As has been the case for a couple of weeks now, the Power Rankings will be split into two distinct groups. Teams out of the playoff hunt are now ranked according to how well set up they are to make some noise in 2020 and beyond.
Meanwhile, the teams who could still steal a Lombardi this year are ranked according to how likely I see that occurring. This isn’t necessarily going to match up with records or even recent wins/losses. It’s purely based on if they can achieve the ultimate prize.
Let’s get started.
Playing for next year
32. Snyder’s Swamp
If Washington lands the second overall pick in the draft, I could see Chase Young telling Ohio State to up his “stipend” and sticking in Columbus.
Lost amid Andy Dalton’s four interceptions is the fact that Tom Brady completed 51.7% of his passes for 128 yards against whatever the Bengals call their defense.
Stephon Gilmore is now Andy Dalton's leading receiver.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) December 15, 2019
Let’s just say I’m rooting for Jason Garrett in New York.
Nick Foles and a really tight cap situation in 2020 means this is probably just the beginning of another ugly rebuilding cycle in North Florida.
The big question is going to be Matt Patricia’s future. There’s big issues with the pass defense and holes along the offensive line, but if Matt Stafford comes back healthy in 2020 they could be interesting.
Who knew 28-3 would be the highlight of the Dan Quinn era?
Ton of draft capital and a JV roster. ‘Til the Dolphins land some of those picks it’s hard to give them too much credit for tearing it all down.
25. London Chargers
24. Chicago Bears
Aging roster with quarterback questions.
Plucky roster with quarterback and coaching questions.
They could be interesting with almost $100 million in cap space, but they need to make a big decision on Jameis Winston and the defense is still more pieces than total package. Depending on what happens around them in the division, they could be the sleeper team of the spring once again.
Things could turn quickly.
These four teams clearly stand out to me as the most promising situations on this side of free agency.
- The Jets have the cleanest division with the Dolphins a dumpster fire, an overrated Josh Allen anchoring the Bills and an old Tom Brady. They also employ Adam Gase.
- Arizona has a really promising situation, but have three strong division opponents.
- Denver and Oakland have a ton of potential, but both have questions on top of Patrick Mahomes in the division.
The NFL is a quarterback’s league. If you have one, things can only get so bleak. It’s a big reason why fans rally so religiously around any and all guys who show the slightest sign of competence. Sam Darnold shows flashes. That and $66 million are the reasons for optimism, but rebellions are built on hope.
20. Denver Broncos
I wrote last week about all of the reasons I’m optimistic for the Broncos going into 2020, and losing to a Super Bowl contender with half of a healthy roster doesn’t move me from that.
We’ll learn a little more about where Drew Lock is over these next two weeks. As far as the rest of the roster is concerned, it’s easy to see how tomorrow could be better than today when Elway and the Broncos have a small treasure trove of draft picks and north of $50 million in cap space to surround their young passer with talent.
Kyler Murray, Chandler Jones, Kliff Kingsbury, and $70 million in cap space. Even Steve Keim can’t screw this up, right?
Oakland has a pretty decent offense without a whole lot at the receiver position. Their defense is young and will get a 2019 first rounder back in the fold next season. They also have an extra 2020 first rounder because of the Khalil Mack trade. Oh, and they have $70 million in cap space to go on a spending spree.
Real Playoff Contenders
Here’s where 2019 alters the rankings. These teams are playing for this year’s title. Some more successfully than others.
17. Los Angeles Rams
According to Football Outsiders’ Playoff Odds report, they’re looking at a 1.8% chance at the postseason. If they plummet in these rankings next week, it has a good bit to do with the fact that they’re close to capped out with very little draft capital. This team is stuck in neutral unless Jared Goff makes a jump.
We’ve reached up or down week with them and Dallas. Circle that game because it could be a lot of fun.
Freddie Kitchens is a dead man walking.
Probably dead in the water, but the future looks bright if they can solve their issues in the passing game. Big if, but I believe in Chris Ballard and Frank Reich.
Mike Tomlin is getting some well deserved credit for how he’s kept the ship afloat in 2019 as well as all of the craziness he’s navigated in the past. Meanwhile, the man just keeps getting pulled into these kind of situations.
Guess we're seeing Rudolph for Christmas. https://t.co/FrPieOBsxk— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 16, 2019
This Titans team is built to win with what Ryan Tannehill is giving them. It’s going to be fascinating to see what they look like when he costs closer to $30 million than $2 million against their cap.
11. Dallas Cowboys
Stomp the Iggles and the seat cools ‘til January, Jason.
10. Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen has put up less impressive passing numbers than Gardner Minshew this season and you could make the case that Mitch Trubisky’s done more throwing the ball. He remains the poster child for the QBWinz crowd because his defense is good, nerds be damned.
Here’s what really gets me though, I know he has value as a runner, but I don’t understand how all of the durability questions people try to throw on Lamar Jackson don’t apply here. Only one of the two has missed real time to injury.
Packers-Vikings is the other game that truly carries some serious weight as far as the NFC playoff position goes. And for once the TV schedule makers got it right.
Brady isn’t the biggest issue with the Patriots passing game, but Brady and the passing game have serious issues. If Defense wins championships, none of this matters though. That’s how this works, right?
Titans-Texans have their rematch in two weeks because the NFL schedule makers fell asleep when they were working on the AFC South.
If the Texans can drop even a semi-healthy/75-80% Watt onto the DL in the playoffs that'd be a huge boost. Hopefully we get to see that. https://t.co/389ivNLJJm— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 16, 2019
It sure looks like this team’s peaking at the right time...
Philip Rivers waited quite awhile outside the Vikings locker room for someone to grab fellow NC Stater Garrett Bradbury. Wished Bradbury the best in the playoffs and so forth— Matthew Coller (@MatthewColler) December 16, 2019
Thought about the Vikings, 49ers, and Seachickens a good bit. Need another week before I really shake that up.
If I was simply rooting for the best possible playoffs, I’d be looking for Chiefs-Ravens in the AFC Championship game. It’d be one heck of a matchup because both teams have improved since the first meeting and have the star power, coaching staff, top to bottom roster to win it all.
We’ll probably wind up with yet another Brady Bowl.
They lost to the Falcons on one of the crazier finishes this year after an emotional win over the Saints. Not about to kill them for that just yet. I do have concerns about Jimmy Garoppolo and the matchup with the Seahawks does loom large.
FALCONS SHOCK THE 49ERS 29-22!— NFL Guy95 (@NFLFBGAMETIME) December 16, 2019
One thing that’s hurt the Saints is they’ve lost Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins for the season. Theoretically, they have the depth to withstand it, but it’ll bear watching over the next couple of weeks.
Easy win on Thursday night while the rest of the league slugged it out on Sunday. Lamar Jackson’s running away with this MVP award.