NFL Power Rankings Week 1: A reason to watch (for most teams)

The Week 1 NFL power rankings shouldn't come as a surprise. Hopefully, however, this can provide a reason for 31 fan bases to watch this week.

The NFL season is a beacon of hope for many, but only one fan base gets to feel victorious at the end of the season. These Week 1 NFL power rankings will play to the optimist in each fanbase. Currently, not a single team in the NFL has a loss on their record. What does each franchise have to look forward to seeing in 2021?

Week 1 NFL Power Rankings | Tier 6: I got nothin’

I’m sorry. I looked everywhere. I couldn’t find a glimmer of optimism for this one.

32) Houston Texans

This was a four-win team in 2020, with two of those coming against the worst team from last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars. They also beat Detroit, who won only five games in 2020. There isn’t a single redeeming quality associated with the franchise. The roster, coaching staff, and front office are all an absolute mess. If you’re still a fan of the franchise, you are truly the definition of a die-hard.

Tier 5: There’s something to excite fans

These teams are all building back toward relevance. Some are doing a better job than others, but they all have hope. Whether it be a new coaching staff, a new front office, or a new franchise quarterback, each one of these teams has a reason to hope for the future.

31) Jacksonville Jaguars

There is very, very little to look forward to with the Jaguars. But they have one long-haired saving grace. Trevor Lawrence will have to wash away the sins of the franchise and his new head coach, but he’s the one great hope for the franchise.

He isn’t all of the hope, though. Marvin Jones, DJ Chark, and Laviska Shenault are an incredibly fun trio of receivers. It already appears Lawrence has a rapport with the veteran Jones. It’ll be interesting to see how well he utilizes the speed of Chark downfield.

30) Detroit Lions

The Lions don’t have any receivers that resemble anything close to a true WR1. However, they spent significant draft capital on the defensive side of the ball, and they got some outstanding value along the way. With a now healthy Jeff Okudah, this defense could start rounding into a competitive unit as the season progresses if the rookie class can bring some juice. Don’t forget about the Okwara brothers, either. That could be a fun sibling unit to watch for the future.

Even though they fall at 30 in the Week 1 NFL power rankings, they have the makings of a fun team in Detroit, sans a franchise QB.

29) Philadelphia Eagles

Howie Roseman is about as aggressive as you’ll find from a general manager. This roster is a mix of good veterans and young, unproven players. There’s upside on the offensive side at wide receiver, which we haven’t been able to say in recent seasons. Jalen Hurts looked good in his minimal preseason action, and they traded for an injury insurance plan with Gardner Minshew. But all eyes will fall on Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, whom Hurts must rely on for success in 2021.

28) New York Jets

The Jets fall here on the Week 1 NFL power rankings because they lack a pass rush or cornerbacks. That is usually a pretty bad combination. Robert Saleh will provide a new and better culture than what Adam Gase left. The Jets might be at 28 here, but they have as much to look forward to as any team in this tier.

Saleh just feels like the right fit, and Joe Douglas crushed this past draft for the Jets. He built around the QB on a team that won’t compete but could with a defensive overhaul in the offseason.

27) Carolina Panthers

Matt Rhule is a program builder. He did it at Temple and again at Baylor, at a job that many wouldn’t even consider after Art Briles and company covered up multiple disgusting transgressions. His road in the NFL could take longer, however.

This defense is absolutely loaded with young, stud defensive talent. Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn, and Jaycee Horn could be four legitimate centerpieces on the defense. On offense, they have weapons in DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall Jr., along with Christian McCaffrey. They’re some decent OL and QB play away from being a surprise contender in 2021.

26) Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are in a precarious position. They have new leadership heading into 2021 and traded away Julio Jones in the offseason. They’ve spent a lot of draft capital on the secondary but have seen little return on their investments. Focus your eyes on Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts, who could be the most fun young WR/TE duo in the NFL.

25) Cincinnati Bengals

It might not be long for head coach Zac Taylor. But that would be an unfortunate ending for someone who never had a roster to do anything relatively close to competing with. Fans can look forward to the triumphant resurgence of rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase during the regular season. Alongside Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and RB Joe Mixon, the Bengals aren’t short on offensive weapons.

Just ignore that offensive line, and all the pain goes away.

24) Chicago Bears

Speaking of coaches that might not last — Matt Nagy, everybody! Honestly, there’s nothing to look at here, either. Sure, we could get a little excited about Jaylon Johnson in Year 2. But they’re at 24 in the Week 1 NFL power rankings for a reason. Until Justin Fields takes the field in a regular-season game when it matters, nothing matters.

Week 1 NFL Power Rankings | Tier 4: We’re happy, but only slightly

There is a lot of upside on each of these teams at certain spots, but each has fatal flaws that most likely prohibit them from making a playoff run.

23) Las Vegas Raiders

Derek Carr had arguably his best season as a pro in 2020. The Raiders lost a few important pieces on the offensive line, but the offense could still be good enough to contend. I’ll wave the Henry Ruggs flag until they legally force me to retire it. Bryan Edwards was one of “my guys” coming out of South Carolina, too. Alongside Darren Waller, this offense looks exciting. And, for all his flaws, if Jon Gruden can do one thing, it’s call plays with the best of them.

