NFL Power Rankings Part 3

Welcome to the final installment of our three part 2019-2020 NFL season power rankings preview. We’ve finally made it to the top ten teams of the league as we examine the main contenders for Super Bowl LIV. Last weeks article about the middle 11 teams can be found here.

Tier 2: Elite

**#10 Indianapolis Colts | 2018 Record: 10-6

  • Key Additions: WR Devin Funchess, DE Justin Houston, CB Rock Ya-Sin
  • Notable Losses: QB Andrew Luck, WR Dontrelle Inman, S Mike Mitchell
  • Players to Watch: QB Jacoby Brissett, WR T.Y. Hilton, LB Darius Leonard

The Indianapolis Colts went on a rampaging 9-1 run at the end of last season to seal their first playoff appearance since 2014. After a disappointing 6 weeks to start the season, QB Andrew Luck finally shook off the rust and led the Colts to one of the best offenses in the NFL, winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in the process. But unbeknownst to us all, that would also be his last season in the NFL. As after the Colts week 3 preseason lost to the Bears, Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the NFL.

This off-season the Colts made some notable additions to their 10th ranked defense, by signing talented edge rusher Justin Houston and drafting CB Rock Ya-Sin in the second round. Both of which will help improve one of the best young defensive units in the game.

Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement pretty much ends the Colts’ Super Bowl aspirations in 2019 and immediately downgrades them to the bottom of what will likely be a pretty competitive AFC South. Although, Jacoby Brissett, who will be the new starting QB, has shown to be a serviceable game manager in the past, so they may be able to eek out some wins behind their strong defense.

**Colts Ranking Post Andrew Luck Retirement – 24

Vegas Win Projection: 9.5

#9 Pittsburgh Steelers | 2018 Record: 9-6-1

  • Key Additions: WR Donte Moncrief, LB Devin Bush, LB Mark Barron
  • Notable Losses: RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown, TE Jesse James
  • Players to Watch: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB James Conner, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Steelers had a bit of a roller-coaster type of a season in 2018 that led to the end of the beloved “Killer B’s” trio in Pittsburgh. After a drama filled 2018 where Le’Veon Bell held out the entire year, the Steelers ultimately crashed and burned; losing 4 out of their last 6 games and missing out on the play-offs for the first time in 5 years. And despite catching a career high 15 touchdowns in another Pro-Bowl caliber season, Antonio Brown expressed a dissatisfaction with his role in Pittsburgh and requested a trade. This off-season, the Steelers decided to quickly move on from the pair, letting Bell walk in free agency and trading Brown to the Raiders for a pair of draft picks. While the two will be missed, the Steelers already have impressive replacements in place with the emergence of second year players JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner.

With much of the offensive drama settled, the Steelers turned their attention to upgrading their defense by trading up in the draft to select Michigan LB Devin Bush. Bush, a supremely athletic three-down linebacker gives them the defensive leader in the middle of the field that they have sorely missed since losing Ryan Shazier in 2017. In addition to Bush, the Steelers have also signed the versatile LB/S Mark Barron, who should be a valuable tool in their improving defense.

There is a growing sentiment that the Steelers will be better this year without the the dynamic duo of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, given that they will be a more cohesive, drama-free unit. While this addition by subtraction theory does have some of its merits, the actual additions the Steelers made this off-season are good ones and should help set them up for a return to the play-offs in 2019-2020.

Vegas Win Projection: 8.5

#8. Los Angeles Chargers | 2018 Record: 12-4

  • Key Additions: QB Tyrod Taylor, DT Jerry Tillery, LB Thomas Davis
  • Notable Losses: WR Tyrell Williams, TE Antonio Gates, DT Corey Liuget
  • Players to Watch: QB Phillip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen

The Los Angeles Chargers were one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL last year. The trio of QB Phillip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, and WR Keenan Allen led an impressive offense, while DEs Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa book-ended a fearsome defense. The Chargers had a dominant 12-4 regular season, but ultimately succumbed to the Patriots in the AFC Divisional round.

The Chargers didn’t make too many changes this off-season. Long-time Chargers TE Antonio Gates (retired) and DT Corey Liuget (released) were two of their most notable departures, but neither played a major role with the team last season. While the major additions include the veteran signings of QB Tyrod Taylor and LB Thomas Davis. The biggest question surrounding the Chargers this off-season is the status of star RB Melvin Gordon. Gordon has been holding out for a new contract since the start of the preseason and has even requested a trade if he doesn’t get his deal. With the two sides still reportedly millions apart, we should expect to see 2018 breakout RB Austin Ekeler get the bulk of the Chargers’ early season carries.

Unfortunately the Chargers were also hit with some crucial injuries this off-season. Star S Derwin James has just been recently placed on IR after undergoing, while Pro-Bowl T Russell Okung has missed the entire preseason recovering from a pulmonary embolism. With the injuries and the uncertainty around Melvin Gordon, the Chargers might go into 2019 as a bit of an underdog, but given the talent they have on both sides of the field, they should still win plenty of games.

