NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Regular Season?

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 4, 2017

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Regular Season?

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    Coming out of NFL preseason Week 4, we don't have a lot of new team evaluation. I believe the fourth preseason game is almost a waste for any player who has been in the league for more than three years. For coaches, the final preseason game is only valuable as it relates to the last three or four roster spots. 

    There is value for the young guys, the rookies and the fringe players. For them, the end of preseason can be nerve-racking. For veteran players—especially those who know they are going to make the team—this is the most exciting time of the year.

    As an ex-player, I can tell you that training camp is a real burden on your life. Guys are glad to have it over, to be able to start game-planning, get back to lifting weights and get healthy for the opener.

    With all of this said, there aren't going to be any drastic changes to my power rankings coming out of Week 4. While I will move some teams up and down as I reflect back on the preseason as a whole, I won't be jumping a team up eight spots because it produced a Week 4 preseason shutout. 

32. Indianapolis Colts

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

    As a whole, the Indianapolis Colts' preseason is concerning because the team's best and highest-paid player hasn't been on the field. This just isn't a good team without Andrew Luck under center.

    Scott Tolzien has been inconsistent throughout the preseason. That isn't going to make you feel a whole lot better if you're a Colts fan or player. Indianapolis recently traded for Jacoby Brissett, but it likely did so too late to prepare him to start Week 1.

    There are some positives with the Colts. They're going in the right direction with their personnel, but there are plenty of question marks. Tolzien looked better in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he's still shaky. I like the defensive front seven, but the defense lost Vontae Davis. This is a team entering a transition year personnel-wise, and it is doing so without Luck.

    Indianapolis is fortunate to be starting the season against a Los Angeles Rams team trying to find its way. Maybe the Colts can take advantage of Jared Goff, who has been inconsistent in the preseason, and steal a win with Luck on the sideline.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

    Look, I'm sick of talking about this team. I'm sick of talking about all the potential. I'm sick of talking about the high-priced free agents and the high draft picks. It's time to put up or shut up if you're the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    It's unfortunate the Jaguars have a bad quarterback situation—and I don't think Blake Bortles should be starting for a team in general. He hamstrings the offense almost by himself.

    It's good that Jalen Ramsey is back and ready for the season. The Jaguars are going to need him and A.J. Bouye to limit the opposition, because the Jaguars will not be able to put up a lot of points. They also need running back Leonard Fournette to get healthy and help lead the offense via the running game. If the offense is on Bortles' shoulders, this team is in trouble.

    The good news for Jacksonville is that the Houston Texans are first on the 2017 slate. Houston doesn't have a high-powered offense, and the Jaguars may be able to keep it a low-scoring, competitive game. The question is whether No. 5 can play consistently and make throws to win.

30. New York Jets

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

    The Christian Hackenberg preseason experiment is finally over. Now we get to see what the New York Jets offense really looks like with Josh McCown. I think it's going to be better than a lot of people anticipate.

    The big question mark for the Jets is playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Trading for Jermaine Kearse should help there, but New York is still lacking in skill position players. The defense is fine. Even after trading Sheldon Richardson, New York still has one of the top defensive fronts in all of football, and its secondary is better than some might think.

    The Buffalo Bills are a great matchup for the Jets to open with. It could be a game New York manages to steal up in Buffalo. The Bills will not score a lot of points on this Jets defense, so this could be a physical bout that could go either way.

29. Cleveland Browns

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

    The Cleveland Browns open against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers with a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer making his first NFL regular-season start. That might sound discouraging to most people, but Kizer is far and away Cleveland's best chance to win football games. I give Hue Jackson a ton of credit for naming Kizer the starter.

    I don't think this Browns team is going to be a pushover this year. Cleveland's defense is legit, and this is a much more physical team than we've seen in past years.

    The Browns aren't going to be bullied by the Steelers in Week 1. The question is whether they can do enough to keep pace with the Steelers. Pittsburgh is going to make plays—we know that. Can Kizer match Big Ben and Co. and, at the same time, not make big mistakes against the Steelers defense?

28. Los Angeles Rams

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    Last Week's Ranking: 28

    There is a lot of pressure this year on Rams quarterback Jared Goff. There were some positives in the preseason, and Goff seemed ready to turn the corner for the good. Then the wheels fell off in preseason game No. 3. So, I don't know what to think of him right now.

