B/R Staff Power Rankings: Updated with Latest Super Bowl Odds

NFL StaffContributor ISeptember 2, 2020

B/R Staff Power Rankings: Updated with Latest Super Bowl Odds

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    We're getting closer and closer to Thursday's 2020 season opener between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs—and with it a campaign that will begin at Arrowhead Stadium and wrap up at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, when Super Bowl LV is played February 7, 2021.

    For some teams, getting to that game is little more than a pipe dream. They are the longest of long shots—if the Jacksonville Jaguars make it to the Super Bowl, it will probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse.

    But for others, a trip to the Super Bowl is almost an expectation. Anything less than a repeat trip would be viewed as a letdown for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

    Regardless of whether a team is a pretender or a contender, fans across the NFL want to know how their squad stacks up against the rest of the league.

    That's the question the NFL Analysts here at Bleacher Report have gathered to answer, with Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski coming together to rank the league's teams from worst to first.

    This time, those power rankings come with a bonus: updated championship odds for each franchise, courtesy of DraftKings.      

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (+17500)

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    High: 32

    Low: 32

    If there were any question what the plan was for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020, they answered it over the weekend.

    First they traded edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings for a pair of draft picks—a move that finished the disassembly of the defense that led the Jags to the AFC title game in 2017.

    Calais Campbell. Jalen Ramsey. A.J. Bouye. Ngakoue. All have been traded over the past year.
    Then on Monday, the Jaguars released tailback Leonard Fournette, who gained 1,152 yards on the ground last year and averaged a career-best 4.5 yards per carry.

    The defense is in shambles. The ground game is led by an aging pass-catching back in Chris Thompson, 29, and a pair of unproven youngsters in Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo.

    And the Jaguars have surged to the head of the pack in the "Tank for Trevor Lawrence" sweepstakes.

    Gardner Minshew II needs a hug.

31. Carolina Panthers (+12500)

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    High: 28

    Low: 31

    It's the dawn of a new day for the Carolina Panthers.

    With quarterback Cam Newton in New England, the Panthers are Teddy Bridgewater's team. Defensive leader Luke Kuechly retired in the offseason, leaving a massive hole in the middle of the linebacker corps. Longtime head coach Ron Rivera has given way to first-time NFL head coach Matt Rhule.

    The Panthers have talent. Christian McCaffrey is arguably the NFL's best running back. Young wideout DJ Moore caught 87 passes for 1,175 yards in 2019. Edge-rusher Brian Burns and linebacker Shaq Thompson have shown flashes of being impact contributors.

    But question marks abound as well. Carolina's offensive line was 29th in pass protection last year, per Football Outsiders. Tahir Whitehead is a capable veteran linebacker, but he's no Kuechly.

    The NFC South has the looks of one of the deeper divisions. The New Orleans Saints may be the league's most balanced team. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the hype darlings of 2020. The Atlanta Falcons were in the Super Bowl not that long ago.

    Carolina isn't likely to finish ahead of any of them.

30. Cincinnati Bengals (+15000)

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    High: 28

    Low: 31

    There's a flood of optimism among Cincinnati Bengals fanbase.

    And the reason for that optimism is named Joseph Lee Burrow.

    From the moment his name was called first in April's draft, the Bengals offseason has been all about the team's new quarterback. And as Ben Baby reported for ESPN, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner hasn't disappointed even a little.

    "He's just been impressive," head coach Zac Taylor said. "He's what we expected when we took him No. 1 overall. He hasn't disappointed one day he's been out there."

    The Bengals have a pair of talented wide receivers in veteran A.J. Green and youngster Tyler Boyd, 25. And one of the NFL's better young running backs in Joe Mixon, 24. And one of the league's better defensive lines.

    But question marks are plentiful as well, whether they're along the offensive line or at linebacker.

    The Bengals should be better than last year's two-win team.

    How much better is unclear.

