NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading Into Week 1

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystSeptember 8, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading Into Week 1

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Rejoice, everyone. Professional football is once again upon us all.

    Which teams project as the NFL's best and worst before anyone takes an official snap?      

    In order to answer this question, Bleacher Report's NFL writers—Gary Davenport, Mike Freeman, Brad Gagnon, Mike Miller, Ty Schalter, Mike Tanier, Sean Tomlinson and myself—were locked in a room for weeks in order to come to a consensus for this week's preseason power rankings. 

    OK. No one was locked in a room (at least, I don't think any were). Instead, each of us was simply asked to rank each NFL team from Nos. 1-32 based on how we feel about each organization's potential for the upcoming season.

    In order to form said consensus, each team's ranking from individual writers was added together. The lowest totals proved to be the best teams, while the highest totals naturally fell on the other side of the spectrum. If a rare tie occurred, the team with the highest single vote got the nod as the better team. Pretty simple.

    Make sure to check back each week because the rankings will be updated throughout the season.

    Now, let's see where each team eventually landed in the inaugural NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings.

32. Washington Redskins

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 27 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (3 others)

    What's Good?: The Washington Redskins owned the NFL's second-best (preseason) defense. With the additions of Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea along with veteran Jason Hatcher, the team's defensive front is talented and difficult to handle, which makes it easier for Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith to create disruption off the edges. 

    What's Bad?: Kirk Cousins being named the team's starting quarterback was merely the starting point of Washington's offensive rebuild. The offensive line didn't completely jell as expected during the preseason. This year's fifth overall pick in the NFL draft, Brandon Scherff, struggled with his transition to guard instead of solidifying the entire unit. 

    What's Next?: Washington will host the Miami Dolphins, a team considered on the rise, to start the season. The Redskins offense will certainly be tested with Ndamukong Suh now serving as the focal point of the Dolphins defense.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 24 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Miller)

    What's Good?: The Jaguars offense should expect natural progression this season after finishing 31st overall a season ago. Quarterback Blake Bortles looked far more comfortable in the pocket during the preseason. The offensive line improved with the additions of Jermey Parnell and Stefen Wisniewski. And the team also added running back T.J. Yeldon in the second round to provide a new bell cow for the offense.

    What's Bad?: Dante Fowler Jr.'s injury occurred during his very first practice as a professional athlete after being selected third overall in this year's NFL draft. While the Jaguars had ample time to adust the scheme without Fowler in the plans, the Florida product could have potentially served as a dynamic edge-rusher the Jaguars now lack.   

    What's Next?: The Carolina Panthers come to town. The Panthers offense will be limited this year after the season-ending injury to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and an unsteady situation at left tackle with Michael Oher starting. 

30. Cleveland Browns

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    Current Record: 1-3 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 25 (Gagnon, Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Davenport, Tanier)

    What's Good?: The Browns offensive line and secondary are two of the NFL's best individual units with Joe Thomas and Joe Haden leading the way. Head coach Mike Pettine expects to compete this season based on a strong running game and an aggressive defense. The addition of nose tackle Danny Shelton is particularly important after the Browns finished 32nd against the run last season. 

    What's Bad?: No team in the NFL features a worse collection of skilled talent. The 36-year-old Josh McCown signed with Cleveland to start at quarterback and steady the ship. There is some talent at wide receiver, running back and even tight end, but the group still has plenty to prove even after the additions of veterans Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline.

    What's Next?: The Browns will face their mirror image in the New York Jets to start the season. Both teams continually struggle to address the quarterback position, but defense and strong play in the trenches will determine the outcome of this game.    

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 21 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Tampa Bay claims legitimate foundation-building talent at nearly even level of the team. It selected quarterback Jameis Winston No. 1 overall. Mike Evans set team rookie receiving records last year. Gerald McCoy is an All-Pro defensive tackle. And Lavonte David is arguably the best pure 4-3 outside linebacker in the game. This talent can help bring the entire team together and finally get the organization back on track. 

