The NFL season kicks off next week, and today we continue our NFL preview here on Pride of Detroit by taking a look at the teams ranked between 24 to 17.
Previously: The Bottom 8
Washington has been a team seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough for years, but just can't get out their own way. Injuries, executive mismanagement and off-field drama have marred a potentially great period of football in the Nation's Capital. Unfortunately, the period of potential success has most likely ended without anything to show for it, as the team enters a period of rebuilding.
Case Keenum has already been named the team’s Week 1 starter at quarterback, but don’t expect first-round pick Dwayne Haskins to sit out of the action all year. Neither quarterback will be a top talent for the team this year, though.
The right side of their offensive line is great, with both Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff holding that end down, but the ongoing holdout, and probably trade, of Trent Williams weakens the other side.
The receiving corps will be a problem as well. Jamison Crowder was the only worthwhile receiver last year, and now he plays for the New York Jets. Jordan Reed and Paul Richardson cannot stay healthy, and Josh Doctson still has not lived up to his first-round billing. This offense could surprise us the way they did last year with running back’s Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson in the fold, but Washington will probably be relying on their defense this season.
The defense could be great, though. Rookie edge defender Montez Sweat bolsters what was already a great front seven and the addition of Landon Collins to the defensive backfield could help paper over the holes back there. Unfortunately there are a lot of holes back there. Josh Norman is still an above replacement level cornerback, but none of the other players outside of him and Collins are good enough to truly inspire confidence in the team this season.
2019 will be a transition year in the Nation's Capital, as they will see what they have going forward and try to develop Haskins as they head into a rebuild. They still have a good amount of talent for a rebuilding team, though, and could surprise a few teams this season.
23. New York Jets
The New York Jets are the first team on this list that truly seems like they are on the upswing. Quarterback Sam Darnold was not perfect in his rookie year, but he showed enough flashes to make fans hopeful for his future in the Meadowlands. The team also managed to add a few stars this offseason that will hopefully mesh well with their younger talent as they hope to build a long-term contender.
Le’Veon Bell was the biggest offensive addition the team made. Once the best running back in the NFL, Bell is coming off of a year where he sat in a ploy to avoid the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise tag. While there may be some rust, the running back should be fully rested entering the season. The team also added Jamison Crowder to round up a solid receiving corps that also features Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. The offense probably will not dominate the league this year, but they have enough combined talent to give Sam Darnold a chance to really take off in Year 2.
The defense has enough talent to win the team some games as well. Jamal Adams is looking like he will become one of the league’s best safeties, is he isn’t there already. Trumaine Johnson is an interesting pick up from the Los Angeles Rams in the defensive backfield. The team signed linebacker C.J. Mosley to a big money deal to lure him away from the Baltimore Ravens, and he should bolster their run defense.
New York is a team that could realistically steal a playoff spot this year. They have no outright weaknesses on the roster, but they also do not have enough top-level talent on the roster to hang with the top teams in the league. Their success this season depends on whether or not quarterback Sam Darnold is ready to take the next step, but he still looks like he is ways away from being an elite quarterback.
22. Detroit Lions
Oh hey, this team. The Detroit Lions went on a spending spree this free agency and even had what would many would consider to be a strong draft. Somehow, it still feels like this team has a few potential fatal flaws on the roster.
The offense should look a little different under Darrell Bevell this season, but the story will be the same for them. The offense will be as good as Matthew Stafford lets them be. The quarterback is hoping to bounce back from a 2018 season where he struggled, and now that he had an offseason to recover from his back injury, he should be at full strength.
Kerryon Johnson will hope to build off of a strong rookie season, but the loss of T.J. Lang up front has left the team without a formidable set of interior offensive linemen. Lang was crucial to the team’s rushing attack last season, and it is hard to imagine Johnson being as effective without Lang blocking for him. At receiver, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay are a great duo, but they may be too similar to each other to be as effective as possible.