29. Washington Football Team (+15000)

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    High: 29

    Low: 30

    It's been a rough offseason for the Washington Football Team. The franchise finally retired its nickname of the past 80-plus years. Allegations of sexual harassment were brought against staffers, and the NFL is investigating the team for workplace misconduct.

    Things are also bleak on the field.

    It's not all doom and gloom, though. New head coach Ron Rivera is a proven winner who led the Panthers to the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. The arrival of edge-rusher Chase Young gives Washington five first-round picks among its front seven. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin was a third-round find for the team in 2019.

    But quarterback Dwayne Haskins struggled in his first season, and the deck is stacked against a big leap forward in 2020. Washington ranked last in the NFC in total offense in 2019 and arguably has the NFL's biggest dearth of offensive talent.

    It's hard to envision Washington finishing anywhere but last in the NFC East this year—and that could leave the team facing a tough decision about Haskins in 2021.

28. New York Jets (+8000)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    High: 25

    Low: 29

    It's been a bumpy offseason for the New York Jets. The injury bug has bitten the wide receiver corps in recent days. Tailback Le'Veon Bell had a public spat with head coach Adam Gase over his role in the offense. And the offseason began with the Jets losing arguably their best defensive player, linebacker C.J. Mosley, to an opt-out.

    None of that is good news for a team headed into what could be a make-or-break third season for young quarterback Sam Darnold.

    The Jets fielded a bottom-five offensive line in 2019 in both run and pass protection, per Football Outsiders, and the NFL's last-ranked offense. The team spent quite a bit of cash and draft capital attempting to upgrade both. But for every encouraging sign, there's a worrisome one elsewhere—whether it's injuries or the fact that 37-year-old Frank Gore has outplayed Bell in camp, per The Athletic's Connor Hughes.

    The Jets will probably be better offensively, if only because there's nowhere to go but up.

    But labeling this team as any kind of factor in the AFC East is optimism run amok.

27. Chicago Bears (+4000)

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    Jose M. Osorio/Associated Press

    High: 24

    Low: 30

    The dominant storyline surrounding the Chicago Bears' offseason has been the battle under center between incumbent Mitchell Trubisky and newcomer Nick Foles. As Adam Hoge reported for NBC Sports Chicago, that battle remains unresolved.

    Head coach Matt Nagy said neither Trubisky nor Foles has separated from the other:

    "I can tell you we're definitely not going to toss a coin, but we've had those discussions before this camp even started. We've hit every scenario possible. I think it's a very valid question because you don't know. You don't know how it's going to go, and you have a guy in Mitch who's been in this offense for two years, and you have a guy with Nick that has been a part of this offense in the past at different levels."

    The Bears have a stout defense. The offense isn't bereft of skill-position talent. But last year the team disappointed, in large part because of uninspiring play from Trubisky.

    Foles was supposed be an upgrade at the game's most important position.

    But so far, early returns aren't encouraging.

26. Los Angeles Chargers (+4500)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    High: 24

    Low: 26

    The Los Angeles Chargers can't buy a break.

    With Philip Rivers in Indianapolis, the Chargers face questions at quarterback in 2020. But the team was hopeful that a defense loaded with talent could help carry it.

    Now, that defense is reeling after safety Derwin James suffered a meniscus tear that will sideline him for at least six months

    However, that's just one of the reasons Sobleski feels the team could be in trouble in 2020:

    "The Chargers would be higher on this list if not for two things: another significant James injury and a gaping hole at left tackle. James is the game's most versatile defender when healthy. Without him, the Chargers defense is still quite good, especially up front. However, the same can't be said on the other side of the ball, where Tyrod Taylor's (or Justin Herbert's) blind side will be protected by Sam Tevi, who didn't exactly excel at right tackle the last two seasons." 

25. Detroit Lions (+6000)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    High: 20

    Low: 28

    The 2019 season was a three-win mess for the Detroit Lions—largely because quarterback Matthew Stafford missed half the year with a back injury. The 32-year-old has returned, and new backup Chase Daniel told Justin Rogers of the Detroit News that Stafford's skills have blown him away.