    What's Bad?: The Buccaneers offensive line is atrocious. Two rookies, Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith, are expected to start. And right tackle remains a question mark after the organization placed Demar Dotson on the injured reserve with a designation to return. Winston will only be successful if he stays upright. 

    What's Next?: Who will be the better NFL quarterback, Winston or the Tennessee Titans' Marcus Mariota? After being the first and second overall picks in this year's NFL draft, the two face each other during opening weekend, and too many will jump to conclusions after only one game.  

28. San Francisco 49ers

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 24 (Miller, Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Gagnon, Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: Linebacker NaVorro Bowman returns after missing the entire 2014 season because of injury, and his presence is desperately needed after the massive overhaul the organization endured this offseason. Bowman looked like one of the NFL's best defenders in his limited preseason opportunities. His return should help the team from completely falling apart at the seams. 

    What's Bad?: Jim Harbaugh, Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and Chris Borland are all gone for varying reasons. Each of them was a critical component to the 49ers' recent success. It's impossible for the organization to replace each of them, and it's more than likely the 49ers will take a step back this season because of the overhaul. 

    What's Next?: The Jim Tomsula era begins Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. One of these teams appears to be trending in the right direction, and it's not the 49ers. Instead, San Francisco faces the unenviable task of trying to stop a fresh Adrian Peterson upon his return to the NFL.

27. Tennessee Titans

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 22 (Freeman, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Schalter, Miller)

    What's Good?: It's been quite some time since the Tennessee Titans legitimately presented any type of identity. Last year, the franchise easily won the award as the NFL's most nondescript roster. Enter quarterback Marcus Mariota. Concerns arose during the NFL draft process about the Oregon product's demeanor and the Ducks' system. None of it seemed to matter during preseason, when this year's No. 2 overall pick appeared calm, cool and collected during his initial NFL experiences. 

    What's Bad?: While Jason McCourty hasn't been ruled out for the season opener, the team's top cornerback is still recovering from a surgery he underwent Aug. 24 to an injured groin. Even if McCourty plays, he'll be slowed and not in football condition. Perrish Cox, whom the team signed as a free agent this offseason, will be forced to pick up the slack in the secondary. This is also a unit that didn't intercept the team's rookie quarterback once during training camp. 

    What's Next?: With lingering questions in the Titans secondary, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson might be the wrong team to face in the season opener. This contest will come down to which defense can make the opposing rookie quarterback more uncomfortable.

26. Chicago Bears

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 24 (Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: The transition from a base 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme has gone better than expected. The outside linebackers, particularly Jared Allen, have been a pleasant surprise. Allen only played defensive end throughout his career. The fact the NFL's active leader in sacks made the transition without too much difficulty will make the overall transition far smoother than initially expected. 

    What's Bad?: Jay Cutler is still the team's starting quarterback. Can new offensive coordinator Adam Gase rein the quarterback in and get the most out of his talent? It's a difficult situation, but Gase brings a quarterback-friendly system. It then falls on the quarterback to make the most out of his situation—a situation made more difficult because of a nagging injury to star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, whose status remains uncertain.

    What's Next?: There won't be any kind of grace period for the Chicago Bears to start their season with the hated Green Bay Packers coming to town. John Fox's revamped defense must step up immediately to slow the NFL's reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers

25. Oakland Raiders

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    Current Record: 1-3 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 12 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 29 (Davenport, Gagnon)

    What's Good?: The feeling around Oakland is the Raiders might (finally) be heading into the right direction after years of ineptitude. Khalil Mack is one of the NFL's best young players. Quarterback Derek Carr appears poised to dramatically improve during his second season as a starter. And the franchise spent the fourth overall pick in this year's NFL draft on wide receiver Amari Cooper, who should quickly become the focal point of the team's offense. 

    What's Bad?: This year should prove to be a make-or-break season for former first-round pick D.J. Hayden. The organization took a major chance when it selected the Houston product 12th overall in the 2013 NFL draft, and he hasn't lived up to expectations. With a dramatically improved defensive front, the Raiders secondary must live up to its end of the bargain. It starts with Hayden playing at a much higher level this year.

