With the NFL Season officially set to begin tonight, it’s time to release our weekly STF Power Rankings. Each week, we’ll go into more detail about how the NFL’s hierarchy can shift each week. So far, the 2018 season seems like it will be an exciting season. With all the talent that multiple teams have added this year, there’s no knowing what can happen any given week. But that’s what makes the NFL so exciting. Expect the unknown.
Things To Watch:
Will Le’Veon Bell show up?
The answer to this has already been answered. Le’Veon Bell will not be in uniform week one against the Cleveland Browns. James Conner will take the lead back role until Bell return. There’s no knowing how long Bell will holdout. It could be a week or two, or it could be half the season.
Is Andrew Luck ready to be elite again?
Andrew Luck has been missed in Indianapolis. This week he gets his chance to show he is back against the Bengals. Will, he go out and show he is still elite, or will some rust show in his return?
Odell Beckham Jr. Vs Jalen Ramsey
Two of the loudest mouths in the NFL will be going at it in week 1. Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. will look to show he is worth every penny the Giants paid him this summer against elite cornerback Jaguars Star Jalen Ramsey.
Are the Rams Legit?
The Rams made moves this offseason. They acquired elite talent in hopes of pushing this team to a Super Bowl level contender. This week against the Raiders they’ll have a chance to show the world they’re legit and a very dangerous team.
Sam Darnold’s Debut
Of all the rookie quarterbacks drafted, Darnold will be the only one to start on opening day. He is going against the Lions who have a couple of good defensive backs in Darius Slay and Glover Quin. It will be interesting to see how Darnold performs against next level talent and if he can protect the football.
Off-Season Feaster: Minnesota Vikings
Off-Season Starver: Buffalo Bills
32. Cleveland Browns
The Browns improved greatly this off-season. Bringing in talents such as Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Carlos Hyde, Jarvis Landry, Denzel Ward, Damarious Randall, and many more.Also having Josh Gordon hopefully for a full season will really help the offense. However, for a team that’s won just one game over the last two seasons, Cleveland must prove they can win a game before they’re ranked higher. They’ll have a chance in week one to show doubters they’re legit against rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Last year, in two meetings against Pittsburgh, the Browns only lost by a total of seven points. Maybe a week one upset isn’t totally impossible at all.
31. Buffalo Bills
The Bills were a playoff team last season, but now they look far from it. Tyrod Taylor is gone, LeSean McCoy can play as of now, but legal issues could doom his season, three starting linemen from last year’s playoff squad are no longer around, and free agent acquisition AJ McCarron has already been traded. With Nathan Peterman as the team’s first string has been named week one starting quarterback. Seventh overall pick Josh Allen should take the reins from Peterman at some point this year, but there’s no knowing how good he can really be just yet. The defense has the potential to be a solid group, but if not, 2018 could be an extremely long year for Bills mafia.
30. New York Jets
The Jets are a rebuilding team. They hope to have found the future of there franchise in quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold got the week one nod after Teddy Bridgewater was traded away this summer. This Jets team will go through the highs and lows as most young teams endure. The defense has some holes but features a solid secondary led by Jamal Adams and Trumaine Johnson. As the season goes on, the defense will look to find continuity If things go south quickly and the Jets have no direction or progression expect head coach Todd Bowles removed from his duties even before the season ends.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm the first three games of the Buccaneers season, the season’s outlook could get ugly. The blame is not all on Fitzpatrick though as he has proven to be a decent NFL quarterback. The blame can go to the schedule however. They face off against the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers to open the season. With a mediocre offense at best with Fitzpatrick and an inconsistent defense, the Buccaneers could possibly be sitting at a 0-3 hole when suspended quarterback Jameis Winston returns. When Jameis returns in week four on the road against the Chicago Bears, there’s no knowing what to expect. If things get worse expect Dirk Koetter who has the hottest seat in the NFL to be fired.
28. Miami Dolphins
Miami is a confusing team this season. They lost star players Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry, but picked up veterans Robert Quinn, Frank Gore, and Danny Amendola. These moves show the Dolphins are not rebuilding in my eyes, because these moves by no means made them younger. They also get quarterback Ryan Tannehill back who was thriving in coach Adams Gase offense before tearing his ACL last summer. Gase wanted a identity change and he is making this team with guys he wants. It’s a bold strategy that can either win him Coach Of the Year award or have him searching for work elsewhere.
27. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is Back! That statement alone should have Colts fans happy all around. Luck has to prove he is his old self. I expect some rust in the beginning as the Colts will rely heavily on him without having much of a rushing attack to begin the season. I do expect Luck to get his groove back but I’m not sure when. A rusty Andrew Luck may cost the Colts another down season which likely means another top-ten draft pick in April. The Colts invested in their offensive line this offseason in hopes of taking the pressure off Luck by drafting Notre Dame Guard Quenton Nelson. Colts quarterbacks were the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL a year ago. The Colts are another very young team. If guys develop on both sides and Luck proves to be back as an elite thrower watch out for this team in 2019.
26. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a team to watch this season. Their an older team in the NFL with a lot of proven veterans. One thing the Cardinals need this season to have success is an injury-free season. They can shoot up these rankings real quick if Sam Bradford stays healthy and is the accurate passer he is known to be. Also star running back David Johnson returns which is a big boost to this offense. The defense looked like a strong group this preseason as well. The Cardinals could be a team to watch if things go well. If not we could see rookie quarterback Josh Rosen take over this Cardinals offense in mid-October.
25. Oakland Raiders
Jon Gruden’s start in Oakland has been rocky to say the least. That’s without the Raiders even playing a game thus far. This off-season they could not make peace with superstar defensive end Khalil Mack. He was traded to the Chicago Bears for two future first-round picks. The defense may be the worst unit in the NFL and the offense still has holes. The Raiders could be settling in for a long season as I predict them to finish last in the AFC South.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
This could be Marvin Lewis’ final year as the head coach in Cincinnati if the Bengals fail to reach the postseason. They did not make any significant moves this offseason to show me they’re legit this season. The Bengals success will lean on Andy Dalton who has not gotten the job done yet. The offensive line is questionable and the defense has seen better days. The Bengals have sleeper potential, but for now, they likely look as if they will be another mediocre team.
23. San Francisco’s 49ers
The 49ers were the hottest non-playoff team towards the end of the season last year. Led by Jimmy Garoppolo they won the final five games of the season last year. They upgraded the team to as well this off-season. Recently signed free agent running back Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL which will end his season, but this team has some interesting pieces on offense. They’re a young inexperienced group that has to show they’re ready to take the next step by consistently improving each week. I’m also skeptical Jimmy G’s run last season was a fluke. In a loaded NFC, the 49ers can be a playoff team. If they can win games within their division, then it won’t be a surprise to see this as one of the more exciting teams to watch in 2018.
22. Denver Broncos
The arrow for the Broncos seems to be pointing sideways. The offensive line has question marks, the running game is unproven, and the defense relies way too much on Von Miller. However, new quarterback Case Keenum is coming off a career year with the Minnesota Vikings and will look to continue his hot streak in the Mile High City. If all goes well and Keenum lives up to expectations, don’t be surprised to see this team in the playoffs. In fact, the idea is not so far-fetched after all. The offense has players like Royce Freeman and Demaryius Thomas, and the defense added defensive end Bradley Chubb as a sidekick to Von Miller. If the offense gels quickly and the defense does its job the Broncos could shoot up these rankings quick and make some noise in a somewhat week AFC.
21. Washington Redskins
The Redskins took a big blow when rookie running back Derrius Guice went down for the season with a knee injury. Now, Adrian Peterson looks to lead the Redskins backfield. If Peterson provides solid numbers, it will open the passing game up much more and allow Alex Smith to create plays. On defense, Washington features guys like Ryan Kerrigan, Da’Ron Payne, and Pernell McPhee. Each year, there’s no knowing what to expect from the NFC East. Maybe the Redskins surprise us all this year.
20. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks just aren’t what they were anymore. The offensive line is terrible, the running game is non-existent, and the defense has so many holes. The Seahawks have Russell Wilson and Russell Wilson only. He will be the only bright spot on this team but he will be running for his life most games. Losing names such as Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Michael Bennett is a recipe for disaster defensively. The window is closed in Seattle. They will not be a playoff team and are likely heading towards a full-scale rebuild.
19. Detroit Lions
The Lions are not a bad team. They’re just not a good team either. Also being in a loaded division does not help their cause much at all either. They have not had a efficient running game in years and the defense is an average group. They have pieces to be a decent team, but the talent isn’t up to par with other NFC contenders. New Head Coach Matt Patricia will look to put his offseason woes behind him and look to build a team that will likely hope to make some noise in 2019.