    "He's a wizard, man. It's impressive," Daniel said. "His recall of plays, the photographic memory, all that stuff that you want in a quarterback, is impressive, and it makes you want to work harder."

    In wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., tight end T.J. Hockenson and running backs Kerryon Johnson and rookie D'Andre Swift, Stafford isn't short on offensive weaponry. But in Davenport's opinion, it's the Detroit defense that will determine if the Lions rebound:

    "Last year, it was edge-rusher Trey Flowers. In 2020, it's linebacker Jamie Collins who became the latest ex-Patriot to join Matt Patricia in Detroit. The team needs them to earn their pay this year—if the Lions have another defensive meltdown like last year's 31st-ranked unit, it won't matter if Stafford stays healthy and throws for 5,000 yards."

24. Miami Dolphins (+8000)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    High: 22

    Low: 26

    Last year, the Miami Dolphins went through a veteran purge in an effort to stockpile draft picks. As part of that rookie haul, the team acquired the player it hopes will lead the franchise back to prominence in Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

    As Joe Schad reported for the Palm Beach Post, Tagovailoa's first NFL camp has featured its share of ups and downs. But the 22-year-old said he's going to continue to improve.

    "The lion and the gazelle," Tagovailoa said. "They both wake up in the morning, and they've both got to run. One runs from something and one runs to something. Which one are you? You try to wake up and become a lion every day. I'm chasing to be the best Tua that I can be, both on and off the field."

    From all indications, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will open the season as the Dolphins' starting quarterback.

    But at some point, once Miami has fallen out of contention, it will be Tua time in South Florida.

23. New York Giants (+8000)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    High: 21

    Low: 27

    There's reason for optimism regarding the New York Giants under new head coach Joe Judge.

    Young quarterback Daniel Jones, 23, showed promising flashes as a rookie. Tailback Saquon Barkley is among the best in the league. The team's passing-game weaponry has both depth and talent. The Giants finally spent significant capital to upgrade at linebacker, with the signing of Blake Martinez.

    But there's cause for concern. Those passing-game weapons have struggled to stay healthy. The offensive and defensive lines are both potential problems. So is the cornerback position.

    Then, as Sobleski pointed out, there are the reports that Judge has adopted a hard-nosed approach—extending practices, forcing players to run laps after mistakes and, for a time, refusing to publicly say the names of his players.

    Yes, you read that right.

    "It's hard to read the reports coming out of Giants camp and not think of other failed Bill Belichick disciples who preceded Judge as head coaches," he said. "Yes, every organization should want a head coach who instills discipline and demands accountability. But that act wears thin real quick if the team isn't losing and the coach continues to adhere to high school-level motivation tactics."

    No way that ends badly.

22. Las Vegas Raiders (+6600)

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    High: 20

    Low: 26

    It's the dawn of a new era in Raiders history.

    It hasn't happened how the franchise wanted (thanks for nothing, 2020), but the Raiders are in Las Vegas. And while it's not easy to get a bead on how teams are progressing in this truncated offseason, head coach Jon Gruden said he's been pleased with how the squad is coming together.

    "We're a young team and we're improving," per W.G. Ramirez of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo.com). "Our guys are working hard. Our young draft choices, a couple of them, have taken steps forward. A couple of them we're still waiting on. But we are getting better, and I'm proud of the way our guys are working together on the practice field every day."

    The Raiders have young talent on both sides of the ball, whether it's running back Josh Jacobs and tight end Darren Waller on offense or edge-rusher Maxx Crosby and linebacker Cory Littleton on defense.

    If the team gets solid QB play from Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota, a run at a wild-card spot is possible.

    But so is a 6-10 season as an afterthought in an AFC West that belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs.

21. Los Angeles Rams (+4000)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    High: 19

    Low: 23

    Life comes at you fast in the NFL.

