Power Rankings are back as teams start dressing again and playing some quasi-competitive football, mainly as a means of thinning their rosters.
To some this might come way too early, and while it’s important not to give too much weight to performances in preseason and reports you hear in training camp, negative performances for potentially important players could raise alarm bells for September onwards that home fans may just not want to hear.
Since my last rankings after the draft, we’ve had a lot of news so I’ve been able to make corrections where some teams fell because of hold-outs or injuries.
With all that said, let’s have some fun – and I’ll see you guys for the next update which will be before Week 1 of the regular season.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-)
Nothing really to add here, they’re a great group that’s all coming back and now in a much easier division with New Orleans in some low-key disarray. It should be a no-brainer for them to win the division, potentially even get the #1 seed.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (-)
The Chiefs had one glaring issue going into camp this year: their offensive line. The first drive of their pre-season game against the San Francisco 49ers showed them part their D-line like Moses and the Red Sea.
3. Buffalo Bills (-)
The only noise coming out of Buffalo is from Cole Beasley. Otherwise, it’s business as usual and Josh Allen got paid. Their division will be trickier this year as Miami and New England have got better, but Buffalo are the class of the AFC East.
4. Green Bay Packers (+2)
Here’s my first riser and it’s all because Aaron Rodgers is back. Normalcy is restored in Wisconsin and the NFC North as a whole.
5. Cleveland Browns (-1)
First faller, and only because of Green Bay. The defense looks completely transformed just by the look of their first pre-season game causing Trevor Lawrence and company massive issues all night. Look out for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, he was put down as third-string but won’t be for much longer after being just so explosive with eight tackles and a sack on Saturday night.
6. Baltimore Ravens (-1)
Another Rodgers-induced faller. There would actually be other camp related reasons to justify a minor fall too as they’ve had a chaotic time of late. Lamar Jackson got COVID-19 for a second time and missed time in camp, and now their rookie wide-receiver Rashod Bateman will miss considerable game time due to an injury. One day saw over 20 players absent too. Not panic button worthy of course, but it should at least be noted.
7. San Francisco 49ers (-)
I’ve been higher on these than most but there’s too much telling me they’re a top team. The addition of Trey Lance will cause selection headaches between now and Week 1, and if he’s not the starter it’ll hang over them any week they don’t win. It’s something that could prove a distraction – but the team is ready to get back to the post-season despite a stacked division.
8. Los Angeles Rams (+1)
Competition for the 49ers is immediate with the Rams. Matthew Stafford will give them an edge but the loss of Cam Akers is gutting for them, effectively cutting off a strong running game, which is why I can’t put them as high as others have the Rams in their Power Rankings.
9. Seattle Seahawks (-1)
I feel that Seattle are the least improved team in the NFC West from last year, and while that’s still strong across the NFL as a whole, it’s going to put them third in their division.
10. Tennessee Titans (+3)
A big riser, in part because of the falling stock of those who were arguably directly above them. A strong side that probably hadn’t massively improved but as the Colts seem to have lost a couple of important pieces for their difficult start to the season, the division is a lot brighter in their sights.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (-)
No changes here. Brandon Staley has a real chance of being Coach of the Year if he can guide the Chargers to the playoffs this year and you can feel the electricity around the team. I don’t see them winning the division over the Chiefs for obvious reasons, but should make the playoffs as a wildcard at this stage.
12. Miami Dolphins (-)
Dolphins are the kind of team to create a tier watchlist for. I’m unconvinced by Tua Tagovailoa going into his second season and the interception on his drive against the Bears backs up that doubt. But if the camp rumours are true, and he is feeling more assured, then Miami might get rolling to their potential, which is probably a wildcard berth at this point.
13. Indianapolis Colts (-3)
This has been a brutal start to the 2021 season for the Colts. Wentz and Nelson both requiring surgery the first week of camp and potentially being out the first five contests is NOT what the Colts needed to hear. They’ll need to hope that they’re back on the earlier side of their estimated timeframes as the start of the Colts’ season is brutal.
14. New England Patriots (+1)
A sneaky riser, the Patriots have been quietly going about their work and they do look a much better unit this year and Mac Jones impressed in his first start. He looked one of the more composed new starters this weekend and I think he could elevate New England if given the chance to this season. The AFC East looks to be competitive this year.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (+1)
Pittsburgh have risen more out of the misfortune of others and I still see a difficult season ahead for them, but the introduction of Najee Harris and a commitment to a running game should help Ben Rothlisberger throw less. The O-line remains an issue however.