    What's Next?: The Cincinnati Bengals will serve as an early measuring stick for the Raiders. Marvin Lewis' squad made the playoffs each of the last four seasons. Sunday's contest will show if Oakland truly closed the gap between itself and the AFC's better teams. 

24. Houston Texans

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 18 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 28 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: J.J. Watt and Company form one of the league's best defensive fronts. And it will only get better this season with the inclusion of nose tackle Vince Wilfork and edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney. The former No. 1 overall pick is expected to play Sunday after only participating in four contests last season.

    What's Bad?: Head coach Bill O'Brien named Brian Hoyer the team's starting quarterback. Hoyer isn't necessarily a bad option when all things are considered, but the decision speaks more to the team's overall quarterback situation. Hoyer proved last season in Cleveland he can keep a team on track, but he can't carry it if needed. O'Brien will rely on the veteran quarterback's reliability as a way to make sure the position doesn't lose the team games, but it's the only thing holding the franchise back. 

    What's Next?: Hoyer won't get much of a warm-up before he needs to play well. The Kansas City Chiefs and their stellar defensive front come to Houston on Sunday. If Hoyer can avoid Justin Houston, Dontari Poe (who could play this week despite back issues) and Tamba Hali, the Texans can claim an early victory.  

23. St. Louis Rams

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    Current Record: 0-4 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 25 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: The St. Louis Rams defensive front is good. It's very good. It might even be the NFL's best. And, as scary as this sounds, it can get even better. Defensive end Chris Long only played in six games last year because of injury, but he's now healthy. And Aaron Donald is only going to get better during his second season, which is absolute frightening considering he played as well as any defensive lineman in the league not named J.J. Watt last year. 

    What's Bad?: The team's offense is a complete unknown at this point. No one knows exactly what to expect of quarterback Nick Foles after his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. Todd Gurley's knee injury slowed the top-10 pick's progress even though doctors cleared him to play. The offensive has been rebuilt with two rookies expected to start on the right side. This entire unit needs to come together quickly to carry its weight instead of forcing the defense to make all of the plays. 

    What's Next?: A visit from the Seattle Seahawks usually doesn't solve a team's problems, but the Rams might be facing their rival at the right time. Since the Seahawks won't be operating at full force on defense because of injuries (and Kam Chancellor's holdout) and are currently dealing with a revamped offensive line, the Rams can take advantage of those issues and possibly get off to a fast start. 

22. Carolina Panthers

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 17 (Davenport, Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 28 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: The Panthers defense really came together down the stretch last season on the team's way to an NFC South crown and another playoff appearance. Everyone knew what to expect of linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis at this point, but players such as Josh Norman, Tre Boston and Colin Jones stepped up and demanded bigger roles. The team then added cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman and first-round pick Shaq Thompson in the offseason. The defense played poorly at the beginning of last season, but don't expect a repeat of that this year. 

    What's Bad?: Ted Ginn Jr. and Corey "Philly" Brown will be the team's opening-day starters at wide receiver. There isn't a worse starting pair around the league. This became a glaring issue once last year's standout rookie, Kelvin Benjamin, suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp. Also, this year's second-round pick, Devin Funchess, needs more time to learn and progress. When it's all said and done, tight end Greg Olsen remains Cam Newton's favorite target, but he'll need help from another receiver.

    What's Next?: In 1995, the Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars came into the league together as expansion franchises. The two will now meet to open the 2015 campaign. The Jaguars continue to struggle, while the Panthers captured two straight NFC South titles. Carolina can't allow a young Jacksonville squad to sneak up on it at the start of the season. 

21. New York Jets

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 30 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: In a passing league, the New York Jets secondary is arguably the NFL's best (at least on paper). The organization re-signed Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Buster Skrine also signed a free-agent deal to serve as the team's standout nickel corner. The play of these outstanding cornerbacks will only make the defensive front and the safeties even better. 

    What's Bad?: The NFL consists of those two types of teams: those with or without good quarterback play. The Jets fall in the latter. Those teams without good quarterback play are constantly fighting an uphill battle to even make the playoffs. Ryan Fitzpatrick might be experienced and knows offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's offense well, but he's not a difference-maker behind center. Neither is Geno Smith once he returns from a broken jaw. 

