Power Rankings and Season Predictions for Each NFL Team


Arjun Jaswal

NOTE: These rankings are meant to be as realistic as possible and may or may not reflect my personal beliefs.

  1. Houston Texans

Predicted Season Record: 2-15, 4th in the AFC South

Thanks to some puzzling moves from former GM/Head Coach Bill O’Brien, the Houston Texans organization did a full 180 last year, transforming from a perennial contender into a dumpster fire.  Former stars such as J.J. Watt, Deandre Hopkins, and Jadeveon Clowney are long gone, and the Texans are only left with superstar QB Deshaun Watson, LT Laremy Tunsil, and a solid WR in Brandin Cooks, and did not own a 1st or 2nd round pick in this year’s draft.  And to make matters worse, Watson has been in a standoff with Texans management and reportedly wants out of Houston.  But when you consider Watson’s sexual misconduct allegations, coupled with the fact that basically, all 32 teams have figured out their QB situation, for the time being, it is more likely that Watson is not traded from the Texans at all.  According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, people within “league circles” believe that Deshaun Watson will sit out the upcoming NFL season, leaving the Texans with only journeyman Tyrod Taylor, 26-year-old Ryan Finley, and rookie 3rd round pick Davis Mills at the quarterback position.  It is also worth noting that Houston’s new coach, David Culley, has no prior head coaching experience at any sort of level, and he is already 65 years old (he’s already the fourth-oldest coach in the NFL!). Taking all of this into consideration, it looks like it is very possible that the Texans become the first team to go winless in the NFL’s new 17-game schedule structure.


  1. Atlanta Falcons

Predicted Season Record: 3-14, 4th in the NFC South

The last couple of years have not been kind to the Falcons, and this year was no different.  Any glimmer of hope that the Falcons could make/contend for the playoffs this season is gone, as star WR Julio Jones, undisputedly the best player on the team, was dealt along with a sixth-round pick next year to the Titans for a second and fourth-round pick in next year’s draft. While the Falcons added TE Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft and former Panthers RB Mike Davis in free agency, this still would not offset the devastating loss of Jones, one of the most talented receivers to ever pick up a football.  Add in the fact that the play of QB Matt Ryan has slowly deteriorated as his age has increased and the Falcons offense may even be a below-average unit this season.  Defensively, the Falcons added FS Richie Grant in the second round of this year’s draft but nothing notable otherwise. This is especially concerning, considering that Atlanta’s defense has been among the worst in the NFL for the past few seasons now.  Furthermore, the Falcons hired Arthur Smith, an offensive-minded coach, to lead their team next year, and they spent a highly-coveted pick on the aforementioned Pitts, showing further neglect to the defense. With another horrible performance this season, the Falcons could finally be able to select a successor to former MVP Matt Ryan.


  1. Detroit Lions

Predicted Season Record: 3-14, 4th in the NFC North

The Lions moved on from Matthew Stafford after twelve unsuccessful seasons in Detroit, gathering some future first-round picks and QB Jared Goff in the process.  They also fired head coach Matt Patricia after an awful three-year run in Detroit and hired former New Orleans Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell.  New GM Brad Holmes was unable to upgrade really anything throughout the free-agent period, and while he was able to pick up OT Penei Sewell with the seventh pick in the draft, this roster definitely has taken a step back from last season, with the losses of WRs Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., OLB Jarrad Davis, CB Desmond Trufant, and obviously Stafford.  With a tough schedule coming up, it seems unlikely that the Lions reach the five-win mark as they did last season, but with a stockpile of picks thanks to the Rams trade, the future isn’t looking too bad in Detroit.


  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Predicted Season Record: 4-13, 3rd in the AFC South

The Jaguars added a generational talent at quarterback over the offseason, drafting Trevor Lawrence with the #1 overall pick, but given the current situation in Jacksonville, I do not see the Jaguars doing anything special in 2021.  On the offensive side of the ball, the Jaguars now find themselves with a dynamic duo in their backfield with RB James Robinson (1,070 yards in 14 games last season) and Lawrence’s college teammate, RB Travis Etienne (selected with the 26th overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft).  Other than that, there isn’t much else going on around Lawrence on offense, as he will be throwing to a below-average receiving corps in WRs D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Marvin Jones Jr. (and Tim Tebow?!) and will be protected by a less-than-stellar offensive line.  The defensive is not particularly great either, as they mostly return the same unit that allowed the second-most yards in the NFL last season, with the exception of new CBs Shaquill Griffin (2019 Pro Bowler) and Tyson Campbell (selected in the 2nd round).  A first-time NFL head coach in Urban Meyer and a rookie QB in Lawrence may cause things to go bumpier than expected in Jacksonville, but with a young, developing roster, this is a team that certainly has a bright future.



  1. Cincinnati Bengals

Predicted Season Record: 5-12, 4th in the AFC North

After tearing his ACL and MCL in week 11 of last season, 2020 #1 overall pick Joe Burrow will return, and he will look to build on a somewhat promising 2020-21 campaign.  Burrow’s favorite target on his championship-winning LSU team, Ja’Marr Chase, was selected by the Bengals with the 6th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and will instantly become a fan favorite, replacing franchise legend and oft-injured A.J. Green.  But the selection of Chase was one that was debated by many, as the Bengals did not decide to take OT Penei Sewell to protect Joe Burrow, who suffered from having one of the worst offensive lines in the league (30th according to Pro Football Focus).  And while the Bengals have added 32-year-old Riley Reiff and rookie OT Jackson Carman in the second round of this year’s draft to help bolster their unit, Joe Burrow will more likely than not find himself under pressure quite often next season, as the offensive line did not get the major renovation that was needed. Burrow also will likely miss the entire offseason of training, including the preseason, and may be unable to build a strong connection with his new starting tackles by the time the season starts.  As for the defense, they return an average unit again next year, led by star FS Jessie Bates III.  They have not necessarily gotten worse, adding DE Trey Hendrickson (finished 2nd in the NFL in sacks last season) and two relatively average CBs Mike Hilton and Chidobie Awuzie, but they also have not gotten much better, losing their best DE Carl Lawson and their best CB in William Jackson.  Barring a spectacular performance by Burrow, do not expect much from the Bengals this season, however, this is a team that could turn out to be a contender a few years down the road.


