The defending champion Chiefs take the top spot in the early 2020 NFL power rankings. A lot will change before the start of next season, as will the power rankings, but at the moment this is roughly where I see each team ranking in terms of chances to win the Big Game a year from now.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are the early favorites for Super Bowl LV because they showed this postseason the ability to flip the switch and go on video-game-like runs—they’ll have the confidence to win in any situation next season. Patrick Mahomes is obviously a great player, but he has Andy Reid running and offense stacked with sensational talent, so Kansas City should try to keep the group together and not part ways with Sammy Watkins this offseason.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Blame does not need to be put on Kyle Shanahan or Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss—the team simply did not get it done collectively in the final several minutes of the game, on both sides of the ball. The good news for San Francisco is that they seem like a close group, and the team seems to be fully behind Shanahan and Jimmy G as their leaders. That said, while no two situations are the same, it would not be surprising if the 49ers take a step back like the Rams did in 2019 following their Super Bowl LIII loss.
3. Baltimore Ravens
After two consecutive subpar postseason performances, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens might have a bit of a hump to get over in January. But the reigning league MVP has the right mindset moving forward, and Baltimore is in excellent shape with offensive coordinator Greg Roman returning after not getting a head coaching job. Defenses will have months to examine the explosive offense and put together plans to stop it, but the Ravens might return all 11 starters while adding more dynamic pieces to the group.
4. New England Patriots
I am assuming Tom Brady will be back in New England, and there’s a case for the Patriots being higher than No. 4 in the early 2020 power rankings. It appears Brady is going to demand the team go out and get more weapons this offseason, but it’s unclear who they’ll be able to acquire, especially if A.J. Green and Amari Cooper re-sign with their teams or are franchise tagged. Former first-round receiver Nelson Agholor is a very talented player that could potentially shine with the Patriots, so he could be a target—and Brady might be OK with that after Agholor came up clutch against his team in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago.
5. Los Angeles Rams
Some might feel the top five is too high for the Rams, but I am assuming general manager Les Snead will invest heavily in improving the offensive line (though the unit did play a lot better toward the end of the year). Thanks in part to the improved line play, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley looked very good down the stretch, and it’ll be interesting to see what the defense does in the coming weeks after parting ways with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. However, Los Angeles does play in an incredibly tough NFC West—it’ll be a battle to get back into the postseason.
6. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks should remain in the playoff mix again in 2020 as long as Russell Wilson remains healthy and under center (the Super Bowl winning quarterback has been in the postseason in seven of his eight NFL seasons), and Wilson’s presence helps give Seattle the upside to push deeper into the playoffs next season. The team has potent young players like D.K. Metcalf, and the Seahawks’ No. 1 priority should be re-signing Jadeveon Clowney to a long-term deal.
7. Buffalo Bills
One issue with the Bills for 2020 is the schedule looks tough on paper, but I am not factoring that in several months from the start of next season. The bottom line is Buffalo has a lot to be optimistic about with Sean McDermott as their head coach and Josh Allen as their quarterback. The playoff start for Allen will hopefully be something that helps him grow as a quarterback, and the third-year player will benefit if the Bills add a bigger target or two on offense.
8. Tennessee Titans
The Titans could be several spots lower than this in the power rankings, as they might not be able to keep up the crazy big-play efficiency from 2019—but with superstar level players in Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown on offense, Tennessee can still be one of the most explosive groups in football if Ryan Tannehill can keep it going. Henry is set to become a free agent unless he’s franchise tagged, and the Titans must obviously keep him in the mix (they will otherwise fall considerably in the next power rankings).
9. Minnesota Vikings
While the Vikings lose offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to the Browns, I don’t see it as that notable of a loss simply because Gary Kubiak is undoubtedly more than capable of commanding the offense at a high level—nothing against Stefanski, and it’ll hurt losing someone like him in the organization, but it’s arguably an upgrade to get a Super Bowl winning head coach to coordinate the offense. The Divisional Round did not go well for Minnesota, but Kirk Cousins might head into next season with more confidence than ever after getting an upset playoff win in the Superdome.
10. Green Bay Packers
After getting to one game within a Super Bowl appearance, the Packers could be much higher than No. 10 in the power rankings, but I’m just not sure about their upside against top competition at the moment. Look for Green Bay to add more complimentary pieces next to Davante Adams at receiver, but adding more beef on defense might be the most important goal this offseason—I don’t like how the defense was gashed on the ground when other teams committed to the run game.
11. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees’ status for next season is uncertain, so the Saints settle in just outside the top ten in these early power rankings. Aside from Michael Thomas talking trash on Twitter after the Vikings were eliminated, New Orleans seems to be handling things well despite a controversial non-call on a potential pass interference at the end of their playoff loss, which is a positive—but at some point, the team might take a step back after exerting so much energy on crushing playoff losses in the last few years.
12. Atlanta Falcons
There’s a chance the Falcons have a similar resurgence to the Saints under Sean Payton (three consecutive 7-9 records from 2014-2016), as owner Arthur Blank is remaining patient and giving Dan Quinn another year. The strong end to the 2019 campaign—including a win over the eventual NFC champion 49ers—probably made the decision a lot easier, and the early-season struggles might have been a positive learning experience for Quinn and Atlanta. With some injury luck, the Falcons have some pieces to make a championship run in 2020.
13. Las Vegas Raiders
It’s not at all shocking to hear the Raiders are set to make a run a Tom Brady, as I imagine Jon Gruden would be like “we have a chance to sign Tom Brady?” if Brady is actually available on the open market. Either way, the news (if true) does not bode well for Derek Carr, and it might be best for the team and quarterback to part ways at the franchise heads to Las Vegas. If not Brady, Marcus Mariota looks like an ideal target for the Raiders. After a fantastic first offseason under general manager Mike Mayock (despite losing Antonio Brown via the receiver’s theatrics), I’m expecting an encore as more talent is added to a promising team on the rise.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
I have the Eagles down at No. 14 in part because of pessimism surrounding the front office. Howie Roseman has struggled to hit on his draft choices, and the team has lost two personnel men (Joe Douglas and Andrew Berry) to GM jobs in the past year, so Roseman is set to do whatever he wants, which might not be a good thing for Philadelphia. Also, it seems the front office and ownership might have too much control over the coaching staff after Doug Pederson said two key offensive coaches would return in 2020 only for them to be fired a day later. With some key veterans potentially set to depart, a blank slate of sorts can be a benefit (as it was back in the 2015/2016 range), but there’s reason for concern.
15. Dallas Cowboys
It’s a toss-up between the Eagles and Cowboys right now in my opinion, but the two top teams in an unpredictable NFC East sit in the middle area of the power rankings. I think Mike McCarthy was an exceptional hire by Dallas, but the team must figure things out with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. It’s a bit puzzling a deal has not gotten done with Prescott yet, especially if Patrick Mahomes inks an extension this offseason and blows up the quarterback market.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
There was some thought to putting the Steelers a lot higher than this in the power rankings, as the electric defense can keep Pittsburgh competitive in every game, and a healthy Ben Roethlisberger would add another element on offense. At this stage in his career, Roethlisberger would likely be fine operating a run-heavy attack that plays to the defense, despite a ton of success in high-octane passing offenses in recent years. The Steelers could be scary in 2020.
17. Houston Texans
The Texans have won four of the past five AFC South titles, but the Titans look like a legitimate team that could be there to stay, while the Colts could be set for a bounce back year. Deshaun Watson showed his magic during the postseason, but Houston just feels like a team with a somewhat capped upside to me. I do think it is a positive that Bill O’Brien has control of his roster, though, as he’ll know what his team needs to add to take the next step.
18. Indianapolis Colts
We are now in the area of the power rankings with intriguing quarterback situations for the next four teams. The Colts were extremely high on Jacoby Brissett even before Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement last summer, so it was not all talk to instill confidence in the team’s new starter. But now, they definitely sound open to upgrading the position if possible, and Frank Reich should get a big say in who his guy is (perhaps Nick Foles if the Jaguars let him go).
19. Los Angeles Chargers
Everyone is connecting Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert to the Chargers at this point, but LA might ultimately need to make a jump into the top five to secure him before another team does. The end of the Philip Rivers era for the Chargers just feels weird (perhaps there will be statements honoring the longtime quarterback when he’s officially no longer on the team), but it probably is best for both sides to just move on. Both sides of the ball have plenty of talent to get back into the playoff mix next season.
20. Miami Dolphins
People could be way off, but there is plenty of smoke surrounding the Dolphins’ interest in Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and vice versa. The issue with this for Miami (unless they are pulling off one of the greatest smoke screens in draft history) is that they risk another team leaping ahead of them to select Tua. Regardless, the Dolphins have a promising future with Brian Flores as their head coach, but the franchise must hit on the draft capital they possess.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The funniest remark from any coach or player during the 2019 season might have come from Bruce Arians when asked if the team can win with another quarterback aside from Jameis Winston: “Oh yeah. If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one, too.” We’ll see, but it’s hard to believe Arians still thinks he can get the interceptions out of Winston after the former No. 1 pick threw 30. With a promising young defense under Todd Bowles, quarterback could make or break Tampa Bay’s championship aspirations.