    What's Next?: Fortunately, the Jets don't face a team with a good quarterback to open the season. The Cleveland Browns travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey, and they're in the same position as the Jets. This meeting will come down to which defense is better and if its corresponding offense avoids mistakes. 

20. New Orleans Saints

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    Current Record: 0-4 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 14 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 24 (Davenport)

    What's Good?: Drew Brees is still one of the best in the business even if his overall skill set is slightly declining. Last year, Brees still tied for the league lead with 4,952 passing yards. Last year, the guards and injuries to running back Mark Ingram let the offense down despite finishing No. 1 overall. Improved play along the offensive interior and a healthy Ingram will allow Brees to do his usual thing even without All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham in the lineup. 

    What's Bad?: Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan needs to get the Saints defense back on track if the team's going to be a legitimate playoff contender this season. Last year, the unit finished 31st in total defense. Ryan and head coach Sean Payton seemed at odds despite public insistence they weren't. The improvement must come from a unit that lost Junior Galette and Parys Haralson. Safety Jairus Byrd might not be ready for the start of the season. The Saints need the additions of cornerback Brandon Browner and rookies Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha to force drastic improvement. 

    What's Next?: A trip to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals should prove a difficult task. Last year, the Cardinals featured one of the NFL's most aggressive defenses. Plus, quarterback Carson Palmer is once again healthy. A possible Saints victory against a team coming off a playoff appearance last season would send a positive message.    

19. New York Giants

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 13 (Freeman, Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 27 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: When the New York Giants made their last Super Bowl run, the team featured one of the league's best wide receiver corps. Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks eventually left for greener pastures. Victor Cruz remained, but the slot receiver suffered a torn patellar tendon last season. With Cruz set to return, the Giants should once again claim one of the league's best wide receiver corps. Odell Beckham Jr. caught everyone's attention last year. Rueben Randle snagged 71 passes for nearly 1,000 yards. And the organization added Dwayne Harris in free agency. It's a potent group for quarterback Eli Manning. 

    What's Bad?: Jason Pierre-Paul's status and availability this season remain uncertain after his unfortunate Fourth of July accident. He's not expected to play at the start of the campaign. Instead, the team will rely heavily on Robert Ayers and Kerry Wynn—neither of which is the same caliber of player as Pierre-Paul before his injury.  

    What's Next?: A prime-time matchup against the Dallas Cowboys will reveal how good the Giants can be this season. The last thing this franchise needs is another slow start to its season. 

18. Atlanta Falcons

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 8 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 25 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brings his zone-stretch scheme to the Atlanta Falcons, and it should only make quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones even better. Shanahan's offense is built around a strong running game and athletic offensive linemen. It's a quarterback-friendly system that also targets the team's No. 1 receiver at an astonishing rate. Plus, it makes stars even out of average running backs. With all the talent Atlanta features in its offense, the Falcons could be one of the league's most explosive teams in 2015.    

    What's Bad?: The Falcons finished dead last in total defense a year ago. As a result, owner Arthur Blank hired former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as the team's new head coach. Quinn should pay immediate dividends on the team's defense, but no one should expect a complete turnaround either. 

    What's Next?: Unfortunately, the Falcons face one of the league's top offenses Monday night when the Philadelphia Eagles visit the Georgia Dome. Atlanta's defense might be improved this season, but the team's first contest probably won't be the best barometer for where it stands. 

17. San Diego Chargers

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 7 (Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 21 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: Even without Antonio Gates, whom the NFL suspended for four games, the San Diego Chargers own a potent offense. The organization signed Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones during free agency. Orlando Franklin also struck a deal to make the offensive line even bigger and more physical. Plus, the team spent its first-round pick on running back Melvin Gordon. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been as good as he's ever been the last two seasons. It's possible the 33-year-old might be even better this year.