Vegas Win Projection: 9.5

#7 Cleveland Browns | 2018 Record: 7-8-1

  • Key Additions: RB Kareem Hunt, WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Olivier Vernon,
  • Notable Losses: G Kevin Zietler, LB Jamie Collins, S Jabril Peppers,
  • Players to Watch: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Myles Garrett

Its taken awhile, but the Cleveland Browns finally look like a good team. After managing just 4 wins in their previous 3 seasons, the Browns went 7-8-1 last year behind a stunning rookie season from QB Baker Mayfield. Mayfield wasn’t the only breakout star for the Browns as fellow rookie Denzel Ward and second year DE Myles Garrett both shined on an improving young defense.

The Browns added even more star power this off-season after completing a blockbuster trade with the Giants to acquire superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pro bowl edge rusher Olivier Vernon. And in free agency, the Browns took the gamble in signing DT Sheldon Richardson and RB Kareem Hunt. Both of which who despite carrying some off-field concerns are extremely talented players.

The Cleveland Browns have a pretty stacked roster overall and have suddenly become one of the most hyped teams in the league. And while the Browns should make some noise this season, they are still a very young team that lacks a lot of experience.

Vegas Win Projection: 8.5

#6 Chicago Bears | 2018 Record: 12-4

  • Key Additions: CB Buster Skrine, S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, K Eddy Pineiro
  • Notable Losses: CB Bryce Callahan, S Adrian Amos, K Cody Parkey
  • Players to Watch: QB Mitchell Trubisky, LB Khalil Mack, K Eddy Pineiro
K Eddy Pineiro

The Chicago Bears had a great 2018 season. The late addition of LB Khalil Mack made the Bears defense one of the best in the league and the progression of QB Mitchell Trubisky coupled with Matt Nagy’s creative play-calling meant the Bears had a top ten offense as well. But, all everyone remembers is Cody Parkey’s unfortunate “double-doink” field goal.

The Bears immediately released Parkey and have tried out as many as 9 different kickers this off-season. And after spending the entire summer and the first few weeks of preseason testing their kickers, it seems like they have finally decided on Eddy Pineiro, who has gone 4 for 5 in preseason field goals. The other main task for the Bears this off-season was replacing CB Bryce Callahan and S Adrian Amos, who departed during free agency. GM Ryan Pace was able to sign S Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and CB Buster Skrine to do so, but they’ll both be seen as downgrades.

The Bears secondary took a small hit this off-season, but the Bears still have among one of the best defenses in the league. And with their kicking situation seemingly sorted, the Bears will definitely be among one of the main contenders in 2019.

Vegas Win Projection: 9.5

Tier 1: Championship Material

#5 Philadelphia Eagles | 2018 Record: 7-9

  • Key Additions: OT Andre Dillard, DT Malik Jackson, LB Zach Brown
  • Notable Losses: QB Nick Foles, WR Golden Tate, LB Jordan Hicks
  • Players to Watch: QB Carson Wentz, TE Zach Ertz, DT Fletcher Cox

The Philadelphia Eagles looked like they were on their way to another magical Super Bowl run behind back-up QB Nick Foles, until normally sure-handed Alshon Jeffrey let one through his hands; resulting in a Marshon Lattimore interception that ultimately sealed the NFC Divsional game for the Saints. Looking to avoid a QB controversy, the Eagles decided to let Foles walk in free agency and declared Carson Wentz as their franchise QB, handing him a huge 4-year $128 million contract extension in the process.

With the safety net that was Nick Foles gone, keeping Carson Wentz healthy and protected became the Eagles main goal this off-season. Thus, prompting the team to trade up 3 spots to select Washington St. tackle Andre Dillard in the first round of the NFL draft. Dillard who graded as one of the best pass protectors in the draft will help fortify an already impressive Eagles offensive line. Other key additions to the already potent Eagles offense includes the return of WR DeSean Jackson and Pro Bowl RB Jordan Howard. The Eagles also made some big additions on the defensive side with the signings of DT Malik Jackson, LB Zach Brown, and S Andrew Sendejo. All of which should become valuable rotational pieces for an improving Eagles defense.

With no holes on their roster, the Eagles are well setup for another run at the Super Bowl. But the main question will be if Carson Wentz can stay healthy enough to play the entire season.

Vegas Win Projection: 9.5

#4 Los Angeles Rams | 2018 Record: 13-3

  • Key Additions: QB Blake Bortles, LB Clay Matthews, S Eric Weddle
  • Notable Losses: G Roger Saffold, DT Ndamukong Suh, S Lamarcus Joyner
  • Players to Watch: QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, DT Aaron Donald

The Los Angeles Rams had one of the most dynamic offenses in football last season, led by some brilliant scheming by Head Coach Sean McVay. Which is why it was so disappointing when the Rams only managed to score 3 points in their Super Bowl LIII loss against the Patriots. One major reason behind the Rams offensive struggles in the Super Bowl was the health of All-Pro RB Todd Gurley. Despite being declared healthy and starting the game, Gurley only received 12 touches (10 carries, 2 catches) for 34 yards in the game, while also ceding carries to backup RB CJ Anderson. And it has been since revealed by his trainer that Gurley may be dealing with arthritis in his surgically repaired left knee. Gurley has since come out saying that he feels “good” and that he “can’t complain”, but it remains to be a situation worth monitoring.

