Training camp is upon us, which means football is just around the corner.
It’s difficult to believe, but NFL teams return to work this week in preparation for the 2015 season. While plenty can change in the weeks leading up to the regular season, it’s not too early to start looking ahead. With that being said, here’s the first installment of the NESN.com NFL power rankings.
1. Seattle Seahawks: If Pete Carroll decided to run the football in Super Bowl XLIX, no one would have any issue with the Seahawks taking the top spot. Russell Wilson’s contract situation is worth monitoring, but for now, Seattle looks like the team to beat.
2. Green Bay Packers: The Packers had a typical Ted Thompson offseason. They didn’t do anything flashy, but they addressed needs — especially on defense — and it doesn’t hurt they still have Aaron Rodgers.
3. Indianapolis Colts: This is the season Andrew Luck will take the leap and become a truly elite quarterback. The Colts added offensive weapons, too, but the question mark remains whether they have enough defense, especially up front.
4. New England Patriots: We all know about the Tom Brady suspension situation, but the Patriots’ biggest issue could be in the secondary after they lost both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Regardless, they’re still the defending Super Bowl champions, which is good enough reason to put them in the top five.
5. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys came this close to reaching the NFC Championship Game last season. Sure, losing DeMarco Murray hurts, but that offensive line can make just about any running back look good.
6. Denver Broncos: Adding Shane Ray boosts an already strong pass rush, which is the good news. The bad news, though, is no one really knows what to expect out of Peyton Manning and his 39-year-old body.
7. Baltimore Ravens: It’s easy to forget amid all of the controversy about offensive line formations and then Deflategate that the Ravens had the Patriots on the ropes in the playoffs before ultimately choking.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: No team is more difficult to predict than this one after Chip Kelly reshuffled the deck this offseason. We like the DeMarco Murray addition, but we love the Kiko Alonso addition — assuming he’s healthy.
9. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins’ success hinges on whether Ryan Tannehill continues his progression. The pressure should be eased some by the signing of Ndamukong Suh, who’s looking to justify the six-year, $114 million contract the Dolphins gave him.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Few teams have as many offensive weapons as the Steelers, especially if Martavis Bryant is able to show last season’s breakout was no fluke. The defense, however, remains a work in progress.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: The playoffs are months and months away, so we’re fine with putting the Bengals this high on the list — for now.
12. Kansas City Chiefs: Picking up Jeremy Maclin (10 receiving touchdowns last season) makes all the sense in the world for a team that finished 27th in passing touchdowns in 2014.
13. Minnesota Vikings: Last season was tumultuous for the Vikings, but they still managed to go 7-9 in a division with two playoff teams. They’ll be better this season with Adrian Peterson back in the fold.
14. Arizona Cardinals: If they can keep a quarterback healthy — a sizable “if,” given their offensive line — the Cardinals figure to contend again this season. The defense is that good.
15. Buffalo Bills: The Bills will be one of the NFL’s most fascinating teams this season, especially after hiring Rex Ryan. As usually is the case with a Ryan team, quarterback play will be the deciding factor.
16. St. Louis Rams: So … apparently Sam Bradford isn’t the franchise quarterback just about everyone thought he’d be. The Rams have a lot of nice pieces, and it’ll be interesting to see what Nick Foles does away from the Eagles’ system.
17. Detroit Lions: The Lions are a perfectly fine middle-of-the-pack football team — but they’re still the Lions.
18. San Diego Chargers: If one team could end up being criminally underrated on this list, it’s the Chargers. Keeping Philip Rivers healthy is vital, but they’re going to be pesky, especially if they’re able to seamlessly fit Melvin Gordon into the offense.
19. Carolina Panthers: This team is hard to figure out because you don’t know what you’re going to get out of Cam Newton — assuming the Panthers can keep him upright for a play or two. They really could go either way.
20. Atlanta Falcons: If Dan Quinn can do anything resembling what he did with the Seahawks, things will be looking up for the Falcons. They’re getting there — and the NFC South is a bag of suck — but we believe they’re still one year away.
21. New York Jets: Speaking of teams going in the right direction, the Jets are starting fresh and have some nice pieces. The problem is, though, guys keep doing stupid stuff (looking at you, Sheldon Richardson), and Geno Smith still is Geno Smith.
22. New Orleans Saints: Obviously there was something going on with Junior Gallette, but the bottom line is he’s a talented football player. Taking talented football players away from an already iffy team doesn’t bode well for winning football games.
23. New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. alone makes this team worth watching, but Jason Pierre-Paul blowing off his finger with fireworks is a pretty inauspicious start to the season for a team looking to regain its winning ways.
24. Chicago Bears: The good news for the Bears is it’s unlikely they’ll be the dumpster fire they were last season. So there’s that.
25. Houston Texans: We’d like their chances a lot better if they had a J.J. Watt at every position. But they don’t.
26. Cleveland Browns: This is a very young team with promising pieces, but it’ll take another season or two for that to materialize.
27. San Francisco 49ers: Seemingly everyone’s jumping ship in the Bay Area, and you only jump ship because it’s sinking.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: After spending five minutes trying to think of something nice to say about the Jaguars, let’s just say they won’t be very good and move on.
29. Washington Redskins: This joke of a franchise can’t get out of its own way.
30. Oakland Raiders: They’re the Raiders, guys. The Raiders.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: There will be growing pains, especially if Jameis Winston takes a while to mature, but if and when he does, the Bucs could at least move closer to being competitive.
32. Tennessee Titans: The Titans drafted Marcus Mariota to be their franchise guy and spent the entire offseason jerking him around in contract negotiations. At least it can only get better from here?
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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