    What's Bad?: The Chargers defense needs players who can get to the quarterback. Last year, the unit was one of the worst in the NFL and only managed 26 sacks. Defensive end Corey Liuget led the team with 4.5 sacks. The coaching staff has yet to name a starter opposite Melvin Ingram at outside linebacker, but Jeremiah Attaochu and rookie Kyle Emanuel hope to improve the pass rush. Safety Eric Weddle can't do it all for the Chargers defense. 

    What's Next?: San Diego's Week 1 opponent, the Detroit Lions, faces a similar situation this season as the Chargers. Both of these franchises need to step out of the shadow of dominant teams in the division. A victory for either team would certainly make a statement.  

16. Detroit Lions

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 10 (Tanier, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 26 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew took a different direction in how he wanted to build his team this offseason. The Lions wanted to be bigger and more physical. They did so on two fronts. The offensive line added Manny Ramirez and first-round pick Laken Tomlinson. On defense, Mayhew acquired the services of All-Pro defensive lineman Haloti Ngata to replace Ndamukong Suh. Lions games now won't be completely decided by how many times Matthew Stafford is forced to throw the ball. 

    What's Bad?: While Ngata's addition certainly eased Suh's loss, he's dealt with injuries throughout the preseason. Plus, the team also needed to replace Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will rely on Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid to fill the other defensive tackle spot. 

    What's Next?: With the Green Bay Packers expected to remain atop the NFC North and a surging Minnesota Vikings squad nipping at the Lions' heels, many project Detroit with only one place to go: down in the standings. The Lions' Week 1 contest against the San Diego Chargers could prove to be a statement game for those who think Detroit is no longer a player in their division. 

15. Arizona Cardinals

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 7 (Davenport)

    Lowest Ranking: 21 (Gagnon, Sobleski)

    What's Good?: Carson Palmer is back after another ACL injury and better than ever. In fact, his trainers and the Arizona Cardinals staff forced the quarterback to slow down his progress so he wouldn't overwork himself during the process. Prior to Palmer's injury last season, the Cardinals were arguably the NFL's best team. Once the starting quarterback was out of the lineup, the team fell flat, and the offense struggled. Just seeing Palmer in the lineup again will be a massive step in the right direction for Arizona. 

    What's Bad?: In order to keep Palmer on the field, the team's offensive line must come together quickly and play better than what was seen during preseason. The organization acquired one of the game's best guards in Mike Iupati during free agency, but the Idaho product is still recovering from an MCL tear. Lyle Sendlein, who the team tried to replace, won the center competition. And this year's first-round pick, D.J. Humphries, did impress the staff enough to hand him the starting right tackle job. 

    What's Next?: The Cardinals will quickly find out how good this year's defense will be without Todd Bowles calling the plays when the New Orleans Saints march into town. On the flip side, the Saints also struggled on defense in recent years, which could help ease the Cardinals offensive issues, particularly along the offensive line. 

14. Buffalo Bills

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 9 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 19 (Davenport)

    What's Good?: Somewhere between trading for veteran Matt Cassel and giving former first-round pick EJ Manuel another opportunity to win the starting job, the Buffalo Bills just might have found their next franchise quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. At worst, the organization will now start a legitimate playmaker behind center who can contribute in both the running and passing attacks. With the Bills' dominating defense, Taylor just needs to make a few plays and not turn over the ball for the team to be successful.  

    What's Bad?: Rookie cornerback Ronald Darby received a dreaded vote of confidence from head coach Rex Ryan last week. The Bills defense is absolutely dominant at certain spots, but the cornerback spot opposite Stephon Gilmore is still worrisome. Darby gets the first shot after being a second-round pick in this year's draft. If the rookie flounders, the team might pursue a veteran option to add to the secondary. 

    What's Next?: This year's version of the Bills just may be the most talented roster from top to bottom since the organization went to four Super Bowls in the '90s. As long as Taylor can make a few plays, Buffalo will see how good it really is when the Indianapolis Colts visit Ralph Wilson Stadium.

13. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 8 (Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 18 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Running back Jeremy Hill burst onto the scene during his rookie campaign with 1,124 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He only started eight games, but his performance down the stretch was simply outstanding. The rookie ran for 395 yards during the final three games of the season. With an imposing offensive line, the Bengals can build their offensive identity around Hill and fellow running back Giovani Bernard. 

