NFL Power Rankings: 21-32
By Ben Rolfe
Who will occupy the bottom-12 spots in the power rankings?
The NFL season is so close now that we can almost taste it. The Hall of Fame game takes place on August 1st before the regular season kicks off in Chicago on September 5th. With teams beginning to step up their preseason activities over the coming weeks let’s kick off our NFL coverage here with a look at where teams stand to enter the season. In this first part we will look at the bottom-12 of our offseason power rankings.
Naturally, these power rankings will be based upon talent and potential for success this season. However, a lot of teams are very similar at this point of the year. Therefore, if a team is likely to put an entertaining product on the field they will get boosted over a team expected to be less entertaining. Winning trumps all, but if you are going to be bad, I’d much prefer to watch a team who is bad but entertaining than a bad boring team.
32. New York Giants
The offseason was not a disaster for the New York Giants, but it certainly was not good. After finishing 5-11 last year they arguably lost their best players on both sides of the ball this offseason. They added talented pieces and clearly believe they have drafted their quarterback of the future. However, for 2019 they still have Eli Manning behind a questionable offensive line and with less talent at wide receiver.
The only positives here are that they have young pieces, such as, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram with which to build around. Outside of that there is a lot to be concerned about. This team will likely struggle to match its win total from last year and could struggle to even get above three if things do not go their way.
31. Miami Dolphins
If I was ranking teams based on their future the Dolphins would be much higher. The front office finally committed to a rebuild, and have stockpiled 10 picks for the 2020 draft. They also added Josh Rosen, which could be the best pick of this past draft given the relatively little capital they gave up for him. You could argue that the Dolphins improved in two key areas this offseason, head coach and quarterback. Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be a massive upgrade on Ryan Tannehill in 2019, but combined they are better than Tannehill plus whatever replacement they had when he was injured.
This team will likely steal a win or two thanks to the weather in Miami offering them a nice home field advantage. However, this is absolutely a team that could be in contention for the top pick in 2020. The other element that puts them here in the rankings is that they may not be very entertaining to watch this season. If Fitzpatrick is playing quarterback that may not be true, but I’m expecting Brian Flores to try and play cards close to the chest football this season. The combination of not very good and not very entertaining is less than ideal to say the least.
30. Washington Redskins
Overall it was a mixed offseason for the Redskins. They added useful pieces such as Landon Collins, and they have managed the dreadfully unlucky quarterback situation well. If Alex Smith had not broken his leg last year we would be talking about this team a lot differently. However, he did and now the Redskins are entering 2019 with a QB duo of Case Keemun and Dwayne Haskins.
However, my concern lies around what they have offensively outside of their quarterbacks. Offensive line wise they are reasonably solid, but their pass catchers have a lot to prove. This offense is going to largely work through the run game this year and will not be pretty to watch. Much like the Dolphins this ranking reflects the likelihood that this team is both bad and not a lot of fun to watch this season.
29. Arizona Cardinals
I really do not know what to say about the Cardinals this season. At the very least they should be more enjoyable to watch than what we saw last season. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense will spread the ball around and make for some entertaining games. Early in the season they may have success, but my concern is what happens when defenders start adjusting to them in the middle and second half of the year.
Speaking of defense, there are also concerns around the Cardinals defense itself. They will be missing Patrick Peterson for the first part of the season, and then there is the element of whether this offense will give them enough rest. High octane offenses can be a lot of fun, but they need to. Be able to create long drives and allow that defense to rest. If this defense is exposed to 32 or more minutes a game on the field regularly the score line could get extremely messy. However, whatever happens, the Cardinals should be must-watch television in 2019.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
This position in the power rankings may be a little harsh on the Bengals because their defense was so banged up last year it was tough to judge them. They have some extremely talented pieces, and if they keep them all healthy, they should have a good season defensively.
Their offense is my major concern, despite bringing in an offensive-minded rookie head coach and getting the imperious AJ Green back. Their rookie left tackle is expected to miss around six games, leaving their offensive line as a major question mark. They still have questions surrounding Andy Dalton and the run game, mostly stemming from the offensive line woes. This could be another team whose defense is sabotaged by the offenses inability to stay on the field. That combined with a tough division could put leave struggling to avoid a double-digit loss season.
27. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders used all three of their first-round picks on solid contributors in the 2019 draft. Many people question exactly who they picked in terms of value, but all of them should offer an improvement over what was there before. Offensively they added some really good pieces, including Antonio Brown, and will be hoping that a tight end can step up and replace Jared Cook. If they can get Josh Jacobs going in the run game, they could put up some good numbers.
Defensively they also added nice pieces and should be improved on last year. They need their front-seven to make the biggest leap, and honestly any improvement will feel massive compared to 2018. Hopefully this team will look less hopeless than it did during periods of 2018. However, it will be hard to make a massive jump in a division with the Chiefs and Chargers.
26. Denver Broncos
The Broncos did not really do anything to get significantly better in this past offseason. Flacco is likely to offer them similar value to Keenum, so their offensive production will rely on their young skill players taking the next step. They added Noah Fant at the tight end position and should see a natural boost when veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders returns.
The only reason I didn’t rank them lower in these power rankings is their defense. Led by Von Miller and sophomore Bradley Chubb they have one of the best pass rush combinations in the league. Their linebacker and defensive back groups are not as good as they once were, but a good pass rush can mask most deficiencies on the back end.
25, Detroit Lions
The Lions should have all of the talent to be much better than this ranking. However, you could have said that many times in the Matt Stafford era and yet they always disappoint. The addition of T.J. Hockenson alongside Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jonesshould make this offense scary. Much like most teams in this region of the power rankings, their production will largely depend on the offensive line. At times that unit has struggled, and it has caused devastation to this offenses efficiency.
Defensively they invested big in former-Patriot Trey Flowers. They will be hoping the added pressure he can provide will help boost a defense that finished at best middle of the road in most defensive statistics last season. The defensive line is the strength of this unit, as the only other plus options right now are Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs. This group needs to take a massive leap if the Lions are to have any chance of being competitive in a loaded division.
24. Buffalo Bills
We are really in the region of difficult decisions for these power rankings. On the surface the Bills do not look that talented, but they always seem to outperform expectations. Their defense looks like a solid but unspectacular unit, that will need Ed Oliver to be a big part of immediately.
Offensively they rebuilt their entire offensive line this offseason and that could be the big telling point. Josh Allen is undoubtedly talented but needs to improve, especially passing the ball. He has plenty of speedy receivers to target with his monster arm, and now he has the line to protect him. That line should also help their running game bounce back, and they also have the talent at the position to put up solid performances. Playoffs may be a stretch, but I’d also be very shocked if this team was picking first overall next season.
23. San Francisco 49ers
There was so much enthusiasm surrounding the 49ers last season, but it ultimately fell flat. The injury to Jimmy Garoppolo did not help their cause, but they just disappointed across the board. They added another running back to a talented group in Tevin Coleman and loaded up on receiving talent in the draft. Their most talented offensive weapon may well be George Kittle, which is nice, but this offense needs him to be the second or third best option realistically. If Kyle Shanahan can get this group purring, then the playoffs could be an option.
However, to do that they need this defense to gel in a big way. There are a lot of talented players in that group, but in the last few years, they have failed to turn names into performances. The secondary is the biggest concern, so they need the additions of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to ensure their defensive line wreaks havoc in order to have success this season. The unknown around this defense is why the 49ers are this low in the power rankings.
22. New York Jets
What an entertaining offseason for the Jets. They brought in a new head coach and then sacked their general manager after the draft. However, drama aside they added quality pieces on both sides of the ball in LeVeon Bell, C.J. Mosley, and Quinnen Williams.
So much is going to depend on the development of second-year quarterback Sam Darnold for this team to succeed. They have put all the pieces around him for him to succeed, but obviously, that does not guarantee success. Much like the Buccaneers and Bills their offensive success could largely depend on their offensive line. This is another team who could be in wildcard contention this season if they get it right.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The likely new-look Buccaneers were tough to find a home for in these power rankings. They are absolutely loaded with talent offensively, and now have a head coach to utilise it. However, they still have a major Achilles heel in their offensive line. If they cannot get better performances from their line then they will struggle to get the most out of their talent.
Along with the offensive line, the defense is what will make or break this team. Much like the offense they are loaded with talented names. Their secondary especially is loaded with high draft picks which hopefully defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can bring together. If this side of the ball gets it right they could be surprise contenders for the playoffs. However, if the defense and offensive line struggle to gel then we could be looking at another really poor season, especially with their nightmare schedule.
Photo credit: USA Today (Eli Manning)
Photo Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports (Kenyan Drake)