NFL Power Rankings: Chris Simms' Rankings Heading into Preseason Week 2
One thing NFL fans shouldn't do this early in the preseason is overreact. We've barely seen half the league's starters in action, and most of the starters we have seen aren't close to being at their best.
As a former player, I can tell you most of these guys are in survival mode at this point in the preseason. They're just trying to make it through the grind of training camp without falling completely flat or suffering an injury. For many of them, preseason games are actually a welcome break.
This is why I've always found it a bit silly to rank teams after one week of preseason action. But we all love power rankings, so you know what? I'm doing it. But trust me, I won't be moving a team up seven spots because their fourth-stringers played well late in an exhibition game.
In fact, you aren't going to find many changes from my rankings from before the preseason. (Expect a lot more movement to come in the next few weeks.) What you will find are my observations and key takeaways from Week 1 of the preseason.
Yes, there are important things to glean from this first week of preseason games. While we didn't see anything resembling teams' finished products, we did get an excellent look at roster depth and some of the young players around the league.
Understand, though, that even some of these young players aren't at their best. If you like what you saw from a Leonard Fournette or a Christian McCaffrey, just imagine how they'll perform once they've had a chance to catch their breath with a regular football schedule.
With all of this in mind, here's how I view the NFL with roughly three weeks to go before the start of the regular season.
32. New York Jets
Last Week's Ranking: 32
The New York Jets offense is definitely going to be better under the watch of offensive coordinator John Morton. In many ways, it reminded me of the New Orleans Saints offense. That's where Morton learned under Sean Payton, and that's what he's bringing to New York.
Even though wide receiver Quincy Enunwa's season-ending neck injury is a huge blow, the Jets still have offensive skill players with speed. Guys like Robby Anderson and Charone Peake have potential; they just lack experience.
Josh McCown was sharp in his Jets debut against the Titans on Saturday, going 3-for-4 with 72 yards and a touchdown. Christian Hackenberg didn't perform too poorly, either, though he didn't make any real wow plays. I still don't see a lot of big-time potential with him.
I still think the strength of this team is on defense. The Jets are in the conversation of the best defensive lines in football. Guys like Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson are a handful for any opposing offense. I also like the young safety duo of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Adams definitely looks the part, and I think he's already one of the better safeties in the league. Maye isn't quite on that level, but he looks like a starting-caliber player.
Overall, people have been a hair too critical of the Jets, as they have more talent than people realize. There's a solid chance the Jets aren't the worst team in football by season's end.
31. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week's Ranking: 31
With their first couple drives of 2017, we saw this is going to be a different Los Angeles Rams team. Quarterback Jared Goff looked as impressive as he ever has during his NFL career, and you can really see the influence of the offensive mind of Sean McVay.
It helps that the Rams have finally put some legitimate weapons around Goff. How can you not be impressed by the potential of Cooper Kupp? He looked like a legitimate playmaker in his debut, and he should be a valuable No. 3 receiver for the team moving forward. Adding Robert Woods was a smart move, as was trading for his former teammate, Sammy Watkins.
The arrow is definitely pointing up for Goff and the Rams offense.
Defensively, I'm excited to see how L.A. develops under new coordinator Wade Phillips. As good as this defense was a year ago, it could be even better this year. I'm sure Phillips would have loved to see stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald on the field to open the preseason, but he had some pieces to play with.
The Rams held the Dallas Cowboys—who were admittedly without many of their top players—to just three first-half points.
They're another team that can make a big jump in 2017.
30. Cleveland Browns
Last Week's Ranking: 30
Say what you want about the Cleveland Browns, but head coach Hue Jackson and executive vice president Sashi Brown have completely transformed this team in just over a year's time. What jumped out to me in Cleveland's preseason opener is how this now looks like a real NFL squad. No more Browns B.S. in 2017.
The defense has the potential to be special one day. When you have guys like Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah and Nate Orchard—who was phenomenal Thursday—you have the foundation for a dominant defensive line. Add in linebackers like Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, and you have the makings of a pretty impressive front seven.
