2016 NFL Power Rankings: Initial Rankings
Here are our initial 2016 NFL Power Rankings:
1. Arizona Cardinals (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
The Cardinals led the NFL in scoring offense and Carson Palmer had a career season — 4,671 passing yards, 35 touchdowns, 104.6 passer rating, etc. were all career highs — even though he comitted six turnovers in the NFC Championship Game. And going into the 2016 NFL season, you could argue that the Cardinals are the league's most balanced team.
2. New England Patriots (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Over the past six seasons, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick & Co. have posted a 75-21 regular-season record with a minimum of 12 wins every year. Only the Colts (7, 2003-2009) have a longer streak of seasons with 12-plus victories. Even with Brady's four-game suspension reinstated, Vegas still has the Pats as Super Bowl LI favorites (15/2).
3. Carolina Panthers (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Coming off a career-best season, Cam Newton became the ninth Heisman Trophy winner to also win an NFL MVP award and the first to do since Barry Sanders (1997). On defense, the Panthers have one of the league's best front-sevens, but they rescinded their franchise tag on shutdown corner Josh Norman, who signed a free-agent deal with Washington.
4. Denver Broncos (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Although they field last year's top-ranked defense, the defending champs go into the draft without either first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning or presumed 2016 starter Brock Osweiler, who signed a free-agent deal with Houston. Perhaps they will be able to work out a deal for Colin Kaepernick; otherwise, Mark Sanchez currently tops their quarterback depth chart.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
While it hurts that Martavis Bryant (suspension) will miss all of 2016, the Steelers were without Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell for multiple games in 2015 yet finished third in total offense (395.4 YPG) and tied for fourth in scoring offense (26.4 PPG). Adding upgrades and reinforcements to a leaky pass defense will be key area of emphasis in the draft.
6. Seattle Seahawks (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
While he and the team (4-5 in first nine games) started slowly, Russell Wilson compiled a 24-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio over the team's final seven regular-season games. Oddly enough, Wilson's passing-game success happened primarily with Jimmy Graham (knee) out of the lineup.
7. Green Bay Packers (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
The loss of Jordy Nelson (ACL) hurt the team's offense as Aaron Rodgers averaged just 238.8 YPG and 6.7 Y/A with a 60.7 completion percentage, all of which were career lows as a starter. With the return of Nelson and a fitter Eddie Lacy, the Packers offense, which ranked 23rd in 2015, should bounce back in 2016.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
The good news is that the Bengals have made the postseason in five consecutive seasons. While Andy Dalton (thumb) missed the playoff game, the Bengals have now lost all seven of Marvin Lewis' playoff games.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
While the Chiefs got off to a horrible start (1-5 and an ACL injury to Jamaal Charles), Andy Reid is now 3-for-3 in winning seasons in Kansas City as the Chiefs won their final 10 regular-season games.
10. Minnesota Vikings (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Minnesota's Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing with 1,485 yards and he rushed for 11 touchdowns. Excluding his one-game 2014 season, Peterson has rushed for double-digit touchdowns in all eight of his other nine seasons. Currently 10th all-time in rushing touchdowns (97), AP is currently 13 rushing scores behind Walter Payton (110, fourth all-time).
11. Dallas Cowboys (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
While the Cowboys have a top-four pick in this month's NFL Draft, they also have the best odds (among NFC East teams) to win Super Bowl LI at 20/1, per sportsbook.ag. Of course, the key to their success will be the health of quarterback Tony Romo, as he played in just four games (3-1) last season. They were 1-11 in their other 12 games.
12. Baltimore Ravens (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
For the first time in the eight seasons that John Harbaugh has been head coach, the Ravens finished with a losing record (5-11). The team suffered numerous season-ending injuries -- Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, etc. -- but you could argue this is the least talented roster that Harbaugh has had.
13. Indianapolis Colts (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
In four seasons as quarterback, Andrew Luck has lost exactly five games every season. The bad news is that he played only seven games last year. Clearly the franchise needs to surround him with better talent, but Luck, who turned the ball over 15 times in seven games, needs to take better care of the football.
14. Oakland Raiders (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Few teams made as significant of an improvement to their roster in free agency as the Raiders. Not only did Oakland re-sign Donald Penn and Aldon Smith, but they signed Kelechi Osemele, Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson as well.
15. Houston Texans (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
The Texans gave Brock Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract to replace Brian Hoyer as their starter and signed free-agent running back Lamar Miller to take over for Arian Foster. Underutilized in Miami, Miller has been highly productive on a per-touch basis (4.59 YPC and 7.58 Y/R). Since entering the league in 2012, Miller is one of just five backs to average 4.5 YPC (min: 500 carries) and 7.5 Y/R (min: 100 catches).
