Continuing with the power rankings, this is the middle ground where teams are either on the cusp of being top dogs or bottom dwellers. Each of these teams has at least one question about their team heading into this season. Only once the season commences, will these questions give us definitive answers.
Power Rankings: 1-10
# 11: San Francisco 49ers
A team who’s ranking might see some movement depending on the result of the Deebo Samuel situation, the Niners are focused on the development of promising quarterback Trey Lance. After trading away three first round picks for the North Dakota State product, Lance is believed to have the starting role locked in as Jimmy Garoppolo appears to be on his way out. Looking at the rest of the roster, they have some of the best in the league at their positions. A
Samuel departure should increase the role of George Kittle, who not long ago was widely considered the best tight end in football. Trent Williams continues to dominate as one of the premier tackles in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Niners have two of the best defenders in defensive end Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner. If Lance can become just an above average starter this season, the Niners could find themselves back in the NFC Championship game.
# 12: Las Vegas Raiders
Despite being the lowest ranked team from their division, the Las Vegas Raiders are still a top half of the league roster. With one of the best receiving corps in the NFL with Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and the recent acquisition of Davante Adams, Derek Carr projects to have a career year in Vegas.
Despite adding Chandler Jones and Rock Ya-Sin on defense, new head coach Josh McDaniels will need to show he’s matured since his coaching stint in Denver. Regardless, this Raiders team should be one of the highest scoring offenses in the league, and will rely on the development of their secondary to push them over the top. Look for Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones to form one of the most terrifying pass rushing duos in the league this season.
# 13: Cleveland Browns
The Browns made one of the biggest offseason splashes, acquiring Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson for a multitude of draft picks. Being able to hold onto their young players is critical for their contention in the AFC, as now they await to see if Watson will be able to start Week 1. This roster looks scary on paper, as offensively they have one of the best lines in the league. On top of that, their skill positions feature Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Amari Cooper, David Njoku, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Bell. On the other side of the ball, Myles Garrett should have yet another DPOY caliber season. He is not the only one causing problems for opposing offenses, as Denzel Ward and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are becoming elite at their respective positions. If Watson plays like his old self, this team will be in the top ten sooner than later.
# 14: Indianapolis Colts
The Carson Wentz experiment didn’t work out in Indianapolis, as they missed out on the playoffs after a brutal loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Therefore, they went out and got the 2015 MVP Matt Ryan to come take over under center.
They will also be looking at Jonathan Taylor to continue his dominance from last year into this season. In terms of receiving threats, this is an area Indianapolis needs to address. Michael Pittman Jr. is really the only proven option, which could become a problem if he’s locked down during a game or injuries arise. Despite all that, this is a team that is built on its elite defense. Boasting one of the best front seven units in the NFL, it features names like DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, Yannick Ngakoue, and Kwity Paye. Moving to the secondary, they have a cornerback duo with Kenny Moore II and 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore. If this team could see Alec Pierce emerge or acquire another receiving threat, they might become a true AFC threat.
# 15: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings head into this season yet again with one of the most promising rosters in the NFL. Boasting one of the most productive offensive units in the NFL, Kirk Cousins has all the weapons in place to lead this team all the way. The only concern offensively should be the line, as they will look to see development out of Christain Darrisaw and Ezra Cleveland. Defensively, if this unit stays healthy it should prove to be a good unit.
Minnesota improved their secondary in the draft with selections of Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. In the front seven, they signed LB Jordan Hicks and LB Za’Darius Smith. Smith and Danielle Hunter should create an effective pass rush duo, as long as both play a full season this year. The X-factor on this team will be new head coach Kevin O’Connell, who will look to bring his knowledge from Sean McVay to Minnesota. Can Minnesota finally put it together and reach their first NFC title game since 2018?