    Not that long ago, the Rams were the NFC's representatives in Super Bowl LIII. But the financial realities of several big-money extensions (some ill-advised) have taken a toll. Running back Todd Gurley is in Atlanta, leaving uncertainty in the backfield. Edge-rushers Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews are gone. So is Littleton, who led the team in tackles the past two years.

    Half the team's 22 starters from that Super Bowl team are gone—including seven on defense. The Rams went all-in on the short term in the hopes of winning a title.

    The bill has come due.

    This isn't to say the Rams aren't still at least a decent team—Los Angeles has a solid duo of wide receivers in Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp and maybe the NFL's best defensive player in tackle Aaron Donald.

    But the Rams have the look of the third-best team in the league's toughest division.

    And another deep playoff run doesn't look likely.

20. Denver Broncos (+5000)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    High: 18

    Low: 21

    The Denver Broncos didn't have a great season in 2019. But the team finished with a 4-1 stretch after inserting young quarterback Drew Lock as the starter, offering optimism in the Mile High City.

    Lock has had a rocky training camp, but he told Aric DiLalla of the team's website that he'd rather scuffle now than in September and October.

    "I've always been the guy who's able to learn more from mistakes rather than being all daisies, all roses out there," Lock said. "It will be good for us to be able to go back and look at how we struggled, look at what we did wrong, especially like you said for those young guys. It's better to struggle early I feel like."

    The Broncos have offensive weaponry—including additions like running back Melvin Gordon III and rookie wideout Jerry Jeudy. The defense, led by future Hall of Famer Von Miller, has talent at all three levels. The Broncos might be the best-positioned team to challenge the Chiefs for supremacy in the AFC West.

    But that's only if Lock takes a big step forward in his second season.

19. New England Patriots (+2000)

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    High: 15

    Low: 24

    There isn't a team in the NFL undergoing a more seismic shift in 2020 than the New England Patriots.

    After half a dozen Super Bowl wins, Tom Brady left in the offseason. He was ostensibly replaced with another former NFL MVP in Cam Newton, and while Belichick hasn't officially named Newton the starter, he praised the veteran's work ethic.

    The head coach told SiriusXM Radio (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk):

    "I can see why he had the kind of success he had at Auburn and Carolina. Talking to people who were with him there, the things they said about him at Auburn and at Carolina from a decade ago or 2-3 years ago or even last year, it's all the same, and it showed up here: He's an extremely hard worker. Nobody works harder than Cam does."

    Still, the Patriots also lost a handful of starters on defense—losses that leave Gagnon concerned that New England's run of dominance in the AFC East could be over.

    "Newton is certainly a better option than Jarrett Stidham, and you could even argue he's an upgrade over a 43-year-old Brady, but the Patriots were just gutted by additional departures and COVID-19 opt-outs. Keep in mind New England lost five of its last nine games (including playoffs) despite possessing a lot more talent last year."

18. Houston Texans (+5000)

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    Brett Coomer/Associated Press

    High: 16

    Low: 17

    Four of the last five seasons have ended with the Houston Texans being crowned AFC South champions.

    Still, not a lot of people expect the Texans to make a deep playoff run. Partly, that's because over that span, the Texans are 2-4 in the postseason.

    And partly, as Davenport said, it's because the offseason in Houston was rather blah:

    "If David Johnson can turn back the clock and Brandin Cooks can stay healthy, the Texans just might survive the mega-gaffe that was the DeAndre Hopkins trade. But neither of those things is any kind of sure bet. The best case for the Texans is that the team treaded water in the offseason. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts got better. The balance of power in the division is shifting."

    However, Gagnon isn't ready to write off Houston.

    "While I don't trust Bill O'Brien," he said, "I'm a big believer in Deshaun Watson's magic and an improving Houston offensive line. The Texans also have underrated depth at receiver, and Watson can survive the loss of Hopkins."

17. Cleveland Browns (+4000)

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    High: 10

    Low: 20

    Last year, the Cleveland Browns were the NFL's darlings. Then Cleveland happened.

