NFL Power Rankings 2020: Where Each Team Stands as Season ApproachesAugust 7, 2020
COVID-19 has changed the 2020 offseason in many ways. Without a preseason, players won't hit the field for padded practices until August 17. Some of them chose to opt-out of the 2020 season because of health and safety concerns.
Following Thursday's opt-out deadline, we have a better look at every roster as clubs prepare for the regular season over the next four weeks.
As reports generate buzz about what's going on at camp, let's go through a set of power rankings with a view of where each team stands a few days into practices.
This listing takes offseason transactions, past production and projection into account. We've also highlighted a team to watch after every quarter of the standings.
August 7 Power Rankings
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
8. Philadelphia Eagles
Team to Watch: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers went 8-8 without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for 14 full games last year. His return will boost this club from mediocrity to playoff contender.
Roethlisberger will work with a plethora of pass-catching options, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron. Rookie second-rounder Chase Claypool may flash as well.
Still, Pittsburgh must prove its aerial attack can move the ball consistently without Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster battled injuries during the previous term. If they click early, the Steelers should field a viable offense. Running back James Conner must stay healthy also.
The Steelers will win some contests solely because of their stingy defense that ranked fifth in scoring and yards allowed in 2019. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and linebacker Devin Bush transformed that unit into an elite group during the previous term.
On paper, Pittsburgh has a balanced roster. Roethlisberger and a strong defense propel this squad to No. 7 in the power rankings.
9. Dallas Cowboys
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Los Angeles Rams
12. Tennessee Titans
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. Minnesota Vikings
15. Buffalo Bills
16. Houston Texans
Team to Watch: Dallas Cowboys
While assessing the Dallas Cowboys, we must acknowledge the unknown. As the new head coach, Mike McCarthy, replaces Jason Garrett, which is a notable adjustment for the players, especially on offense.
Regardless, quarterback Dak Prescott has stars at running back and wide receiver in Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, respectively. He still has a quality offensive line even without center Travis Frederick, who retired this offseason. Left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin are top-five players at their positions. Right tackle La'el Collins only allowed two sacks last season, per Pro Football Focus.
During the offseason, the Cowboys reconstructed their defensive line, allowing Robert Quinn to depart in free agency and acquiring defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, who's on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from surgery on his quadriceps.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expects Leighton Vander Esch to open camp at 100 percent. The third-year linebacker missed seven games with a neck injury in 2019. He had a Pro Bowl rookie term and played a big role in the Cowboys' sixth-ranked scoring defense in 2018.
Dallas has the personnel for an explosive offense and a key defensive player primed to bounce back if healthy. On paper, the Cowboys look like a double-digit win club.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
18. New England Patriots
19. Las Vegas Raiders
20. Indianapolis Colts
21. Cleveland Browns
22. Denver Broncos
23. Arizona Cardinals
24. Detroit Lions
Team to Watch: New England Patriots
Tom Brady went south, but don't take your eyes off the New England Patriots. Cam Newton's arrival makes this a must-watch situation. He's motivated to reinvent himself after the Carolina Panthers chose to move on with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The Patriots won't hand Newton the starting job. He'll compete with second-year signal-caller Jarrett Stidham, though the former league MVP should win the position battle.
Newton has a lukewarm group of talent at wide receiver. Julian Edelman turned 34 years old in May. The Patriots placed Mohamed Sanu on the physically unable to perform list after he underwent ankle surgery this offseason. N'Keal Harry hauled in just 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns through seven outings as a rookie first-rounder. Marqise Lee opted out of the 2020 campaign.
In total, eight Patriots opted out of the 2020 term. Among them, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung will sit out, dealing a blow to the defense.
Newton will have to become "Super Cam" to keep New England in the playoff hunt. With that said, if he looks sharp at camp, we can't close the door on the Patriots' chance at another postseason run.
25. Chicago Bears
26. Miami Dolphins
27. New York Giants
28. Carolina Panthers
29. Washington Football Team
30. Cincinnati Bengals
31. New York Jets
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Team to Watch: Miami Dolphins
As noted above, several Patriots opted out of the 2020 term. The New York Jets lost two of their best players for the season as well. Gang Green traded safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks, and linebacker C.J. Mosley will sit out the year because of COVID-19 concerns.
As two division rivals look to fill major voids on the roster, the Miami Dolphins can make a move in the standings. They have some continuity with head coach Brian Flores going into his second term with the club. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the placeholder until rookie first-rounder Tua Tagovailoa is ready to take over the position.
Fitzpatrick could fare well with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. The two worked together in Buffalo and New York (Jets).
Fitzpatrick will take the field with his top two pass-catchers from the previous season, wideout DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki. Doctors cleared promising second-year wide receiver Preston Williams for football activity, per ESPN's Cameron Wolfe.
Defensively, the Dolphins field one of the best cornerback tandems in the league with Byron Jones and Xavien Howard on the boundaries. Flores reunites with familiar faces from New England in linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts.
With so much uncertainty in the AFC East, the Dolphins could become the second-best team in the division behind the Buffalo Bills. If Fitzpatrick struggles, the coaching staff can look to Tagovailoa for a spark. Meanwhile, the defense should keep this club competitive throughout the season.