2020 NFL Power Rankings Post Draft
The NFL oddsmakers have their own version of NFL power rankings: futures odds. Yesterday I took a look at the teams that have seen the biggest movements in their futures odds, both positively and negatively, as a result of free agency and the draft. Those movements give bettors an idea about the direction in which public opinion is trending regarding certain teams. But today I wanted to try to organize the entire league based on how I see their prospects heading into the summer.
Next week the NFL will release the 2020 schedule. That seems innocuous, but the schedule is actually a big factor for how I handicap teams for the upcoming season. There are also still some free agents to be signed. And after that, the inevitable summer and preseason injuries could again shift the odds.
But below is a snapshot of my NFL Power Rankings as things sit in May. In parentheses I put where the sportsbooks currently have the teams ranked, according to their current odds to win the Super Bowl, so that you can see where my rankings may differ from those of the sportsbooks.
(This is a little bit of a cheat because Super Bowl odds aren’t an overt ranking by the sportsbooks. Those odds are also shaped based on the likelihood of bets on teams to win the Super Bowl, so some odds are shaded in favor of popular teams. But it still gives a relative comparison between my rankings and what the sportsbooks currently have posted.)
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (1) – You’ve gotta beat the champs to be the champs. Patrick Mahomes is set up to dominate the AFC over the next two decades the same way that guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have so far this century. I am still worried about Kansas City’s defense, and they could use some upgrades on that side of the ball. It didn’t stop them last year, though, and we’ll see if they can compensate for it again this year.
2. Baltimore Ravens (2) – Led by MVP Lamar Jackson, last year’s Ravens team simply overwhelmed opponents with its throwback brand of football. I loved it then, and I love it now. I have always said that football is a physical, violent sport, and the team that is more physical and more violent is going to win more than they lose. That is the Ravens to a “T”, and they are still Kansas City’s biggest threat in the AFC.
3. New Orleans Saints (5) – After three straight years as one of the best teams in the NFC, the Saints have endured nothing but heartbreak in the postseason. They still have one of the best top-to-bottom rosters in the NFL, though, and they have no true weakness on either side of the ball. This feels like a last hurrah for them this season.
4. San Francisco 49ers (3) – The 49ers came up short in the Super Bowl. And championship game runners up have generally not fared well in the following season. I can see San Francisco taking a small step back from 13 wins. But there is nothing not to love on either side of the ball, and they have a clear identity as one of the biggest, strongest, most physical teams in the league.
5. Seattle Seahawks (7) – All Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson do is win. The Seahawks have posted eight straight winning seasons, and they have won 10 or more games in seven of those eight campaigns. Seattle’s roster has a great blend of youth and experience. And with Wilson at the controls, they will always be in playoff contention.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4) – I don’t know if this is an overreaction to Tom Brady’s move to Tampa. I actually don’t love Brady as a fit in Bruce Arians’ offense because it is going to force Brady to take more hits. That said, the Bucs showed a lot of improvement last year and would’ve had a winning record if not for the incompetence of Jameis Winston. The defense is improving. And if the Bucs can find a running game, they’ll be in business.
7. Indianapolis Colts (13) – I really like what the Colts have done this offseason, and I think that they are poised to take over the AFC South. I think that Philip Rivers was an excellent addition for the short term, and he instantly makes this team a viable threat in the conference. Mix in their other moves in free agency and the draft, and the Colts look like a team with no clear weakness. I think Frank Reich is one of the best coaches in the league, and I’ll be surprised if this team doesn’t win 10 or more games this year.
8. Green Bay Packers (12) – The Packers were massive overachievers last season, and I think that they are primed for a letdown this season. Especially if they get hit with a tough schedule. They still have Aaron Rodgers, though. And that gives them a chance.
9. Buffalo Bills (10) – Buffalo may not have been as good as its record suggested last year as they played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. However, they have had a fantastic offseason, and I think they are ready to truly challenge the Patriots for control of the East. They have one of the best defenses in football and a rock-solid offensive configuration. If Josh Allen can take the next step, this is definitely one of the best teams in the AFC.