Sure, Joe Thomas didn't play, but the Browns offensive line also looks like it can be one of the better units in the NFL this season. My questions are about the team's offensive weapons and, of course, the quarterback position.
I don't know if DeShone Kizer can be Cleveland's franchise quarterback, but I'll tell you this: In my eyes, Kizer is by far a more physically gifted player than either Cody Kessler or Brock Osweiler. I think it's only a matter of time before he takes over this spot.
29. Chicago Bears
Last Week's Ranking: 29
Look, if we were going to give out an MVP award for Week 1 of the preseason, there's no doubt it would go to Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. To me, he had one of the most impressive performances of anyone this past week.
What I saw from Trubisky was a player who belongs on an NFL field. He has NFL arm talent and quickness, and he never appeared overwhelmed by the speed of the pro game. I know many Bears fans were upset that Chicago traded up to take Trubisky second overall, but he legitimately looked like a No. 2 pick in his debut.
Mike Glennon, who is expected to keep the seat warm as Trubisky acclimates to the pros, wasn't nearly as impressive. In fact, he wasn't impressive at all. He completed just two of eight pass attempts and has a horrendous interception that was returned for a touchdown. If he doesn't improve dramatically in the preseason, it could be difficult to justify keeping Trubisky on the bench.
Defensively, I liked some of the versatility and depth I saw from the front seven. I think this is an underrated group that can really thrive under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio this season. What I'll be looking for throughout the rest of the preseason is some progress from the secondary. Even at this point in the preseason, the Bears surrendered a few too many long pass plays for my liking.
28. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week's Ranking: 28
I think the San Francisco 49ers could end up being a lot better this season than some people expect. There is a lot of young defensive talent on this team, and the offense immediately became better upon the hiring of Kyle Shanahan as head coach.
San Francisco fans have to be excited about the way guys like Rashard Robinson, Aaron Lynch and Solomon Thomas performed in their 2017 debuts. This is a different scheme for the 49ers, one which allows guys to play more freely and with more aggression. We saw some of that Friday night.
With Shanahan on board, you folks out in San Francisco are going to be getting something you aren't used to—quarterbacks putting up numbers. Brian Hoyer didn't do a whole lot in limited action, but both Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard looked impressive. They combined for nearly 270 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Get used to seeing some production from the Shanahan offense in San Francisco. I'm really interested to see what rookie running back Joe Williams can be in this system. He rushed seven times for 60 yards in the preseason opener. For me, he's a perfect scheme fit for Shanahan.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week's Ranking: 27
Whenever I talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars, I have to start with quarterback Blake Bortles. I'm still concerned about his ability to play at the pro level, and my concerns were far from alleviated in the preseason opener.
At one point, Bortles had a chance to throw a shallow cross that could have resulted in a touchdown. Had Bortles led the receiver and made an accurate throw, it's an easy score. Instead, he throws behind and the receiver had to fall to the ground just to come down with it. Bortles still misses too many of these easy throws, and it doesn't look like he fixed his mechanics in the offseason.
What I am excited about is the potential of Jacksonville's running game. If I'm a Jags fan, I'm excited about seeing Chris Ivory busting through the hole and rookie Leonard Fournette performing well in his debut. Fournette is now dealing with a foot injury, according to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco, but once he's healthy, the Jaguars could have a real two-headed monster in their backfield.
It was also great to see Myles Jack running around and making plays for Jacksonville. You could tell when he was on the field because he's just on another level as a linebacker. Yannick Ngakoue is another defender who really popped for Jacksonville.
This should be a more physical and more disciplined brand of football under the guidance of head coach Doug Marrone and executive vice president Tom Coughlin. If the Jaguars can get some consistency out of Bortles, they could surprise some people.
26. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week's Ranking: 26
The Indianapolis Colts have put an emphasis on being tougher and more physical on both sides of the ball this offseason, and I love it. Head coach Chuck Pagano seems to want to get rid of the stigma of being a "soft" football team.
