The start of 2017 NFL preseason is finally just a few weeks away from starting, with training camps starting as soon as next week. While Teams across the league have dreams of making the playoffs and maybe winning the Super Bowl, not everyone has a realistic shot. So here's a pre-training look at all 32 teams heading into the season:
A couple of notes, starting with point differential. I use that several times in this piece, because it's a good indicator of which teams will regress (both positively and negatively). There is much room for debate in power rankings, especially since it's the preseason. There's not much difference between, say, the 14th team and the 20th. With that in mind, I apologize in advance for ranking your team too low. Yell at me on Twitter if you feel the need.
32. New York Jets
The Jets dropped several veterans this offseason and one thing is clear: they're going to be terrible this year. Rookie Jamal Adams is a promising piece, but who is the budding young star on offense? QB play is going to be a problem, be it Josh McCown or Christian "I hit reporters on the sideline" Hackenberg. At least the Jets are well on their way to getting a top pick next year, which hopefully turns into a QB.
31. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland had drafted well for two straight years. However, it's still another rebuilding. The quarterback play is a question mark (a common theme among bottom-tier teams). I like the way the Browns are rebuilding, but it's still a multi-year process. They can outperform this rank, but the playoffs are a pipe dream.
30. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers, much like Cleveland, had a solid offseason. I was worried about John Lynch at first, but he had a good draft and free agency. This could easily end up being too low for the Niners (and I had a tough time with these bottom spots), but they're likely in for a rough year with no QB of the future.
29. Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff was terrible last year, in pretty much every way. So can Sean McVay, who did great work with Kirk Cousins, get the most out of Goff? I like McVay a lot and he'll benefit from Toddy Gurley and a good defense (coached by Wade Phillips). But the Rams are still looking at a low-end draft pick this year.
28. Chicago Bears
The Bears are likely in for a rough year. They didn't improve their roster as much as the Browns or 49ers did, and there's a good chance their entire draft class sees very little playing time this year. That's what happens when you draft a QB after signing one to a starter contract in free agency, draft a D-II TE in round two, a safety coming off an injury in round four, an FCS RB with their other round four pick and then a D-II OG in round five. John Fox's job is in serious danger.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags have a lot of young players who have promise, especially on defense. But there's one major question mark for Jacksonville: QB Blake Bortles. If he struggles again, the Jags will be picking a new QB high next year. Expect a heavy dose of RB Leonard Fournette next year.
26. Buffalo Bills
I want to put the Bills higher, after all, they did go 7-9 last year. But some teams are going to regress and I think Buffalo is one of those teams. I like several of their pieces, but they're an inconsistent team who might be a year away from making another playoff push after some personnel losses. This is the start of several teams in a row that I'd like to have higher, but couldn't find a place. Health will play a major role in where Buffalo ends up.
25. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers' season, once again, was ruined by injuries. They're much better than their 5-11 record indicates, so hopefully they can actually stay healthy this year. However, playing in a loaded AFC West doesn't help matters. Los Angeles could surprise, but I can't justify a higher spot.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have some really good pieces, but this might be another rough year. The defense needed help and the offensive line had serious issues last year. So, naturally, the Bengals let their two best offensive linemen leave and ignored that position in the draft. The defensive line got Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson, but they spent their first two picks on a WR and RB. If Andy Dalton has time, he'll have some fun weapons, but that's a big if.
23. Houston Texans
I'm likely lower than anyone else on the Texans, but no team is more primed for regression this year than the Texans. They went 9-7 last year, but they had the seventh worst point differential last year. Brock Osweiler was awful, but it's not like they magically solved their QB problem. Tom Savage still has yet to throw a TD pass and Deshaun Watson is a rookie who was taken behind two others who might not play at all this year. Houston still has a good defense, but they had over-performed last year. They will regress this year without improved play.
22. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is the team's focal point. But even with some good pickups by GM Chris Ballard, they're still not quite the favorites for the AFC South. They'll push for a playoff spot, but I think they finish just shy.
21. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees and the offense is going to be great once again. But that defense? It's still a big problem. The pass rush didn't get the help it needed in the offseason, and that was before Nick Fairley was ruled out for the year. The Saints will again finish around .500, but that defense will hold them back.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia isn't the team they looked like at the start of the 2016 season, but their future is bright with Carson Wentz under center. The additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith give this offense a new dimension. Still, with Wentz needing to improve and a strong NFC East, the Eagles need some breaks to get out of the cellar. I like what the Eagles are building, but it might be a year too soon.
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19. Detroit Lions
The Lions went 8-5 in one score games last year, a number that will likely at least regress closer to .500. Oh, and the Lions allowed more points than they scored last year. All that indicates the Lions are in for some regression. With my faith in the Vikings, the Lions could finish third in the NFC North next year. The running game (and defense) must step up and help Matt Stafford.