    The Browns were a massive disappointment in just about every way imaginable in 2019. Quarterback Baker Mayfield paced the AFC in interceptions with 21. The defense ranked 30th in the league against the run, and the pass rush fell apart once Myles Garrett was suspended in November for swinging a helmet at Mason Rudolph. Head coach Freddie Kitchens was a disaster in his first (and only) season at the helm.

    Now, there's a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski. A pair of new offensive tackles in veteran Jack Conklin and rookie first-round pick Jedrick Wills Jr.

    And in Sobleski's opinion, a real chance for a post-hype rebound in 2020:

    "The Browns are jam-packed with talent at nearly every level. Yet, this team is transitioning to yet another head coach with new systems on both sides of the ball. If this group comes together quickly, it'll emerge from its long-term dormancy and become a player among the league's better squads. Though it's more likely the Browns will display plenty of inconsistency, especially early in the season after myriad training camp injuries, as they try to find themselves."

    With injuries already mounting on defense, the possibility of another disappointing year in Cleveland is very real.

16. Tennessee Titans (+2800)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    High: 13

    Low: 19

    There wasn't a more surprising team last year than the Tennessee Titans. They barely sneaked into the postseason at 9-7, but then Tennessee peeled off upset wins over the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens to reach the AFC title game.

    With the exception of Conklin, that team is essentially intact. Comeback Player of the Year Ryan Tannehill is back after signing an extension. So is last year's rushing king, Derrick Henry.

    The Titans have the talent to contend for the AFC South title. But at least one of the NFL analysts here at Bleacher Report is skeptical that the Titans can repeat last season's success.

    "Sorry, but Henry and Tannehill were never particularly dominant before 2019, so I'm having trouble trusting them entering 2020," Gagnon said. "If either's breakout season was an aberration, the Titans could be in trouble sans Conklin."

15. Arizona Cardinals (+5000)

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    High: 13

    Low: 18

    The Arizona Cardinals are hot—and not just because they play in the desert.

    Ah, climate humor.

    Hopkins' arrival in Arizona has injected a level of enthusiasm into the franchise that hasn't been seen since the days of Kurt Warner. The Cardinals have offensive talent in quarterback Kyler Murray, running back Kenyan Drake and a loaded receiving corps. There's defensive talent in edge-rusher Chandler Jones, linebacker Jordan Hicks and safety Budda Baker.

    But as Davenport wrote, the Cardinals also have to try to evolve in a loaded NFC West: "The talent's there in the Valley of the Sun. But the Cardinals also have to play the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks twice each—all of whom have repped the NFC in the Super Bowl in recent years. The Redbirds could make a run at the postseason, but there's precious little margin for error."

14. Atlanta Falcons (+5000)

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    High: 9

    Low: 19

    The question facing the Atlanta Falcons in 2020 is one of identity.

    Are the Falcons the team that pitched and lurched its way to one win over the first half of the 2019 season? Or the team that turned it on during the second half, peeling off half a dozen wins in eight games to save head coach Dan Quinn's job?

    There's little question that the Atlanta offense will be good. The Falcons have an MVP quarterback in Matt Ryan, a former Offensive Player of the Year in the backfield in Gurley and one of the league's best one-two punches at wide receiver in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.

    The defense isn't as certain of success, although it added edge-rush help in Fowler.

    Gagnon thinks these Falcons have what it takes to make noise in the NFC South.

    "I think a lot of folks are forgetting that Atlanta went 6-2 with victories over the Super Bowl-bound 49ers and the juggernaut Saints in the second half of the 2019 season," Gagnon said. "These guys can ball, and nothing from this offseason should prevent them from picking up where they left off."

13. Buffalo Bills (+2500)

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    James P. McCoy/Associated Press

    High: 10

    Low: 14

    Over the past decade-plus, the AFC East has belonged to the New England Patriots. But with the Pats undergoing massive changes, the divisional winds are shifting—in the direction of upstate New York.