Indianapolis is certainly on its way to doing just that. Signing guys like Johnathan Hankins, Jabaal Sheard, Al Woods and Sean Spence should help beef up the front end of the defense. The development of young safeties like Malik Hooker and T.J. Green bears watching, too. This should be a very different defense than we've seen in Indianapolis in years past.
I'm also interested to see how the offensive line comes together. With Andrew Luck likely not being 100 percent when the season begins and still questionable for the opener, according to Stephen Holder and Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, a strong offensive line and a consistent running game will be critical for the Colts to stay afloat early in the year.
Luck's injury is obviously my biggest concern with this team. Coming off a shoulder injury is hard for a quarterback, and Luck just hasn't had the opportunity to prepare his arm for the coming season.
25. Buffalo Bills
Last Week's Ranking: 25
Even without LeSean McCoy, it appeared the Buffalo Bills running game is ready to pick up right where it left off in 2016, as it was productive against a stout Minnesota Vikings defense. Second-year man Jonathan Williams was particularly impressive, carrying the ball four times for 39 yards.
I like where this team is headed defensively, too. There is some top talent on this defense, and head coach Sean McDermott is the right guy to get the best out of the unit. It was exciting to see guys like Reggie Ragland and Tre'Davious White playing in his defense.
I'll also point out here that since McDermott's defense doesn't rely so much on man coverage, the trade of Ronald Darby is understandable.
Trading away wideout Sammy Watkins isn't going to help the Buffalo passing attack, though, which is my biggest area of concern. I'm still not convinced the Bills can get the consistency they need out of the quarterback position and from the receiving corps to be truly competitive in 2017.
I do, however, believe McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane will get this team on the right track.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week's Ranking: 24
The Cincinnati Bengals have to be happy about their new offensive line's solid start. With Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler having both left in free agency, that has the potential to be an area of weakness for Cincinnati this season. However, the new-look line handled itself well in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay.
The Bengals also have to be pleased with the debut of Joe Mixon. He carried the ball six times for 31 yards and caught one pass for 11 yards. He also looks like a physical specimen out there, which is just as impressive to me.
What has really impressed me over the past few years is how the Bengals have quietly turned over their roster while still remaining competitive. Some of the young players they added to their defense, like Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson III and rookie Jordan Willis, looked solid against the Buccaneers.
Cincinnati still has some top-tier veterans, such as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Combining them with some up-and-coming young players gives it the potential to be competitive in 2017 and moving forward. I'm not sure there's quite enough talent to win the AFC North, but I also don't think the Bengals are going away anytime soon.
23. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week's Ranking: 23
How the heck can you not be impressed by Carson Wentz's 2017 debut? Sure, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback only had one drive, but it was nearly flawless. He went 4-for-4 for 56 yards and a touchdown.
I'm also impressed with what I saw from rookie pass-rusher Derek Barnett. I don't even care that he got two sacks; I loved seeing him get off the football and go from speed to power as a pass-rusher. He really pushed around David Bakhtiari, who is one of the better offensive tackles in the league.
What I'm still concerned about is the Eagles secondary, as they still don't have quite enough cover corners. The addition of Ronald Darby should help, though. I was in Tennessee with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and Darby is going to be a perfect fit for his defense.
Linebacker Mychal Kendricks can also be a solid fit in Schwartz's system if he can get in his good graces enough to earn playing time. He's one of the most athletically gifted linebackers in football, and he really popped off the screen against the Green Bay Packers. It would be a shame to waste his physical gifts on the bench this season.
I'd like to see the Eagles be a little more careful with the football, however, as they had a pair of first-half fumbles and an interception.
22. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week's Ranking: 22
The Arizona Cardinals may soon make a huge preseason jump in my power rankings. Realistically, I could have put them anywhere from 14 to 22, but I've kept pushing them down throughout the ranking process. If they display more of what I saw in the preseason opener, though, they'll definitely be moving up.
This difference in this year's preseason opener and what the Cardinals did in the 2016 preseason is this: Quarterback Carson Palmer played better, and the offensive line protected him better. I have no questions about Arizona's stable of weapons. I question whether the offensive line can keep Palmer upright and whether he can play with efficiency and consistency.
So far, so good this preseason.
