator of what is now a complete offence, running the Bill Lazor/ Chip Kelly offence. The defence will almost certainly do their job, so really it’s up to the offence to keep up.
It could all go wrong if… Joe Philbin continues to make stupid mistakes. The writing’s on the wall for Philbin. If he makes even the slightest mistake, you have to think the Dolphins will be looking for another head coach and the Dolphins will miss out on the best chance they’ve had to win a Super bowl in a very long time.
9) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
They could win the Super bowl if… I’m wrong about this team. They have an awful lot of new talent; there is no denying that, also you know, that Andrew Luck fella is a bit good. To be considered as a Super bowl contender however, they need the defence to step up.
It could all go wrong if… The offensive and defensive line don’t improve. My issue with this team is that, whilst they made some big moves in the off season, it doesn’t feel like they made the right moves. The offensive line was poor last year and I can’t see where they’ve really improved. the defensive line isn’t greatly improved, an area where they got burned in the post season last year, so as good as they’re new weapons, If they don’t improve in the trenches, they won’t make it to the Super bowl.
8) MINNESOTA VIKINGS
They could win the Super bowl if… They play to the level that hype has elevated them to. Seriously though this is the “dream team” Eagles all over again and yet I’m totally on board. This team has talent in nearly every area. The defence has quietly become one of the best in the league. They were good towards the end last year. Now they have one of the all-time great running backs, back. This team could be very good.
It could all go wrong if… They ARE the “dream team” Eagles. My biggest concern on this team is entirely based around the offensive line. Last year Teddy Bridgewater did a great job being relevant despite being under constant pressure. Phil Loadholt is an important piece that went out with a torn pectoral muscle last season. This year before the seasons even started he’s done for the season, meaning rookie, TJ Clemmings has to come in and start immediately. The biggest question mark however surrounds left tackle, Matt Kalil, who played poorly last year through an injury. He needs to be better this year or this team won’t live up to expectations.
7) DENVER BRONCOS
They could win the Super bowl if… Peyton can still play like Peyton. If Peyton’s drop off last season was down to injury, this team could easily make the Super bowl. The defence looks better than ever and using Von Miller in a more traditional 3-4 role will see him challenging for the all-time sack record. In the Wade Phillips defence, he will be Demarcus Ware, although Demarcus Ware will actually also be on the team. This team has a lot of talent and if the aging QB still has something left in the tank; this is one of the AFC’s best teams.
It could all go wrong if… it turns out Peyton should have retired. There is a little more too this team, but if Peyton can’t throw, they’re in trouble. Now the big issue really is that Peyton struggle to make plays and he’s playing behind an offensive line that’s made a few big changes. This could be a recipe for disaster. If Peyton can’t get it done, it might fall to Brock Osweiler to move the ball, which could be a problem.
6) PITTSBURGH STEELERS
They could win the Super bowl if… This offence is as good as we all think they’ll be. This team has talent at every area. At wide receiver they’ve let go of Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders and still managed to retain one of the best receiver corps in the league. Then there’s LeVeon Bell, who bears a remarkable resemblance to the great Walter Payton in his running style and I think is the best running back in the league. Then there’s the QB, who showed flashes of brilliance last year, including a game where he performed nearly perfectly. This offence is exceptional and could be the reason we see them in a Super bowl.
It could all go wrong if… The defence can’t keep up. Whilst the offence is set to make a big run, it feels like the defence is still in transition after losing some big names. Keith Butler will be under a lot of pressure as he takes over the defensive coordinator job from the legendary Dick LeBeau. I have serious concerns about some of the individual players on this unit too. For example, Ryan Shazier is a player I like. However he’s not without flaws. Last year, whilst he was healthy he got manhandled by tight ends. Basically this isn’t the Steelers of old. They will have to rely on the offence to keep the score up if they’re going to make it big in the post season.
5) BALTIMORE RAVENS
They could win the Super bowl if… Every unit can perform. Probably my biggest surprise on this list, but I think they might have one of the most complete teams in the league. The offensive line is one of the best in the league with an angry Steve Smith and Justin Forsett who had a breakout season last year. The defence look incredible. Loaded up front and at line-backer, despite losing Ngata. In the secondary the addition of Kendrick Lewis went under the radar, but is the final piece of a loaded defence.
