By HAYES RULE (@Rule0021)
Photo credit goes to USA Today.
“Come at me, bro!”
The big bad wolves of the NFL. Expect one of them to be holding the Lombardi Trophy while giving a shout-out to Budweiser in February.
1. Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians’ gang lost very little this offseason but brought in pieces on the defensive line such as Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche. The Cardinals will also have some actual running back depth, which matters when it comes to playoff football.
2. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks lose Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irvin but improve the offensive line with first-round pick Germain Ifedi and the defensive backfield with Brandon Browner. The running game will be FINE with Thomas Rawls and Co., and we know the defense – who caught its stride later in the year once Kam Chancellor got into the swing of things – will be dominant.
And then there’s Ciara. Addition of the offseason right there.
3. New England Patriots
I already know Patriots fans will be deflated that New England is “all the way down” at No. 3. But you have to knock New England slightly right now because of Tom Brady’s suspension. In December and January, the hooded menace and Tommy boy will be in the mix, regardless of who suits up at every other position.
4. Carolina Panthers
Huge concerns in the defensive backfield. The Panthers bring Kelvin Benjamin back from injury, but with the current passing games in the NFL, Carolina needs to patch its secondary. The Panthers’ corners? Robert McCain, Bene Benwikere and rookie James Bradberry.
5. Denver Broncos
When you lose a sheriff, expect some chaos in the streets. Peyton Manning wasn’t very good during the Broncos’ Super Bowl run, but at least he didn’t lose the team games. We’ll see if Mark Sanchez can do the same.
One issue away from the top-dog status but MIGHT compete for a title.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
The offense will be EXPLOSIVE, but the defense will be the question once again. Every team competing for a title last year -- the Panthers, Broncos, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Patriots -- all had great defense. The Steelers are close.
7. Green Bay Packers
With a healthy Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, the Packers will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. Can the defense return to its 2010 Super Bowl form?
8. Houston Texans
The Texans are the most improved team in the NFL coming off an offseason in which it added Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller and Will Fuller. If Houston could reach the playoffs last year with Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden and Tom Savage at quarterback…
"The offense will be EXPLOSIVE, but the defense will be the question once again."
Pittsburgh Steelers offense. Photo credit goes to Bleacher Report.
“Best team in the league”
…during the regular season. Reach the playoffs, and this team shrinks like a grape in the sun.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have all the ingredients to make a Super Bowl run, but they won’t. Must be something about the state of Ohio and curses on football teams.
Playoff contenders who just don’t have the firepower to challenge for a Super Bowl.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City will continue to make the playoffs and be competitive based on its defense, but the Chiefs don’t have the firepower to make a deep run. The defense isn’t good enough to win a Super Bowl alone, ala its division rival Denver Broncos.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater proved he could compete in the playoffs against one of the best defenses in the NFL last year. The Vikings have a young, up-and-coming defense who will aid Bridgewater and Peterson in reaching that platform again. They’ll just have to avoid #WideLeft.
12. Oakland Raiders
I love what Oakland has achieved this offseason, bringing in Sean Smith and Bruce Irvin to bolster an improving defense. Expect Derek Carr and Amari Cooper to continue to grow, propelling the Raiders into playoff contention for the first time in a decade.
13. New York Jets
Why have the Jets not signed Ryan Fitzpatrick yet? I expect the two sides will agree at some point, but Fitzy and Marshall will be a year older, so the Jets take one half-inch step backward.
14. New York Giants
Will Eli Manning throw 13 or 25 interceptions? That is the question… Defensively, the Giants made huge strides with the secondary by adding Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple.
"They’ll just have to avoid #WideLeft."
“I’m completely average”
If all goes well, maybe they make the playoffs. They’re more likely staring at mediocrity.
15. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have gone 12-4 and 4-12 the last two years. What’s the middle ground? Eight wins, eight losses. Dallas’ season completely relies on Tony Romo’s health.
