2016 NFL Preseason Power Rankings
The 2016 NFL season is right around corner, which means a few things. First, thousands of relationships across the country are doomed, because of how much money will be spent on fantasy football and other related NFL bets. Second, overall production in the work environment will be down on Mondays (even more so than it already usually is) from September until February. And thirdly, we’re in for an even bigger batch of Peyton Manning commercials.
Okay but seriously, we do have some great headlines heading into the 2016 season. The Dallas Cowboys appear to be dangerously close to having so many guys suspended, that they have to forfeit their Week 1 matchup. The Chargers still have not signed the #3 overall pick, Joey Bosa, to a contract. And the St. Louis… err, Los Angeles Rams look like they’ll be throwing #1 overall pick Jared Goff straight into the fire. Yes, the 2016 NFL season should be an exciting one – assuming that none of the teams in the league have the same paint supplier as Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium…
I know NFL fans were upset that the Hall of Fame game was cancelled, but in all reality it was a blessing in disguise. Do we really need more opportunities for players to get hurt? Heck, why not cancel the first two weeks, and only play two preseason games? I’m on board with that.
What’s that? I left out another NFL headline? Oh that one. Well you see, my article was getting a little long, so I decided to deflate it a little and leave some things out. Or maybe it just boggles my mind that we’ve been talking about deflated footballs for over a year now and I refuse to discuss it any longer. Either way, the Patriots are without that Brady guy for four games. Needless to say that may just be the biggest headline of them all as we head into the season.
And finally, before we get to the first rankings of the season, we have one more piece of business to attend to. Yes, that’s right – my Week 1 picks! As you may recall, last season I predicted every nationally televised game (all Thursday, Sunday Night and Monday Night games) and went an astounding 31-26. Okay so, that might be mildly impressive had I used the spread. But of course I didn’t and it’s entirely possible that a blind monkey could have done just as well. But nonetheless, we’re going to give it another crack.
So for Week 1 (which by the way, is still over a month away at the time of writing this, so that should count for something), I’m investing heavily in road teams. I’ll take Carolina over Denver in a rematch of the Super Bowl on opening night. And in the first two Monday Night games of the year, I’ll take the Steelers over the Redskins and the Rams over the 49ers. I would have made it a clean sweep of road teams if Brady wasn’t serving his suspension, but I really don’t like Jimmy Garoppolo’s chances against that Arizona defense; I’ll take the Cards over the Pats in the first Sunday Nighter of 2016.
And with that, let’s get to the 2016 NFL preseason power rankings.
1. Denver Broncos – One of the perks of winning the Super Bowl is that you automatically start the following season ranked #1. Unfortunately there are no perks when Mark Sanchez is likely your starting quarterback. I expect Denver to be good, but this may be the only time all season they are ranked at the top.
2. Carolina Panthers – The Panthers lost cornerback Josh Norman to the Redskins, but don’t expect their defense to drop off too much. And don’t forget, they get back one of the best young wide receivers in football, in Kelvin Benjamin. I don’t see them making a run at an undefeated season like last year, but I do expect them to be one of the best teams in the NFC yet again.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – I know they are without Martavis Bryant for the entire season, and potentially without Le’Veon Bell for four games, and their defense is still mediocre. However, if Big Ben and Antonio Brown are healthy for an entire season – I believe the Steelers may just be the overall favorite in the AFC.
4. Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals scare me because they are coming off a season in which they were relatively healthy. They had their injuries like everyone else but they avoided injuries to their most important players, and doing that two straight seasons is incredibly rare. And can Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald really come close to what they accomplished last year?
5. Green Bay Packers – The Packers may likely be the most improved team in the NFL, simply because not only did they draft a solid defensive tackle with their first round pick, they are getting a slimmed-down Eddie Lacy, and (hopefully) a healthy Jordy Nelson. Both guys can be top 5 at their respective positions. And oh yeah, they still have Aaron Rodgers behind center.
6. Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks are the ultimate question mark. How will they perform in life after Beast mode? The defense is still good, but not as elite as in years past. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Pete Carroll won’t have this team playing at a championship-caliber level.
7. Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings were expected to be good last year, but nobody saw them winning the NFC North. Adrian Peterson appears to still have plenty left in the tank and if that’s the case, they could quietly surprise a lot of people yet again.
8. New England Patriots – I still think this is too high for a team that is missing their most valuable player for a quarter of the season. However, they still have Bill Belicheck and he alone is worth at least two wins a season.
9. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs are due for a relatively injury free season, and if they can accomplish that, they have a shot for a deep run come January. As good as Andy Reid is, he is still one of the most underrated and underappreciated coaches in the NFL.
10. Cincinnati Bengals – It just doesn’t feel like the Bengals have done anything to get themselves over the hump. Maybe this is the year they finally win a playoff game, but I just don’t get any sense that this team is ready to be considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
11. Oakland Raiders – Maybe it’s a year too early to rate them quite this high, but I really believe in this team. In fact, one of my bold predictions for 2016 is that the Raiders, who have not made the playoffs since 2002, will win their division.
12. Dallas Cowboys – I know Dallas was one of the worst teams in all of football last year, but nonetheless, they still have a very good offense when Tony Romo is healthy. Ezekiel Elliott is an X-factor for them and I believe he is poised to have a very good rookie season.
