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Season Ending Power Rankings - Pre Season Power Rankings

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  • Season Ending Power Rankings - Pre Season Power Rankings

    Here are a few blurbs:

    Frank Schwab - Yahoo Sports

    8. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)

    In terms of talent, the Chargers don’t take a backseat to anyone. But the absolutely horrendous performance in the playoff loss to the Patriots brings up the same old questions about the Chargers not being able to get over the hump.

    Walter Football

    San Angeles Chargers (13-5)
    - Previously: 4.
    What the hell were the Chargers doing against the Patriots? They couldn't get to Tom Brady, they couldn't stop the run, and they didn't cover anyone. The Patriots basically did whatever they wanted to. It was embarrassing.
    Call me crazy, but this Chargers defensive formation was not a very good one:


    Elliot Harrison - NFL.COM
    6: CHARGERS (13-5)

    Total destruction in the Divisional Round wasn't how anyone associated with the Chargers wanted the season to end. The question league observers have about the Bolts is, are they here to stay? Should be. The free agents-to-be are key parts, but not of the integral variety: Denzel Perryman,Adrian Phillips, Brandon Mebane and Tyrell Williams. Although Williams has evolved into the big-play weapon on this team, at least on the outside. Keenan Allen is still the WR1, a third-down chains-mover who commands attention. Mike Williams took off late in the season, and although he will push Allen for targets, his area really could be the red zone. Hunter Henry will be fed his fair share of RZ throws, too. But as for chunk plays? It's all about Williams, Tyrell -- he posted 15.9 yards per catch (most among Chargers receivers) and a team-high five catches of 30-plus yards. Re-signing Perryman would be nice, too.


    Mike Florio - PFT/ NBC Sports

    6. Chargers (13-5; No. 6): Anthony Lynn is the most underrated coach in football.


    Vinnie Iyer - Sporting News

    4. Los Angeles Chargers

    Anthony Lynn led them to a great 2018 season. Philip Rivers isn't going anywhere, and their backbone of defense and the running game is strong enough for them to stay in the AFC title mix despite being stuck behind the Chiefs.


    Previous rank: 8
    Points in poll: 220
    Highest-place vote: 5 (5)
    Lowest-place vote: 7 (1)
    Season result: Lost divisional round

  • #2
    Meh, they lost to both Super Bowl teams, two division champions and gave away a game to Denver. Not to mention all the miles they traveled. Can you imagine this team having a KC type home field advantage? Take all that into consideration and my opinion is they end up no lower than four.


    • #3
      my guess is that we'll be on the playoff bubble, w/big questions on the Oline and not sure we get over the philosophical hump on IDL either.... not sure more LBs is gonna solve anything.
      10 characters * Nasir, Badgley, Facyson, Rochell, King, Okung, Patton, Denzel, Tevi, Newsome


      • #4
        I think we are looking pretty good. Henry will really help Rivers. We just need to get these lines fixed. Add a LB.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Fleet View Post
          I think we are looking pretty good. Henry will really help Rivers. We just need to get these lines fixed. Add a LB.
          I would add adding a FS as something they need to do. All in all a very solid year. Lamp needs to step up next year. No more excuses for him


          • #6
            They went 12-4 and won some games they would have lost in years past (At Pitt, At KC and the Titans). They also lost to the Broncos in a game they had in hand. All in all pretty fortunate. Of course, it wouldn't be the Chargers without one position group being decimated by injuries and this year it was LB. Brown, Perryman and Kizer all missing. That group was weak to begin with so it really hurt.

            We need to get strong up the middle on both sides. Need a dependable ILB, DT and Safety on D and better OG play on O. Get those things solidified and we can be great.


            • #7
              When you look at the roster, I really think Lynn helped us overacheive this season. While I thought we could be a good team, this team still has a ways to go before it matches the overall record. Telesco needs to be pretty clever this year to fix some holes.

              D we need help up the middle. DT, ILB, FS..... We also seem to lack the press coverage guys that most of the other top playoff defenses have. I don't think it needs to be press man, but if you want to disrupt a playoff team's passing game, you better be able to knock the receivers off their routes and make the QB hold the ball.

              On O things are getting there, but the only WR we have that can get open vs the press is Allen. The OL got a lot better, but they were putrid (2 years ago) and have a ways to go.


              • #8
                Welcome back, you’ve been missed.


