How did the events of training camp and preseason games affect the NFL Power Rankings going into Week 1 of the 2017 season? More than you might think, as there is greater buzz for some teams and much less optimism for others.
The Patriots still hold their ground as the easy No. 1 in the rankings, but there are a few teams that could close the gap on the defending Super Bowl champs.
Here’s a look at Sporting News’ latest NFL Power Rankings before Week 1 kicks off.
NFL Power Rankings 2017
1. New England Patriots (previous rank: 1)
Even after losing Julian Edelman, Tom Brady is loaded with enough weapons to think he’ll build on that Super Bowl comeback with a magical age-40 season. The Patriots defense isn’t as close to perfect, but it packs plenty of playmaking punch.
2. Seattle Seahawks (2)
The Seahawks have a strong floor because of a defense that can still bring the boom for perhaps one more run, but they are up here because of the high upside a healthy Russell Wilson offers, even with issues around him.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (4)
The Steelers offense is set to explode again with a rested and healthy Le’Veon Bell and a reinstated and revved-up Martavis Bryant. The defense still has its holes in the secondary, but the front seven will serve them well.
4. Oakland Raiders (5)
Derek Carr got paid, and now he’s looking to get to the next level of quarterbacking. This will still be an offensive-heavy effort for the Raiders because Carr still has a lot more help than DE Khalil Mack.
5. Atlanta Falcons (6)
Enough with the Super Bowl blown-lead jokes. The Falcons have the reigning league MVP in Matt Ryan, and brand-spanking-new fancy digs in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As their offense buzzes along without Kyle Shanahan, their young defense will respond better for Dan Quinn.
6. Green Bay Packers (7)
The Packers’ success still rides heavily on Aaron Rodgers, which is totally fine because he’s about to pick up where he left off in ’17 with another elite season. However, playoff success is a question mark given their defensive issues.
7. Dallas Cowboys (3)
Dak Prescott isn’t the concern here. He’ll lock into a strong sophomore season with or without Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys defense, however, looks a lot messier than last season’s surprise.
8. New York Giants (9)
Eli Manning, the offensive line and the running game are the Giants’ concerns here. It’s a good thing the reworked defense can remain dominant at times.
9. Denver Broncos (10)
The latest coaching change should have a positive effect on the Broncos’ top returning defenders, thanks to Vance Joseph. Offensively, Trevor Siemian and their running game will be better than you think.
10. Tennessee Titans (11)
That new Nashville sound is plenty of noise about the Titans being this year’s gigantic breakout team. That’s totally true offensively with Marcus Mariota and that steady running game, but they’ll need some of their defensive improvements to pay off.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (12)
The sneaky byproduct of drafting Patrick Mahomes has been a more driven Alex Smith. The Chiefs offense is in good hands with him, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. There will be more holes than you think in their defense, however.
12. Detroit Lions (8)
The Lions have the familiar Jim Caldwell makeup for them, as Matthew Stafford earned his latest big money by reinventing himself into a more efficient QB. The defense is plagued by the same problems even with different personnel, especially against the pass.
13. Baltimore Ravens (14)
The Ravens will get Joe Flacco back from his back injury, while the defense remains a pretty good backbone to put them into contention. John Harbaugh will coach well up to his latest extension.
14. Carolina Panthers (15)
A healthy Cam Newton and an exciting Christian McCaffrey gives the Panthers offense hope for a big rebound. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis still lead a dangerous defense overall.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16)
“Hard Knocks” created some more uptick for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers’ improved arsenal. Here’s hoping Mike Smith will get the defense to play up to its talent, especially with T.J. Ward now cleaning up.
16. Houston Texans (13)
J.J. Watt will pour on the defensive prowess, but from quarterback to the line, the Texans have considerable offensive limitations.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (18)
Anthony Lynn will try to run heavily to take pressure off Philip Rivers and the Chargers receiving corps because that will be a much better complement to a high-upside defense powered by Joey Bosa. That makes the new L.A. team a sleeper, even in the tough AFC West.
18. Arizona Cardinals (17)
The Cardinals are a hard team to read. The triplets of Carson Palmer, David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald inspire plenty of offensive confidence, but the defense is peppered with weaknesses that can hold them back in the NFC.
19. Minnesota Vikings (19)
The Vikings offense has a pretty low ceiling because of the line woes. The defense is stacked at every level with good depth, but that’s not enough to trump the passing-proficient Packers and Lions in their division.
20. Miami Dolphins (20)
The Dolphins are really not a different team with Jay Cutler vs. Ryan Tannehill, and might even be better. With a tougher schedule and more defensive issues, however, sneaking a wild-card berth is a lot more difficult.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (23)
Carson Wentz looks like the real deal with his new weapons, and the Eagles defense is legitimately stacked now that some of the secondary issues have been addressed. They are NFC sleepers.
22. New Orleans Saints (22)
Drew Brees goes marching on with a great post-Brandin Cooks passing game and an Adrian Peterson-infused running game. But man, the historically bad defense is still awful.
23. Cincinnati Bengals (25)
The Bengals have bungled away much of the good opportunity they had during their playoff window. Now they are caught with major holes on both lines, which spells doom in the AFC North.
24. Washington Redskins (27)
Kirk Cousins will likely chuck for big yardage in meaningless situations, but the combined running game and defensive concerns put the Redskins into a distant fourth in the NFC East.
25. Los Angeles Rams (28)
Sean McVay brings some much-needed hope for Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, especially with legitimate receiving options. But Aaron Donald sitting out early for Wade Phillips gets the new-look defense off on the wrong foot.
26. Indianapolis Colts (21)
There’s no Andrew Luck and his hurting shoulder early for the Colts. There might be no defense all season.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (26)
The Jaguars have found some riches defensively, but Blake Bortles could stall the offense even after drafting Leonard Fournette.
28. Cleveland Browns (29)
The Browns are giving off good vibes with Myles Garrett, DeShone Kizer, David Njoku and Jabrill Peppers, their latest and strongest draft haul. Just wait until ’18.
29. San Francisco 49ers (30)
The 49ers are giving off good vibes with Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster as the defensive foundation and Kyle Shanahan setting up a good makeshift offense. Just wait until ’18.
30. Chicago Bears (31)
There are a few more things to like about the Bears’ defense and running game, but there is absolutely nothing to like about Mike Glennon starting at QB with a limited receiving corps.
31. Buffalo Bills (24)
The Bills have dropped with their rash of late housecleaning. It’s clearly a slash-and-burn job in Buffalo to finally get out of a rut of mediocrity.
32. New York Jets (32)
The Jets’ offensive talent void is pretty shocking, and the defense has been gutted as well. They can start dreaming about drafting Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen now.