Written by: Brandon Busuttil – Staff Writing Intern (@bbusuttil15)
- Cleveland Browns
Cleveland finally won a championship! I hope Cleveland fans are not optimistic of that transitioning into football season. If so, Cleveland is in for a rough season…again. The story of the Browns this year is determining whether Robert Griffin III is worth that $7.5 million per year. I don’t think he will be, but Browns’ owners Jimmy & Dee Haslam feel he is where the franchise will begin to build again.
- San Francisco 49ers
The big hire was Chip Kelly in an attempt to “fix” the 49ers? Interesting move by the 49ers, and it should lead to Carlos Hyde having a huge increase in rushing yards and Collin Kaepernick doing what he usually does by scrambling and attempting to throw the football. 49ers defense was better than what was anticipated last season, and that is one positive they can build off of going into 2016-2017.
- Tennessee Titans
You can see the potential the Titans have when it comes to DeMarco Murray and Marcus Mariota. This is an offense that should be putting a lot of points on the board. As for the defense, they will also have a lot of points scored against. Some pieces are in place, but it will take more than a power-running game and a potential franchise quarterback to help the Titans this season.
- San Diego Chargers
There is a lot of work to do for this Chargers team. The one player that keeps them from being worse than the Browns is Philip Rivers. The offensive line will have it’s days when Rivers is on his game and everyone else is healthy and syncing, but this does not happen often. A lot more pieces need to be put in place before we start talking seriously about the Chargers.
- New Orleans Saints
The story of the Saints is not Drew Brees and the offense, but the lack of defense coming from New Orleans. They did draft Sheldon Rankins in the first round to try and change this, but it will take a lot of quick development by the young defensive players to make a difference. Don’t be fooled though, the Saints will definitely pick up some wins with their offensive mentality.
- Atlanta Falcons
Honestly, I love what the Falcons are building. They had a really rough second half of the season last year, Matt Ryan needs to prove this year he can play all around though. Falcons would be higher up in the rankings, but go take a look at their schedule for the first half of the season then I think you will understand why the Falcons are sitting 28th. Falcons went 2-7 for the second half of the season last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happens the first half of this year.
- Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are almost there. It seems that they have the right pieces, it is just the matter of all those pieces clicking together at one time. The recent signing of Arian Foster I think will help the offense even more and give Ryan Tannehill a very good secondary option to throw to. The Dolphins have great defense on paper, but the game is played on the field, and on the field the defense does not look how it should. Laremy Tunsil made a good pick up for them and hopefully Ndamukong Suh can get out of his funk he is in.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I am excited for this team this year. They have a large opportunity to do a lot more than people expect of them. See them as a low floor team with a high ceiling. Jameis Winston was fun to watch last year and will be again this year. The Bucs defense also seemed like it started clicking and maybe it can continue clicking this season. By no means am I saying playoffs, but I am saying that the Bucs can very easily make a big stride this year.
- Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens we saw last year was not the same team we will be seeing this year. What an injury-ridden nightmare the Ravens had. With every player coming back healthy, this team should take off, but there is always the chance the injuries leave the better days in the past. Hoping that doesn’t happen, but it cannot be counted out.
- Los Angeles Rams
Wow, that was a weird name to type out. The big talk about the LA Rams is Jared Goff. Great job getting a quarterback, but an important thing that every quarterback needs is a receiver to pass to. Unfortunately, the Rams have yet to find this. It is a great starting point, but there is a lot more building to do in LA.
- Detroit Lions
No more Megatron! With the absence of Calvin Johnson, the Lions become a much different team, but I still see a competitive football team. It comes to putting points on the board for the Lions, as the defense was able to stay pretty average last year. Expect a more diverse offensive attack, and a higher emphasis on the defense for the Lions.
- Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles could be just about anywhere in these rankings. Trying to figure out how the Eagles will perform this season is like trying to understand how the universe was created. Sam Bradford is back…but what about Carson Wentz? It will be interesting what direction the Eagles go in when it comes to quarterback, and what they do with the other guy.
- Chicago Bears
Defense is the name of the game in Chicago. There is no doubt that the Bears’ defense lead by John Fox, is going to be scary this year. On the offensive side, Cutler has a lot to prove. He is being paid a lot of money and if he does not perform up to those high standards, we just might see someone without a job the following year.
- New York Jets
The ranking for the Jets would be totally different if we knew what was going on with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets had a great season last year and pulled off some quality wins. If Fitzpatrick re-signs, this could be a very deadly Jets team, that has playoff potential.
- Buffalo Bills
The Bills made some big strides last season and I expect them to build on it. Tyrod Taylor was a major surprise for them, and the running games is lethal by the Bills. Defense has to improve for them to be a playoff contending team, especially with the Jets being in the same division…oh, and the Patriots too.
- Jacksonville Jaguars
This used to be the team you hated to get when you randomized teams in Madden. Now, the tides have turned. Only a 5 win season does not say enough as to the potential this Jaguars team has this season. Bortles will continue his superb passing ability, with the help of some big time receivers. More importantly, the additions of Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Dante Fowler, makes this defense a lot more legitimate.