    In two of the past three seasons, the Bills have made the playoffs. Last year, it was because of the league's eighth-best ground game and second-best scoring defense. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs' arrival should boost a passing game that was a moribund 26th.

    But if the Bills are to take command of the division, it will take a big step forward from 24-year-old signal-caller Josh Allen.

    "He showed some improvement in his second season," Davenport said. "And his ability to hurt teams with his legs is a plus. But at some point, Allen will have to show he can be a consistent source of production through the air. That will take more than a completion percentage of 56.3."

12. Philadelphia Eagles (+2000)

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    High: 8

    Low: 16

    In 2019, the Philadelphia Eagles overcame a litany of injuries to win the NFC East.

    To get back to the playoffs, they may have to win it again.

    Philly's already lost starting left tackle Andre Dillard to a season-ending biceps injury. Veteran wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has yet to practice after offseason foot surgery. Rookie wideout Jalen Reagor will miss the start of the campaign with a shoulder injury. Running back Miles Sanders (hamstring), edge-rusher Derek Barnett (ankle) and Carson Wentz (soft tissue) are all nicked up and uncertain to be ready for Week 1.

    In Davenport's opinion, a breaking point may have already been reached:

    "The skill-position players (including the quarterback) are all kinds of banged up. The defensive line is too. The left tackle is out for the year. Add the team's uncertainties at linebacker and cornerback, and the problems are adding up with dizzying speed. Unless the Dallas Cowboys fall flat again, these Eagles may be relegated to trying to hobble to a wild-card spot."

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1400)

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    High: 11

    Low: 13

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the kings of hype in 2020. And that hype has a name—several, in fact.

    Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.

    There's more than just talk of the team as a potential contender in the NFC South. There's talk of the Bucs as the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

    The Buccaneers are more than just Brady and fellow newcomer Rob Gronkowski. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin may be the game's best pair of wideouts. Edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett led the league in sacks last year with 19.5. No team surrendered fewer rushing yards per game in 2019 than Tampa.

    However, before Buccaneers fans start making plans for Super Bowl LV, it's worth noting that the path to a division title is hardly clear. The Tampa secondary wasn't good last year, allowing the third-most passing yards per game. The Buccaneers offense averaged just 95.1 rushing yards per game a season ago.

    There's also the matter of a 13-win Saints team that's every bit as talented and even more balanced.

10. Green Bay Packers (+2800)

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    High: 8

    Low: 17

    The Green Bay Packers won 13 games and made the NFC Championship Game in 2019.

    But there hasn't been a lot in the way of good news in Titletown since.

    Rather than upgrade the wide receiver position in this year's draft, the Packers bafflingly spent their first pick on quarterback Jordan Love. The wide receiver the team did add in free agency (veteran Devin Funchess) opted out of the 2020 season.

    Defensively, the team's leading tackler from a year ago, Blake Martinez, is plying his trade in New York. His replacement, Christian Kirksey, has been productive when healthy but has missed a whopping 23 games over the past two years.

    If everything breaks the right way, the Packers have the talent to make another run at the second Super Bowl win of the Aaron Rodgers era.

    But it wouldn't take much to derail Green Bay's season, and an argument can be made that on paper at least, the Pack aren't the best team in the NFC North.

    It's an argument borne out by their ranking here—below the Vikings.

9. Indianapolis Colts (+2200)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    High: 6

    Low: 12

    In theory, there might not be a team better positioned for a 2020 surge than the Indianapolis Colts.

    Offensively, a wideout corps anchored by T.Y. Hilton boasts talent, youth and athleticism. Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor have the makings of a formidable one-two backfield punch. An offensive line led by guard Quenton Nelson is as good as any in the league.

    Defensively, the addition of tackle DeForest Buckner should boost a pass rush that added edge-rusher Justin Houston last year. Darius Leonard is a difference-maker at linebacker. And the defensive backfield (much like the receiving corps) has plenty of youth and upside.