    The offense as a whole should be better, and the defense will be pretty good. Unfortunately, the it is still missing its best player in Aaron Donald.

    Even with a shaky Goff and no Donald, the Rams will have a chance to steal a win in Week 1. The Colts are the perfect team to come to welcome to town for the opener. L.A. should be able to get its receivers open against a Colts secondary missing Vontae Davis.

    With Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp, there are at least two favorable matchups each time Goff drops back to pass. The question is whether he can take advantage.

27. Buffalo Bills

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

    Nathan Peterman looked good for the Buffalo Bills throughout the preseason. For my money, though, he's still not as good as Tyrod Taylor. The Bills need to get Taylor back in the lineup, because I have concerns about the creativity of this offense.

    Because of this, Taylor is the perfect quarterback for Buffalo. He can create plays on his own, and the Bills can use him on bootlegs, designed runs and play-action passes. With a quarterback like Peterman, the offense becomes too basic and predictable.

    The big question on offense is who, besides LeSean McCoy, is going to make a play? Defensively, I like what I've seen. Sean McDermott has this defense doing less in terms of scheme, but he has the players more disciplined and focused. There should be far fewer missed assignments on defense than there were under Rex Ryan.

    The Bills and Jets match up evenly, and this will be a close football game.

26. San Francisco 49ers

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

    San Francisco 49ers fans have to be excited about the best-looking offense the 49ers have had in a long time, led by the best play-designer in the NFL, Kyle Shanahan. There are pieces in place that will help give fans a glimpse of what this team can be, but until it finds a long-term answer at quarterback and some top skill-position players, there's going to be more potential than actual results.

    The 49ers defense has been encouraging. There is a lot of young talent on that side of the ball, and there will be a lot to look forward to as that young talent continues to develop. I do, however, question the team's unproven secondary.

    I think San Francisco is going to be a whole lot better than people realize this year. The 49ers match up well with the Carolina Panthers for Week 1. Carolina's secondary is questionable, and Shanahan knows how to take advantage of that. Don't be shocked if the 49ers upset the Panthers in the opener.

25. Chicago Bears

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

    I wouldn't be shocked or mad if the Chicago Bears named rookie Mitchell Trubisky the starting quarterback sooner than later. He's capable of handling the job right now. As we sit, though, veteran Mike Glennon is the starter.

    This Bears offense should be a lot better than people expect. Chicago has an offensive line that should be in the conversation as one of the 10 best in football. And the team has a pair of talented running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

    With the injury to receiver Cameron Meredith, it's even more imperative for Kevin White to finally live up to his billing of a seventh overall pick. Is White up to the challenge? That's questionable, and with Glennon as a placeholder at quarterback, Chicago will only scratch the surface of its offensive potential.

    On defense, the Bears have one of the more impressive front sevens in the NFL. The big question is the secondary, especially with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons coming to town in Week 1. I still expect the game to be competitive and close. The back end of the defense is Chicago's biggest weakness, though, and the team may not be ready to overcome it this season.

24. Carolina Panthers

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    Last Week's Ranking: 24

    I know Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is Superman, but the fact he only had two preseason throws concerns me. The Panthers always have a chance when Newton is on the field, but he's coming off shoulder surgery and didn't get much preseason work at all.

    Christian McCaffrey has added another element to the Panthers offense. We saw it in the preseason. Kelvin Benjamin has looked the best he's looked in his career too. Carolina needs to get Curtis Samuel healthy, and this can become a dangerous and dynamic offense.

    Defensively, the Panthers are solid, but there are serious questions about the secondary. I worry about the talent level there, and about a lack of pass-rushers. Because of this, the 49ers aren't going to be an easy matchup.

23. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

    The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the toughest teams to rank. They have a ton of talent, but they don't always play up to their level of talent.

    Offensively, Cincinnati looked good in the preseason. The offensive line has been solid, and the Bengals have a terrific stable of running backs. I wish John Ross were healthy because with him, this offense has the potential to make many explosive plays.

