NFL Power Rankings 2018: Examining the Best Teams Before Start of Regular Season

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2018

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7), quarterback Tom Savage (12) and quarterback Drew Brees (9) wait to run onto the field during team introductions before an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

We're one week into the 2018 NFL preseason. After watching rookies and backups handle the majority of snaps, let's take a look at the rosters from a wide-scope lens to examine the best teams with full power rankings.

First, we'll go through the factors that went into the hierarchy below. Instead of simply hitting copy and paste on last year's standings, it's all based on projections and patterns. 

Offseason transactions and how they could affect the team takes precedence over what happened in 2017. Impact players and coaches may help shift an advantage in favor of their new club.

Nonetheless, it's important to look at trends. Did a defensive unit struggle against the run over the last three seasons? What did the front office do the address that weakness? Is a quarterback in the midst of a regression? Those elements matter when teams have yet to play a regular-season snap.

Looking primarily at the factors above, check out the latest summer power rankings to debate, discuss and dispute.

      

August 13 Power Rankings

1. New Orleans Saints

2. Los Angeles Rams

3. Philadelphia Eagles

4. Atlanta Falcons

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Minnesota Vikings

7. New England Patriots

8. Green Bay Packers

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

10. Carolina Panthers

11. Los Angeles Chargers

12. Houston Texans

13. Baltimore Ravens

14. San Francisco 49ers

15. New York Giants

16. Oakland Raiders

17. Dallas Cowboys

18. Detroit Lions

19. Kansas City Chiefs

20. Cincinnati Bengals

21. Indianapolis Colts

22. Miami Dolphins

23. Seattle Seahawks

24. Tennessee Titans

25. Denver Broncos

26. Chicago Bears

27. Washington Redskins

28. Cleveland Browns

29. New York Jets

30. Arizona Cardinals

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

32. Buffalo Bills

               

No. 1 New Orleans Saints

Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

The New Orleans Saints take the top spot. If not for an ill-timed shoulder tackle, this squad would've made it to the NFC Championship Game after erasing a 17-point deficit against a stout Minnesota Vikings defense. That type of mistake won't happen twice.

Last season, the Saints defense finished top 10 in points allowed. The front office made a concerted effort to further strengthen the unit, acquiring linebacker Demario Davis, cornerback Patrick Robinson and first-round rookie pass-rusher Marcus Davenport.

We remember the days in which New Orleans needed to put up 35 points to win games, but it's a team that's made significant strides on the defensive side to take pressure off quarterback Drew Brees' arm.

Running back Mark Ingram will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, but a backfield committee featuring Alvin Kamara in complement with an explosive aerial attack should keep the offense sharp. Top to bottom, the Saints will field one of the most complete teams in the league.

                 

No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 09: Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on from the bench during the preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on August 9, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The defending champions take a slight fall in the early power rankings. Based on projections, the No. 1 spot isn't automatically reserved for the last year's champion. The Philadelphia Eagles lost some pieces of their Super Bowl-winning squad.

Robinson, who led the team with four interceptions last year, inked a four-year deal with the Saints. LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia's lead ball-carrier from the 2017 season, signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Lions. The front office opted to release Mychal Kendricks after a solid campaign, leaving an open competition for the third linebacker spot in the base defense.

Finally, how will quarterback Carson Wentz bounce back from an ACL and LCL tear? Nick Foles stands behind him as a Super Bowl LII MVP, but the 2016 first-rounder intends to open the season as the starter.

The notable subtractions and the big question mark under center knock the Eagles down two spots behind a pair of teams that acquired significant roster upgrades. Still, Philadelphia's roster looks strong enough to maintain a spot in the top three. 

      

No. 7 New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 9 : Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on during the preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium on August 9, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meye
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The losing club in Super Bowl LII falls to the No. 7 spot. Every year, a portion of NFL fans wait for the New England Patriots' downfall, but they continue to contend at a high level. The club has won nine consecutive AFC East titles and appeared in three of the last four Super Bowls.

Despite losing three key components during the offseason, it's foolish to push this squad outside of the top 10. The two most impactful people remain, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Nonetheless, expect a realistic slide for the AFC champions. Matt Patricia kept this defensive unit in the top 10 in points allowed in his six years as a defensive coordinator. He accepted the Lions head-coaching offer during the offseason. Belichick benched the team's best cornerback in Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII, and as expected, he didn't return on a new deal and signed with the Tennessee Titans. 

Offensively, Brady will have a new blindside protector after Nate Solder signed with the New York Giants. Even though the Patriots have options for his replacement, specifically Trent Brown and rookie Isaiah Wynn, the inexperience on the left side causes a pause with skepticism. Dion Lewis, the Patriots leading rusher from the last term, also signed with the Titans and his potential successor, rookie Sony Michel, underwent a procedure on his knee, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss.

New England comes into the 2018 season with major question marks on both sides of the ball, which leads to a slight drop, but don't expect to see the onset of the franchise's demise. Belichick, Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and the system will keep this team in Super Bowl contention.

Related

    Report: Kaepernick, Reid Settled for Less Than $10M

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Kaepernick, Reid Settled for Less Than $10M

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Colts to Sign Justin Houston

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Colts to Sign Justin Houston

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Prosecutors Considering Release of Kraft Spa Tape

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Prosecutors Considering Release of Kraft Spa Tape

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Rams to Play Cowboys in Hawaii

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Rams to Play Cowboys in Hawaii

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report