By Reece Mowlem
With the NFL regular season just hours away, I've decided to release my first Power Rankings list of 2019. All NFL teams are ranked from 1-32 based on how good I believe they will be this season, and therefore how likely they are to win Super Bowl LIV (in my opinion). There might be a few surprises and these rankings will undoubtedly change throughout the year, but this list reflects how I see it right now entering the first week of the NFL season. Where is your team on the list?
1. New England Patriots
As long as the combination of Belichick and Brady still resides in New England, I will always have the Patriots tipped for the Super Bowl. Even if TB12 does drop off slightly in 2019, the Pats have almost become a defence first team over the past 12 months, perpetually evolving to keep themselves top of the pile.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
From top to bottom, the Eagles might just have the best roster in the entire NFL, and they're strongest in the places it counts most: offensive line and defensive line. Pro Football Focus also graded the pass catchers of Philly as the top unit in the league. If Carson Wentz can play anything close to the MVP level we know he's capable of, Philadelphia could be a real handful this season.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
There's bound to be some degree of a regression, but I see no reason why Mahomes and the Chiefs offence can't be the league's most unstoppable force once again. This piles a lot of pressure onto the KC defence, a group that needs to step up and at least be average, which could be tough after losing a few pieces in the offseason. But if they can do that, Kansas City should be well in the mix come January.
4. New Orleans Saints
I'm not going to pretend that Drew Brees' subpar playoff performances didn't happen, however I do believe how he played for the majority of the 2018 season is a more accurate representation of how he'll play this season. Around the veteran is an offence stacked with talent and maybe the best pair of tackles in the NFL. Add to that a top twelve defence and you've got a serious NFC contender.
5. Los Angeles Rams
Despite having them at five, I do see a path which ends with the Rams missing the playoffs in 2019. That being said, I've put them near the top of the rankings and that's largely down to the fact that I expect the Sean McVay offence to be as potent as always. Also, having the unquestioned best player in the league as the leader of your defence is certainly a massive advantage.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
With AB out of the building, hopefully the drama will have left with him, allowing the Steelers to just focus on football. Brown's abilities will of course be missed, but I don't expect to see too much of a drop off in Pittsburgh's offensive production, and on defence the depth chart is looking like the best group gathered in Heinz Field for a few years. I'm predicting a black and yellow bounce back this season.
7. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons were my Super Bowl pick last year and it's fair to say it didn't quite go the way I hoped. A combination of key injuries, poor offensive scheming and a lack of pass rush led to Atlanta missing out on the playoffs altogether. But with the roster fully healthy and some fresh faces on the coaching staff, I'm once again willing to put my faith in Matt Ryan and his teammates to have a strong season.
8. Cleveland Browns
If the Browns had a top ten offensive line right now I'd probably have contemplated giving them a spot closer to the summit of this list. Sadly for the fans in Cleveland, the O-line is looking as leaky as a brand new sieve. They have immense talent on both sides of the ball and one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league, but I feel the lack of protection up front will prevent this roster from achieving its Super Bowl aspirations.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
I've been a big fan of the Chargers for a number of years now, due largely down to my enjoyment of watching Phillip Rivers go to work. But this season I have a fear that we may start to see a decline from the vet, a sad sight to see for the majority football fans. The defence could end up carrying this team, especially if Derwin James gets back on the field by December, but I think the Super Bowl might be a step too far once again.
10. Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins' first year in Minnesota didn't look too great on the surface, but he actually had career high figures in a large portion of statical categories in 2018. With Dalvin Cook fully healthy, an improved offensive line and a defence set to bounce back, I have the Vikings tipped to win the NFC North, one of the NFL's most competitive divisions.
11. Green Bay Packers
In my opinion, the range of outcomes for the 2019 Packers is huge and it mainly hinges on the relationship between Aaron Rodgers and rookie head coach Matt LeFleur. If they gel and A-Rod returns to his best, the Green Bay offence could be one of the league's most prolific units. However if the marriage doesn't work, we could see a lot of early pressure on the McVay disciple to deliver, or else the organisation may want to move on fast.
