NFL Week 1 Power Rankings: NFC Powerhouses Top List To Start Season

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The first game of the 2018 NFL regular season doesn’t kick off until Thursday night, but that isn’t stopping us from issuing our first power rankings of the campaign.

Here’s a look at where each team stands in NESN.com’s NFL power rankings as we head into Week 1.

1. Philadelphia Eagles: It’s tough to have the defending Super Bowl champions anywhere else on the list. Carson Wentz won’t suit up for the Eagles’ opener, but Nick Foles, obviously, has proven to be a more-than-capable backup. The Birds will have their work cut out from them to stay at No. 1, though, as the ole’ Super Bowl hangover often hits teams hard.

2. Los Angeles Rams: The Rams have a chance to be downright frightening this season. After posting a solid 11-5 record in 2017, the Rams loaded up in the offseason, acquiring marquee defensive talents Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh. Oh yeah, Los Angeles’ high-flying offense added speedster Brandin Cooks, too.

3. Minnesota Vikings: There’s not much to not like about the Vikings. Minnesota boasts one of the most vaunted defenses in the league, and its offense received a boost in the offseason in the form of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Don’t forget about second-year running back Dalvin Cook returning from a torn ACL, either.

4. New England Patriots: The Patriots might not come off as a top-5 team on paper, but that’s been the case several times during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. New England seems to always make the most of what it has, and there’s no reason to believe that trend won’t continue in 2018.

5. New Orleans Saints: The Saints feature one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL, and their defense often doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Veteran running back Mark Ingram Jr. will be sidelined for the first four contests of the season, but New Orleans likely won’t miss a beat thanks to Alvin Kamara.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers: There’s one giant question mark that surrounds the Steelers by the name of Le’Veon Bell. The versatile back still has yet to report to the team, and there’s no indication as to when he’ll return. Once he does, however, you can expect the Steelers to make a serious run at AFC supremacy.

7. Green Bay Packers: The Packers don’t feature one of the most talents rosters in the league, but they might just have the best player. Green Bay goes as Aaron Rodgers goes, and the star signal-caller is poised for a big season after his 2017 campaign got cut short due to injury.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars’ defense can go toe-to-toe with anyone. That said, it only can do so much to win games for Jacksonville. Leonard Fournette is a beast out of the backfield, but Blake Bortles still has yet to take the next step, and his receiving corps this season is mediocre at best.

9. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons’ offense can get on you in a hurry. With a lethal running back tandem and a star receiver in Julio Jones, Matt Ryan has no shortage of weapons. The veteran quarterback received yet another game-changer with 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley as well.

10. Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers’ 9-7 record in the 2017 campaign was not indicative of their play. In fact, four of those seven losses were by three points or less. Los Angeles was brutalized by the injury bug last season, so as long as it stays healthy, it could be a dark horse Super Bowl contender.

11. Houston Texans: Barring injuries, there aren’t many holes in the Texans’ roster. Their pass rush has the chance to be among the best in the league, and Deshaun Watson is poised to give opposing defenses nightmares on a weekly basis.

12. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers’ prospects surely would be much higher if they didn’t play in such a tough division. Still, it’s tough to gameplan for a team with versatile playmakers like Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey. If Luke Kuechly and Co. can get after the QB like they did last season, Carolina should be playoff bound once again.

13. Tennessee Titans: The Titans were a fun “on the rise” team the past few seasons, but now there are legitimate expectations in Nashville. As Marcus Mariota heads into his fourth NFL season, it’s time for him to truly establish himself as a star quarterback.

14. Detroit Lions: Don’t sleep on the Lions. Matt Stafford still has two above-average receivers in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., and rookie Kerryon Johnson could solve Detroit’s running back problem that has troubled the team the past few seasons. It should be interesting to see the type of impact first-year head coach Matt Patricia has on the defense, too.

