NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Features New Top Team

NFL StaffContributor IAugust 14, 2018

NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Features New Top Team

0 of 32

    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The 2018 NFL preseason is underway.

    All 32 teams have played, and we've witnessed the Minnesota Vikings debut of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the first pass by No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield and the first carry by the player that came after—tailback Saquon Barkley.

    All three went about as well as could be expected.

    To be fair, the games didn't do a lot to change the balance of power. Starters barely played, and regardless of the final scores, the league's good teams are still good. The bad ones are still bad.

    Just as they did last week and will do every week this season, Bleacher Report analysts (Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski) gathered to differentiate which is which by ranking the league's teams from back to front: No. 32 to No. 1.

    The last-place team stayed the same this week. But the team at the top is another story.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    High: 27

    Low: 32

    Last Week: 32

    The good news for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that they showed some signs of offensive life in a 26-24 exhibition win over the Miami Dolphins. Jameis Winston was in midseason form, missing on just two of 13 pass attempts.

    Of course, Winston won't play until Week 4 because of a suspension—but that's a problem for another day.

    The more pressing issue at the moment is a pass defense that ranked dead last in 2017 and lost a prominent player in that win.

    Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for a few weeks. The hope is that the 2016 first-round pick will be ready for the season opener against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9.

    He'd better be. The Bucs pass defense isn't great at 100 percent, and that opening opponent is a reminder Tampa Bay plays in a buzzsaw of a division.

31. Miami Dolphins

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    High: 26

    Low: 32

    Last Week: T-29

    If our panel is correct, then it's shaping up to be a long year for Florida football teams. Or at least most of them.

    The return of Ryan Tannehill to game action last week was no doubt a welcome sight for the Dolphins and their fans. And to be fair, if Tannehill can stay healthy, the Dolphins should improve on last year's ranking of 25th in total offense.

    But Tannehill's health is just one of the many questions facing this team. Will DeVante Parker finally emerge? Will a healthy Raekwon McMillan and Robert Quinn goose the defense?

    And perhaps most importantly, will the new faces be enough to make Miami significantly better than last year's 6-10 team? Or are the Dolphins headed for a third season in four years with six or fewer wins?

T28. New York Jets

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    High: 25

    Low: 31

    Last Week: 31

    You can't blame New York Jets fans for being excited about the team's preseason opener against Atlanta—and not because the Jets blanked the Atlanta Falcons 17-0.

    Whether it was veteran Teddy Bridgewater or rookie Sam Darnold, both of New York's young quarterbacks shined. Bridgewater was nearly perfect, missing on just one of eight attempts and posting a passer rating of 150.5. Darnold was sharp in his debut as well, passing for 96 yards and a score with a passer rating of 103.0.

    Quarterback controversy, anyone?

    Now here comes the cold water.

    Yes, Bridgewater and Darnold looked good. But most of that damage was done against reserve defenders. Both the offensive and defensive lines remain areas of concern. And the running game did little outside of youngster Trenton Cannon.

    The Jets might well be better. But "better" and "good" aren't mutually inclusive concepts.

    At least there finally appears to be room for optimism at the game's most important position.

T28. Buffalo Bills

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    High: 27

    Low: 29

    Last Week: 26

    If the analysts here at Bleacher Report are correct in their assessment of the AFC East, it's going to be yet another cakewalk to yet another AFC East title.

    And the Buffalo Bills will most assuredly not be making a return trip to the postseason.

    Davenport was the low ranker among our writers, sliding the Bills back one slot to 30th after their loss to the Carolina Panthers. He said it had everything to do with Buffalo's offensive issues.

    "There are just too many potential problem areas for the Bills," Davenport said. "An offensive line that was a strength of the team a year ago will be rolling out three new starters. The skill-position talent is a mess outside of tailback LeSean McCoy—a mess that the addition of Corey Coleman isn't going to fix. And given how good Darnold and Bridgewater looked for the Jets, a compelling argument can be made that Buffalo's quarterback situation is the worst in the division."