                • #9
                  FMIA: The 2019 NFL Power Rankings, Taking Stock of Offseason Movement

                  Getty Images (4)

                  Mid-May. Time to take stock of the offseason. There's not much left for teams to do before training camp. Vets with something left (Ndamukong Suh, Muhammad Wilkerson, Jay Ajayi, maybe Chris Long) could land somewhere, but those guys aren't going to shift the balance of power in pro football's 100th season.

                  So here are my rankings, 1 to 32, of the teams with most of the chairs being taken, and the music about to stop. Instead of justifying my pick in many of the fat-graf explanations, I'll take some space on a key point that could determine success or failure with the team.

                  I fully expect to be wildly incorrect, so react accordingly. The Lead: Rankings

                  The 2018 playoff teams are marked with asterisks ... The teams that finished under .500 in 2018 are marked with plus-signs.

                  1. *KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2018: 13-5)

                  Seems a little crazy with the firing of the 2017 NFL rushing champ (Kareem Hunt) six months ago and the iffy status of the NFL's most dangerous weapon because of a child-abuse investigation (Tyreek Hill). But this is an In-Mahomes-We-Trust pick, mostly. I wonder if you could ever say that a rookie picked as low as 56--that was the draft slot of the Chiefs' top pick, Georgia receiver-returner Mecole Hardman--would enter a season as the rookie with the most pressure to produce at a high level from opening day. With Hill facing a possible suspension to start the season, or more significant banishment, Hardman's a huge factor for the Chiefs. I went back and watched his highlights from the 2018 national title game against Alabama, and he made a couple of prime-time plays. He took a shotgun snap at quarterback from the 'Bama 1-yard line, play-faked to Sony Michel, and beat three defenders around the left corner for a touchdown. Then he flashed his 4.33 speed down the right sideline, beating the Alabama corner for an 80-yard TD from Jake Fromm. But is Hardman as tough and competitive as Hill? Will he strike fear into defenses? We'll see in a tough three-week open to the KC season: at Jacksonville, at Oakland, Baltimore at home.

                  2. *NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2018: 14-5)

                  I just kept thinking as New England, round-by-round, let tight ends go by in the draft: Well, Bill Belichick knows he needs a tight end badly, and if he doesn't take one, it must mean he didn't love one, or he has plans beyond the draft. One of those plans, post-Gronk, was Ben Watson, who was highly peeved to not be active for the NFC title game as a Saint, and felt he had unfinished business as a player when he retired after the season. Watson, even at 38, is a useable player familiar with Patriot ways because he played for them for six years. I'm not sure Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be much of a factor either. And we'll see who else comes available. Could Kyle Rudolph, for instance, in Minnesota, be a June cap casualty? That would be a golden piece for New England, though I have no idea if he'd sign with the Patriots if released. Looking at the Patriots this spring, I'm not going to sit here and kill them for not taking a Jace Sternberger in the draft. I, along with the rest of the media world, learned a lesson sometime around the fifth or sixth Super Bowl that Belichick and personnel czar Nick Caserio might know what they're doing, and they usually figure out a better-than-competent roster to play with Tom Brady by November. Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts. (Getty Images)
                  3. *INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2018: 11-7)

                  My first surprise, having the Colts this high. I'm relying on Justin Houston an awful lot here. The Colts haven't had a pass-rusher have a premier season since 2013, when Robert Mathis had his last great rush season with 19.5 sacks. Houston had an impact year at 29 last fall for Kansas City (14 games, 11 sacks, including playoffs), which is why the Colts outbid others for his services on the free market in March. But he missed 5, 12, 1 and 4 games (regular and postseason) in his last four Chief seasons, so this is a gamble. If the Colts get 12 effective games out of him--and if two or three or those are in the postseason--the investment will be worth it. Big if. You can tell I'm buying Houston being able to have one more strong year for a good team. I'm probably sold mostly by the fact I saw his last game for Kansas City--the overtime classic against New England in the AFC title game--and Houston played an astounding 95 of 97 snaps that cold Sunday at Arrowhead, frequently buzzing around Tom Brady.