22) New York Giants

New York’s defense looks stout on paper, and they’re overstocked with offensive weapons heading into the season. However, they’re low on the NFL power rankings because their quarterback and offensive coordinator can’t be trusted.

Still, there’s a lot to like. James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson have a ton of upside on the outside at cornerback, and they have all of the interior defenders necessary to fill a starting five on the court. They have what feels like a baseball team worth of names at receiver.

It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out in New York.

21) Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers rise a bit due to how good Ben Roethlisberger has looked in limited preseason action. Najee Harris didn’t get much work in the preseason, but he looked exactly like we all thought he would. He’s a beautiful, old-school physical runner with the footwork of a much smaller back. As a receiver, he’s about as good as it gets. There aren’t many 6’2″, 230-pound running backs out there catching contested back-shoulder fades. Obviously, the entire defensive line is a massive positive, too.

Tier 3: Each team has reason for optimism

Each of these teams have high-end talent on the roster that are young, which makes them an intriguing watch.

20) Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray has the potential to throw for 4,000 yards and run for another 1,000 if given the opportunity. No need to get excited about A.J. Green, but Rondale Moore has the potential to be one of the top five most dangerous weapons in the league with the ball in his hands. Muscle Hampster was a nickname for Doug Martin, but Moore’s contact balance for his size reminds me of that. If he stays healthy, he could be special in this horizontal raid offense.

19) Denver Broncos

It stinks that the Broncos must be at 19 in the NFL power rankings. Denver has a roster ready-made to make a playoff run with one of the deepest secondaries we’ve seen in recent history. They also have a few pass rushers in Bradley Chubb and Von Miller looking to have strong seasons, with an enticing, young group of receivers and an athletic TE in Noah Fant. Garett Bolles has improved his game drastically, and the OL looks good outside of a question at RT.

18) Indianapolis Colts

Carson Wentz could be a disaster, and this could all be null & void, but this roster has a ton of talent. DeForest Buckner played with a broken bone in his right hand, which didn’t allow him to properly clasp the hand. Being able to grab is important for any NFL player, but it’s essential as a defensive lineman. The Colts have elite talent on all three levels of the defense, but I’m excited to see Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. in Year 2 of their careers.

17) Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota has a known commodity at QB and a young WR who could very well be the most productive in the NFL if he replicates his rookie campaign. Justin Jefferson is an absolute gem of a route runner, and his hands are some of the best around. With one of the best backs in the league anchoring the offense, the Vikings have no shortage of offensive weapons to make up for a rebuilding defense.

16) Los Angeles Chargers

Speaking of route running, Keenan Allen might be the most impressive technician in the league. Justin Herbert is the favorite of many to have an MVP-caliber season as a sophomore quarterback. The Chargers also have possibly the most talented pass rusher in the league in Joey Bosa. But wait! There’s more! Additionally, they have quite possibly the most impressive safety, too. Pray that Derwin James and Bosa stay healthy with Brandon Staley calling the defensive shots.

15) New England Patriots

The Patriots have a roster that’s ready to accommodate their rookie quarterback. Their offensive line is underrated, even as one of the top 10 units in football. They have a plethora of players partaking in 2021 after opting out in 2020. They have a legitimate stable of running backs that could be rotated in and out at their leisure. But having multiple tight ends allows this offense to get back to its roots, which is a good thing for the Patriots.

14) Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa appears locked in, and that’s without seeing Will Fuller on the outside. Between Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Preston Williams, he has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Myles Gaskin looks like a difference-maker as well. On defense, they have one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL with Byron Jones and Xavien Howard.

As long as this offensive line can survive, this could be a surprisingly good team in 2021.  

13) New Orleans Saints

There is NOTHING more entertaining than Jameis Winston dropping back to pass. Nobody has more extreme outcomes than Winston. Now, the LASIK-driven QB gets a shot with Sean Payton, who should be able to cultivate an offense to best suit Winston’s strengths. Even without Michael Thomas, having Winston around brings excitement and explosion to the Saints’ offense. Look for more passes past the sticks and a few “C’mon Man” moments, too.

12) Washington Football Team

There are few things more exciting at the NFL level than Washington’s defense. Their defensive line is unmatched in talent, and the secondary is filled with high-end playmakers like William Jackson and Kendall Fuller. Additionally, Terry McLaurin is still somehow underrated, despite producing with very little upside at the quarterback position. Now, he has Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown around to help him.

11) San Francisco 49ers

The Week 1 NFL power rankings have a lot of fun teams, but none have the potential of the 49ers from an entertainment standpoint. These fools (geniuses?) might go out there and legitimately play two quarterbacks throughout the course of a game. And guess what? It might be a banger of an idea!

That would allow Trey Lance to slowly work his way into the NFL while still getting live reps in regular-season games, which is something he needs more than anybody. The 49ers have the potential to be the most exciting team in the league.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch