By Bryan Dietzler
I think that everyone likes a good set of NFL power rankings. People enjoy arguing about how their team stacks up against other teams during the season. But what about the off-season? It is a bit harder to do power ranking during the off-season because the teams haven’t hit the field to be evaluated. But power rankings are not all about how teams perform on the field.
The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and teams are getting into their mini-camps. We will start hearing who might have the early edge to start at contentious positions. There will be injuries that could take players out until the pre-season, the start of the season or worse, cause them to miss the entire 2017 season.
Getting a “feel” for what is going to happen in 2017 is going to start right now.
I would like to kick things off with power rankings that take into consideration the draft as well as free agency. Hopefully, I can be consistent with my power rankings both during the off-season and the upcoming NFL season.
So, after evaluating all of the moves that have been made so far, this off-season, as well as what went on with the draft, I have come up with a ranking for all 32 NFL teams. Take a look and let me know what you think.
- New England Patriots-They are still the best team in the NFL heading into the deepest part of the off-season. While some of the moves they made in free agency and in the draft aren’t real head-turners, they are still the class of the league and are still the team to beat. And barring any injury issues this off-season, they will remain the number one team heading into the 2017 campaign.
- Atlanta Falcons-Atlanta is still the class of the NFC, for now. But with improvements made by other teams in the conference, Atlanta may not be as successful in 2017. They did improve their defense through the draft so if they can keep teams from beating them there then they should be solid. But other teams will catch up to them. These teams will give them greater competition and make it much harder for them to get back to the Super Bowl.
- Oakland Raiders-The Raiders are still on their way up. With quarterback Derek Carr back and healthy, coupled with some of the improvements made this off-season, Oakland could contend with the Patriots as the top team in the AFC. Can they get over the top in 2017? Keep an eye on them as they will be one of the most interesting teams to watch and should build on last season’s success.
- Green Bay Packers-Being a Bears fan, it’s very hard to put them up this high in my power rankings but I need to be objective. Their defense gave them problems in 2016 but they made some moves to fix that this off-season. If they can stay healthy, their new pieces can connect and find their rhythm, this could be a tough team to beat in 2017. They are clearly set up to be successful in 2017.
- Pittsburgh Steelers-There are rumors that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be playing his last few games as a Pittsburg Steeler. Because of this, the Steelers will want to try to win another Super Bowl for Big Ben. The Steelers have a pretty strong base and just need to fill in a few holes in order to become one of the strongest teams in the NFL. With some hard work done during the off-season, this team could easily be a Super Bowl contender next season.
- Dallas Cowboys-Will the Cowboys be able to come back and be even better than they were last season? If they can then they could push themselves over the top in 2017 and get to the Super Bowl. But teams are going to be keyed in on what they were able to do last year and will better prepared to take them on. Can the Cowboys find the same magic that they had last season or will they stumble? Keep an eye on this team as, after a nice off-season full of key moves, they may be poised to rise to the top of the NFC and get to the Super Bowl in the 2017-18 season.
- Tennessee Titans-The Titans had a good off-season and are poised to do better things in 2017. They were close to making the playoffs last year and will continue to build on that.It looks like quarterback Marcus Mariotta is going to make it back from his broken leg fine so that is a plus. Coupled with some nice additions in the draft, they could win their division in 2017. Bigger things are coming for Tennessee.
- Seattle Seahawks-The Seahawks have to be in the mix for the playoffs every year. They have one of the most talented teams and their head coach, Pete Carroll, is able to put pieces in place to make them a contender. Their defense should be solid once again but their offense is still a question mark. They need to hope that they have that shored up in time for the start of the season.
- Kansas City Chiefs-The Chiefs got their quarterback in the draft and have retooled for the future. There will be some questions heading into next season like who is going to run the ball and who will catch it. These must be solved before the start of the season. The good thing is that they have the defense to make a difference and should be fine there. It will be interesting to see just how soon Patrick Mahomes will hit the field. Hopefully, it’s not this coming season because if it must be, the Chiefs are probably not going to be in playoff contention. But, keeping in mind Dak Prescott’s performance from last year, so anything is possible. A rookie quarterback can succeed in his first year out .
- Philadelphia Eagles-There are a lot of people out there who believe that the Eagles are poised for bigger and better things in 2017. They had a good draft, they made nice moves in free agency have a lot of good talent on the roster from 2016. If quarterback Carson Wentz can continue to develop and the rest of the team can firm up around him, the Eagles could be playoff contenders in 2017. They just might be one of the surprise teams next season.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers-This is a team that has a lot going for them. Their quarterback, Jameis Winston, is finally starting to look like a solid pro. They have a good receiving corps, and their running backs are very good. Their defense just needs to come along and if they can, they might be able to earn a wild card berth. With a strong off-season, this team has a great chance to start out well and build momentum througout the 2017 season.
