Massive NFL and horse racing fan, more likely to discuss NFL and happy to share my thoughts.
As we enter the final round of preseason games and look forward to the NFL kicking off for real this time next week, the OLBG Experts panel is back but with a new addition - Power Rankings!
Think of power rankings as an unofficial form guide mixed with a bit of gut feeling. At this stage, with no real bullets fired, it’s no more than a rough guide to how all 32 NFL teams are perceived going into the season. Our last set of real form is 8-9 months old and preseason performances have to be taken with a pinch of salt so it’s hard to justify knocking last year’s playoff teams too hard and raising teams with potential too high but I do think our list shows teams we feel can make improvements and teams we can see slipping from their pedestals.
Hopefully, with some commentary thrown in, this inaugural OLBG Power Ranking will give those reading some food for thought.
My thanks to OLBG members Jim Brown, undertherobe, toadie21, lazarus76, arniehi and TouchdownTips who joined myself in complying these rankings. Feel free to follow us all on Twitter as we often share our thoughts and predictions via that platform.
1, New England Patriots
2, Atlanta Falcons
Last years Super Bowl matchup remains our top pairing in the correct order of their finish. The Patriots have received the recent blow of losing Wide Receiver Julian Edelman to injury for the season but otherwise, it can be argued they are stronger than last year in terms of talent and they are deserving Super Bowl favourites at a best priced 4/1 with Coral, Bet365 and PaddyPower to name three firms.
The Falcons return the vast majority of their talent and could be even better on defense with some young players still improving. How they handle the change of offensive coaching is a slight worry as is the strong division they must overcome but no one is seeing them fall away from being a contender. They actually look good value at 16/1 with Coral to win it all considering they are the defending NFC Champions but I guess the issue is consistent success which they haven't shown in the past.
3, Pittsburgh Steelers
4, Green Bay Packers
5, Seattle Seahawks
These three teams are consistent contenders, there year on year near the top of the tree and all have Super Bowl titles to their names in recent times.
The Steelers got a massive late boost of talent with the addition of former 49ers Tight End Vance McDonald via a trade and former Browns Pro Bowl Cornerback Joe Haden as a free agent. The latter they snapped up shortly after he was cut (for what appears to be salary reasons) by the Browns.
The Packers will once again have the magic of Aaron Rodgers, a genuine MVP candidate, to rely on and their division doesn't look a real threat whilst it's hard to look past the Seahawks in the NFC West even if the only way if up for 50% of that division.
All three of these teams sit near the top of the Super Bowl betting, with prices varying between 10 and 12/1.
6, New York Giants
7, Dallas Cowboys
We are seeing a flip flop of power in the NFC East, at least in preseason belief in each teams respective chances going into 2017. Given the trend of no divisional champ defending the title successfully since 2004 and also not returning to the playoffs since 2010 that alone could be enough for our switch in these preseason rankings but we also have the drama of Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension (and currently ongoing appeal) and the attraction of the firepower the Giants have added to go with a strong looking defense. Some of us believe they could be contenders to go all the way and the price for them to win Super Bowl LII has narrowed slightly in recent weeks. As preseason started they were a best priced 28/1 with SkyBet but now only 188BET offer 25's and it's a general 20's elsewhere.
8, Oakland Raiders
9, Tennessee Titans
Potential. The Raiders showed enough to make postseason last year but Derek Carr’s injury stopped the progress going deep into the playoffs. Can they be the team to push the Patriots in the AFC? They have the defending Defensive MVP. Could Carr be an MVP contender?
The Titans feel short but have added to their problem areas of Wide Receiver on offense and Cornerback on defense. They must overcome their poor divisional record of recent years in order to be real contenders but the belief for many is there and they are well liked by OLBG members to do well in 2017.
10, Kansas City Chiefs
11, Houston Texans
Two defending division champions who need offensive firepower to help out their strong defenses.
If Chiefs Quarterback Alex Smith stays at his expected average level then rookie QB Patrick Mahomes, who has looked exciting in preseason but was expected to spend 2017 watching and learning from the sidelines, could see a frenzy build for him to start. The main rookie to watch however, will be 3rd round choice, Running Back Kareem Hunt who is now the starter in the offensive backfield. He’s discussed more in this blog.
Of course, our best wishes are with those going through the terrible tragedy of Storm Harvey in the Houston (and wider Texas) area at present and their last preseason game against Dallas was cancelled in order for players to be with their families. JJ Watt’s fundraising drive has been an amazing success. He’ll be hoping to produce success on the field once the games begin as he returns to a strong Houston defense that should be near the top of the league rankings.
If the offense can just be middle of the road, the Texans are a strong contender to defend their divisional crown.
12, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The subject of this years “Hard Knocks” series are a team full of potential and a trendy pick but the NFC South looks possibly the toughest division in the NFL this season and it’s delivered the last two representatives for the NFC in the Super Bowl.
13, Denver Broncos
14, Carolina Panthers
15, Arizona Cardinals
Three teams that have been consistent contenders in recent years but are they trending downwards or can they halt the slide?
