NFL Power Rankings Week 1: Latest 2015 Preseason Standings and Reaction

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2015

Aug 22, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) gives a thumbs up to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (not pictured) following a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Patriots defeated the Saints 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The regular-season rosters are set. Now, it's finally time for some football that counts. On Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots kick off the 2015 campaign in a matchup that looks far more interesting now than it did a few weeks ago.

The erasing of Tom Brady's four-game suspension will help give legitimacy to a game that could have been a dud. Had Brady been held out, the game would have been without one of the sport's five greatest quarterbacks, a rising superstar in Le'Veon Bell and a dynamic deep threat in Martavis Bryant all because of suspensions.

Now, it's just the Steelers who will have to contend with their offensive weapons being on the shelf. Meanwhile, the remainder of the league will be in preparation for the season's major kickoff over the weekend. All 32 teams have their 53-man rosters in place after cuts, so there should be no surprises barring major injuries in practice.

With that in mind, let's take a quick look around the league and assess the picture heading into Week 1.

Power Rankings

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1Seattle Seahawks
2New England Patriots
3Green Bay Packers
4Denver Broncos
5Indianapolis Colts
6Baltimore Ravens
7Philadelphia Eagles
8Dallas Cowboys
9Pittsburgh Steelers
10Detroit Lions
11Cincinnati Bengals
12Arizona Cardinals
13Miami Dolphins
14Buffalo Bills
15Atlanta Falcons
16Kansas City Chiefs
17Houston Texans
18San Francisco 49ers
19San Diego Chargers
20New Orleans Saints
21Carolina Panthers
22Minnesota Vikings
23Chicago Bears
24New York Giants
25St. Louis Rams
26Cleveland Browns
27New York Jets
28Jacksonville Jaguars
29Oakland Raiders
30Tampa Bay Buccaneers
32Tennessee Titans

Teams of Note

2. New England Patriots

Sure, the defense is going to be worse without Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Vince Wilfork, but we've seen Bill Belichick make chicken soup out of [radio edit] before. More than once. This is a man who once threw wide receiver Troy Brown onto the field as a third cornerback and made it work.

Having Revis helped the Patriots win a Super Bowl, but their offense has been their sustaining life force for more than a half-decade now. Brady's in-court knockout punch to Roger Goodell allows New England to avoid rolling the Jimmy Garoppolo dice for at least another year and puts the team in a position to be one of the NFL's best offenses yet again in 2015.

Julian Edelman has proved himself worthy of being Brady's secondary target behind tight end Rob Gronkowski, and it's make-it-or-break-it time for Danny Amendola now Brandon LaFell has been placed on the PUP list. Brady has made a living of succeeding despite a below-average receiving corps since the Randy Moss days ended, so there shouldn't be much concern here.

Still, with Brady and Belichick both having to come up with magic to make this roster work, one has to wonder if they'll be able to pull it off.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

Make no mistake: The Eagles are now Chip Kelly's franchise. For better or for worse. The controversial head coach took control of Philadelphia's roster construction this offseason, jettisoning a number of high-profile stars in the process while making some eye-opening acquisitions.

None were more talked about than Kelly's trade for Sam Bradford, who stands to make or break the Eagles' season. Kelly has generally proved he can coax an above-.500 team out of mediocre talent under center. For whatever reason, Kelly believes Bradford has the quick-read smarts and accuracy to reach a level well beyond Nick Foles.

Why, you ask? Umm...not sure! Bradford hasn't thrown a regular-season pass in nearly two years and is coming off two torn ACLs. No. 1 overall pedigrees don't grow on trees, so it's understandable Kelly is tempted by Bradford's talent, but his production lacks signs of superstardom. The Oklahoma product averages a disconcerting 6.29 yards per attempt for his career, has thrown only 59 touchdowns in 49 games and has a career quarterback rating of 79.3.

And yet Kelly's earned the benefit of the doubt. He turned Foles into the best quarterback on the planet for half of a season, coaxed competency out of Mark Sanchez and nearly saved Tim Tebow. If anyone can remind us why Bradford was so highly sought after in 2010, it's Kelly.

Just don't be surprised if the Eagles' ranking has a high variance this season.

22. Minnesota Vikings

Aug 29, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) on the sidelines during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Probably the team most likely to make me look like a total doofus in a few months. The Vikings are loaded with young talent. Teddy Bridgewater appears to be on the cusp of a true breakout after a strong rookie season, Adrian Peterson is back and ready to prove people wrong and the addition of Mike Wallace should give Bridgewater a true top target.

There are questions on the offensive line and the secondary, but there's a clear path to yearly contention here. It'll all depend on the team's development curve.

Bridgewater was much closer to solid than spectacular in Year 1; he'll have to flip that script in Year 2. Peterson had never rushed below 970 yards or scored under 10 touchdowns before last season; he'll need to return to at least his 2013 form to make a real impact. On defense, it's time for corner Xavier Rhodes to step up after only picking off one pass in his first two NFL seasons. It would also help a ton if rookie Trae Waynes is everything Minnesota hoped he would be at No. 11.

Add in contributions from Eric Kendricks, Sharrif Floyd and Everson Griffen on the front seven, and the under-30 talent here is booming. Unfortunately, promise does not necessarily equal production. The Vikings are still a ways away from proving they're capable of competing with Green Bay and Detroit atop the NFC North.

Still, come December, our tune may be changing.


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