Defensively, it was good to see Robert Nkemdiche playing with some purpose. I feel like he's finally turning a corner. It was also great to see rookie Haason Reddick flying around in the middle of the defense.
And who didn't enjoy Tyrann Mathieu looking like his normal self? He and rookie Budda Baker—a guy who I view as sort of a Mathieu Jr.—were both solid. The thought of them playing side-by-side all season has me pretty pumped.
21. New Orleans Saints
Last Week's Ranking: 21
I don't think I've seen a New Orleans Saints preseason game in which there wasn't some strong quarterback play. Even without Drew Brees, the Saints put up strong passing numbers against the Browns. This just speaks to the strength of Sean Payton and his offensive mind.
I was more impressed, though, with the running game, specifically rookie Alvin Kamara. He carried the ball four times for 35 yards, and I still think he's the future bell-cow back for the Saints.
Some of New Orleans' young guys on defense also caught my eye. There's some sneaky depth on this unit, especially in the secondary. Guys like Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris are another year better. We didn't see Marshon Lattimore, but he should make an immediate impact. The Saints also have two terrific young safeties in Vonn Bell and Kenny Vaccaro.
New Orleans had the league's worst pass defense in 2016, allowing 273.8 yards per game, but it has a real chance to turn that around this year.
20. Carolina Panthers
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Cam Newton not playing was prevalent on my mind when watching the Carolina Panthers. As is the case with Luck, Newton is coming off a shoulder injury, and that concerns me.
One thing I'm not concerned with is the transition of running back Christian McCaffrey to the pro game. He didn't look any different than he did playing at Stanford, even if he's not quite as fast when compared to the competition. I'm not sure McCaffrey will break as many long runs at the NFL level as he did in college, although he was a hair away from breaking one in his debut.
The quarterbacks who did play, like Joe Webb and Derek Anderson, were solid.
On the Panthers defense, I'm looking at some of the young players who were recently drafted high. Can guys like James Bradberry—who was impressive this past week—and Shaq Thompson be solid contributors? I'll be examining that over the next few weeks of the preseason to see if these young guys are ready to take the next step.
I'll also be watching what returning veterans like Captain Munnerlyn and Julius Peppers can bring to the defense in extended roles.
19. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week's Ranking: 19
The Los Angeles Chargers offensive line was heading in the right direction before rookie Forrest Lamp suffered a season-ending injury. It bears watching whether the line can continue to gel without him.
I'm also interested to monitor how the new-look defense comes together under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. He's bringing that Seattle Seahawks-style defense to L.A., hopefully along with some of that aggressive mentality.
The Chargers essentially have been a hybrid 3-4 defense for the past several seasons. Now they'll be about as basic a 4-3 defense as you're going to see. Their success will hinge on the individual matchups and the execution.
Hopefully, the defense can build off its performance against the Seahawks on Sunday. The Chargers defense surrendered 27 first-half points but gave up only a field goal to Seattle's starters.
While the Lamp injury gives me some concerns about the offense, rookie wideout Mike Williams' injury does not. Quarterback Philip Rivers has no lack of receivers and tight ends to target in the passing game. Rivers looked sharp in limited time Sunday, too, going 5-of-6 for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Ageless tight end Antonio Gates snagged that touchdown grab. Wideout Travis Benjamin also stood out with a 74-yard touchdown reception from backup Kellen Clemens.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was impressive in his preseason debut against the Bengals. He seems ready to continue his rise as a star NFL signal-caller. Running back Charles Sims also looked healthy and impressive, which is important for this team.
Sims is going to be a big part of the Tampa offense, especially early on. Doug Martin will be suspended for the first three weeks of the season, and as a smaller back, he's a bit of an injury risk anyway. Jacquizz Rodgers seems ready to take the early-season starting role, but Sims could be the No. 2 runner as well as the third-down back. We shouldn't discount Sims' value in the passing game overall, so he could be poised for a huge year.
Defensively, this team could take a positive step forward in 2017. It has solid pieces in place, especially in the secondary. J.J. Wilcox was a smart addition at safety, and I expect Brent Grimes to continue being one of the more underrated corners in football.