    What's Bad?: The Bengals enter the season with the specter of yet another first-round playoff loss hanging over the franchise. Questions continue to be raised about Andy Dalton's inability to take the team deeper into the playoffs. Those questions won't stop until one of two things happen: the Bengals make the payoffs and advance beyond the first round, or the organization gets rid of its starting quarterback. Until one of those two things happens, Dalton will face enormous scrutiny. 

    What's Next?: Dalton and Company travel to Oakland to play the improving Raiders. Oakland doesn't have all of the necessary tools to consistently compete, but there is enough young talent on its roster to potentially surprise the Bengals if they're not mentally prepared for the contest. 

12. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Current Record: 4-0 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 3 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 17 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs didn't complete a single touchdown pass to a wide receiver. After year of declined play from veteran Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs released the franchise's most productive wide receiver, and the organization signed Jeremy Maclin to a five-year, $55 million contract. Maclin brings instant credibility back to the Chiefs offense after leading the Philadelphia Eagles with 1,318 yards last season. 

    What's Bad?: Uncertainty at nose tackle, particularly early in the season, could prove problematic for the defense. Dontari Poe required back surgery this spring and didn't practice during training camp. Poe set the tone for the defense after leading all defensive tackles last season with 966 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. The 346-pound defender will return to the practice field this week, but his status for Sunday has yet to be determined. Plus, this is a situation that could linger well into the season.  

    What's Next?: The Chiefs' season starts with a road trip to Houston to play the Texans. A healthy Poe and safety Eric Berry should help create havoc against an offense which now features quarterback Brian Hoyer and running back Alfred Blue. 

11. Miami Dolphins

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    Current Record: 1-3 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 7 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 15 (3 voters)

    What's Good?: Ndamukong Suh now patrols South Beach. The $114 million man is a legitimate difference-maker for a defense. With him in the middle of the unit, the Dolphins will present a ferocious defensive front with Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon off the edges and Earl Mitchell or talented rookie Jordan Phillips next to Suh. The Dolphins can now consistently win matchups with their defensive line to disrupt offenses. 

    What's Bad?: While the defensive front is now Dolphins' calling card, the team's offensive line isn't nearly as good. In fact, concerns continue to swirl around the guard position. All offseason, the coaching staff attempted to find the best starting duo. Rookie Jamil Douglas and Dallas Thomas are projected to start, but guard remains a sore spot until the young blockers prove themselves.

    What's Next?: A trip to Washington to face a franchise in complete disarray like the Redskins just might be what the Dolphins needed to get off to a fast start. Washington experienced change at quarterback and poor offensive line play during the preseason. Suh and his gang should leave a mark in the nation's capital. 

10. Minnesota Vikings

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    Current Record: 4-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 8 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 14 (Sobleski, Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: The Minnesota Vikings are a chic playoff pick this season. Why? It's simple: quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Adrian Peterson and an improving defense under head coach Mike Zimmer. Bridgewater already looked like a young and developing franchise quarterback during his rookie campaign without the future Hall of Fame running back behind him. Peterson's return only makes the developing signal-caller better and more dangerous overall.  

    What's Bad?: Last year's offensive line was in tatters by the end of the season. Right now, the group isn't much better. Starting right tackle Phil Loadholt will miss the entire season because of a knee injury. Center John Sullivan continues to deal with back spasms. The group is already mixing and matching its lineup before the first game has even started. 

    What's Next?: Minnesota's offensive line might be in upheaval, but the Vikings' experience is nothing compared to the overhaul the San Francisco 49ers endured this offseason. The two teams will meet Monday night to see if the Vikings can live up to the lofty expectations placed upon the franchise. 

9. Baltimore Ravens

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    Current Record: 1-3 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 5 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 16 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: General manager Ozzie Newsome continues to replenish the roster even after losing key components to the team's overall success. Last year, linebacker C.J. Mosley and nose tackle Brandon Williams developed into two of the league's best players at their respective positions. This year, Timmy Jernigan will be asked to replace former All-Pro defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, who was traded in the offseason. And the Ravens likely won't take a step back on defense. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Ngata are all long gone. They've become distant memories. 