- New York Giants
It is time for the Giants to get back into the Super Bowl running! Big defensive pick ups in both the draft and free agency, makes this team a lot more lethal. We cannot forget about Eli Manning headlining the Giants every year, and he now has a new partner Sterling Shepard, who I see as without a doubt, excelling with the Giants.
- Houston Texans
The Texans were able to make a successful season out of a team of average players. With Brock Osweiler now getting paid some big money to be an improvement at the quarterback position, we will see how much better the Texans can be. A lot of speed has been added all over the roster, and if the Texans were able to get it done last year, I can only imagine what they can do this year.
- Washington Redskins
Everyone will be wondering whether Kirk Cousins had a one and done season or if he is the real deal who just needed a chance. From last years performance, the Redskins are going to be a good team, and with the addition of Josh Norman on defense, we may see a repeat of division champions.
- Indianapolis Colts
If you ask anyone about the Colts and how they will do, you will get the same answer from everyone. It all comes down to Andrew Luck and him being healthy. The Colts are pretty average everywhere else, but they are a legitimate, contending team when Luck is healthy and playing at his top level. Assuming Luck is healthy, the Colts can make an impact this season.
- Dallas Cowboys
The NFC East is probably the most unpredictable division in the NFL. It is anyone’s for the taking. If Romo continues to play at the level he did last year there is no reason the Cowboys can’t be the ones at the top of the division. Ezekiel Elliot is the big story of the Cowboys, because he provides what Gurley can provide to the Rams. I expect the Cowboys to be competing for a playoff spot come the end of the season.
- Oakland Raiders
I have never seen people as hyped up about the Raiders than they are this year. They are going to be fun to watch and I can’t wait for Derek Carr to show us what he has for another season. With a lot of young receivers developing into decent roles within the organization, Carr has a lot of guys to throw to. For an exciting game, tune into the Raiders game every Sunday.
- Kansas City Chiefs
Without Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston last season the Chiefs were still able to be a force in the NFL. With not much else changing for them I don’t see this team slowing down coming into a new season. I hold them as the team that may be the one to knock off the Broncos from another division title.
- Green Bay Packers
With a healthy Jordy Nelson, that only adds another threat to a Packers team that can just about do it all. Rodgers was pushed to his absolute max last year, not getting as much run support from Eddie Lacy or James Starks as he should have. Lacy finally lost the gut that was holding him down last season, and this should take some pressure off of Rodgers. You should really never think that the Packers are not going to win on every weekend.
- Pittsburgh Steelers
As if defenses didn’t target Antonio Brown enough, with the suspension to Martavius Bryant this will only give defenses even more reason to make sure Brown doesn’t catch the ball. With a healthy Le’Veon Bell, hopefully that makes the defense play a little more diverse defense. If the Steelers can stay healthy and Ben Roethlisberger not get hounded by an injury, this is a Super Bowl contending team.
- Cincinnati Bengals
It is no longer a question in Cincinnati of if they can make playoffs; it is if they can stop choking in them. Another great draft by the Bengals, and what seems to be a good offense, puts this team back in contention when it comes to the month of January. The matter is now taking an extra step further when it comes to the post-season.
- Minnesota Vikings
The defense is one of the best in the NFL, they have a very well established running back; now can Teddy Bridgewater take his game to the next level? The Vikings staff helped him out by getting Laquon Treadwell, now it is time for Bridgewater to show he wants to be a winner. Better yet, a champion.
- New England Patriots
Just like a lot of other teams, it comes down to staying healthy. The Tom Brady suspension has potential of getting this team off to a rough start, but with some simple additions during the off-season I don’t think the suspension will hinder the Patriots too much. The only reason I don’t have the Patriots at a 1 or 2 spot is because of the suspension, and because of some questionable calls with the cornerback position. I am sure it is nothing to worry about as Bill Belichick usually knows what he is doing.
- Seattle Seahawks
I just hope the Seahawks don’t disappoint me because I have been debating for two days whether they really deserve a 4th place ranking. There is a lot that has to be done and big cleats have to be filled for that running back position. The defense will stay dominant, but there just needs to be more on offense for the Seahawks to get back to the Super Bowl.
- Denver Broncos
If the Seahawks have big shoes to fill at running back, imagine the shoes at quarterback for the Broncos. Every position but quarterback is dominant for the Broncos, so I don’t see them slipping in power rankings before the season. Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch will have to step up their offensive game and show the city of Denver they are ready to bring another Super Bowl. It is nice to be a quarterback on the team with the league’s best defense, because it takes a lot more pressure off the shoulders.
- Carolina Panthers
I know Cam Newton must be ecstatic to have Kelvin Benjamin back. He might be the missing piece to a Super Bowl title, or maybe now Josh Norman will be the missing piece. I am confident the Panthers defense will be relatively the same without Norman, but with just one extra option on offense, Cam Newton may come back even deadlier than before. I see another dominant Panther team.
- Arizona Cardinals
Meet one of the teams I expect to see in Houston in February. Carson Palmer is not near the end of his playing days, and this offense will continue to be absolutely dominant. Their biggest pickup was on the defensive end and I think Chandler Jones might just be that extra piece they need to bring it all home. Cardinals have a scary receiving core; one that, on any given Sunday any one of them can have a game of their career.