Red Zone Season 53 – Week 1 Power Rankings
Welcome to the Season 53 Power Rankings, the very first edition. A lot has happened across the league since it opened a week ago, with a flurry of trades and transactions, a few new coaches coming into their own, and a few preseason games. Where does the league stand today? We looked at all 32 teams to try and determine this.
#32 – New York Giants
It’s going to be a long season in New York, despite Coach Corn’s proclamation that he won’t be a bottom five team, I just can’t see any scenario that doesn’t end that way. Golden Tate and Janoris Jenkins were traded away, and the keys are being handed (presumably) to first round rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback.
The good news is there are some pieces in place here to build around, like Sterling Shepard, Will Hernandez, and obviously Saquon Barkley. The offense needs to run through Barkley to take the pressure off Jones, and give him a prayer’s chance of surviving 16 games. Regardless of what the approach is, I see nothing but dark times ahead for Big Blue.
#31 – Miami Dolphins
I slotted the Dolphins ahead of the Giants because I do respect Coach Huseman more in a 16 game season than Coach Michael Miles, but believe me when I considered putting this dismal squad at the very bottom. What is there to like? Well, they have a ton of cap heading into next offseason, they acquired a bunch of middle round picks, and they are basically operating under pretenses that they aren’t expected to do anything, therefore giving them a pass this season.
The Ryan Fitzpatrick trade opens the door for Josh Rosen to show something this year, because with a top five pick likely coming, he could be running out of time. His 3 interception game against the Jaguars in dress rehearsal was a bad sign. With little weapons around him, and a porous offensive line, expect Miami to flounder to a last place finish in the East.
#30 – Cincinnati Bengals
Glenn came into the Red Zone as the Denver Broncos at the tail end of last cycle, and struggled immensely on offense to produce consistently without turning the football over. Can he remedy this issue this year? With Andy Dalton at the helm, I doubt to see how he can improve – but don’t forget about the weapons he has, with Joe Mixon, Gio Bernard, A.J. Green, and Tyler Boyd. This is a really solid offense, and some serious potential here.
Glenn has yet to show us signs of life on the field in his short coaching career, if he can improve in that aspect, this division is extremely winnable – I just don’t see it from him this early in a cycle, especially with the deficiencies they have on their offensive line.
#29 – Carolina Panthers
The roster that Coach Turtles is beginning with is a talented one, therefore keeping him out of the bottom two of the rankings, but what are the odds he every eclipses 29? His track record is poor on the field play, especially offensively, and has his best chance in years to succeed with Cam Newton at the helm.
Don’t be surprised if the news of the Luke Kuechly trade rumors has already poisoned this locker room, as a completely foolish start to the cycle from this front office could derail an already seemingly lost season. The defense in Carolina is loaded, and keeping them together is paramount to any potential success.
#28 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Two AFC North teams in the bottom five? Yep, you read that right – and it really pains me to put this roster here, along with one of my favorite young coaches in our league. The problems in Pittsburgh have been in the inconsistencies offensively, and that has shown this preseason. Sure, these games are purely exhibition, but to go into the regular season with three subpar performances from your offense (that is really talented) is enough to worry me.
I do like some of the additions they made prior to the preseason, especially the aggressive move to acquire Marcus Peters – but can this really push them over the top? Don’t get me wrong, this division is winnable, and they have the talent to do so, but with so much inexperience from this coaching staff, can they jumpstart their growth?
#27 – Philadelphia Eagles
Boy does it hurt me to place this roster so low, when you talk about dream scenarios, you talk about coaching the Eagles. Elite young quarterback under contract, great running backs and receivers, elite offensive line, and a defense that has talent everywhere – but they have a rookie head coach in Outlaw, who we know nothing about.
As I’ve stated before, you couldn’t pick a better team to start your career off with, this roster alone will keep you competitive – but will this coaching staff devote the time necessary to improve and compete in a tough NFC East?
