So, if you have been a Pride of Detroit reader for the past few weeks, you have seen my team by team NFL preview series I was working on. Unfortunately, the series ended up running into a problem due to some personal things going on for me, and I have kind of ran out of time to finish it.
The list has been set in stone for a while now, though, so as we head into the first Sunday of the season, here are is the final edition, and my rankings for the top 10 teams in the NFL.
The Eagles are a team who have managed to do the incredible in recent years. They won the Super Bowl in 2017 despite their MVP candidate quarterback going down with an injury. Last year Carson Wentz dragged a team of backups all the way to an NFC East title and a playoff appearance. Competing for a Super Bowl this year may require a similar level of magic, but they do have some pieces they need to compete.
Philadelphia added two huge defensive stars this offseason. Darius Slay may quell an issue they have had in the secondary for years, though the former Detroit Lions will surely not be able to do it by himself. They also added Javon Hargrave, another elite defensive tackle to play alongside potential Hall of Famer Fletcher Cox.
There are some questions on offense, though. They have limited skill position talent, and while Wentz is surely a player that has shown he can make the most out of limited talent, just how much magic can the team expect from him?
The Steelers of old may have returned. Pittsburgh’s defense was their undoing in the mid to late 2010s, but with the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, and T.J. Watt’s rise to joining the NFL’s pass rushing elite, the Steelers have rediscovered their identity. The Steelers, once again, look like the legendary, Super Bowl-caliber team that featured greats like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.
Pittsburgh’s defense should be among the best in the NFL this season—maybe THE best in the NFL this season—and their offense is actually going to have a quarterback this year. Ben Roethlisberger missed 14 games last season, and he will return for what might be a curtain call for the team’s long-time signal caller.
The offense does have a few concerns, though. JuJu Smith-Schuster vanished for much of last year and needs to prove that he can function as a WR1 on a post-Antonio Brown team. Even if Smith-Schuster does show up, they do not have many other options. Rookie Chase Claypool will be thrust into a huge role year 1, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the second-round pick can perform in his rookie season.
The surprise team of 2019 is back, but this year they start the year not only as division favorite—but potential Super Bowl dark horses. Mike Vrabel—a member of the Bill Belichick coaching tree with experience as a defensive coordinator—has taken the Titans to the next level. After years of being stuck as a fringe playoff team, Tennessee brought in Vrabel in 2018 hoping he could make them contenders and take the franchise to the next level, and win the franchise their first ever Super Bowl title. Vrabel has brought his style of building through the trenches with a strong defense and run-first offense to Nashville, and they have seen great success because of it. (Hey, wait a minute!)
Tennessee’s two stars from last year, Ryan Tannehill and Derek Henry, were both rewarded with big contracts this offseason. Young receiver A.J. Brown, a second-round selection in 2019, instantly looked like a stud in year 1 and is certainly capable of being the team’s WR1 going forward. This also means that Corey Davis can slip into a smaller role in the offense. Tight end Jonnu Smith will hope to build off of his success from the second half of last season as well. While the Titans offense does not have much elite talent, they are well rounded enough to give any defense trouble.
It is the same story on defense. Jadeveon Clowney finally found a home last week when he inked a one-year deal with the Titans, and he will play across a young starlet pass rusher in Harold Landry. The defensive backfield will be without Logan Ryan this season, but they still have the likes of Adoree’ Jackson, Malcolm Butler and second-round rookie Kristian Fulton around to fill that hole. At safety, they have one of the league’s best cover safeties in Kevin Byard. The Titans have quietly built one of the strongest rosters in the NFL. They are well rounded enough to have staying power as well, as they are not only relying on a small group of players to stay healthy in order to succeed. Tennessee is not a popular pick, but do not be surprised if they compete this season.
The Saints have been a team of tragedy in recent years. In three consecutive seasons they have been eliminated from the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion. In 2017 it was the Minneapolis Miracle, in 2018 and 2019, they lost overtime games after controversial pass interference no-calls.
New Orleans has still managed to compete year to year, though. Even in failure, they have always been able to keep their heads up with the expectation that they would be right back in contention a year later. It appears that their window may be slowly closing, though, and if not this year, the Saints may not be able to win a Super Bowl with this current group.
At 41, Drew Brees may not have too many years left. Michael Thomas’ incredible production at wide receiver in 2019—totaling an NFL record 149 catches—is not sustainable, and they will be relying on two well-past-their-prime players in Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook to play second and third fiddle in the passing game. Alvin Kamara’s best may be behind him at the moment as well, and the recent huge deal he signed with the team may quickly backfire.
