With the annual Thursday night football season debut tonight at 8pm EST, between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, I bring back the weekly power rankings from Nosebleed Sports. A long, dramatic offseason and a controversial preseason behind us, it’s now time to get to what counts; regular season football.
- New England Patriots
There’s really nothing here for debate. Even after I ranked New Orleans as the best team in the NFL during the off-season, Bill Belichick and company showed me why they are the best team in the league. From top to bottom, 1st string-3rd string, the Patriots just look built to make another run. To top it off? Gronkowski admitted on the Adam Schaffer podcast that when it comes to him a Brady, as country singer Luke Combs would say, “I’m only one number away”…
2. New Orleans Saints
Hopefully the third time’s the charm. In 2017 the Saints missed out on an NFC Championship game due to a miraculous last second touchdown from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs, and then last year a blown PI call. With the Vikings looking like they just don’t have the quarterback to compete at that level, and PI calls now allowed to be challenged, I’m not sure what can stop this Saints team.
3. Chicago Bears
When it’s this early in the season, it’s hard to predict just what areas of a team are going to be reminiscent of the season before, or even better. The Chicago Bears Defense is the exception. The loss of Vic Fangio? That hurts. The front-7 of this defense? That’ll hurt opposing quarterbacks. Then there’s the remaining constant of Matt Nagy and even without a first round pick, they may have gotten the best running back in the draft class in David Montgomery to replace Jordan Howard. It hurts me to say this, but the Bears will be back at the top of the NFC North this year.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
I kept my face buried in NFL offseason articles, training camp reports, highlight clips on social media, and even dipped my toes into a few fantasy drafts, and one snippet I specifically remember hearing was that the Chiefs defense was better this year… I don’t know about that one chief. I’m glad Steve Spagnuolo got his guy in Frank Clark, but let’s not be naive. Clark comes from Seattle where they’re notoriously founded on their defensive identity, and if you have to lose Dee Ford in the process then I don’t see the improvement. As far as the Tyrann Mathieu signing goes, I’m just not impressed. If you actually think Mahomes is going for less than 40 touchdowns this year then you just need to look back at where this defense ranked in 2018.
5. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams take a bit of a dip here for the simple fact that they haven’t made any blockbuster moves like they did a year ago. Still there aren’t much moves left that need to be made for a team that was just in the Super Bowl. Adding Darrell Henderson as the back up to Gurley only makes you sleep easier at night if you’re a Rams fan.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
I could be way off on this one if the absence of Melvin Gordon plays that big of a role, but this is still a top-10 defense and offense even with a committee of Ekeler and Jackson. I know Gordon is one of the best backs in the game and it’s a shame we’ll most likely have to see him play elsewhere, but the Chargers are looking to contend for a Super Bowl before Rivers retires and if that means spending that money elsewhere, then I trust the front office on this one.
7. Dallas Cowboys
Jaylon Smith got paid, La’el Collins got paid, Zeke got paid, now all that’s left is Dak. Regardless of his contract situation he’s going to show up week 1 and that will spell trouble for the rest of the NFC East. This is the best Cowboys defense I’ve seen in my lifetime and the combination of Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper seems as fluent as any other 1-2 combo in the league. I won’t say this is the team that’s going to win the Super Bowl, but I’ll be shocked if they don’t repeat as NFC East Champs.
8. Cleveland Browns
And there you have it. This time last year we wondered how long it would take until Baker took over as the starter and look how far they have come. With blockbuster additions on both sides of the ball, and an offensive minded coach who turned not only Bakers season, but the offensive lines, Nick Chubbs, and others around when he took over last year. This formula sounds eerily similar to what the Rams did last year, and the AFC North will have a division winner without a shed of black on their jerseys for the first time since the Titans were in the North.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
If the preseason were ever an omen of things to come, then this would be a sign for the Eagles to tank. Luckily, the preseason is so meaningless that there’s been teams go undefeated and end up barely winning any games, if any at all. However you can’t ignore the fact the Eagles were pulling guys out of retirement just to fill the quarterback position so they can keep Wentz off the field. I don’t expect Wentz to walk into week one with all of the rust off of him, but with a matchup against the Redskins at home he shouldn’t need to be at his best to get the victory.
10. Houston Texans
The Texans made headlines this week as they finally dealt Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle, and sent a plethora of draft picks to Miami and got a deep threat in Kenny Stills, and a starting OT in Tunsil. The Texans offensive line ranked dead last in protecting the quarterback last season and it wasn’t an issue that they solved during the offseason either. This addition wasn’t a sexy one, but it was one that needed to be done. The Texans remain in my top 10 knowing Watson made it through the season healthy, and with someone he can trust at the tackle position. (Also Kenny stills is great depth if Will Fuller is derailed by another injury).