With a talented team all around and most of their key players already locked down to long-term deals, the Rams didn’t have many needs to address this off-season. But they did bring in a pair of veterans in LB Clay Matthews and S Eric Weddle, whom despite their advanced age should still be effective rotation pieces for a stout Rams defense.

Returning most of their roster that just went to the Super Bowl, the Rams remain one of premier contenders going into the 2019 season.

Vegas Win Projection: 9.5

#3 Kansas City Chiefs | 2018 Record: 12-4

  • Key Additions: DE Alex Okafor, DE Frank Clark, S Tyrann Mathieu
  • Notable Losses: C Mitch Morse, WR Kelvin Benjamin, DE Dee Ford
  • Players to Watch: QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce
QB Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs took the league by storm last year with their high powered air raid offense. The Chiefs offense was seemingly unstoppable at times last year as the trio of Pat Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill combined for big play after big play en route to a league leading 35.3 points per game. But unfortunately for the Chiefs, that high-powered offense didn’t get to see the field in the overtime of the AFC Championship game last year because the Patriots won the flip and promptly marched down the field to score a touchdown and win the game.

Given their defense deficiencies last year, the Chiefs made improving a priority this off-season. In doing so, GM Brett Veach brought in some big names by acquiring DE Frank Clark for the Seahawks via trade and signing S Tyrann Mathieu in free agency. The two are among the best at their respective positions and are great building blocks for new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as he transitions the Chiefs into a 4-3 scheme. Some other key additions to the new Chiefs defense will be LB Darron Lee, DE Alex Okafor, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, and CB Bashaud Breeland.

Mahomes and Chiefs offense should be dominant once again this season, so if their defense can get their act together, they could be well on their way to dethroning the storied Patriots in 2019.

Vegas Win Projections: 10.5

#2 New Orleans Saints | 2018 Record: 13-3

  • Key Additions: C Nick Easton, RB Latavius Murray , TE Jared Cook
  • Notable Losses: C Max Unger, RB Mark Ingram, LB Manti Te’o
  • Players to Watch: QB Dree Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, WR Michael Thomas

Just one year removed from the Minnesota miracle, the New Orleans Saints were once again eliminated from the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion after controversially losing to the Rams in the NFC Championship game. And while it will be a year too late, Saints fans can at least take some solace in knowing that the NFL have officially made pass interference a review-able call for the 2019 season.

Without much cap space or draft picks, the Saints didn’t have many moves to make this off-season, but the unexpected retirement of Pro-Bowl C Max Unger meant they had a big hole in their offensive line to fill. Seeing that, Drew Brees quickly agreed to restructure his contract to help clear about $10 million in cap space, giving GM Mickley Loomis flexibility to make some impact signings. And Loomis immediately rewarded Brees’ decision by bringing in C Nick Easton, RB Latavius Murray and TE Jared Cook.

Led by the Pro-Bowl offensive trio of QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas, the Saints will go into the 2019 season eager to make amends. With one of the best offenses in the league and an improving young defense, the Saints look on track for another deep play-off run.

Vegas Win Projection: 10.5

#1 New England Patriots | 2018 Record: 11-5

  • Key Additions: WR Demaryius Thomas, WR N’Keal Harry, DE Michael Bennett
  • Notable Losses: WR Chris Hogan, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Trey Flowers
  • Players to Watch: QB Tom Brady, WR Josh Gordon, CB Stephen Gilmore

The New England Patriots won their 3rd Super Bowl of the decade last season. Tom Brady and the Patriots have been the ultimate model of consistency in the NFL, as they have dominated the AFC East and the league has a whole for the last 20 years or so.

This off-season, the Patriots had a bit of re-tooling to do to their receiving corps as star TE Rob Gronkowski has decided to retire. With receivers Chris Hogan and Cordarelle Patterson also leaving through free agency, Brady’s options were beginning to look a bit limited. As a result, the Patriots spent their first round pick on Arizona State wide-out N’Keal Harry, who at 6’4 225 lbs represents the big physical target that Brady can look for to replace Gronk with. And with the recent news that the NFL has reinstated Josh Gordon, the Patriots receivers are suddenly becoming one of their biggest strengths.

While the Patriots lost some key players this off-season, they remain one of the favorites to win it all with the constant that is Brady and Belichick back for their 20th season together. And with a record setting 7th Super Bowl win in their sights, we should expect the Patriots to be hungrier than ever.

Vegas Win Projection: 10.5

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