    But how far the Colts get will depend mostly on one thing: the right arm of Philip Rivers. If the Colts get the Rivers who looked washed up with the Chargers a year ago, it will be a long season.

    But if Rivers can regain his Pro Bowl form from just two years ago, the Colts could take a run at the Chiefs in the AFC.

8. Minnesota Vikings (+2500)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    High: 5

    Low: 15

    The Minnesota Vikings demonstrated how serious they are about win-now mode when they sent two draft picks to the Jaguars for Ngakoue this week. Paired with fellow edge-rusher Danielle Hunter, he gives Minnesota a formidable one-two punch at a premium position.

    Per Sobleski, the Vikings could be the class of the NFC North—no small feat given their unenviable cap situation:

    "The Vikings have done an excellent job working their way out of a negative account balance regarding this year's salary cap while maintaining the bulk of their roster and even adding another franchise player in Ngakoue. The secondary is concerning, but the team still owns the league's best safety tandem (Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris), and Gary Kubiak taking over for Stefanski as offensive play-caller should be a smooth transition. This squad is more than capable of surpassing the Packers, last year's NFC North winner."

    The Vikings have talent on offense, even after losing Diggs. A defense with impact players at all three levels. Everything needed to make a run at Super Bowl LV.

    All the Vikings need is for quarterback Kirk Cousins to show once and for all that he can deliver when the stakes are highest.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (+2500)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    High: 7

    Low: 10

    The 2019 campaign was forgettable for the Pittsburgh Steelers. When Ben Roethlisberger went down in Week 2 with a season-ending elbow injury, any chance the Steelers had of making a postseason run went with him.

    Sobleski thinks a rebound year could be in the cards:

    "Every Steelers game will be a test for Roethlisberger's repaired right elbow. If the 38-year-old quarterback's body holds up throughout the campaign, Pittsburgh is a potential Super Bowl contender. If not, the Steelers will be mediocre, just like last season. But everyone should assume Roethlisberger will stay healthy since positive signs have emanated from training camp."

    The Steelers have skill-position weaponry. A good offensive line. A defense anchored by edge-rusher T.J. Watt that led the league in sacks and takeaways in 2019.

    The ingredients are all there for the Steelers to challenge the Ravens for AFC North supremacy—provided the team's veteran quarterback is ready to rock after last season's injury.

6. Seattle Seahawks (+2000)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    High: 5

    Low: 9

    Since the team drafted Russell Wilson in the long-ago days of 2012, there hasn't been a more consistently successful NFC franchise than the Seattle Seahawks. They have made the playoffs every season except 2017 during that run, winning three NFC West titles, making two Super Bowls and winning one championship.

    Gagnon thinks the team could make another title run in 2020.

    "Wilson alone can carry the Seahawks to the Super Bowl," he said, "but adding All-Pro safety Jamal Adams to the defense doesn't hurt. This is a top-heavy team with the star power to do big things despite a lack of depth."

    However, Davenport cautions there could be an issue that will derail the team's Super Bowl dreams.

    "Adams was a big (albeit expensive) get," he said. "But Seattle did little to address one of the NFL's worst pass rushes from last year. Even with Adams in town, the secondary won't hold up against quarterbacks who have all day to survey the field."

5. Dallas Cowboys (+1500)

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    High: 5

    Low: 7

    The Dallas Cowboys fell short of the postseason last year, which cost head coach Jason Garrett his job.

    But if Mike McCarthy can get this team to realize its potential, the Cowboys could be as dangerous as any squad.

    The offense led the league in total yards 2019—spurred on by two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott, one of the NFL's best running backs in Ezekiel Elliott and one of the NFL's best offensive lines. A pass-catching corps that already included two 1,000-yard wideouts in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup added an explosive weapon in rookie CeeDee Lamb.

    Defensively, youngsters Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are a fearsome one-two punch at linebacker. The Cowboys also made one of the better late signings in free agency, adding Everson Griffen in August to complement DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge.

    Dallas has the weaponry on both sides of the ball to be the NFC Super Bowl representative.