16. Indianapolis Colts
Just as Dallas’ season depends on Tony Romo, so does the Colts’ season when it comes to Andrew Luck. Indianapolis finally addressed its offensive line woes by selecting center Ryan Kelly in the first round, but the Colts still have many other issues.
17. Washington Redskins
Redskins fans won’t like this, but I expect Kirk Cousins to fall back slightly this year. Also consider who Washington beat in that final six-game stretch: the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys (W/L), Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. None of those teams finished with a winning record.
18. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams finished as the 17th best team last season, so projecting them at No. 18 with an actual quarterback – granted, he’s a rookie – might be a bit undermining. I love Todd Gurley and Los Angeles’ defense despite the loss of Janoris Jenkins.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s only a matter of time before this Jaguars team makes a playoff push. The offense has weapons in Allen Robinson, T.J. Yeldon, Allen Hurns and Blake Bortles; the defense has young playmakers in Malik Jackson, Telvin Smith, Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey.
20. Buffalo Bills
Tyrod Taylor was a Godsend for the Bills early in the season but cooled off slightly near the end of the season. The Bills haven’t improved enough this offseason to move into playoff contention.
"Redskins fans won’t like this, but I expect Kirk Cousins to fall back slightly this year."
Kirk Cousins. Photo credit goes to CBS Sports.
“I’m trying, OK?”
They haven’t completely given up yet, but they’re not competing for a playoff spot this season.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
The Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia is over, but the transition won’t lead straight to a playoff appearance. It’ll be a rebuilding year as Carson Wentz makes his transition from FCS football to the NFL.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay brass should feel comfortable with Jameis Winston at the helm. Now the Buccaneers need to focus on filling holes on the defense to take the next step.
23. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan had the worst season of his career in 2015, so this upcoming season will be important for his career's sake. The Falcons improved their offensive line by adding Alex Mack this offseason, who should aid Ryan.
24. Baltimore Ravens
Last year was somewhat fluky for the Ravens, but Baltimore won’t fully bounce back this season. Injuries killed the team in 2015, but even before them, they’re not as talented of a bunch as they were three years ago.
"Tampa Bay brass should feel comfortable with Jameis Winston at the helm."
Jameis Winston. Photo credit goes to Sports Illustrated.
“So… when’s the draft?”
Fans literally count the days until the 2017 NFL Draft.
25. Miami Dolphins
Miami had too many holes to fill through just the 2016 NFL Draft alone, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The verdict is out on Adam Gase, who will be faced with the task of fixing the locker room and atmosphere surrounding the franchise.
26. San Diego Chargers
Joey Bosa will be a game-changer for the defense, but Philip Rivers -- nearing the end of his career -- needs protection in order for the Chargers to be competitive. San Diego goes as Rivers goes.
27. New Orleans Saints
Can the Saints play defense? Drew Brees can’t carry the team anymore.
28. Chicago Bears
Can the Bears play defense? Jay Cutler can’t and never could carry the team.
29. Tennessee Titans
The Titans will need their offensive line to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota if the team is going to find any type of success. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will alleviate some of the pressure on Mariota, but I need to see Tennessee make an improvement before I move it up in the rankings.
"San Diego goes as Rivers goes."
Philip Rivers. Photo credit goes to FOX Sports.
“God, save us!”
It’s the only person who can.
30. Detroit Lions
The Lions’ roster used to be full of talent, but that talent has been stripped over the past two seasons. Calvin Johnson can no longer bail Matthew Stafford out after the offensive line can’t handle pressure.
31. San Francisco 49ers
It’s a real shame how far the 49ers have fallen in three short seasons. Trent Baalke cannot draft legitimate talent.
A team full of amateurs at the NCAA level.
Nick Saban is the G.O.A.T. of college football.
Indescribable. Inexplicable. Hopeless. Cursed.
33. Cleveland Browns
You really can’t describe Cleveland. Their moves? Inexplicable.
Care to tell me I'm an idiot who ranked your team too low? By all means, please do in the comments section below!