What teams do or don’t do in the NFL free agency and the draft set the tone for the season ahead, months before it all came together to kick off. With each team through the major overhaul of the offseason roster, it’s time to check in with Sporting News’ updated power standings.
Right after Super Bowl 55, the winning Buccaneers and losing Chiefs looked pretty good at staying close to the top by 2021. Behind them, the rest of the NFC and AFC playoff contenders did their best to keep a length of time. ahead of the fast risers, but as with every year, some are doomed to be relocated.
Here’s how things go before the off-season training schedule begins in earnest with OTAs and minicamps just around the corner.
NFL 2021 PROJECT:
Full results | Team by team notes | Winners and losers
2021 NFL Power Ranking
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (previous row: 2)
The Buccaneers did the improbable and kept all the strengths of their championship team intact without gaining any weakness. Tom Brady hopes he has one more rehearsal.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1)
The Chiefs wasted no time making the necessary changes to their offensive line and seven defensive front to get a bit more powerful with Patrick Mahomes. They are the AFC’s biggest favorites with the potential for a Super Bowl hangover fading away.
3. Buffalo Bills (3)
The Bills will continue to blow up the Chiefs’ necks with an offense still loaded around Josh Allen, only with a few different options and a defense that hopes to fight better via the pass rush and secondary.
4. Cleveland Browns (7)
The Browns have a solid offensive formula for running the ball and preparing Baker Mayfield for effectiveness. But they have the new look of also fielding an elite defense with Joe Woods with all of their additions and injured returnees.
5. San Francisco 49ers (8)
The 49ers should be more dangerous defensively with a much healthier roster and rookie Trey Lance’s starting potential gives their versatile offense a much higher cap.
6. Green Bay Packers (4)
The Packers must continue to massage Aaron Rodgers’ situation as they have done their best to bolster the NFC Champions North back to back to keep the Super Bowl window open with the MVP.
7. Baltimore Ravens (6)
The Ravens will have to recover from some defensive evisceration. To that end, they have reloaded their passing game to make Lamar Jackson more diverse and less predictable.
8. Los Angeles Rams (5)
There is a lot of hype for Sean McVay’s side because of Matthew Stafford. Offense may be more reliable for ongoing play and important passing play, but there’s no doubt the defense will hurt it without Brandon Staley’s intrigue.
9. Los Angeles Chargers (11)
Speaking of Staley, other good vibes are coming from the other LA team because of what he can do with their defense to support what should be a fun year 2 of Justin Herbert leading a new offense.
10. Miami Dolphins (10)
The Dolphins have established a lot defensively under Brian Flores. They added to that besides allowing Tua Tagovailoa to better settle in with his protection and weapons so he could be released a lot more as a sophomore.
11. Dallas Cowboys (12)
The Cowboys have improved a lot just knowing that Dak Prescott is on the verge of becoming his elite again after a big contract. They can light him up anywhere offensively with him and even with lingering defensive issues, Dallas can score enough to bounce back and take a still weak transitional division.
12. Minnesota Vikings (22)
The Vikings received a lot of immediate help consolidating some disappointing weaknesses from last season and they’ve also hid a bit for the future, both at the quarterback level and for their regular defensive rebuild. They seem on the right track to bounce back as a wild team.
13. Indianapolis Colts (17)
The Colts are looking good with the advantage of Carson Wentz in an attack that gives him more support with Frank Reich, starting with Jonathan Taylor and the race game. Defense also remains an underrated backbone across the board for Matt Eberflus with a bit younger juice.
14. Seattle Seahawks (9)
The Seahawks drama with Russell Wilson has calmed down, but it won’t go away entirely. They are a good bet to continue to finish above .500 with him, but they become less inspiring for another division title.
15. Tennessee Titans (13)
The Titans lost a few key offensive pieces and had to make defensive changes across the board. For now, Mike Vrabel’s team is once again falling into a more wild level behind the Colts.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (16)
The Steelers are a good bet to rule out an AFC North playoff return as Ben Roethlisberger’s return doesn’t inspire, despite their defense and what else they have in attack. It was a mediocre offseason by their high standards.
17. Saints of New Orleans (15)
The Saints found themselves in a tight salary cap situation and were forced to scramble to recover, mostly on the defensive. Also, their quarterback situation after Drew Brees is very unpredictable with Taysom Hill against Jameis Winston and now Ian Book developing.
18. Chicago Bear (26)
The Bears are a tough team to read. If they bridge the gap with Andy Dalton, they will have more offensive limitations trying to complement the defense better. if they ride upside down with Justin Fields, watch out for his double threat which increases their score and decreases their burden on the other side.
19. New England Patriots (18)
The Patriots have maintained their bridge with Cam Newton, but now have an entirely different rookie waiting in Mac Jones. Bill Belichick’s side remain a bit of a wild card, doomed to be on the slightly better side of .500.
20. Arizona Cardinals (14)
The Cardinals were very animated with Kyler Murray last season, but the next offense report might be limited and they developed a few more defensive issues.
21. Giants of New York (23)
The Giants’ chances of being much better than that completely depend on Daniel Jones reacting as he should to all the positive changes around him and the defense put in place to play with more leads because of it.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (19)
The Eagles love what they have in Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni’s rookie direction as head coach should give them a spark as well. They hope they will have better luck in combating age and injury, but being caught between struggle and rebuilding is a difficult task.
23. Washington Soccer Team (24)
Washington will no longer win the East with a 7-9 record. There are promises for Ryan Fitzpatrick in a fast-track offense, but I think Jones and Hurts will play better to give the Giants and Eagles offenses some welcome extra dimensions. WFT’s defense, however, is still a calling card the other three teams don’t have.
24. Atlanta Falcons (20)
Arthur Smith will only need a little time to implant his vision for the attack led by Matt Ryan which should feature a better run and more dynamic passing. But it’s hard to expect a lot of favorable defensive results
25. Carolina Panthers (25)
The Panthers have a lot of good offensive pieces in place for sophomore Joe Brady, but protection and what Sam Darnold will accomplish are concerns. Defensively, the youngsters have served well but there may still be too much for Matt Rhule.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (27)
The Bengals would be much higher if they were in another division. Joe Burrow should have a big second season with upgraded weapons and yes, protection. The defense invested the game in the impact of the first seven. If Pittsburgh stumbled a bit behind Cleveland and Baltimore, Cincinnati has a good chance of taking third place.
27. Las Vegas Raiders (21)
The Raiders don’t appear to be any better or worse than last season, still hovering around offensive flashes and defensive disappointments, which now add up to less than mediocre.
28. Denver Broncos (30 years old)
The Broncos cannot be listed above here despite having a productive offseason to meet many present and future needs as another Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater season starting in the NFL does not inspire.
29. New York Jets (29)
Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas did a good job of speeding up the turnaround of the Zach Wilson era, but they’ll have to burn the reconstruction fuel for a year.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (28)
Trevor Lawrence will improve the offense in the first year and show why he was a must-see QB prospect. But he’ll also throw a ton with a rebuild defense set up for more big chunks.
31. Detroit Lions (31)
The Lions clean up their old mess as Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell try to bring a new attitude. At first, however, the talent shortage will bury them in the NFC.
32. Houston Texans (32)
The Texans have limited talent away from the quarterback, and prospects of not having Deshaun Watson suggest multiple wins will be hard to come by.