No League Goes From Top to Bottom Like the NFL, So Who Is Ready to Surge the Rankings in 2021?
With nine days left until kickoff, The Sportsletter team put our heads together to compile our preseason power rankings for the 2021 NFL season. Last year’s Super Bowl competitors top the list, but no league shifts from pretender to contender each season like the NFL. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may be the favorites to make their third straight Super Bowl appearance, but a new season means every team starts 0-0 in the win-loss column.
The Sportsletter’s NFL Power Rankings 1.0
1. Kansas City Chiefs
QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are back atop the list of most power rankings, but Kansas City still has challenges. They’ve patch-fixed the offensive line woes that plagued them in their Super Bowl LV loss, but the offensive weapons have all returned, including RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A now-44-year-old Tom Brady is ready for his 22nd season. His quest for an eighth Super Bowl begins with a Bucs roster that’s basically in run-it-back mode. And their younger core around Brady now has a taste of winning a championship. Expect Tampa Bay to start hotter than last season.
3. Buffalo Bills
QB Josh Allen is coming off his best season yet after finishing second in last year’s MVP race. He racked up 4,544 yards with 37 TDs and just 10 INTs en route to leading Buffalo to its first AFC Championship Game since 1993. They added defensive backs in the draft to bolster an already top-tier defense. If Allen improves again for the fourth straight year, the Bills can win it all.
4. Los Angeles Rams
There’s a new quarterback in Los Angeles whose been yearning for a playoff win since he entered the league. Matthew Stafford, who spent a decade in Detroit, is 0-3 in the playoffs throughout his career. Now that he has Sean McVay — a coach who led the Rams to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons — there’s hope in L.A. The Rams also added RB Sony Michel, and a defense with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey should have its sights set on the Super Bowl.
5. Green Bay Packers
The Aaron Rodgers farewell tour feels like a foregone conclusion in Green Bay, but that could mean a determined Rodgers plays his best football yet. The Packers didn’t make many offseason moves by way of the draft or free agency, but the reigning MVP has a unique chip on his shoulder. The Packers saga is one to watch.
6. Cleveland Browns
Fresh off the franchise’s first playoff win since 1994, Cleveland is finally entering a season with Super Bowl expectations. QB Baker Mayfield has resurrected the once-winless Browns, and WR Odell Beckham Jr. is returning from a knee injury. If the Browns can build off their momentum from last year’s 11-win season, we could see multiple playoff games hosted at FirstEnergy Stadium.
7. Tennessee Titans
Adding WR Julio Jones to the Titans offense with A.J. Brown should give QB Ryan Tannehill more big pass-catching weapons than any quarterback in the league. If RB Derrick Henry runs wild again, and Mike Vrabel’s stout defense plays as expected, Tennessee can capture the AFC South without a problem.
8. Seattle Seahawks
The early offseason storylines swirled around QB Russell Wilson wanting a trade, but a mood shift in Seattle got Wilson to stay for his 10th season in the pacific northwest. The ‘Hawks won it all in 2013, but it’s been seven straight winning seasons that’ve fallen short.
9. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore might’ve taken the worst blow of the preseason when they lost RB J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending knee injury over the weekend, but former MVP Lamar Jackson can make up for his absence. The Ravens have be boom or bust, but they’re still a top-10 contender to start 2021.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Did we all forget? Pittsburgh was 11-0 to start last season before an epic collapse down the stretch. They filled the hole at running back with Alabama ballcarrier Najee Harris. QB Ben Roethlisberger, now 39, has won two Super Bowls, but he might have one more deep run before the window closes.
11-20: 11. Dallas Cowboys, 12. Arizona Cardinals, 13. San Francisco 49ers, 14. Indianapolis Colts, 15. New England Patriots, 16. Miami Dolphins, 17. Los Angeles Chargers, 18. New Orleans Saints, 19. Las Vegas Raiders, 20. Washington Football Team
21-32: 21. Minnesota Vikings, 22. New York Giants, 23. Chicago Bears, 24. Philadelphia Eagles, 25. Carolina Panthers, 26. Atlanta Falcons, 27. Denver Broncos, 28. Jacksonville Jaguars, 29. Cincinnati Bengals, 30. Detroit Lions, 31. New York Jets, 32. Houston Texans
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NFL.com: Projecting Win Share Leaders on Offense & Defense in 2021
The Ringer: Nature or Nurture: What’s More Important in Quarterback Development?
USA Today: NFL Preseason Winners & Losers: Who Helped Themselves in Final Tune-Ups?
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