What I'm really interested in seeing, though, is the continued development of Vernon Hargreaves. He was absolutely incredible against Cincinnati. His break on the ball and resulting end-zone interception was a thing of beauty. Hargreaves is poised to make another move toward being a true shutdown corner.
17. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week's Ranking: 17
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook only had 13 yards on five carries in his debut, but just looking at him was impressive. He has an incredible build and pair of legs. The rookie also has a lot more power than people realize. He showed his ability as a receiver, too, hauling in four catches for 30 yards.
Minnesota finished with the fewest rushing yards league-wide last season, so Cook could help turn this into a playoff-caliber offense.
Another player who stood out was backup Case Keenum. While folks aren't usually all that interested in hearing about backup quarterbacks, they're important. Should something happen to Sam Bradford—who has a lengthy injury history—Keenum is a guy with experience who can keep the offense rolling.
To me, this defense still looks like one of the best in football. I have to applaud general manager Rick Spielman for his brilliant approach to building it. He's been extending players like Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes early.
Griffen, by the way, was phenomenal in his preseason debut. He absolutely dominated Seantrel Henderson.
Moving forward, I'm going to have my eye on guys like Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes. Head coach Mike Zimmer doesn't just throw cornerbacks into the fire, so it bears watching whether these young corners are capable of truly earning his trust.
16. Houston Texans
Last Week's Ranking: 16
I know everyone likely wants to start the Houston Texans conversation with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, but I'm actually going to start with a different quarterback.
Tom Savage wasn't all that impressive on his first drive of the game, but I thought he settled in after that. Savage is a tremendous thrower of the football, and he's wonderful from the pocket.
Watson was impressive as well, and he's certainly more mobile than Savage. He definitely looks like a natural playing in a pro game. My concern with Watson, though, is the same concern I had before the draft: When he has to sit back and uncork a fastball, he too often misses the strike zone.
Rookie running back D'Onta Foreman also had a strong NFL debut, carrying the ball nine times for 76 yards. He should be a nice complement to Lamar Miller.
Another guy who impressed me was No. 17, Dres Anderson. He caught four passes for 80 yards and looked like a future contributor. I'll be keeping an eye on him going forward.
The Texans defense, which was the strength of the team last year, could be even better this season. I'd expect rookie second-round pick Zach Cunningham—who was solid in his debut—to be an early contributor to that unit.
15. Denver Broncos
Last Week's Ranking: 15
Here's a shocker: The Denver Broncos defense took the field and scored the team's first points of 2017.
That's just status quo for the Denver defense. I've never seen anything quite like it, really. The group could be even better this year than last, too.
The addition of guys like Domata Peko and rookie DeMarcus Walker should help the Broncos be more physical and effective up front and in the middle. I do think we could see quite a bit of Walker at end, though, with Shaq Barrett injured and Billy Winn out for the season.
Overall, I expect the defense to again be the strength of the team. It's special.
I thought Trevor Siemian outplayed Paxton Lynch quite a bit at quarterback. He was more poised and appeared more comfortable in the offense. I think Lynch has a lot of potential, but he needs to be sharpened a bit before taking over the starting gig.
It was nice to see some good things from wideout Cody Latimer, who had seven catches for 54 yards.
14. Green Bay Packers
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Aaron Rodgers didn't play in the Green Bay Packers' preseason opener, which isn't a surprise. He doesn't need the work. Brett Hundley did some good things, though, which is encouraging. He seems to be developing into a more-than-capable NFL backup.
I didn't expect Bakhtiari to struggle the way he did against Barnett. I was also surprised to see Ty Montgomery sputter and lose a fumble. The guy is a full-time running back now, and he needs to adjust to taking the punishment that position absorbs.
On defense, young guys like Josh Jones and Kevin King stood out. To me, Jones had first-round talent, as he could eventually develop into a Pro Bowl safety. King did some nice things at corner, though he did get turned around and allow a big completion down the right sideline. Other than that, though, he looked like he belonged.
