Buckle up for an eventful NFL offseason. The final power rankings from the 2020 NFL season, led by the world champion Buccaneers, include some thoughts on the weeks to come for each team around the league.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15-5)
The Buccaneers were my preseason pick to win Super Bowl LV, but it’s still surreal to see Tom Brady lift another Lombardi in his first season with a new franchise, switching conferences and adjusting to his new surroundings amid a global pandemic. Tampa Bay is an extremely talented team, and Brady, who also brought more players in the mix including Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, took them to new heights. After the job Todd Bowles and his defense did against the Chiefs, the Bucs should be the clear favorites to repeat next season in my opinion.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (16-3)
The worst game of the season for the Chiefs obviously came at a bad time, but the Bucs deserve a ton of credit for making that the case. Those criticizing the play of Patrick Mahomes are being deemed “haters”, but I disagree with that—I’ll keep it real: many of the same people blaming the media darling Mahomes’ play almost entirely on his teammates also hammered Josh Allen for his AFC title game performance, which was better than Mahomes played in the Super Bowl. Also, keeping it honest, Mahomes—despite winning the game’s MVP (which undoubtedly should have gone to Damien Williams)—did not play well in his first Super Bowl either. All this is to say that Mahomes is an awesome player, but the media should take the praise for him down just a notch.
3. Buffalo Bills (15-4)
A lot can change in a year, but I think the Bills may have the best shot to topple the Buccaneers next season—though they have to be No. 3 in the power rankings behind a Chiefs team that’s been to two consecutive Super Bowls. Look for Buffalo to improve the pass rush and rushing attack this offseason.
4. Green Bay Packers (14-4)
Aaron Rodgers made some waves to kick off the Packers’ offseason, but Green Bay has made it clear that there’s no chance the reigning league MVP won’t be playing for them in 2021. We’ll see if Rodgers gets more input on decisions after he was disappointed by the team selecting a quarterback in the first round last spring.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5)
From the first snap, the Steelers were not themselves in their playoff loss to the Browns. However, they are in the top five of the final power rankings after an 11-0 start. The defense should get edge rusher Bud Dupree and linebacker Devin Bush back, and the group can be a top-notch unit. Also, Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return and take less money, potentially helping strengthen the team around him.
6. Los Angeles Rams (10-8)
It felt like the Rams weren’t happy with former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, but their trade with the Lions was absolutely mind-blowing. Giving up Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick for Matthew Stafford is a ton, and people around the league were pretty shocked by the deal. But Sean McVay is very high on Stafford, and LA is going all in for a title—the Rams haven’t had a first-round pick since taking Goff in 2016.
7. Seattle Seahawks (12-5)
Russell Wilson made some noise with some interviews yesterday, and the longtime Seahawks quarterback wants a) some control on roster decisions, and b) improvement on the offensive line. Seattle has gotten away with not aggressively upgrading the offensive line because Wilson is a magician back there, but Wilson himself does sometimes hold the ball for too long and take unnecessary sacks. Nevertheless, there might be another offseason of rumors regarding Wilson’s future, but that seems to happen every year with him, and I don’t anticipate he’ll be going anywhere.
8. New Orleans Saints (13-5)
Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees is expected to make his retirement official in the next week or two, and it shouldn’t be discounted the impact Brees leaving could have on the franchise. However, Taysom Hill showed clear progress during his stretch of starts this season, and the team is high on Jameis Winston. I would put All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas on the trade block this offseason if I were New Orleans.
9. Baltimore Ravens (12-6)
The Ravens took another step forward and got over the playoff hump with a win over the Titans, but they still need to figure things out offensively in the postseason, particularly through the air. As things stand, Baltimore probably needs to run wild and jump ahead on January opponenets to make a title run, but the team might look to add a big weapon on the outside during free agency—the available wide receivers should be a strong and deep group.
10. Cleveland Browns (12-6)
It’s easy to be optimistic about the Browns because they have one of the top offensive lines in football, which makes things easier for the offense and the entire team. There’s already been talk about how Cleveland should go after Deshaun Watson, but I don’t see that happening—and the loyalty the team shows to Baker Mayfield, who will want to prove them right and those calling for a change wrong, might pay off next season.