  1. Denver Broncos

Predicted Season Record: 5-12, 4th in the AFC West

After trading for Teddy Bridgewater in April, it is unclear who will start the season at QB for the Broncos, and as possibly the only team in the NFL that does not have its QB situation solved, it is pretty easy to tell why they may not perform too well this year. However, besides the quarterback position, Denver’s offense is not looking too shabby, as they lost RB Phillip Lindsay but added RB Javonte Williams in the second round and get star WR Courtland Sutton back after he tore his ACL in week 1 of last season.  They still also have 2nd-year WRs Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler returning, in addition to 3rd year TE Noah Fant.  As for the offensive line, OT Garett Bolles is one of the top tackles in the NFL and OG Graham Glasgow is a solid protector, and they added OG/C Quinn Meinerz in the 3rd round of the draft, but the Broncos unit is above-average. On the defensive side, the Broncos will get OLB Von Miller back after he dislocated his peroneal tendon last offseason, and they added CB Patrick Surtain with the 9th overall pick in the draft and former All-Pro CB Kyle Fuller.  However, this, for the most part, is the same defense that allowed the 8th most points per game in the NFL last season and the quarterback situation is still looming large in Denver, and for that reason, I do not expect the Broncos to be anywhere in the conversation of contenders next season, barring a surprise.


T-26. Philadelphia Eagles

Predicted Season Record: 6-11, 4th in the NFC East

With an inexperienced QB, first-year head coach, aging team, and holes all over the roster do not expect the Eagles to compete this year in the NFC East.  While the Eagles added WR DeVonta Smith with the 10th pick in this year’s draft, picked up FS Anthony Harris in free agency, and may get OG Brandon Brooks back after he tore his Achilles last season, the WR room is still seemingly thin (Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham), and the offensive line, secondary, and linebacking corps are mediocre to poor. The truth is that the current Eagles roster is far from that of the 2017-18 Super Bowl champions.  Former core players such as TE Zach Ertz, WR Alshon Jeffery (cut in March), C Jason Kelce, OT/OG Jason Peters, OT Lane Johnson, OT Brandon Brooks, DT Fletcher Cox, DE Brandon Graham, and SS Malcolm Jenkins (now on the New Orleans Saints) have aged and seemingly lost a step.  However, a potential three first-round picks in 2022 (thanks to the Carson Wentz trade with the Colts and a 1st round pick swap with the Dolphins) could really help set this roster up for the future.


T-26. New York Jets

Predicted Season Record: 6-11, 4th in the AFC East

GM Joe Douglas has tried his best to change the culture in Florham Park, NJ over the past offseason after two miserable years with Adam Gase at the helm, and as a Jets fan myself, I think that he has done a pretty good job.  Former 49ers DC Robert Saleh was a highly sought-after coach that the Jets were able to snag and not too long after the hiring of Saleh, Douglas shipped off QB Sam Darnold to Carolina for some picks and selected QB Zach Wilson with the 2nd overall pick in the NFL Draft.  Douglas also added OG Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th overall pick in the draft, WR Elijah Moore with the 34th pick, and RB Michael Carter in the fourth round, in addition to a former-Titan in WR Corey Davis and a former-Bengal in DE Carl Lawson.  Douglas has assembled one of the youngest rosters in the NFL (5th youngest by age) and that may be the problem.  A new coaching staff, new quarterback, new receivers, and even (sort of) a new owner may cause some problems for the Jets, and don’t forget a gaping hole in the secondary, an unproven linebacking corps, and a shaky right side of the offensive line.  With 4 picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft, the Jets should be in a great position to compete for a potential playoff spot next year.


  1. Carolina Panthers

Predicted Season Record: 7-10, 3rd in the NFC South

The Panthers have had a tough time finding a starting-caliber QB after Cam Newton’s glory days ended, and they hope that they have finally struck gold with newly acquired Sam Darnold.  Darnold should have plenty of toys to play with on this Panthers offense, including superstar RB Christian McCaffrey, WR DJ Moore, former Jets teammate WR Robby Anderson, and rookie second-round pick WR Terrace Marshall Jr.  And while Carolina’s offensive line is average at best, the return of McCaffery and the additions of Darnold and Marshall will hopefully help spark an offensive turnaround this season.  On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers added CB Jaycee Horn with the 8th overall pick in the draft, and former Cardinals DE/OLB Haason Reddick.  However, the linebacking core has been one of the worst in the league after Luke Kuechly retired and the Panthers have not really addressed the position since.  Also, an inexperienced secondary and defensive line (although the defensive line is stellar) may cause further problems.  The Panthers could definitely steal a playoff spot this season, but it all depends on the performance of QB Sam Darnold.