                  4. *LOS ANGELES RAMS (15-4)

                  The Rams will be good; we know that. But good enough to stave off the Niners and Seahawks in the West? Good enough to play deep into January? You might wonder about Todd Gurley's future, because of the weird usage pattern in 2018 (first 12 games: 19.4 carries per game; last five games: 10.6 carries) that hinted at a bum knee. I'm not that concerned about Gurley, or the running game, because Sean McVay will figure it out. I'm more concerned with what the heck happened to Marcus Peters last year, and whether in a pass-happy NFC West the Peters-Aqib Talib combo platter can be the top cornerback group in the division like the Rams planned. Peters, per Pro Football Focus, was the league's 11th-rated corner in 2016 and 18th-rated corner in 2017 ... and in 2018, his first year in L.A., he plummeted to 91st, allowing a garish 118.9 rating in balls that targeted him. Peters did play better after recovering from an early-season calf injury, so there's hope that, if healthy, he can get back to 2017 form. He'll need to for the Rams to be as good as fourth in the league.

                  5. *LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (13-5)

                  Guess what percent of the Chargers' defensive snaps Joey Bosa has played in his three NFL seasons. It's 58.5 (including playoffs). He's very productive when he plays--29.5 sacks in 37 NFL games--and now, for the Chargers to try to take the next step, they need the stereo rushers of Bosa and Melvin Ingram to attack the pocket together, consistently. It was interesting watching the Chargers play defense in Baltimore in the wild-card game--the secondary was so good and so deep and so young. If Bosa stays on the field this year, the Chargers will be on equal footing with the Rams for best team in L.A. How amazing it is to see the Chargers, a combined 9-23 in 2016, come so far so fast.

                  6. *NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (14-4)

                  I'm dying to know after bowing out of the playoffs in the most bizarre of circumstances in two straight years--the Stefon Diggs walk-off (essentially) TD in 2017, and the blown non-interference call against the Rams last year--whether the impact of those dispiriting losses will have any impact on the Saints in 2019. The two most important people in the Saints world, Sean Payton and Drew Brees, don't seem like they'll let a hangover happen. Payton hid for a few days after the game, then faced the music without bitterness at the combine and at the league meetings, helping push the league into improving the rule that doomed the franchise in January. For the Saints' sake, I was glad to see them trade up for a day-one starting center, Erik McCoy, even if it cost them a second-round pick next year. McCoy was a borderline first-rounder, and after the slightly surprising retirement of Max Unger, he became a vital addition for a line that's crucial to the Saints' success.

                  7. +SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-12)

                  Here's my big surprise. Only I don't see it that way. In 2017 and 2018, the Niners were 6-2 when Jimmy Garoppolo started and 4-18 when he didn't. In his fateful last start, when he ran left and tore his ACL at Kansas City, these were the last four drives he executed that afternoon, going head to head with Patrick Mahomes at rabid Arrowhead: 54 yards to a field goal, 87 yards to a touchdown, 77 yards to a touchdown, 58 yards to a field goal. In his 10 NFL starts, he's a 66-percent passer. I have no problem making two statements: I think the 49ers are a playoff team if Garappolo plays a full season. And I think Garoppolo will be seen as a top 10 NFL quarterback if he plays a full season this year. Still, the fact that he hasn't done it leaves the question in everyone's mind: The kid's started only 10 games in five NFL seasons, he's been rewarded ridiculously for what the Niners expect him to do ... and now, can he do it? The future of so many people in San Francisco--including joined-at-the-hip coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch--are riding on Garoppolo's right arm. And his health. I'm fine gambling on him.

                  8. *PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-8)

                  I am trusting Carson Wentz to play a full season. If I were not, and I were trusting Nate Sudfeld to be the 2019 Nick Foles, I sure as heck would not have the Eagles eighth. So ... I get the Eagles allowing Foles to leave in free agency. It was a mensch thing to do. Foles, more than any single player, was responsible for Philly winning its first Super Bowl and writing one of the great stories in recent NFL history. And then Foles had a second ridiculous run last year, engineering a 16-15 playoff upset of the Bears in Chicago, and he got to be so beloved in the Eagles' locker room that Chris Long built a shrine to Foles in his locker. He wanted to leave. He wanted one more shot, at 30, to have his own team, a team that wouldn't put him in the shadow of the prospective franchise quarterback. So Foles got the golden hand shake from Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman and Jeff Lurie. Good for Foles. Not so sure it's the best thing for the Eagles--though if they'd kept him for a couple of years at legit QB money, it might have led to valuable long-termer Brandon Graham leaving in free agency; can't sign 'em all. The Eagles can be confident in Carson Wentz, in his health and his ability. (I would be too.) But sure? No way. Wentz has been lost for the season in two straight Decembers, with a torn ACL and a fractured vertebra, and missed 13 of the Eagles' last 24 games. He wasn't the bold player in 2018 that he was before his ACL tear, and not just because of the 4-6 record in his last 10 starts. Maybe it's a good thing that he stayed in the pocket more (he was more accurate, to be sure), and that probably serves him best for a long career. But the Eagles have to find the right balance of derring-do and pocket presence for Wentz, because he's a great weapon out of the pocket.