11. Tennessee Titans (11-6)
The Titans can beat anyone when Derrick Henry is rolling, but they’ll obviously be in better shape if Mike Vrabel can get the defense to play closer to like a top unit moving forward. Star receiver A.J. Brown recently revealed he was told his season would be done due to knee issues after the season opener, but he had another superb year and could take the next step into elite of the elite status at full health in 2021.
12. Indianapolis Colts (11-6)
With Philip Rivers’ retirement, quarterback is the big question for the Colts, who have been linked to Carson Wentz. General manager Chris Ballard wants someone “dynamic”, and it sounds to me like he’d like to trade up for BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, so that might make him hesitant to give up assets for another quarterback via a trade. The Colts are one of the most intriguing teams to watch this offseason.
13. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
It didn’t lead to a postseason berth, but the Dolphins continue to get better under head coach Brian Flores, and now it’ll be on the offense led by Tua Tagovailoa to take the next step forward in 2021. With two first-round picks including the No. 3 overall selection via the Texans, Miami has a lot of flexibility to move around the draft board as they continue building the roster.
14. Washington Football Team (7-10)
Washington re-signed Taylor Heinicke, who was extremely impressive in the playoff loss to the eventual champion Buccaneers—the Football Team played Tampa Bay better than anyone in the playoffs, which may be an indication of the step Ron Rivera’s team could take next season. Alex Smith’s future might be the determining factor on whether Washington gets aggressive in the quarterback market.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)
The Raiders are also a potential player in the quarterback carousel this offseason, but they are in a more comfortable spot than most teams with two valuable guys that could probably command premium draft compensation in return. I would trade Derek Carr and go with Marcus Mariota (definitely nothing against Carr, but if you’ve followed along here you know I am extremely high on Mariota, and the Raiders can probably get a ton in return for Carr), saving salary cap space to add more to the defense which needs help; but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Vegas just opts to keep both players to ensure the offense won’t take a step back if the starter gets hurt.
16. New England Patriots (7-9)
The Patriots have recently been linked to Mariota, and I was very surprised they apparently didn’t go hard after him last offseason. After watching Tom Brady go to the Bucs and immediately win a Super Bowl, the quarterback position is undoubtedly the big question for New England this offseason. If the Niners move on from Jimmy Garoppolo, a reunion could be in order.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
The Chargers have their quarterback in stud Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert, and it’s good to hear new head coach Brandon Staley wants to tailor the offense to Herbert’s skillset. Also, Herbert plans to reach out to Drew Brees and others to get thoughts on new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s offense. Los Angeles needs to stay healthy leading up to next season.
18. Chicago Bears (8-8)
There might not be a bigger mystery at quarterback than in Chicago, as it’s difficult to pinpoint what direction they want to go at the position. General manager Ryan Pace liked Marcus Mariota coming out of Oregon, but he didn’t go after him when he was a free agent last offseason. There have been big Carson Wentz rumors, and I could see them targeting someone like Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo if available. The other main priorities for the Bears should be building up the offensive line and trying to keep Allen Robinson.
19. New York Giants (6-10)
I believe the main priority for the Giants—and it’s been an issue for quite some time—is to add a big playmaker on the outside at receiver. Overall, the roster is promising, and general manager Dave Gettleman should find that potential top target via free agency or the draft. The edge rush is also a point of weakness for New York entering the offseason.
20. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
The Cowboys will get a big boost for 2021 with Dak Prescott returning to the lineup alone, as Dallas will likely franchise tag again him to ensure he doesn’t anywhere even if the two sides still cannot come to agreement on a long-term deal. Dan Quinn was a key acquisition at defensive coordinator for the Cowboys, and there’s definite upside for Jerry Jones’ team next year.
21. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
This might be too low for the 49ers, who dealt with a ton of injuries including to Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, and George Kittle in 2020. But was their NFC title run a couple of seasons ago just a one-off scenario? They’ve been below .500 in each of the three others seasons under Kyle Shanahan, and the NFC West is very tough. San Francisco has won when Jimmy G has been under center, though, so he must stay healthy assuming he remains the team’s starter.
22. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Despite nearly making the playoffs at 8-8, the Cardinals are down at No. 22 in the power rankings entering the offseason. I like where the defense was at, but the franchise might part ways with All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson ahead of next season. Also, defenses appeared to catch up a bit to Kyler Murray in the second half of the year after the dynamic quarterback killed defenses with his legs for much of the season, so that’s a concern heading into his third NFL campaign.
23. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
The defense had some bad moments (like the six-touchdown performance by Alvin Kamara against them), but Mike Zimmer did well to get the Vikings to 7-9 as the team re-tooled a bit. Hopefully closer to a full offseason will help Zimmer get his defense playing up to his standards in 2021; getting star defensive end Danielle Hunter back in the mix would certainly help.
24. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
The future is bright with the Panthers, and Matt Rhule is unsurprisingly playing to win and win big—while still building his program the right way—after aggressively targeting Matthew Stafford via a trade. The Panthers know quarterback is the most important position in football, and getting superb play from that spot could make Carolina quick contenders under Rhule.
25. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
The Falcons are low in the power rankings after a very disappointing 4-12 campaign, but I’m optimistic that they can get back into the postseason mix next season. New head coach Arthur Smith’s willingness to run the ball and utilize play-action plays right to the strengths of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley. The lack of a rushing attack is part of what’s held Atlanta back in recent years.
26. Denver Broncos (5-11)
The Broncos are a major wild card this offseason when it comes to the quarterback carousel, as they can give Drew Lock another season, target someone high in the draft, or go after a veteran (Deshaun Watson has even been speculated). Vic Fangio’s defense could use Von Miller, who is dealing with off-field issues entering the offseason.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)
Hopefully Joe Burrow is 100% and ready to go for Week 1 next season, but more importantly let’s hope he and the Bengals don’t rush back until he’s unmistakably at full strength—we’ve seen young quarterbacks that have probably rushed back too soon from knee injuries in the past. The Bengals played well down the stretch in 2020, but a bigger step forward is now expected.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)
It’s ugly in Philadelphia, and everyone except team owner Jeffrey Lurie seems to know the problem is Howie Roseman. I don’t get it. From firing Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson to the handling of the quarterback situation, it’s been a bad offseason for the Eagles just three years removed from a championship.
29. Detroit Lions (5-11)
The Lions are in a similar spot to the Eagles in that they are near the bottom of the standings, but there’s actually major hope and a nice plan in place. Detroit has an identity already under new head coach Dan Campbell—they are going to try to be the tougher team every single week. The new regime for the Lions arguably already fleeced the Rams in the Matthew Stafford trade, and the team wanted Jared Goff in the deal while also stealing two first-round picks from the Rams. I’m bullish on the Lions for maybe the first time ever.
30. New York Jets (2-14)
The Jets are very high on their head coaching hire Robert Saleh, and they have some pieces to quickly become a factor in the AFC East. New York holds some serious sway near the top of the draft, as they have the No. 2 pick to potentially deal for a haul (or they can trade Sam Darnold if they love another quarterback prospect). The Jets are one of the teams I’m most interested in right now.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)
The Jaguars were able to get their top target in Urban Meyer at head coach, and they’re set to get everyone’s top target at quarterback in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It feels like a bit of an odd partnership to me, but Meyer has surrounded himself with a coaching staff that’ll help his transition from the college game to the NFL. It’ll be a challenge, but Meyer has a good idea of what he’s looking for in his players as he builds in Jacksonville.
32. Houston Texans (4-12)
I would not trade Deshaun Watson, as it sets a bad message that the Texans are a team that will allow their players to force their way out of the building. If Watson wants to sit out rather than play in Houston, so be it—he’ll be leaving a ton of money on the table. This stance, which appears to be the one the Texans are taking, also creates leverage in any potential trade. Still, Houston is in a bad spot, and I feel for new general manager Nick Caserio, who probably didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he took the job.