22. Detroit Lions
Good for the Lions having patience with Matt Patricia, but the ultimatum puts a lot of pressure on the team in 2020. Because Detroit likely needs to make the playoffs for the current regime to keep their jobs, I’m not sure the speculation about a quarterback at No. 3 makes sense. Matthew Stafford was playing at a very high level before his season-ending back injury last year, and the Lions could be a sneaky team if the Packers and Vikings take a step back.
23. Chicago Bears
2019 did not go the way the Bears were anticipating, but they did battle to an 8-8 finish. Mitchell Trubisky has received a full endorsement as Chicago’s starting quarterback, but the Bears should have an opportunity to upgrade the backup quarterback situation with a former starter. And remember, Trubisky did not get much playing experience as a one-year starter at North Carolina; he still has the talent to take a leap next season. The defense has star players on every level of the field.
24. Denver Broncos
Drew Lock certainly has unteachable talent, but his success toward the end of the year as a rookie was a bit of a surprise, and it looks like Denver has someone to build the offense around moving forward. Pat Shurmur was a strong addition as the team’s offensive coordinator, but the Broncos must improve the offensive line to give Lock and a promising group of skill players a chance. Vic Fangio’s defense could move into elite territory in the second year of the system.
25. Arizona Cardinals
He had a very good rookie season, but it was a big surprise that Kyler Murray won Offensive Rookie of the Year over A.J. Brown and Josh Jacobs. Anyway, the honor is indicative of a bright future for Murray, who gained valuable experience as a 16-game starter in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. The Cardinals should try to retain running back Kenyan Drake after his stellar performance when he was acquired by Arizona, and the defense should get a boost during free agency and the draft.
26. New York Jets
The Jets had a 6-2 finish to the 2019 season, and it was sparked by high-energy play from Gregg Williams’ defense. New York can revamp its offense this offseason, with Le’Veon Bell’s situation up in the air and Robby Anderson set to hit free agency, but it’s good that Sam Darnold will get at least some consistency with another year in Adam Gase’s offense. My sense is that the Jets haven’t had much of a direction in recent years, so we’ll see how Joe Douglas fares in his first full season as the general manager.
27. Cleveland Browns
The Browns should now have a solid foundation of running the football with Nick Chubb to help put Baker Mayfield in favorable positions after hiring Kevin Stefanski as their head coach, and the parting of ways with John Dorsey should mean that Kareem Hunt (already arrested this offseason and lied to a police officer while trying to get out of it) will not be re-signed, which will be addition by subtraction with the way Hunt—despite his talent—behaves. There’s upside with Cleveland, but a major concern is the franchise going so heavy in the direction of analytics—we’ll see how it works out.
28. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are doing things the right way, and while it may not happen in 2020, it should be just a matter of when they become perennial contenders. Matt Rhule is being given time to lay the foundation for an organization built for the long haul, which is the right way to somehow try and come close to matching the success up in New England over the past couple of decades. Quarterback is of course the biggest question for the franchise, and former MVP Cam Newton’s status is a mystery at this point.
29. New York Giants
Joe Judge was a surprise hire for the Giants, but he sounds like someone that paid close attention before branching off from Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. While I think Pat Shurmur should have been given more time, the Giants look to be in good shape with Judge at the helm, and Judge can lean on former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as a young head coach. The Giants have the quarterback and players to be really good as early as 2020, but I think it’s fair to keep the team down here for now.
30. Washington Redskins
The Redskins are an interesting squad, as Ron Rivera is a very good coach that could make them an instant NFC East contender next season; but this might be a circumstance where some sizable changes make it more likely the team competes in 2021. These are very early power rankings, though, and Washington’s roster is not in a terrible spot on paper. The development of Dwayne Haskins this offseason is critical.
31. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have some serious talent on offense (assuming they re-sign A.J. Green), so the probable No. 1 pick quarterback—likely LSU’s Joe Burrow—will come into a good situation if the offensive line improves. Cincinnati was obviously not very good after a 1-15 season, but they fought hard all year. While Burrow is expected to be the pick at No. 1, the Bengals should strongly consider accepting a king’s ransom of draft picks for No. 1 if a team like the Dolphins offers it.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s tough to put a team all the way at the bottom of the power rankings this early before the season, but the Jaguars sealed the deal by announcing they will hold two home games in London next season. If the team isn’t very good next season, it could get really ugly with angry fans.