    Provided the Cowboys can do what they failed to a year ago and play up to their potential.

4. San Francisco 49ers (+900)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    High: 3

    Low: 4

    The San Francisco 49ers are the defending NFC champions. A team with arguably the best defense in the NFL. And a leading contender to make another sojourn to Florida next February.

    Last year's run ended in crushing disappointment after the team blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the Chiefs—a disappointment that starting running back Raheem Mostert hasn't forgotten.

    Mostert said, per ESPN's Nick Wagoner:

    "We have some unfinished business. We've seen all the different sayings and stuff like that, of how a team doesn't make it back to the Super Bowl the following year. We don't care nothing about that. I think George [Kittle] emphasized it in the Super Bowl. He will be back. I think that was everyone's mentality. I feel like we're going to be back this year and we're actually going to win it. That's our goal, that's our mindset. We don't care what happened in the past, the past is the past. We're going to move on and we're going to dominate this game the way we know how to."

    The Niners are the betting favorites to once again represent the conference in the Super Bowl. But in an NFC stocked with good teams, San Francisco has its work cut out for it.

3. New Orleans Saints (+1100)

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    David Grunfeld/Associated Press

    High: 2

    Low: 4

    The season ended in ignominious fashion with a wild-card loss at home to the Vikings. But that doesn't erase the fact that the New Orleans Saints won 13 games a year ago and enter 2020 as a leading contender to win the NFC.

    The Saints are led by Drew Brees, who has more passing yards and touchdowns than any quarterback in NFL history. Wide receiver Michael Thomas set a new single-season record last year with 149 catches. Running back Alvin Kamara is as dangerous as any player at his position. The Saints sported a top-three offensive line in both run blocking and pass protection a year ago, per Football Outsiders.

    The defense is no slouch either. Whether it's units led by edge-rusher Cameron Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis, cornerback Marshon Lattimore or safety Malcolm Jenkins, there's no position group that stands out as a weakness.

    "The Saints might not have the league's best offense," Davenport said. "Or the NFL's most feared defense. But there isn't another team that has more balance, and the Saints are my pick to rep the NFC in Tampa."

2. Baltimore Ravens (+650)

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    High: 2

    Low: 3

    Last year, the Baltimore Ravens won 14 games, including 12 in a row. They set an NFL record for rushing yards in a season by a team. Quarterback Lamar Jackson won the MVP award.

    And none of that mattered when the Titans stunned them in the playoffs.

    Part of that loss could be attributed to Jackson's accuracy issues on intermediate throws—an area offensive coordinator Greg Roman said the QB has made strides in this offseason.

    "There's no magic pill [for it]—I think he's made really good strides," Roman said, per Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports. "But like every quarterback in the National Football League, they're striving to be as consistent as possible, and he's no different.”

    Jackson's growth isn't the only thing that's better in Baltimore. An already strong ground game added rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. The defense added proven veteran like defensive ends Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and talented youngsters like inside linebacker Patrick Queen.

    The Ravens are loaded on both sides of the ball—with explosive talent at any number positions.

    If anyone is going to knock the Chiefs from their perch atop the AFC, the Ravens are the most likely candidates.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (+600)

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    High: 1

    Low: 1

    It's fitting that the Kansas City Chiefs hold the top spot here. They are both the reigning Super Bowl champions and the betting favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again in 2021.

    The reason for that lofty status? Mahomes.

    His career trajectory falls somewhere between "Hall of Famer" and "Are you serious?" There's a reason the 24-year-old received an extension that averages $45 million per season.

    In Mahomes' first full year as the starter in Kansas City, he became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season (Peyton Manning, 2013), won NFL MVP honors and took the Chiefs to within a game of the Super Bowl. In his second, Mahomes sealed the deal and got Kansas City its first title in half a century.

    Mahomes isn't a one-man show. But if the Chiefs buck history and become the first repeat champion since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004, it will be because Mahomes had another phenomenal season.


    Salary-cap info via Spotrac