Guys like Jones and King will be important for the Packers because the pass defense was one of the team's biggest weaknesses in 2016. I'll be watching them closely through the remainder of the preseason, along with second-year nose tackle Kenny Clark.
13. Miami Dolphins
Last Week's Ranking: 13
It's going to be hard for me to truly evaluate the Miami Dolphins until I get a look at the offense with Jay Cutler under center. I did, however, see some good things from the team in its preseason opener.
The first thing that jumped out was the performances of young wideouts like Leonte Caroo and Damore'ea Stringfellow. Miami already has top-notch weapons like DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry. If one of these young guys can become a real contributor to the receiving corps, watch out.
Kenyan Drake is another guy who impressed me. I expect him to take another step as a running back this year, and I think he can become the perfect complement for starter Jay Ajayi.
Defensively, I enjoyed watching new additions like Alterraun Verner and Lawrence Timmons. I'm really interested in getting an extended look at Timmons and Kiko Alonso playing together at linebacker in the future.
Rookie pass-rusher Charles Harris also stood out. He was consistently in the opposing backfield, and he could be a big piece of the Dolphins' pass rush in 2017.
The defense was a weakness for Miami last year, so these new pieces will be important moving forward.
12. Tennessee Titans
Last Week's Ranking: 12
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota seems to be back to 100 percent. He looks good physically, and his speed and movement appeared to be back to pre-injury form.
Now that he's healthy again, Mariota needs to continue improving in the pocket-passing department. I'd also love to see rookie wideout Corey Davis get healthy so he can get some meaningful reps with Mariota before the start of the regular season.
Tennessee's offensive line looked good, as always, and I'm not going to doubt the team's rushing attack when everything is clicking. The Titans had the league's third-best ground game in 2016, and I expect it to be even more effective with some downfield pass-catchers on the outside.
I love Tennessee's front seven on defense. There is depth and speed there, and speed is what the unit needs to excel under coordinator Dick LeBeau. What I'm monitoring throughout the remainder of the preseason is improved play in the secondary.
If the Titans can stabilize the back end of their defense, they'll have a pretty complete team.
11. Detroit Lions
Last Week's Ranking: 11
I know we didn't see much out of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford—he went 2-of-3 for 36 yards with an interception—but I'm not really concerned about him. What I'm hoping to see from this team is continued progress along the offensive line and in the running game. If the Lions can solidify those spots, they may finally have a balanced offense.
The ground game was solid against the Colts on Sunday. Ameer Abdullah only carried the ball once, so I'll be following him through the next couple of preseason games. Hopefully, he'll be healthy and productive moving forward. He's the most physically gifted back on the roster and should be leading the rushing attack.
The Detroit defense looked solid against a Luck-less Indianapolis offense. The group allowed just three points in the first half. If young guys like rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis can settle in, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's unit could be pretty good in 2017.
One guy who did really stand out was rookie wideout Kenny Golladay. He hauled in two touchdown passes, including an impressive 23-yarder.
10. Washington Redskins
Last Week's Ranking: 9
We didn't see much of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, so I'm not going to evaluate their offense too much. It'll be much easier to dig into the Washington offense next week. It was good, though, to see some guys like Samaje Perine get some work.
If I'm a Redskins fan, I'm more excited about seeing guys like Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson on this new-look defense. They started the game and absolutely looked the part. Other new additions like Zach Brown and Terrell McClain should help beef up the defense, too.
I also liked what I saw from second-year corner Kendall Fuller. I think he's ready to be a difference-maker in the secondary. If Fuller excels, he can take the secondary from average to a pretty solid unit.
The Washington defense lacked size and physicality last season, but that shouldn't be as much of an issue this season. It is unfortunate, though, that the Redskins lost linebacker Trent Murphy for the season.
Offensively, I expect the Redskins to be on the same level they were a season ago.
9. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week's Ranking: 10
The Baltimore Ravens are one of the few teams I've decided to move up after the first week of the preseason. I do so assuming quarterback Joe Flacco will be able to start the regular-season opener. If the Ravens have to rely on Ryan Mallett at quarterback, they could be in trouble.