11. Seattle Seahawks
And right on que is Clowney’s new home. The Seahawks always seem to find themselves in playoff contention and with the addition of Clowney they should be right back in that position this season. Russell Wilson in my opinion is at least a top-5 quarterback in this league and if they continue to surround him with a stout defense and weapons on offense, they’ll continue to compete every season.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the departure of Antonio Brown, the Steelers still remain the “team to beat” in the AFC North. Although I’m confident in Cleveland as my pick to win the division, there’s no question the Steelers continue to improve. Their defense is looking great, the new era of offensive weapons looks lethal, and really their only downside is Big Ben. As he continues to age we are seeing him start to regress. A large majority of his numbers come from short passes to the running back or slot receiver, and I’m going to need to see the big play ability come back this season before I just go hand them the AFC North crown once again.
13. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore takes a dip in the rankings due to departures on the defense, but remain in the better half of the league because of Lamar Jackson. The “Human Joystick” lives up to his name every time he takes the field and is truly a pleasure to watch. Whether or not it’ll balance out the holes in their defense is still to be seen, but it’s been a long time since the Ravens had a defense ranked outside the top 10 so I wouldn’t look too far into it.
14. Green Bay Packers
I won’t use this platform to slander the great Aaron Rodgers, but I will say this; it’s becoming clichè to compare Rodgers to Brady especially when the topic is their age. For those of you unaware, one of the reasons Brady has been great for so long, is because he’s remained healthy for so long. Rodgers continues to pile up the injuries and that never mixes well with aging. However, this is one of the most talented rosters I’ve seen the Packers put out onto the field since their last Super Bowl run, so if there’s ever going to be a year they make a splash with Rodgers still under center, this is the year.
15. Carolina Panthers
I’m leaving Carolina with plenty of room for improvement on this list until I see what Cam can do this season. When he first went down last year it wasn’t clear whether or not he would be ready to suit up week 1 of the 2019 season. Yet, here we are with all signs pointing towards a go from cam this Sunday which is going to be the biggest factor over the next 17 weeks. This teams playoff hopes rely heavily on his health. Not just showing up to the game, but performing at his highest level which he can only do when everything is feeling good.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
Nick Foles. Need I say more? Say what you want, but if you find your team on the cusp of a playoff berth with a few games remaining, there’s not many guys I’m taking over Foles to lead my team not only to the playoffs, but to the ‘Bowl. Of those guys, you better believe I’m referring to some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. If this defense can get back to the elite level they were at two years ago, then the formula for success is already set in place.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Dark horse Super Bowl pick? Why not? If you’re a betting man like me, this is a fun pick to place in Vegas, but let’s get back to what matters. The Falcons defense started week one with two huge contributing factors going down for almost the entirety of the season, and they ended up going 7-9. It’s strange to think this team was just in the Super Bowl a few seasons ago, and I would think Dan Quinn’s job is in the air with this season being his last chance. Whatever is going on in Atlanta, they had just better hope they get it together this year with the Bucs (last place finisher past two seasons) starting to make their own changes to get out of their own slump.
18. Minnesota Vikings
I just don’t like Kirk Cousins as “the answer” to a franchises woes. As much of a number guy as I am, there’s nothing I hate more than being reminded of Kirk Cousins almost 5,000 yard season in 2016. I’ve never seen someone defended so much for never even winning a playoff game, and barely even winning in a primetime game. Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I said this team wasn’t talented all around the football. Won’t be surprised if I’m wrong on this, but for right now there’s no way I’m putting this team above anyone on this list.
19. Indianapolis Colts
Before you overreact, let’s not forget the Colts defense took the league by storm last year. Marlon Mack looked like a legitimate 3-down back, Ty Hilton burnt defenses, and the whole time Jacoby Brissett has been getting primed and ready for this opportunity. With a solid receiving core that displays the aforementioned Ty, there’s also Eric Ebron, Paris Campbell, Devin Funchess, and Jack Doyle. Brissett has every opportunity to keep this team at the very least, relevant. Perhaps more if there is something we haven’t seen from the young signal caller yet…
20. San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy G hasn’t looked sharp since his return from his ACL injury. After picking from the top of the draft the past few seasons, they’ve managed to put a lot of talent on this roster, especially defensively. We’ve also only seen Garoppolo lose two games in his career so all hope is not lost, but with only nine career starts under his belt the hype train may have already left for this season.
21. Detroit Lions
Probably the most competitive bad team over the past 20 years or so, Detroit finds themselves with a very talented and young roster, but at the unluckiest or times. With Chicago looking like the team to beat for the next 10 years in the North, Rodgers still in green and yellow, and with Kirk Cousins owning Detroit everytime he plays them, there’s really no hope in my opinion. The injuries started to pile up when starting LB Jarrad David went down in preseason, and if there ever was a sign in preseason of things to come, it means this will be another long season for Lions fans.