T28. Arizona Cardinals

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    High: 25

    Low: 31

    Last Week: T-29

    There was good news and bad news in the Arizona Cardinals' preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

    The good news came quickly. On the first drive of the game, tailback David Johnson, who missed all but one game last season, peeled off a pair of 14-yard runs to set up a touchdown.

    Johnson in midseason form was a welcome sight.

    The bad news was that outside the run-blocking, which came against the second-worst run defense of 2017, the offensive line looked like the same unit that led the NFC in sacks allowed in 2017. The debut of Josh Rosen featured quite a bit of Rosen dropping back and then quickly unloading the ball before taking a shot.

    That is, as they say, ungood. Neither Rosen nor Sam Bradford has a reputation as being fleet of foot. If the line play isn't significantly better by Week 1, it's going to be hard for this offense to get untracked.

27. Indianapolis Colts

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    High: 24

    Low: 31

    Last Week: 27

    There isn't a team that got better news from its preseason opener than the Indianapolis Colts.

    For the first time in almost two years, Andrew Luck was under center. After a solid showing in limited duty (6 of 9, 64 yards), Luck told's Mike Wells it felt great to be back in action.

    "It was a little bit of the pressure was off, in a sense, and I really had fun," Luck said. "I really enjoyed it. I didn't quite know if I would have this much fun again playing football."

    Luck led the Colts to a pair of field goals in a 19-17 win, and it's possible we're sleeping on the Colts. Luck's ability to move the offense has covered up more than a few of Indianapolis' warts in the past.

    But Luck can't play defense. And given the leaky offensive line, he may not play quarterback all that long, either.

    For the time being, it's good to have you back, Andy.

26. Cleveland Browns

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    High: 22

    Low: 32

    Last Week: 28

    There's a strange sensation making its way through Cleveland after the Browns topped the New York Giants in their preseason opener. A foreign emotion that has fans scrambling to emergency rooms with symptoms never before experienced.

    There are reports of smiles. Even feelings of happiness.

    The beleaguered supporters of the NFL's poster kids for putridity have hope.

    Davenport, however, isn't feeling the good vibes—at least not yet.

    "The Browns earned their slot at No. 32 in my power rankings the hard way—by peeling off an unprecedented run of awful," he said. "No wins in 2017. One in 2016. Three in 2015. That's 4-44 over the last three seasons for the math-averse. I don't care if Tyrod Taylor spends the preseason looking like a combination of Mike Vick and Joe Montana or if Baker Mayfield looks better. The Browns were 4-0 in the preseason last year. If they want to climb out of the basement and cease being a punchline, they have to do so in a game that counts."

    What a party-pooper.

25. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Logan Bowles/Getty Images

    High: 17

    Low: 28

    Last Week: 25

    If the preseason opener was any indication, the Cincinnati Bengals may have something special in tailback Joe Mixon. The second-year pro's 24-yard touchdown catch-and-run featured an impressive display of elusiveness.

    Per Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mixon was impressed by the offense's performance as a whole.

    "The way we came out today, it was good," he said. "It was firing out and the first two quarters, it was like man, we rollin'."

    It's that offense that led Sobleski to rank the Bengals at No. 17—10 spots higher than the next-closest writer.

    "The Bengals have an interesting mix of top performers and questions, particularly on offense," he said. "The team's skill positions are dynamic with Mixon, A.J. Green a much-improved John Ross and a healthy Tyler Eifert. If the offensive line holds up—and that's a big if—Cincinnati will feature a potent scoring offense."

    If that O-line holds up, there may be more teams in the mix in the AFC North than most expect.

24. Washington Redskins

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    Dave Kolpack/Associated Press

    High: 20

    Low: 26

    Last Week: 23

    There's one thing that every team dreads above all else at this time of year: a significant injury.

    Washington Redskins rookie tailback Derrius Guice is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the preseason opener, and a Redskins ground game that tied for 27th in yards in 2017 is in disarray.