It could all go wrong if… The receivers become a problem. When you look over this roster it is near perfect. Except at receiver. This team is relying on a rookie (who is currently injured) and an aging great, who is entering his last year at receiver. Other than that they’ve got Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro and Marlon Brown. Not ideal. Also without Kubiak, there is a chance the offence might drop off. Despite a couple of years in Chicago, I don’t feel like we learnt a whole lot about Marc Trestman, if he can’t get this offence moving in a division with the Steelers they might struggle.
4) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
They could win the Super bowl if… If it turns out that Chip Kelly is a genius and as a result completely changes the course of the sport. Okay, maybe that was going too far, but this team does look rather good. On offence they’ve got an ex-number 1 pick in a QB friendly system. Yes he is injury prone, but he has a brace of running backs that could walk into nearly every team as a starter and an amazing offensive line. For me it goes under the radar just how good that defence can be. Last year they struggled, this year they’ve added a few pieces that should help put the ball in Sam Bradford’s hands. Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond and Kiko Alonso, all fit in perfectly to make this a solid unit. Finally, I love their special teams and the addition of Nelson Agholor could make a huge difference.
It could all go wrong if… The speed of the offence has a negative effect on the defence. This isn’t a team that relies on their defence in the same way as the Bills, Jets and Texans, but they do need them to be fighting fit, which they won’t be if the offence moves as quickly as it did last year. The average time on the field per drive for the Eagles last year was 2:06, which ranks them 32nd in the league. It wasn’t like they weren’t scoring points though. They were just doing it quickly. This meant the defence has the smallest amount of time in the league to rest. This could be a huge problem for this team and the final stumbling block for this system to transfer over to the NFL.
3) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
They could win the Super bowl if… Everything is identical to last year, bar one play. Okay that seems a little obvious, but this is clearly an exceptional team. Now they’ve got Chris Matthews, Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett, meaning if they’re in a shootout, they can stay competitive. With contracts tied up for most of their important players the spine is there for this team to keep on rolling and they should be competitive for many years. This is a team with dynasty potential.
It could all go wrong if… The secondary finally suffers a drop off. So the ‘Legion of Boom’ have lost a few players over the last few years. Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell are all recurring characters on a unit that’s full of stars. My concern though is that with the loss of Byron Maxwell, maybe they’ve finally lost 1 piece too many. If you go back and watch the Super bowl, the big turning point in the game, is when Jeremy Lane goes down injured and Tharold Simon is forced to come in and play slot against Edelman, who then proceeded to have a good game. They have added players, but it is by no means the same unit, especially with potential contract issues over Kam Chancellor.
2) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
They could win the Super bowl if… They keep being the Patriots. The talk this off season has been about the loss of 3 starting calibre cornerbacks, one of which could be the best in the league. Now the season we are on the verge of the season starting and I genuinely believe the talk will move to the Patriots having one of the best front 7s in the league. If anyone wants to ask why I didn’t move them lower, the simple answer is I did… to 2. I can never write off this team and as good as Gronk was last year, it feels like he’s just getting started.
It could all go wrong if… A lack of Revis and depth at running back, actually is an issue. I mean, there is no denying that they’ve taken a step down at corner, Malcolm Butler secured a number 1 corner spot on the back 1 excellent performance. Logan Ryan has generally been a backup, now he’s taking over from Brandon Browner. The Patriots beaten up receiver corps could also be a big issue, but you know, they’re the Patriots.
1) GREEN BAY PACKERS
They could win the Super bowl if… They don’t collapse in the NFC Championship game. If the Packers had gone to last year’s Super bowl, I think they win that game. Now it’s a new season and the Packers managed to keep pretty much the same personnel minus a couple of corners that they instantly replaced in the draft. Even without Jordy this offence is could be the best in the league, with Rodgers looking like the kind of QB that can turn anyone into a superstar. On defence they’ve got a solid unit who can keep the score manageable. It’s by no means the best defence but they should be fine. Basically if Rodgers stays fit they’re Super bowl contenders
It could go wrong if… Rodgers doesn’t stay fit. It could happen, I mean, it has happened. But really that’s all that could slow them down.
That’s it. 32 teams and how they could both succeed or fail horrifically, enjoy the season!