Way-Too-Early NFL Power Rankings for 2019

The Los Angeles Rams came up short in Super Bowl LIII but should be right back in the mix next season

Memories of Super Bowl LIII are still fresh in our minds as the New England Patriots wound up edging out the Los Angeles Rams to hold up the Lombardi Trophy yet again. As... interesting as that game was though, the NFL calendar never rests and even the coaches down in Atlanta know that the 2019 campaign is just around the corner for franchises around the league.

 

With that in mind and looking at everything from quarterback play, depth charts, potential free agents and forthcoming NFL draft moves, here’s the first early look at the NFL power rankings for the upcoming season and how each team stacks up from one to 32.

 

Way-Too-Early NFL Power Rankings for 2019

 

1. New Orleans Saints

NFL Power Rankings: SaintsLast year: 13-3, lost in NFC title game

 

The Saints are still upset at the ending to their final game and will likely use that result as fuel throughout 2019 in what might be the last go around with Drew Brees and company. The roster is in great shape no matter what and there should be plenty of veterans who they can pick up in free agency to help at the margins and get the franchise back to the Super Bowl.

 

2. Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Power Rankings: ChiefsLast year: 12-4, lost in AFC title game

 

The Chiefs face a number of questions about their roster this offseason and even if they bring back guys like Dee Ford and Chris Jones, have a ton of work left to do in order to upgrade on defense. While that is no doubt a priority for the front office over the coming months, they still have the NFL MVP in Patrick Mahomes and one of the most dangerous offenses in the league coming back.

 

3. Los Angeles Rams

NFL Power Rankings: RamsLast year: 13-3, lost in the Super Bowl

 

It goes without saying that the franchise is well positioned to keep rolling like they have been given the combination of terrific offensive talent (and Jared Goff still on a rookie contract) and head coach Sean McVay being in charge for years to come. There are a number of big free agent decisions coming but players want to be in LA with this team and it’s easy to see why.

 

4. Los Angeles Chargers

NFL Power Rankings: ChargersLast year: 12-4, lost in the divisional round

 

Philip Rivers is likely to be back for one last rodeo and the core of this group will be right there to help him reach that elusive Super Bowl. While the Chargers are a little bit jealous of their crosstown rivals’ success in 2018, they have a chance to follow the same path as they make a few improvements on both sides of the ball.

 

5. New England Patriots

NFL Power Rankings: PatriotsLast year: 11-5, won Super Bowl XLIII

 

Unless there’s a surprise retirement from either Tom Brady or Bill Belichick, you can expect the Pats to win another AFC East title and make another postseason run just like clockwork. There are a few key defensive and special teams decisions ahead for the front office but everybody knows just what they’re going to get out of this dynasty.

 

6. Chicago Bears

NFL Power Rankings: BearsLast year: 12-4, lost in the wild-card round

 

Matt Nagy won NFL Coach of the Year honors last season as the Bears turned into one of the biggest surprises of 2018. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky should continue to get better and there are not a ton of free agents scheduled to depart. Replacing DC Vic Fangio will be tough but there’s plenty of talent on defense for a team aiming high in 2019.

 

7. Seattle Seahawks

NFL Power Rankings: SeahawksLast year: 10-6, lost in the wild-card round

 

Hard to believe this will be Pete Carroll’s 10th season with the franchise and he’s coming off one of his best coaching jobs in Seattle, taking a below-average roster to the playoffs. Expectations will be high once again with Russell Wilson and company returning and far fewer distractions from the breakup of the Legion of Boom all done.

 

8. Indianapolis Colts

Last year: 10-6, lost in the divisional round

 

Andrew Luck rightfully earned Comeback Player of the Year honors and should get even better now that he’ll have a full offseason to actually throw the football around. The offensive line woes were fixed and the defense saw improvements too. Frank Reich’s squad will be true contenders in the AFC next year.

 

9. Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Power Rankings: EaglesLast year: 9-7, lost in the divisional round

 

Injuries played a big role in Philadelphia being unable to defend their Super Bowl title last season but the franchise is still on very solid ground with Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz leading the way in a division there for the taking. Finding help in the secondary is paramount this offseason for the front office as they also look to trade Nick Foles somewhere.

 

10. Cleveland Browns

Last year: 7-8-1

 

To borrow a line from Jim Mora: “Playoffs? Playoffs?” Yes, those are indeed the expectations around the league and certainly by the lake after the second half progress shown by Baker Mayfield and company. There’s a bit of an unknown with Freddie Kitchens sliding over to the big chair but the roster is one of the best in the league and there won’t be many excuses to win big.

 

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Power Rankings: SteelersLast year: 9-6-1

 

There was drama at just about every turn for this franchise last year but you have to think that some of that gets resolved this offseason, no matter what happens regarding Antonio Brown’s future. There’s still plenty of talent in the Steel City for one more run at another Lombardi with Big Ben and company.

 

12. Houston Texans

NFL Power Rankings: TexansLast year: 11-5, lost in the wild-card round

 

Deshaun Watson should improve further with a full, healthy offseason ahead of him and his offensive line has nowhere to go but up. The secondary will likely get re-tooled but there’s a solid core to lean on for Bill O’Brien.

 

13. Green Bay Packers

NFL Power Rankings: PackersLast year: 6-9-1

 

The Mike McCarthy era is over in Green Bay and there’s optimism that the new coaching staff can get the best out of Aaron Rodgers going forward. Familiar names like Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb are likely out the door but with cap space, two first-rounders, and a good culture, a return to the playoffs can’t be ruled out on the frozen tundra.

