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NFL Power Rankings Week 1: How All 32 Teams Stack Up Heading into Opening Week

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterAugust 24, 2016

NFL Power Rankings Week 1: How All 32 Teams Stack Up Heading into Opening Week

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    Hank Williams, Jr. once asked a very important question.

    "Are you ready for some football?"

    Well, are you?

    Gone are the meaningless games. Gone are the third-string quarterbacks, the future bodyguards playing offensive tackle and the no name defensive end who lucks his way into three sacks and excites the fanbase for a month.

    No, these games matter. Starting now.

    As the 2011 NFL regular season begins, the question is "Who's best?" Lucky for you, we know the answer. Or at least we'll try to in our first edition NFL power rankings.

    Worst to first, who's best in the NFL? Find out inside.

32. Buffalo Bills

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    Preseason Record:1-3

    Week 1 Opponent: at Kansas City Chiefs

    What is it that makes the Buffalo Bills so bad? You could say it's their horrible situation at offensive tackle, where Demetrius Bell and Erik Pears make up the worst starting duo in the NFL. Or maybe it's their defensive back eight, which features talented players but has never lived up to expectations. And finally, you have to put some blame on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who may do well in another system but will struggle to carry this Bills team.

    Good news, Bills fans, as you're likely going to land Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall choice in the 2012 draft.

    Learn these words: "Suck for Luck."

31. Seattle Seahawks

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: at San Francisco 49ers

    The Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs last season despite their 7-9 regular season record. They even won a game. In 2011, winning more than handful of games will be deemed a success.

    The Seahawks are relying on a dangerously young offensive line, anchored by two rookies and a second-year player. That offensive line was horrid in the preseason, as was starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

    Just how bad is Jackson? He would be the worst backup quarterback in the NFL if the Seahawks benched him.

    This is a young team that could get better, but it will be a long season for the 12th man in Seattle.

30. San Francisco 49ers

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Seattle Seahawks

    The San Francisco 49ers are a train wreck. There's no nice way to say it.

    The team is young enough that there is room to build for the future, but the pieces to this puzzle do not fit. Alex Smith at quarterback is a joke, even in the West Coast offense that he's supposed to be great in. His best receiver, Michael Crabtree, missed his third straight preseason, and a young offensive line that was supposed to become a strength this year has been a weakness.

    The 49ers may get better as the year goes on, but things are bleak right now.

29. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Preseason Record: 1-3

    Week 1 Opponent: at Cleveland Browns

    What makes the Cincinnati Bengals better than the three teams they are ranked ahead of? It's definitely not the quarterback position, although Andy Dalton may be the best starting quarterback of the bottom four teams by the end of the season.

    What separates Cincinnati is their offensive line, which is stellar, and a strong running game that will win football games for them. The Bengals also have an exciting young defense that should cause plenty of problems for opposing teams.

28. Carolina Panthers

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    Preseason Record: 1-3

    Week 1 Opponent: at Arizona Cardinals

    The game plan for the Carolina Panthers this season should be to run the ball early and often and play solid defense. If Carolina can force the opposing team to make mistakes, they could win football games. If the Panthers defense or running game struggles, things will go down hill in a hurry.

    Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, will be unleashed as the starting quarterback, but don't get your hopes up. Newton is a work in progress, and while he will make exciting plays, there will be more bad than good.

27. Washington Redskins

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: vs New York Giants

    Give the Washington Redskins the quarterback from any of the 26 teams ranked ahead of them, and they are a playoff contender. With John Beck and/or Rex Grossman under center, they'll challenge for a Top 5 draft pick.

    Washington has an excellent running game and a defense that is good enough to carry its own weight. It will be the quarterback play, or lack of quarterback play, that haunts Washington all season.

26. Tennessee Titans

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: at Jacksonville Jaguars

    With Chris Johnson finally in camp after a summer-long hold out, things are looking up for the Tennessee Titans. In fact, I've moved them up a bit in our power rankings because of the Johnson signing.

    However...Matt Hasselbeck is still the quarterback, and the team still lacks a solid No. 2 wide receiver. They are also young on defense, especially in the front seven.

    The building blocks in Tennessee are good, but the team is not ready to contend in a very tough AFC South.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Preseason Record: 1-3

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Jacksonville Jaguars

    The Jacksonville Jaguars had an excellent offseason, picking up two new starters at linebacker and making smart moves in the draft to add talented players for the future. The 2011 season will still hinge on the quarterback play that David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert produce.

    Garrard is inconsistent, while Gabbert looked good early on before struggling later in the preseason. The offensive line and running game are good enough to take pressure of whomever is under center, but not good enough to win football games without consistent quarterback play.

