NFL Power Rankings 2016: Examining League Hierarchy as Training Camps Begin

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2016

Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates after a touchdown during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The calendar has finally turned to August, which means preseason football is almost upon us.

Every NFL team has now reported to camp, and we now have just one week to wait before live football is on our TV again. The Hall of Fame Game between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts will kick things off Sunday, August 7, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

In anticipation of that game and the rest of the preseason slate getting underway, here's a look at the preseason power rankings, followed by a breakdown of a few notable teams:

    

Preseason NFL Power Rankings
RankTeamProjected W-L
1Carolina Panthers13-3
2Arizona Cardinals12-4
3New England Patriots12-4
4Green Bay Packers12-4
5Minnesota Vikings12-4
6Denver Broncos11-5
7Cincinnati Bengals11-5
8Dallas Cowboys11-5
9Seattle Seahawks10-6
10Oakland Raiders10-6
11Indianapolis Colts9-7
12Kansas City Chiefs9-7
13Pittsburgh Steelers9-7
14New York Giants9-7
15Baltimore Ravens9-7
16New York Jets8-8
17Jacksonville Jaguars8-8
18Tampa Bay Buccaneers8-8
19Washington Redskins7-9
20Houston Texans7-9
21Atlanta Falcons7-9
22New Orleans Saints6-10
23Buffalo Bills6-10
24Philadelphia Eagles6-10
25Tennessee Titans6-10
26Los Angeles Rams5-11
27Miami Dolphins5-11
28Chicago Bears4-12
29San Diego Chargers4-12
30San Francisco 49ers4-12
31Detroit Lions3-13
32Cleveland Browns3-13

Notable Teams

1. Carolina Panthers

Jul 28, 2016; Spartanburg, SC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) stands on the field during the training camp at Wofford College. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers are far from locks to win the NFC this year, as the Arizona Cardinals made all the necessary moves this offseason to close the gap. But given the Panthers' schedule, it's difficult not to consider them the heavy favorites to wrap up the No. 1 seed once again in 2016.

Toughest Stretch
WeeksOpp
Week 12at OAK
Week 13at SEA

The Panthers were 7-1 in the NFC South last season, and their division rivals did little to close the substantial gap.

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If Carolina can win its Week 1 Super Bowl rematch against the Denver Broncos, the schedule could allow for it to cruise into its Week 8 showdown with Arizona with an unblemished record.

    

6. Denver Broncos

Jun 7, 2016; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) throws as quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) observes during mini camp drills at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A No. 6 ranking is certainly nothing to be embarrassed about, but it is a shockingly low ranking for a defending Super Bowl champion.

A case can certainly be made that Denver remains the AFC favorite despite losing Peyton Manning to retirement. After all, Manning looked like a liability more than an asset many times throughout the 2015 season.

However, until Mark Sanchez or Trevor Siemian take the field, it's tough to give either quarterback the benefit of the doubt. At a minimum, Manning impacted the game with his audibles, which may take some time for Sanchez or Siemian to replicate in Denver.

Toughest Stretch
WeeksOpp
Week 1CAR
Week 2IND
Week 3at CIN

Unfortunately for the Broncos, they dive right into the meat of their schedule. Their new quarterback will be tested with three consecutive games against potential playoff teams right out of the gate.

    

17. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jul 29, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) runs the huddle during training camp at Practice Fields at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have slowly been adding young talent, and this may finally be the year they turn the corner.

The Jaguars' success will rely heavily on the continued development of quarterback Blake Bortles, but a favorable schedule could allow for them to improve their record even with only marginal improvements in performance.

Toughest Stretch
WeeksOpp
Week 13DEN
Week 14MIN
Week 15at HOU

Jacksonville's eight road games will be against teams that finished a combined 56-72 a season ago, with only the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs posting winning records.

The health of young players such as linebacker Myles Jack and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. will also factor prominently in the Jaguars' ability to rise up the rankings in the AFC.

    

31. Detroit Lions

Jul 29, 2016; Allen Park, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) drops back for a pass during practice at the Detroit Lions Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Most Lions fans probably aren't anticipating a playoff run this year, but despite low expectations, this could potentially develop into one of the most important years in recent Lions history.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is only under contract through the 2017 season, which means the team will be closely examining his play in an effort to determine if a long-term extension should be discussed.

Toughest Stretch
WeeksOpp
Week 15at NYG
Week 16at DAL
Week 17GB

If the Lions fall near the bottom of the league, as expected, the team could also be enticed by one of the top quarterbacks in next year's NFL draft.

So while it may not be the most exciting year in Lions history, the results of this season could play a significant role in shaping the franchise's foreseeable future.