Chandler Adams, NFL Analyst
It's that time of year again, predictions, predictions, predictions. Disclaimer, all of these were made before the first week of football. Anything can happen. These are my rankings as of September 5th.
1. New England Patriots
Are you surprised? An improved WR and RB corps for TB12, a loaded defense, and Bill Belichick leading the charge, this is a recipe for a repeat. If the Patriots start out slow, do not blink. Come week 8, they will be in full swing. They do it different, they do it The Patriot Way.
2. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is like a fine wine, aging beautifully. His accuracy continues to be at the top of the league year after year. Drew Brees passing to Micheal Thomas was the most accurate tandem in the NFL. Expect these two, along with Kamara and Cook, to do big things on the offensive side this year. On defense, they have some holes, but a strong D-Line and a lock-down corner is a good foundation to build upon.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
I hate doing this because defense wins championships, but this offense is lethal. The best HC-QB-WR-TE quadruplet in the NFL, formerly held by the Patriots. Patrick Mahomes was sensational his NFL debut season. This team rely's on their QB more than any other in the NFL. Because this defense is atrocious. With Mahomes and Reid holding the reins, this team is destined for greatness. Let's see if they can piece it together.
4. Green Bay Packers
Yes, you read that right. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's don't count Aaron Rodgers out. I don't want to hear "but a rookie HC", Aaron Rodgers could be coached by a box of Cheez-Itz and still win. On top of all else, they went and got THREE PFF top 100 players on the defensive side of the ball (Amos, P. Smith, Z. Smith), and added Savage & Gary through the draft. This Packers team is back and ready to make some noise.
5. Los Angeles Rams
I don't love this pick. I feel that with Goff breaking the bank, Gurley having arthritic knees, and them being embarrassed during the Super Bowl - all could lead to a disappointing season. BUT, McVay is a mastermind on the offensive side of the ball. With weapons like Gurley, Cooks, Foster, Kupp and Everett - Goff and McVay should be able to stay a top five team in the league. Add to that Wade Phillips with the best defensive player in NFL history. They should be just fine.
6. Seattle Seahawks
This one might ruffle some feathers. I am on the record as saying that Wilson is the best QB in football, and I stand by that. Wilson, Carson and Lockett is a wicked three headed monster. The way they are able to set Lockett up for the deep ball with Carson's ability to run it up the gut, and Russ' ability to sell the play action is a thing of beauty. The acquisition of Clowney, in a pass heavy division, may not be as beneficial as most believe. But with Bobby Wagner as your MLB, anything is possible on the defensive side.
7. Philidelphia Eagles
If Wentz stays healthy, this stands pat. If Wentz goes down, forget about it. Although they have a top 5 defense, and one of the best O-Lines, this team doesn't have the play-makers to get it done without Wentz in the lineup. If he stays healthy this will be an exciting year in Philly.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
Big-Ben is a sure fire hall-of-famer, Mike Tomlin doesn't have losing seasons, and this defense has potential to be top 10 in the league. This season boils down to Juju and this defense. Juju was special last year, but he was the secondary target. Now that he isn't getting inside matchups with the likes of Vontaze Burfict, who couldn't out run Rich Eisen (love ya, Rich), can he produce at the same level? Can the Pittsburgh secondary step up enough to shut down opposing WR? They SHOULD be just fine.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
Will Phil ever get a ring? Had they paid Melvin, and Okung and James were healthy I'd say there's a good chance. But putting all your eggs into an aging Rivers, an injury prone Allen, a fresh off an ACL tear Henry, and a defense that is has an injury riddled history is a scary idea. However, the Chargers are poised to make a run at the playoffs with all of that stuff still going on. This is a deep roster.
10. Cleveland Browns
You read that right, the Browns are back, and GM John Dorsey has awoken a sleeping giant. With Mayfield - Beckham Jr. - Landry - Chubb - Hunt - Njoku this might be the most explosive offense in the NFL this year. Not to mention a defense that is fortified at every single position with All-Pro talent, Garrett - Vernon - Shobert - Ward - Randall leading the troops should make for a top 5-10 year for this Browns defense.
11. Chicago Bears
I wouldn't trust Trubisky making a big time play more than I trust that telemarketers aren't going to call me 5 times today. That being said, he is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL, leaving it up to Nagy to scheme around his lack of throwing ability. Mack and Hines look to keep at it as one of the scariest D-line combos in NFL history. I think this bears defense will take a slight step back losing Amos and Callahan, but they still have the pieces to be one of the best in the league.
12. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta lost two of it's best defenders in the first game of the season last year and it was a real gut punch. This Falcons team just wasn't the same explosive unit that they had been the past few seasons. I expect Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to put up mind boggling numbers this year, and Deion Jones to lead this defense. The Falcons have the weapons to push for a playoff spots. They just need to find their stride.
