NFL Power Rankings 2020: Examining League Hierarchy as Training Camps Begin

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 3, 2020

FILE- In this Feb. 2, 2020, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass during Super Bowl 54 against the San Francisco 49ers in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Super Bowl MVP is joining the ownership group of the Kansas City Royals.(AP Photo/Doug Benc, File)
Doug Benc/Associated Press

Football is back.

NFL training camps are opening in advance of a campaign that could take many different forms but will surely be unforgettable.

Seeing that it's been so long since we've seen these squads in action—the Kansas City Chiefs' triumph in Super Bowl LIV feels like a lifetime ago—it's the perfect time to reset the league's hierarchy with a fresh batch of power rankings and take a closer examination of three top-10 teams that have our attention.


NFL Power Rankings 2020

1. Kansas City Chiefs

2. San Francisco 49ers

3. Baltimore Ravens

4. New Orleans Saints

5. Seattle Seahawks

6. New England Patriots

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

8. Dallas Cowboys

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10. Minnesota Vikings

11. Tennessee Titans

12. Buffalo Bills

13. Philadelphia Eagles

14. Green Bay Packers

15. Indianapolis Colts

16. Houston Texans

17. Los Angeles Rams

18. Cleveland Browns

19. Atlanta Falcons

20. Arizona Cardinals

21. Los Angeles Chargers

22. Denver Broncos

23. Las Vegas Raiders

24. New York Jets

25. Chicago Bears

26. Miami Dolphins

27. Detroit Lions

28. Cincinnati Bengals

29. New York Giants

30. Carolina Panthers

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

32. Washington


1. Kansas City Chiefs

The defending champions always carry a target on their back, and the Chiefs are no different.

They're the best team in football until proven otherwise, and they're spending like it. Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes inked a decade-long extension for more than $500 million. Kansas City then threw another $85 million at Pro Bowl defensive lineman Chris Jones.

The Chiefs are clearly entertaining dynasty dreams, and they might have the personnel to pull this off.

In two season as a full-time starter, Mahomes has thrown 76 touchdown passes against just 17 interceptions. Jones has 24.5 sacks to show for the 29 games he's played the past two years. Kansas City has an argument for having the league's most explosive wide receiver in Tyreek Hill and top tight end Travis Kelce. First-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire could add a different dimension to this rushing attack.

The defense is technically the team's top concern, but it did surrender just the seventh-lowest scoring average last season (19.3 points per game). When the offense possesses the punching power of Mike Tyson in his prime, the defense could endure some regression and this might still be the strongest squad in football.


6. New England Patriots

Something happened in the Northeast in April that could have wide-ranging effects on the NFL's power structure. Did the Patriots' dynasty come to a close when Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay, or did head coach Bill Belichick make his latest shrewd decision by moving on from a 43-year-old quarterback?

The answer to that question could hinge on the health of Cam Newton.

The three-time Pro Bowler and 2015 NFL MVP signed a one-year pact with the Pats in June after encountering a tepid free-agency market. There are legitimate health concerns with the 31-year-old after he lost all but two games of the 2019 season to a slow-to-heal Lisfranc injury. Considering this ailment came on the heels of shoulder injuries, he's effectively draped in red flags.

But the possible reward is substantial. A healthy Newman is a star (182 touchdown passes and 58 rushing scores since entering the league as the top pick in 2011), and he might work wonders under Belichick's tutelage—provided Newton is the one New England places under center when the season starts.

"We'll give everyone an opportunity and see what happens," Belichick told reporters. "I don't know."

With several of New England's top defenders—including linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung—opting out of the season, the Pats could be leaning on their offense more heavily than usual. Whether that's a good thing will determine if this ranking proves optimistic or pessimistic.


9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs feel almost impossible to evaluate.

On the one hand, we're talking about a team with just 17 wins to show for the last three seasons combined and nary a playoff trip since 2007. On the other, Tampa signed Tom Brady—and traded for Rob Gronkowski—and that seems like kind of a big deal.

As Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo sees it, no NFC team took a bigger step forward this offseason than the Bucs:

"The Tampa Bay Bucs are the most improved team in the NFC. It obviously starts with Tom Brady at quarterback and just having some weapons to throw to this year. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and the return of Gronk. Brady's going to look so much better, even at age 43. Then you add that improving defense from last year, the investment in the secondary. The Bucs: most improved in the NFC."

Brady hasn't had receiving options like Evans and Godwin in a long time, and with Gronkowski back as a safety blanket, Brady could be poised for a monster season.

But that will only matter if the defense can make a huge jump after finishing 29th in points against last year (28.1 points per game). After re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Suh, the Bucs will hope to have made the investments needed to strike a championship-caliber two-way balance.