  1. Las Vegas Raiders

Predicted Season Record: 7-10, 3rd in the AFC West

To the surprise of no one, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock botched their first-round pick yet again this year in OT/OG Alex Leatherwood, and while they were also able to add FS Trevon Moehrig in the second round, and DE Yannick Ngakoue, CB Casey Hayward, and RB Kenyan Drake, in free agency this team still has some holes on the roster.  Let’s start at receiver, which the Raiders have failed to effectively address for a couple of years now, and newly acquired John Brown certainly is not going to turn around this below-average receiving corps.  Surprisingly, the Raiders actually boasted a pretty strong offense last season even without a competent receiving room, but most of the problems for them lie on the other side of the ball.  Last year, the Raiders were one of the worst defenses in the league, and I doubt the additions of Hayward (old and declining), Ngakoue (had a little bit of a down year last season), and Moehrig (rookie) will magically fix this unit.  The Raiders could potentially sneak into the playoffs this season but given the state of their roster, it seems pretty unlikely.


  1. Chicago Bears

Predicted Season Record: 7-10, 3rd in the NFC North

Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have tried their best to move on from Mitch Trubisky’s miserable stint in the Windy City, picking up QB Andy Dalton in free agency and trading up nine spots to take QB Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft.  Sadly, for Fields, he will not have a great offense to work with outside of RB David Montgomery and WR Allen Robinson (who made it clear that he wanted to leave before he was franchise-tagged this past offseason).  The receiving corps is thin, and the offensive line is shaky. Any glimpse of the 2018-19 Bears league-best defense is gone.  Core defensive players such as OLB Khalil Mack, DT Akiem Hicks, CB Kyle Fuller (cut in March) have aged and declined in play.  The Bears have not really decided to change things up on defense from last year, as their focus shifted to fixing the offense this past offseason, and I doubt that the defense will be anything better than mediocre.  Fields can bring this team to the playoffs with a spectacular performance this season, but it is more likely than not that the Bears will be missing out on the playoffs after narrowly making it in last year.


  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Predicted Season Record: 7-10, 3rd in the AFC North

After an 11-0 start to the season last year, the Steelers have fallen off a cliff. After being knocked out in the Wild Card round of the playoffs by their division rival, the Browns, the Steelers went into the offseason knowing exactly what positions they needed to address this offseason, mainly QB, RB, and OL.  They opted to keep 39-year-old QB Ben Roethlisberger after a rough 2020-21 season, possibly hinting that they will draft a new successor at the QB position in the 2022 NFL Draft.  As for the RB position, the Steelers drafted a rare talent in Alabama product Najee Harris with the 24th pick in this year’s draft. However, they may have wanted to address the offensive line with that pick, as former Pro Bowlers (11 Pro Bowls combined) OT Alejandro Villanueva (cut), and C Maurkice Pouncey (retired) are no longer on the team.  On the other side of the ball, the Steelers are much better, as they return one of the best defenses in the NFL from last season.  While OLB Bud Dupree was lost to the Titans in free agency, the Steelers will get back MLB Devin Bush after he tore his ACL last season, and aside from a shaky cornerback room, this defense should still be among the best in the league once again.  Barring a surprising season performance from Roethlisberger, this Steelers defense led by DE TJ Watt is going to have to carry this team all the way to playoff contention.


  1. Washington Football Team

Predicted Season Record: 8-9, 3rd in the NFC East

Thanks to a historically awful NFC East last season, the Washington Football Team was able to sneak into the playoffs, and while the division won’t be nearly as weak as last year, this team should still be in a good position to compete.  Over the offseason, the Football team acquired 38-year-old journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who surprisingly had a great season with the Dolphins last year, to replace recently cut QB Alex Smith, a move that I would consider to be an upgrade despite Fitzpatrick’s age.  They were also able to add a versatile weapon in WR Curtis Samuel in free agency and WR Dyami Brown in the third round of the draft to add depth to their receiving room behind stud Terry McLaurin. The offensive line is about the same as last year after Washington acquired OG Ereck Flowers from the Dolphins and selected OT Samuel Cosmi in the second round of this year’s draft, but lost an above-average OT in Morgan Moses (cut). However, fans should mostly be excited about what this top-5 defense from last season has to offer.  The defensive line led by second-year DE Chase Young is among the best in the league, and the cornerback room has vastly improved thanks to the additions of CB William Jackson and CB Benjamin St-Juste (drafted in the third round of this year’s draft).  New OLB Jamin Davis (drafted in the first round) will also help make this defense even stronger.  If Fitzpatrick and the offense can get things going and the defense can build on their success from last season, Washington could possibly be in the playoff conversation this season.


  1. Minnesota Vikings

Predicted Season Record: 8-9, 2nd in the NFC North

A sensational rookie season by WR Justin Jefferson coupled with some unstoppable performances by RB Dalvin Cook helped the Vikings go on a late-season surge to finish with a record of 7-9.  Over the offseason, GM Rick Spielman plugged up some of the holes on the offensive line with the additions of 1st round pick OT Christian Darrisaw and 3rdround pick OG Wyatt Davis, and outside of a lack of depth in the receiver room, most of the offense looks pretty good, except for QB.  Soon-to-be 33-year-old Kirk Cousins may have performed well on paper last season, but some of his costly mistakes ended up preventing the Vikings from winning a couple of games.  However, Cousins tends to play better when the Vikings use more of a run-based offense and let Dalvin Cook run free which takes the load off Cousins a bit.  This is what helped the Vikings make the playoffs in the 2019-20 season.  Last season, the Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and while they get DE Danielle Hunter back, they lost FS Anthony Harris, a key presence in the secondary.  The Vikings came into this offseason knowing that they needed a CB to beef up this below-average secondary and decided to sign Patrick Peterson who is coming off a shaky season and has clearly lost a step as he has aged.  Another edge rusher would also go a long way in helping the Vikings pass rush, as they need someone to pair up with Hunter.  The Vikings could definitely make it far this season if they rely heavily on Dalvin Cook to move the ball Kirk Cousins can hopefully return to old form.  However, the defense may be what ends up holding this team back from becoming a playoff team.