                  9. *CHICAGO BEARS (12-5)

                  "Can you believe how lucky I am?" defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano told me last week. "Coaching the Bears, in Chicago, with this incredible defense?" The great thing for Pagano and this iteration of the Bears is that Roquan Smith won't have a ridiculously damaging holdout way too deep into training camp, and Smith can be the power point of the interior of the defense, which is what he was drafted to be ... and, presumably, Khalil Mack, who started all 65 games in his career before being traded to Chicago, will go back to ironman Mack in 2019; he hurt his ankle early in his Bear year and missed three starts and was less than himself for three or four more. How good quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will be in year three is shrouded in mystery, but the Bears can still be the best team in the NFC North with a quarterback who's 18th or 22nd in the league.

                  10. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-7-1)

                  Washington, at the end of the Kirk Cousins Era, loved Cousins the person and wasn't entirely sold on Cousins the player. The Vikings, after one year of Cousins as the franchise guy, understand the reticence. His numbers were exquisite--70 percent passing, 4,298 yards, a 30-to-10 TD-to-interception ratio. But the Vikings, as it turned out, needed to win three of their five December games to make the playoffs. They won two. In the three losses, they fell behind New England 10-0, Seattle 21-0 and Chicago 13-0 ... and Cousins led three touchdown drives in 32 total possessions in those games. Put simply, he's got to play better in the big spot to justify $84 million guaranteed in three years. There's nothing particularly analytical or deep about that, but it is the truth. One X factor in Cousins' favor: His offensive line was awful last year, and two-thirds of the interior has been rebuilt this spring--with free-agent guard Josh Kline from Tennessee and first-round center Garrett Bradbury from North Carolina State. Browns running back Nick Chubb. (Getty Images)
                  11. +CLEVELAND BROWNS (7-8-1)

                  GM John Dorsey is gambling on the boldest chemistry experiment in recent NFL annals. I am too. I think the Browns enter the season as the best team in the division ... but so much is riding on the risky calls Dorsey has made. One: naming Freddie Kitchens head coach. Until the last two months of the 2018 Browns season with Kitchens as interim offensive coordinator, he was a faceless, totally unknown career NFL assistant. Now the Bill Parcells disciple has become the Baker Mayfield muse. No coach in my memory has done more for his career in two months than Kitchens. Two: trading for Odell Beckham Jr. He's great. We all can see that. But he's a tinderbox too. Will he grow up, back with his best friend Jarvis Landry? (They were teammates at LSU.) Three: the acquisitions of Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon to bolster the defense line. Richardson's on his fourth team in seven NFL seasons, Vernon his third in eight years. If Cleveland gets a Pro Bowl year out of either player, I think it'll be lucky. On the surface, this seems like a free-wheeling, fun team. It has the most talent in the division. But the most talent doesn't always win. And one final twinkling star may be on the way, if the Gerald McCoy-to-Cleveland rumors pan out. Man, what a time to be alive in Cleveland. What jersey will Drew Carey buy?

                  12. *BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-7)

                  This is how close Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh were in the fourth quarter of the final Sunday of the 2018 season. In Cincinnati, the Steelers and the Bengals were tied at 13 with six minutes to play, and the Steelers had the ball, minus Antonio Brown, at their 25-yard line. In Baltimore, the Browns, trailing 27-26, had the ball first-and-10 at the Ravens' 39-yard-line with 1:18 left. A first down and a field goal would win the game for Cleveland. Imagine, for a moment, if Cincinnati and Cleveland walked off with wins that Sunday. Records of the top three teams in the division: Baltimore 9-7, Cleveland 8-7-1, Pittsburgh 8-7-1. I only mention that because the division is pretty close, and the Ravens, who got Lamar Jackson two new receiving toys (Marquise Brown (they're hoping he can be in the Tyreek Hill-factor league and Miles Boykin), are a fascinating team to watch. They could win 11. They could win six. The offense had better score, because the defense has holes.

