The NFL in 2020 has so far been a wild, strange offseason with no preseason. After all that it’s finally time for real games in the regular season.
Despite how the 32 teams look on paper no one will know how good or bad they all really are until everyone sees them in action. Week 1 comes with plenty of the usual hype and anticipation but also some anxiety and intimidation.
With kickoff looming across the league, here’s how Sporting News orders all the teams for now with the same ultimate goal of being No. 1 later — in Super Bowl 55.
MORE NFL PREDICTIONS:
SN’s complete 2020 standings projections & playoff picks
NFL power rankings
1. Kansas City Chiefs (post-draft ranking: 1)
The Chiefs remain loaded after locking up Patrick Mahomes as they also extended Chris Jones to keep anchoring the defense. They are pretty much the same starting team from Super Bowl 54, missing only a couple of opt-out players and they somehow upgraded the offense for Mahomes with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Andy Reid has a strong favorite to get a second ring after just getting his first.
2. Baltimore Ravens (2)
The Ravens will be right on the Chiefs’ heels in the AFC as they become a stronger running and deep passing team for reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. The defense has a nice mix of veterans and youthful energy to serve as a better complementary force, minus Earl Thomas.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and now Leonard Fournette aren’t the only reasons they have a lot of buzz. They return the No. 1 defense against the run which should be better in the back seven against the pass. They have a proven turnaround coach in Bruce Arians. The Bucs fully deserve to be among the top NFC contenders, now led by the GOAT.
4. San Francisco 49ers (3)
The 49ers are dealing with multiple injuries and play in a tough division, the NFC West. But they managed their losses of DeForest Buckner, Emmanuel Sanders and Joe Staley well and remain stocked with the elite talent that got them to the Super Bowl. Jimmy Garoppolo should improve to better lead Kyle Shanahan’s run-dominant offense and the pass defense is great top-to-bottom from Nick Bosa to Richard Sherman.
5. New Orleans Saints (6)
The Saints can’t be forgotten right behind the Bucs in the NFC South as they look for a fourth consecutive division title. One more year of Drew Brees keeps their offense elite and Cameron Jordan continues to power a well-rounded defense. New Orleans will need to shake off more playoff disappointment, however, to emerge out of an even top-heavier NFC.
6. Seattle Seahawks (12)
The Seahawks will make it tough for the 49ers to repeat in the West and in the NFC. They have rediscovered their power running, deep passing and tough secondary identity that got them to two Super Bowls early with a younger Russell Wilson. For an older Wilson, those elements are more than complementary enough to get them back.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (13)
The Eagles belong in the NFC heavyweight conversation, too. Carson Wentz is looking for another fully healthy season, with the promise of healthier support despite a breakout of injuries. Defensively, their front is stronger with Javon Hargrave and their secondary is solid with Darius Slay.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (8)
The Steelers are bound for a big rebound with Ben Roethlisberger back healthy to lead an explosive passing game. They also boast a nasty pass defense with T.J. Watt firing up their edge rush and plenty more playmakers, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, on every level. They will make the rival Ravens sweat with a triumphant playoff return for Mike Tomlin.
9. Minnesota Vikings (7)
The NFC champion long list also includes them. They lost some familiar defensive pieces for Mike Zimmer up front and in the secondary, but Yannick Ngakoue was a great late pickup and complementary youth will serve them well. Offensively, they will get more highly efficient play from Kirk Cousins with Dalvin Cook and the running game setting the tone, not missing much of a beat without Stefon Diggs.
10. Buffalo Bills (5)
Speaking of Diggs, the Bills have put a lot of pressure on Josh Allen to turn the corner as a passer after giving him a true No. 1 wide receiver. Sean McDermott’s defense and a more juiced running game are still the foundation of how they will try to finally take the AFC East from the Brady-less Patriots.
11. Dallas Cowboys (11)
The Cowboys are right outside the NFC powerhouses for now, but they can get there, free from the Jason Garrett limitations. They can hit a higher offensive ceiling with Mike McCarthy joining Kellen Moore to influence Dak Prescott, now with rookie first-rounder CeeDee Lamb in tow. Mike Nolan also will get the most out of their defensive front seven.
12. Green Bay Packers (9)
The Packers overachieved in Matt LaFleur’s first season, leaning more on an improved running game and defense and less on Aaron Rodgers. They still have that winning identity, but they should regress a little as they didn’t do much to further lift Rodgers for this season.
13. New England Patriots (19)
The Patriots are settling on Cam Newton to replace Brady in the short term, but they have plenty of other offensive issues to iron out as they try to tap into Newton’s MVP upside. Defensively, they have lost a lot of pass rush but gained more youth and versatility for Bill Belichick. Belichick can do his best coaching job yet if he gets these particular Patriots to the playoffs.
14. Houston Texans (14)
The Texans might be a mess defensively and they will feel the loss of DeAndre Hopkins offensively, but they also are fortunate the talent and leadership of Deshaun Watson give him a high built-in floor — and by far the most reliable and dazzling QB play (still) in the AFC South.
15. Cleveland Browns (20)
The Browns have done everything they can to fix Baker Mayfield, including upgraded pass protection, more versatile weaponry and a more run-oriented efficient system with rookie coach Kevin Stefanski. They should live up to expectations better offensively, while the defense makes more key plays, too. They are much better equipped for a playoff run than last season.