  1. New England Patriots

Predicted Season Record: 8-9, 3rd in the AFC East

The Patriots were one of the top spenders in free agency this season, surrendering a lot of cash to acquire players like DE/OLB Matt Judon, TE Hunter Henry, TE Jonnu Smith, and WR Nelson Agholor.  And while it’s pretty safe to say that they overpaid for most, if not all of the players I just mentioned, this is still a roster that has vastly improved over the offseason, despite the loss of star OG Joe Thuney.  In the draft, the Patriots are hoping that they just selected their next franchise QB in Mac Jones (picked 15th overall) and are also looking to beef up their pass rush with two Day 2 steals DT Christian Barmore (2nd round) and Ronnie Perkins (3rd round). Although I expect incumbent QB Cam Newton to get the week 1 start over newcomer Jones (Newton was signed to a 1 year 14-million-dollar deal over the offseason), it will not really matter who gets more playing time, because this offense is not going to perform well either way.  The Patriots were able to pick up to premier TEs in free agency in Henry and Smith (expect a lot of two tight end sets on offense this season), they enter the season with possibly the worst receiving corps in the entire league, a below-average running back room, and a very solid offensive line regardless of the fact that it lost its best player.  On defense, I expect this unit to perform relatively average, as this is one of the oldest defenses (OLB Kyle Van Noy, MLB Dont’a Hightower, FS Devin McCourty, DE Lawrence Guy, CB Stephon Gilmore, and DE Henry Anderson will all be over 30 by the time the season starts) and some of these players have regressed already or will at some point in the future.  While it is possible, I find it unlikely that the Patriots will be able to sneak into the playoffs this season.


  1. Los Angeles Chargers

Predicted Season Record: 9-8, 2nd in the AFC West

The Chargers, led by reigning offensive rookie of the year QB Justin Herbert, lost some heartbreaking close games last year en route to a 7-9 record, and hope to turn things around for the better this season.  Herbert’s offense should be among the top in the NFL next season, with a strong backfield led by RB Austin Ekeler and a decent receiving corps led by star Keenan Allen and former top-ten pick Mike Williams.  As for the offensive line, GM Tom Telesco came into the offseason knowing that he needed to protect QB Justin Herbert (top 10 in sacks taken last year) and he didn’t play around.  The additions of C Corey Linsley in free agency, one of the best interior linemen in football last year, and OT Rashawn Slater with the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft will certainly please Herbert.  Defensively, this team performed slightly below average last season, but should definitely improve thanks to a few additions, most notably the hiring of new head coach Brandon Staley, a defensive whiz who helped lead the Rams to the best defense in the league last year in his first season as their defensive coordinator.  The long-awaited return of 2019-20 defensive rookie of the year (who hasn’t taken a snap since) SS Derwin James will also greatly help the secondary, as will newly acquired CB Asante Samuel Jr., selected in the second round of this year’s draft.  If everything goes as planned, this vastly improved Chargers team could potentially make it into the playoffs this season as a fringe team.


  1. New York Giants

Predicted Season Record: 9-8, 2nd in the NFC East

Dave Gettleman has not had an amazing tenure as the general manager of the Giants, making puzzling decisions in the draft and in free agency over the past couple of years.  But this year, on the hot seat, Gettleman killed the offseason. And as odd as it may sound, it is in fact true.  For one thing, the free-agent signing of physical WR Kenny Golladay and the first-round selection of WR Kadarius Toney immediately have helped transform the Giants’ entire offense. And on defense, Gettleman helped build a scary pass rush trio with DT/DE Dexter Lawrence, DE Leonard Williams, and rookie second-round pick OLB Azeez Ojulari, in addition to one of the league’s top secondaries with CB James Bradberry, SS Jabril Peppers, FS Logan Ryan, and newly acquired CB Adoree’ Jackson.  While Gettleman did not decide to upgrade the offensive line at all, certainly a mistake on his part, this team has already gotten so much better on both sides of the ball this offseason. Oh, and I forgot to mention that star RB Saquon Barkley should be ready to make his return Week 1 after tearing his ACL in Week 2 of last season.  The stars are aligned for QB Daniel Jones to deliver the G-men to a playoff berth this season, as this team has given him plenty of weapons to throw the ball to on offense, and a defense that should be able to harass opposing offenses. If Danny Dimes is able to put together a solid season (something that he has not done in two years as a starting QB), this is a team that could definitely steal the NFC East this year.


  1. New Orleans Saints

Predicted Season Record: 9-8, 2nd in the NFC South

One of the greatest QBs to ever play the game of football, and former 15-year New Orleans Saint Drew Brees retired this past offseason and that left this Saints team with a big hole to fill at the starting QB position.  However, head coach Sean Payton believes that he already has a starting-caliber QB within the organization in either former #1 overall pick Jameis Winston or swiss-army-knife Taysom Hill, and considering the fact that either one would be protected by a top-3 offensive line led by the best OT duo in the NFL (Ryan Ramcyzk and Terron Armstead), would be throwing to the second-best receiving back in the NFL (Alvin Kamara), and would be throwing to a top-ten wide receiver who was the best receiver in the league the last time he finished a full season (Michael Thomas), they would both be in a great position on offense, regardless of a thin receiver room behind Thomas.  Defensively, the Saints boasted a top-5-unit last season which should be close to just as good this season. While they may have lost DE Trey Hendrickson, former first-round pick DE Marcus Davenport should be able to fill in his spot honorably, and rookie 2nd round pick OLB Pete Werner and 3rdround pick CB Paulson Adebo should be able to pick up where former Saints OLB Kwon Alexander and CB Janoris Jenkins left off.  And as usual, DE Cameron Jordan, MLB Demario Davis, CB Marshon Lattimore, and FS Marcus Williams will still wreak havoc on opposing offenses.  The fate of the Saints season will lie in the hands of whoever starts at QB this season (either Winston or Hill), and a strong supporting cast on offense coupled with a lockdown defense will be able to help put either Winston or Hill in a strong position to compete for a playoff spot this season.


  1. Dallas Cowboys

Predicted Season Record: 9-8, 1st in the NFC East, Wild Card Loss

Dak Prescott suffered one of the most grueling injuries of last season when his season ended after he fell down and fractured his ankle in a Week 5 matchup against the New York Giants.  On pace to have the most single-season passing yards in NFL history before the incident last year, Prescott signed a mammoth extension with the Cowboys over the offseason to stay with them for 4 more years and make $160 million. With the hope that Prescott is able to finish what he started last season throwing the ball, the Cowboys offense should be one of the top units in the NFL, with star RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Amari Cooper, WR Michael Gallup, and WR Ceedee Lamb all top-notch weapons for Prescott to spread the ball to.  On the offensive line, the Cowboys will hopefully get back all three of their best offensive linemen (who happen to be three of the best offensive linemen in the league) in OG Zack Martin and OTs Tyron Smith and La’el Collins after each of them suffered season-ending injuries just last year.  If those three players are able to stay healthy and perform at the same level that they were two years ago, the Cowboys’ offense may even end up being the best in the league.  Most of the concerns lie on the defensive side, where the Cowboys performed horribly last year, and GM/owner Jerry Jones prioritized his needs first this offseason (unusual of him). The Cowboys drafted OLB Micah Parsons with the 12th pick in this year’s draft, and they spent their first five draft picks overall addressing the defense (picked CB Kelvin Joseph in the 2nd round, DT Osa Odighizuwa in the 3rd round, DE Chauncey Golston in the 3rd round, and OLB/MLB Jabril Cox in the 4th round in addition to Parsons). Jones also brought in FS Damontae Kazee and S/OLB Keanu Neal (both former Falcons) in free agency, and let’s not forget that this Cowboys team will also see MLB Leighton Vander Esch and CB Trevon Diggs return after both had season-ending injuries last season. While the sheer firepower of this offense can alone help bring the Cowboys to playoff contention, in order to make it deeper into the playoffs, this defense (which I expect to be average at best) will have to step up.


  1. San Francisco 49ers

Predicted Season Record: 10-7, 4th in the NFC West, Wild Card Loss 

In a blockbuster move this offseason, 49ers GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan together made the decision to deal two future first-rounders to the Miami Dolphins to move up to the third overall pick so they could select the new face of their franchise in North Dakota State product QB Trey Lance. While it currently seems as if incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo will lead the offense come the start of the season, Lance is inevitably going to take over at some point and he will be given an opportunity to help lead the 2019-20 NFC Champions back to the playoffs after an injury-riddled season. And if the rest of the offense is able to stay healthy, Garoppolo/Lance should have a strong supporting cast behind them, led by journeyman RB Raheem Mostert and Harvard alumnus FB Kyle Juscyzk in the backfield, a mediocre to poor receiving corps led by 2020 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, a top 2 TE in the league in George Kittle, and a very solid offensive line led by tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey.  Moving to the other side of the ball, the 49ers lost their two biggest leaders in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and CB Richard Sherman (Sherman is a free agent and can still resign with the team). However, they will get back stud DE Nick Bosa who will lead one of the league’s top defensive lines in the league. As for the rest of the defense, the linebacking core will be led by Fred Warner, one of the best at what he does, and the secondary, while seemingly average, should benefit from the addition of former Michigan standout CB Ambry Thomas in the third round of this year’s draft. If this team is able to overcome the loss of their defensive coordinator and the huge number of injuries suffered last year, they could definitely make a run in the playoffs.  With that said, if Trey Lance is thrown into the starting position at the wrong time, this team may find themselves missing out on the postseason altogether for a second straight year.

  1. Seattle Seahawks

Predicted Season Record: 10-7, 3rd in the NFC East, Wild Card Loss

Coming off a Wild Card loss to their division foe, the Los Angeles Rams, last season, the time is ticking for soon-to-be 33-year-old superstar QB Russell Wilson and the oldest head coach in the NFL right now in Pete Carroll.  While this team has made the playoffs for eight of the past nine seasons, they have not gotten past the divisional round since the 2015-16 season, a year that ended in a way all too familiar to many Seahawks fans.  Over the offseason, the Seahawks were not able to make many improvements as a whole, thanks to a couple of trades (most notably the one involving star SS Jamal Adams) which cost them all but three picks in this year’s draft.  On offense, they were able to add a new coordinator in Shane Waldron, speedy slot WR D’Wayne Eskridge in the second round of the draft, solid TE in Gerald Everett in free agency, and OG Gabe Jackson in a draft pick swap.  Wilson should benefit from a strong supporting cast of skill-position players, but the weakest link of this offense is clearly the offensive line, which, once again, is an average-to-below-average group.  On defense, this team was hardly impressive at all, turning in an overall poor performance last season, although they showed signs of improvement as the season progressed (possibly due to weaker opposing offenses). As a unit, the Seahawks mostly struggled to defend the pass, allowing the second-most yards through the air, and their former Pro Bowl #1 CB, Shaquill Griffin, is no longer on the team.  Their cornerback room as a whole is either inexperienced or unproven, with the exception of newly added Ahkello Witherspoon (who is not fit to be a team’s #1 CB anyway). The rest of the defense is actually not too bad, with the linebacking group being led by Wagner and the defensive line being bolstered by newly added DE Kerry Hyder (coming off a 9-sack season). However, this Seahawks team will have to step up in order to avoid another first-round exit, and the pressure will be specifically on Wilson, who had a poor second-half of 2020-21, and obviously the defense, which, in all fairness, did no help to Wilson and the offense last year.  And it certainly won’t help that this team will be playing in what is, in my opinion, the toughest division in football.


  1. Indianapolis Colts

Predicted Season Record: 10-7, 2nd in the AFC South, Wild Card Loss

Even before former Colts QB Phillip Rivers retired shortly after the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, Indy went into the season with a huge need at QB, and they ended up getting their man in disgruntled former Eagle Carson Wentz.  Unlike last season’s disaster, Wentz will benefit from one of the league’s best offensive lines (OG Quenton Nelson, C Ryan Kelly, OG Braden Smith), in addition to a solid backfield trio (second-year RB Jonathan Taylor, RB Marlon Mack, and NC State product RB Nyheim Hines; first two both rushed for 1,000 yards in either 2019-20 or 2020-21), and a below-average receiving corps (which, interestingly enough, is still better than what he had in Philly last season).  Some of the weight will be carried off Wentz’s shoulders this season, thanks to the fact that the Colts boast an elite defense led by superstar DT DeForest Buckner and game-changing OLB Darius Leonard.  Previously the most lacking part of this unit, this new Colts pass rush led by rookie DEs 1st round pick Kwity Paye and 2nd round pick Dayo Odeyingbo should be better than last year’s unit, but the Colts also do have a history of striking out on edge rushers in the draft, so proceed with some caution. Barring another disgusting campaign by Wentz this year, which is unlikely given the fact that Wentz is in a much better scenario, the Colts should, at the very least, have a shot to dethrone the Titans in the AFC South and win one game in the postseason.


  1. Tennessee Titans

Predicted Season Record: 10-7, 1st in the AFC South Wild Card Loss

  Losing offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, WR Corey Davis, and TE Jonnu Smith over the offseason really seemed like it would take a toll on the performance of QB Ryan Tannehill and the Titans’ offense this season.  Realizing this, GM Jon Robinson saw Julio Jones, one of the greatest receivers to play the game, on the open market and decided to create the league’s nastiest four-headed offense with 2019-20 Comeback Player of the Year QB Ryan Tannehill, 2,000-yard rusher RB Derrick Henry, 3rd year WR A.J. Brown (1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two NFL seasons), and obviously Jones. Offensive line concerns still remain, regardless of the addition of second-round pick OT Dillon Radunz and the Titans also lack a starting-caliber TE, but the skill position players on this offense are simply too good, and nothing will be able to hold this offense back from being one of the best in the NFL. On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans return one of the worst units from last season. They lost two starting corners in CB Desmond King and Adoree Jackson and while they drafted CB Caleb Farley in the first round and CB Elijah Molden in the third to replace them, a lack of experience in the cornerback room especially is never a good sign. Robinson also added OLB Bud Dupree and DE Denico Autry in free agency, so this pass rush should be rejuvenated despite the loss of DE Jadeveon Clowney.  However, I still think that eventually, this defense and holes on the offensive line and at TE will collectively hold back this four-headed monster on offense from making a deep run in the playoffs, although it certainly is still possible.


  1. Baltimore Ravens

Predicted Season Record: 10-7, 2nd in the AFC North, Wild Card Loss

After two straight seasons of getting knocked out in the Divisional Round, 2019-20 NFL MVP QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are looking to take the next step this season.  And while this team is certainly not bad, I will tell you now that it won’t be within the scope of reality for them.  To start with, the offense is not bad, but that’s mostly just because they have Jackson behind center.  I’m expecting a heavy run-based offense this season, similar to what we have seen with the Ravens ever since they have added Jackson, and second-year RB JK Dobbins and former Rutgers star RB Gus Edwards should be fairly decent complements to the NFL’s fastest QB.  Jackson will be throwing to average weapons in WR Marquise Brown, TE Mark Andrews, newly added free agent WR Sammy Watkins, and 2021 1st round pick Rashod Bateman (although this is considerably better than what Jackson dealt with last season), and will be throwing/running behind a worse, but still above-average offensive line. On defense is where most of the damage was done in the offseason, that being mostly to the once-dominant pass rush/defensive line, as the Ravens lost pass rushers Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, and not to mention that their other edge defender, most likely a future Hall-of-Famer, will soon be turning 35 and displayed a significant dropoff from seasons prior in 2020-21. Rookie 1st round pick DE Odafe Oweh certainly will not be able to make up for all of this lost production.  As for the rest of the defense, it is a slightly above-average unit, led by CB Marlon Humphrey, but the losses of Ngakoue and Judon will certainly sting.  The Ravens could still win one game in the postseason if Jackson is able to lead the way once again, but it doesn’t seem realistic that this team could make it further than that or beat out the Browns for the top spot in the AFC North.


