NFL fans will learn much about the NFL in the coming weeks.
Training camps continue to begin across the league, with rookies reporting ahead of veterans and what is sure to be endless reports and speculation seeping into the mainstream media via both open and closed sessions.
That means it's the best time of year, naturally.
When last checking in to examine standings the Philadelphia Eagles were kings of the league, while elite quarterbacks and quality drafting had a way of helping a team soar up the rankings. Little changes now as camps begin—at least for now.
2018 NFL Power Rankings
|3||Green Bay Packers|
|4||New England Patriots|
|6||Los Angeles Rams|
|8||New Orleans Saints|
|9||Los Angeles Chargers|
|14||San Francisco 49ers|
|21||Kansas City Chiefs|
|24||New York Giants|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|30||New York Jets|
Biggest Potential Faller: 10. Washington Redskins
Some might scoff at having the Washington Redskins so high before the season even begins.
But as far as big winners of the offseason go, it's hard to ignore Washington. As an aside, some of the team's biggest additions happen to be features that propel teams up power rankings.
Start at quarterback. Alex Smith isn't the most popular guy by any means, but the 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best statistical year of his career, completing 67.5 percent of his passes with 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions while averaging eight yards per completion. The yards, touchdowns and average were career highs.
Smith doesn't think his career-best numbers topped out in 2017, either:
Normally this would just sound like silly offseason talk, sure. But the Redskins did well in adding a deep threat like Paul Richardson, and the offense grabbed every-down back candidate Derrius Guice in the second round.
This hasn't even touched on the defense yet, where first-round tackle Daron Payne joins Jonathan Allen in the trenches. Before the latter got hurt a year ago, the Redskins fielded one of the better outright units.
If Smith gets clicking in Jay Gruden's smooth play-calling and schemes early, the NFC East gets even more convoluted. If not, the preseason hype will come crashing back to Earth.
Biggest Potential Riser: 23. Chicago Bears
It all hinges on the quarterback.
On paper, the Chicago Bears improved by leaps and bounds over the offseason. The offense added both Allen Robinson and second-round draft pick Anthony Miller. Robinson, of course, was one of the biggest prizes of free agency after topping out with 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As for Miller, while not as big of a name, he could have a major impact right away, an idea that meshes well with reports out of camp already:
This all sets up nicely for Mitchell Trubisky as he heads into 2018 as the starter after appearing in 12 games as a rookie. His numbers didn't blow anyone away, but the poise and throws he flashed at times hinted at yet more big-time potential for a quarterback class brimming with talent.
Trubisky should have a superb defense behind him, too. Not only is defensive lineman Akiem Hicks one of the best outright players in the league, the Bears managed to retain starting corners Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller.
It's also easy to forget the Bears used a top-10 pick on Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, one of the surest picks in the draft who should have the freedom to make plays behind a superb defensive line.
Should it all come together, Trubisky has a superb environment to develop in on the fly while the Bears turn things around and make the NFC North more interesting than it already is.
Don't Sleep on Them: 24. New York Giants
It's all too easy to overlook the New York Giants.
To be fair the Giants made it easy on everyone, going from an 11-win performance to just 3-13 while Eli Manning regressed, throwing for 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. But rather than bring aboard a shiny new backup and potential future franchise passer, the Giants have doubled down around Manning.
That isn't such a bad thing.
There's a chance Manning can get back to being a 4,000-yard passer again and he threw north of 30 touchdowns as recently as 2015. He sees the rebuild around him instead of a high-profile rookie breathing down his neck as a major endorsement.
"It means they have faith I can go play at a high level," Manning said, according to the New York Post's Paul Schwartz. "I want to go do that. I want to go prove ’em right. That’s my goal, to go out there, do my job, do it at a high level, play well, make the guys around me better and go have a big year."
Manning has a little bit of everything now, it seems. New head coach Pat Shurmur got the best out of Case Keenum, so the coach-quarterback mesh here should do well. The front office added free agent Nate Solder up front and spent a high pick on Will Hernandez as well. Odell Beckham Jr. should be healthy, 115-target man from a year ago Evan Engram should be all over the field again and No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley is an immediate every-down back.
Damon Harrison also leads an underrated defense, which should be stout against the run even after trading Jason Pierre-Paul away. A schematic overhaul led by new defensive coordinator James Bettcher should have guys like rookie Lorenzo Carter applying pressure often.
The NFC East is brutal, yet a quarterback as experienced as Manning with a coach who knows how to get the most out of his passers could help the Giants become one of the season's biggest surprises.