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.
Number 24: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ELO: 1415)
The head coach penalty is minimized due to the acquisition of Bruce Arians as head coach. Arians has seen success in his previous two stops as a head coach, leading both the Colts and Cardinals to the playoffs early and his tenure. While the Buccaneers do not have the high-end talent that the Cardinals or Colts had at that time, the Bucs are in a position to attack the top of the NFC South due to uncertainty in Carolina, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Jameis Winston captains the ship as the Bucs seek to end a lengthy playoff drought. Tampa Bay owns the fifth overall pick in the draft, and their decision with the pick will dictate the Bucs’ ability to increase their position in the power rankings.
Number 23: Buffalo Bills (ELO: 1420)
Buffalo does have their quarterback, Josh Allen, but the Bills have very little in the way of offensive talent outside of the No. 7 pick in last year’s draft. Defensively speaking, the Bills have one of the best units in football, warranting a very high ceiling in the power rankings. While the Bills may not compete for a playoff position in 2019, the defense and the growth of Josh Allen will help the Bills stay out of the basement of the rankings. The Bills are poised to expend much of their draft capital on improving the offensive line and acquiring a variety of pass-catching options for Allen.
Number 22: Carolina Panthers (ELO: 1527)
It is odd to see a team that started at six-and-one in the 2018 season end this low in the final power rankings, but Carolina looked pathetic after their performance against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. After being exposed by the Steelers, the Panthers fell off a cliff, ending with a record of seven wins and nine losses. Despite a win over the No. 1 seed Saints, the Panthers still concluded the season with eight losses in nine games. Moving into the 2019 season, there is no certainty that Cam Newton plays any of the games as he has nursed a shoulder injury since the end of the 2018 season. If Newton is unable to go, the Panthers may plummet to the depths of the power rankings due to the potential ineptitude under center.
Number 21: Washington Redskins (ELO: 1409)
The Washington Redskins lost arguably their best offensive and defensive players in the final few weeks of the regular season. Quarterback Alex Smith broke his leg, rendering him unable to play for the few final few weeks this season and jeopardizing his 2019 season and beyond. On the defensive side, the Redskins cut star safety D.J. Swearinger after he criticized the defensive staff. With the loss of two solid players, the Redskins struggled down the stretch, finishing at seven wins and nine losses. The Redskins may look to draft a quarterback with the No. 15 pick, which could solve the uncertainty at the quarterback position, warranting a ranking in the bottom 12. The current iteration of the Redskins possess a high floor, but it is unclear how the Redskins could contend for a playoff spot with a pair of quality opponents in the NFC East in Dallas and Philadelphia.
Number 20: Detroit Lions (ELO: 1483)
The Lions had a down year in 2019, but with the return of Matthew Stafford, Kerryon Johnson, and the explosion of Kenny Golladay on the outside, the Lions could be in a position to improve and challenge for the division in 2019. Defensively speaking, the Lions bore the fruits of run stuffing expert Damon Harrison at the end of the 2018 season. Despite a subpar 2018 season, the Lions could jump back into competition if they are able to hit on the number eight draft pick. Despite some turnover in the secondary and in the wide receiver corps, the Lions look to improve in Matt Patricia’s second season as head coach.
Number 19: Green Bay Packers (ELO: 1430)
Despite a new coach in Matt LaFleur, the Packers stay in the top 20 of the power rankings due to Aaron Rodgers. Despite Rodgers lacking his usual quality in the 2018 season, the Packers were in a position to compete for a wild-card spot even into November and very early December. The Packers had one of the worst seasons in this century, even with talented players such as Rodgers and Davante Adams. With Rodgers, the Packers have a very high ceiling, but unless they can surround Rodgers with talent, they will not realize said potential. The Packers look forward to fully capitalizing on their 2018 draft resources with a trio of wide receivers maturing under the star Adams. If Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling continue to grow as alternate options, the Packers could make a triumphant return to January football.
Number 18: Miami Dolphins (ELO: 1370)
The Miami Dolphins suffer the double whammy of having a new coach and chaos at the quarterback position. With Ryan Tannehill looking like a non-factor moving forward, the Dolphins must look for a place the former Aggie. However, the Dolphins have a glut of defense of talent including rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick and shut down corner Xavien Howard. With stalwarts at the back end of the secondary, the front seven was allowed to prosper in parts of the season, securing a three and zero start and a win over the Patriots in a miracle fashion. While the Dolphins did not end the season on a high note, they seem to have a stranglehold on the second position in the AFC East with the ability to challenge for a playoff spot if others division struggle in 2019. The Dolphins will be in the market for a quarterback, and many experts expect the Dolphins to trade up for either Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins.
Number 17: Atlanta Falcons (ELO: 1528)
The Falcons were ravaged by the injury bug in 2018. With starters on defense including Deion Jones and Keanu Neal missing significant time, the Falcons will look to capitalize on the recovery of both players and to play a better brand of football in 2019. The offense, spearheaded by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, was incredibly effective as Ryan recorded his best season since his MVP season and Jones was arguably the best receiver in football for most of if not all of the season. Rookie Calvin Ridley had a standout campaign, helping the Falcons to seven wins. The Falcons must make a decision on whether to retain running back Tevin Coleman, but the major decisions lie within the trenches. As of writing, the Falcons have secured star defensive lineman Grady Jarrett via the franchise tag. The Falcons could use their No. 14 selection on a complement to Jarrett or an offensive line prospect to shore up a mediocre unit.
These teams are regarded as “Russian Roulette” teams due to their natures as teams who will be difficult to plot in the 2019 season. Any of the eight teams could find themselves in the playoff hunt deep into December, but each one has a potential series of flaws which could derail a productive season