    The team still has a more-than-capable third-down back in Chris Thompson. But both Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley struggled to move the ball between the tackles last season.

    There's going to be that much more pressure on Alex Smith to move the ball through the air—and the Redskins aren't exactly loaded at receiver, either.

    If Washington wasn't already the front-runner for fourth place in the NFC East, it is now.

23. Oakland Raiders

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    High: 19

    Low: 29

    Last Week: 24

    Well, the second Jon Gruden era is underway.

    But while Gruden was on the sideline for the first time in a decade, the Oakland Raiders' best player wasn't. There's been no word on when Khalil Mack's contract holdout might end, and the absence of the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year is cause for more than a little concern for the Silver and Black.

    In Sobleski's opinion, in fact, it could be a deal-breaker—he slotted the Raiders as the league's fourth-worst team—a full 10 spots below both Davenport and Gagnon.

    "How the Raiders are being run is perplexing," Sobleski said. "Not having Mack and Donald Penn in camp makes the team far worse than it really is. Also, no one knows exactly how Gruden's transition from television booth back to the sideline is going to work. This is an organization in transition—which doesn't usually spell a successful season."

    Pay Mack. Trade Mack. Do something. Pick a direction and go.

    It beats spinning your wheels.

22. Seattle Seahawks

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    High: 18

    Low: 24

    Last Week: 22

    Harsh reality time.

    The championship window of one of the NFC's most successful franchises of the past decade isn't just closing.

    That bad boy has slammed shut.

    It's not hard to identify the reason. The Seattle Seahawks ground game hasn't been effective since Marshawn Lynch left. The only thing stopping Seattle from fielding the NFC West's worst O-line is the hot mess in Arizona. And the vaunted defense has undergone a handful of significant personnel losses on the line and in the secondary.

    Per Davenport (who ranked the Seahawks 18th), there's only so much that even Russell Wilson can do.

    "No one is questioning that Wilson's one of the NFL's premier quarterbacks. He'll guide the Seahawks to a few wins this year with a combination of talent and force of will," he said. "But Wilson's a magician—not a miracle worker. This feels like a 9-7 team at best. And a 6-10 or even 5-11 team at worst. The run is over."

21. New York Giants

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    High: 15

    Low: 23

    Last Week: 19

    The Giants made it one play into the preseason before giving fans palpitations.

    Unlike last year, though, it was the good kind.

    Saquon Barkley's 39-yard rumble on his first carry was a reminder of why the Giants drafted the former Penn State star second overall. And of how potent the offense could be.

    Gagnon didn't bump the Giants up in his power rankings as a result of that play (or any other), but he didn't need to—Gagnon already had them inside his top 15.

    "I didn't make any changes to my rankings because we're only talking about one preseason game," Gagnon said. "However, Barkley's first play from scrimmage made it tempting to move the Giants up. I was ranking them highly to begin with because Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. are going to make up one hell of a duo, the offensive line is much improved and that defense has plenty of talent. This team is far better than its 2017 showing."

    There's little question the Philadelphia Eagles are the class of the NFC East. But the No. 2 slot in the division is up for grabs.

T19. Denver Broncos

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    High: 16

    Low: 22

    Last Week: 18

    The preseason didn't get off to an especially good start for the Denver Broncos. The debut of quarterback Case Keenum consisted of two three-and-outs, and once Paxton Lynch took the field, things got much worse.

    It wasn't exactly the start Denver was hoping for from its revamped offense. But Sobleski didn't read too much into a single preseason game.

    "While Keenum's short-lived first appearance in a Broncos uniform didn't exactly inspire," Sobleski said, "he should be the solidifying force the offense needs to complement a still-fearsome defense. An infusion of young talent around the quarterback position in Royce Freeman, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton will also help balance both sides of the ball."

    Sobleski was the high-ranker for Denver this week, but all three analysts have the Broncos within six spots. It appears there's something of a consensus.

    The team is neither especially good nor especially bad.

