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2019 NFL season preview: Power ranking the top 8 teams

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We complete our NFL preview by looking at the top eight teams.

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL season finally kicks off tonight. After a long offseason, football has truly returned. Today we take a look at the teams that should dominate the league this year. Odds are the team that wins the Super Bowl next February is listed below.

It’s finally time for the top eight teams entering the 2019 NFL season.

Previously: Teams 32-25 | 24-17 | 16-9

8. Chicago Bears

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears made the leap from worst to first last year after hiring head coach Matt Nagy and making a last-minute trade for edge rusher Khalil Mack. Their defense was among the best the NFL has ever seen and generated turnovers at an ungodly rate. However, they saw their season end in the Wild Card round. This year, they will hope to finally earn a playoff win in the era of Bears football.

Mitchell Trubisky is a bad quarterback. He is a great runner, but issues with accuracy and problems reading pressure have haunted the young quarterback. Nagy seems to be the perfect coach for him, though. The quarterback thrived in his head coach’s simplified offense last season, and he should get a little better this year after spending another offseason in Nagy’s offense. Nagy is great making the most of the Bears’ offensive weapons as well. On paper, Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and an undersized Tarik Cohen should not be as great as they perform on the field. The coach has truly found a way to make the most of any talent he is given, and that makes Chicago’s offense scary in 2019 no matter what deficiencies they might have.

Chicago’s defense will not be as good as their 2018 counterpart. It is impossible to keep up that turnover rate and regression seems like a given. They also lost their best defensive back in Bryce Callahan. The defense they have on the field will still be great, though. Mack headlines a pass rush that features Leonard Floyd on the other edge and Akiem Hicks blowing up the interior. Danny Trevathan and the young Roquan Smith form an elite linebacker duo behind them. There are a few concerns in the secondary, though. While Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller are both great, what about everyone else? Does veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara have enough gas in the tank to continue playing at a high level? Can they survive with Buster Skrine at nickel corner? Can Ha Ha Clinton-Dix prove that his awful second half of the 2018 season was an aberration? The front seven is good enough to make up for any slight deficiencies in the defensive backfield, but these are important questions the Bears need to answer this year.

If the Bears offense can be at least average, this team can win the Super Bowl. Despite their losses, they still have enough talent to beat any other team in the league. They will need Nagy to make more improbable magic in 2019, though, and that will be hard now that the other 31 teams have an entire years worth of film to study.

7. Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A magical 2018 season came to a disappointing end when the Los Angeles Rams only scored three points in a Super Bowl loss last February. Almost all of last year’s key players return in 2019, though, as they hope to be right back in the thick of the playoff race this season.

Jared Goff has thrived under the genius of Sean McVay. The quarterback was in the MVP race for much of last season and should be one of the early season favorites again this year. Goff will have one of the league’s best receiving trios to throw too in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Tyler Higbee has been a surprisingly valuable tight end, as well. The most valuable piece may be the dynamic Todd Gurley at running back, who can contribute in virtually every facet of the offense. Tackle Andrew Whitworth anchors an offensive line that should still be among the league's best, even with the loss of guard Rodger Saffold.

Los Angeles had problems on defense last season, and they will mostly remain this year. Aaron Donald is potentially the greatest defensive tackle to ever play the game, but there are a lot of problems with the players surrounding him. The best pass rushers are an inconsistent Dante Fowler, a regressing Clay Matthews and Michael Brockers—who’s fine but not particularly great. Aqib Talib is a great corner, but last season we saw that Marcus Peters boom-or-bust style of cornerback play could prove costly for a team in a playoff race. The addition of Eric Weddle from the Baltimore Ravens could be great for their defensive backfield, though.

The Rams should be right back in the hunt for a Lombardi trophy this year. Their offense should yet again be among the league’s best, and despite the problems on defense, a transcendent player like Donald and shut-down corner like Talib can help cover a lot of flaws. The NFC is crowded with talent, though, and repeating as NFC Champions will be a tough task.

6. Green Bay Packers

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers 2018 season felt like the eruption of a volcano that had been bubbling for years. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ health issues cost him much of the season. Conflict between Rodgers, the receiving corps and the coaching staff led to longtime head coach Mike McCarthy losing his job late in the season. Green Bay nearly finished last in the NFC North and had an uncharacteristically bad year that they will hope to put behind them.

Rodgers should be at full strength this year, and that alone puts the Packers in the Super Bowl conversation. He is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, and he gets to play behind a top-tier offensive line. Aaron Jones was a surprise star last season as he led the league in yards per carry. Davante Adams is a fringe top-five receiver in the NFL and has benefited greatly from playing with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Jimmy Graham surely is not the player he once was, but he can still be a dangerous threat from the tight end position under the right circumstances. The Packers offense is not good enough to challenge some of the league’s elite defenses, but any offense that features Rodgers is a threat.