12. Dallas Cowboys
The reason the Cowboys are a fringe playoff team in my eyes has nothing to do with Zeke, Dak or even the offence, it comes down to the fact that I love the young core of the Dallas D. With Lawrence bringing pressure, Vander Esch racking up tackles and Jones shutting down receivers, the 'boys have an elite piece at each level. I can't see them beating out Philly for the division crown, but they'll be in the mix for a wildcard spot in a crowded NFC.
13. Seattle Seahawks
When I sit and look at the Seahawks depth chart I don't really like what I see, but after last season I'm not going to question the coaching powers of Pete Carroll again. Despite a deficiency of high-end defensive talent, Seattle always manage to create a production on defence, and as long as Russell Wilson is running the offence, they have the potential to win any game they're a part of.
14. Chicago Bears
Many experts have the Bears tipped to return to the playoffs, but I just see too many parallels to the Jaguars of 2018 to do the same. The way I see it, the likelihood of the defence repeating it's dominance again this year is low without Vic Fangio and I have no faith in Trubisky getting the job done on the other side of the ball. Matt Nagy is a great coach and Chicago will certainly be competitive, but I don't see them as a shoe-in for January football.
15. Tennessee Titans
I seem to be the only human outside of Nashville with this view, but I think the Titans are going to win the AFC South. I personally don't see a weakness at any position group in Tennessee, and that includes the quarterbacks. Although Mariota has struggled in recent times, he's taken a worse roster than this to the playoffs before, and so has backup QB Ryan Tannehill. They may not be sexy, but I expect Vrabel and company to get the job done.
16. Carolina Panthers
If Cam is healthy, the Panthers offence should be dynamic with McCaffrey, Moore and Samuel all looking set for great seasons. Then defensively, this team has more than enough talent to be a top half of the league unit with the coaching of Ron Rivera. The NFC South is a tough division to get out of, but Carolina have playoff potential in 2019. Do I think they'll make it? Probably not, but they've got a good shot.
17. New York Jets
I never thought I'd be saying this 6 months ago, but I actually quite like the Jets. Darnold has all the tools to take a big step forward in his sophomore year, and with Le'Veon Bell in the backfield, the green side of New York now has a star to cheer for on a Sunday (or a Thursday or a Monday or even a Saturday). Adam Gase took a Dolphins team much worse than this to the playoffs in 2016, I could see him doing similar this season.
18. Baltimore Ravens
I'm sorry Ravens fans but I don't see the Lamar Jackson experiment ending the way you hope it will. The Chargers showed the NFL how to stop the young dual threat quarterback in the playoffs last year and I expect teams to catch on quick. The defence will keep this team in the mix, but I don't see Baltimore as a playoff team this season.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
I think it's fair to say that Nick Foles has a lot of pressure on his shoulders entering 2019, especially with Luck out of the division. I fully expect the Jags defence to elevate their play after a disappointing campaign last year, so a lot lies on whether or not the new QB in town can get the job done on offence. He hasn't got the supporting cast around him that he did in Philadelphia, but with John DeFilippo as his coordinator, he has every chance to succeed in Jacksonville.
20. Denver Broncos
If I had to choose a sleeper team to make the playoffs this year then I'd probably go for the Broncos. With Vangio at the helm I envision the Denver defence becoming one of the moist feared units in the league, much like they were when they won Super Bowl 50. On offence, the line is improved, the weapons are young and exciting, and I believe Joe Flacco has one more good season left in his right arm.
21. San Francisco 49ers
The football world is still waiting to see what the combination of Shanahan and Garoppolo can do when firing on all cylinders, but hopefully we'll find out this year. As much as this team excites me, I think they're a year or two away from being playoff contenders, let alone in the mix for a Super Bowl. That being said, I do expect the pass rush pairing of Ford and Bosa to give opposing tackles nightmares all season long.