22. Denver Broncos
I really don’t understand what’s going on in Denver. They brought in Vic Fangio as their new Head Coach and I truly can’t think of a better fit for either sides. The defense will be sharp, possibly in the top 5. However last time this defense was supposed to be this good they ranked outside the top-20 because their quarterback situation was a dumpster fire. Now they bring in Joe Flacco instead of going all in on one of the rookies out of the 2018 class. They waited for Lock in the second round, who is now on IR, and they’re going to have to pray Flacco has some gas left in the tank because they also lost 4 of their 7 top offensive linemen from last season.
23. Tennessee Titans
This is a little disrespectful of a Ranking considering how good this defense really is, but if I’m being honest defense only gets you so far. The whole “defense wins championships” relic has gotten old, and it’s simply not true in the NFL. Quarterbacks win you championships,and the Titans don’t got one. Mariota as of right now, will never be good enough to win a ring and Tannehill DEFINITELY isn’t good enough. While there is still hope for Mariota, there isn’t for the Titans 2019 season.
24. New York Jets
If you’re not excited for Darnold’s sophomore season, then you must be a fan of someone else in the East. I won’t say he’s going to go off, but there’s a lot of hype surrounding this kid and this is the year we are all supposed to finally watch it unfold. The Jets front office went out and got the alleged “Quarterback whisperer” in Adam Gase, and added Le’veon Bell as his newest and favorite target. Now all that’s left is hoping the offensive line can keep him up straight to get the ball out in time.
25. Buffalo Bills
I got a strange feeling we’re going to see the Bills and Jets really battle it out until Brady and Belichick retire. Josh Allen vs Sam Darnold is something I hope I get to see go down in January one day. For now, let’s just have a round of applause for Buffalo finally parting ways with Lesean McCoy. That in itself is an immediate jump in the rankings, and if fantasy football has anything to do with real life success, this Bills defense should be pretty solid this year.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs still have one of the worst defenses on paper, and Bruce Arians isn’t exactly the kind of guy who’s going to turn that around. What he will do is have this offense being able to compete at a high level. Second year running back Ronald Jones has been widely talked about around camp with the progress he has made since his less-than promising rookie season. Perhaps Arians really can turn this offense around. Meanwhile Todd Bowles will test his luck with his new defense.
27. Washington Redskins
If you thought Dwayne Haskins was going to turn this team around, think again. In time he will be good enough and potentially even a great quarterback, but until Jay Gruden is gone the Skins will be going nowhere. I won’t ignore the fact that this team has been plagued by injuries over the past few seasons, but while those excuses survive in their franchise, they have a division rival who won a Super Bowl with a back up quarterback and almost defeated the Saints last year in the playoffs. They’ll meet that rival week one while we wait and see how long Case Keenum will last in Washington.
28. New York Giants
I was almost certain the Giants would be at the bottom of my rankings a few weeks ago, but after watching Daniel Jones ball out during the preseason I have to admit, he’s everything I imagined him to be. As a biased Duke fan I’ve been rooting for this kid since draft night but even I thought hope was lost when I saw what happened to the Giants WR room. With Sterling Shepard a go, and Golden Tate four games away from returning, consider this more of a “to be seen” Ranking.
29. Arizona Cardinals
And so the Kyler Murray project begins. If I could fast forward a year from now to watch this Kid play I would, because Arizona hasn’t done much to really surround him with much to work with. An aging Larry Fitz isn’t very exciting, and between Kirk and Isabella it’s a bunch of potential, not a lot of right now production. I’m not sold on the defense at all either, but if Murray can actually manage to make Arizona a competitive team each and every week, then it’ll be enough to convince me Arizona made the right decision taking him number one.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals front office may have spent too much time on vacation this offseason because the other Ohio team in Cleveland was out revamping the entire organization, meanwhile the Bengals did nothing special to fix their defensive woes. To top it off, their first overall draft pick Jonah Williams will likely miss the entire season.
31. Oakland Raiders
Just when I thought it would be safe to put the Raiders in the top 25, Antonio Brown manages to cause even more drama. Frostbite on his feet, helmet issues, and now threatening to punch GM Mike Mayock? Yeah, this won’t be ending anytime soon. Better luck next year Raider nation.
32. Miami Dolphins
We are all in agreement on the Dolphins “Tanking for Tua”, right? Maybe not Tua, maybe Trevor Sweeney, Herbert, Fields, or any of the guys they got coming out because they’re all better than Josh Rosen. I think the swap of Stills and Tunsil for future first rounders pretty much sums up which direction this season is heading in for Miami.