I'm moving the Ravens up because of everything else I saw from them in the preseason opener. They have speed at the skill positions, a good crop of running backs and a defense that got me out-of-this-world pumped.
Baltimore's defense was already great, and the team added pieces like Brandon Carr and rookie Chris Wormley. Rookie corner Marlon Humphrey didn't play, but I expect him to be an asset to a secondary that is starting to look pretty impressive.
The Ravens' front seven is even more terrifying. They absolutely annihilated the Redskins. It almost wasn't fair. That's why I had no choice but to flip the two teams in this week's rankings.
8. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week's Ranking: 6
I had to drop the Dallas Cowboys a few spots because of the pending six-game suspension for running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys' success last season was predicated on two things—a strong offensive line and Elliott. I like Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, but they're not on the same physical planet as Elliott. I actually think his suspension is far more impactful than the four-game suspension the New England Patriots had to endure with Tom Brady last year.
Not only does Elliott's suspension affect the run game, but it could have a negative impact on second-year quarterback Dak Prescott. He's going to have a lot more responsibility on his shoulders for a good chunk of the season, and I'm not sure he's ready for that.
In addition, I think the Cowboys are playing with fire having Kellen Moore as Prescott's backup. They'd better hope nothing happens to Prescott, because if he goes down, the season is sunk.
On a brighter note, I really liked what I saw from defensive end Taco Charlton in his NFL debut. He's going to be a force for the Cowboys defense immediately. Rookie safety Xavier Woods also seems like he can be an early defensive contributor.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week's Ranking: 8
There isn't a lot that concerns me with the Seattle Seahawks heading into the season. They have offensive weapons. Russell Wilson is going to be a Pro Bowl quarterback if he can stay healthy. I'd almost be willing to bet my house that the Seahawks will have a top-five defense, too.
The things I do question are the offensive line and the running game. The team did add new linemen like Oday Aboushi and Luke Joeckel. George Fant and Germain Ifedi are entering the second year of their respective careers, which should also help the line.
I'm interested to see how much the new-look line can progress through the remainder of the preseason. It played pretty well against the Chargers, especially in pass protection. Wilson went 3-of-4 on the night, while Austin Davis finished 7-of-9 for 108 yards. Trevone Boykin rushed and passed for a touchdown.
I'm also interested to see how the running game develops. Last year, Seattle's rushing attack was underwhelming, which caused the team to struggle offensively at times. Before last season, Wilson had benefited from having a top-five run game every season.
Seattle brought in Eddie Lacy to join a backfield that also features Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise to help remedy the situation. That backfield looked like a work in progress against the Chargers, though. Lacy and Rawls each averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Rookie Chris Carson, who scored two rushing touchdowns, was a bright spot at least.
If the line and the run game can improve, Seattle again should be a legit contender.
6. Oakland Raiders
Last Week's Ranking: 7
The Oakland Raiders didn't play a lot of their stars in their preseason opener. Some of the other guys put good things on tape, though.
EJ Manuel was actually impressive, and I expect him to be a capable backup. Tight end Clive Walford also looked good. He and Jared Cook should form a solid tight end duo moving forward. I also think quarterback Derek Carr might have himself another toy in Cordarrelle Patterson.
Looking ahead, I'm excited about being able to evaluate the secondary and its young players like Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley. Conley missed the opener, so we won't get a full look at the unit for at least another week.
I'm also interested in monitoring whether the Raiders can produce some more pass-rushers other than just Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. They were almost solely responsible for Oakland's pass rush last season. That's why it was great to see a guy like Mario Edwards Jr. flying around the field against Arizona.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week's Ranking: 5
Quarterback Matt Ryan and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons offense was on fire on the first drive of 2017, as should be expected. I don't have any major reservations with that side of the ball.
I'm a bit more concerned with Atlanta's defense, even though I do think it could be one of the surprise units this season. My concern there is with depth, as the second and third units got pushed around quite a bit.
Atlanta's starters on defense, though, are beginning to look like an impressive bunch. They have speed and they were flying all over the field, just as Dan Quinn wants. The addition of Dontari Poe should also add some physicality up front.