The Packers defense reloaded this offseason and could be among the league’s best in 2019. They managed to add two of the NFL’s best pass rushers in Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, and that duo alone could cause nightmares for opposing offensive coordinators. First-round pick Rashan Gary may need some time to adjust to the NFL, but he should be a great rotational player as well. Their front seven features more talent in Kenny Clark at nose tackle and Blake Martinez—arguably a top-five NFL off-ball linebacker—in the middle of the defense. The defensive backfield will benefit from the addition of former Bears safety Adrian Amos, and the young corner duo of Jaire Alexander and Kevin King could give opposing quarterbacks fits. This defense may be the most underrated in the league and may be even better than the offense.

Green Bay does not have the star power that the likes of the Rams and other higher teams on this list do. They do not have any true weaknesses, though, and if Rodgers can stay healthy for a full 16 games, the Packers should be competing for a Super Bowl come winter.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Last year looked like it was finally going to be the one for the Los Angeles Chargers. The perennially unlucky franchise looked like they had put their previous woes behind them and were ready to take the next step. Then they got absolutely obliterated by the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round. While the end of last year was a letdown, it was still promising as a whole, and they will hope to build on it heading into 2019.

Philip Rivers is still searching for that elusive Super Bowl appearance. Last year seemed to be his best chance, but he can build on an impressive 2019 season to hopefully take his team the distance this time around. Running back Melvin Gordon will most likely not play for the team this year due to an extended holdout, but they should have enough talent to do without their star running back. Keenan Allen is still one of the better receivers in the league, and the young Mike Williams should help make up for the loss of Tyrell Williams. Los Angeles should have an above average offense this year, and Rivers should be in MVP contention this season.

The defense is where the Chargers are truly scary. Even with the long-term loss of sophomore safety Derwin James, rookie Nasir Adderley should help compensate and has potential to be in the defensive rookie of the year conversation. Linebacker/safety hybrid Kyzir White should return, as well, after losing much of his rookie season due to injury. The Chargers cornerback duo of Desmond King and Casey Hayward is one of the best in the NFL and should give teams fits in the defensive backfield. Despite all of the talent, Los Angeles’ pass rush is their true strength. First-round pick Jerry Tillery joins a front seven that also features the devastating pass rush duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. If Tillery lives up to expectations, Bosa and Ingram should have a field day this season with the rookie blowing up the interior.

Los Angeles is hoping to put their demons of the past behind them and finally take the next step as a franchise. Majority of the great 2018 team returns, and they have real potential to win a tough AFC West and challenge for the Lombardi Trophy in February.

4. Kansas City Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

If not for an unfortunate offside penalty on Dee Ford, the Kansas City Chiefs would have probably been AFC Champions in 2018. The first year of the Patrick Mahomes era was an instant success with the young quarterback winning NFL MVP and the offense proving to be one of the best in NFL history. Their defense was better than expected, and a hot start to the season carried the team to an overtime period in the AFC title game. Now in Year 2 under Mahomes, they will try to finish the job.

The offense should be just as great as last year under the genius of Andy Reid. Rookie Mecole Hardman joins an already loaded receiving corps of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson. They added LeSean McCoy to a defensive backfield that will try to make up for the loss of Kareem Hunt last year, but if last season was any indication, anyone can be plugged into Reid’s offense and have success. The offensive line is not perfect, but it good enough to allow the reigning MVP to work his magic in the pocket.

Their defense—that already had a few talent deficiencies—got worst this offseason. Ford was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers early in the offseason, and cornerback Steve Nelson is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. The defense will have to make up for its best pass rusher and best corner—the two most important positions on that side of the ball. The addition of Frank Clark should make up for the loss and then some, though, and they may be able to survive with Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward starting at corner. The addition of Tyrann Mathieu in the backfield should be a huge boost as well.

Kansas City’s dynamic offense should continue to be the best in the league. Issues on defense remain, but when your offense is this good, the best defense might just be scoring more points than your opponent. This could finally be the year for Andy Reid to win the Lombardi trophy that has escaped him for so long.

3. Dallas Cowboys

Wild Card Round - Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It sounds impossible, but the Dallas Cowboys may not be getting enough attention this offseason. Jerry Jones has quietly built one of the best rosters in football, and 2019 may be the year where it all finally comes together for the team.

It all starts at quarterback. The Day 3 selection of Dak Prescott in the 2016 NFL draft is looking like an all-time great draft steal, and the young quarterback has won the NFC East twice in three years. Ezekiel Elliott was recently signed to a mega deal that makes him the highest-paid running back in the NFL, and the offensive lineman in front of him should allow the talented running back to have another great season. The mid-season addition of Amari Cooper revolutionized the offense, and he should be only better now that he has a full offseason working with his new team. Young receiver Michael Gallup should be ready to take the next step and the addition of Randall Cobb adds needed veteran presence to the offensive lineup.

