2016 NFL Week 1 Powre Rankings


2016 NFL Week 1 Powre Rankings
M.D. Wright
9.7.2016

As a new NFL season is in the offing, it is time to roll out the weekly Powre Rankings. Annually, someone will attempt to “correct” the spelling, but this has always been an inside joke that took on a life of its own. Now it has become a pseudo-trademark.

Regarding the rankings, these are based upon projections based upon current rosters (not the way teams played in preseason) and projections heading into Week 1 only.

1. Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle only lost one meaningful player on both sides of the football this past offseason (Marshawn Lynch to retirement, and Bruce Irvin to Oakland as a free agent) and Russell Wilson has emerged as a top all-around quarterback in the  NFL. The defense is not quite as dominant as it was in 2013 or in stretches in 2014 and 2015, but will still be at worst top five this season.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers.
Injuries and suspensions put the Steelers on the brink at several junctures last season and this season starts as a mirror image of last season. Le’Veon Bell continues to make bonehead decisions, as does Martavis Bryant. However, when the team is healthy and eligible to play outside of suspensions, they are as good as any. One would expect the defense to be better, as it did become incrementally late in 2015. The loss of Bud Dupree to injury will sting a bit, however.

3. Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are not going 15-1 this year, but there won’t be much drop-off, either. Josh Norman is not a huge loss, because the scheme that Carolina employs defensively allows for any competent cornerback to thrive (and be protected by the linebacker(s) in front of them and the safety beside (in three deep) behind (2 man) them.

4. Arizona Cardinals.
The Cards will be there all year, but can Carson Palmer ever win a big game without having a teammate to bail him out (Larry Fitzgerald vs. Green Bay)? He will be 37 by the end of the 2016 season, so one has to wonder how much he can hold up from some of the shots he takes with Bruce Arian’s vertical passing game.

5. Cincinnati Bengals.
You can ask the same questions about the Bengals. They’re as loaded as anyone on both sides of the ball, but can they even win a playoff game at all?

6. Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay should be more balanced offensively with Eddie Lacy’s alleged weight loss and the return of Jordy Nelson.

7. Denver Broncos.
Denver’s defense will keep them in every game. Expect them to establish the run and short passing game early on to acclimate Trevor Siemian into the offense.

8. New England Patriots.
Much is being made about Jimmy Garappolo starting the first four games of the season with Tom Brady’s suspension, and too many are hearkening back to Matt Cassel in 2008 when Brady was lost for the season with an ACL tear, but that is an uneven comparison. While the teams in the division were as good record-wise (if not better) than they were in 2015 and figure to be in 2016, Garappolo is going to face some hardcore defenses that will be determined to force him to beat them. Without an explosive rushing attack, one has to wonder how well that will pan out.

9. Kansas City Chiefs.
Jamaal Charles figures to not play Week 1, but the Chiefs reeled off 10 straight wins without him last year. Their issues are lack of a consistent downfield passing game (particularly in the clutch, when it is needed) and the health of their two pass rushing linebackers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jameis Winston had a fantastic season as a rookie, and figures to catapult into the Top 5 among QBs after this season’s conclusion. The jury is still out on the Bucs’ defense, but now that they won’t be playing the stale Cover 2 scheme and sitting back on their heels all season while surrendering 70% completions to QBs as they did last year, they should be much better with the return of Kwon Alexander alongside Lavonte David.

Can the offensive line protect Winston consistently?

11. New York Football Giants.
Too much is often made about preseason, as teams are rather vanilla in play-calling, but the Giants do have issues along the offensive line; namely the right side. The defense was the worst in the league last season, and should be the best in the division and among the top defenses in the NFC for the season. It will need to be if the right guard and right tackle positions do not get sorted out and the team struggles to rush the football when it wants to do so. They will still get what they want most games with their Top 5 receiving corps (presuming that Victor Cruz is healthy to go along with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard).