18. Chicago Bears
Chicago fielded a top-ten defense last year without Khalil Mack and now that the three-time Pro Bowler wears a Bears uniform, the defense could go from good to great. Second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky has shown flashes, but will need to take a big step forward this season after the Bears upgraded their receiving corps. New Head Coach Matt Nagy believes he has a good young team that can be elite in the next few years. This could be more of a growing year, but don’t be surprised if this Bears team ends up crashing the NFC’s playoff party.
17. New York Giants
The Giants were miserable last year. This year things should be different. New head coach Pat Shurmur is the right fit for this Giants team. The defense is full of good talent, but they have also shown to be inconsistent. If the defense can be a top group this Giants team will make the playoffs. The offense has elite star power in Odell Beckham Jr and rookie star Saquon Barkley. Eli Manning should have a good bounce-back year if all goes well. Aside from Beckham and Barkley, the offense also has solid contributors in Sterling Sheppard and Evan Engram.Watch out this Giants team could be dangerous.
16. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have been known to always be a elite defensive group. This year they have the power to be that again. The offense has been the issue in recent years. They don’t have the firepower or the players needed to be a consistent group. Joe Flacco will look to lead his team through the wide-open AFC. If running back Alex Collins can be a consistent option it will open the passing game up much more for this Ravens team. If things don’t work out well though expect to see rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson come in and give some pop to this offense.
15. Tennessee Titans
The Titans were a playoff team last season before being defeated by the Patriots. This offseason they bolstered their defense by bringing in Malcolm Butler who is a good option at cornerback. They also brought in another Patriot: Dion Lewis, who will compliment Derrick Henry. If Corey Davis emerges as an elite option I could see this Titan offense being a tough one to stop. The Titans have the right pieces, but they can’t afford a slow start. If they start fast, then they can solidify their name amongst the AFC’s elite powerhouses.
14. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have plenty of doubters this year and also a lot of question marks. Is the offensive line healthy? Is Dak Prescott a good quarterback? Who steps up in the receiving game? Can the defense stay healthy? It’s always been expect the unexpected when it comes to the Cowboys. Either they are a really good team or really bad. If the offensive line is healthy, then Dak Prescott will have an improved passing game and Ezekiel Elliott will run wild with all the big holes he will get. Without a doubt, Prescott will need to prove that he is worthy of being a starting quarterback in the NFL As for the defense as long as they stay healthy they are an above average group. A lot of pieces need to fall in the right place and younger players need to step up to the occasion, but I think the Cowboys have it in them to be a contender this year.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
The injury bug has made its yearly trip to Los Angeles earlier than usual this year. With Hunter Henry and Jason Verrett out for the season, the Chargers will need younger guys to step up this year.Although it will hurt not having these two it won’t stop them from possibly winning a wide-open division this year. The defense is a top group in my eyes, and the offense has a lot of firepower. As long as quarterback Philip Rivers doesn’t show regression I see the Chargers taking the division this season.
12. Kansas City Chiefs
I have the Chargers winning the division, but I also see the Chiefs taking a wild card spot if quarterback Patrick Mahomes lives up to his potential. Mahomes can sling it better than most of quarterbacks and he has elite deep threats that match his arm. Also having the leading rusher last season in your backfield to take some pressure off is a bonus as well. The defense has some work to do, but if they get right this Chiefs team could be dangerous. However, I see the Chiefs in a handful of shootout games this season. The key to the 2018 season in Kansas City falls squarely on Patrick Mahomes. If he lives up to his potential, then this team can sneak into the playoffs.
11. Houston Texans
With star players J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson returning the Texans have a chance to keep up with the Jaguars. Watson showed up last season and established a reputation as an electric player before a torn ACL cut his season short. If he can get back to that form this offense will be fun to watch. Having DeAndre Hopkins, a top-five receiver will help ease Watson back into the swing of things as well. We all know what Watt can do. He is an elite pass rusher and just his presence will help the defensive unit out. Don’t be surprised if the Texans take the division this year over the Jaguars.
10. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are in a loaded division, but have the team to contend in the NFC. The defense has a couple of holes, and the secondary is the leading one. After losing cornerback Josh Norman the secondary has seemed to fall off. However, the rest of the defense is solid. The offense this year the Panthers have assembled is a speedy group. I expect running back Christian McCaffrey to come into his own this season and really emerge as a star. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if first-round draft pick D.J. Moore ends up becoming Cam Newton’s favorite weapon by the end of the season. It also just feels like new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will help quarterback Cam Newton be a top-five quarterback this year and leads his team to a playoff berth.
9. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons fell to the eventually Super Bowl champions in the playoffs. This year they’ll look to make it back to the Super Bowl and get revenge for the choke job they had two years ago. All around this is a fast team. The team flies to the ball on defense, and also has some speedsters on the offensive end. I expect the Falcons to get the offense together and become an elite group. They are in a loaded division and with that being said one team with a winning record in the NFC South will just miss the playoffs.
8. Green Bay Packers
With Aaron Rodgers back and fully healthy this team is dangerous. With elite red zone threats in Jimmy Graham and DaVante Adams the offense almost comes unstoppable. The Packers are one of few teams that can afford a weaker running game but they have the best quarterback in the game. As for the defense, this once weak group improved greatly this offseason. It’s going to be hard to dethrone the Minnesota Vikings in the division, but they’re definitely capable of doing so.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’Veon Bell is extending his holdout into week one. This is a blow to the Steelers offense. Bell has taken heavy heat for this choice, but he is standing his ground. I expect Bell to return this year, but if not the Steelers should be concerned. Losing a top-level running back is hard to replace. With a iffy defense and Bell not being on the team. The Steelers may take a decline this season. The window of being a title contender in Pittsburgh seems to be closing faster than expected Pittsburgh.
6. New England Patriots
As long as Tom Brady is at the helm the Patriots will always be in contention. Brady is aging and maybe his play will decline this year? I highly doubt his play declines, but this team is not the same as the 2017 Patriots. The receiving core is really bad until Julian Edelman returns from suspension and the running back by committee is most likely to happen this year as well. The defense is not an elite group, but New England’s coaching will have them ready week in and out. I don’t see the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but they’ll be in contention and won’t be a team you want to face late in the year.
5. New Orleans Saints
The Saints have an elite offense and defense. They are young and ready to win now after how the season tragically ended last season. I see the Saints winning the NFC and playing in the Super Bowl. It’s a bold prediction, but one I’m confident in. Drew Brees has been re-energized by this new young core. Brees, Kamara, and Thomas may be the best QB-RB-WR trio in the league. This is gonna be a tough team to stop. Expectations are high for the Saints.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The defending Super Bowl champions open the season Thursday against the Falcons. They’ll be without star quarterback Carson Wentz, but they’ll have Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. The Eagles have a chance to repeat this season. Being in a loaded NFC though lowers their odds. When Wentz gets back and the offense gets in rhythm they’ll be tough to stop. They are for sure beatable, but they also have the potential to heat up and become unstoppable like last season. One thing I’m worried about big time is Wentz coming back in elite form like he was. They should not rush him back. Overall, the Eagles will make some noise in 2018 and it’s interesting to see how this team will perform once they get Alshon Jeffery and Carson Wentz back.
3. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are absolutely loaded. They are a top three team in the NFC. They are explosive on both sides of the ball. The tandem of Donald and Suh up front is a terror for offenses and Peters and Talib in the secondary is scary for any offensive line and quarterback. On the offensive side of the ball, they have an elite running back, a quarterback with confidence receivers to throw, and a top-notch offensive line. On paper it sounds like a Pro Bowl roster. They have to go out there and produce and show how elite they are. The Rams could be a Super Bowl team this year.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Yes Blake Bortles is not a good QB but the Jaguars assembled a team who can hand the ball off to Leonard Fournette 30+ times a game and still be successful. What can get this team to the Super Bowl is having the best defense in the league. These guys pick passes off, hit hard, and get to the quarterback. They’re an unstoppable force and nearly impossible to put points up on. The Jaguars were so close to the Super Bowl last season. This year however I believe they’ll put it all together and be a Super Bowl team.
1. Minnesota Vikings
Out of all the loaded teams in the NFC. The Vikings may just have the best earning them the number one overall spot. The defense is just about as good as the Jaguars, and can slow down any and all offenses. They upgraded the quarterback position by adding Kirk Cousins who I believe is the final puzzle piece for the Vikings. Also Dalvin Cook returning boosts this offense in stabilizing the running game. The window to win is now in Minnesota, and with all the key pieces locked up under contract, the window will be open for a while. After the way that last season ended, the Vikings are hungry to prove that they are no longer a team to mess around with.