We’re back with our consensus power ranks for 2019 for both the AFC and NFC. What did we get right? What did we get wrong? Check out the ranks and write-ups below.
2 – Kansas City Chiefs (Derek: 1, Luca: 2, Ryan: 2, Josh: 2, Beau: 2)
Year 3 of Mahomes, Hill and Kelce is going to be fun as hell to watch. There’s obviously some minor concern around the RB, but Andy Reid always manages to make it work. The overhauled KC defence under Spagnuolo will hopefully be an improvement on the sieve of last year. To be perfectly clear, this is for the regular season only. I think just like every year, BB and Brady will sacrifice another part of their soul into a horcrux come SB time and rise above the ranks, but the regular season belongs to the Chiefs.
4 – Cleveland Browns (Derek: 4, Luca: 3, Ryan: 3, Josh: 6, Beau: 5)
Yes, believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns are our fourth ranked team in the AFC, and the team projected to win an AFC North division – home to perennial postseason contenders in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Say what you will about the potential for locker room collapse on a team with big personalities such as Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr but at the end of the day this is a team that has clearly improved on both sides of the ball.. Let’s not forget that last year, they came agonisingly close to a playoff position despite their now star QB not starting a game until week 4. Consider for a moment the additions of players like the aforementioned OBJ, one of, if not the best wide receiver currently plying their trade in the NFL, as well as that of one of the best corner back prospects in the 2019 draft in Greedy Williams, who will join an already loaded defensive back field. Add in to the mix the expected improvement of the teams young offensive stars led by Mayfield and sophomore running back Nick Chubb, and it’s hard to do anything but buy into the hype.
5 – Pittsburgh Steelers (Derek: 5, Luca: 7, Ryan: 4, Josh: 4, Beau: 4)
I have the Steelers ranked far below the rest of my cohort, but I have what I believe to be good reasons. Big Ben played all 16 games last year for only the fourth time in his career, Antonio Brown was on the roster and was his usual elite self, and the Browns and the Ravens started rookie QB’s for large parts of the season. Despite having all this going for them, Pittsburgh still missed the playoffs. Banking on Big Ben’s health is a risky proposition, James Washington and Donte Moncrief show promise, but they can’t fill the void of an all-time great like Brown, the Browns are vastly improved and the division champion Ravens have had an offseason to build their offense around sophomore QB Lamar Jackson, plus added Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram in free agency. Unless the Steelers make large strides on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, I see them as an afterthought in a suddenly stacked AFC North.
6 – Houston Texans (Derek: 6, Luca: 6, Ryan: 6, Josh: 3, Beau: 10)
Well here’s your ‘win now’ team of 2019 – a large part of why I’m big on Houston in 2019. After a huge trade went through last week it was indicative the Texans are going for it this year. Former first-round pick Laremy Tunsil is now a Texan and adds a wealth of talent to the line in front of Deshaun Watson. DeAndre Hopkins is primed for a big year, Keke Coutee is coming off strong numbers in 2018 to show out in his second year – and though they lost Lamar Miller to injury during preseason, they’ve got strong backups in Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde. And the defense..? We all know the Texans defense. They’re also in a comfortable division – the title of which they’ve won three times in the past four years. I see the Texans going long again in 2019.
11 – New York Jets (Derek: 11, Luca: 11, Ryan: 9, Josh: 11, Beau: 8)
The J! E! T! S! JETS! sure do have a lot to be optimistic about entering 2019. The man that needs no introduction, the man who sat out the entire 2018 season as a gesture to get his fellow compadres paid, the man who singlehandedly attempted to reset the running back market has come to gang green. That man of course is Le’Veon Bell, and he alone gives this offence an identity. It will be interesting to see how new Head Coach Adam Gase chooses to use #26, it will also be very interesting to see if he is the magical to his own success or whether more credit needs to be given to his former teams pro bowl stacked offensive line, but my guess is he continues to be an a weapon. The first full off season for Sam Darnold to grow, continue to develop and to make that next step in his career should help this team out drastically. There are nice pieces throughout the offence, but in my opinion they need that true number weapon on the outside for this team to really fire. The downside, or downsides to this team is not the offense, it’s the defense in which Jamal Adams job is to try and save this entire unit. I think the defense will struggle to get off the field, which will be the downfall of the Jets trying to make that push for a winning record and potentially a playoff berth. Well, that and the New England Patriots being in their division make it tough to get to the big dance.