T19. Chicago Bears

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    High: 17

    Low: 23

    Last Week: 20

    As this ranking shows, there's some optimism surrounding the Chicago Bears. The Bears were aggressive in trying to upgrade their passing game around quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. They already possessed a top-10 defense in yards allowed and added an impact player to the mix in first-round linebacker Roquan Smith.

    Smith missed most of camp and the exhibition opener thanks to an extended holdout. That dam finally broke Monday. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Smith and the Bears agreed to terms, and the rookie will finally put pads on.

    New Bears head coach Matt Nagy allowed that Smith's chances of making a big impact early were affected by the contract kerfuffle.

    "I think it does," Nagy said. "You're playing at that position, and there are a lot of calls that go on—very similar to a quarterback, there's a lot going on. But I have full confidence in [defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] and his staff that when he does get here, they'll get him up to speed, and whenever that is, we'll see."

    Prepare to enter the accelerated learning problem, young man.

18. Baltimore Ravens

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    High: 13

    Low: 25

    Last Week: 21

    The Baltimore Ravens continue to be a source of disagreement between our analysts. One has the Ravens inside the top 15 and on the fringe of playoff contention. Another has the Ravens barely inside the top 25.

    Davenport ranked the Ravens 13th, and he believes Baltimore could be in the wild-card mix—provided the Joe Flacco we saw last week against the Los Angeles Rams hangs around for games that matter.

    "The Ravens already had a veteran corps used to the grind that is a playoff chase, a good defense anchored by C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs and a talented young tailback in Alex Collins," Davenport said. "What they didn't have was a passing game. If the arrival of Michael Crabtree can coax one more good season out of Flacco, Baltimore's the second-best team in the AFC North and a dark-horse candidate to win 10 games and earn a wild-card berth."

17. San Francisco 49ers

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    High: 17

    Low: 21

    Last Week: 16

    The San Francisco 49ers are walking something of a tightrope. Last year's winning streak to close the season, Jimmy Garoppolo's massive contract extension and another aggressive offseason by second-year general manager John Lynch have ratcheted up expectations.

    Kyle Shanahan isn't just expected to improve on a 6-10 finish; he's expected to guide the team past Arizona and Seattle in the NFC West, right up to the heels of Los Angeles and into the postseason.

    But Garoppolo remains a quarterback with all of seven career starts. New lead tailback Jerick McKinnon has never handled anything close to a featured back's workload over a full season and is already nicked up. Top receiver Pierre Garcon is returning from a neck injury. And injuries are starting to pile up, with starters like tight end George Kittle and linebacker Malcolm Smith already going down.

    Expectations can be good—a powerful motivator.

    But the expectations border on unrealistic.

16. Detroit Lions

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    High: 16

    Low: 21

    Last Week: 17

    The Detroit Lions have been a modestly successful franchise in recent years, winning more games than they lost in three of the past four seasons—with two playoff trips during that stretch.

    However, there hasn't been much in the way of postseason success. Or any postseason success. The Lions haven't won a playoff game since 1991. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is 0-3 in the playoffs.

    That's the Lions in a nutshell. In Stafford the Lions have a franchise quarterback. Stafford's also not hurting for passing game weapons. But between a ground game that ranked dead last in 2017 and questions on defense, it's hard to view the Lions as more than a peripheral contender in the NFC North.

    They aren't a bad team. But they aren't as good as the Vikings or Green Bay Packers.

15. Dallas Cowboys

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    High: 12

    Low: 16

    Last Week: T-14

    There is much agreement among our analysts concerning the Dallas Cowboys. All three ranked Dallas inside the top half of teams. All three also placed the Cowboys outside the top 10.

    In other words, the Cowboys are pretty good. Maybe even wild-card good. But making travel plans for Atlanta for February might be jumping the gun.

    "The Cowboys have talent," Davenport said. "Dak Prescott's a good young quarterback, Ezekiel Elliott's one of the best tailbacks in football, and the offensive line wins a lot more battles than it loses. Sean Lee and Demarcus Lawrence are impact defenders and the cornerstone of a D that quietly ranked eighth in yards allowed in 2017. But without a proven go-to target in the passing game, defenses are just going to stack the box and dare Prescott to beat them—and that one-dimensional offense makes it hard for me to view them as a serious contender."

