Welcome to the February edition of the power rankings.
No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville went 1-15, but it ended in Trevor Lawrence. That counts as a success.
No. 31: New York Jets
The Jets could move up if they acquire someone like Deshaun Watson, but it remains to be seen.
No. 30: Detroit Lions
No. 29: Houston Texans
As soon as the Texans trade Watson, they will plummet to No.32. Watson is a top-five quarterback and single-handedly can win games for this horrendous roster, but if he is gone, the Texans could be in play for a winless season.
No. 28: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles will get healthier on the offensive line. Jalen Hurts had moments of promise in 2020, but he is a shaky option moving forward. The Eagles need to add weapons for Hurts, and they will have the opportunity to pick one of DeVonta Smith, Kyle Pitts, or Ja’Marr Chase with the sixth pick in the 2021 draft.
No. 27: New York Giants
New York’s defense overachieved in 2020, and it will likely come back to earth in 2021. The offense is limited with Daniel Jones at the helm, but Saquon Barkley is coming back The offensive line should improve slightly, and the Giants could be in contention in the NFC East.
No. 26: Cincinnati Bengals
No. 25: Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey returns, but a running back can only do so much for the Panthers. They should be moderately better, but Teddy Bridgewater caps the potential. Carolina could select a quarterback in the first round of the draft, but that is a move for the future, not 2021.
No. 24: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons could have playoff upside, but it rests on the offense. The defense has talented pieces and could target more in the draft, but the offense is the engine of the Atlanta football team. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley need big years for the Falcons to contend.
No. 23: Las Vegas Raiders
No matter how strong the offense is, the defense lets Las Vegas down. Derek Carr is a good, bordering on great, quarterback, and he has a host of weapons. However, the defense is a catastrophe at least three times a month. Las Vegas has a ceiling of eight wins with their abysmal defense.
No. 22: New England Patriots
The likes of Marcus Cannon and Dont’a Hightower return to a team bereft of talent. The defense has pieces, but Stephon Gilmore is on the wrong side of 30, and it needs an influx of youth. Offensively, there are college teams with more weaponry than the Patriots. It will not be a great situation for Cam Newton (if he returns) or any other replacement quarterback.
No. 21: Denver Broncos
Von Miller returns. However, Drew Lock returns as well. Denver could flashback to its 2015 defense, but 2019-2020 Lock would nullify that greatness. Courtland Sutton will be back, and Lock could be on his way out if he fails this season.
No. 20: Chicago Bears
Chicago, like Denver, requires competent quarterback play. Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, and others are some of the best defensive players in the NFL. Their excellence goes to waste when Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky are tossing away games each week.
No. 19: Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott only played five games in 2020, so there is room to grow for the offense. The defense, on the other hand, offers little in the way of upside. It would take a Herculean effort for the Cowboys to be competent on that side of the ball.
No. 18: Washington Football Team
Washington has a stellar defense, perhaps the best in the NFL. The offense has talented weapons such as Antonio and Terry McLaurin, but there is a looming issue at quarterback. Taylor Heinicke may have won the job based on his playoff performance, but he has 121 career pass attempts.
No. 17: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona is a breakout candidate as Kyler Murray heads into Year 3, but the Arizona roster may not be built for a playoff berth. Defensively, Chandler Jones returns, but Haason Reddick is likely gone. The star power is strong, but Arizona lacks the depth necessary to be a contender in 2021.
No. 16: Minnesota Vikings
There will be some progression to the mean for the Minnesota defense in 2021. Danielle Hunter is coming back, and his domino effect improves the pass rush as a whole. With a better pass rush, the secondary will be better. Minnesota could even win the NFC North.
No. 15: New Orleans Saints
Who is the starting quarterback, New Orleans? If it is Drew Brees or Jameis Winston, the Saints are likely a top-10 team. Taysom Hill? New Orleans squeezes into the top 12. At the moment, the Saints are the physical embodiment of the shrug emoji.