- Detroit Lions-The Lions have quietly been working their way up the “ladder” and are poised to make things interesting next season. With some work on defense and an off-season where none of their top players get injured, this team could step up and make it to the playoffs. Consistency has been their biggest problem. One year this team is up and then the next they are down. Will this be an “up’ year for the Lions? Can they compete with the Packers for the NFC North? Those are the biggest questions for Detroit heading into the “meat” of the 2017 off-season.
- Arizona Cardinals-This could be the last year that quarterback Carson Palmer plays in the NFL so he might will want to go out with a bang. This team is very talented, well coached and should be on the rise, at least a little, after a year in decline. Look for head coach Bruce Arians to have this team ready to compete as they could find themselves on competing for the lead in their division. A return to the playoffs is a realistic goal for them in 2017.
- Washington Redskins-The Redskins have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL but will 2017 be his last season in Washington? It just might be. With an improved defense this team may be able to hang onto leads and win a few more games next season. Providing there aren’t any major injuries on both sides of the ball the Redskins could have a chance at a wildcard berth but won’t overtake the Cowboys for the top spot in the division just yet.
- Miami Dolphins-The Dolphins will be out to prove that last season’s trip to the playoffs wasn’t a fluke. This team made a few moves that some people question and have made them wonder what they were doing. Their draft was sound and anything is possible under head coach Adam Gase. This team could go either way this season, up or down. Right now, it’s hard to predict what will happen to Miami in 2017.
- Carolina Panthers-The Panther’s tumble, following their Super Bowl appearance, showed that this team could not overcome personnel losses and scheme changes. The formula was for stopping them was simple. Stop Cam Newton and you will stop the Panthers. Injuries and other issues plagued them last year but they hope to be back in the playoff hunt in 2017. Their division should be sealed up by the Falcons and with the Bucs on the rise, things could be tough. But you never know. The Panthers could rise again.
- Los Angeles Chargers-We may be seeing the end of Phillip Rivers career and it would be nice if the Chargers could get him to a championship. That probably won’t happen in 2017 but a playoff appearance would be nice. Health has always been a problem for this team and if they could stay healthy, they could go places. They did draft some talented players and have a lot going for them with the players carried over from last year. Can this be the year they finally break out and do something more? For River’s sake, let’s hope so.
- New York Giants-There are a few quarterbacks that are getting ready to “ride into the sunset” and retire. Eli Manning is one of them. The Giants are a team that has gone up and down over the last few years and hasn’t seemed to have a lot of success since winning the Super Bowl seasons ago. New York made some additions during the off-season but these additions appear to bring more questions than they do answers. Like the signing of Brandon Marshall. Is he going to hurt the team more than he will help it? And, back to Manning, could he miss some time due to the memorabilia scandal that he is involved in? Without Manning, the Giants will go nowhere. It could be a long season for the men in blue.
- Houston Texans-The Texans are sure to take a fall this year despite making the playoffs in 2016. They have to start over at the quarterback position and their new signal caller, DeShaun Watson, will have a lot to learn. He might not be ready for action this year. But the thing is, the Texans could use Watson right now. They really don’t have anyone else at quarterback. So what will they do? Keep in mind that their defense is going to be very good so that could help get them somewhere while their offense continues to build. But the playoffs will be out of the question for them this coming season.
- Denver Broncos-Their fall from grace has been well documented and they probably won’t climb up out of the basement this season. Their quarterback issues aren’t settled and they need to do some tuning up on their offensive line. Good thing they got some help in the draft for that. Their defense, which two years ago was the best in the NFL, needs some work. But the future looks bright and with just a little more work and some time, this team could be back in the Super Bowl again soon.
- Indianapolis Colts-The Colts have a new General Manager and look to be headed in the right direction. They will struggle with their offensive line, however, and it could put their entire offense in peril. If they play their cards right, they will be back in the playoffs again in a season or two and give Andrew Luck another chance at greatness.