24. Minnesota Vikings

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: at San Diego Chargers

    It is too bad that the offensive line and secondary situations are so bad in Minnesota; otherwise, the Vikings might be a playoff contender.

    As it is, the offensive line will be the ultimate downfall of this football team. Donovan McNabb proved last year in Washington that he needs a good offensive line to be productive, and that's something he won't get in Minnesota this season.

    The secondary is also weak, with only veteran Antoine Winfield an upper echelon player, and even he's declining rapidly.

23. Miami Dolphins

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: vs New England Patriots

    If you were looking for a long-shot bet to make the playoffs this season, I would put money down on the Miami Dolphins. No, really.

    What's not to like in Miami? The team has a solid ground game with a rejuvenated Reggie Bush, a dynamic receiver in Brandon Marshall and a defense that features an elite pass rusher and two very good cornerbacks. Add in a consistent Chad Henne at quarterback, and this team could challenge for a playoff birth.

22. St. Louis Rams

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    Preseason Record: 4-0

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Philadelphia Eagles

    It would be great to see the St. Louis Rams do well this season, but unlike many others, I just don't see it happening.

    Sam Bradford may have proven himself as a franchise quarterback during his rookie season, but making the jump to playoff quarterback is a lot tougher. Ask Matt Ryan, who has a better team around him and hasn't won a playoff game yet in Atlanta.

    The Rams also have issues on defense, where I am not in love with the pass rush or outside linebacker play.

    This team is close, but they aren't there yet.

21. Denver Broncos

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: vs. Oakland Raiders

    Many people have asked what I think of the Denver Broncos, so here goes.

    The passing attack in Denver will be good enough to win ball games, especially in the AFC West. Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal are an exciting duo for Kyle Orton to get the ball to, and I really like Eric Decker in there too.

    On defense, the return of Elvis Dumervil will help a lot, as will rookie Von Miller, but I still worry about the play at cornerback and defensive tackle.

    Denver might finish last in the AFC West, but they are headed in the right direction.

20. New York Giants

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: at Washington Redskins

    It has been said that I hate New York Giant quarterback Eli Manning, which isn't true. I just don't think he's a good quarterback. At all.

    Manning will have a chance to prove that he's not a 25-pick quarterback this season, but he'll have to do that behind a patchwork offensive line made up of backups at offensive tackle. He'll also be without a defense as stout as he's had in years past.

    The Giants continue to lose defenders to injury, and a lack of depth has left them very thin at defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback.

    Buckle up, G-Men; this will be a long season.

    P.S. I love Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks. Amazing players with loads of potential.

19. Oakland Raiders

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    Preseason Record: 0-4

    Week 1 Opponent: at Denver Broncos

    Ask fans around the NFL which team has the best defensive line, and you may hear New England or Detroit, or maybe some would say the New Orleans Saints.

    I say it's the Oakland Raiders.

    Why not? Richard Seymour continues to dominate at defensive tackle, and his partners in crime Tommy Kelly and John Henderson make up a great interior rotation. On the outside, the team has a great draft steal in LaMarr Houston and a solid run-stuffer in Matt Shaughnessy. What's not to love here?

    Unfortunately, the offense is sub-par outside the running game. Expect a heavy dose of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, coupled with a very strong defensive line.

    If any team is poised to move down in the rankings, it's unfortunately Oakland.

18. Arizona Cardinals

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Carolina Panthers

    Well, someone has to win the NFC West, right?

    The Arizona Cardinals will most likely be that team, at least when you look at the talent they have on paper and the schedule ahead of them.

    Arizona is the most talented, top-to-bottom, in the NFC West (which isn't saying much). Their passing game should be solid, with Kevin Kolb distributing the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, Todd Heap, Early Doucet and Andre Roberts. The running game will need help, as the offensive line is not particularly good, and running back Chris Wells has failed to live up to expectations (and no, I'm not accepting Chester Taylor as a valid backup; don't try it).

    The highlight will be Kolb to Fitzgerald, coupled with a very stout defense, to win the NFL's weakest division.

17. Cleveland Browns

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    Preseason Record: 1-3

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Cincinnati Bengals

    I am buying the hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns.

    Maybe it's the old fan in me who wants to see a successful franchise in Cleveland, or maybe it's the throwback style of Peyton Hillis. Actually, it's probably 100 percent Texas Longhorn homerism.

    Or it could be that Colt McCoy looks really good running Pat Shurmur's West Coast offense. It could also be that Cleveland abused the 2011 NFL draft, raping it of three outstanding players at great value when they landed Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little to bolster their transition away from Eric Mangini's roster.

    Whatever it is about Cleveland, I'm buying.