15. New York Giants: The Giants have all the makings for a bounce-back season. Odell Beckham Jr. has recovered from his ankle injury, the offensive line was beefed up thanks to Nate Solder and Will Hernandez and running back Saquon Barkley is expected to make a big impact in his rookie season.

16. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals might just have the most underrated offense in the league. A.J. Green, of course, is a stud, and second-year Joe Mixon should thrive with more touches this season. If tight end Tyler Eifert can stay healthy and wideout John Ross finds a way to contribute, Cincy could surprise a lot of people.

17. Seattle Seahawks: Seattle is far from the powerhouse it once was. The “Legion of Boom” effectively is dead, and the offense leaves a bit to be desired. But Russell Wilson still is under center, and the running back duo of Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson could provide a major lift to the Seahawks.

18. San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco seemingly is everyone’s dark horse pick this season, largely due to the hype surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo. The fifth-year QB’s potential is through the roof, but he still needs to prove himself as a legitimate starter from the get-go.

19. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs quickly could make a big jump on this list if Patrick Mahomes II turns out to be the star KC thinks he his. The Texas Tech product has all the arm talent in the world, but he’ll need to continue to refine his mechanics in order for the Chiefs’ offense to truly flourish.

20. Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott will have the chance to prove a lot of doubters wrong this season. Dallas’ receiver depth chart really lacks star power, so if Dak still can find a way to light it up through the air, the Cowboys could be in business in the NFC.

21. Oakland Raiders: Trading arguably your best player just over a week before the season isn’t great, but the Raiders still have enough talent to threaten to be a playoff team in 2018. That will require a breakout season from quarterback Derek Carr, though.

22. Baltimore Ravens: No one really knows what to expect from Joe Flacco this season. But if the veteran quarterback struggles to start the campaign, Baltimore’s fan base likely will clamor for rookie QB Lamar Jackson.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford will get the nod under center for the Cardinals in Week 1, but we have a feeling it won’t be long before Josh Rosen gets his shot. If the rookie lives up to the hype and David Johnson stays healthy, Arizona could be a pleasant surprise.

24. Chicago Bears: The Bears are on the rise. Chicago helped out its franchise player Mitchell Trubisky this offseason by acquiring Allen Robinson and Trey Burton, and adding Khalil Mack to an already budding defense doesn’t hurt either.

25. Washington Redskins: It’s never ideal to lose a star quarterback, but the Redskins did a fine job of bridging the gap by acquiring Alex Smith. The veteran QB rarely make mistakes, which should bode well for a Washington offense that didn’t seem to live up to its potential.

26. Denver Broncos: The Broncos still have a few pieces in place with the likes of Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but Denver didn’t get much better in the offseason after a lousy 2017 season. It’s tough to imagine Case Keenum has a repeat campaign as well.

27. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins lost two of its best players in the offseason in Jarvis Landry and Suh, so it’s tough to get excited about Miami. Kenyan Drake could be one of this season’s breakout offensive players though.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are poised for a rough start. James Winston will be sidelined for the first three games due to suspension. Tampa Bay’s opponents for those three contests? The Saints, Eagles and Steelers, respectively. Yikes.

29. Cleveland Browns: Dare we say there’s promise for the Browns? Cleveland will be served well under the guidance of veteran QB Tyrod Taylor, and the team added a handful of playmakers to a roster that was desperate for them. The question on everyone’s mind, however, is if Baker Mayfield will force Hue Jackson’s hand for a QB change.

30. Indianapolis Colts: What can you really expect from Andrew Luck? The Colts QB hasn’t played since the 2016 regular-season finale, and he’s returning to a team that features a fairly week roster from top to bottom.

31. New York Jets: The Jets surprised many by going 5-11 last season, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in grooming a rookie QB, even one of Sam Darnold’s caliber. They’ll have to be patient with the 21-year-old.

32. Buffalo Bills: Starting Nathan Peterman under center in Week 1 will put you in the power rankings cellar.

Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

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