    What's Bad?: Offensively, it's a bit of a different story. There is talent on the roster to replace major contributors like Torrey Smith or even injured tight end Dennis Pitta. The talent simply hasn't risen to the occasion. First-round pick Breshad Perriman remains questionable after missing most of training camp with injury. Second-round pick Maxx Williams will split time at tight end with Crockett Gillmore. The Ravens are a run-based offense, but the team will need help from someone other than Steve Smith Sr. in the passing game at some point. 

    What's Next?: A difficult trip to Denver to face the Broncos opens the Ravens' campaign. Baltimore's ability to apply pressure on quarterback Peyton Manning, who is playing behind a revamped offensive line, will determine how competitive the Ravens will be this weekend. 

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Current Record: 1-4 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 4 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 17 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger set career highs in completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards and quarterback rating last season. His presence behind center helps form the league's best triplets with wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell (even if he's suspended to start the season). For a franchise constantly linked to dominant defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is finally one of the best in the league. 

    What's Bad?: As good as the offense currently is, the defense is equally bad. Last year, the Steelers gave up the most yards per game since 1986. There are personnel concerns at every level. All the while, new defensive coordinator Keith Butler continues to implement a new scheme where the Steelers will utilize far more four-man fronts and Cover 2. 

    What's Next?: The Steelers will be walking into the proverbial lion's den Thursday night when the team takes on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The reigning Super Bowl champions dealt with controversy for nearly eight months, and they will be looking to take it out on someone. 

7. Dallas Cowboys

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    Current Record: 1-3 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 3 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 9 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: The Dallas Cowboys own the league's best offensive line. While the team will miss DeMarco Murray at running back, the Cowboys offensive front is so good that nearly any back should be able to gain over 1,000 yards behind it. In fact, the unit features three All-Pro performers in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. 

    What's Bad?: Last year's defense got by due to sound fundamentals in a well-orchestrated scheme even though the unit lacked talent in certain areas. This year's defense is far more talented after the additions of players such as Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory, but the secondary is still troublesome. The loss of Orlando Scandrick to a season-ending knee injury will place Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne into the spotlight. Both previously struggled when asked to step up and play to expectations. 

    What's Next?: Sunday Night Football will be in Arlington, Texas, this weekend when the Cowboys renew their rivalry with the New York Giants. Dallas finally broke through the 8-8 barrier last season, but the organization needs to build upon last year's success. 

6. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 3 (Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 7 (3 voters)

    What's Good?: Quarterback Sam Bradford looked exceptional during his limited opportunities in the preseason. A healthy Bradfordwhich remains a major concern after two major knee injuries—will operate the Philadelphia Eagles offense at warp speed...just the way head coach Chip Kelly likes it. 

    What's Bad?: Despite all of the maneuvering Kelly orchestrated this offseason, the offensive line remained untouched. Instead, the organization allowed two proven veterans, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, to leave and sign with other teams. Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner have taken over at guard, and their level of play could dictate exactly how effective the Eagles' high-flying offense will be.  

    What's Next?: The Atlanta Falcons, who owned the league's worst defense last year, stand in the Eagles' way to start the season. While the Falcons should be improved on defense under new head coach Dan Quinn, this Monday night affair is a perfect opportunity to build confidence and score plenty of points with Bradford at the helm. 

5. Seattle Seahawks

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 2 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 11 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: With more offensive weapons, the Seattle Seahawks don't need to get into slugfests each and every weekend. Russell Wilson now has options, whether it's tossing the ball up to the 6'7" Jimmy Graham, slinging the ball to speedy rookie Tyler Lockett, utilizing Chris Matthews more or enjoying the reliability of veteran Fred Jackson when Marshawn Lynch needs a rest. 

    What's Bad?: The famed Legion of Boom secondary continues to deal with injuries and a major holdout from Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks placed Jeremy Lane on injured reserve with a designation to return. Richard Sherman dealt with a hip flexor injury during the preseason. Earl Thomas still isn't 100 percent. But the group should round into form once everyone is on the field and playing together. 

