NFL Power Rankings 2018: Appraising All 32 Teams Before Week 1

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2018

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in action during the first half in an NFL preseason football game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

The NFL preseason is in the books, and there's not long until Thursday night's opener between the champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons. 

Preseason predictions are wrong every year—after all, how many of you picked the Eagles to win the Super Bowl? But that doesn't make the predictions any less fun.

So with the understanding that these rankings will undoubtedly look ridiculous come October, here's a look at how all 32 NFL teams stack up in the power rankings heading into Week 1.

            

Power Rankings

1. Philadelphia Eagles

2. New England Patriots

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Los Angeles Rams

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

6. New Orleans Saints

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Houston Texans 

9. Kansas City Chiefs

10. Tennessee Titans

11. Green Bay Packers

12. Atlanta Falcons

13. San Francisco 49ers

14. Dallas Cowboys

15. Seattle Seahawks

16. Carolina Panthers

17. Denver Broncos

18. Los Angeles Chargers

19. Indianapolis Colts

20. Washington Redskins

21. New York Giants

22. Detroit Lions

23. Oakland Raiders

24. Baltimore Ravens

25. Cleveland Browns

26. Cincinnati Bengals

27. Miami Dolphins

28. Chicago Bears

29. Arizona Cardinals

30. Buffalo Bills

31. New York Jets

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

          

3. Minnesota Vikings

Jim Mone/Associated Press

The Minnesota Vikings nearly became the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl on their home turf last season. However, the Philadelphia Eagles got in the way, scoring 38 unanswered points in the NFC Championship Game after the Vikings took an early 7-0 lead.

That loss undoubtedly left a bad taste in the Vikings' mouths, which sometimes lingers into the following season and causes teams to get off to a slow start.

In Minnesota's case, however, it's hard to envision that loss having a significant impact because of the substantial changes in the locker room.

Case Keenum and Sam Bradford are gone, replaced by Kirk Cousins, who will be hungry to chase his first postseason victory as a starting quarterback.

The Vikings will also benefit from the return of Dalvin Cook, who appeared in just four games last season because of an ACL injury. At the time of Cook's injury, he ranked third in the NFL with 354 rushing yards, while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

Cook's replacements, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, both struggled to fill his shoes, each averaging under four yards per attempt.

With a substantial upgrade at running back and a potential upgrade at quarterback as well, the Vikings are in position to make another deep run in the playoffs.

              

8. Houston Texans

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

In just seven games in 2017, Deshaun Watson totaled 19 passing touchdowns and added another two on the ground, giving the league a taste of what he can do to opposing defenses. 

Through Week 8—Watson's final game before a season-ending ACL tear—the Houston Texans were the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 30.7 points per game.

Once Watson went down, however, the team ranked dead last in scoring, only putting 13.7 points per game over the rest of the season.

Obviously, Watson didn't log enough playing time to earn serious MVP consideration. But based on those numbers, a strong argument could be made that no player was more valuable to his team.

With a healthy Watson back on the field, Houston should return to prominence in the AFC and challenge the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South crown.

             

30. Buffalo Bills

David Richard/Associated Press

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which a playoff team from the previous season could enter the year with lower expectations that this year's Buffalo Bills squad.

There are many reasons for Bills' expected dropoff, but perhaps none is as obvious as the offensive line.

After Eric Wood and Richie Incognito retired, the Bills were left with a mess of an offensive line, and the front office did little to address the problem this offseason.

Unfortunately for Buffalo's quarterbacks, the low expectations for the line have been realized during the preseason. And while it's fair to say "it's only the preseason" in some situations, when poor preseason results match up with expectations, there's a reason to be concerned.

SI.com's Conor Orr shares this concern for the Bills offensive line, and wonders whether "their massively depleted offensive line is going to seriously impact the trajectory of [Josh Allen]."

We've seen young quarterbacks who experience disturbingly high sack totals early in their career struggle to live up to expectations in the past—David Carr with the Texans and Tim Couch with the Cleveland Browns are two that come to mind.

If the Bills don't figure out how to piece together a competent unit in the trenches, Allen could join that list.

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