Welcome, football fans, to the second installment of NESN.com’s NFL power rankings.
Here’s a look at where each team stands heading into Week 1. (To see our pre-training camp rankings, click here.)
1. New England Patriots (pre-camp: 1): We put the Pats atop our pre-training camp rankings knowing full well that Jimmy Garoppolo would be their Week 1 starting quarterback. This team is built for success, even with Tom Brady spending the first four weeks in exile.
2. Arizona Cardinals (2): If Carson Palmer can stay healthy, the Cardinals again should be a force in the NFC. Their fearsome secondary, led by Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, will be a formidable foe for Garoppolo in Week 1.
3. Seattle Seahawks (7): We had the Seahawks far too low in the first edition of these rankings. Their defense still is legit, Russell Wilson played like a man possessed over the second half of last season (24 touchdowns to one interception in Weeks 11 through 17), and the Thomas Rawls-Christine Michael combo has the makings of a powerful 1-2 punch at running back.
4. Carolina Panthers (3): The Panthers won’t go 15-1 again this season — we don’t think so, at least — but they’ll again be near the top of the heap in the NFC.
5. Green Bay Packers (4): Jordy Nelson appears to be good to go for Week 1 after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. That’s great news for Aaron Rodgers, who struggled through one of the worst campaigns of his career while his favorite target was sidelined.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (5): Le’Veon Bell’s three-game suspension and Martavis Bryant’s season-long ban both hurt, but not enough to prevent Pittsburgh from challenging New England for AFC supremacy.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (8): People forget that the Bengals started last season 8-0. That’s what happens when you go 4-4 down the stretch and choke away a playoff game against one of your biggest rivals. Expect Andy Dalton & Co. to come out strong again.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (9): Andy Reid’s club has the talent to unseat the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. Their window with Alex Smith is beginning to close, though.
9. Denver Broncos (6): The Broncos are the defending Super Bowl champs, and their defense remains fearsome as ever, but forgive us if we’re not ready to put too much faith in Trevor Siemian just yet.
10. Oakland Raiders (11): Yes, we expect the AFC West to be highly competitive this season.
11. New York Jets (14): The Jets’ fortunes hinge on Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will need another career year under center if New York hopes to end New England’s reign of division dominance in the AFC East.
12. Washington Redskins (12): The Redskins haven’t reached the playoffs in consecutive years since the early 1990s. With the NFC East still looking like a bit of a mess, they have a good chance of ending that slump this season.
13. Houston Texans (13): The Texans should be decent regardless, but they’ll need Brock Osweiler to earn his sizable paycheck in order to reach true contender status.
14. Minnesota Vikings (10): How badly did the Vikings need a quarterback after Teddy Bridgewater went down? They traded a first and a fourth for SAM FREAKING BRADFORD.
15. Baltimore Ravens (20): There’s really nowhere to go but up for Joe Flacco and friends after last season’s 5-11 debacle.
16. New York Giants (18): The Giants spent a ton of money to improve their roster this offseason, and as we mentioned earlier, there’s no clear favorite in the NFC East.
17. Indianapolis Colts (16): A healthy Andrew Luck should help the Colts improve on last year’s 8-8 record, but a return to the postseason could be a stretch.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (17): Like the NFC East, the AFC South is nothing special. The Blake Bortles- and Allen Robinson-led Jags could make the Texans and Colts sweat.
19. Buffalo Bills (19): The Bills’ defense was awful last season, and it’s already lost about a half-dozen guys to injury or suspension this summer. That’s not a good combination.
20. Atlanta Falcons (21): With games against the Seahawks, Broncos, Cardinals, Packers and Chiefs — not to mention their two annual meetings with the Panthers — it’s hard to imagine the Falcons improving on last season’s .500 record.
21. Detroit Lions (25): The Lions plummeted from 11-5 in 2014 to 7-9 last season. Expect a record closer to the latter in 2016.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22): They’re low on this list now, but the Bucs could rise quickly if Jameis Winston builds on his promising rookie campaign.
23. Dallas Cowboys (15): Another year, another Tony Romo injury. Welcome to the show, Dak Prescott.
24. Los Angeles Rams (23): Rams fans must hope their team is more entertaining than its “Hard Knocks” season was.
25. Chicago Bears (24): The Bears might have had more fights in training camp than they’ll have wins this season.
26. Miami Dolphins (26): Ryan Tannehill has been average throughout his NFL career. He’ll need to be much better than that for the Dolphins to contend in the AFC East.
27. San Diego Chargers (27): The Bolts look like AFC West bottom-feeders.
28. New Orleans Saints (28): New Orleans needs to fix its porous defense if it hopes to even sniff the postseason.
29. Tennessee Titans (30): The Titans plan to be a power-running team. So, there’s a strong chance they’ll be both bad and boring.
30. San Francisco 49ers (31): Regardless of your feelings on Colin Kaepernick, we all can agree the 2016 49ers aren’t a particularly good football team.
31. Philadelphia Eagles (29): The Eagles officially hitched their wagon to top pick Carson Wentz when they traded Bradford. Expect a season chock full of growing pains.
32. Cleveland Browns (32): Prove to us you don’t belong down here, Cleveland.
Thumbnail photo via William Hauser/USA TODAY Sports Images
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