If rookie Takkarist McKinley can help boost Atlanta's pass rush, the Falcons could have a strong defense to match their explosive offense this season. It's unfortunate that Jalen Collins is facing a 10-game suspension, but overall, this is a high-talent group.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week's Ranking: 4
The Kansas City Chiefs showed some good things in their preseason opener, especially on offense. Alex Smith looked solid. So did Patrick Mahomes. Even running back C.J. Spiller played well. He's battled through several injury-plagued seasons, but he showed some juice this past week.
I am a bit concerned about Charcandrick West. He didn't look as explosive as Spiller or Spencer Ware against the 49ers.
One guy who was explosive was receiver Tyreek Hill. I've been hearing all offseason that the Chiefs are looking to make him a more consistent piece of the offense. We saw that right off the bat with a go route that resulted in a 32-yard reception.
Chris Conley also looked like an explosive weapon, though I sure hope he's OK heading into next week. He took a hard shot to the knee toward the end of the game against the 49ers.
Defensively, the Chiefs should again be one of the NFL's more consistent teams. I liked that a guy the team recently traded for, Kevin Pierre-Lewis, popped in his Chiefs debut. I'll also be watching how Bennie Logan develops in the defense moving forward.
Overall, I expect Kansas City to be just as big a threat as last season.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week's Ranking: 3
The Pittsburgh Steelers essentially played no one of note in their preseason opener, so it's difficult to pull much out of their performance. Two players who did jump out were linebackers Arthur Moats and T.J. Watt.
Moats came down with an interception, and Watt produced two sacks. The first one was definitely a legitimate sack, too, where Watt beat his man one-on-one to strike home. The Steelers have found themselves a real difference-maker in the rookie.
Defensive end Tyson Alualu also stood out with six total tackles on the night. I think the addition of the former Jaguar will help Pittsburgh up front this season.
My big question, though, is Pittsburgh's secondary and its transition to more man defense. We're going to have to wait to get a good look at the group, though—especially since the Steelers aren't likely to unveil any new schemes until the regular season.
I have zero questions about the capabilities of Pittsburgh's offensive starters. The only question I have there is whether Le'Veon Bell will return in time to play in the season opener.
2. New York Giants
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Just as I have no questions with the Steelers offense, I have no real questions about the New York Giants defense this season. They should again boast one of the most dominant overall defenses in the league.
With a lot of the offensive starters sitting against Pittsburgh, though, we got a look at mostly depth players. Even so, there were some good takeaways.
Geno Smith was the most impressive quarterback the Giants put on the field. He should be the leader for the backup job. I also liked what I saw from Orleans Darkwa, who should be a regular backfield contributor this season.
Another guy who flashed was tight end Jerell Adams. Between him, Will Tye and rookie Evan Engram, the Giants should be strong at tight end this season.
I also think the Giants are going to be deep along the defensive line this year. Guys like Jay Bromley and Dalvin Tomlinson are legit players. People already know how good New York's defensive front is, but I'm not sure many understand just how deep it is.
I'm excited to see what this team looks like with all of its starters on the field.
1. New England Patriots
Last Week's Ranking: 1
How dare the New England Patriots lose their preseason opener to Jacksonville! I almost considered dropping the Patriots four or five spots because of this, but then I came to my senses.
Look, the Patriots didn't play many of their starters—and they didn't need to. Many of the guys who did play shined anyway.
Backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looked great, as expected. Jacoby Brissett didn't look bad, either. New defensive end Kony Ealy looked pretty good, too. So did cornerback Jonathan Jones, who I think has a legit shot at earning the nickelback role.
Moving forward, I'm interested in seeing guys like Jones, Justin Coleman and former second-round pick Cyrus Jones compete for spots on the cornerback depth chart. We know the starters there should be in good shape.
I'm not at all worried about the Patriots losing to Jacksonville in the first game of the preseason. From what I've heard, New England tore apart Jacksonville all week in joint practices before going vanilla in front of the camera.
Nothing has me thinking about dropping the Patriots from the No. 1 spot.