    I have zero questions about the Cincinnati secondary. It's deep and it's talented. My questions are along the defensive front. The Bengals don't have the same disruptive line they've had in the past, and while I like some of the young guys like Carl Lawson, I'm still not completely confident the Bengals can rush the passer with consistency. I am more confident than I was before the preseason, though.

    Cincinnati could really use Vontaze Burfict against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. Too bad he took that cheap shot in the Kansas City Chiefs game, because If there's ever a game in which you need a guy like Burfict, it's against Baltimore.

22. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Last Week's Ranking: 22

    Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is a baller. He looked good as a rookie last season. He's looked even better through the preseason.

    Alson Jeffery has been solid at wide receiver, but let's not get too hyped about the new-look Eagles receiving corps. When an aging Torrey Smith is your No. 2 wideout, there's room for improvement. At this stage in his career, he should be a No. 3 at best.

    Defensively, the Eagles have an impressive front seven. With guys like Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, there is a lot of talent on the defensive line. I absolutely love Mychal Kendricks playing linebacker behind it.

    I do have questions about the secondary. The Eagles have good safeties, but not a ton of cornerback talent. Ronald Darby is serviceable, but he's the only corner capable of playing man-to-man on a consistent basis. That's a problem against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who have a ton of receiving threats.

21. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

    Offensively, I'm excited about the Los Angeles Chargers. There has been a little bit of everything: long runs, explosive plays over the top, long, grinding drives, everything. If the team had Mike Williams available, this would be one of the most dangerous offenses in football.

    Defensively, I'm pumped about the Chargers. Gus Bradley has brought a lot of energy and physicality to that side of the ball. While there will be a bit of an adjustment period there, the Chargers have talent. With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram up front and guys like Jason Verrett in the secondary, many of the pieces are in place. Still, it's a work in progress for L.A. as the defense makes the transition from a 3-4 base to a 4-3.

    I wouldn't be shocked if the Chargers are in the playoff conversation by season's end. It's an uphill battle, though, with the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in the division. While the Chargers aren't necessarily rebuilding, they're probably at least a year away from truly contending.

    The Broncos are the perfect team to measure how far the Chargers' physicality has come, and L.A. will get them in Week 1.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Last Week's Ranking: 20

    We know Jameis Winston and his new weapons can do some special things on the offensive side of the ball for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston has talent, but he also makes some dumb decisions at inopportune times.

    Defensively, the Buccaneers just don't have anything special to me, except for Gerald McCoy. He and Vernon Hargreaves are the only real standout players in the Tampa defense. Aside from Hargreaves, I question the secondary.

    Having just an average defense could be an issue against a Miami Dolphins team that has weapons galore. Fortunately, the Dolphins don't have the greatest secondary in the NFL either, so there could be a shootout in Florida.

19. Houston Texans

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

    The Houston Texans did the right thing by naming Tom Savage the starting quarterback. Deshaun Watson had a great debut, but he regressed in the second and third weeks of the preseason.  While Savage is a terrific passer from the pocket, he isn't especially athletic. That limits what the Texans can do offensively.

    They're also banged up at receiver and are missing both starting offensive tackles from a year ago. This could hurt the team early in the season.

    What I'm really excited about, though is seeing Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt on the same defense in live action for a full season. Now that Clowney is reaching his full potential, the Texans have the makings of a special duo. The problem on Houston's defense is a lack of coverage linebacker. In today's NFL, that's a scary weakness.

    Fortunately, Houston opens with the Jaguars. With a bad passing game, Jacksonville might not be able to take advantage of the Texans' one big defensive weakness.

18. Arizona Cardinals

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

    The Arizona Cardinals seem to have gotten their mojo back from a couple years ago. I just want to see them in a few regular-season games before bumping them up too many spots.

    The Cardinals are a team on a mission right now. Bruce Arians has lost weight, is pissed off and has brought a new energy to the team. Carson Palmer looks to be back to form, and Arizona has the league's best running back in David Johnson. I've also seen the best offensive line play from Arizona in a while this preseason.

    Defensively, the Cardinals are solid as well. They have pass-rushers and weapons in the secondary like Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker. I like what I've seen from linebacker Haason Reddick. This is a pretty complete defense.

