The 100th season of the National Football League will commence on Thursday evening as the Green Bay Packers take on the Chicago Bears. To celebrate, we ranked all 32 NFL teams heading into Week 1 of the regular season.
32. Miami Dolphins
Tank for Tua is in full effect. They can only hope Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t trip into more than three wins.
31. Cincinnati Bengals
Zac Taylor isn’t going to be able to resurrect Andy Dalton’s career. Not in the span of a year, anyway. The Bengals are in a transitional period and will be bad, especially with A.J. Green on the shelf for at least the first few weeks.
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Washington Redskins
Their front four is ferocious, but that’s where the positives end. Washington fans can only hope Jay Gruden doesn’t toss Dwayne Haskins into the fire behind this iteration of the offensive line in a bid to save his job. Wins will be tough to come by.
28. New York Giants
Daniel Jones has actually looked decent in preseason, but he has a long way to go. The defense will need to compensate for what will be a below-average offense despite the presence of Saquon Barkley, and they aren’t good enough to do so.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When it comes to the pairing of Bruce Arians and Jameis Winston, there’s reason for optimism. There’s also reason for pessimism. I lean more towards the latter. Winston is more likely to give Arians a heart attack with another bone-headed throw than undergo a resurgence.
26. Buffalo Bills
They’ve put together an intriguing mix of young talent and vets up in Buffalo, but it won’t translate to wins until Josh Allen elevates to at least a league-average quarterback. He’s still a year away from that.
25. Oakland Raiders
Their messy and dramatic offseason should pave the way for a messy and dramatic season. Antonio Brown could earn them a few extra wins, or he could destroy anything resembling team chemistry. A disaster is far more likely than a miracle.
24. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have the talent to stay above water in the wake of their franchise QB’s retirement, but the defense isn’t quite good enough to make up for their deficiencies on offense. They won’t completely bottom out, but a Wild Card birth is too high a hope.
23. Tennessee Titans
22. Detroit Lions
The Lions may very well have the best front four in the NFL, but their secondary remains a weak spot and it’s hard to see Darren Bevell leading their offense to a top-10 finish. Too much needs to go right and the division is too tough for Detroit to be much better than .500.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
The defense should bounce back and solidify their status as a top-five unit. Can the offense simply be average? Nick Foles isn’t exactly a sure thing when he doesn’t have Doug Pederson calling the plays.
20. New York Jets
Sam Darnold and Le'Veon Bell seem likely to give the Jets a league-average offense at the very least, but the defense is filled with question marks and Adam Gase doesn’t have a stellar track record as the man in charge. This has the making of another developmental year rather than a truly competitive one.
19. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers could field an above-average unit on both sides of the ball, but everything rides on the health of the team, whether it’s Cam Newton or Luke Kuechly. Recent history hasn’t been kind to them in this regard, and it’s tough to feel good about Carolina as a result.
18. San Francisco 49ers
The Niners are just a whole bundle of potential right now, between the talent on their defensive line and Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s time to deliver on that potential. Garoppolo didn’t look great in preseason, and they go as far as he does. Right now, that doesn’t seem too far.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore will trot out a very interesting offense in Week 1, but until Lamar Jackson can be equally threatening throwing the ball as running it, they’re too one-dimensional to be a threat. Add in their losses on defense, and they’re a long shot to make it out of a tough division.
16. Cleveland Browns
Enough digital ink has been spilled on the Browns. We know the heights they can reach. Can they do it? I have a hard time putting them higher without seeing their full offense on the field at the same time.
15. Minnesota Vikings
The defense will be adequate, but can the offense reach the heights of 2017? Another new offensive coordinator might do the trick, but they’ll likely start slow as they get the hang of the new scheme.
14. Denver Broncos
The possibilities for this defense with Vic Fangio at the head coach are endless. The offense is a much bigger question. As long as they don’t turn the ball over, they’ll be very tough to beat, but I don’t have faith in Joe Flacco to deliver them a playoff birth.
13. Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott is back, so that’s good. Regardless, their ceiling seems dependent on whether their defense can be a dominant unit. If they’re only middling, Dallas doesn’t have the offensive explosiveness to make up for it.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
This may be the Steelers’ worst offensive year in six seasons, but they’ll still be pretty good. If they can get their secondary into shape, Pittsburgh will be as tough to beat as ever. But there are more questions for this team than any recent iteration, and a playoff berth is anything but assured.
11. Houston Texans
The Texans may have mortgaged their future for a left tackle and traded Jadeveon Clowney for peanuts. But Deshaun Watson will have more time than ever this year, and a combo of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson is better than Lamar Miller.
10. Atlanta Falcons
The offense is as dangerous as any in the league. What their ceiling is on defense remains to be seen. Regardless, barring another shocking array of injuries to crucial players, Atlanta has the talent to hang with the best.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James’ absence will be felt in a big way in Los Angeles. Russell Okung’s may be even more important. And Melvin Gordon, won’t see him no more. Still, with most pieces on both sides of the ball returning from last year, there isn’t any reason to believe the Chargers will regress in a major way.
8. Seattle Seahawks
Landing Jadeveon Clowney for a third and spare parts was an absolute coup for Pete Carroll and Co. Their defense will once again be elite and Russell Wilson will keep their offense afloat. They might not have the firepower to hang with their divisional foes in Los Angeles, though.
7. Chicago Bears
Their defense will likely take a slight step back without Fangio, but they’ll remain an elite unit. Mitch Trubisky needs to come much farther than he’s shown to view this team as a Super Bowl contender.
6. Green Bay Packers
Perhaps an unpopular choice to put a team that didn’t make the playoffs over last year’s NFC North winners. My counterpoint: only one of those teams has Aaron Rodgers. Health permitting, Rodgers will return the Packers to dominance this year.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz’s health is what makes the Eagles a Super Bowl contender, but Doug Pederson has earned my benefit of the doubt. If Wentz struggles to start or gets banged-up again, Philadelphia will still be in the conversation.
4. Los Angeles Rams
This team has remained more or less the same since last year. Will last year’s Super Bowl flop affect their performance going forward? Maybe, but if it does, we won’t see it in the regular season.
3. New Orleans Saints
They return every major contributor and the defense can only get better after starting slow last year. New Orleans will be elite once more barring a very unexpected drop-off from Drew Brees.
2. New England Patriots
Hard to count the Patriots out, and they just added Josh Gordon back from suspension. Their defense will be the strength of this year’s team, an idea with many positives and negatives. Still, Bill Belichick will scheme his team to the AFC Championship game at the very least.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs remain the cream of the crop. Anything they can get from their defense should be considered a plus, and Patrick Mahomes can presumably improve off an MVP season. They’re the team to beat in 2019.