NFL Power Rankings 2020: Breaking Down the League's Pecking Order

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2020

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passes during NFL football training camp, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

We're 15 days away from the NFL season opener on September 10. Since teams ramped practices, rookies have flashed, ascending talents look sharp and, unfortunately, some players have gone down with injuries, changing the 2020 outlook for several clubs.

With little time left before the regular season, the early power rankings start to take shape based on training camp reports and projected depth charts. 

The listing below divides all 32 squads into four tiers with a watch alert on a team in each group. Of course, this order will change throughout the year. Right now, the standings emphasize recent production and player progress over the offseason.

Check out the break down of the league's pecking order. Which teams could trend upward early in the year?


August 26 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. Green Bay Packers 

8. Dallas Cowboys


Team to Watch: Seattle Seahawks

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Despite going to the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, the Seattle Seahawks seem a bit underrated going into the 2020 campaign. Caesars Palace set the team's over (-105) and under (-115) win total at 9.5 games after an 11-5 term. 

The Seahawks acquired All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar to patch up a leaky defense that ranked 22nd in scoring for the previous campaign. According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the league removed the latter from the Commissioner's Exempt List because charges were dropped against him in an armed robbery case.

Following an 8.5-sack season, Bruce Irvin could still contribute to the pass rush. Benson Mayowa logged a career-high seven sacks with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2019.

While running back Rashaad Penny recovers from a torn ACL, Carlos Hyde will complement Chris Carson out of the backfield. Together, they can keep Seattle's rushing offense within the top five in yards.

The Seahawks offensive line will look different without Justin Britt, Joey Hunt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi, though quarterback Russell Wilson has played well in spite of shaky pass protection throughout his career. He's been sacked at least 41 times in seven consecutive campaigns. Between his mobility and a strong ground attack, Seattle shouldn't have an issue moving the ball. 

Wilson will have Greg Olsen to lead the tight end group. Wide receiver DK Metcalf could take a big step as he expands his route tree.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers

10. Philadelphia Eagles

11. Tennessee Titans 

12. Los Angeles Rams 

13. Buffalo Bills 

14. Atlanta Falcons 

15. Houston Texans

16. Minnesota Vikings


Team to Watch: Minnesota Vikings

Brett Duke/Associated Press

The Minnesota Vikings will move up the rankings as the season progresses if their rookies make an early impact. For now, we cannot overlook the team's question marks at wide receiver and cornerback. 

The Vikings traded Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. Statistically, wideout Adam Thielen should have a monster season, though Olabisi Johnson and Justin Jefferson must fill the void as secondary options at the position.

Thus far, Jefferson has turned heads at training camp. Johnson, who's primed for an uptick in targets, praised the rookie, per Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune.

"I was telling him [Sunday], his releases were crazy," Johnson said. "He was working everybody off the line. We knew coming in this guy was going to be a star, and he's proven just that.”

Between rookie cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, one of them may fill a prominent role alongside Mike Hughes and Holton Hill. The veteran cover men have started a combined nine games. Even with Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris at safety, Minnesota's pass defense could struggle before holding up against aerial attacks.

The Vikings also lost two key components to their front line in edge-rusher Everson Griffen and defensive tackle Linval Joseph in free agency.

Minnesota's offense may need to put up points at a faster rate to compensate for a defensive unit with new starters in multiple positions.

17. Indianapolis Colts

18. Denver Broncos 

19. Las Vegas Raiders 

20. Los Angeles Chargers 

21. New England Patriots

22. Detroit Lions

23. Chicago Bears

24. Cleveland Browns


Team to Watch: Indianapolis Colts

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Indianapolis Colts have the best odds to win the AFC South (+130), per Caesars Palace. Several factors move the needle in their favor. 

For starters, the Colts beefed up their defensive line, acquiring DeForest Buckner, who's logged 28.5 sacks and 38 tackles for loss in four seasons. He'll provide an interior pass rush to complement Justin Houston, the team's sack leader (11) from the previous campaign. 

Quarterback Philip Rivers had a down 2019 season, throwing 20 interceptions, but he's more experienced and composed in the pocket than Jacoby Brissett. If the 38-year-old signal-caller bounces back, the Colts will pose a stronger threat through the air. 

Rivers will play behind an offensive line with continuity. All five primary starters return a season after starting all 16 games. 

As rookies, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor seem ready to contribute this season, per The Athletic's Zak Keefer

"It's early, but the fact that the coaches feel confident enough to throw Pittman and Taylor in with the first-team offense at this stage of camp means they believe they can contribute immediately during the regular season," Keefer wrote.

The Colts' acquisitions could lead them to an AFC South title, though we have to see how these new components mesh together before moving them into the second tier of these rankings.          

25. Arizona Cardinals 

26. New York Giants

27. Miami Dolphins 

28. New York Jets

29. Carolina Panthers

30. Cincinnati Bengals 

31. Washington Football Team 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars 


Team to Watch: Arizona Cardinals 

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals generated the most offseason buzz among the clubs listed in the bottom tier. 

Quarterback Kyler Murray and new wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will elevate this offensive attack. Running back Kenyan Drake showed he could lead the backfield in the second half of the 2019 season, racking up 814 yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage during that stretch.

Going into his 17th term, Larry Fitzgerald remains one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league, logging a 68.8 percent catch rate in 2019. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury thinks Christian Kirk is a player on the rise, per ESPN's Josh Weinfuss

"We feel like Christian is really an ascending player," Kingsbury said. "He was having a really big year and got banged up a little bit last year.

Arizona should field an explosive offense. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has to put his group in a position to hold up its end of the bargain after giving up the fifth-most points in 2019. 

The Cardinals have to find the best way to utilize rookie first-rounder Isaiah Simmons' versatile skill set. In addition, cornerback Patrick Peterson has to play at a high level to shore up the secondary. He started the 2019 campaign on a six-game performance-enhancing drug suspension and finished with two interceptions and seven pass breakups.