  1. Miami Dolphins

Predicted Season Record: 11-6, 2nd in the AFC East, Divisional Round Loss

Arguably the most improved team in the NFL last season, the Miami Dolphins jumped from the 5-11 to 10-6 even with a rusty rookie and a 38-year-old journeyman sharing time at QB.  And now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer on the squad, it is all up to former Alabama standout Tua Tagovailoa to prove that he was worth the 5th overall pick in 2020.  While Tua struggled with inconsistent play last season, he certainly should be in a better position this year with the help of incoming free agent WR Will Fuller, coming off the best season of his career, 6th overall pick WR Jaylen Waddle, 2nd round pick OT Liam Eichenberg, and 3rd round pick TE Hunter Long.  On the other side of the ball last season, defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and head coach Brian Flores were able to help lead the Dolphins defense to one of the best performances in the NFL, which may even perform better this season, thanks to a swap with the Texans involving MLB Bernardrick McKinney (now a Dolphin) and OLB Shaq Lawson (now a Texan), and the new additions of de Jaelan Phillips in the 1stround of the draft and S Jevon Holland in the 2nd.  Aside from an inexperienced and shaky offensive line, this team is pretty well-rounded, and the defense alone should be able to catapult this team into a contending spot.  However, at the end of it all, this team is going to go as far as Tagovailoa takes them, and if the young QB can show some major improvement with a brand-new offense, then the Dolphins should be in a great position to win their first playoff game in over twenty years.


  1. Arizona Cardinals

Predicted Season Record: 11-6, 2nd in the NFC West, Divisional Round Loss

It was a tale of two seasons for the Cardinals and QB Kyler Murray last season, as a late-season collapse sparked by Murray’s poor play caused the Cards to slip from 6-3 to 8-8 and allowed the Bears to steal the final playoff spot in the NFC.  However, this offseason, head coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim made their best effort to bring back playoff football to the desert, adding a plethora of playmakers on both sides of the ball.  The most talked-about move that Keim and Kingsbury made was the addition of future hall-of-fame player DE J.J. Watt, who can be seen as an upgrade over former Cardinal DE/OLB Haason Reddick.  The addition of OLB Zaven Collins in the first round gives defensive coordinator Vance Joseph a front seven to marvel over, consisting of Collins, Watt, Pro Bowl OLB Chandler Jones, and second-year standout OLB Isaiah Simmons, and not to mention that this defense still has ballhawk SS Budda Baker in the secondary.  On offense, the Cardinals were able to acquire former Pro Bowl RB James Conner (likely to serve as a backup to incumbent Chase Edmonds), a move which is neither an upgrade nor a downgrade from former RB Kenyan Drake, in addition to the oft-injured former 7-time Pro-Bowl WR, A.J. Green (soon to be 33 years old) and former All-Pro center Rodney Hudson (soon-to-be 32).  And the Cardinals will also have arguably the best WR in the league returning in Deandre Hopkins. If Murray is able to return to his early-last-season form, the Cardinals may be able to make some noise this year in the NFC West, especially now that this team finally has an elite defense and solid offensive cast surrounding Murray.


  1. Green Bay Packers

Predicted Season Record: 11-6, 1st in the NFC North, Divisional Round Loss 

After 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, the future of reigning MVP QB Aaron Rodgers is in question, as a reported rift has been created between him and the Packers organization.  If Rodgers decides to return, he will be coming back to a team that is in the Super Bowl conversation, despite a few key losses on the offensive line in All-Pro C Corey Linsley and OT Rick Wagner (cut). Hopefully, 2nd round pick C Josh Myers will be able to replace Linsley’s performance and reliability in some capacity, and this offensive line will not look too much worse than last year’s unit which was one of the best in the entire league. Rodgers will also have some additional solid weapons to work with on the offensive side in first-team All-Pro OT David Bakhtiari, Pro Bowl RB Aaron Jones, first-team All-Pro WR Davante Adams, newly added third-round pick WR Amari Rodgers, and TE Robert Tonyan. On defense, the Packers are a slightly above-average unit, led by second-team All-Pro OLB Za’Darius Smith, second-team All-Pro CB Jaire Alexander, former Pro Bowl DT Kenny Clark, and S Adrian Amos.  Rookie first-round pick CB Eric Stokes should be able to jump in right away and start opposite of Alexander in the secondary, taking the spot of struggling CB Kevin King.  Assuming that Rodgers returns to this team, the sky is the limit for this Packers team. Otherwise, we could see a significantly worse Packers team next season, led by inexperienced QB Jordan Love.


T-4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Predicted Season Record: 12-5, 1st in the NFC South, NFC Championship Loss

Returning all starters from last year’s Super Bowl-winning team, I find it hard to imagine that this Buccaneers team will not contend for another ring this year, regardless of whether their 7-time Super Bowl-winning QB is about to be 44 years old.  There are not any true weak links anywhere on this team, and that is just what makes the Buccaneers so scary.  On offense, Brady will be throwing to one of the best receiving corps in the league in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown will hand the ball off to an average backfield duo of Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones and will be protected by one of the best offensive lines in the league led by OT Tristan Wirfs and OG Ali Marpet. And I forgot to mention that this offensive line will get even stronger thanks to the addition of third-round pick OG Robert Hainey from Notre Dame.  Defensively, we all know what Todd Bowles and his squad bring to the table.  The whole world saw one of the league’s front sevens in action last February, as OLB Shaq Barrett, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Vita Vea, DT Ndamukong Suh, MLB Devin White, and MLB Lavonte David helped wreak havoc on Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl.  And this secondary isn’t a joke either, boasting one of the best CB units in the country, led by Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean, in addition to second-year star S Antoine Winfield Jr.  There is a lot of reason to believe that the Buccaneers will repeat as Super Bowl Champions, especially if Brady can continue to play at such a high level given how old he is.


