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NFL Power Rankings 2019 Examining Pecking Order After Week 3 of Preseason

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 22: Carson Wentz #11 and Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Philadelphia Eagles react against the Baltimore Ravens in the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 22, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

We're one week away from Week 1 of the 2019 NFL regular season, which is a good time to update offseason power rankings. Over the last four weeks, suspensions, injuries, holdouts and one surprise retirement changed the league hierarchy.

Going into the offseason, the Indianapolis Colts had the outlook of a team with Super Bowl aspirations. The club went to the AFC divisional round with a healthy Andrew Luck, who won 2018 Comeback Player of the Year, but the 29-year-old decided to retire, deflating the fanbase's high hopes for the 2019 campaign. This squad may not go into the tank, but the team will take a major hit in the power rankings.

Aside from the news about Luck, the Dallas Cowboys have uncertainties that could affect their season. Will they have key offensive players on the field when the games count?

The New England Patriots received good news when the league reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon. Tight end Rob Gronkowski's retirement left a void in the passing attack, but quarterback Tom Brady could have help in three-fold with two rookie wideouts alongside Gordon.

While breaking down the latest power rankings, we'll refer to July's standings for comparisons, further explaining why some teams fell or climbed a few spots over the last four weeks.

            

Tier 1

1. New England Patriots

2. Kansas City Chiefs

3. Philadelphia Eagles

4. New Orleans Saints

5. Los Angeles Rams

6. Chicago Bears 

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

8. Atlanta Falcons 

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 22: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on during the preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 22, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by M
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Rookie first-round wideout N'Keal Harry could miss Week 1 because of a myriad of injuries (ankle, hamstring and toe). However, undrafted rookie wideout Jakobi Meyers has turned heads in the preseason, registering 19 catches for 225 and two touchdowns.

The Patriots passing attack may not skip a beat even without Gronkowski. Keep an eye on Sony Michel, Damien Harris and James White as a strong backfield trio.

The New Orleans Saints moved up from the previous rankings because of center Erik McCoy's strong showing in the offseason. According to Herbie Teope of The Times-Picayune, he has a "hammerlock" on the starting spot—primed to replace Max Unger.

Rookie fourth-rounder C.J. Gardner-Johnson may also be able to help the team's pass defense, which ranked 29th last year. According to MMQB's Albert Breer, he flashed early in camp. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers surge into tier one with an offensive line that will return all of its starters from the past season. According to Football Outsiders, the group ranked fourth in pass blocking, which bodes well for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who's coming off a career high in passing yards (5,129) and touchdowns (34).

With running back James Conner healthy, the offense should put up points. Devin Bush will likely start Week 1, providing the defense with a speedy track-and-hit linebacker in the middle.

            

Tier 2 

9. Minnesota Vikings 

10. Los Angeles Chargers 

11. Green Bay Packers

12. Dallas Cowboys 

13. Cleveland Browns

14. Houston Texans 

15. San Francisco 49ers 

16. Seattle Seahawks 

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanz
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Chargers dropped from No. 5 in the last rankings to No. 10. There's uncertainty surrounding three key players. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, running back Melvin Gordon is prepared to skip regular-season games amid a contract holdout.

Safety Derwin James will open the year on injured reserve after undergoing foot surgery, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Left tackle Russell Okung remains out, recovering from a pulmonary embolism.

Nonetheless, the Chargers have quarterback Philip Rivers under center, and the organization has confidence in Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson out of the backfield.

The Cowboys have two major issues in terms of player availability. Running back Ezekiel Elliott continues to holdout, and wideout Amari Cooper has a muscle strain in his foot, as executive vice president Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan (h/t Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News).

Assuming the front office comes to terms with its best player and one of the top ball-carriers in the league, the Cowboys should have another solid year.

Quarterback Dak Prescott wants a new deal, but he's not threatening to hold out. With defensive end Demarcus Lawrence ready to play Week 1 and a pair of young linebackers on the rise, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the front seven should continue to look stout.

Skeptics may have questions about Jimmy Garoppolo, who's only started 10 career games. He threw five consecutive interceptions at practice, which set off alarm bells. However, the 27-year-old had a decent showing in the San Francisco 49ers' Week 3 exhibition contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, completing 14-of-20 pass attempts for 188 yards and a touchdown.

The defense still has question marks in the secondary at safety and cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, but defensive end Dee Ford and interior tackle DeForest Buckner can provide enough pressure to help out the defensive backs.

           

Tier 3  

17. Tennessee Titans

18. New York Jets 

19. Denver Broncos

20. Carolina Panthers

21. Detroit Lions 

22. Oakland Raiders

23. Baltimore Ravens 

24. Jacksonville Jaguars

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 24:  Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets looks to pass during a pre-season game against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on August 24, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The New York Jets' first-string offense has looked sharp through the preseason. Quarterback Sam Darnold has completed 17-of-25 pass attempts for 211 yards and two touchdowns—zero interceptions.

Running back Le'Veon Bell hasn't played a snap in the preseason, but his dual-threat capability should further elevate the offense. If defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can optimize the talent within the front seven, he can mask a major issue at cornerback.

Trumaine Johnson remains out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, and Gang Green doesn't have a clear-cut No. 2 cover man opposite him in the secondary.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suffered a mid-foot sprain in the third preseason game against the Patriots. According to Rapoport, general manager Marty Hurney is "cautiously optimistic" about the signal-caller's availability for Week 1.

Beyond that, head coach Ron Rivera, who's now calling defensive plays, must figure out how to strengthen a defense that ranked 19th in scoring last year with new 3-4 looks mixed into his schemes. 

If Antonio Brown suits up Week 1 for the Oakland Raiders, head coach Jon Gruden should have a top-10 offensive unit on the field. Along with the star wide receiver, Tyrell Williams and rookie fifth-rounder Hunter Renfrow, who stood out during the summer, round out the playmakers at the position.

However, Brown has missed most of training camp because of a foot injury and a helmet dispute. The Silver and Black need him and quarterback Derek Carr to click right away to offset a defense that's without a single Pro Bowl or All-Pro player and an unproven pass rush.

              

Tier 4 

25. Indianapolis Colts

26. Buffalo Bills  

27. Washington Redskins 

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

29. New York Giants

30. Cincinnati Bengals 

31. Arizona Cardinals  

32. Miami Dolphins

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - AUGUST 24: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the Indianapolis Colts warms up before preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Following Luck's retirement announcement, the Colts drop from eighth in the July rankings to 25th a week before the regular season begins. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett will replace him and likely serve as a decent starter, but the offense won't have the same spark.

The 26-year-old has only started 17 career games; he'll go through growing pains as the team tries to rally around him. Indianapolis' defense is solid but not good enough to offset the potential drop-off in offensive production.

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden named quarterback Case Keenum as the regular-season starter. He's a bottom-tier starting signal-caller who threw 18 touchdowns passes and 15 interceptions with better wide receivers in Denver.

The Redskins should rely on their ground attack to win physical contests. Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson may carry the offensive workload out of the backfield. Defensive linemen Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan have to do their part in limiting opponent scoring opportunities with a relentless pass rush.

In July, the Cincinnati Bengals seemed like a tier-four team with a surprise element because of the offense. The unit features a steady quarterback in Andy Dalton, seven-time Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green, emerging running back Joe Mixon and new head coach Zac Taylor's fresh outlook for the group.

Green will miss regular-season games, and the offensive line lost Chris Boling to retirement. Center Billy Price, a 2018 first-rounder, lost his starting job to Trey Hopkins, which isn't ideal. Rookie fourth-rounder Michael Jordan may start at left guard. The Bengals will struggle with their front line in flux.