It occurs to me that this may be one of the toughest lists to compile for the entire upcoming season. Simply put, as the NFL tries to figure out how to proceed with a 2020 season amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, we are just over a week away from the start of the 2020 game schedule. But we’ve had no game action to watch to prepare us for this start-up. Whoever thought that we’d miss pre-season football? So in order to compile a Power Rankings list we have to go by last year’s results (very dangerous, in most cases), player additions to team rosters (both Draft and Free Agency) as well as major subtractions from 2019 rosters. You know, like TOM BRADY out of New England.
32) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Whether they, admit it or not the roster is being gutted, in good part by the same people who have built the roster over the past 3-4 years, minus COUGHLIN, of course. They likely will just plain suck in 2020. If this keeps up even London won’t want the Jags!
31) CAROLINA PANTHERS: Another team that is rebuilding its roster almost from scratch. Gone this off-season are HC Ron Rivera, QB Cam Newton, TE Greg Olsen, LB Luke Kuechly, OG Trai Turner, DT Vernon Butler, CB James Bradberry, DE Mario Addison et al. And then we have new Head Coach MATT RUHLE, whose resume’ includes 1 season as an NFL assistant. Most Panthers ticket holders may be glad to sit at home rather than travel to games to watch this product in action.
30) CINCINNATI BENGALS: The best news is the arrival of JOE BURROW as their new QB. I am not convinced he’ll have a huge positive impact on the team’s record this season however. They did very little to bolster a bad OL group, and the receiving corps lost more than it added unless A.J. Green returns with a healthy body and a healthy mental attitude. Be patient and let BURROW learn as much as possible this season.
29) WASHINGTON NO-NAMES: You know, the one in D.C. Best move was the addition of RON RIVERA as the boss-man. But Rivera is already spending way too much time dealing with non-football issues in this mess of a franchise. There are some good signs but the bad news may dominate both on and off the field for now. Be patient.
28) NY JETS: This could be embarrassing in more ways than one. Because it means the Dolphins might finish with a better record than the J-E-T-S this season. The team of GASE/DARNOLD may advance another baby step but not much more because the receiving group looks even worse than last year overall. My biggest concern is that the Owners/Johnson Brothers will panic and fire GM JOE DOUGLAS, who is the best of their front office folks right now.
27) MIAMI DOLPHINS: IMO, HC Brian Flores had this team playing over their heads last season. Now the letdown… this is still a 10-Loss team. I don’t see this being a big year for TUA, but a solid looking Draft brings in more for the overall talent base. The real long term key here will be what TUA looks like in December.
26) ARIZONA CARDINALS: More progress is likely for the Cards in year 2 under KINGSBURY/KYLER MURRAY. They now have plenty of star-power on the team (FITZGERALD/HOPKINS/Isaiah Simmons/Chandler JONES/Patrick Peterson) but more young talent must develop right away to help those guys. It doesn’t help their cause that they play in perhaps the League’s toughest division.
25) NY GIANTS: Despite being a fan non-favorite, GM GETTLEMAN is adding quality to this roster. A big key will be QB Daniel Jones reducing his turnover numbers. He was not far behind WINSTON in QB turnovers last season. His 24/12 TD/INT rate was not terrible, but his 18 fumbles, 11 of then lost, was ! His OL wasn’t that bad. Will Joe Judge be this generations PARCELLS as Head Coach? That’s what the MARA family envisions. They have the roster to improve a bit.
24) ATLANTA FALCONS: Once again it looks like the Falcons have failed to add very much to their roster to improve it. The biggest name is Todd Gurley, but I am in the group that thinks Gurley’s best days are behind him because of that bad knee he brought to the NFL from his college career. QB MATT RYAN is now 35-years old, and despite guys like Brady, Rivers and Brees, that puts him in the “good, but in general decline” category. Seeing a 3rd straight season at 7-9 might be too optimistic here.
23) DENVER BRONCOS: GM John Elway is banking on last year’s Rookie QB DREW LOCK finally being his shot for a “franchise QB” not named Manning. It could well be, but for now it appears that LOCK will be breaking in multiple Rookies at the top of his receiver group. And his protection up front may be suspect at best. The D may have taken a step back as well, despite MILLER/CHUBB being a top notch sack combo.
22) CHICAGO BEARS: With only days left until the start of the season the team still isn’t sure of their starter at QB. The lack of overall roster talent cannot be denied. Another 8-8 record might have to be considered the up-side for DA BEARS.
21) DETROIT LIONS: The same could be said about the potential record by this team. A healthy MATTHEW STAFFORD may once again be scrambling for his life. I have no clue what Matt Patricia is trying to assemble on the defensive side of the ball. Another 4 ex-Pats defenders were signed this off-season. They may improve a bit with Stafford back, but 6-10 may be their upside.
20) LA RAMS: The delay for the opening of the RAMS new stadium by a year may be more costly than anyone knew. First off, we have a pandemic that will at least limit attendance revenues. Secondly, GM LES SNEAD mistimed his roster spending and many glitzy, exciting names on the roster have had to be jettisoned already. Their 9-7 2019 record was NOT an aberration. The talent on this roster says 8-8 IMO.
19) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Yes it looks like the championship run is over in New England. A lot of it is the loss of Brady, but even more unsettling was the rash of players who opted-out of the 2019 season because of Covid-19. The PATS led the league in opt-out players. CAM NEWTON may make a nice new QB piece long term, but there is not enough around him for this to be much more than a .500 team.
18) HOUSTON TEXANS: Despite all the criticism of BILL O”BRIEN most folks forget that the Texans won the AFC South for the 4th time in 5 years last season. But the lack of strong ownership without the late Bob McNair haunts the organization. The dual role of Head Coach and GM is too much for anyone these days in pro football. Even with the continued development of QB DESHAUN WATSON, the talent drop-off is noticeable, especially on Offense. A guy named HOPKINS will be sorely missed. NO division title this season, no winning record.
17) LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: It’s time to unveil the RAIDERS of Las Vegas, with a shiny new stadium and an improved roster, again. They had a solid Draft and signed a dozen VFA, the best of whom are all under 30. They should be able to flip their 7-9 record to the winning side of the ledger. Things are looking up for the Raiders, but they are no threat to the CHIEFS… yet. Now if only Gruden can stay patient and work hand in glove with his GM Mayock a bit longer!
That’s the bottom half for the NFL as I see it right now. I’ll be back with the “winning” franchises later this week.