T-4. Los Angeles Rams

Predicted Season Record: 12-5, 1st in the NFC West, Super Bowl Loss

In a blockbuster move over the offseason, the Rams dealt former #1 overall pick QB Jared Goff and two future first-round picks for another former #1 overall pick in QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford joins an offense that is much better than the ones that he has been around in Detroit, as he will be taking snaps behind a top-ten offensive line, will be throwing the ball to two former 1,000-yard receivers in Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, in addition to 2020 2nd round pick WR Van Jefferson and 2021 2nd round pick WR Tutu Atwell, and will be checking the ball down to second-year RB Cam Akers.  The losses of C Austin Blythe and TE Gerald Everett will hurt, but the Rams have been able to find adequate replacements for both without looking further than their own roster.  On the opposite side of the ball, the Rams owned the best defense in the entire league last season, and while a few key losses, most notably the departures of defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, S John Johnson, and CB Troy Hill, will certainly sting, there are some players on the roster such as rookie fourth-round pick athletic freak CB Robert Rochell, 2019 third-round CB David Long Jr., and 2019 2ndround pick S Taylor Rapp, that should be able to replace the production of Johnson and Hill in some sort of capacity.  Regardless, this defense still has arguably the best player in the NFL on their team in DE Aaron Donald, the undisputed best cornerback in the league in CB Jalen Ramsey, and some other criminally underrated players in former first-round pick OLB Leonard Floyd (10.5 sacks in 2019-20) and a former undrafted free agent in CB Darious Williams.  Sporting a much-improved offense thanks to a big upgrade at the QB position, the Rams offense should finally be able to hold some weight of their own instead of the defense doing all the work, and maybe, just maybe, this could be the Rams year.


  1. Buffalo Bills

Predicted Season Record: 13-4, 1st in the AFC East, Divisional Round Loss

In search of their first Super Bowl title ever, Bills GM Brandon Beane has built a star-studded roster and coaching staff to help Buffalo prevent the Chiefs from taking home the AFC title for the third consecutive year in 2021-22.  A 13-3 season last year did not leave much room for improvement, but trust me, this team is more than capable of exceeding last year’s win total. MVP runner-up QB Josh Allen had a monster season last year in Orchard Park, and with a slightly improved supporting cast, Allen may be able to take home the award this year. Allen will be surrounded by a mediocre-at-best backfield duo in Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, a world-class talent in the WR room with Stefon Diggs, a solid WR in Cole Beasley and a well-seasoned veteran in WR Emmanuel Sanders, as well as an above-average offensive line which should benefit from the addition of six-foot nine-inch 321-pound third-round pick OT Spencer Brown. Moving to the other side of the ball, this unit had an underwhelming 2020-21 season, but hopefully, thanks to some key additions including DE Carlos Basham Jr. (2nd round pick) and DE Gregory Rosseau (1st round pick), Leslie Frazier can help the Bills defense return to 2019-20 form.  If this team is able to improve slightly defensively and continue their offensive success, Allen, Diggs, and head coach Sean McDermott may be able to bring the Lombardi to Buffalo for the first time.


  1. Cleveland Browns

Predicted Season Record: 14-3, 1st in the AFC North, AFC Championship Loss 

On New Year’s Eve of 2017, the Cleveland Browns completed the second winless season in NFL history.  Three and a half years later, I am saying that they are the second-best team in football.  And as crazy as it may sound, it makes complete sense.  The Browns have had either the best or one of the best offseasons out of all NFL teams every season since 2017, and you best bet that they continued that streak this year. The additions of S John Johnson and CB Troy Hill in free-agency give the Browns 40% of the league’s best secondary from last year, and arguably no team had a more impressive first and second round than Cleveland, adding two steals in CB Greg Newsome (first-round pick) and MLB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (second-round pick). Oh, I also forgot to mention that they added a former #1 overall pick and three-time Pro Bowler in DE Jadeveon Clowney, and they picked the fastest player in the 2021 draft in WR Anthony Schwartz (third-round pick). There are virtually no weaknesses on this roster, they have the best backfield in the NFL, the top offensive line, a revamped secondary that I would consider to be among the league’s best, one of the league’s premier defensive talents in DE Myles Garrett, and a playcalling genius in head coach Kevin Stefanski.  QB Baker Mayfield has a shot to bring the Browns from laughingstock to dynasty, and it can all start this season.  I have a feeling in the back of my head that he will not disappoint.


  1. Kansas City Chiefs

Predicted Season Record: 15-2, 1st in the AFC West, Super Bowl Champions

After getting pummeled by the Buccaneers pass rush in last year’s Super Bowl, Chiefs GM Brett Veach knew what he needed to prioritize in the offseason: the offensive line.  And although the Chiefs agreed to part ways with their two starting OTs in Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, I think that you can make a valid argument that Veach overdid it, adding the best available lineman in free agency in OG Joe Thuney, trading a first-round pick for two-time Pro Bowl OT Orlando Brown Jr., linking a deal former Rams starting C Austin Blythe, luring three-time Pro Bowl OG Kyle Long out of retirement, and drafting C Creed Humphrey in the second round of the draft. They also will get OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back, a starter on their 2019-20 Super Bowl-winning team, after he opted out of the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 concerns.  With a rock-solid offensive line, it is not unreasonable to expect even better seasons from QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce.  This defense, a slightly above average unit, is certainly not strong enough to win a Super Bowl on its own but led by S Tyrann Mathieu, it complements this offense (which is the best in the league by a wide margin) well enough.  Hopefully, the selection of Missouri MLB Nick Bolton in the second round of the draft will help this linebacking core that struggled in 2020.  With a totally renovated offensive line, I would not be the least bit surprised if head coach Andy Reid and his Chiefs hoist the Lombardi for the second time in just three years.