The team also returns all of the key pieces of what developed into a top-tier defense in the latter half of last season. Leighton Vander Esch proved to be a star at middle linebacker in his rookie year, and he looks like the eventual successor of star linebacker Sean Lee. Stud edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence signed a massive deal this offseason, and while he may start the season a little knocked up, he is an absolute star on the edge and should be worth every penny of that contract. Young cornerback Byron Jones also looks like he will develop into a star and is set to potentially take the next step in the upcoming season. Dallas’ defense has no weakness anywhere on the field, and that makes them a threat every week.

America’s team has had a rough couple of decades. It feels like they have been on the verge of something great a few times in the past few years but could never put it all together. This could finally be the year, though. This is top to bottom the league's best roster on paper, but can paper finally translate onto the field?

2. New England Patriots

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have permanent real estate in top five of preseason power rankings everywhere. The reigning champs quited everyone who doubted them after a rough start to last season and inevitably won the Super Bowl. New England has now been to eight straight AFC Championship games and appeared in three of the past five Super Bowls— winning two. There is no reason to believe they will not be right back there again.

Tom Brady and his six rings do not seem to be going anywhere. The 42-year-old quarterback will return for his 20th NFL season, and his supporting cast this year may be better than it was last year. Brady will have the trusted Julian Edelman, and the return of Josh Gordon will be dangerous targets for the Patriots. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers hopes to build on a big preseason, and while he will never live up to his draft billing, Phillip Dorsett provides great depth as well. Running backs Sony Michel and James White are both dynamic backs that should be able to perform well once again behind New England’s stellar offensive line.

The defense will have to make up for the loss of swiss army knife Trey Flowers. Michael Bennett was a great addition to the team’s pass rushing arsenal, though, and should cushion the fall of their front seven. Former Detroit Lion Kyle Van Noy features in the front seven as well, and has become a star since leaving the Motor City for Foxborough. Stephon Gilmore emerged as one of the league's best corners last season, and across from him, New England has Jason McCourty and the young, budding, J.C. Jackson. The Patriots defense still has a few concerns at safety and the defensive interior, but the star power they have elsewhere could help fill in the cracks.

Realistically, the Patriots should be right back in Super Bowl contention this year. They have the talent. They have the best head coach in NFL history. Top to bottom they are the best, most consistent, franchise in football. Are you ever going to bet against this team?

1. New Orleans Saints

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints have seen a promising season come to a tragic end in two consecutive years. In 2017, a last second touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs eliminated them in a divisional round game against the Minnesota Vikings in a play that was later deemed the Minneapolis Miracle. A controversial no call on a late defensive pass interference in the NFC Championship against the Rams cost them a chance to take a commanding lead late in the game. In both seasons they could have potentially lifted the Lombardi trophy if not for a freak event at a critical moment. The odds of the Saints getting tragically unlucky twice seemed incredibly unlikely. The odds of it happening three straight times seems impossible. They will hope to put their demons behind in 2019 and make another run at the Super Bowl appearance that has somehow eluded them.

Drew Brees may be entering the final year of his NFL career. The 40-year-old quarterback arrived in New Orleans in 2006 and has since turned around the franchise and even brought them a Super Bowl title a few years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. The quarterback set the NFL record for career passing yards last season and has already proven himself as the greatest player in franchise history. Getting to earn another Super Bowl ring as a curtain call may be the perfect end to his storied career.

New Orleans has done a great job surrounding their veteran quarterback with the talent he needs to succeed as well. Their offensive line is one of the league's best, and 2017 first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk looks like a star at right tackle. Alvin Kamara is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league and has become a favorite target of Brees. Michael Thomas recently was awarded with a big contract after erupting as one of the league’s best receivers in the first three years of his NFL career. While the skill positions may lack depth, the top-line players have enough talent to carry this team far.

The defense features evergreen Defensive Player of the Year candidate Cameron Jordan rushing off of the edge. Jordan benefited greatly from the emergence of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins last season, as the interior defender spent all year blowing up the center of opposing offensive line. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore did regress a bit in 2019 after an incredible rookie year in 2018, but he still is a great corner. Across from him, Eli Apple rediscovered himself after arriving from the New York Giants midway through last season. Their linebacking corps features a lot of talent as well, with Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone and A.J. Klein roaming the center of the defense. This does not even include Marcus Davenport, a high-ceiling defensive end who may make a huge leap in his second NFL season.

On both offense and defense, the New Orleans Saints are dangerous. They have talent, they have good coaching, they have star power, they have a mix of steady veterans and high ceiling youngsters. There is so much to be excited about surrounding this team this year.

The Saints are the best team in football, they just need to escape their past demons.