18. Washington Redskins
Washington's offense lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, so can Terrelle Pryor replace them? The defense got a bit better as well, but the Redskins are in many ways, a similar team to what they were last year. So, expect another close to .500 record.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore's defense should be good, but the offense needs work. Joe Flacco has had two straight bad years, but perhaps adding Jeremy Maclin will help. The running game also needs to improve. Another .500 record might be in the cards for Baltimore.
16. Miami Dolphins
Miami hit their stride down the stretch last year, but even with a 10-6 record, they allowed more points than they score. Plus, Miami had an easy schedule last year: they played five teams with an above. 500 record last year. They won just one of those games. The Dolphins should be a better team next year, but their record might not show it.
15. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have a championship-level defense. Their main problem was a terrible offensive line that was made even worse by injuries. I don't love Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, but it's an upgrade over what they had. Pat Elflein could play right away as well. A Super Bowl might not be in the Vikings' future, but the 2015 Falcons also started the year 5-0, missed the playoffs and then rebounded in a big way the next year.
14. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona had a rough year, missing the playoffs. But they're primed for positive regression: they had the seventh best point differential last year. If they can win a few more close games, the Cardinals can make it back to that playoffs. Don't sleep on Arizona.
13. Carolina Panthers
So which Panthers team will we get next year? The one that went 15-1 and made it to the Super Bowl in 2015 or the one that 6-10 with a bottom 10 point differential? My guess is it's closer to the former, but the Panthers need to do a better job of protecting Cam Newton next season.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are primed and ready for a true breakout season. They need to up their point differential, but the Bucs added several key pieces. They remind me of where the Raiders were last year. I like them as a playoff team next year. They're ranked a bit lower because the NFC South could be really good next year.
11. Tennessee Titans
I didn't like the hiring of head coach Mike Mularkey, but the Titans impressed me last year. Now, the Titans are trending towards a playoff spot. Marcus Mariota is poised for a breakout year, the running game and offensive line is once again great and they added Eric Decker and a No. 1 receiver in Corey Davis. The defense still needs some pieces to make a real Super Bowl run, but I like them to win the AFC South.
10. Denver Broncos
The Broncos were *this close* to making the playoffs last year. After all, they did have the fourth best point differential in the AFC. Playing in the AFC West makes things tricky, but the defense is going to again be really good. But QB play will determine how far the Broncos go this year. It's battle between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Siemian outplayed Lynch, but don't be surprised if Lynch is the starting QB to open the year.
9. New York Giants
As strange as it sounds, the Giants actually had only seventh best point differential in the NFC. But, their defense was really good and they added Brandon Marshall. However, they did not really address their offensive line and there's a serious chance Eli Manning will decline soon. Still, the Giants are a good bet to make the playoffs.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
We know the story with the Chiefs. They'll be great in the regular season, thanks in large part to the defense. But come playoff time, it's not quite enough. That's why the Chiefs bet the farm on Patrick Mahomes. Alex Smith has one, two years tops, left as the KC QB. Still, it should be another playoff year for the Chiefs. Only three teams had a better point differential last year.
7. Oakland Raiders
Oakland fell apart after quarterback Derek Carr went down with an injury. But now he's back, with a great offensive line and new weapons in Marshawn Lynch and TE Jared Cook. However, they're counting on major contributions from rookies Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu in the secondary and still need another front seven piece or two. Still, the Raiders are only just now entering their Super Bowl window.
6. Seattle Seahawks
The top seven teams (save for No. 1) are very debatable. I love this Seahawks roster, save for the offensive line. Exclude that position group and Seattle has perhaps the best roster in the NFL. But that offensive line will keep holding them back, just like the last two years.
5. Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott should be even better in their second year. With a great offensive line, the Cowboys' offense is once again going to be awesome. But the defense has problems. It was the weak point last year and four key secondary members are gone. If the pass rush (and/or several rookies) doesn't step up, the Cowboys defense will hold them back.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
The real key for Pittsburgh is keeping Ben Roethlisberger healthy. Do that and the Steelers are an easy playoff team. But if he misses an extended period of time, the Steelers are in trouble. The defense is young, but it has potential.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are once again one of the best teams in the NFL. They added another weapon in Martellus Bennett, because why not. The real question is the defense, especially the secondary. If the defensive backfield can improve to just league average, the Pacers are probably the best team in the NFC.
2. Atlanta Falcons
28-3 won't die as a meme in the near future, but the Falcons are still a really good team. The offense is stacked again and the defense is young and trending upwards. They'll compete for the Super Bowl again next year, though making it back is an entirely different proposition. A team hasn't made it back to the Super Bowl after losing it since the Bills lost four in a row. That's what regression tends to do. Hopefully a similar fate isn't in store for the Falcons.
1. New England Patriots
This is a no-brainer for the No. 1 spot. The Patriots are coming off (another) Super Bowl win, while adding Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. Oh, and Gronk is (hopefully) coming back healthy. The Pats are the clear cut Super Bowl favorites and hopefully you're ready for 19-0 talk before the season even starts.