It’s a fresh start for the Broncos under new Head Coach Vance Joseph and he inherits a strong defense but also faces the same issues on offense. Trevor Siemian has won the Quarterback battle but the impact of Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy, who returns to his old role after a stint as the Chargers Head Coach (he enjoyed success here with the varieties of Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning in his first stint here) will be the big factor in how good that unit can be.
The Panthers still have some issues in their secondary which they are asking 36 year old Safety Mike Adams to help fix (!) but the potential of the rushing attack on offense could see them rebound from a tough 2016.
The Cardinals feel like they are battling Father Time, has Carson Palmer’s window for success narrowed to such a point he can’t see through it? How much does Larry Fitzgerald have in the tank? Young gun Running Back David Johnson could be primed for a massive year though.
16, Minnesota Vikings
17, New Orleans Saints
18, Baltimore Ravens
All three of these teams want to improve but it’s hard for many to buy into major improvement.
For the Vikings and Ravens, offense is where they must do better in order to be competitive. For the Saints, it's the opposite but any football fan should be excited to see the prolific Saints Quarterback Drew Brees team up with the former prolific Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson.
19, Miami Dolphins
20, Cincinnati Bengals
21, Philadelphia Eagles
22, Washington Redskins
23, Detroit Lions
Five teams that could be anything. The Eagles are seen as a potential improver. Their divisional rivals, the Redskins are being predicted as last place finishers in the NFC East by many but they are coming off two straight winning seasons.
The Lions will want Quarterback Matthew Stafford to prove he is worth being made the highest paid player in the NFL and his ability to rack up passing yardage has been discussed in another recent OLBG blog.
A lot depends on the wild card that is Jay Cutler for the Dolphins. If he can play to the best of his ability, then they can rise up these rankings once the season begins. Cutler is the subject of a potential bet via this blog although the price isn’t what it was then.
The Bengals have been a consistent contender for many years, last season being a major disappointment but not helped by injuries. Star Wide Receiver AJ Green was one of the walking wounded and his play can help elevate this team. He’s the subject of a potential bet in this piece.
24, Los Angeles Rams
25, Los Angeles Chargers
A really important season for both these teams as they battle for the hearts of the potential Los Angeles fanbase. The Chargers case is hurt by playing in a small (by NFL terms) stadium to start life in their new city. Their potential on defense as well as veteran Quarterback Philip Rivers have some believing they are capable of surprising.
The Rams are a team that some are tipping (see Jim Brown’s recent blogs) to make significant progress in 2017. They’ve had a reboot with a new coaching staff and some significant additions including the recent trade for Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins, a player with massive potential and ability but he’s struggled to stay healthy. If he can stay on the field second year Quarterback Jared Goff will be one very happy man and Goff’s progress is a major key for the Rams season.
One slight concern for the Rams though is the continuing holdout of star Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald in a contract dispute.
26, Indianapolis Colts
When will Quarterback Andrew Luck play? Even if it’s soon he’s had no work all offseason. The offensive line and the defense are worries also. Head Coach Chuck Pagano is the favourite to be the first head coach to be fired at 5/2 with Coral.
27, Cleveland Browns
28, Jacksonville Jaguars
29, Chicago Bears
30, San Francisco 49ers
A group of perennial strugglers (although the 49ers were in the Super Bowl not that long ago!), all of whom will be hoping to see chinks of potential in 2017. Our ranking reflects recent history and expectations that are more about improvement than contending.
The Browns continue to move the old guard on with the recent cutting of Cornerback Joe Haden. It must stick in the throat a bit that he went and signed for divisional rivals the Steelers so quickly though. Their main point of interest will be the development of rookie Quarterback DeShone Kizer (the subject of this blog) and the impact of overall number one pick Defensive End Myles Garrett.
The Jaguars have made real investments in their defense in the past few years and it should be a good unit, maybe even better than good, but the offensive mess is hard to look pass. Quarterback Blake Bortles fills no one with confidence...not even Blake Bortles!
I’m sure for Bears fans, the main thing they want to see is rookie Quarterback Mitch Trubisky play. It may not be from day one but it’d be a shock if he doesn’t play at some point and his preseason has been impressive, offering hope.
Improvement shouldn’t be hard for the 49ers, but this season feels like a season of “getting to know you” for GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
31, Buffalo Bills
32, New York Jets
The AFC East drops a double whammy to the end of our power rankings. In the case of the Bills, the team with the NFL’s longest playoff drought, it’s another reboot and past few weeks has seen them trade away several former high draft picks who either don’t fit the new schemes or they don’t want the headache of deciding whether to pay them in the near future.
The Jets have spent a full offseason dumping talent and high salaries. They have announced 37 year old journeyman Josh McCown will start at Quarterback and Head Coach Todd Bowles looks like a dead man walking.
Both these teams are going through 2017 with the term “damage limitation” the unofficial club motto.
So that's how we see the NFL's 32 teams as we head into the 2017 regular season. It'll be interesting to see how the land lies in a couple of weeks as we update this list. We aim to publish a weekly power ranking update helping readers get a feel for each teams current status. Are they trending up or down? Can it help us find any winning bets?
We look forward to finding out.
Hopefully readers have found this blog informative and interesting. Feedback and discusssion via the comments section below or on the OLBG American Football Forum is always welcome.
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