The 2017 NFL Season is finally here. After one month of praying for an absence of major injuries, there’s a real NFL contest this week, on Thursday, when the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (3/1 favorites to repeat) host the Kansas City Chiefs. Where does the rest of the league stand? Well, on separate, lower tiers. Giddy up!
NFL Week One Power Rankings: The Ugly, Bad, Good, Pretty Good, and the Patriots
GRAB SOME PEPTO BISMOL
32. New York Jets
Kudos to GM Mike Maccagnan for flipping Sheldon Richardson into a second-round pick in ‘18 and WR Jermaine Kearse. Over/Under is Week 6 on Jets fans with signs bearing “JETS: Just End This Season.”
31. Cleveland Browns
There’s reasons for optimism, such as DE Myles Garrett and an improved offensive line. They may not win more than four games but ought to be a live underdog.
30. San Francisco 49ers
They’re just not very good at any positional group. Five wins would be an achievement. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants offer no happy distraction from the wreckage this year.
.500 WOULD BE NICE
29. Chicago Bears
The Bears have the talent to spring a dozen spots upwards but the schedule makers apparently don’t want to see it anytime soon: opener vs. ATL, @TB, vs. PIT, @GB. Perhaps John Fox lets Mike Glennon get devoured then brings in Mitch Trubisky for a taste.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
The defense looks formidable. Meanwhile, Blake Bortles’ next ill-advised pick-6 might be his last as the Jaguars’ starter.
27. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is out for the opener and possibly longer as his recovery continues from a torn labrum in his shoulder. Without Luck they’re toast and with him they’re still just okay with a bad defense in an improved division.
26. Buffalo Bills
They can certainly rush the football but the Bills are weak in the secondary and at receiver following the Sammy Watkins’ trade. Put another way, the Patriots are going to hang 50-plus on this squad.
25. Los Angeles Rams
No more Jeff Fisher to kick around. Precocious first-year head coach Sean McVay has a work-in-progress in Jared Goff at QB, not a great O-Line, and a strong front seven but they need Aaron Donald back immediately.
BUCKLE UP, FOLKS
24. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins overachieved their way into a playoffs spot in ‘16 and probably won’t be going back his year. But if head coach Adam Gase can pull it off with a Jay Cutler/Matt Moore-led offense and a mediocre defense, he’s better than we thought.
24. Detroit Lions
Here’s your NFC version of the Dolphins, masters of the fourth quarter comebacks in ‘16. But regression is a bitch and now they’re missing starting left tackle Taylor Decker to a shoulder injury for at least six weeks.
22. New Orleans Saints
A horrific or bad defense has wasted the twilight of Drew Brees’ excellence since 2012, with four 7-9 seasons over that span. This defense adds a top CB in Marshon Lattimore but last year’s top corner Delvin Breax hit the IR.
PLAYOFFS BUBBLE BUBBLE
21. Los Angeles Chargers
New city, new head coach, bad offensive line, same Philip Rivers and an improving defense. They’re last season’s reverse-Lions that suffered repeated late-game meltdowns. In a tough AFC West, they might be able to push for a Wild Card.
20. Washington Redskins
Only the Redskins could spin such a weird situation at QB. Nevertheless the offense should put up points, despite turnover at the starting WR spots. But the lack of a pass rush will make life difficult in a loaded NFC East.
19. Philadelphia Eagles
An overhauled WR corps(Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith) should help Carson Wentz take a step forward, and a fierce front seven should keep the pressure off the offense. But the schedule is tough with four games on the road in the first six weeks (@WAS, @KC, @LAC, @CAR) and home dates versus the Giants and Cardinals.
18. Cincinnati Bengals
Better health and fresh blood at the skill position has them primed for a bounce back but not if the defense can’t generate more pressure. The loss to suspension, once again, of linebacker Vontaze Burfict doesn’t help matters.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco is hurrying to return from a back injury (disc issue) because one game started by Ryan Mallet is too many. There’s 7 teams in this tier and Baltimore can compete with any of ‘em. The defense will decide their fate.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Good cornerbacks, pretty bad safeties. The Bucs will be playing in many games with very high totals.
15. Houston Texans
The return of J.J. Watt makes this front seven pretty damn scary. How long until Deshaun Watson takes over for Tom Savage? At least the Brock Osweiler experiment is over.
14. Denver Broncos
From what I’ve read, I’m higher on the Broncos than most. Two new offensive tackles and a more seasoned Trevor Siemian should help lift the defensive-led Broncos back into contention.
13. Carolina Panthers
Likewise, I think the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 opponent is on the up and should press the Falcons for the NFC South crown. In fact, I think they win it, although the offensive line is a bit worrisome.
12. Arizona Cardinals
Here’s one more bounce back squad. Some key losses like Calais Campbell doesn’t help but this is still a talented bunch that should have one more good ride with Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer.
PROBABLY IN THE PLAYOFFS
11. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikes’ wet paper bag offensive line of ‘16 can’t get worse (it added two new tackles), which ought to allow Sam Bradford time to go vertical with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. And more balance there will benefit the defense, which remains a strong unit.
10. Tennessee Titans
Turns out “exotic smashmouth” suits them quite well. They went to the draft and free agency to find wide receiver help in Corey Davis and Eric Decker and another cornerback (Adoree’ Jackson). A team on the rise.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
The window is still open but the ceiling remains capped by Alex Smith’s limitations. But rookie QB Patrick Mahomes probably won’t take many snaps this year.
8. Oakland Raiders
After a sad conclusion to an otherwise excellent ‘16, the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders infuse a pair of rookies into the front seven for a defense that needs to show improvement (especially in the secondary) to compete deep into January.
7. Dallas Cowboys
Zeke or no Zeke (for six games), this offense will steamroll and clock-kill, while defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli again has to spin a good defense out of average talent.
6. New York Giants
The defense should once again be a terror and New York improved at the skill positions by signing Brandon Marshall and grabbing tight end Evan Engram in the draft. But Eli Manning’s arm strength and accuracy is waning and the offensive line may again struggle to give him a clean pocket.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Bless their hearts, how does a team emotionally recover from a Super Bowl meltdown like that? The loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan won’t help and I expect the Falcons will slip down a tier soon.
4. Green Bay Packers
Last year proved that Aaron Rodgers is worth about 7 points on the spread and he just got a nice new weapon on offense with Martellus Bennett. The Pack reloaded in the secondary and running back stable in the draft, both weaknesses in ‘16.
3. Seattle Seahawks
A healthy Earl Thomas and Russell Wilson is going to remind the NFC that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle. And the addition of DT Sheldon Richardson is an acknowledgement that the map could be changing.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
The return of Martavis Bryant and addition of CB Joe Haden turns a very good team into a scary one. Pittsburgh is going to rain points and they’re very well stocked now at every level of the defense, plus they’ve got a Watt (rookie linebacker T.J. Watt).
THE FAVORITE, YET AGAIN
1. New England Patriots
Don’t crown their asses just yet, but, they are certainly the team to beat and I don’t envision much movement from them atop this list. As ever it helps that the AFC East truly stinks.