T13. Houston Texans

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    High: 8

    Low: 19

    Last Week: T-14

    There was again a disparity in rankings for the Houston Texans.

    One analyst (Gagnon) slotted Houston inside the top 10, labeling the team a serious playoff contender.

    "I don't understand the lack of love for the Texans," he said last week. "Deshaun Watson wasn't just running away with Offensive Rookie of the Year, but the dude was an MVP candidate before going down with a midseason knee injury. At that point, Houston had scored 33-plus points in five consecutive games. With a healthy Watson and J.J. Watt, there's little doubt this is a top-10 team."

    However, Davenport barely ranked Houston inside the top 20.

    "There's no denying that if Watson, Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus stay healthy, the Texans will outperform this ranking," he said. "But Watson's coming off a second torn ACL, and Watt hasn't been Watt since the 2015 season. In a perfect world, this team's better than 19th. But this isn't a perfect world, and we've already seen how quickly it can crumble if the injuries start piling up."

T13. Carolina Panthers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    High: 11

    Low: 15

    Last Week: 13

    The Panthers probably wish they had a time machine.

    It was bad enough that Pro Bowl guard Andrew Norwell departed in free agency. But that was the least of Carolina's problems up front. Since the start of training camp, the team has lost two more starters (left guard Amini Silatolu and right tackle Daryl Williams) to injuries severe enough that their availability for early in the season is very much in doubt. Williams will likely open the season on injured reserve.

    The Panthers rely heavily on the running game and winning in the trenches but are short a pair of starters.

    They remain a dangerous team that made the playoffs a year ago. Carolina has an excellent defense and an MVP quarterback in Cam Newton.

    But in a loaded NFC South, its margin for error is wafer-thin.

12. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    High: 12

    Low: 14

    Last Week: 12

    If you're a fan of shootouts, you're going to want to watch as much of the Kansas City Chiefs as possible.

    The Chiefs have an assemblage of skill-position talent that's as formidable as any. The league's rushing king in Kareem Hunt. The NFL's best tight end (non-Gronk division) in Travis Kelce. And a pair of wide receivers in Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins who can take the top off a defense with ease.

    If Patrick Mahomes can't move the ball with that bunch, he'll have no one to blame but himself.

    However, the Chiefs also had a bottom-five pass defense last year and shipped their best cornerback (Marcus Peters) to the Rams in a trade and just lost starting safety Daniel Sorensen to a tibial plateau fracture, MCL injury and meniscus tear that will likely sideline him until at least October.

    If the Chiefs can put together any kind of consistent defensive effort, they will be a difficult team to beat.

    But that is by no means a sure thing.

11. Tennessee Titans

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    High: 8

    Low: 15

    Last Week: 11

    The Tennessee Titans might just be the best team no one is talking about. They won a playoff game last year and are without a glaring weakness.

    Talented young quarterback? Check. A healthy Marcus Mariota could be primed for a rebound season after struggling with nagging injuries in 2017.

    Running game talent? Check and check. Tennessee has a thunder and lightning backfield duo in bruiser Derrick Henry and speedster Dion Lewis.

    One of the more underrated offensive lines? Check again. Anchored by tackles Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan, the unit is young and blocks with a mean streak.

    Yes, the pass-catchers are a question mark. But if wideout Corey Davis comes close to realizing his potential, he'll form a solid trio with veteran Rishard Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker.

    The defense is similarly sturdy.

    In recent years, the AFC South has been something of a punchline—a division in which the first team to nine wins won the title.

    This year could feature a vastly different story...and a much more difficult division.

10. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    High: 9

    Low: 11

    Last Week: 10

    This is the best Bolts team in a while.