16. Detroit Lions

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    Preseason Record: 4-0

    Week 1 Opponent: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    I am fully prepared to admit that I totally missed on the Detroit Lions this year. And that could go either way.

    If quarterback Matthew Stafford stays healthy, I honestly believe the Lions could win the NFC North. If Stafford isn't able to stay healthy, they may lose 10 games again. The entire season is balanced on whether Stafford can play the full season, something he's yet to do in his three-year NFL career.

    The defensive front seven is amazing, the secondary has a bend but don't break philosophy and the skill players are good enough to make plays with the ball, especially Calvin Johnson.

    Detroit has it all, if they can stay healthy. And that's a gigantic "if."

15. Chicago Bears

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Atlanta Falcons

    The Chicago Bears will either come out firing like the team that made the NFC Championship game in 2010, or they'll fall flat on their faces and cost Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler their jobs. There is no middle ground for Chicago this year.

    The Bears are frustrating to analyze. The offensive line should be horrible, but they run the ball extremely well. The secondary is a mess, but the defense is good enough to shut down even the best offenses. The addition of Brandon Meriweather at safety may fix many of those problems, but the offensive line is still a mystery.

14. San Diego Chargers

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Minnesota Vikings

    The San Diego Chargers have the talent to win their division, but putting that talent to use has been an issue for the team under head coach Norv Turner. If they struggle again in 2011, both Turner and GM A.J. Smith may be on their way out.

    San Diego is the one team that actually got worse over the offseason that I am predicting to make the playoffs. They'll rely on a mix of over-the-hill veterans and inexperienced rookies to anchor a defense that led the NFL in 2010 but lost leader Ron Rivera to the head coaching job in Carolina.

    The offense is solid, but another slow start could crash the Chargers' plans of a playoff run.

13. Indianapolis Colts

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    Preseason Record: 1-3

    Week 1 Opponent: at Houston Texans

    I said before that the San Diego Chargers were the only team who got worse this offseason that I predict to make the playoffs. While the Indianapolis Colts didn't get worse, they didn't get any better.

    The Colts' plan this offseason seemed to be "stay the course and remind everyone we always make the playoffs," because that's all they did.

    The team made big moves to re-sign their own players, but they also will rely on two rookies at offensive tackle while crossing their fingers that Peyton Manning is back in time for their Week 1 showdown with the Houston Texans.

12. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Preseason Record: 0-4

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Buffalo Bills

    The Kansas City Chiefs are riding a high after their 10-win 2010 season where they won the AFC West and hosted a playoff game. Some of that excitement has to be gone after they limped through the preseason.

    Kansas City, on paper, should be light years better this season after adding Steve Breason, Le'Ron McClain, Jared Gaither and Kelly Gregg to an already talented team. They also did well in the draft by adding Jonathan Baldwin, Justin Houston and Jerrel Powe, three players who could play big roles early in their first year.

    There are no excuses this year. The Chiefs have the talent to win the division again, but fans have to be nervous about their slow start in the preseason.

11. New York Jets

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Dallas Cowboys

    I know, the New York Jets have made the AFC Championship the last two seasons. I know that their coach Rex Ryan is some kind of god. I also know that they downgraded at right tackle and wide receiver while forgetting to get better at outside linebacker.

    The Jets' 2011 hopes and dreams are pinned to that fact that Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene should make a big jump in their third seasons. And if they don't? Well, if they don't, the Jets may not be a playoff contender.

    The talent here is not impressive, and the schtick will grow old. Adding talent is the key to winning, and New York didn't do much of that.

10. Dallas Cowboys

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: at New York Jets

    The Dallas Cowboys had a Top 10 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, and now, they're being predicted as the No. 10 best team in football?

    A healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant make a big difference.

    Dallas didn't do much in the way of adding talent this offseason, but they got better by removing ineffective players who were a strain on the salary cap. They also drafted smartly, picking up right tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Bruce Carter, two of my favorite players from the 2011 class.

    Dallas will be expected to do well this season, both in their own locker room and by the media. The pressure is on, but this team is good enough to live up to expectations.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Detroit Lions

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won 10 games last season and missed the playoffs. That won't happen again this season, as the Bucs are good enough to win the tough games that will put them ahead in tie-breaker situations.

    Josh Freeman leads an impressive group of young talent on offense, and the defensive line is just as nasty thanks to rookies Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers and Mason Foster. Add in second-year tackle Gerald McCoy, and the Bucs are a team to take seriously this year.

8. Houston Texans

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: at Indianapolis Colts

    Here is an open invitation for every Indianapolis Colt fan to tell me I'm stupid, a hater, overpaid and/or any other derogatory names they can think of.

    I can take it, and when the Houston Texans beat the Colts in Week 1 and then take the AFC South from them this year, I'll smile a big smile for each one of you.