12. Houston Texans.
What is Brock Osweiler? If he is capable of replicating what he showed in preseason, with all of the weapons he has — including the previously and criminally misued (in Miami) Lamar Miller — and the defense that figures to be better now that Jadeveon Clowney finally appears to be healthy and inspired to play like a professional, the Texans could be very tough.

13. Oakland Raiders.
We hear “This is the year” with these next two teams every year. This should be the year that it finally comes to fruition for the Raiders. Mario Edwards’ injury (from) notwithstanding, along with Aldon Smith losing his mind in the offseason, the season has already gotten off to an inauspicious start (Walt “Clyde” Frazier Voice), but Derek Carr has good synergy with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Now if his offensive line can actually be forceful for once, as it was not last season.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars are loaded. Dante Fowler is now healthy and ready to go (and looks as explosive as he did at UF — University of Florida for those who don’t watch college football, but want to tell those who DO watch college football about players who they watched for 3-4 years while you refused to watch college “ball” [Jimbo Fisher Voice]), Telvin Smith is likely to be among the league-leaders in tackles again, they drafted all-world Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State, after Dallas foolishly passed on him with the #4 pick immediately before them, and should have Sen’Derrick Marks healthy along with others. Julius Thomas has more of a rapport with Blake Bortles now, and Bortles already had a great thing going with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns when he wasn’t suffering from bonehead turnovers.

15. New York Jets.
The Jets will be good defensively. That has become a staple under both Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles. It is to be expected. What is not to be expected, however, is for Ryan Fitzpatrick to replicate the moderate success he achieved last season. His entire career was encapsulated in the final month of the season, culminating with a vintage Fitzpatrick choke job with the season on the line at Buffalo; something that many saw coming from a mile away.

16. Baltimore Ravens.
Where is Joe Flacco in terms of the 100% scale? Not media speak, but reality? Where is he? Despite the Ravens’ record last year, they lost a lot of close games; many in the last minute — even last PLAY — of the game. Their defense is a major question mark outside of Timmy Jernigan and C.J. Mosley, however. How much does Terrell Suggs have left in the tank after that injury? Elvis Dumervil is already banged up, as well.

17. Indianapolis Colts.
Andrew Luck gets about as much latitude from pundits as anyone. No one made excuses for Eli Manning with his subpar offensive line play en route to a Super Bowl victory in February 2012. The defense wasn’t too hot, either. Ryen Russillo even went so far to suggest that those who are harshest on Luck are “angry Black guys on Twitter”, when, in reality, Luck’s harshest detractors are White guys. That’s beside the point. He’s already banged up, so expect that to be the excuse should he play poorly in Week 1. No, the Colts don’t have top tier talent in the trenches, but there have been teams that have the same level of mediocre talent and have won games when their QB did not suffer a startling, eye-popping number of unforced turnovers, also. So there’s that.

18. Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons do not matter. Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are fun to watch though.

19. Los Angeles Rams.
It’s going to be a lot like watching the LSU Tigers with the Rams this year. Tons of Gurley, a few ghastly instances of high school-level QB play from whoever they put in at the position from Davis, Mannion to Goff — who looks paranoid in the pocket, not an NFL quarterback.

20. Tennessee Titans.
Marcus Mariota has a running game now, and one figures the gameplan that the Titans hope to employ should lead to a lot of exciting plays.

Their defense is an abomination to anyone who ever played defense at any level of competition, so there will be a ton of shootouts, much like last year.

21. Buffalo Bills.
Put up or shut up time for Rex Ryan. If the Bills don’t at least make the playoffs (and win a game?) he’s likely gone, and while he inexplicably under-uses Sammy Watkins in the process. Their defense should be good, that is, if they can avoid committing 15 penalties a game like last year (exaggeration, but Bills fans know this isn’t far off).