13. Indianapolis Colts – The Colts were one of the most disappointing teams last season but I believe now that Andrew Luck is healthy, he is ready to remind us that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. It was just two seasons ago he threw for 40 touchdowns. Forty. Oh how quickly we forget.
14. New York Giants – Tom Coughlin is no longer leading the charge for the G-Men, but I expect big things on offense this season. They need more production in the running game, and they need big improvement on defense, but I think it’s very reasonable to think this team could win the NFC East.
15. Los Angeles Rams – They still lack playmakers on offense (I’m pretty sure we’ve been saying this since whenever Torry Holt retired) but their defense is very good, and Todd Gurley has all the makings of the next best running back in football. Plus, they play extremely well against their divisional opponents.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This team has a lot of confidence right now and I’m starting to buy in. I’m not sure their defense is where it needs to be, but if Jameis Winston continues to mature on the offensive side of the ball, I believe they could have a top 10 offense.
17. Philadelphia Eagles – I’ll be the first to admit, I have no idea what to expect from the Eagles this year. My gut tells me they shouldn’t be this high but maybe Carson Wentz will be the franchise quarterback Philadelphia is looking for.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars – I know I’ve said it the last two years, but I really, really think this is the year the Jaguars make some noise. They’ll need to stay healthy, but their defense has a ton of potential, and their offense continues to get better. If there is one dark horse to bet on this year, I believe it’s the Jags.
19. New York Jets – Brandon Marshall seemed more excited about the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a contract with the Jets, than elementary kids are when they find out they have a substitute teacher and basically get a day off. And hey, do you blame Marshall? Here is the list of QB’s he’s had throughout his career. Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, Patrick Ramsey, Kyle Orton, Chris Simms, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, Chad Pennington, Matt Moore, J.P. Losman, Jason Campbell, Josh McCown and Jimmy Clausen. There are no words for that. Can you imagine the type of career Marshall could have if he had someone like Philip Rivers or Eli Manning (let alone someone like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees)? Yikes.
20. Washington Redskins – Yes they won the division last year. Yes, it’s even possible they could win it again this year. No I don’t think they are very good. But Kirk Cousins continues to prove people wrong, so here’s his chance to prove me wrong.
21. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan and Julio Jones is one of the best duos in the NFL. Unfortunately the NFL is a team sport and the rest of the team just isn’t very good.
22. Buffalo Bills – The Bills do have some decent talent, but let’s be honest with ourselves; the only reason we really want to watch the Bills this year is to see what the Ryan brothers will do on and off the field at any given moment.
23. Houston Texans – I’m not a believer in Brock Osweiler. However, he has one of the best groups of wide receivers in the league, top to bottom. I believe the Texans have a chance to be pretty good this year, but their entire season, I believe, rides on the shoulders of Osweiler.
24. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees is still playing at a high level, but the weapons around him are slowly dissipating. And the defense is still bad – so unless they can put up 35 points per game, it’s hard to see this team even finishing .500.
25. Tennessee Titans – The Titans had a season to forget last year, but I think they will make strides forward this year. And by that I mean I think they have a distant shot at reaching eight wins. But I do think they are moving in the right direction which is really all the fans can ask for at this point.
26. Chicago Bears – The Bears no longer have the reliable Matt Forte in the backfield, and they still have the unreliable Jay Cutler slinging it around. If everything went right, I could see this team hovering around .500, but I see more problems than potential.
27. Miami Dolphins – Adding Arian Foster was an interesting move – but I’m not really sure what he brings to the table. He is really struggling to stay healthy, and to be honest, Miami seemed to have bigger needs other than running back.
28. Baltimore Ravens – It’s been rare over the last decade to see the Ravens so low, and maybe they surprise some people this year but I just don’t think they have enough talent on either side of the ball to compete.
29. San Francisco 49ers – Is this the year Colin Kaepernick gets things turned around? I’d say it’s unlikely, simply for the fact he doesn’t have a whole lot of talent around him. Not to mention, he’s really just not that good. The defense is still a little above average, but if they have any hope, I believe they need Carlos Hyde to run wild, and take as much pressure off of Kaepernick as possible. And I keep saying Kaepernick, as if he is a lock to be the starter. At this point, he’s still battling with Blaine Gabbert. And that right there tells you all you need to know about the 49ers.
30. Detroit Lions – Matt Stafford was good enough to win some games when teams doubled and tripled Calvin Johnson. Now that Megatron is gone, teams can play straight up, or even send those double teams over to Golden Tate. Who the heck is Stafford going to throw the ball to then?
31. San Diego Chargers – San Diego should probably be ranked dead last, if for no other reason than they can’t even get their first round pick signed. But beyond that, they just aren’t that good. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll probably finish the season somewhere in the middle of the pack or so, but I believe they are definitely the worst team in the AFC West.
32. Cleveland Browns – If RGIII thought going to Washington was a challenge, well then he’s really in for a good time in Cleveland. Admittedly, I do find myself rooting for him though. He clearly showed in his rookie season he has talent. And hey, the Cavaliers just won the NBA title and the Indians are a serious contender for the World Series – maybe it’s the Browns’ time and I just haven’t drank the cool aid yet. Look at the bright side Browns fans, last year I had the Redskins ranked dead last in the preseason polls, and they made the playoffs!
Image via Facebook