    However, it's never easy to go into Detroit and completely shut down Matthew Stafford. The Cardinals are going to have their hands full.

17. Minnesota Vikings

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

    I still believe the Minnesota Vikings defense is special. It did give up way too many big plays in the preseason, and that's concerning. However, things may have looked worse than they actually are in Week 3, because the 49ers seemed to actually game-plan for Minnesota. This isn't likely a trend that will continue into the regular season.

    Offensively, Minnesota should be improved from a year ago. The offensive line is getting better—though it certainly isn't something to brag about yet—and the addition of Dalvin Cook is huge. My question is whether the Vikings can find someone other than Cook to make explosive plays. Stefon Diggs might be that guy, but they need more consistency from him.

    The Minnesota offense will be put to the test in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, who have an underrated secondary, and we know Drew Brees and Co. can score points.

16. Washington Redskins

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

    I'm starting to have some real concerns about the Washington Redskins offense. I've seen too many dropped balls, Josh Doctson is still battling injuries and Kirk Cousins doesn't seem to be on the same page with Jay Gruden, who is now calling plays.

    When the offensive line finally gets rolling under Bill Callahan—one of the best offensive line coaches in football—will the Redskins have a running back they can believe in?

    Defensively, I like a lot of the talent Washington has added to the mix. It sucks that Phil Taylor got hurt, because he was looking like a real contributor. Still, guys like Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should make this a much-improved unit.

    The Eagles are a good first matchup for the Redskins because their secondary isn't great. I just wonder if Cousins and Gruden are prepared to take advantage.

15. New Orleans Saints

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    Last Week's Ranking: 17

    The New Orleans Saints are definitely one of my man-crush teams. The offense can run the ball, and we certainly know Drew Brees can throw it. I'm really pumped about Alvin Kamara and what he can bring to the offense as a runner and a receiver. This could be the best Saints offense we've seen in years.

    The big question mark heading into the preseason was the New Orleans defense. Fortunately, the Saints defense passed most tests in the preseason. I'm really excited about this secondary. Yes, it's young, but it's also deep and chock full of raw talent.

    The front four of the Saints defense is good, too. Players like Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins don't get enough credit.

    The Vikings present a tough matchup, but Minnesota's inconsistent offense should also provide an opportunity for this Saints defense to gain some confidence.

14. Denver Broncos

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    Last Week's Ranking: 14

    The Denver Broncos offense definitely seems to be headed in the right direction. It's unquestionably better with Trevor Siemian under center, and the offensive line has looked like an improved unit all preseason long.

    I love the fact Mike McCoy is back as offensive coordinator. He's a massive upgrade over Rick Dennison.

    The Denver defense can be special, but I am interested to see what kind of stamp Vance Joseph puts on the unit. The Broncos have one of the top secondaries in football and one of the top pass-rush units. Can they be better against the run? Let's hope so, because Denver was ranked just 28th in that category last season.

    The Broncos run defense will be immediately tested by the Chargers. Anthony Lynn has a knack for finding creativity in the run game, and he's sure to challenge Denver with it in Week 1.

13. Detroit Lions

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

    Can you name one thing about the Detroit Lions that is elite other than their quarterback? I can't, and that's what concerns me about this team.

    Matthew Stafford is special. Ameer Abdullah is talented. The offensive line should be better than it was last year. Yet, we've haven't seen all the pieces come together to form a truly complete offense. If the Lions can find a rushing attack that matches Stafford and the passing game, that can change.

    Defensively, the Lions have a deep defensive line and one high-level cornerback in Darius Slay. Nothing else jumps out to me on that side of the ball, and that's troublesome with the Cardinals first up on the schedule.

12. Tennessee Titans

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

    There's a lot to like with the Tennessee Titans heading into the regular season. They have an emerging young quarterback in Marcus Mariota, a great rushing attack and a great offensive line. The Titans also have a terrific front seven, and their secondary is greatly improved.

    That secondary will be truly tested in Week 1 by Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders.

    I wonder if Tennessee has placed enough weapons around Mariota and if he can take advantage of them on a consistent basis. The Titans cannot hope to dominate opponents with its ground game every single week. That just isn't realistic in today's NFL.

    Mariota and the passing game will be on display, good or bad. We know Oakland is capable of racking up points and yards. The Titans will have to match.