The team has a ton of talent on defense as well, but the talent is aging and may not be able to play at this level for very long. Demario Davis is one of the best off-ball linebackers in football, but he is 31. Cameron Jordan, also 31, is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year contender, but for how long? Marshon Lattimore seems to be a different player every week, and it is hard to depend on him at all.
New Orleans has enough talent on both side of the ball to compete this year. As harsh as this preview might sound to them, I did still put them at seven. They should compete for the NFC South, and missing the playoffs would be a massive disappointment. This could be their last season playing at this level though, and if they can not do it now, they may never.
Is Kyle Shanahan cursed? For the second time in four years, a team with Shanahan on the coaching staff blew a second half lead in the Super Bowl last year, losing in heartbreaking fashion.
The 49ers should be Super Bowl champions. Their defense forced Patrick Mahomes to look like just another quarterback for three quarters in the most important game of the year. The offense failed to hold up their end of the bargain, though, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made some crucial errors down the stretch that damned them.
San Francisco made a few changes this offseason, but are largely returning with the same group as last year. One crucial change is the loss of DeForest Buckner, as the star defensive tackle was dealt over to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. They made an equally big addition on the offensive line, though, acquiring potential Hall of Fame tackle Trent Williams from Washington. They also used that pick they received for Buckner on Javon Kinlaw, a defensive tackle prospect with huge upside.
The 49ers will only be able to go as far as Garoppolo takes them. The defense will be great, I have no reason to believe they won't be among the league’s elite this season. Even their shaky secondary has enough talent back there to get by. Their quarterback will need to get the job done this year, though. Last year, he let an impressive rushing game carry him to the Super Bowl and then failed when it was up to him, they cannot afford to let that be the case once again.
The Seahawks are inevitable. Literally every year it seems that they are among the favorites for the Super Bowl entering the season, and 2020 is no different. Seattle reloaded again this offseason, they are returning all of their best players, and should once again be right in the mix of it come December.
Russell Wilson did not earn a single MVP vote in 2019, though he definitely was second place in many voters’ mind. He threw 31 touchdown passes alongside five interception. He led a Seattle team many did not expect much from to the playoffs, and they were a goal line stop away from winning the division.
Wilson will be back in 2020 will all of his favorite tools. Rookie standout D.K. Metcalf will hope to build on an impressive rookie year. Chris Carson is coming off of a career high 1,230 yards last season. Tyler Lockett eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time last season. Add in Carlos Hyde and Greg Olsen, and the Seahawks have a strong offense to work with.
The defensive collapse everyone predicted last season never came. Bobby Wagner is still a star, and they just added another first round pick in Jordyn Brooks to play alongside him. Mid-way through last season they added Quandre Diggs, who played the best football of is career in a Seahawks uniform. They made another big addition at safety this offseason when they sent two first round picks for Jamal Adams.
Trading for Adams may hurt the team long term, but it makes them a juggernaut for this season. Seattle is not going anywhere, and they might be favorites in the most competitive division in football.
The Dallas Cowboys were the most disappointing team in 2019. A star-studded team that should have been packed with stars on both sides of the ball failed miserably. They missed out of the playoffs entirely and let a division title get stolen from them from a beat up Eagles team.
It is hard to imagine it happening to them again, though.
Despite the team’s failures, Dak Prescott was a star last year. He proved himself as one of the league's elite quarterbacks, and will likely be the second-highest paid quarterback in the league once his contract dispute is finally solved. Dallas is in good hands with Prescott at the helm of the offense, and he is certainly capable of leading this team to a Super Bowl.
Prescott has a good set of weapons around his as well. Amari Cooper is one of the best route runners in the league and has emerged as a truly elite talent since arriving in Dallas. Michael Gallup had a breakout year in 2019, and the team added another young star in wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the 2020 draft. Add in Ezekiel Elliot—one of the most productive running backs the NFL has seen in recent years—and we potentially have the best offense in the league on our hands.
The defense does have a few concerns, though. Dallas lost their top corner in Byron Jones in free agency this offseason and will expect rookie second round pick Trevon Diggs to fill the role of an elite corner. Maliek Collins went to Las Vegas, leaving the team without their best interior pass rusher.
There are some things to look forward to, though. DeMarcus Lawrence is still a top-tier pass rusher. Dontari Poe does not have a lot left in the tank, but he is a fine defensive tackle that can help replace Collins inside. Leighton Vander Esch took a step back in 2019 after being impressive as a rookie the year before, but there is a chance he returns to form.