10. Tennessee Titans (18) – I give the Titans credit. They know who they are. They have a clear identity as a physical, banging, grinding team, and they have built their roster accordingly. I don’t know if Derrick Henry can carry this team the way he did last year when he rumbled for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns. If he does, then I can see the Titans making it five straight winning years. If not, this team’s margin for error is slim and they could backslide severely.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (8) – Mark this down: I think that Ben Roethlisberger is going to stink this year. He’s going to be 38 years old and coming off a major injury. And Big Ben was never the picture of physical health even in his prime. Even if he is shaky this year, though, he’s still going to be better than the dumpster fire quarterback play that the Steelers got last year.
12. New England Patriots (6) – I’m not in a hurry to bet against Bill Belichick. He has actually gone 13-6 without Tom Brady, going 10-5 without him in 2008 and 3-1 without him in 2016. New England has one of the oldest rosters in the league and has issues all over its offensive two-deep. However, Belichick is a savant, and he will keep this team from going off a cliff.
13. Minnesota Vikings (14) – The Vikings clearly lost more than they’ve gained this offseason. The foundation of this squad is still very solid, and its identity is intact. They have traded depth for high-end talent, and they are still outstanding in the trenches. But I feel like this team missed its window, and I don’t think that they are nearly as good today as they were a year ago.
14. Los Angeles Chargers (19) – This team was much better than its 5-11 record suggested last season. And they still have one of the most talented rosters in the AFC. The key is going to be new quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who I think is more than capable of leading a winning team. The Chargers were No. 31 in the league in turnover differential last year. If Taylor helps them clean that up, then I expect a jump in the standings.
15. Chicago Bears (20) – Last year’s regression was predictable for Chicago. Now it’s time to see if 2018 was just a fluke or if the Bears are capable of competing with the top tier of the NFC. Chicago has boasted a Top 10 defense for three years running and has won despite its offense. I think that could turn around if Nick Foles is healthy and beats out Mitch Trubisky for the starting quarterback job.
16. Los Angeles Rams (21) – The Rams have been in salary cap hell, and that has led to major roster turnover. Los Angeles has gone younger (and cheaper) on the defensive side of the ball, and that could lead to major problems. Of the four teams in the NFC West, I think the Rams are the only team that hasn’t improved this offseason.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (9) – The names look the same. But everyone is a year older, and I definitely think the Eagles are a team trending downward. Last year they fielded the second-oldest roster in the NFL. The draft injected some youth into the roster, but I don’t see many of the young guys making an immediate impact. The Eagles desperately need their veterans to stay healthy. I don’t know that it will happen, though, and I think their championship window is closed.
18. Cleveland Browns (15) – Heading into the 2018 season, the 49ers were Everybody’s Sleeper Team, and the hype train was out of control. They flopped and then entered the 2019 season a bit under the radar before erupting as a dominant force in the NFC. I don’t expect the same jump from the Browns. But they have 1/100th of the hype this offseason as they had prior to the 2019 campaign. I don’t love the Kevin Stefanski hiring. But literally anyone would’ve been an upgrade over that clown Fred Kitchens. I expect to see a bigger, stronger, more physical Browns squad this year.
19. Dallas Cowboys (11) – Mike McCarthy’s impact in his first year in Dallas is going to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the NFL season. Dallas has been one of the most overrated, overhyped teams in the NFL for most of the past 20 years. There is no denying that there is talent on this roster. But is McCarthy the guy that’s going to put it together and get Dallas over the hump?
20. Houston Texans (22) – Not many teams have had a worse offseason than the Texans. Several questionable free agent signings and a jaw-droppingly stupid trade have left the Texans in a precarious long-term situation. They aren’t going to fall off the map, though. And young star Deshaun Watson still has plenty of weapons to work with. Houston’s real weakness is on the defensive side, and it feels like the Texans are losing ground to the Colts and Titans.
21. Denver Broncos (16) – Broncos backers have some reasons to be optimistic. This team has an exciting young core of offensive skill players, led by Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton and Phil Lindsay. (Although I hate the signing of Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator.) And you know Vic Fangio is going to have his defense playing at a high level. This might be too high for this team, but I think that they have some solid sleeper potential.
22. Las Vegas Raiders (17) – I might be a bit higher on the Raiders than a lot of people. But I think they have clearly improved their roster this offseason. Throw in the positive jolt they should get from their move to Vegas, and the Raiders could make massive strides. I think that the arrow on this franchise is pointed up.