 

14. Dallas Cowboys

NFL Power Rankings: CowboysLast year: 10-6, lost in the divisional round

 

Bringing back DeMarcus Lawrence is the biggest priority for Jerry Jones but there are a number of other key contributors who the team could be moving on from. Still, an offseason should do wonders for Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and new OC Kellen Moore to all get on the same page.

 

15. Minnesota Vikings

NFL Power Rankings: VikingsLast year: 8-7-1

 

Things did not go as planned in 2018 for the Vikings after making a wild postseason run the season prior and then signing Kirk Cousins. The quarterback knows he needs to be better in big games for Minnesota to take the next step but big decisions lie ahead for the franchise with Anthony Barr, Sheldon Richardson, and others hitting free agency.

 

16. San Francisco 49ers

Last year: 4-12

 

This was a trendy dark-horse pick a year ago thanks to the way they closed the stretch run in 2017. Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury changed all that but his return should pave the way to getting the team going back in the right direction, especially with plenty of high picks in the draft to work with.

 

17. Baltimore Ravens

NFL Power Rankings: Ravens Last year: 10-6, lost in the wild-card round

 

There’s a clear priority to find Lamar Jackson some help on offense so you can expect plenty of draft picks and free agent money will be spent to that end. There are some hard decisions ahead with the stellar defense though with Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley among others hitting free agency.

 

18. New York Jets

Last year: 4-12

 

Looking for one team to make a big jump from year-to-year? Look no further than Gang Green. Sam Darnold will be firmly entrenched in his second year as a starter and is teamed up with an offensive-minded head coach in Adam Gase. Add in high draft picks and more than $80 million in cap space and New York is all set to turn things around quickly.

 

19. Atlanta Falcons

NFL Power Rankings: FalconsLast year: 7-9

 

Dan Quinn went for a full makeover with his coaching staff after a disappointing campaign for the Falcons and it will be interesting to see how that pays off going forward. Health will be a big factor in 2019 but the offense should get back to being near the top of the league.

 

20. Tennessee Titans

Last year: 9-7

 

Finding a few edge rushers will be a top offseason priority for Mike Vrabel but the biggest key to the future of the Titans will be how QB Marcus Mariota bounces back and goes through yet another change at offensive coordinator.

 

21. Oakland Raiders

NFL Power Rankings: RaidersLast year: 4-12

 

Jon Gruden’s first season in charge didn’t have a ton of bright spots and the team doesn’t even know where, exactly, they’ll be playing their home games in the year ahead but there are a number of factors that could point to the beginnings of a turnaround. All of those first-round picks are one driver but the Raiders have cap space too.

 

22. New York Giants

Last year: 5-11

 

It was a rocky debut for Pat Shurmur as head coach but things should get better in 2019 as the offensive core tries to make another postseason run with Eli Manning. The veteran QB still has to play better than he did but there’s a chance to turn things around.

 

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last year: 5-11

 

Bruce Arians will provide a much-needed presence in the organization and help the offense cut down on turnovers. Jameis Winston enters a make-or-break 2019 campaign but there’s still plenty of work left to do on the roster over the coming months.

 

24. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last year: 5-11

 

It’s all but certain the team will have a new quarterback for 2019, which is reason enough to think this group can get back on track like they were not too long ago. There’s not much cap space to work with though and several players need to step things up after the most recent season.

 

25. Denver Broncos

NFL Power Rankings: BroncosLast year: 6-10

 

Fans of the franchise are already excited about the prospect of Vic Fangio being a big upgrade on the head coaching front but there’s work left to be done on the roster for John Elway and the rest of the front office. Case Keenum might be the present at quarterback for the team but he’ll have to be much better during his second season in Mile High.

 

26. Buffalo Bills

Last year: 6-10

 

The Bills were unable to build upon their run to the playoffs but did see glimpses of a promising future out of Josh Allen. The team still needs to upgrade his weapons and offensive line though or else he will be a one-man show at times in 2019 too.

 

27. Detroit Lions

Last year: 6-10

 

The Lions were a wild ride in Matt Patricia’s first season and face a number of departures through free agency, like Ezekiel Ansah and LeGarrette Blount. We’ll see if a full offseason and draft cycle will be enough to help turn things around.

 

28. Carolina Panthers

Last year: 7-9

 

Why are the Panthers so low? It all has to do with Cam Newton, who underwent his second shoulder surgery in as many years and may not be back to normal. While the franchise hopes he’ll be ready by training camp, better safe than sorry given his importance to the team in years to come.

 

29. Arizona Cardinals

Last year: 3-13

 

Josh Rosen showed flashes as being a dependable franchise quarterback but hitting reset on the coaching staff twice in 365 days isn’t super encouraging. Kliff Kingsbury will surely have a bit of a learning curve but there are bigger issues with the team.

 

30. Miami Dolphins

Last year: 7-9

 

Brian Flores has a big challenge ahead in his first head coaching gig as the roster badly needs to get re-tooled at just about every level. Figuring out the quarterback spot is the biggest priority but it’s far from the only one.

 

31. Washington Redskins

NFL Power Rankings: RedskinsLast year: 7-9

 

Jay Gruden actually did a pretty impressive job keeping the team in playoff contention as long as he did in 2018 but confidence in the franchise appears to be at an all-time low. Alex Smith seems like he won’t be back until 2020 but the challenges are not limited to finding a new QB.

 

32. Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Power Rankings: BengalsLast year: 6-10

 

It will be strange after all this time to not see Marvin Lewis in charge of the Bengals but incoming head coach Zac Taylor will be far from the only change made in Cincinnati. The free agent list is long and just about every position group could see an upheaval for what will be a new look team in 2019.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

 

(Top photo courtesy of www.therams.com)

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