6 – Minnesota Vikings (Derek: 5, Luca: 7, Ryan: 9, Josh: 6, Beau: 2)
The 2019 Minnesota Vikings are the least talked-about powerhouse in the NFL entering this season and here’s why. After the 2017 playoffs the Vikings came into 2018 as one of the top teams in the AFC, they had just knocked of the red hot New Orleans Saints in the Divisional round of the playoffs and then fell to the eventual Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles. In 2018 they added the highly touted and arguably biggest quarterback to reach free agency since Peyton Manning in Kirk Cousins. They brought in John DeFelippo to be the Offensive coordinator and that was enough to complete the puzzle, at least this is what most thought. 2018 didn’t go to plan with the Vikings which was not the biggest surprise to us all. Bringing in a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator to your regime means there’s going to be changes, the vibe of the team changes, the connections you have offensively are now gone. All this takes time, it takes time for all 11 players and the coaching staff to be on the same page. In the end the Vikings gave up on DeFelippo and moved on to another OC. Since then they seemed to gel better, they have now have the back half of the 2018 season to work together plus this entire offseason to get on the same page. The defense is a top 5 in the league and still boasts some of the best front, linebacking core and secondary in the league. The offense is what I think will win this team games in 2019; Dalvin Cook another year off his ACL injury, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs might be the one of the best receiving duos in the league, they invested draft capital into fixing a shaky offensive line and lastly, the the Kirk Cousins doubters. He quietly finished the 2018 season with a career high in completions, completion percentage, TDs, interception rate, and his second best marks of his career in terms of pass yards and QBR.
7 – Green Bay Packers (Derek: 8, Luca: 9, Ryan: 5, Josh: 7, Beau: 7)
The Mike McCarthey reign of terror is over in the North, and Aaron Rodgers is finally free to perform as annually expected unencumbered by the longtime manager. At least that’s what Green Bay football fans, and frankly any fans of potentially dominant quarterback play are hoping for heading into what will be his age 36 season (wow, already?). McCarthey anaemia jokes aside, the Packers have a lot to look forward to. This is a division that is very much up in the air if you don’t be into the hype of a Trubisky led Bears repeat in 2019. With young and upcoming stars like Aaron Jones at running back, Marquez Valdes-Scantling at wide receiver and stud defensive rookie Rashan Gary, the Packers have a lot of good momentum carrying them into Friday’s season opener against the Bears at Soldier Field. This could finally be the year Rodgers once again puts it all together.
8 – Seattle Seahawks (Derek: 7, Luca: 6, Ryan: 10, Josh: 8, Beau: 8)
Pete Carroll has always managed to get the most out of the Seahawks roster. Last year was the weakest roster they’d had in years, yet behind the league’s best rushing attack, managed to sneak into the NFC playoffs. Going into this year, they have all the key pieces from last year, but with the addition of the league’s best run defender in Jadaveon Clowney for the mere price of 2 average players and a 3rd round pick. Combine Clowney with Ziggy Ansah, and elite stalwarts like Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reid, and the Seahawks are suddenly in the conversation for having the best front 7 in the NFL. When you take into account the Russell Wilson factor, you have a dark horse contender in the NFC.
11 – San Francisco 49ers (Derek: 12, Luca: 11, Ryan: 11, Josh: 14, Beau: 10)
In 14th spot for me is the 49ers. There’s a lot to irk at from their history, but first let’s look at the division. They face the Rams and Seahawks twice which are obviously mammoth feats for them to overcome. Secondly, Jimmy G is still unproven as a QB after New England. Sure – he went 5-0 to finish the 2017 season before his injury setback in 2018, but since his return; 1/6 and an INT against Denver in the preseason, and the horrific five-straight-picks at training in August. Fans will be expecting a lot from Jimmy GQ in 2019 but his supporting cast will need to step up too. The 9ers did fill a need at the edge with second-overall-pick Nick Bosa but to me, they’re still lacking too much talent to go long in the NFC.
15 – Arizona Cardinals (Derek: 11, Luca: 15, Ryan: 16, Josh: 13, Beau: 14)
Air Raid has been discussed by more than one expert as a gimmick that won’t possibly work in the NFL. D’Antonis “7 Seconds or Less” 3PT centric offense in basketball in the early 2010s was just meant to be a gimmick too, and look where we’re at now. Count me a Kingsbury believer. Kyler Murray, of the Heisman Trophy winning fame, is potentially a generational talent. Combined with a scheme that will work to, and not against their other star David Johnson, I am strongly believing the massive improvements in offence will help hide their problems on defence, particularly their weakness vs the run.