23. Arizona Cardinals (23) – It is impossible not to get excited about the offensive capabilities of this team, especially now that they have DeAndre Hopkins. But the Cardinals defense was atrocious last year, and they have a long way to go. I am still not a fan of Kliff Kingsbury’s. But it is clear that Kyler Murray is special, and these guys are going to be a very tough out in this upcoming season.
24. Atlanta Falcons (24) – The Falcons are a cautionary tale of just how fleeting success can be in the NFL. Three years ago, they were up 27-3 heading toward the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Now they are coming off back-to-back losing seasons and shackled with one of the softest defenses in the NFL. Atlanta is weak in the trenches on both sides, and they have minimal depth anywhere. Tampa Bay’s rapid ascension doesn’t help their cause either.
25. Detroit Lions (27) – I don’t mind the roster construction of this team. And they were one of the biggest Pythagorean underachievers last year, indicating serious bounce back potential. My biggest question is Matt Patricia. It was blatantly obvious that this locker room quit on him last year. I think he’s a loser, and this “defensive mind” fielded one of the worst stop units in the league last year. The roster is built to compete now. But I struggle to trust a franchise with just five winning seasons since the turn of the century.
26. Washington Redskins (29) – Bringing in Ron Rivers as the head coach and Jack Del Rio as the defensive coordinator gives this team instant credibility. Frankly, if they find a competent quarterback – and don’t rule out an Alex Smith return – I think this team has sleeper potential. The offensive line is still solid (even though they should’ve gotten more for Trent Williams), and the defense has Top 10 potential. Remember: before bottoming out with three wins last year, the Redskins had won between 7-9 games in the four years between 2015-2018.
27. Miami Dolphins (25) – This team fought a lot harder and was a lot more competitive than I thought they would be last year. Yes, they finished last in the league in point differential (-11.8 per game). But they won five games with a roster that should’ve won maybe one or two. They had a lot of cap space and a lot of draft picks and have used it to restock the cupboards. They should show improvement next year and hopefully have laid a solid foundation moving forward.
28. New York Giants (30) – It appears that New York’s irrelevance in the NFL will continue for another year. There is no telling if Joe Judge is going to be a good coach. Given the track record of ex-Belichick assistants, I’m not holding my breath. There are some glimmers of hope on offense. But this defense is completely overmatched and undermanned. This is also a young team. By my count, 13 of their 22 projected starters have been in the NFL two years or less. There are too many question marks for this team to have expectations.
29. New York Jets (26) – I have no idea how this team won seven games last year. Part of it was the comical schedule. But, statistically, they were closer to a 5-11 squad than a .500 team. The Jets offense is still littered with problems. They had a very good draft weekend. However, they still have a long way to go. Throw in what will likely be one of the most difficult schedules in the league, and it looks like another long season for the Jets.
30. Carolina Panthers (28) – It’s a new day in Carolina. Matt Rhule is coming in as the new coach, Teddy Bridgewater is the new quarterback, and the team will have as many as eight new defensive starters as the team transitions to an entirely new scheme. From a public relations standpoint, locking up Christian McCaffrey to a long-term deal was smart. I had him No. 3 in my MVP rankings last year, and he’s clearly one of the best players in the league. But the offense is solely dependent on a guy that takes a lot of hits, and big-money contracts for running backs rarely work out.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (31) – The Jaguars ended last season with the youngest roster in the NFL. And all they have done is get younger this offseason. They currently have eight rookies on the two-deep, and eight of their 22 starters could either be rookies or second-year players. It doesn’t help that Doug Marrone has the appearance of a lame duck coach, and the Jags are clearly the fourth best team in a four-team division. Developing players is the goal this year. And doesn’t leave a ton of room for winning games.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (32) – I wish Joe Burrow good luck. He’ll need it. This is a loser organization with a miserly owner. I wasn’t exactly impressed with Zac Taylor’s work last season, and the Bengals were third worst in the league in point differential, getting outscored by 8.8 points per game. They have improved this season. But a lot of that improvement will be mitigated by starting a rookie under center without a ton of help around him.
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