22. Houston Texans
If you listen from 9:01 to 11:30 of episode 101 of the First Down Podcast you'll get a very detailed insight into what I think of the Texans organisation and Bill O'Brien. But in short, this team has too many holes to make a real playoff push, especially with one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this season. The AFC South may be there for the taking, but I don't see it ending up in Houston.
23. Indianapolis Colts
Even with Luck leading the team I wasn't massively high on the 2019 Colts, so now that the Stanford grad has called it a career I have even less faith in Frank Reich's team. My main concern is the defence, a unit that completely out produced it's talent last year and I predict a regression this season. I do expect Reich to get better play out of Brissett than when he started for Indy in 2017, but I can't see it being enough to be competitive.
24. Buffalo Bills
Just like has been the case ever since he arrived in Buffalo, I have high hopes for Sean McDermott's defence up in western New York. My big questions for the Bills are all on the offensive side of the ball. Will the offensive line be better with a bunch of new starters? Can Devin Singletary be a workhorse back? Will the new weapons gel with Josh Allen? Can Josh Allen be accurate? We'll have to wait and see.
25. Cincinnati Bengals
After week five of the 2018 NFL season I declared that the Cincinnati Bengals would win the AFC North. That didn't quite go to plan. Moving forward, with Zac Taylor replacing the immortal Marvin Lewis as the head coach I see a promising future for the franchise. However with the offensive line injuries and lack of defensive bite, I don't see the Bengals as a contender just yet.
26. Detroit Lions
And to think I used to quite enjoy watching Stafford and the Lions. Since the appointment of Matt Patricia as head coach, Detroit have decided to commit to running the ball and playing tough defence. As of yet, neither have panned out. 2019 could be the year we see this team take a step up, but I'm expecting more of a 6-10 season than a 10-6 season.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Can Bruce Arians come in and save Jameis Winston's career? Not with the Bucs current offensive line he can't. The combination of a complete lack of protection on offence and a vastly inexperienced secondary on defence, I can't see how Tampa Bay can be successful this year. As a fan of the man in the Kangol I hope I'm wrong, but I think I'm going to be right (surprisingly).
28. New York Giants
As impressive as Daniel Jones has looked in the preseason I'm going to keep my expectations reasonably low, especially after I was tricked by DeShone Kizer's August performances only a few years ago. Whether the Giants roll with Eli or throw in the rookie, the entirety of the roster in New York is deficient of top tier talent. If the G-Men make it it to .500 I'd consider that a success.
29. Oakland Raiders
The "Hard Knocks Effect" really hasn't worked on me with this year's Raiders team. I find Jon Gruden cliché-filled and patronising, Mike Mayock seems out of his depth, and Antonio Brown appears to be more of a hindrance than a help. On top of that, the defence is mediocre at best and the offensive line still looks to be an issue despite the amount of money that's been thrown at it. Oakland will have a top five pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, mark my words.
30. Washington Redskins
The Redskins surprised me last year with Alex Smith under centre, but with either Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins at the reins I doubt we'll see the same results. Even if one of the two QB's does step up, the weapons in Washington might just be the worst in the league. They'll most likely be solid defensively, but average offence might spell the end for Jay Gruden's time in the capital.
31. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona are going to be fun to watch in 2019. The thought of Kyler Murray throwing darts in Kliff Kingsbury's innovative air-raid system is a mouth-watering prospect. That being said, I can't see them winning too many football games. Although exciting, I expect the Cardinals offence to be inefficient and the defence may just be the worst in the NFL. As I see it, this franchise is boom or bust right now, and as much as I like Murray, I'm leaning towards the latter.
32. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are in full tank mode. See you at the 2021 NFL Draft.
Mowlem is a sports writer from Reading, United Kingdom. All articles are written by Reece Mowlem (unless stated otherwise).