Detroit landed the best free agent defender on the market this spring when they signed former New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers. Flowers joins a talented defensive front that includes Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and recently-signed Mike Daniels. The defense still has issues behind them, though. Darius Slay is still an elite corner, but who will start across from him? The team will also be relying on an undersized run defender in Quandre Diggs and a duo of unproven youngsters in Will Harris and Tracy Walker at safety. The team may be without linebacker Jarrad Davis for much of the season, and that makes an already weak unit weaker.
The Lions have a high ceiling this season. If everything goes right and all of their young players take the next step they will compete for the NFC North. Unfortunately, expecting that is unrealistic, and if they don’t take the next step the team may find themselves picking in the top 10 once again.
21. Denver Broncos
It is hard to believe that the Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl just three years ago, and that the team was a playoff contender for much of the 2010s. They have fallen on hard times since the departure of Peyton Manning, and they have not been able to replace the quarterback that was named NFL MVP in 2013. Missing out on Brock Osweiler turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Paxton Lynch was a bust and the Trevor Siemian experiment did not work out. Case Keenum only lasted one season in the Mile High City. Now it’s Joe Flacco’s turn, but even he is just warming up the seat for hopeful successor Drew Lock.
The Broncos offense probably will not be good, but they do have some potential. Flacco is a pretty bad quarterback, but every once in a while he has a magical day and can beat any team. The sophomore running back duo Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay could give some opposing defenses a lot of trouble, especially behind a good offensive line. Their receiving corps is not perfect but it has enough top-line talent to be serviceable. Courtland Sutton is coming off of a strong rookie season, and while Emmanuel Sanders may be coming off of a serious ankle injury, he is still a receiver that has proven he can produce at a high level for years. There is not much to look forward to behind them, though.
Denver will once again have a talented defense. Von Miller is quietly chugging along as an all-time great edge rusher. Second-year edge defender Bradley Chubb will hope to build on a good rookie campaign. Veteran Derek Wolfe rounds out a strong group of pass rushers in Denver. Behind them, the trio of Chris Harris, Bryce Callahan and Kareem Jackson is a great group of corners.
The Broncos could potentially sneak their way into the playoffs this year. The defense is great and can hang with any team in the league on a good day. Flacco will need to play at a high level for the team to be good this season, though, and the odds of that happening don’t seem that high.
20. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens were scrapped for parts after winning the AFC North title in 2018. Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle and C.J. Mosley all departed this offseason, leaving the defense with a void of talent. If there is one thing we have learned about the Ravens over the years though, it’s that their defense somehow always recovers.
Earl Thomas will be a key part of that recovery. The former Seattle Seahawk and all-time great free safety joins the defensive backfield, and will be playing alongside one of the league's best cornerback duo in Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey. The front seven leaves a lot of questions to be answered. The Ravens have historically always had one of the best pass rushes in the league due to their ability to plug anyone into the line up and raise hell with creative rush packages. They have always had talent up front, though, and this year there are not any worthwhile pass rushers to watch for. Baltimore’s coaching staff will have to manufacture a pass rush this season, but if there is any coaching staff I trust to do that it is them.
Baltimore rode a unique possession-based offense to the postseason, but it is hard to imagine that working again. Their once-great offensive line finds themselves towards the bottom of the NFL now. While Lamar Jackson is certainly a better passer than many give him credit for, he still needs to improve in that aspect. The signing of Mark Ingram gets negated by the horrible offensive line that will be blocking for him.
Baltimore played a unique style of football last season, but it is hard to see 2018 as anything more than an aberration. The roster still has talent, and could compete for an AFC playoff spot, but they will be against long odds.
19. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans head coach is no longer a bunch of baboons sitting on each others shoulders inside a trench coat, and that is great news for the future of the franchise. Unfortunately, their are still some huge questions the team will have to answer if they hope to reach the postseason in 2019.