                  13. *SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-7)

                  In the first two drafts after being named Seahawks GM in 2010, John Schneider picked safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor (same 2010 draft, 119 picks apart), tackle Russell Okung, wideout Golden Tate, linebackers K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith, corners Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell--and Seattle signed Stanford wideout Doug Baldwin as an undrafted free-agent. Not bad. Three-quarters of the Legion of Boom secondary, a Super Bowl MVP (Smith), a cornerstone linebacker (Wright) and the second-best receiver (to Steve Largent) in franchise history in Baldwin. So now, in the span of 14 months, Baldwin, Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor are gone. Schneider is having to rebuild the secondary from scratch. He got his quarterback with the 75th pick in 2012, and Bobby Wagnerand Wright should hold the defense together for at least one more year. But make no mistake: Seattle is in the midst of Schneider trying to rebuild a great team and keep it at least good and playoff-competitive, formed around an innovative quarterback. Some puzzle pieces need to come through this year for Seattle to win 10 games: free-agent pass-rusher Ziggy Ansah, first-round rusher L.J. Collier, second-round receiver/male model D.K. Metcalf, and maybe, just maybe a tackling machine in fifth-round Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven--who had the most tackles in a college season (176) since Luke Kuechly in 2011 at Boston College. Not many GMs get to build two teams with the same franchise. That's Schneider's task this year and next.

                  14. +GREEN BAY PACKERS (6-9-1)

                  I can only imagine what Aaron Rodgers feels like sitting there at the Bucks playoff games when he's not thinking, Fear the Deer, baby. He has to be thinking how absurd it is that, since mid-2015, he's won exactly half of his starts--27 of 54, over nearly a four-year period. He has to be thinking how, at 35, he's reaching the home stretch of his career, and he doesn't want to go out with one Super Bowl win and just one Super Bowl appearance. And he has to be thinking all eyes around the league will be on him as he tries to team with a new coach, Matt LaFleur, to rekindle the hopes of a great franchise gone mediocre. In a personnel sense, the Packers didn't help Rodgers and LaFleur much this offseason, adding no marquee free-agents and just a second-round center (Elgton Jenkins) and third-round tight end (Jace Sternberger) and no receiver help. So the weight continues to be on Rodgers as he adjusts to a new coach and new system, in a division with at least two teams that have passed the Packers. Big year for the quarterback.

                  15. *HOUSTON TEXANS (11-6)

                  I would have liked to see the Texans devote more resources to fixing, arguably, the worst position group--offensive line--on any returning playoff team. Last year, the mobile Deshaun Watson was sacked, hit or pressured significantly 275 times in 16 games, per Pro Football Focus. That's a lot. Houston responded by drafting Tytus Howard, a tackle from small Alabama State, in the first round, after their reported top tackle choice, Andre Dillard, was snatched before them by Philadelphia. I hope Howard can play right away, because he's desperately needed. It's amazing that, under all that pressure, Watson found time to hit DeAndre Hopkins 115 times. Imagine if Watson had legitimate time to pick apart defenses. He could connect with Hopkins 150 times.

                  16. *DALLAS COWBOYS (11-7)

                  Best news of the offseason for the Cowboys, easily, didn't come in free agency (through re-signing pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence for five years was big) or the draft. It came on the field in the last few weeks, when the Cowboys have seen the best center in football, Travis Frederick, return to form after missing 2018 with an autoimmune disorder that attacked his nervous system and left him feeling weak for months. "He looks really good," said coach Jason Garrett. "It's good to see him out there in a stance, running football plays." In 2017, with Frederick as the linchpin, Dallas had the best line in the NFC. The Cowboys can reclaim that if Frederick's back whole.

                  17. +ATLANTA FALCONS (7-9)

                  I keep hearing owner Arthur Blank is getting restless. In the Falcons' last 35 games (the first one in that 35-game string is the Super Bowl loss to New England), they're 18-17, and they've got a $30-million-a-year quarterback and a receiver, soon, likely to be a $20-million-a-year player. Yet a team in the Falcons' division, New Orleans, scored 90 points more than Atlanta last year. Seems smart to reinforce an aging offensive line, which Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff did early in the draft with a new guard, Chris Lindstrom, and a tackle, Kaleb McGary, who could both start this year. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. (Getty Images)
                  18. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-6-1)

                  It's going to be peaceful in Pittsburgh without the weekly (daily?) questions about Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. But with all the distractions and discord last year, the Steelers still averaged 26.8 points per game, and I'll be surprised if they reach those heights this year. Steelers players might find it more placid coming to work and games this year with Antonio Brown 2,300 miles away, but how are they replacing Brown's 115 catches a year over the last five seasons? With James Washington? Donte Moncrief? Doubt it. More likely, Pittsburgh turns to the man who cost them first, second and third-round picks on draft day, linebacker Devin Bush, and hopes he can be the sideline-to-sideline presence Ryan Shazier was until that fateful night in Cincinnati late in the 2017 season.