16. Arizona Cardinals (21)
The Cardinals will hope that Kyler Murray enjoys the same Year 2 jump as Mahomes and Jackson, now armed with Hopkins in Kliff Kingsbury’s system. The defense also got some critical help for Chandler Jones and the secondary in rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons. Arizona is a deserving buzzworthy team, but San Francisco and Seattle stand as obstacles for a true breakthrough.
17. Los Angeles Rams (25)
Before the 49ers and Seahawks made the playoffs together and the former played in the Super Bowl, it was the Rams’ turn as NFC champions. Sean McVay and Les Snead did find good replacements for Todd Gurley (Cam Akers) and Brandin Cooks (Van Jefferson), but their defense has some issues anywhere between Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.
18. Atlanta Falcons (23)
Dan Quinn gets another chance to push the defense in the right direction. Speaking of Gurley, the Falcons hope a semi-homecoming will help provide some semblance of balance to Dirk Koetter’s pass-happy offense for Matt Ryan. The Falcons can light up the scoreboard at times, but there might be too much pressure to always win higher-scoring games.
19. Indianapolis Colts (18)
Philip Rivers is their new starting quarterback and needs to show he’s still got it after a shaky final year with the Chargers. This team will lean nicely on its offensive line, running game and remixed receiving corps, where rookies Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. will have big parts. The defense remains on the solid side vs. the spectacular, however.
20. Los Angeles Chargers (22)
The Chargers are rolling with Tyrod Taylor to replace Rivers as Justin Herbert waits. They have plenty around Taylor to produce greater big plays offensively. Their defense was looking pretty good on every level behind Joey Bosa until Derwin James suffered another major injury setback. Anthony Lynn’s team is somewhere in between the 2018 breakout and 2019 washout.
21. Denver Broncos (15)
The Broncos are getting a lot of buzz tied to second-year QB Drew Lock and a revamped set of skill players around him, but they are undergoing a big transition in Pat Shurmur’s offense and have some line issues that can hold them back. Defensively, they have good individual pieces such as Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons, but there are some glaring holes for Vic Fangio, too.
22. Tennessee Titans (13)
The Titans will cool off considerably from their shocking AFC championship run with Mike Vrabel last season. Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown are still the triplets leading the offense, but they need to find more answers there. Tennessee also is more middle-pack defensively despite some standout qualities.
23. Las Vegas Raiders (17)
The Raiders are moving into their fancy new home in the desert with more offensive youth, with rookie wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards tabbed for big roles to help second-year running back Josh Jacobs with the supporting production for Derek Carr. Defensively, there enough improvements (see linebackers) to make them a sleeper playoff team. Unfortunately, file them with the Chargers and Broncos as good teams chasing a great one in the AFC West.
24. Chicago Bears (24)
The Bears are doing their best to hide QB play despite having an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy. Neither Nick Foles nor Mitchell Trubisky inspires much confidence, because Chicago can’t exactly just lean on defense and running game to win enough games in an NFC North where every other team can pass much better with no concerns at the most important position.
25. New York Giants (16)
The Giants are confident in rookie coach Joe Judge and second-year QB Daniel Jones. But Garrett’s offense will be a considerable adjustment and despite some defensive investments, they are still considerable issues there for that transition.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (27)
Joe Burrow gives the Bengals plenty of optimism they won’t finish near the bottom again. He’s the perfect fit for Zac Taylor’s offense and he inherits plenty of skill, led by Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon, and a more promising offensive line with a healthy Jonah Williams. Defensively, the Bengals did invest to be less of a mess, but they are still below average there.
27. Detroit Lions (28)
The Lions are hard team to read. They can end up getting top-flight QB play from Matthew Stafford, — which he delivered for half a season before his 2019 back injury — and still disappoint in terms of winning games. That’s tied to having an inconsistent running game, which they hope to correct with D’Andre Swift. Defensively, the heavy pressure will be on Matt Patricia to put the pieces together, fast.
28. Carolina Panthers (29)
The Panthers definitely have more speed to burn offensively with Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore seeing more playmaking pop under Joe Brady and Teddy Bridgewater is a point guard up to the task. Defense, however, will be a huge problem for Matt Rhule, with Luke Kuechly creating the most massive void.
29. Miami Dolphins (30)
The Dolphins won’t mind taking a few more lumps in their rebuild as Ryan Fitzpatrick bridges the offense to Tua Tagovailoa and Brian Flores works to get his new-look defense to jell in front of top corners Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.
30. New York Jets (26)
Adam Gase has been adamant about getting his type of offensive players around Sam Darnold. The receiving corps still looks a little messy and the running game continues to go further away from Le’Veon Bell. With all that in mind, the Jets’ bigger liability is Gregg Williams’ defense, now without Jamal Adams.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (32)
The Jaguars have quickly flipped the 2017 team that made it to the AFC championship game and are somehow still coached by Doug Marrone. Gardner Minshew puts them on the map in an offense with more West Coast definition under Jay Gruden. Young edge rushers Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson, unfortunately, are the new bright spots in a mostly gutted defense.
32. Washington Football Team (31)
This is an evaluation and cleanup year for Ron Rivera and Jason Wright. Washington is assessing whether Dwayne Haskins is the answer, but he’s also dealing with some major questions in his critical support system. There’s more established to like defensively for Rivera and Jack Del Rio, now with Chase Young as the cornerstone.