The biggest question is at quarterback. Marcus Mariota was selected second overall by the Titans in 2015 and still has not lived up to expectations. He has shown a few flashes, though, and when he manages to stay healthy, he can be an above average starting quarterback. Mariota does not have much receiving talent to throw too, though. Delanie Walker returning from an ACL injury will be a boon to the offense, but their receivers include Corey Davis, the fifth overall pick two years ago who has yet to eclipse the 900-yard mark, Adam Humphries, an intriguing but unproven slot receiver hoping that 2018 was not a fluke year and Taywan Taylor, who is bad at playing football. Their offensive line projects to be great, but none of their players are ever on the field at the same time due to injury.
Tennessee’s defense may surprise some this year, though. Jurrell Casey is quietly chugging along as one of the league’s better interior defenders. Harold Landry has been a stud two years into his NFL career and veteran edge rusher Cameron Wake will not be around for long, but he has proven that he can still play at a high level despite the tread on his tires. The secondary features Kevin Byard, an elite safety who is now the highest-paid player ever at his position, playing behind Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson at cornerback. It is not an elite group, but they have enough combined talent to make things hard for opposing quarterbacks.
Tennessee could realistically compete in the AFC South this year, but they need the offense to at least be functional in order to do so. Mariota will need to play at a high enough level to better the receivers around him and the running back duo of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis will need to be able to carry the offense in case he can not. This team has potential, but they could also utterly collapse if things don’t go right for them this season.
It’s hard to be accidentally good in the NFL, but the Carolina Panthers are somehow managing just that.
The Panthers front office and coaching staff seem like they have no idea what they are doing and have made puzzling moves over the years. Their roster is pretty weak when they look at it top to bottom, and almost majority of the moves that the Panthers made to fix these issues seem to not be doing that. Fortunately for them, they enough top-level talent to keep them afloat.
When healthy, Cam Newton is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Give him running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel, and you suddenly have a trio of players that can blow up any defense. Unfortunately, no one else on the offense seems very good. The offensive line is awful, wide receiver and 2018 first-round pick D.J. Moore is not very good. Carolina’s offense is bad, but they have three players good enough to carry the entire unit.
The story is similar on the defensive side of the ball. Luke Kuechly is a potential Hall of Famer at middle linebacker. Eric Reid and newly-signed Tre Boston can be an elite safety duo, and corner James Bradberry rounds out a good defensive backfield. The rest of the defense has troubles, though. Dontari Poe is slowly regressing at defensive tackle, and everyone else is a talent void. The defense, as a whole, is not good, but there are a few players that can save them.
Carolina probably will not compete in the NFC South this season, but if their stars shine brightly enough they could find themselves in the playoff race.
Andrew Luck kind of ruined my power rankings by deciding to retire in the middle of the Indianapolis Colts preseason game against the Cleveland Browns last week. Oh, and he ruined his former team’s chances of making the Super Bowl this year as well.
Luck’s shocking decision means that Jacoby Brissett will be taking over under center for the Colts this season, and things could be much worse. Brissett is a fine quarterback, and even did well as a starter when previously called upon for the Colts and New England Patriots. He is not anywhere near as good as Luck, but Brissett is good enough to at least keep Indianapolis in competition. He also has a great set of pass catchers around him in T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess and Eric Ebron. Marlon Mack is one of the league's best—and most versatile—running backs, and Quinton Nelson anchors a decent offensive line in front of him.
Their defense may be better than many expect. Darius Leonard is hoping to build off of a Defensive Rookie of the Year-winning 2018 season. Margus Hunt is one of the most underrated players in the NFL, and the defensive tackle can cause problems for opposing offenses. Malik Hooker, Pierre Desir, Kenny Moore and rookie Rock Ya-Sin form a dangerous defensive backfield full of play makers that could even be compared to a lite version of the Legion of Boom.
Indianapolis is no longer a Super Bowl favorite, but if things go right they could be competing for a playoff spot come December. Unfortunately, the late move by Luck is a shock to the team’s immediate plans, and they may get off to a slow start this year as they adjust to life without their star quarterback.