                  19. +OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12)

                  Such an interesting team, from the front office and the addition of Mike Mayock, to the offensive attack and the addition of Antonio Brown, to the run game and the addition of Josh Jacobs, to the secondary and the addition of tone-setter Johnathan Abram. I wonder if the schedule will make it very tough to be good--and not just the quality of opposition, but the way the slate is set up, with the Raiders going 48 days between games in Oakland in Week 2 and Week 9. And the Raiders finish with two straight on the road. Hard to imagine the Grudens being great this year, but they can, at least, set the stage for a bright future by hanging around .500.

                  20. +JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-11)

                  Hard not to get a weird vibe from this team. You've got two of the most my-way-or-the-highway guys, Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone, running the show, and last year there was Jalen Ramsey being a loose cannon all year and Leonard Fournette acting up late in the season--both are back this year--on the way to a stunningly disappointing five-win season. Then Coughlin criticizes players who aren't in the voluntary offseason program. The leading tackler, linebacker Telvin Smith, mysteriously walks away from football without first telling the team, and acts all bothered when people question why he's doing this ... and makes himself unavailable to the team. Even with Nick Foles, the steadiest guy and best teammate you could imagine, imported to improve the quarterback position, it's still hard to trust this team.

                  21. +CAROLINA PANTHERS (7-9)

                  Just a lot of uncertainty with this franchise right now. I don't know what the Panthers will get out of Cam Newton after two surgical procedures on his throwing shoulder in the last two-plus calendar years. I need to see whether Bruce Irvin and Brian Burns can be the day-one pass-rush threats they were imported to be. I'll be interested to watch the line's ability to keep Newton clean, though the Panthers have to be thrilled with the development of third-year tackle Taylor Moton. More than ever, Carolina needs the quarterback to be kept clean--his long-term health is at stake--and the team also needs to make sure it doesn't beat Christian McCaffrey (20.2 touches per game last year) into the ground. Carolina will contend if Newton stays healthy for 16 weeks and the pass-rush can be good by Labor Day, and both are possible. Big ifs.

                  22. +WASHINGTON (7-9)

                  Love the Dwayne Haskins pick, even though it might take some getting used to for him to mesh with Jay Gruden's offense. "Could be an adjustment period," someone close to Gruden told me the other day. But Gruden, after watching Haskins at a mini-camp over the weekend, gushed over him: "He's made some throws that turn your head, without a doubt." Love the Montez Sweat pick too, especially late in the first round. Now maybe Ryan Kerrigan has a frisky young guy (and a speedy one) to take some of the pass-rush pressure off him. Just a projection, but if Case Keenum starts for the first month (at Eagles, Dallas, Chicago, at Giants) and the offense is going nowhere, how great would it be for Gruden to name Haskins the starter in Week 5 at FedEx Field ... with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick coming to town for the first time since 2011?

                  23. +BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)

                  Here's what I like about Buffalo's offseason: They got a little better at a lot of places on the roster. John Brown and Cole Beasley make the receiver group markedly better (if Brown can stay on the field). The under-used Tyler Kroft comes from Cincinnati to probably start at tight end. The right side of the offensive line is all new: center Mitch Morse, guard Cody Ford, tackle Ty Nsekhe--if projections hold. And Ed Oliver is the three-technique Buffalo has dreamt about being there with the ninth pick of the first round since the combine. And there he was. "We want to take 90 guys to training camp who belong in an NFL training camp," GM Brandon Beane told me the other day. "What we've tried to do all offseason is bring in guys who make the competition better at every position. Guys like Tyler Kroft." There are not many rosters like Buffalo's right now. The Bills have one draft choice from 2016 or earlier, '16 first-round pick Shaq Lawson, on the roster. That's a trend Beane wants to change. "I want to build this roster through the draft," he said. "But there's going to be a big changeover when you first take over." The Bills aren't ready to climb Mount Patriot yet, but they should have a significantly better 53-man roster by Labor Day than they had last year.