    That Los Angeles is our highest-ranked squad in the AFC West may surprise a few folks—but it shouldn't. The Chargers are the most balanced team in the division. They had a top-five offense last year led by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, tailback Melvin Gordon III and wide receiver Keenan Allen. And a top-five pass defense featuring edge-rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III to go with a deep and talented secondary.

    To be fair, the Chargers had all sorts of problems stopping the run, and the franchise has a reputation for finding new ways to lose.

    But Los Angeles could make some noise.

9. Green Bay Packers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    High: 8

    Low: 12

    Last Week: 9

    We could rattle on about plenty of factors that might impact the Packers. How the team needs to try to generate a more consistent ground game, whether it's by committee or giving whichever back emerges the keys to the proverbial car. Or the need for a pass-rusher who isn't named Clay Matthews. Looking at you, Muhammad Wilkerson.

    The young secondary. The offensive line. So on and so forth. There are plenty of things to talk about in Titletown.

    And none of them matter.

    Those are factors that could play into how far the Packers make it in the playoffs. But if Green Bay gets there, it will be because of trusty No. 12.

    As goes Aaron Rodgers, so go the Packers. If he's healthy and on top of his game, the Packers will give the Vikings all they can handle in the NFC North.

    We saw last year what happens when he isn't. And it ain't pretty.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    High: 6

    Low: 9

    Last Week: 8

    After giving the New England Patriots a run for their money in the AFC title game, the Jacksonville Jaguars have to feel like they are this close to the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

    Get a little better on offense and avoid a backstep on defense, and the Jags could be as good as any team in the AFC.

    That's what makes the events of the past week so frustrating. It's possible the suspensions of cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. may be much ado about nothing—a blip on the radar.

    But Jacksonville's top-ranked pass defense needs Ramsey to keep his eyes on the prize—not go off on reporters who are doing their jobs. Fowler and fellow end Yannick Ngakoue need to be going off on opposing quarterbacks—not each other.

    You can bet the rent that both young defenders got an earful from Tom Coughlin. Lots of words we can't write here.

    No self-inflicted mistakes, fellas. Not if you want to knock off the Pats in January.

7. Atlanta Falcons

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    High: 5

    Low: 10

    Last Week: 7

    The NFC South is going to be a slugfest. The division put three teams in the playoffs last year. All three of those teams also feature quarterbacks who have won the MVP award and/or played in (or in the case of Drew Brees, won) the Super Bowl.

    Guessing he wouldn't trade that one Lombardi Trophy for the MVP award he somehow hasn't won.

    Atlanta won a playoff game on the road last season, but it's not getting a lot of run as a Super Bowl contender.

    Gagnon thinks that needs to change.

    "I couldn't care less the Falcons were shut out in their first preseason game," he said. "It's easy to forget they were nearly Super Bowl champions 19 months ago, and they're an even better team now. That young, fast defense is only improving, and the offense should bounce back from its hangover now that the personnel has a year under its belt with Steve Sarkisian."

    Three 10-win teams from the division is a possibility.

    So is one of those teams missing the playoffs.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    High: 6

    Low: 7

    Last Week: 6

    There isn't a more uniform ranking for a team in this piece than the Pittsburgh Steelers'. Sobleski ranked the Steelers sixth. Davenport and Gagnon slotted them seventh.

    If only we could get Congress to agree like that.

    It's not unreasonable to call the Steelers the second-best team in the AFC behind you-know-who. It's also no stretch to say Pittsburgh possesses the conference's best offensive core.

    For that matter, Pittsburgh's "Killer B's" of Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown might just be the best trio of offensive stars in the NFL.

    The question for the Steelers won't be scoring points. That isn't going to be a problem. It's how the loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier will impact a defense that was fifth in yards allowed last year. That defense fell apart without Shazier in the playoffs, getting smoked by the Jaguars at home.

    The Steelers are the class of their division. How their D fares will determine whether they will be a one-and-done division champ again.

5. New England Patriots

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    High: 2

    Low: 6

    Last Week: 5

    The same five teams top this edition of the Bleacher Report consensus power rankings as did last week. Same goes for the top 10. There's still just one AFC team in the top five. It's the squad most would expect in the Patriots.