#26 – Atlanta Falcons
A 4-0 preseason has to give Falcons fans some optimism about their new coaching staff heading into Season 53, but the concerns will always be there until the games officially matter. Atlanta went all out to get younger in their protection for Matt Ryan, drafting two first round offensive linemen, and the new front office added some nice pieces to the secondary in Jalen Myrick and T.J. Ward.
Right now I would call this team one of the biggest wild cards in the NFC, this roster is full of potential, especially offensively, and could really do some damage – but now that the games matter, will that 4-0 preseason be just a mirage? A really tough opening test against the Vikings will show a lot.
#25 – Denver Broncos
The storyline is an obvious one – will Coach Trent Tholstrup redeem himself in his return home? The last time this coaching staff was in Denver, it resulted in constant success, and the lone Super Bowl appearance of his career, but since it has been a fall from grace into what we see now as a perennial loser. But as we mentioned, going home again can change everything.
Von Miller leads a defense that has elite level potential, with playmakers at every single level, including some nice young ones. Offensively, the keys will likely be handed to rookie quarterback Drew Lock, who has pieces around him to succeed. A Broncos team that overachieves will be from a recipe of heavy usage from Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. In a division with two championship contenders, I just don’t see it this year.
#24 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa did some interesting things this offseason to bring in some players that intrigue me, like Kareem Hunt via trade, Ndamukong Suh in free agency, and stud linebacker Devin White in the draft – but I am just not sold on this team as it is constructed, especially in a division that is as top heavy as it currently is. They have a lot of decisions to make this coming offseason, including quarterback Jameis Winston (and newly acquired Kareem Hunt).
I’m not saying it’s all bad here in Tampa, I’m just…luke warm on them. I will say there are some pieces in place on offense to score some points, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman, and O.J. Howard is a really nice receiving core, and now with Kareem Hunt, they could potentially be dangerous. Don’t write them off just yet, just don’t expect more than 8 wins.
#23 – Buffalo Bills
There are a lot of things I like about what Buffalo has done in the past few months, especially on the offensive side of the ball. To help improve their young gunslinger Josh Allen, they’ve added RB Austin Ekeler, WRs Cole Beasley and John Brown, and TEs Jordan Reed and Tyler Kroft. That’s a nice group of contributors to put around him, and they absolutely nailed their coaching hire with the return of Jason Dulin.
The problems lie in the inexperience of this football team, it is a young group that is trying to learn on the fly, and there are some big holes on both sides still – and we don’t even know if Josh Allen will take advantage of these new additions. In a division with a clear favorite (in my mind), I see Buffalo going through their growing pains this year, before becoming an AFC East contender soon.
#22 – Oakland Raiders
Another team where I absolutely love the fit of the coach with the roster, and the future potential of the roster, but it just isn’t there time in Season 53. The Raiders did a complete makeover on certain parts of their roster, in this case it was the skill position weapons around Derek Carr – adding Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs, and then adding defense in the draft with the help of two of their three first round picks.
Right now it’s a tall task to ask this team (which has holes still on defense) to win a division featuring the Chiefs and Chargers, I just don’t see a path to it happening. They still need to figure out if Derek Carr is the quarterback of the future, and they are still feeling the rewards (?) of the Khalil Mack trade, with another pair of first round picks coming. This team will be young, and talented, in the coming seasons – but patience is required if you’re a Raiders fan.
#21 – Indianapolis Colts
This was a team I literally tossed and turned about, in regards to where I’d put them in these rankings. With a very tough schedule in Season 53, I just don’t see a playoff path unless we are completely wrong about them, but here is the thing – these guys are going to be really good, really soon, and for a long time.
Andrew Luck is good to win you a minimum of 6 games, along with a great offensive line, and some really solid weapons in T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron. The problem for me, is it just seems like they are a star or two away – I really like Justin Houston, and Darius Leonard, and Malik Hooker, but are they that dominant? I don’t think so, at least not yet. The best part about this, is they have arguably the best GM in Red Zone leading the way for them in Eikim. Expect this ranking to change going forward.
#20 – Detroit Lions
Is this the lowest a Coach Snyder team has been going into a season before? It could be, but I think for now it is the right spot, as the Lions are clearly looking ahead to next season after some of their offseason moves. The thing about this team is, they are very solid – Matthew Stafford, really solid receiving core, above average offensive line, an elite defensive front. They will win games no doubt, but the talent level in their division is too much for them.