                  24. +DENVER BRONCOS (6-10)

                  The spring has gone rather well for the Broncos ... assuming Joe Flacco can play. Even if he can't, and the Broncos are more optimistic about him than anyone in the state of Maryland, Denver GM John Elway backstopped the quarterback position pretty well by stealing Drew Lock with the 42nd pick in the draft. But the best thing that's happened in Denver since season's end is the hire of Vic Fangio, because he's long-past due at a head-coaching shot, and he can command a room, and he's the kind of football guy his players will respect from day one. The storm clouds, for me, are the fate of Chris Harris (contract dispute), whether Flacco can recreate the old days from Baltimore, and whether the line can protect Flacco.

                  25. TENNESSEE TITANS (9-7)

                  So we've reached year five of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. If you're like me, you really don't know if either is the long-term passer for his team.

                  Mariota: 55 starts, .632 accuracy, plus-27 touchdown-to-pick differential, 7.5 yards per attempt, 89.4 rating, average Pro Football Focus annual rank among QBs--21.
                  Winston: 54 starts, .616 accuracy, plus-30, 7.6 yards per attempt, 87.8 rating, average PFF ranking--23.

                  If I'm the Titans, this is the year I've got to see it from Mariota, who has a very solid slot guy now (Adam Humphries, from Tampa Bay) and a rookie receiver from Ole Miss, A.J. Brown, who was a low first-rounder on some team's boards. If Mariota raises his game this year, he'll take the Titans with him. If not, we may see Ryan Tannehill by season's end.

                  26. +NEW YORK JETS (4-12)

                  Obviously, the Jets are better, with Le'Veon Bell to energize the offense, C.J. Mosley to be the (expensive) hub of the defense, and Jets fan-man Quinnen Williams pushing the pile into the quarterback. But I've got to see it first. The Jets have won five, five and four games the last three years (14-34, for those scoring at home), and the guy they're relying on most to change the offensive culture, Bell, has a unique résumé in recent NFL history. When he plays, he's the best all-around weapon among backs in the NFL. When he plays. He sat in the contract dispute last year, and missed 15 games over the previous three seasons. That means, of the Steelers last 68 games, Bell sat for 31 and played 37. What effect will the lost year have on him? How many games can the Jets count on Bell this year, and for the next two or three seasons? Anyone who says he/she knows is guessing.

                  27. +DETROIT LIONS (6-10)

                  The coach, Matt Patricia, is a former Patriot. The GM, Bob Quinn, is a former Patriot. Two assistant coaches and two scouts are former Patriots. Eight players on the roster, led by Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola, are former Patriots; six used to be coached by Patricia, the Patriots' former defensive coordinator. I'm sure I'm missing a Foxboro alumnus or two. It's good to have a base of people with a Belichickian base, collectively. And I trust Patricia to build a competitive defense in the rock-ribbed NFC North. But what I'd like to see in Detroit is an offense that scores more than 15 points a game. That's the number (15.3 actually) the Lions averaged in the last two months of the season, if you take out the meaningless, playing-for-nothing exercise in week 17 against Green Bay. In the previous eight weeks, Detroit scored 9, 22, 20, 16, 16, 17, 13 and 9 points. Darrell Bevell replaces Jim Bob Cooter as offensive coordinator, and few new coordinators have the task Bevell has.

                  28. +NEW YORK GIANTS (5-11)

                  Every reporter and TV screamer and columnist has weighed in on Eli Manning and Daniel Jones and the sanity of the general manager. So let's spend one paragraph on one of the most interesting things we'll witness this year: exactly who will be impactful, and who will line up where, on the Giants defense. By my count, nine of the 11 starters on defense on opening day (if they open in a nickel package) could be new to the team over the last 15 months: defensive linemen B.J. Hill and Dexter Lawrence, linebackers Alec Ogletree, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, and defensive backs Sam Beal, Deandre Baker, Antoine Bethea and Jabrill Peppers. Chemistry class will be in session at Giants camp in July. It had better be--because no one knows how productive the post-Odell offense will be. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. (Getty Images)
                  29. +TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-11)