16. Dallas Cowboys (+4)
The Cowboys are one of the biggest risers in this edition, but they’re also the most volatile. Dak Prescott coming back is big and there are no issues with his leg it seems. However, with him looking to get an MRI on his shoulder, we could be looking at different issues that could plummet the Cowboys chances this year. The social media team insist it’s not a setback though.
17. Washington Football Team (+4)
That defense remains one of the scariest in the league and with Ryan Fitzpatrick they’ve got a quarterback that will be able to get points on offense. Plus some young weapons. I certainly wouldn’t want to face them on a short week this year.
18. Arizona Cardinals (-)
I’m not as hot on the Cardinals as a lot of others are but they will be tricky customers for any team they meet this season. They’ve recruited well, but Kingsbury will be under the cosh this year as they should still be last in the NFC West.
19. Minnesota Vikings (-2)
I don’t see an improved defense, which is what the Vikings really need, but they should be able to remain interesting by letting Dalvin Cook cook on the ground.
20. Chicago Bears (+2)
Justin Fields got a lot of admirers after his performance in the game against Miami on Saturday afternoon but I’m not ready to buy just yet. Realistically it was two plays that any QB should make with a second/third-string defense blowing up their own coverages. But the signs are positive that the Bears are taking positive steps and their defense remains one of the best around.
21. New Orleans Saints (-8)
I know, I’m sorry. But can you feel confident in either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill under centre this season? And then, can I ask, who would they be throwing to anyway? I see an offensively frustrated Saints team relying on Kamara to excel on the ground as they are helped in no way by Michael Thomas deciding only now to have surgery and expected to be out for several weeks.
22. Las Vegas Raiders (-3)
Another team that you’ve not heard too much from in recent weeks and probably won’t. You imagine, though, that the Chiefs and Chargers are too much in their division and it’ll be a fairly mundane middle-of-the-road season for the Vegas outfit.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (+4)
I felt that the NFC East was potentially a little mistreated because they all went below .500 last year, so this is more of an unconscious reordering for most of those teams. Jalen Hurts looks capable, but they’re definitely not the Super Bowl winning side of old anymore. Potential Watson rumours are something to keep an ear to the ground for. One of the better rebuilding sides.
24. Denver Broncos (-)
Drew Lock hasn’t seemed great, you feel that the Broncos rumours of getting Aaron Rodgers were the highlight of Denver’s offseason. The defense is good, and they have young weapons that can do a job – there’s just no faith in Lock as I think he drags them to a bottom finish in the AFC West.
25. New York Giants (-2)
There was a video that surfaced from the Giants FanFest where Danny Dimes through the ball straight to a linebacker with no offensive player within 10 yards around him. Another team like Denver who have potential but the man under centre is going to steal wins from them.
26. Atlanta Falcons (-)
I get the feeling that I’ve gone too low on Atlanta, but I’ve yet to find much to bump them up. The loss of Julio Jones will hurt and there aren’t a great number of household names either side of the ball but they were on the wrong end of some close games last year and sometimes you get that luck back. One to watch a rise from.
27. Carolina Panthers (-2)
I’m told these are ones to watch to hover around .500 but not yet convinced. I don’t think moving from New York to Carolina will change too much for Darnold apart from not being criticised on the back pages quite as ferociously but expectations for the Panthers as a whole should be muted.
28. New York Jets (-)
I’ve not seen enough of the Jets to move them up or down just yet but positive signs have been heard in camp regarding Zach Wilson and they’re going to need him to fire up early. I like some of the moves they’ve made in the summer too and they seem to be one of the most improved of the bottom tier sides.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (-)
I had an existential crisis trying to place the Bengals, as they too have improved on paper considerably, but there’s only so many stories from beat writers and interviews from the players concerned before you simply have to believe that fans will need to be patient before Joe Burrow feels confident in the pocket on that knee. I continue to feel that they needed a top-tier prospect on the line compared to Ja’Marr Chase but we will see.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (-)
After watching the Browns/Jaguars pre-season game last night and seeing Trevor Lawrence get sacked by the Browns’ second-string defensive line on the first play, you know that the Jags are not on the same level as most of the league. Lawrence might be their saviour, and they do have other pieces that will be important to build on from such as Shenault, Chark and Griffin, but that will take time and patience. He looked way too static in the pocket and the O-line will be judged the same manner as the Bengals last season if it ends up that easy for second and third stringers to bring down their new franchise QB.
31. Detroit Lions (-)
Nothing really to add here as I’ve not seen much to change my mind that they will be in the running for the first draft pick next year.
32. Houston Texans (-)
Deshaun Watson has been in Texans training camp but does that mean anything at all? If he suits up on Week 1 (highly, highly unlikely) then we could see a small uptick that would probably put them in the Jets/Bengals tier. Watson’s good but the roster is not.