Welcome to part two of E2G’s inaugural way-too-early power rankings for the NFL season. With the draft in our rearview let’s take a look at where all 32 teams stand heading into OTAs and minicamps.
Each team had the opportunity to make an impact on their rosters in free agency and the draft over the last few months. The Patriots were the talk of the free agency period, but were they able to push themselves into the top ten? With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers are a top-five NFL team, but where do they fall if he doesn’t play this season?
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 10, 2021
In a quarterback-driven league, teams with steady signal-callers tend to dominate power rankings. So, if your team’s quarterback situation is murky, their ranking may be as well!
Now, without further ado, let’s get right to it!
16. Chicago Bears
Last game: Lost @ Saints, 9-21 (wild card round)
The 2020 NFL season was an up-and-down year for the Bears. They came strong out of the gates winning five of their first six before losing their next six games and putting thoughts of a playoff season in jeopardy. Lucky for fans, they were able to right the ship and slip into the final playoff spot with an 8-8 record.
With a strong running game and solid defense, the offseason focus was on the quarterback position. They plucked Andy Dalton from Dallas in free agency and followed that up by drafting Justin Fields. If the Aaron Rodgers controversy carries over into the season, they could make a play to win the division.
15. Miami Dolphins
Last game: Lost @ Bills, 26-56 (week 17)
The Dolphins showed promise last season going 10-6 and almost securing a playoff spot. The Bills trouncing them by 30 in week 17 ensured that wasn’t possible. Regardless, the Dolphins have a lot of youth and talent on their roster. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a rocky first year in Miami, but he has the tools to be a legitimate starter in the NFL. Head Coach Brian Flores has this team trending in the right direction. Wide receiver was a position of need for them, which they addressed by adding speedsters Will Fuller IV and Jaylen Waddle.
14. Los Angeles Chargers
Last game: Won @ Chiefs, 38-21 (week 17)
The Chargers ended their season on a four-game win streak, taking momentum into the offseason. Quarterback Justin Herbert won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after breaking the rookie passing touchdown record previously held by Baker Mayfield.
It's just the beginning for OROY Justin Herbert 👏
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 7, 2021
The Chargers made good decisions in the draft selecting tackle Rashawn Slater to protect Herbert and cornerback Asante Samuel to match up against the likes of Tyreek Hill, Courtland Sutton, and Darren Waller. The only thing that could hold this team back is a Baker Mayfield level slump in Herbert’s sophomore season.
Otherwise, the sky is the limit!
13. Indianapolis Colts
Last game: Lost @ Bills, 24-27 (wild card round)
The Colts went defense with their first two draft picks. Adding edge players Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo helps upgrade an already solid defensive unit. Their ability to return to the playoffs will rest squarely on the play of quarterback Carson Wentz.
With a very forgettable season behind him (getting benched for Jalen Hurts), Wentz has an opportunity to take a playoff team even further if he returns to form. After a quiet start to his 2020 season, look for running back Jonathan Taylor to build off his strong finish; 650 yards and seven touchdowns in his last five games.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last game: Lost vs. Browns, 37-48 (wild card round)
The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers had a near-identical season to the 2019 Patriots. Going undefeated for 10/11 games before struggling down the stretch and then getting bounced out of the first round by a younger, up-and-coming team. Big Ben signed on for another season quarterbacking for head coach Mike Tomlin.
First-round draft pick Najee Harris will start immediately. I believe this rookie running back class might have a similar season as last year’s rookie class, starting slowly then building up to big performances late in the season. The Steelers may need to be patient with him. Pittsburgh does need a pass rusher opposite TJ Watt. If they find one, this defense will have another strong season.
11. Green Bay Packers
Last game: Lost vs. Buccaneers, 31-26 (NFC Championship)
If by some miracle Aaron Rodgers balks on his refusal to play for Green Bay, then the Pack will be right up there in the NFL top-five. Without him, the Packers are still a solid team on both sides of the ball. Whether or not they can contend in the NFC sans A-Rod, is the biggest question mark.
Packers have begun exploring QBs they can add to their roster for OTAs and training camp, per sources. Jordan Love currently is the only other quarterback on the roster, but the team also faces uncertainty surrounding Aaron Rodgers. Packers’ QB search includes some veterans.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 6, 2021
Jordan Love hasn’t taken any meaningful snaps and only has one reliable receiver who can make tough catches if the ball isn’t placed perfectly. I’m keeping an eye on Green Bay here, but for now, they stay at 11th.
10. New England Patriots
Last game: Won vs. Jets, 28-14 (week 17)
For New England fans, the majority of last season felt as if the sky was falling. Tom Brady was on the Bucs, Cam Newton couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat, and Bill Belichick for once had no answers to the myriad of problems the Patriots faced.
Fast forward to the first day of free agency and the Patriots were instantly dominating headlines. Jonnu Smith. Hunter Henry. Kendrick Bourne. The list goes on. $160 million spent on free agents over the course of nine days and suddenly the Patriots look to be back on track.