No. 14: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh seems as if they will just “run it back” with the same group from 2020. Is this smart? That remains to be seen. Ben Roethlisberger played a level in December and January that even Chicago’s quarterback pair would laugh at.
No. 13: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are the sexy pick to make a playoff run in 2021. They have a Sean McVay disciple running the defense. Justin Herbert had one of the best rookie seasons of all-time. What’s not to like? Los Angeles needs to improve the offensive line, but that could be solved with the No.13 pick.
No. 12: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle has spent the last few seasons polishing a ball of dung. Sure, it looks nice. It wins games in the regular season. However, by the second week of January, the world remembers that Seattle is a barren roster being carried by the 2012 draft class and Pete Carroll’s jaw.
No. 11: Miami Dolphins
The defense is solid. The coaching is immaculate. Miami’s offense has few answers, but there could be more come draft day. With two first-round picks, Miami could bolster the offensive line and add weapons for Tua Tagovailoa. Miami is a sleeper Super Bowl contender.
No. 10: Tennessee Titans
Tennessee will have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Derrick Henry will bulldoze through defenses in at least 10 games. However, the other six require some semblance of competent defensive play. In 2020, the Titans had the worst third-down defense in the history of organized football. It will almost certainly improve in 2021, but Tennessee is prone to defensive collapses.
No. 9: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have replaced Philip Rivers with Carson Wentz. Wentz was such a catastrophe that even Dwayne Haskins was statistically a more viable quarterback. Outside of Wentz, Indianapolis has one of the most complete rosters in the league, but Wentz will make or break the Colts.
No. 8: San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco retains much of the team that went to Super Bowl LIV. Richard Sherman is likely to leave in free agency, but Jason Verrett is in his place, and the 49ers could draft another cornerback. San Francisco should look to bring back Trent Williams as well. The 49ers are a threat to return to the Super Bowl.
No. 7: Cleveland Browns
The Browns have well-documented defensive issues, but they should be lessened with the return of oxygenated Myles Garrett, Greedy Williams, and Grant Delpit. The offense is littered with stars, but these are practical stars. These are not the “same ol'” Browns.
No. 6: Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore has an Orlando Brown-sized rain cloud hanging over M&T Bank Stadium, but All-Pro Ronnie Stanley is returning to left tackle. The next two months will be a major crossroads for Baltimore. Do they invest heavily in a star wide receiver or pass rusher, or do they stick to their guns and ride it out with Lamar Jackson and his band of Butterfinger advertisers.
No. 5: Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen and the Bills are poised to maintain their strong 2020 form. There are questions on the defensive side, but a savvy draft class could negate a sharp decline from 2019 to 2020.
No. 4: Green Bay Packers
Most Green Bay chatter will talk about the offense, for good reason. However, the defense has the opportunity to be one of the best in the NFL. Green Bay has star power across the defensive front and in the secondary, and they could pick up the slack if Aaron Rodgers is not the best quarterback on the planet in 2021.
No. 3: Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were an excellent team in 2020, and they upgraded at quarterback. Even if Stafford is not a superstar, he is an ultra-talented chess piece for McVay. The Rams may have the longest list of “oh, that guy is a great player” kind of players in the NFL.
No. 2: Kansas City Chiefs
With No.15 in town, the Chiefs will be the cream of the AFC crop. Kansas City was undone by offensive line injuries in 2020, but Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz should be back for Week 1. Kansas City is also likely to address the offensive line in free agency. They should be back to their season-ending ways in 2021.
No. 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay could lose the likes of Chris Godwin and/or Shaquil Barrett in free agency, but they have such a depth of talent at other positions. Tristan Wirfs was as good as any tackle in the NFL in 2020. Defensively, the Buccaneers have a potential All-Pro on all three levels of the defense. Could Tom Brady lead a second back-to-back Super Bowl run?