The Cowboys should have a top end offense that scores a ton of points with a defense that may be a little shaky—but should be just good enough to keep the offense afloat. It is all on Prescott, though, and he cannot allow the disappointments of 2019 strike once again.
A majority of the hype surrounding the Bucs this season has largely been based on their big move at quarterback, but thinking that Tom Brady is the only reason to believe in this team in 2020 would be an error.
Tampa Bay is, top to bottom, the best team in the NFL. While Brady is the easy-to-recognize name, he may actually be the weak point on this roster. The offense features two of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. O.J. Howard and Rob Gronkowski could be a rare example of two elite tight ends playing on the same roster. The Bucs also recently added Leonard Fournette, a decent running back to play alongside veteran LeSean McCoy and young up and comer Ronald Jones. The three backs are extremely different than one another, giving the team great variety out of the backfield.
The Bucs defense has been their downfall in recent seasons, but do not be surprised if they step up as well. Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh are a interior defensive duo that are nearly impossible to run against. Lavonte David has quietly been one of the best off-ball linebackers in the league in recent seasons, and if he can stay healthy then he can be a perfect support to the defense on the second level.
One of the league's up-and-coming stars resides in the Bucs secondary. Sean Murphy-Bunting took off in the second half of 2019 and was an interception machine to close out his rookie year. He will also get to play alongside another young up-and-comer in Antoine Winfield, a second-round pick who was one of college football’s best deep coverage safeties in 2019.
Believe it or not, Tampa Bay has the makings of an elite defense and offense. Brady may actually be the weak point on this team, as he is coming off of the worst season of his career. Brady was playing in a subpar offense last year, though, and he may thrive now that he gets to throw to elite weapons once again.
Watch out for the Bucs.
The Ravens had all the hype in the world entering the 2019 playoffs. They were the best team in football at 14-2 and won 12 straight the end the year. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was the NFL MVP elect (he eventually won the award as the second even unanimous winner). No one had an answer for their unique offense.
Until the they met the Titans, who dominated them in the NFL divisional game, leaving Jackson as a one-and-done player for the second straight year.
Baltimore should be right back in the mix of things this season, though. Their offense may lack some star power—their only reliable receiving options are Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews—but the triple threat of Jackson, Mark Ingram and Justice Hill is near impossible to deal with out of the backfield. Jackson is certainly a passer who can make the most of limited talent, as he did last year when he threw for an NFL-leading 36 touchdowns.
The defense is where the real excitement lies. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters were both first-team All Pros in 2019, and Jimmy Smith is way to good of a player to be in the CB3 role he currently is in. The loss of Earl Thomas on defense may be a problem, though getting rid of a player who caused problems in the locker room could be a boon to the unit.
Baltimore’s biggest addition this offseason was Calais Campbell. The former Jacksonville Jaguar is a star pass rusher that was even receiving MVP consideration in 2017. He was named Defensive Player of the Year that season, and has since remained a ferocious rusher off of the edge.
The Ravens unique offense is hard for teams to deal with, and “figuring out” Lamar Jackson is not really the easy task a lot of fans think it is. The defense has a ton of talent. Baltimore will be a tough out, a tougher out than they were the past two years. Can they finally translate regular season success to the postseason?
I promise you the Chiefs dominant win over the Houston Texans did not affect this ranking. I am pretty sure everyone already had the defending champions at No. 1 entering the season, and on Thursday night we saw exactly why.
We all already know what they can do on offense. Patrick Mahomes already looks like he is set to retire as the greatest quarterback of all time, and his career still has about 15 years to go. Give him Tyreek Hill and one of the league's best tight ends in Travis Kelce, and he has everything he needs and then some to put together an elite offense.
Kansas City showed a different style on Thursday night, though. Instead of showing the big-play offense they have become known for, they played small ball. They largely focused on getting rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire involved on the ground, and attacking the Texans defense underneath. They dominated, though, smashing the Texans in a dominant victory.
Their defense may not have quite the star power the offense does, but Frank Clark on the edge and Chris Jones on the defensive interior gives them a destructive pass rushing threat. Kansas City’s defensive backfield is atrocious, though, meaning that achilles clearly does have a heel.
Winning back-to-back Super Bowls in today’s NFL seems impossible. A team has not completed the feat since the Patriots did so in 2005, and that was before the days of the rookie contract scale.
If there is a team to do it, it is the Chiefs. Kansas City has the best player in the NFL, and it is not close. They have one of the best coaches in NFL history in Andy Reid. The Chiefs really do have the makings to take over and fill the dynasty vacuum left by the Patriots.