Position battle to watch in Foxboro: Cameron Jerell Newton vs. Michael McCorkle Jones.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Last game: Lost vs. Seahawks, 23-26 (week 17)
The 49ers drafted their quarterback of the future, Trey Lance. But their quarterback of the present, Jimmy Garoppolo, is currently set to start week 1 of the regular season. This roster is a Lamborghini and it just needs a competent driver to make the playoffs.
Jimmy G is 22-8 as a starter for San Francisco and has already led them to a Super Bowl appearance. However, having only played in 31 of 64 potential games, he’s developed a “made of glass.” If he returns to form, this team could end up higher on this list.
If Garoppolo can’t stay healthy, Trey Lance’s time in the Bay will begin and Jimmy could be on the move.
8. New Orleans Saints
Last game: Lost vs. Buccaneers, 20-30 (divisional round)
What a tumultuous final season for quarterback Drew Brees. From the kneeling controversy in the preseason to Michael Thomas’s injuries and to a collapsed lung and broken ribs to a premature playoff exit at the hands of a team that he beat earlier in the season to an inevitable retirement announcement…
Drew and the Saints had a roller-coaster season. Unable to trade up in the draft for one of the five first-round quarterbacks, the Saints are stuck with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. The Saints stay in the top ten because those two combined to keep the ship afloat in Brees’ absence last season, but it’s an uncertain situation under center in New Orleans.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Last game: Lost vs. Rams, 20-30 (NFL wild card round)
Running back Cam Akers and the Rams defense sent the Seahawks and Russell Wilson packing early last postseason. Without any highly impactful free agent signings and only three picks in the draft, the Seahawks must believe that their team is ready to compete as is.
They did select cornerback Tre Brown out of Oklahoma in the draft to eventually replace departed starter, Shaquill Griffin. Ultra competitive wideout DK Metcalf could find himself in a top-five wide receiver conversation by season’s end.
6. Los Angeles Rams
Last game: Lost @ Packers, 18-32 (divisional round)
Los Angeles received a steady dose of Aaron Rodgers on their way to an early playoff exit last season. Unable to stop him (three total TDs) on several key possessions. The Rams weren’t concerned with addressing their defensive woes, instead choosing to send several future draft picks to the Lions, along with starter Jared Goff, in exchange for Matthew Stafford. Stafford gives their offense a major upgrade at the position and, in head coach Sean McVay’s eyes, gives them the chance to contend for a Super Bowl once again.
5. Baltimore Ravens
Last game: Lost @ Bills, 3-17 (divisional round)
The Baltimore Ravens’ playoff struggles continued this postseason with Buffalo holding them to just three points. The additions of wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman (2021 draft, round one) proves that the Ravens don’t believe Hollywood Brown and Deven Duvernay are the answers at the position.
JK Dobbins came on at the end of the season to become the full-time starter at running back. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley should be back to help keep a clean pocket along with former rival Alejandro Villanueva. They will battle Cleveland for supremacy in the AFC North.
4. Cleveland Browns
Last game: Lost @ Chiefs, 17-22 (divisional round)
After putting up 48 points against division rival Pittsburgh on Wild Card Weekend and coming up just short against the Chiefs, the Browns come into the 2021 season with confidence that they can legitimately contend in the AFC.
The addition of cornerback Greg Newsome II solidifies their secondary. Picking top-20 talent Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah late in the second round could turn out to be the steal of the draft. Browns should be right back in the mix come postseason.
3. Buffalo Bills
Last game: Lost @ Chiefs, 24-38 (AFC Championship)
After decades of misses at drafting a quarterback, the Bills finally hit taking Josh Allen in 2018. He is absolutely the real deal. And now the Bills are the team to beat in the AFC East! Coming off a 13-3 regular season and a playoff run that ended in the AFC Championship, the Bills have done little to rock the boat this offseason. Bills Mafia is just chomping at the bit for another chance to host a playoff game.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last game: Lost @ Buccaneers, 9-31 (Super Bowl LV)
The Chiefs wasted no time in free agency addressing interior offensive line issues (signing guard Joe Thuney). Then they nabbed left tackle Orlando Brown from the Ravens for their first-round draft pick and used a second-round pick on Creed Humphrey. With plenty of time to throw, Patrick Mahomes is primed to carve up the league en route to a potential third super bowl berth.
— Chiefs Wire (@TheChiefsWire) April 30, 2021
1.Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last game: Won vs. Chiefs, 31-9 (Super Bowl LV)
Winning a super bowl and then promptly returning all 22 starters is the best way to ensure you’re going to be at the top of anyone’s power rankings. With the draft bolstering their depth behind championship starters, Tom Brady and company seem poised to make another title run. With a full offseason in the system, it’s hard to envision this team losing a single game with him under center. Their undefeated season tracker starts now.
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) May 10, 2021
Moving into the NFL season
Tampa and Kansas City should spend most of this season atop this list, but expect some contention from Buffalo and one of the two AFC North teams. Again, it’s a quarterback-driven league, so if guys like Carson Wentz play poorly again, expect teams to start dropping.
Once the season gets underway these will be posted weekly! Tune in each week to see where your NFL team stands!
Thanks as always for reading! Do you feel your NFL team should be higher on this list? Tell me why in the comments!