                  Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich with Jameis Winston. I like that a lot, mostly because of the drama. I have no idea what direction the Bucs' offense will take, but I do know one thing: Winston will throw deep early and often. The biggest job for Arians, aside from trying to U-turn a foundering franchise, is the care and fixing of Winston, who couldn't cure his interception bug in four seasons of Dirk Koetter's tutelage. In fact, the only quarterback in the NFL since 2015 (minimum 1,500 attempts) to average more than a 3 percent interception rate is Winston--58 picks on 1,922 attempts, for a pick rate of 3.02 percent. Which means that, for every 100 passes Winston has thrown as a pro, just over three have been intercepted. (Hat-tip to Pro Football Reference for the play-index device that allows that stat to be figured out.) So you see the need for new teaching voicing in Winston's ear ... By the way, speaking of the Marcus Mariota-Jameis Winston debate, they meet for a referendum in Nashville on Oct. 27.

                  30. +CINCINNATI BENGALS (6-10)

                  No one in Cincinnati wants to hear this, but this is the same kind of season as Arizona and Miami are approaching: new coach, fact-finding mission, a major rebuilding job. But it seems so much more significant after Marvin Lewis had the head-coaching gig for 16 years, and first-year, first-time head coach Zac Taylor emigrates from the wildly successful Rams offense to the humdrum Cincinnati attack. And not only does Taylor have to figure out--this year, preferably--if he's going to stick with Andy Dalton after this ninth Bengal season, he's got to do it while reconfiguring his offensive line and making sure rookie defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has the resources to be competitive during a total defensive overhaul. Bengals were a bad defense last year and allowed 28.4 points per game. Good for the Bengals in finally tearing the insular staff apart and looking outward to fix a foundering franchise.

                  31. +ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-13)

                  All is definitely not lost for the Cardinals. The real losers in the post-season Cardinal experiment? The American football fans. Unless you've got a TV package able to show every Cardinals game, starting with seven competitive games--Detroit, at Baltimore, Carolina, Seattle, at Cincinnati, Atlanta, at New York Giants--or you've got the RedZone Channel, you're going to miss a fascinating football story. Think of this: Soon after being named the Texas Tech head coach late in 2013, Kingsbury offered a tiny Allen (Texas) High School sophomore quarterback, Kyler Murray, a full scholarship to play quarterback for the Red Raiders beginning in the summer of 2016. Murray turned it down eventually, choosing Texas A&M and later transferring to Oklahoma. And so now Kingsbury, six years after first laying eyes on the phenom quarterback who's been the smallest man on the field for years, gets to make him the centerpiece of an imaginative and thrilling offense in the NFL. I mean, who wouldn't want to see every snap of Murray's developement, with Kingsbury pulling the strings? It's a shame the Cardinals have but one prime-time affair this year (Halloween night, Thursday, Garoppolo at Murray). If I'm not there in person, I'll be watching on TV, that's for sure.

                  32. +MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-9)

                  So you hear things in this job. Some things you hear are true, some you're not sure about, and some sound so smart and logical you figure there's a good chance they're true. This falls in the third category: Miami owner Stephen Ross either in direct words to his football people or in every message to the football staff in recent months, has told them he wants a long-term quarterback above all things--and whatever it takes, whether it be tanking this season, or somehow getting in position to take the quarterback they're sure can be the next franchise quarterback for the Dolphins, that's the most important development for this Miami season. Why not? Assessing Ross' 10 years as majority owner of the Dolphins: one season over .500 ... zero division titles ... zero playoff wins ... no franchise QB. If indeed he has told his minions that he is interested only in a quarterback who has a chance to be the next Dan Marino, why not? And if letting Ju'Wuan James and Cam Wake go in free agency and getting third and fifth-round Compensatory Picks in return, and if picking up an extra second-round pick by moving down in this year's draft in a trade with New Orleans, and if dealing Ryan Tannehill to Tennessee for a fourth-round pick ... if doing all those things leaves Miami with nine picks in the first five rounds next April, including (presumably) a high first-rounder of their own, then the Dolphins should be in fine position to draft a big QB prospect. By the way, acquiring Josh Rosen for the 62nd pick this year gives Miami a bridge year to see if Rosen just might be that franchise guy. Smart investment there. Funny to say this about the team I like least in 2019 heading into the season, but I appreciate what Miami's doing.


                  • #10
                    I think those rankings are fair. None of it matters though. Paper champions didn't win super bowls. It's going to be a fun season!


                    • #11
                      Chargers will win the west and have a first round bye.


                      • #12
                        GMFB AFCW discussion

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