22. Washington Redskins.
Josh Norman will find out very quickly that he cannot hold up playing more man coverage than he ever did in Carolina. And he does not have anyone anywhere close to Luke Kuechly or Thomas Davis protecting him, where he was only responsible for the outside-the-numbers routes, essentially; while being able to read and break on plays underneath that the linebackers could not get to themselves. Ryan Kerrigan is good and all, but he is a pass rushing linebacker, not a coverage guy like Kuechly or Davis. The same goes for Trent Murphy. Mason Foster is good and all, but that does not change the reality.

All of this talk about best cornerbacks, and Norman isn’t even the best cornerback on his own team (Breeland is).

23. Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikes will miss Theodore Bridgewater, but they do not need an explosive passing game to win. All his injury — and we wish him the best in his recovery — does is scale back some of the things that Norval loves to (and was planning to) do downfield. Ball control will be the name of their game, and Adrian Peterson and the defense are up to the task.

24. San Diego Chargers.
Man, this could be ugly. But you never count out a Philip Rivers-led team.

25. New Orleans Saints.
While Drew Brees continues to suck the Saints cap space dry, they continue to be devoid of consistent playmakers on defense. They can’t retain the few they have had because of Brees’ cap-crippling contract.  They’ll continue to pay for Bountygate with another pedestrian season.

26. Chicago Bears.
John Fox got a few of “his guys” on defense, but Jay Cutler is still Jay Cutler. They’ll hover around 8-8, hoping to make the playoffs, but then tight that they won’t be picking highly enough in the draft to secure an instant top tier playmaker in the 2017 draft when they miss the playoffs. Nothing worse than purgatory in pro sports.

27. Miami Dolphins.
Must be nice to be decidedly average at everything that your job entails and be rewarded with a nearly $80 million contract ($45 million guaranteed!) like Ryan Tannehill, huh? The Dolphins defense looked putrid in preseason, which is a carryover from 2015. Amazing — in a negative sense — when you scan their roster. Arian Foster’s best days are behind him, while they allowed Lamar Miller walk in free agency with his best days AHEAD of him.

Vintage Fins.

28. Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles are like a 13-year old playing GM mode of a sports video game with the maniacal number of personnel transactions they have executed in the past six months; many of which do not follow logic. But they are professionals, so they know more than fans.

29. Detroit Lions.
The Lions can be either very good or very bad. They really won’t miss Calvin Johnson that much. If you had watched closely, he was a virtual shell of what he was in his prime. The losing wore on him just as it had with Barry Sanders. Unlike Barry, injuries took their toll on Johnson’s body the previous three seasons. No one really knows what the Lions are right now.

30. Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas spin mavens will have you believe that Dak Prescott is good enough to hold the fort. No one will know for weeks (Week 1 is not going to be enough to gauge his ability one way or the other, although that won’t stop the endless hot takes that will emerge after their tilt with the Football Giants), but their defense isn’t that good, and the number of players they have suspended reads like a census bureau report; enough such that the team was fined for violating player conduct rules regarding the number of suspended players allowed within a calendar year. Their offensive line isn’t the best in the league, despite talking heads repeating it over and over and brainwashing viewers. They get away with holding more than any offensive line in the league. They’re good, but not great. Great is what they will need Prescott, Dez Bryant and what few playmakers they have on defense to be if they expect to even have a shot at a wild card should Tony Romo return from his umpteenth multi-week injury in recent seasons.

31. San Francisco 49ers.
Their defense is okay. It’s not great. It will have to be with the lack of talent they have offensively. Going to be another long year for the Santa Clara team.

32. Cleveland Browns.
The Browns really aren’t that bad. At least on paper. But games are not played on paper, they are played by little men inside your TV set and what appear to be minor specks on grass (if you’re in the stadium in section 330). If — and that is a HUGE if — the Browns can protect Robert Griffin III, he can make plays with the receivers he has, but Griffin himself lacks pocket awareness. The Browns’ defense is an amalgamation of slag, and their best players on that unit are seemingly always hurt.

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