Now armed with two first round picks, they can begin to address some holes, as I believe this team has the same issues that the Colts have – star power. They just don’t have the playmakers to win tight games with upper echelon football teams. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of their pieces (especially that defensive line), but give them some time to get in better position to compete in the North.
#19 – Baltimore Ravens
A lot is resting on the shoulders of Lamar Jackson heading into Season 53, and expectations are high outside of these power rankings. The AFC North appears to be slotted to the Browns in the early goings of the preseason, but the Ravens pose the biggest threat to them. With Coach Kad hired for his first full cycle, he is looking to build off the positive steps he took in Jacksonville last year.
I love the defense of Baltimore, with the addition of Earl Thomas to an already impressive group, and then the speed added to their offense with Hollywood Brown and Justice Hill, this is a really solid group. Can they learn how to balance the arm and leg skills of Jackson, and can they protect him? It remains to be seen if this coaching staff has a plan in place for their talented quarterback.
#18 – Seattle Seahawks
Things have certainly changed in Seattle, and this new-look team is heading into Season 53 with many question marks and few answers, the lone answer for their offense being #3 under center. It may be a shock to some to see Seattle in the bottom half of the league, but the departures on defense, save for Bobby Wagner, and have taken a massive hit on their roster talent, and the lack of weapons around Russell Wilson as well.
There is obvious star power here with Wilson, Wagner, even Tyler Lockett – but the trenches are lacking talent, and from what we saw from Coach Reid this preseason, it could be a year of rebuilding in Seattle. Do not be surprised if this team outperforms this rank, but for now I am very nervous about them.
#17 – Tennessee Titans
This Titans team for me is a team of ‘buts’. Yes the offensive line is great….but the quarterback is average. Yes the roster top to bottom is very solid…..but the coaching staff has been struggling for years now. I could go on and on, and the popular narrative with this team is that Coach Panos has been in the doldrums for a long time now, well there is no better time to break that narrative.
As I mentioned, I love this roster, it’s very well-constructed. The receivers have high potential, I love the signings of Roger Saffold and Cameron Wake, and the secondary is going to be very good for a long time – but what about Mariota? Is he the guy? We find out sooner rather than later, as his current contract is expiring.
#16 – Arizona Cardinals
Top to bottom the Arizona Cardinals do not have a good roster, after completing the preseason the depth chart shows many inexperienced players slotted to contribute, and they have major holes on the offensive line, and entire defense. The positive is the addition of potential superstar quarterback Kyler Murray, who will run the new Air Raid offense in Arizona.
With a coaching staff that is known for its on-field success, can the Cardinals overcome their major deficiencies and compete for a playoff spot? Probably not this season, but the guarantee is this offense will be very fun and fast paced, and the youngsters coming in are ready to put their fingerprints all over this team.
#15 – San Francisco 49ers
This is a really, really…interesting team. Coach Porter returns home to the 49ers, a team he has led to multiple NFC Championships, and is inheriting a roster that is ready to compete in a very difficult NFC West. I love the makeup of this team, with the offensive line, the running back group, and the great young defensive line they’ve built.
There are things that need to be addressed, and the play of Jimmy Garoppolo is one of them – how short is his leash with a coach who has been open about his disdain for the quarterback? What about this secondary that is full of question marks? What about a receiving core that is lacking a true number one? There are questions to answer, but there are pieces in place for this team to surprise a lot of people.
#14 – Washington Redskins
Let the Dwayne Haskins era begin, and no better way for it to kickoff then the return of Ricky Chapstick, making his triumphant reunion with a franchise that means so much to him. He brings his rushing attack with him as well, as the Redskins have announced they are keeping a five running back system, to help relieve the pressure off of Haskins.
I foresee a lot of struggles for the Skins this season, but my respect for the continuing improvement of the coaching staff lets me push them higher. I love the offensive and defensive lines, the running back group obviously, and I like the upside of Haskins. There are young pieces here to develop, but I think this division is Dallas, and then a big drop-off to 14 with the Redskins. Enjoy the ride Washington, as your quarterback is a favorite for rookie of the year.