    That the Pats check in at fifth is a little surprising, though.

    Maybe it shouldn't be. Tom Brady is the reigning MVP, but he's also 41 years old. Brady won't have his top wide receiver to open the season with Julian Edelman suspended. The team's top rusher from a year ago left in free agency, and the player brought in to replace him (rookie Sony Michel) may not be ready for Week 1. The man who has protected Brady's blind side for years left too.

    Never mind that a New England defense that was mostly awful in 2017 didn't get much better.

    Year after year, the Patriots have undergone changes like these and kept chugging right along. It's entirely possible they will again.

    More than ever, however, it also seems possible this is the year they won't.

4. New Orleans Saints

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    High: 1

    Low: 5

    Last Week: 4

    The Saints have long been known as an offensive powerhouse. At some point in the upcoming season, Brees will pass Peyton Manning as the most prolific quarterback in NFL history.

    Not bad for a short dude.

    There's no shortage of young talent on that side of the ball in the Big Easy, from wide receiver Michael Thomas to reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara.

    However, it's a young defense spearheaded by the likes of reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore that spurred Gagnon to rank the Saints as the team to beat.

    "The Saints defense became a major asset last year," Gagnon said, "and with so much young talent, that group could become dominant. Throw in that Brees continues to mop the floor with Father Time, and New Orleans should be considered a Super Bowl favorite."

    The AFC is hardly a cakewalk, but compared to the meat grinder that is the NFC, it has some cake-like qualities.

    The NFC South is the toughest division in a much harder conference.

    And our writers pegged the Saints as the class of it.

3. Minnesota Vikings

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    High: 2

    Low: 4

    Last Week: 1

    We didn't say there was no change in the top five.

    That the Vikings fell from the top spot will no doubt send up some eyebrows—especially after Cousins and the offense were so brutally efficient against the Broncos.

    It's a fair question.

    It's also a moot point. There's little separation among the top three teams in these rankings. All three are something of carbon copies of one another, with young quarterbacks leading loaded offenses complemented by defenses that give opposing signal-callers nightmares.

    The Vikings fit that bill. This isn't a team with a large weak spot, and Cousins looked really good in his debut—even if it was only four passes.

    This is also a team that was shellacked in the NFC title game.

    So not crowning them isn't all that strange.

2. Los Angeles Rams

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    High: 2

    Low: 4

    Last Week: T-2

    No team generated more offseason buzz than the Rams—and with good reason. The team went wild adding veteran talent—most of whom have multiple Pro Bowls on their resumes.

    Cornerbacks Peters and Aqib Talib. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

    It's quite the list.

    As Davenport pointed out, however, there's another player generating buzz—for all the wrong reasons.

    "Sure, the Rams stocked up on talent in the offseason," he said. "The defense appears to be loaded for bear up front and in the secondary. But Aaron Donald's contentious holdout is casting a cloud over that defense. Donald dug in after Cooks got paid, and he's made it clear until he does, he won't report. As stacked as that D may be, you can't tell me that not having the Defensive Player of the Year won't be a major blow. Without Donald, the Rams are still a very good team. But they aren't the NFC's best."

    What. A. Killjoy.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

32 of 32

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    High: 1

    Low: 4

    Last Week: T-2

    Now this is more like it.

    You can make an argument the Eagles aren't the best team. That the offense isn't as loaded as the Rams offense. That the defense isn't as stacked as the Vikings defense.

    But the Eagles aren't a bag of dirt either. That the team continued its run to the Super Bowl even after Carson Wentz tore his ACL is a testament to both the coaching staff and the offensive talent around Wentz and Nick Foles. The Eagles were fourth in total defense and first against the run and added another proven commodity to an already sick line by acquiring Michael Bennett.

    The Eagles raised the Lombardi Trophy. They are the champions. The kings of the mountain.

    It's only right the top spot be theirs—until someone knocks them off.


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