13. Dallas Cowboys
Zeke is the best back in the NFL. Dak always finds a way to win. Oh, and this defense is tough as nails. Why aren't they higher? I don't trust Garrett-Dak in a big game situation. I still believe they will be in the playoffs due to playing the Giants and Redskins a combined four times.
14. Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson is special, I've never been more wrong about a QB prospect. To be fair, I was a huge Buckeye fan at the time, I let my heart decide. The Texans made it a point to bolster this offensive line. Deandre Hopkins is the best week-to-week receiver in the NFL right now. This defense will most likely take a step back, but JJ Watt is a force to be reckoned with. The Colts losing Luck to retirement gives the Texans a golden brick road straight to the playoffs.
15. Tennessee Titans
If Mariota was able to stay healthy, they would be a title contender year in and year out. You may think I'm crazy, but go look at this roster. Outside of QB, it is the most solid roster in the entire NFL. Finishing 9-7 for three consecutive years helps prove that. The Titans playoff hopes widened with Luck out of the picture.
16. Baltimore Ravens
I may get push back for having them so low, but the Browns and Chargers mapped out a beautiful game plan on how to stop Lamar, 7 DB's on the field. Going and getting Mark Ingram is a sign that the Ravens are saying "please, put 7 DB's on the field against this bowling ball of a man". On defense they lost Suggs, Smith, Weddle and Mosley, arguably their four best players. They did bring in Earl Thomas, but you could have paid Weddle 1/5 of that and kept some other guys around. I don't think this Ravens offense has what it takes to play from behind, and I believe this defense will make them play that way. Therefore, they are 16 on my list.
17. Detroit Lions
I believe that the Lions will finish 2nd in the NFC North. They have one of the best defensive fronts in all of football and a lock-down corner. Those two things together can make a thing of beauty. On offense, Stafford will be giving a majority of the snaps to RB Kerryon Johnson. With that comes the play action pass. Setting Jones, Galladay and Hockenson up for a bright year.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars
Short and sweet one. They have potential to be the best defense in the NFL. I don't trust Fournette's health, Foles ability outside of Philly, or Ramsey to keep his head on straight.
19. Minnesota Vikings
Best WR tandem in the NFL? Yes, but the guy throwing them the ball can't perform when the spotlight is on. The division is going to be a blood bath, and I expect them to come out on the bottom. This defense is solid up front, but lack that special lock-down corner that playoff contenders need.
20. Carolina Panthers
Can Cam stay healthy? If so, bump them up 5-6 spots. Cam, in his MVP season, had one of the most special years as any QB in history. His ability to run the ball is unmatched. Can Rivera scheme around his ability to run while keeping him protected and healthy? Only time will tell.
21. Buffalo Bills
I'm biting my tongue on this one. I like this team a lot. I wanted to put them in the top 15. Josh Allen has big time talent, but lacks consistency in the accuracy department. He's going to need big time play from his receivers this year. Frank Gore is the real father time. I would have gave an arm and a leg to see Kyle Williams play beside Ed Oliver. Tre'Davious White is the most underappreciated CB in the NFL. This defense will be special. A top 5-10 defense for sure.
22. Denver Broncos
This defense, led by Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr., is going to be very solid. Adding pieces along the D-line and secondary to bolster it this off season was a top priority for Elway. Joe Flacco has shown he can win a Superbowl if led by a defense. I don't think this team has the play-makers to get it done, but they will be solid and can beat any team in the league on any given Sunday.
23. San Francisco 49ers
I believe in Jimmy G even less than I do Trubisky. Play a full season for me to have faith in you. However, he has one of the best offensive minded coaches in the NFL, a top 3 TE, a plethora of WR targets, and the best LT in the NFL. All things considered, if Jimmy G doesn't have a great year, he'll be getting the blame for how this season went.
24. Arizona Cardinals
KYLER MURRAY IS THE MOST SPECIAL QB PROSPECT IN THE HISTORY OF FOOTBALL. And this defense has the best corner in football, along with two top tier pass rushers. They'll be alright this year.
25. Indianapolis Colts
From first-to worst, in their division that is. Luck retired, I'm truly happy for him.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arians looks to come in and re-groom Winston. Arians got a washed up Carson Palmer and made him an MVP candidate. Can he do the same with Winston?
27. Oakland Raiders
AB = Drama, but great on the field
28. New York Jets
I do not believe in Gase, Darnold, or this Defense. For those three reasons, they are 28th.
29. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are strange. When completely healthy they are a top 10 offense. However, they are never healthy at the same time. Dalton, Mixon, Green, Boyd, Eifert - when completely healthy - is one of the best combo's in the NFL.
30. Washington Redskins
They were poised to make the playoff's a year ago. Until their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd string QB's got injured. This team is lead by Case Keenum...
31. New York Giants
Saquon - Engram - Shepard = SPECIAL
Rest of team = very bad
32. Miami Dolphins
Did you really read this far to see if the Dolphins were last on my list? They're trading key pieces away for lunch money.
Chandler Adams - Across The Board