16. Washington Redskins (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
In a division where they were expected, by most, to finish in last place, Washington won the NFC East with strong quarterback play from full-time starter Kirk Cousins. Designated with the franchise tag, Cousins is under contract for at least one more season provided a long-term deal isn't reached prior to the July 15th cutoff. Not only did Cousins lead the NFL in completion percentage (69.8), he posted a 23:3 TD-to-INT ratio over his final 10 games of the regular season.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Since the 2000 NFL season, the Jaguars had made the playoffs twice (2005 and 2007). Since their last playoff berth, the Jags have gone eight seasons without a winning record and five consecutive seasons with five or fewer wins. Third-year quarterback Blake Bortles will need to limit the turnovers, but the team should be better on defense with free-agent additions Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson and last year's first-rounder Dante Fowler (ACL) set to make his NFL debut. They may be a year away from finishing above .500, but they are a team poised to take a step (or two) forward in 2016.
18. New York Giants (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
With Tom Coughlin no longer the coach, Eli Manning and the offense have continuity as Ben McAdoo takes over. The Giants made a number of signings on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, and that side of the ball should determine how much success they will have in 2016. The G-Men ranked 32nd in total defense and 30th in scoring defense in 2015.
19. Buffalo Bills (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Since Rex Ryan became Baltimore's defensive coordinator in 2005, he had never finished worse than 11th in total defense -- until last year, that is. In his first season in Buffalo, the Bills ranked 19th in total defense.
20. Atlanta Falcons (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Julio Jones led the NFL with 1,871 receiving yards, which was the second-most all-time to Calvin Johnson's 1,964 in 2012. Over the past two seasons, Jones has 240 catches for 3,464 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Falcons signed, or overpaid, free-agent receiver Mohamed Sanu, but they could still use an upgrade as a No. 2 option to Jones.
21. New York Jets (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
In his lone season as Jets starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 31 touchdowns, a single-season franchise record. Still a free agent, Fitzpatrick appears unlikely to agree to a new contract with the Jets prior to the draft although GM Dave Maccagnan has said re-signing Fitzpatrick is a priority.
22. New Orleans Saints (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
For the fourth time in five seasons, Drew Brees led the NFL in passing yards although his 4,870 yards was a five-year low. In addition, his 32 touchdowns were an eight-year low. Only 458 passing yards behind Dan Marino, Brees should move into third place all-time by Week 2.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
The Eagles re-signed Sam Bradford and signed free agent Chase Daniel, but their quarterback of the future won't be on their roster until Thursday evening. The Eagles gave up a lot to move from No. 8 to No. 2 in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they are expected to use the pick on North Dakota State quarterback prospect Carson Wentz.
24. Los Angeles Rams (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
The Rams are back in L.A., but they still lack the most important "star" power as Case Keenum currently tops the quarterback depth chart. But that will change in the coming days with the club trading up to the No. 1 pick for the right to select a franchise quarterback (expected to be Jared Goff).
25. Chicago Bears (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Since entering the league in 2008, no player has more yards from scrimmage than Matt Forte (12,718). With Forte signing a free-agent deal with the Jets, the Bears will rely on Jeremy Langford to lead the backfield barring a high pick on a running back in the 2016 NFL Draft. Langford averaged just 3.6 yards per carry as a rookie.
26. Miami Dolphins (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
High-priced free agents don't always pay off and it was a disappointing season for Ndamukong Suh and Byron Maxwell, who was acquired via trade with Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Dolphins lost Olivier Vernon in free agency as the Giants gave him an $85 million contract.
27. Detroit Lions (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Closing the season with strong momentum, Detroit won six of their final eight regular-season games. The Lions signed Marvin Jones, the top available 2016 free-agent wide receiver, but they lost Megatron to early retirement. Or in other words, they lost much more than they received.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Tied for a league-high 4.8 yards per carry, the Buccaneers ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing offense (135.1 yards per game) and they re-signed Doug Martin in free agency. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston threw 16 touchdowns to only eight interceptions over his final 12 games as a rookie.
29. San Diego Chargers (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
The Chargers agreed to a long-term contract with Philip Rivers, but their offensive line remains among the worst in the NFL. In fact, PFF graded San Diego's line the worst in the league. With quarterbacks the presumed first and second pick in the draft, the Chargers have an opportunity to draft one of the best left tackle prospects in years, which I project in 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
30. Tennessee Titans (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
By trading back in this year's draft, the Titans now have a total of 11 draft picks in the first three rounds of the 2016 and 2017 NFL Draft. Considering they drafted a franchise quarterback (Marcus Mariota), they are in position to turn their franchise around over the next couple of years.
31. San Francisco 49ers (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Only the Texans and Colts averaged fewer yards per play than the 49ers last season. Only the Rams and Vikings averaged fewer offensive plays per game than the 49ers in 2015. At a minimum, the Chip Kelly-led 49ers should rank near the top of the league in terms of plays per game, but the roster has been significantly stripped of talent compared to their recent NFC Championship Game appearances.
32. Cleveland Browns (Record: 0-0; Last: N/A)
Quarterback. The most important position in football. Correction: The most important position in sports. With 24 quarterbacks to start since professional football returned to Cleveland, the Browns signed RG3 to a two-year deal and there's a decent chance that they will draft a quarterback at some point as well. By trading down from the second overall pick, the Browns now have six top-100 selections in this year's draft.
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