#13 – New York Jets
While everyone seems to be assuming that the Patriots are going to run away with the AFC East, a lurking wild card in the Jets will emerge. As the preseason has carried on, I’ve grown fonder of the roster this team put together, and the approach they will have. I love the trade for offensive tackle Dotson, who solidifies a much improved group for Sam Darnold – along with the addition of Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, and the continued development of Robby Anderson and Chris Herndon.
This coaching staff has shown flashes as times, but the front office has had some very famous blunders – in a division that is very winnable, they need to be clicking on all cylinders, with a clear and concise plan. The pieces are here, it is now on the coaching and front office to pull it off.
#12 – Jacksonville Jaguars
It starts and ends with the defense, it’s as simple as that. If the Jaguars defense can’t perform to their own absurd standards, it could be a very long and disappointing year in Jacksonville. Why do I say that? Because the Jaguars offense looks putrid on paper (we know, they are really excited about putting 54 points up on Miami in a preseason game).
Is Nick Foles worth the money? With a group of pedestrian receivers, and a shaky offensive line, how much can they really expect out of him? The Jaguars must play clock-control football with Fournette to succeed in a tough division. The pundits are very high on this team going into Season 53, but just let me warn you there is a path to disaster.
#11 – Chicago Bears
See above, Jaguars, Jacksonville. The same issues lie in Chicago that do in Florida, that the defense needs to be what they are in order for this team to succeed. Smoke and mirrors on offense can only get you so far, and its already been proven by this coaching staff that they don’t trust Mitch Trubisky as far as they can throw him (as of this article, they’ve traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick and tried to trade for Phillip Rivers!).
Defensively, look out. Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller…the list goes on and on. I love the defense, but the offense scares me. Not because of its personnel, but because of the potential dysfunction regarding the quarterback. To be honest, this club should be the favorite heading into Season 53, but a lot of questions have been raised for me this week.
#10 – New England Patriots
Expectations are high, higher than normal for a team coached by a Beech brother – having Tom Brady will do that to you. In the limited time we saw the starting offense, they were firing on all cylinders, and it seem as though Coach Beech had figured out his game plan heading into Season 53. I really like the running back group he has, the young potential at wide receiver with N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, and others.
It has been said time and time again that Coach Beech fails to live up to expectation, and now is the absolute perfect time to shake the narrative. If he fails to make the postseason with this roster, I would consider this season a colossal failure. No pressure….
#9 – Green Bay Packers
Coach Patrick Allen has cracked the top ten, yes you may be wondering if you are dreaming this part of the rankings – but you aren’t! I’m high on the Packers this season for a few reasons, and the first one is the obvious one in Aaron Rodgers. His elite accuracy has been on display all preseason, and Coach Allen is committed to running the offense through the arm of his elite quarterback.
The other thing that really intrigues me about this team is the defense, one that was addressed across the board. They brought in Adrian Amos, Jordan Hicks, Za’Darius Smith, Robert Nkemdiche and Preston Smith to the locker room, along with their already talented young pieces in the secondary. It just feels like a really good fit between team and coaching staff. Everybody is writing in the Bears as the NFC North favorite, but I really like the Packers chances here to win a wild card spot, and maybe even the division itself.
#8 – Cleveland Browns
Coach Ian Johns, welcome to the spotlight. Trapped in a loaded NFC East last cycle did a number on the coaches’ reputation, leaving him as a perennial third place finisher. Now, redemption is on the menu with a coaching deal in Cleveland, with arguably the most exciting roster in football.
Expectations are high in Cleveland, with their quarterback of the future in Baker Mayfield, the additions of Odell Beckham, Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson, and much more. The story talked about all offseason has been is the coaching staff ready for this? I believe they are, in a division where they are the clear cut best roster, they will find a way to host a playoff game in the Dawg Pound.