- New Orleans Saints-The chances of Drew Brees getting back to a Super Bowl again are getting slimmer. The star quarterback is approaching a contract year and is not getting any younger. His time is almost up. And, unfortunately for Brees, the Saints won’t be the team he gets back to the Super Bowl with because they have a lot of work to do. But they are heading in the right direction. Their defense has been their breaking point for the past few seasons and they have taken strides to fix it. If Brees can have a stellar year throwing the ball, you never know, but this team is at least a year or two away from anything special and that’s with Brees.
- Cincinnati Bengals-The Bengals are a team that seems to be tough to predict. Hopefully, they will be healthy this season but they have some other issues to work through. Some of their top talent has left and they have some rebuilding to do now meaning they may not make the playoffs in 2017. Their offensive line is probably the unit people need to worry about the most. It could be a long year for Andy Dalton and the Bengals rushing attack because of the problems there.
- Minnesota Vikings-The Vikings could be a much better team than I give them credit for but right now they look like they have a lot to do. They did try to beef up their offensive line and grabbed a solid running back (Dalvin Cook) but there are still issues. Despite the upgrade, their offensive line will remain shaky. This will cause problems protecting their quarterback (whoever that may be) and run blocking. Their defense will need to prove that they have recovered from last year’s collapse and can get back on top. Will the Vikings stay consistent, win some games, and make it to the postseason? It’s possible but not likely in 2017.
- Buffalo Bills-Buffalo didn’t do a lot of great things in the draft or in free agency. In fact, they may have taken a step back. They appear to have faith in Tyrod Taylor and will let him take the reins at quarterback again. But, he will be on a short leash and may not make it through the season. This team has some work to do before it is playoff bound and this year they can move forward. Perhaps in a year or two, they can be playoff contenders.
- Baltimore Ravens-This ranking may seem too low for them but it’s about right, right now. I feel that they can easily move up in the rankings. The Ravens had a nice draft and appear to be heading in the right direction but have some ground to make up. Baltimore’s defense should be solid again but they need some work on offense. This team will be a fun one to watch to see how they grow and compete though. Don’t be surprised if they climb up the rankings and end up having a decent 2017 season.
- Jacksonville Jaguars-The Jaguars have had some decent drafts but have had a lot of instability in the front office and at the head coaching position. Hopefully, that has been taken care of by hiring former head coach Tom Coughlin to run the football side of things. Another thing they have struggled with has been the play of quarterback Blake Bortles. Maybe we are starting to realize that Bortles is not a starting NFL quarterback. Is his time in Jacksonville almost over?
- Chicago Bears-Yes, I am a Bears fan and I wish that I could rank them higher but I can’t. This team had an “interesting” draft and it clearly shows that they are not building for the here and now. Instead, they are getting ready for the future and as a result, may not do too well in 2017. Their defense could be tough if they can stay healthy, but their offense will struggle. But, with this assuredly a make or break season for head coach John Fox, the coaching staff may do everything they can to keep their jobs. That means they may win more games than people will give them credit for. But will this coaching staff be around in 2018?
- Cleveland Browns-The Browns have had some nice drafts and have one of the most talented teams in the NFL. But can they put it all together and start winning? That’s the biggest question. They aren’t going to break out and surprise a lot of people this year on offense for one thing. Cleveland needs to develop a quarterback still and has to “find themselves” on that side of the ball. Their defense may be good as they have a lot of talent to do something positive. Give them three years and you could be saying “Cleveland Browns and playoffs” in the same sentence.
- New York Jets-The Jets do not have a lot of talent right now and need a quite a lot of help. New York has nothing great happening at the quarterback position. They have no one to throw the ball too. On defense, they have a few standouts but not a lot of depth. It’s a team that’s in disarray and has a lot to do to get things right. Honestly, by the end of the season, this might be the worst team in football.
- Los Angeles Rams-The Rams are a team that has put some pieces together but still don’t have enough of them to a lot success in 2017. They did some interesting things in free agency that may not necessarily have helped them in the long run. In fact, what they did may keep them strapped down for a season or two. Los Angeles needed to do good things in the draft but didn’t as much as they needed to there. There are hopes that Jared Goff will live up to his top end billing and that they will he will progress in 2017. But they may only climb out of their hole a little. We should expect better things in 2018.
- San Francisco 49ers-There are many people that are praising the 49ers draft but what was the best about it was how they go their extra picks. The players the acquired will help but not to right away. Drafting C.J. Bethard was interesting. They had to have seen something in him that other teams didn’t see. If Bethard takes them to a Super Bowl then his talent was seriously misjudged. The rest of the team will start coming up from the depths and make a difference in 2017. I do expect them to rise in these rankings, getting to the mid-20’s, perhaps, by the end of the season.
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