The 2015 NFL power rankings were recently updated to coincide with the end of the first week of preseason games. Going by the link above, they are as follows:
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
31. Tennessee Titans
30. Oakland Raiders
29. Cleveland Browns
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
27. New York Jets
26. Washington Redskins
25. Chicago Bears
24. Atlanta Falcons
23. Houston Texans
22. San Francisco 49ers
21. St. Louis Rams
20. New York Giants
19. Minnesota Vikings
18. New Orleans Saints
17. Carolina Panthers
16. Buffalo Bills
15. San Diego Chargers
14. Kansas City Chiefs
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
12. Miami Dolphins
11. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Baltimore Ravens
9. Philadelphia Eagles
8. Detroit Lions
7. Arizona Cardinals
6. Dallas Cowboys
5. Indianapolis Colts
4. Seattle Seahawks
3. New England Patriots
2. Green Bay Packers
1. Denver Broncos
But instead of just listing the 2015 NFL power rankings and leaving it at that, we’d like to go a little deeper and do something a little different. Instead of just taking the teams in order, we’d like to take them by conference division and see which division is the overall strongest this year, as well as which is the weakest. We’ll start by the division with the lowest-ranked team, and end with the division that has the highest-ranked team.
Going by 2015 NFL power rankings, the lowest-ranked team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston was thought to be the most NFL-ready player to enter the draft, but his preseason debut was nothing short of a disaster. He didn’t even complete 50% of his passes, and the team lost to the Vikings by ten points. It’s not fair to judge the team based on Winston’s merit alone, but the fact of the matter is that his first performance has people worried. That said, his practices have been almost perfect, and it wasn’t like he didn’t have any decent moments against Minnesota. The team has the lowest ranking, but some improvements on Winston’s part could keep them from finishing dead last.
The Atlanta Falcons are ranked #24, although one could argue that they should be ranked even lower. They had one of the worst defenses in the league last year, and key offensive player Roddy White is about to be out for a while due to elbow surgery. He is expected to be better by the start of the regular season, but there’s no telling for certain. All we know is that their preseason opener didn’t exactly inspire confidence that their defense is improving, even if coach Dan Quinn is supposedly working on improving the team’s pass rushing.
The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are back-to-back at #18 and #17, respectively. The Saints had the second-worst defense last year, but we predicted that they might be on the rise this year. The Panthers won their division last year, even though they had a losing record at the time. According to 2015 NFL power rankings, they are once again primed to find themselves at the top of the league’s most lackluster division.
The AFC South division has a pretty decent range as far as the 2015 NFL power rankings are concerned. The Tennessee Titans are the second-worst ranked at #31, but the Indianapolis Colts are all the way at #5. Part of the problem with the Titans is Marcus Mariota, who seems to be struggling a bit. He needs to work on defense going forward. Meanwhile, the Colts are hoping that QB Andrew Luck can work with new players like Frank Gore to make this a winning season. Their stance in the 2015 NFL power rankings indicates that they’ve got some solid chances.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are at #28 in the 2015 NFL power rankings, although some are expecting good things from them this season. They lost their preseason opener, but QB Blake Bortles is leading a pretty strong offense. Under his leadership, the team could steadily improve throughout the year. They aren’t going to be winning any rings, but they can still make a decent finish.
Houston is only five spots ahead of the Jags in the 2015 NFL power rankings, and a lot of people are looking at RB Arian Foster as one of the team’s greatest assets. Nonetheless, their preseason opener indicates that we should be looking at their defense more than anything else. Anyone who wants a nice look at their training camp should pay attention to this season HBO’s Hard Knocks. Grantland (hey, we just wrote about them) has a pretty good breakdown of the second episode for those who haven’t seen the show before and want to know what it’s like.
The Chicago Bears are ranked #25 in the 2015 NFL power rankings, and it’s hard to say how they’ll fare during the season. QB Jay Cutler has been demonstrating a lot of preseason hustle, but he can’t lead the team to victory on his own. They need to step it up as an organization, or else Cutler is going to exhaust himself early in the season.
Minnesota is ranked about six spots higher. It’s hard to even focus on the Vikings as a team right now, what with Adrian Peterson making himself out to be the LeBron James of the NFL. That’s not just a random comparison, by the way…he actually said that. Meanwhile, there’s speculation that the Detroit Lions (ranked #8) are hurting due to a lack of star power. Given the mounting injuries suffered by the team, the 2015 NFL power rankings might have this wrong. They could easily do well this season, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll finish as the eighth-best team in the league.
