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 NFL power rankings will hopefully cultivate realistic expectations for fan bases heading into the year. There are 32 teams — that means there’s a 3% chance your favorite team wins it all if all things were even.
That, they most certainly are not.
NFL Power Rankings | Tier 6: It’s okay to choose a new favorite team
Both teams in this tier have no hope for this season. In fact, unless major changes are made in the offseason, it’s likely to take years before either team is relevant again, despite playing in the same division (one that lacks a legitimate top team).
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. They struggled despite the heroic on-field efforts of their quarterback, Deshaun Watson. His film from last season was some of the most impressive in recent memory, but it wasn’t close to enough. Now, his future with the Texans and the league is in jeopardy. This could be a disastrous season for the franchise.
31) Jacksonville Jaguars
Their offense has been anemic in the preseason. They’ve lost Travis Etienne to a Lisfranc injury that could affect his explosiveness even when “fully” healed. Their coach is struggling to transition from the power he possessed as a college head coach to the restrictions he has as a professional. He’s made poor hires, and the team just traded a young quarterback with 20 NFL starts and two cheap years on his contract for the equivalent of a bag of chips.
Feel free to trade in your fandom card. This could be a train wreck.
NFL Power Rankings | Tier 5: Start following draft content
These teams are all building back toward relevance. Some are doing a better job than others, but they all have hope. However, barring some miracle, all of these teams will compete for top-10 draft slots.
Put your draft caps on, football fans, and start getting acquainted with the outstanding defensive prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
30) Detroit Lions
The Lions don’t have any receivers that resemble anything close to a true WR1. The only exciting prospect is Amon-Ra St. Brown. Couple that with an immobile quarterback, and things don’t look great for Detroit’s offense in 2021. Dan Campbell is a character, but he appears to have a solid hold on the team. This season is about building a foundation.
29) Philadelphia Eagles
Howie Roseman is about as aggressive as you’ll find from a general manager. This roster is a mix of good veteran players 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 just traded for a good injury insurance plan with Gardner Minshew.
28) New York Jets
The Jets fall here on the 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. Now, a goat in a visor could have done that, but Saleh is a motivator and leader. Joe Douglas built around a rookie QB in 2021, and the Jets are set up to improve the defense through the draft in 2022.
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. In the offseason, the team traded for Sam Darnold instead of drafting their QB of the future. Unless Darnold takes a massive, unexpected leap, the Panthers should be looking for a QB in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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. Drafting Kyle Pitts could help ease that pain, and Calvin Ridley has ascended into a true WR1. Matt Ryan can still win football games, but the defense remains a massive work in progress. They’ve spent significant draft capital into their secondary. However, the results of that are partly why they are so low in these NFL power rankings.
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. The decision to let Carl Lawson walk for Trey Hendrickson was… interesting… as was their decision to address their offensive line woes half-heartedly. Hopefully, Burrow can survive 2021 and head into 2022 with a better roster around him.
24) Chicago Bears
Speaking of coaches that might not last — Matt Nagy, everybody! Chicago’s offensive line is a massive struggle point, and it will likely continue for the rest of 2021. We don’t know when exactly we’ll see Justin Fields. Until we do, there’s nothing to even get excited about with this team.
NFL Power Rankings | Tier 4: If things go perfectly, they could sneak in
By perfectly, we’re talking about a miracle happening. All three of these teams have major questions surrounding their organizations that probably disqualify them as playoff contenders. But it’s not a done deal.
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. Yet, their defense was atrocious last season, and they didn’t do enough to improve it for this year, at least on paper. Jon Gruden can still call plays on offense, but that defense needs to make huge strides to compete for a playoff spot.
22) New York Giants
New York’s defense looks good on paper, and they’re overstocked with offensive weapons heading into the season. So, why are they so low in the NFL power rankings? Well, Jason Garrett is still the offensive architect, and Daniel Jones is still the one under center. However, the story is not yet written on Jones. If he can slash his turnovers down, this offense could do enough to help complement what should be a good defense.
21) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers rise a bit due to how good Ben Roethlisberger has looked in limited preseason action. The secondary is still a question mark after losing Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton, but the pass rush should help mitigate those losses.
Adding Melvin Ingram was a great move for the team. The biggest question comes up front. As impressive as Najee Harris was in the preseason, it isn’t easy to envision many great running lanes for him.