11. Baltimore Ravens

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

    I know I'm taking a risk by putting the Baltimore Ravens this high. I love the Ravens as a team, but if Joe Flacco isn't ready to start the season, there could be early trouble. I'm taking John Harbaugh at his word when he says Flacco will be ready.

    Why do I love Baltimore so much? The team has the best collection of weapons Flacco has ever had around him, it has a strong offensive line and it has a productive running game. This should be the best Ravens offense we've seen in some time.

    I'm equally excited about the defense. This is the deepest and most talented front seven Baltimore has had in years. In addition, a strengthened secondary—with new pieces like Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr—changes the look of the defense as a whole.

    The Bengals are going to provide a stern test, though. They're one of the few teams that seem to have Baltimore's number. Cincinnati has won five of the last six games between these two teams.

10. Green Bay Packers

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

    I've been critical of the Green Bay Packers all preseason long—which has been hard, considering Aaron Rodgers might be my favorite player in the history of the NFL. But there are lingering questions about the Packers defense and the running game.

    I'm not sold that Ty Montgomery can last the season as a running back. Jamaal Williams has impressed, but he's very much unproven.

    The addition of linebacker Ahmad Brooks was smart, but what about Green Bay's secondary? This is a unit that was 31st in pass defense a year ago. Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall have to be better, and young guys like Kevin King have to make an impact. Perhaps the return of Davon House will help.

    The Green Bay defense better be on its A-game in Week 1, because the Seattle Seahawks are a team ready for a Super Bowl run.

9. Miami Dolphins

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

    Considering this is a team that lost its starting quarterback for the year, things have gone about as well for the Miami Dolphins as anyone could hope. Jay Cutler is a perfect fit for this team. He still has a lot of talent, he knows the system and he understands head coach Adam Gase.

    In reality, Miami will provide Cutler with the most talent around him he's had in his career. Sure, he had Alshon Jeffery and, for a time, Brandon Marshall in Chicago. However, he has a more complete cast and can lean on the likes of Jay Ajayi, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Jarvis Landry now.

    Cutler is going to have some great weapons that can take advantage of his big arm. Don't be surprised if some of those weapons, like Parker, are actually better with Cutler under center than they were with Ryan Tannehill.

    Defensively, Miami has shown a lot of positive qualities. The front four is tremendous, and it's deep. The linebacker duo of Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons also intrigues me. I do, however, wonder about the Dolphins secondary. Can it stop Jameis Winston from throwing bombs all game long? If so, Miami will have a good chance to start the season 1-0.

8. Atlanta Falcons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

    The Atlanta Falcons still have a lot of firepower on offense. However, the loss of Kyle Shanahan and the transition to a Steve Sarkisian offense are cause for concern. The Falcons really struggled in their third preseason game against the Cardinals.

    What I'm really excited about is the Atlanta defense. This is one of the deepest and fastest front sevens in the entire NFL, and it's backed by a pretty good secondary. The safety duo of Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen is vastly underrated.

    The good news is Sarkisian should be able to ease himself into NFL play-calling against the Bears. Chicago has some notable holes in its secondary. It'll be up to Sarkisian to take advantage.

7. Dallas Cowboys

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    Last Week's Ranking: 7

    What really worries me about the Dallas Cowboys is the state of the defense. This is a group that was ranked 26th against the pass last year and lost Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Where are the cover corners now? Who's going to rush the passer? Dallas needs young guys like Taco Charlton to make major contributions, or else the defense is going to be a major liability.

    The offense, on the other hand, has a chance to be special. We know about the offensive line and the running game. However, I believe quarterback Dak Prescott has evolved enough that when the run game isn't working, the offense won't struggle.

    Prescott has grown to where he can take over a game from the pocket.

    The New York Giants, however, aren't an easy matchup. The Giants handed Dallas two of its three losses a season ago.

6. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Last Week's Ranking: 6

    The Kansas City Chiefs offense has looked good all preseason long. Alex Smith has looked more aggressive than in the past, and he's finding targets downfield. It sucks Spencer Ware got injured, but the Chiefs rushing attack should be fine.

    Kareem Hunt appears more than capable of holding down the starting role.

    The one major concern is that in the preseason—as was the case last year—the defense gave up way too many big plays. There is a ton of talent on the Chiefs defense, but when that defense is giving up easy chunk yardage, that talent is moot.

    This is a problem with Tom Brady and the Patriots looming in Week 1.

5. Oakland Raiders

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

    The defense was the Oakland Raiders' weakness in 2016. Unfortunately, I don't feel any more confident in that defense after four preseason games. While it was great seeing Mario Edwards Jr. back on the field, the defense as a whole is worrisome.

    The Raiders need to get more out of young defenders like Karl Joseph. They need to get Gareon Conley healthy and in the lineup. If Oakland gets those things and the defense improves, this could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

    The Raiders might still be a Super Bowl contender thanks to Derek Carr and the rest of the offense. Without an improved defense, though, Oakland will simply have to outscore every team just like last season. There are few teams that can sustain success with that formula, but the Raiders might be able to do it.

    One reason why Oakland could ride that formula to the Super Bowl is because the Raiders might be one of the few teams who can go into Foxborough in the postseason and not be intimidated by the Patriots.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Last Week's Ranking: 4

    I really like the signing of cornerback Joe Haden for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's the type of physical corner who can help beat a team like the Patriots in the playoffs. While he's lost a step in terms of speed, Haden is still quick enough to match up with guys like Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan underneath.

    I mention Haden because I still have major doubts about the Pittsburgh secondary. It's the biggest weakness on the team. There are far fewer questions with the offense.

    As long as Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, the Steelers should have one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL, especially getting Martavis Bryant back. Pittsburgh just needs to get running back Le'Veon Bell up to speed after his holdout.

    The Steelers need to be careful with Bell in Week 1. They should be able to beat the Browns without leaning on him too hard. The last thing Pittsburgh wants to do is get Bell hurt early in the season.

3. New York Giants

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

    Nothing has really changed since last year with the New York Giants defense. It's still awesome. The Giants still possess one of the league's best secondaries and one of the league's best front fours.

    The fate of New York is going to come down to two things—the play of the offensive line and the play of quarterback Eli Manning. Yes, we're talking about a two-time Super Bowl winner, but Manning played more poorly than people realized last year.

    The Giants really need to get Odell Beckham Jr. back in the lineup, because this is a below-average offense without him. Still, the Giants match up well with the Cowboys because New York has the defense to slow Dallas' offense and enough offensive talent to hit a big play or two on the Dallas secondary.

2. Seattle Seahawks

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    Last Week's Ranking: 3

    If you've watched any of my videos this summer or any of my Facebook Live posts with Bleacher Report, you know just how impressed I've been with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the preseason. I truly believe he's primed for an MVP-caliber season.

    The Seattle offensive line looks better than it was a year ago, which obviously helps Wilson. He should have better weapons around him, too. With guys like Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and Chris Carson in the backfield, Seattle might get back to having a top running game as well.

    We know the Seattle defense can be dominant, and it's gotten even better recently. Trading for Sheldon Richardson was a smart move because it adds even more disruptive potential to the defensive front. Adding Justin Coleman was smart because I'm not sure the Seahawks can really trust cornerbacks not named Richard Sherman.

    Seattle is a dangerous team on both sides of the ball and a true Super Bowl contender.

1. New England Patriots

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    Last Week's Ranking: 1

    At this point, I'm not sure I can remember there ever being as clear-cut a favorite in the NFL as the Patriots are this season. I believe in the hype. I look at New England and cannot find one glaring weakness with this team.

    Not even the loss of Julian Edelman dampens my outlook on New England. This is a team that won 11 games without Tom Brady. It's a team that just won a Super Bowl without Rob Gronkowski. Even without Edelman, the Patriots have an offense that can beat you any number of ways.

    The defense, which allowed an NFL-low 15.6 points per game in 2016, is even better than last year. The addition of Stephon Gilmore is huge because he and Malcolm Butler should form one of the better cornerback duos in the league. This is a defense that is poised to do some special things. I'm not sure how many teams in the league can match up with it for four quarters.

    How many times have we seen a team win the Super Bowl and then get better in the offseason? It doesn't happen often, but that's exactly what New England has done.