The NFC North has the second-best team according to 2015 NFL power rankings, which slate the Green Bay Packers at #2. Between QB Aaron Rodgers and RB Eddie Lacy, they should have a pretty reliable offense this year. A lot is being made of the fact that WR Jordy Nelson is out with a torn ACL, but we aren’t going to fault their entire offense for that. He’s a key player, but the whole team isn’t going to suffer because they lost a single wide-out.
Most teams in the AFC North are pretty close together in the 2015 NFL power rankings. The one exception is the Cleveland Browns, placed far back at #29. Josh McCown is currently their starting quarterback, with Johnny Manziel right behind him. Interestingly enough, QB coach Kevin O’Connell might receive limited playing time while Manziel recovers from a short-term elbow injury.
Pittsburgh is way ahead of Cleveland, with the Steelers currently listed at #13 on the 2015 NFL power rankings. That seems decent, but it might not be enough. Pittsburgh has the toughest schedule of any team in the league, meaning that a middle-of-the-road team could easily finishing pretty low in the rankings at the end of the season.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are back-to-back at #11 and #10, respectively. There are some questions regarding the Bengals right now, as QB Andy Dalton continues to divide fans and analysts alike. A lot of people like him, but there are certainly many who don’t think he should be leading the team. The Ravens are known for a strong defense on top of a pretty decent offense, even if QB Joe Flacco has let down some fans during their preseason game against the Eagles. Even so, the team seems confident that they can move forward with grace. No one ever played a losing season just because of one botched preseason game.
When the Washington Redskins aren’t dealing with issues over their name and logo, they’re trying to improve their offense. Currently ranked #26 on the 2015 NFL power rankings, the team went 4-12 last year and isn’t looking for a repeat. A lot of their faith lies in QB Robert Griffin III, who just returned to practice after three days out for a concussion. The New York Giants, currently ranked #20, are also recovering from a losing season. Judging by practice drills, the answer could be some solid collaboration between Eli Manning and Victor Cruz. These two can offer up a strong passing game that just might turn things around.
Ranked at #9 on the 2015 NFL power rankings, the Philadelphia Eagles could go one way or the other. We speculated a while back that DeMarco Murray might not be able to do much at the start of the season due to injury, but he’s already back on the field and absolutely killing it. Will he lead the league in rushing yards again this year? Possibly not. The Eagles are far from invincible, but Murray should help them play some solid football this year.
The Murray-less Dallas Cowboys are ranked #6 on the 2015 NFL power rankings, and we’re about to see how well they can fare without their star rusher. The once questionable Tony Romo is playing at his peak right now, so the only real question is who will replace Murray as starter. The three names up for the job are Lance Dunbar, Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle. Whoever gets it will have some pretty big shoes to fill. The Cowboys might not be up for rings this year, but they could possibly lead their division with enough work.
The Jets don’t have a lot going for them, but they’ll definitely do better than they did during last abysmal season. If they stand a shot at posting a winning season at all, then it’ll likely be the defensive boost they’ll get from CB Darrelle Revis. He’s big on studying game tapes and making sure he’s prepared for all his games, qualities which should serve him well as New York enters the season at #27 on the 2015 NFL power rankings.
The AFC East has two teams with mid-level ranks in the 2015 NFL power rankings: the Buffalo Bills, ranked #16, and the Miami Dolphins, ranked #12. The Bills are a hard team to call since they have a number of positions that have not yet been solidified, including quarterback. There’s a chance for either Tyrod Taylor or E.J. Manuel, but a lot of fans are handing it to more experienced candidate Matt Cassell. The Dolphins don’t have to contend with this sort of headache, since Ryan Tannehill is establishing himself as a strong quarterback in the preseason. On top of that, they’ve been playing a strong defense as well. Some might chalk this up to their remarkably expensive acquisition this year of DT Ndamukong Suh, but the team’s defense as a whole is looking pretty good.
