NFL Power Rankings: Nos. 6-1
All of these teams were contenders last year. How can they find their way to the promise land?
6. Philadelphia Eagles
After a Super Bowl win the previous year, the Eagles were soaring high. They won without star quarterback Carson Wentz and were getting him back this year. This season didn’t work out the way they wanted though, as Wentz was again plagued by injuries.
They were on the verge of missing the postseason, but Nick Foles came in as a backup and led them back into the playoffs. With all the injuries that happened in Philly, it really was an accomplishment to just make the NFC Divisional Round.
The question with Philly was how they were going to try and keep everyone. Philly was in the red in cap space and had many free agents to keep. Howie Roseman was smart though and reloaded his roster. First, he resigned Brandon Graham and Ronald Darby, two key contributors for their defense.
He said goodbye to Timmy Jernigan and Michael Bennett but brought in Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry to replace their spots. He also acquired Desean Jackson from Tampa Bay, who used to be an Eagles star. It was amazing how they reloaded the roster in one offseason, seeing that they were restrained cap-wise.
I didn’t like Philly’s draft that much. They selected Andre Dillard at No. 22, but he won’t even start year one. Dillard will still have to play behind Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. Dillard does need developing, but he is the best pass protector in the class. I would have rather seen Philly get a defensive back at 22.
In the second round, they selected two offensive playmakers, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a receiver from Stanford, and Myles Sanders, running back from Penn State. Personally, these weren’t my guys in the draft process, and I didn’t feel Philly got good value with these picks. I would have taken David Montgomery and Parris Campbell before these guys.
Everything possible went wrong for the Eagles last season with injuries. Finally, Carson Wentz has more time to recover and grow as a quarterback, and they are fully healthy. Last season will motivate Philly to try and get another ring.
I expect Philly to be a contender again, with a reloaded roster of veterans. The core players are still there, and with some guys brought in, Philly will be one of the teams competing for another Super Bowl this season.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers walked into last year with a very talented roster. They really had zero major weaknesses, and it showed with a very impressive season. After beating Baltimore in the Wild Card round, they got destroyed by the Patriots the next round.
The Chargers didn’t make a lot of moves this offseason. In free agency, they signed Thomas Davis and Tyrod Taylor. Taylor will be their backup quarterback, and Davis will be a starter in their linebacker room. Both were cheap, but address some smaller weaknesses on the roster.
Los Angeles had a great draft though, drafting Jerry Tillery first. Tillery is a stud defensive lineman, who can rush the passer very well. With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edge, Tillery will help in the interior. In the second round, Los Angeles selected Nasir Adderley, a free safety. Adderley has elite athleticism and uses it to cover the entire field. He also has good ball skills, which is something they have lacked recently.
The Chargers didn’t need to make a lot of moves and return almost everyone. The key to their season is health, which is something they have had major troubles with in the past. If Phillip Rivers can hold up for another elite season, expect the Chargers to compete for a Super Bowl.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had an amazing season last year, with first-year starter Patrick Mahomes winning MVP. Kansas City trotted out the best offense in the league but also has one of the worst defenses in the league. Regardless, they made the AFC Championship Game, but a costly offsides penalty cost them a bid for the Super Bowl.
This offseason, it was a major priority to get better on defense. First, they hired Steve Spagnuolo to lead the defense. Spagnuolo has had success coaching the Giants in the past and brings a lot of NFL experience to the position. Kansas City cut ties with Dee Ford, Eric Berry, and Justin Houston this offseason. All three had been major contributors in the past, but the Chiefs didn’t feel they could contribute anymore. The Chiefs signed Tyrann Mathieu and traded for Frank Clark to replace them. Both are stars in the league and should bring an intensity to the defense, something they lacked.
With the pending investigation of Tyreek Hill, Kansas City drafted Mecole Hardman, a wideout out of Georgia. They also selected Juan Thornhill and Khalen Saunders for the defense.
Kansas City is one of the most talented teams in the league. They have depth concerns, but depending on what happens with Tyreek Hill, if he can play, Kansas City has one of the best teams in the league.
3. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were magical last season, getting all the way to the Super Bowl. They lost a very close game though, scoring only three points the entire game. This offseason, they had to find a way to keep the talent they have around.
The Rams signed Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle to the roster. Both are past their prime, but bring veteran leadership for cheap. The Rams didn’t have much cap space but capitalized on both signings well.
Los Angeles had a solid draft, trading back a bunch. They selected Taylor Rapp in the second round, who is a versatile safety. With Todd Gurley’s knee issues, the Rams selected Darrell Henderson, speedy running back from Memphis. Finally, they selected David Long, a corner from Michigan. The Rams drafted well for their needs and added pieces to the roster they didn’t have last year.
The Rams don’t have many years left to compete. This may be their last year, with a massive Jared Goff contract looming. This team is still stacked though, and if Todd Gurley stays healthy all year, they have the chance to be back in the Super Bowl next year.
2. New Orleans Saints
The Saints have had two straight heartbreaking ends to their seasons. They have had terrible luck with playoff games. The Saints were a bad call away from a Super Bowl appearance. That didn’t sit well in the organization, and they had bitterness everywhere.
The Saints, unfortunately, didn’t have much flexibility. They barely had any cap space and few picks. They capitalized well though, by signing Jared Cook, tight end from Oakland. Cook isn’t a blocker, but neither was Jimmy Graham. Brees performs best with a good tight end, and Cook fills a major need for New Orleans.
The draft was quiet for New Orleans, but they did get two good players. First, they took a center, Erik McCoy. They also got a steal in Chauncy Gardner-Johnson, a safety. Both should be instant contributors, which is good since they only had five picks.
New Orleans is heartbroken. I could see them having a down season if they can’t get over the NFC Championship game. On paper though, this team is still very talented and should have the chance to exorcise their playoff demons.
1. New England Patriots
What else is new? The Patriots won another Super Bowl, beating the Rams 13-3. New England went into another offseason, looking for more talent to add to their dynasty.
The Patriots were pretty quiet in free agency. Their biggest story in free agency was the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. Gronk was past his prime but was still an outstanding blocker, who could make huge plays when it mattered. Gronk is not going to be easy to replace.
New England didn’t even replace him in the draft, even with 12 picks. They took two different playmakers, N’Keal Harry and Damien Harris. The Patriots really needed more playmakers, and both should provide depth and allow Brady more targets to throw to.
They also selected defensive end Chase Winovich and cornerback JoeJuan Williams early in the draft. Winovich brings a lot of energy, and Williams is a project. It is unclear how much they play day one, but both have the ceilings to be great players in the league.
The Patriots lost two really good players this offseason, Trent Brown and Trey Flowers. The thing is, the Patriots allow players like them to go. They build their system by not committing a lot of money long term. As long as the Patriots have Brady and Belichick, they will always be contenders, if not favorites. Expect New England to be cooking by the playoffs.
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