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# 16: Arizona Cardinals
The second half collapse of these Cardinals has them right in the middle of the pack. A team that didn’t necessarily get much better this offseason, they will hope that Marquise Brown
can fill the void while DeAndre Hopkins misses some time to start the season. Their offensive line isn’t much to be excited about, as it is a bottom half of the league unit. Looking on the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals need to see a breakout season from Isaiah Simmons. He has all the tools to be a top tier linebacker, but needs to put it all together. Their pass rush though is rather non-existent, as JJ Watt is not his old self and Chandler Jones left in free agency. Markus Golden is the clear best pass rusher, but is now going to be 31 at the start of next season. Kliff Kingsbury is 100% on the hot seat this season, and if he can’t get this Cardinals team to past the wild card his time in the desert may be over.
# 17: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas no doubt got worse this offseason, losing key players Randy Gregory, La’el Collins, Conor Williams, Amari Cooper, Keanu Neal, and Cedrick Wilson. To replace Amari Cooper’s void, they signed James Washington and drafted Jalen Tolbert. On the offensive line, they drafted Tyler Smith, who is believed to be more of a project player than a day one starter. Defensively, they did a decent job to replace Gregory’s production, by drafting Ole Miss edge Sam Williams and signing Dante Fowler Jr.
Trevon Diggs will need to improve his coverage skills heading into the season, and despite his ability to force turnovers, he took many chances to create those interceptions. Parsons and Lawrence should continue to create havoc, but they are no longer the best team in their division.
# 18: Tennessee Titans
This Titans team is simply interesting to evaluate. Head coach Mike Vrabel has shown us he’s one of the league’s best coaches, but this roster has some questions. Starting at the quarterback, Titans fans have to hope that they are going to get the 2020 version of Ryan Tannehill. If not, can Malik Willis step in and contribute to winning football? Moving on, this team will need to have Derrick Henry healthy all season. Last year they were able to hold on and finish with the number one seed in the AFC, but it’s hard to imagine that could happen again. At receiver, they traded away talented Pro-Bowler AJ Brown to the Eagles, but replaced him with Treylon Burks. Burks has a game very similar to that of Brown, and could be a huge piece if used properly. With Julio
Jones out the door, they were able to bring in a reliable target Robert Woods from the Rams, who should provide a lot as a possession receiver. Looking at the defense, they will need to see development from their cornerback group. Their three top corners are all unproven, and Kevin Byard can’t do it all in the secondary. This team has a wide range where they could finish the season, but never count out good coaching.
# 19: Miami Dolphins
One of the most improved teams this offseason, the Miami Dolphins would be higher if we knew what we were getting from Tua Tagovailoa and new head coach Mike McDaniel. Regardless, this offense could turn out to be a must watch football. With the trade for Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins added to a unit already having Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki and Raheem Mostert to name a few. On the offensive line, they addressed it by signing Pro-Bowler Terron Armstead at tackle and Connor Williams to play guard.
The rest of the offensive line is still unproven, but has promised to help make this unit much improved. On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins have a young unit that is only getting better. Jevon Holland and Jaelan Phillips are heading into their second seasons, as both players showed tremendous upside as rookies. The Dolphins have all the pieces to be a top ten team, but need to see their quarterback play take that next step.
# 20: New Orleans Saints
Year in, year out the Saints have had one of the best rosters in the NFL. This offseason though, the Saints lost some key pieces that kept them from being higher on this list. The big hit was losing their head coach Sean Payton, who has been instrumental in the success of this team over the years. However, they were able to replace him with a name in the house, promoting former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to be their next head coach. They also lost standout tackle Terron Armstead, who headed down to South Beach. But despite losing safety to Marcus Williams to Baltimore, this defense might be even better this season. Just this week, New Orleans acquired All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu to play alongside newly-acquired Marcus Maye in the secondary. This team still heads into next season with defensive stars Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis and
Marshon Lattimore, who will all make their mark. Offensively, this Saints team needs Jameis Winston to stay healthy, as he was a great fit last season. With the return of Michael Thomas and draft selection of Chris Olave, the Ohio State tandem could provide Winston with a very productive unit. Alvin Kamara is still there, assuming the legal situation passes. If Allen can get the best out of Winston and this defensive unit, the Saints could surprise and capture the NFC South. But for now, too many questions to put them higher.