There’s only one team in the AFC East that could give the Dolphins a run for their money. The New England Patriots are #3 in the 2015 NFL power rankings, and some think they’d be ranked even higher if not for the potential four-game loss of Tom Brady in favor of the much less reliable Jimmy Garoppolo. Now, it’s looking like the whole thing might be a moot point since Brady’s appeal has been going incredibly well for him. Add the probable addition of former Indianapolis WR Reggie Wayne to the team, and the Pats are set for a much stronger season that we anticipated upon last examination.
The lower-ranked teams in the NFC West are the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams, with respective ranks of #22 and #21 in the 2015 NFL power rankings. We’ve talked about Australian athletes in American football before, and Aussie rugby player Jarryd Hayne seems to be the story of the day as far as the Niners are concerned. He’s doing an excellent job as their preseason return specialist, but that’s not enough to fix a team that some consider to be all but broken right now. Jim Harbaugh is out as coach, a number of key defensive players are gone, and QB Colin Kaepernick needs a bit of work if he’s going to lead the team to victory. As for the Rams, a lot of it comes down to Nick Foles. This is one of those teams that could go either way. They’ve got potential, and Foles has been playing well with his teammates. He’ll need to keep that up if the team is going to stand a chance at leading their division.
The 2015 NFL power rankings currently have the Arizona Cardinals at #7. The team has had some concerns, but now it looks like things might be on an upswing as QB Carson Palmer returns from injury and appears ready to deliver. Doubt over Palmer’s recovery has been one of the major obstacles standing between the team and a generally positive outlook for the season, so his return should put a lot of these questions to bed.
But if there’s one team you care about in the NFC West, it’s probably the Seattle Seahawks. Currently at #4 in the 2015 NFL power rankings, the Seahawks have a new weapon in former New Orleans TE Jimmy Graham. Not everyone is positive that this year will be as strong for him as last year, but he’s working pretty well with QB Russell Wilson. Then the Seahawks have Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, who remains one of the most popular names on the team. Add to the mix DE Michael Bennett, who is stating intent to be a leader on the team despite unhappiness over his contract, and the Seahawks are looking like one of the stronger teams in the NFL. They might not do as well as last year depending on a few defensive issues, but they might be division champs. Heck, with enough work, they might even make up for that controversial slant at the end of the last Super Bowl.
After achieving an 18-3 victory in their preseason opener, the Oakland Raiders didn’t look like they should be #30 in the 2015 NFL power rankings. But that game doesn’t establish them as one of the better teams in the league, or even in the AFC West. There’s no doubt they’ve got a lot of work to do. That said, QB Derek Carr and rookie WR Amari Cooper are proving themselves to be one heck of a team. Raiders fans can’t hang their hats on these two players alone, but it’s hard to blame them for getting their hopes up. With Carr’s strong arm and Cooper’s quick feet, the team should make some decent plays this season if nothing else.
The San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs are back-to-back in the 2015 NFL power rankings, with the Chargers at #15 and the Chiefs at #14. The Chargers have a few balls up in the air right now. Josh Lambo is up to replace Nick Novak as kicker, but it isn’t for certain just yet. There’s also some potential competition for fifth wide receiver, with Dontrelle Inman trailing behind new guy Stevie Johnson. One of the most solid players right now is OLB Melvin Ingram, but it takes more than a star linebacker to become a winning team. As far as the Chiefs are concerned, we should state that the earlier linked story regarding Adrian Peterson as the LeBron of the NFL was in response to Jamaal Charles having made the same statement about himself. Charles is a strong playmaker, but some think that he’s in for a decline this year. If that turns out to be the case, then the team could be in trouble. Luckily, last season’s run of failed touchdown passes looks to be at an end now that QB Alex Smith is able to work with new teammate Jeremy Maclin. It’s too early to say for sure, but maybe the Chiefs can turn things around in the backfield this year.
Going by 2015 NFL power rankings, the best team in the league is the Denver Broncos. You might think it’s all about Peyton Manning, but it’s not. WR Demaryius Thomas is coming into his own, and coach Gary Kubiak thinks that the two should be able to share the field for equal lengths of time. Training camp has had an equal number of ups and downs, so we aren’t about to declare the Broncs as definite Super Bowl contenders. Nonetheless, they stand a decent shot of becoming division champs. As we get into the regular season, it’ll be easier to see whether or not the team-up of Thomas and Manning has the potential to help Denver gain some serious yards over their competition this season. If so, they’ll be on a straight run to the playoffs this year.