#7 – Minnesota Vikings
Yes, not the Packers, Bears…but the purple and gold. Coach Durm heads north to Minnesota after a disappointing cycle in the Bayou, and seems primed to compete for the NFC North title in Season 53. Featuring the best receiving duo in the league of Diggs and Thielen, the tremendous defense, and high upside of players like Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith, this team is extremely well rounded.
But can they win their division games? The NFC North has been handed a rough schedule for this season, and the inter-division games figure to be a bloodbath. The Vikings possess all the players and the coaching experience to do so, and I see them claiming the North in year one.
#6 – Los Angeles Chargers
One decision made can change everything, and the Chargers have moved from 2 to 6 because of the shocker released by the coaching staff today. Phillip Rivers lost the quarterback battle to undrafted rookie Tyree Jackson, a physical specimen they traded Austin Ekeler for. He possess elite arm strength and mobility, but his actual knowledge of the position leaves much to be desired.
I have too much respect for this coaching staff to completely write them off, but they are doing this move with the knowledge it will not lead to a title. The development of Jackson is now their future, and the success of the team is tied to it. Expect them to contend for a wild card spot, but this move could prove far more harmful than good.
#5 – Houston Texans
Simple question – can the offensive line be overcome? That is my only question about the Texans heading into Season 53, but it is a massive one. The starting group from left to right is a major liability, and Coach Bird is going to have to find a way to work around the problem. What worries me, is the offense he runs is reliant on five to seven step drops.
I love the defense though, especially the additions of Xavier Rhodes and Janoris Jenkins to the secondary. With the pass rush they have, along with very good linebackers, this is a defense that is borderline elite at every level. Can they do enough to help out their offense?
#4 – Los Angeles Rams
Losing Cooper Kupp for what is essentially the season is a tough blow, but not season derailing – the beauty of this team is in its depth. Coach Spittah has more than enough weapons to work with, like Gurley, Woods, Cooks…the list goes on. Expectations for this Rams teams are sky high, with an elite offense, and arguably the best football player in the league in Aaron Donald leading the defense.
With three other coaches in the division who have been around the block, can they take advantage of the clear roster separation and run away with the West? It will show a lot about the makeup of this team if they don’t. Right now though, go ahead and write them in, they belong in the postseason for Season 53.
#3 – Dallas Cowboys
My second favorite team in the NFC is the Dallas Cowboys, with Coach Greenhalgh running the show again, I expect them to be right in the mix in the final four teams in the league. I love the trade they made for Darius Slay to pair him with Byron Jones, and then the underrated move of acquiring Duron Harmon from the Patriots – two savvy moves to help their secondary.
Where can it go wrong? Well, this offense is not built for shootouts, and the elite teams of this league are. Ball control with Zeke is key for them, and getting Dak Prescott in situations to be successful. A big question looming for them is the three expiring contracts of Prescott, Zeke, and Amari Cooper – so maybe it’s time for one big run, then tough decisions to make.
#2 – Kansas City Chiefs
Expect records to be broken, and expect frustrating afternoons if you draw the Chiefs on your schedule – because this offense is going to be a nightmare to contain. With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, the fastest player in football in Tyreek Hill, and a great supporting cast, there is simply no stopping this offense, but hoping to outscore them.
Defensively there are question marks, as the additions of Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu helped, but did not solidify what is the clear weak point of this team. They have a job to do in creating turnovers, and getting enough stops to keep giving their offense chances. Based on the current layout of the league, I like the Chiefs to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
#1 – New Orleans Saints
Who else could it be? Take the NFC favorite, then sprinkle in Patrick Peterson and Golden Tate. They are built for what could be the biggest two year title run we’ve ever seen in this league, with blue chippers at nearly every position. They added Peterson to pair with Marcus Lattimore, Tate to pair with Michael Thomas, brought in guys like Latavius Murray, Demario Davis.
Simply put, they are championship or bust. They are easily the NFC South favorites, and should be looking at the one or two seed in the conference. What can derail them? Any Drew Brees injury or sudden retirement would absolutely throw gasoline on the fire, but I don’t foresee it. Expect two years of dominance in New Orleans, then a frantic rebuild in Season 55.