    What's Next?: Seattle's rebuilt offensive line will face a tall task when the team travels to St. Louis to face one of the game's best defensive lines. Wilson has plenty of weapons, but the big boys up front must provide him time to get those weapons the ball. 

4. Denver Broncos

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    Current Record: 3-1 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 3 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 9 (Sobleski)

    What's Good?: Even with Peyton Manning still at quarterback, the Denver Broncos are now built around the team's defense. Last year, the unit finished third overall in total defense. Expectations should remain high with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller screaming off the edges as well as Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib patrolling the secondary. 

    What's Bad?: Only one starter, Louis Vasquez, from last year's offensive line remains healthy and still on the roster. The rest of the unit received a major overhaul to fit head coach Gary Kubiak's zone-stretch scheme. A 39-year-old Manning behind a completely unsettled offensive line is a scary proposition. 

    What's Next?: The offensive line won't be given any time to jell with the Baltimore Ravens coming to town. Manning should expect Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil breathing down his neck the entire afternoon. 

3. Indianapolis Colts

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    Current Record: 1-3 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 2 (4 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 7 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Andrew Luck's time to shine is now upon the league. Granted, Luck has been terrific since he entered the league, but the Colts finally placed the caliber of talent around him to become legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Frank Gore and Andre Johnson still have plenty left in the tank. Todd Herremans should help solidify the offensive line. And general manager Ryan Grigson added another speedy target in Phillip Dorsett with the team's first-round pick. Luck has everything needed to be successful. 

    What's Bad?: Head coach Chuck Pagano might come from a defensive background, but the Colts struggled to play at a consistent level on this side of the ball during his tenure. The defensive line will likely be the team's biggest issue this season after Arthur Jones required ankle surgery. Plus, the staff plans to rely heavily on rookies David Parry and Henry Anderson. There will be some growing pains among this group.   

    What's Next?: Luck and his offense will be tested early against the Buffalo Bills' ferocious defense. The contest should prove to be a good litmus test for exactly how good Luck and his crew can be this season.

2. New England Patriots

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 1 (5 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 14 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: The New England Patriots actually received the most No. 1 votes from Bleacher Report's writers. The reason is simple: Most expect Tom Brady to bring hellfire and brimstone down upon the team's opponents this season after being accused of cheating. The NFL essentially provided the Patriots with the one thing the reigning Super Bowl champions didn't need: motivation. 

    What's Bad?: The Patriots secondary remains an unknown. Since the unit featured Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner a season ago, it's impossible to live up to those previous standards. New England simply needs Malcolm Butler, Bradley Fletcher and Logan Ryan to play well enough not to get into weekly shootouts because none of them will be expected to perform at Revis' level. 

    What's Next?: Per tradition, the previous Super Bowl winners will open the season on Thursday night. The Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers and their explosive offense. Brady vs. Roethlisberger is must-watch television. 

1. Green Bay Packers

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    Current Record: 2-2 (preseason)

    Highest Ranking: 1 (3 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 6 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Aaron Rodgers. Do I actually need to write anything more? When a team claims the NFL's best quarterback, it always owns an advantage over opponents. Rodgers is currently the best in the business, but his supporting cast usually isn't given enough credit either. The Green Bay Packers offensive line is one of the league's better units. Eddie Lacy is a tremendous running back. And even a depleted wide receiver corps remains very talented. Simply put: The entire Packers offense is deadly. 

    What's Bad?: As mentioned, the Packers wide receiver corps didn't remain intact entering this season. Jordy Nelson suffered a season-ending knee injury during the preseason. Randall Cobb continues to deal with a shoulder injury, but he's expected to play in the opener. Davante Adams, rookie Ty Montgomery and the recently re-signed James Jones must now step up this season to make the most out of a potent offense.  

    What's Next?: An opportunity presents itself for the Packers to set the tone early in the NFC North against the Chicago Bears. The Bears enter this season under the watchful eye of new head coach John Fox, but Green Bay is still a superior team from top to bottom. 


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