    These Houston Texans are for real, and not in the "this is Houston's year" kind of way that we've heard about for the last five seasons. These Texans are really good.

    Which is something the entire NFL will know in one week.

7. New Orleans Saints

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: at Green Bay Packers

    While I am not a fan of the New Orleans Saints, I wouldn't want to try and work up a game plan to stop them, either.

    Where do you attack the Saints? The offense is scary good when Drew Brees is on, and he should be again in 2011 after a shaky campaign last year when the Saints' running game lost respectability.

    The defense is another strength, and the team made big moves to fix the defensive line in free agency and then re-signed their own linebackers to keep consistency in the back seven.

    Having a strong background in coaching, I can usually wrap my head around how to attack a team. When it comes to the Saints, I really don't know.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: at Baltimore Ravens

    I really want to like the Pittsburgh Steelers more than this, but I can't. Not when the offensive line and secondary look like they do.

    Steelers fans will hate this, and I do apologize, but your team has weaknesses. Yes, the coaching is great and the elite players on the team can hide your holes, but when you play good teams like the Green Bay Packers, you can't cover up every flaw.

    A good team exposes your weaknesses and then beats you. That's what happened in the Super Bowl, and that's what will happen this year to the Steelers. Maybe not very many times, but it will happen more than you're used to.

    Pittsburgh will still win at least 10 games, and they'll still be a very tough out, but they are beatable.

5. Baltimore Ravens

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: vs Pittsburgh Steelers

    I'm sure I'll hear about putting the Baltimore Ravens over the 2010 AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, but on paper, they're simply better.

    The Steelers are better at quarterback; I'll give you that. But where else? The Ravens are just as good at running back, better at wide receiver and far better on the offensive line.

    The Steelers feature a great defense, but I'd take the Baltimore defensive line and secondary over the Steelers' units. The one area that Pittsburgh dominates Baltimore is at linebacker, and that's without question.

    Is having a better quarterback and better linebackers enough to put the Steelers over the Ravens? I think not.

4. Atlanta Falcons

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    Preseason Record: 0-4

    Week 1 Opponent: at Chicago Bears

    The Atlanta Falcons are not the most talented team on paper, even though they are very good. They don't have a proven quarterback, at least not in the playoffs, nor do they have a dynamic player on defense that scares every offensive coordinator weeks before their matchup.

    What the Falcons do have is a good football team. In fact, a very good football team. This isn't a dream team, and there's no sure-fire All-Pro on the roster, but what the Falcons do have is a team. And that team will win a boatload of games.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: at St. Louis Rams

    Speaking of All-Star teams, the Philadelphia Eagles believe they have built one. They may be right.

    Look at the Eagles' skill positions on offense: QB Michael Vick and Vince Young, RB LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown, WR DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith, TE Donald Lee and Brent Celek.

    The defensive line and secondary are just as scary, with Nnamdi Asomugha and Trent Cole, the NFL's best at their respective positions, terrorizing offenses.

    The Eagles will struggle up front, as this offensive line is prone to allowing big plays when defenses bring blitz packages. The linebacking crew is also painfully young, something that will make a difference when the weather turns cold and running the ball is so important.

    The Eagles are cocky, but they just might be able to back it up.

2. Green Bay Packers

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    Preseason Record: 3-1

    Week 1 Opponent: vs New Orleans Saints

    Betting against the Green Bay Packers is tough, especially when they return 20 of 22 starters from their Super Bowl run, losing only defensive end Cullen Jenkins and offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, both of whom were easily replaced.

    A healthy running game will make the Packers only better this year, as the offense struggled during the 2010 regular season when teams loaded up the coverage and blitzed Rodgers without stopping to see if the running back was even involved in the play.

    Green Bay has the talent, experience and coaching wisdom to make a repeat appearance in the Super Bowl. I would be willing to bet on it.

1. New England Patriots

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    Preseason Record: 2-2

    Week 1 Opponent: at Miami Dolphins

    The New England Patriots are once again the preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl, but will this be the year the team finally puts it all together and wins another ring?

    Tom Brady leads what should be a dangerous offense, featuring three able running backs and two game-breaking tight ends. Oh, and they have Wes Welker and Chad Ochocinco at wide receiver. And Tom Brady. Yep, he deserves mentioning twice.

    The defense is always good, but they should be scary in 2011, as Bill Belichick's hybrid formations are bolstered by the addition of Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis up front. The secondary and linebacking crew are largely unchanged, save for the release of Tully Banta-Cain and Brandon Meriweather.

    The Patriots, at the end of the day, have more talent in the right places and more experience than any other team in the league. That combination makes them an easy favorite to win it all.

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