Free agency commences on March 13. With the eventual transition of some players to new teams, the power rankings will surely shift as a result of major signings. However, here at the very end of the 2018 league year, we will take one final look at the rankings.
8: Dallas Cowboys (ELO: 1567)
The Cowboys slide ahead of the Ravens due to the sustainability of Ezekiel Elliott compared to the potential one season wonder of the Ravens rushing offense. As with the Ravens, the Cowboys sport an elite defensive cast led by Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. With a young linebacking core and great cornerback play, the Cowboys are poised to repeat as NFC East champions. With the impending free agency of star defensive end Demarcus Lawrence looming, the Cowboys franchise tagged the productive edge rusher. Offensively, the Cowboys have a stellar triumvirate of Dak Prescott, Elliott, and Amari Cooper. With the return of legend Jason Witten, the Cowboys will push endlessly to secure a Super Bowl championship.
Number 7: Philadelphia Eagles (ELO: 1620)
The Eagles, who land below the playoff team they eliminated last season, have a major question at the quarterback position. Despite Nick Foles leading them to Super Bowl 52 two years ago and to a playoff win last season, the Eagles are looking to stick with the former No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz over the journeyman Foles. While Foles may go off to Jacksonville, or any other team with a need at quarterback, Wentz will look to finish a season for the first time since 2016. If Wentz can play for 16 games at a high level of health, the Eagles should regain their throne as NFC East champions. However, the Eagles must replace any depth that leaves through free agency in order to compete at a high level for another season. The Eagles made a big money re-signing by securing the services of Brandon Graham. On the offense, Jay Ajayi and Golden Tate are potential losses as the Eagles look to revamp the offensive system.
Number 6: Chicago Bears (ELO: 1631)
While the Bears being No. 6 could be controversial, the Bears have arguably the best defense in the NFL. With the ability to force turnovers unlike any other team in the 2019 season, the Bears raced to 12 wins. Despite an offense led by Mitch Trubisky and company, the Bears look to put a stranglehold on the NFC North for the next decade. With stars on defense including Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, the Bears will look to finish with the No. 1 scoring defense for the second consecutive season despite the loss of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Head coach Matt Nagy had a phenomenal season, leading to increased production from former first-round pick Trubisky. Despite rumors of Jordan Howard being traded, the Bears will sport a do-it-all back in the form of Tarik Cohen. Cohen, while relatively ineffective between the tackles, has an incredible level of versatility which has contributed to rushing, receiving, passing, and return touchdowns in his two NFL seasons. From top to bottom, the Bears have a roster chock-full of talent.
Number 5: Los Angeles Chargers (ELO: 1626)
The Chargers had no glaring weaknesses in the 2018 season. The Chargers, who were obliterated by the Patriots in the divisional round, are a tremendous team regardless of playing at home or on the road, winning every game outside of the city of Los Angeles until the Patriots playoff game. With Philip Rivers beginning to near the age of 40 and Melvin Gordon being nagged by injuries, the Chargers must look to have a dynamic 2019 season and to give the Chargers their first ever Super Bowl. The defense has dynamic pieces including Derwin James, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Desmond King. In particular, James looks like the future best safety in the NFL. On the offensive end, Rivers and Gordon have been supported by the likes of Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen who recorded incredibly productive seasons in 2018. The duo of Gordon and Ekeler was electric in 2018, producing a consistent flow of offense. Moving forward, the Chargers must maximize their championship window before the retirement of Rivers.
Number 4: New Orleans Saints (ELO: 1664)
The New Orleans Saints finished the 2018 season by trying to expose referees on Twitter. Despite calls to replay the NFC championship game against the Saints, the Saints look to exact revenge on the entire NFL in the 2019 season. They are positioned behind the aforementioned Rams solely due to the age of Drew Brees and his relative ineffective down the stretch of the season. The Saints possess a strong defense including one of the best rush defenses in the NFL and a variety of strong pass rushers and playmakers in coverage. Offensively, very few teams can match the Saints firepower of Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas. The Saints will look to win the NFC South for the third straight season. The Saints have minimal draft capital in 2019 which could limit the ceiling of the Saints in 2019. Despite the talent on the roster, the Saints have a collapsing championship window. Based on the age of Brees, the Saints must win a Super Bowl within the next two seasons.
Number 3: Los Angeles Rams (ELO: 1645)
The position of the Rams in the power rankings reflects the number points they scored in the Super Bowl: three. If the Rams had put together a stronger performance in the Super Bowl, they would almost certainly be the number two option, but since the offense led a horrific performance in the big game, the Rams slip to number three, and they have a variety of questions to answer moving forward. With Todd Gurley being ineffective near the end of the season, the Rams must analyze the situation and running backs behind Gurley. While Gurley recently removed arthritis from his knee, it is uncertain if Gurley can still be the number one back in the NFL moving forward. Moving into the 2019 season, the Rams expect receiver Cooper Kupp to fully recover from a torn ACL. With Kupp in the lineup, the Rams were incredibly effective, blitzing out to an eight-game win streak to begin the 2018 season. The Rams have a variety of free agent scenarios to answer as Rodger Saffold and Ndamukong Suh could leave. The Rams look to three-peat as NFC West champions.
Number 2: Kansas City Chiefs (ELO: 1651)
The Chiefs have one of the greatest offenses in the history of professional football. At the same time, the Chiefs have a laughable defense. Despite the Chiefs scoring a minimum of 24 points in every single game they played, the defensive lapses committed to a quartet of regular-season losses and an excruciating playoff loss at home to the Patriots. With Patrick Mahomes, the running back corps, and Travis Kelce returning for 2019 the Chiefs will most certainly explode and nearly lead the NFL in scoring again. Defensively, the Chiefs replaced defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and will look to gain even a mediocre defense moving forward. After applying the franchise tag to edge rusher Dee Ford, the Chiefs must work to improve the remainder of the defense through free agency and the draft.
Number 1: New England Patriots (ELO: 1709)
Despite a poor offensive showing in the Super Bowl, the Patriots once again hold the number one spot in the power rankings. Even with Brady’s age coming in to play now, the Patriots have the depth around Brady to ensure they are competitive even into the twilight of his career. Standout rookie Sony Michel will look to take the mantle of the playmaker on the offense and lead the Patriots into more of a rush-heavy offense. Defensively, the Patriots have a plethora of talented players including Stephon Gilmore and Trey Flowers who must be re-signed. After raising their sixth banner this fall, the Patriots will look to finish on top of the AFC East for an unprecedented 11th year in a row.