NFL Pre-season games start in just over a week, and with training camps opening around the league, football is back.
With as much movement as there has been over the last off-season, the balance of power in the league has certainly shifted.
On the NFC side, the leading teams are who you may think, but there are still plenty of interesting surprises as we look at the first batch of power rankings as we get started with training camp.
1. Los Angeles Rams
Until the Rams are usurped, or deal with a difficult injury, this is the best team that the NFC has to offer. The addition of Allen Robinson to a receiving core of Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson is almost unfair. The Rams may have lost Von Miller, but they are still the class of the NFC as long as Stafford is healthy.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A lot of Green Bay Packer fans are going to be upset with me but while the Bucs kept a majority of their team intact, they also added Julio Jones just a day ago. That’s a major difference from Green Bay trading away Devante Adams. Tampa Bay stays in the second spot behind the team that beat them last year but the Rams and Bucs are neck and neck.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers take a dive here due to the fact that they lost Devante Adams, but the team is still stacked. The Packer’s defense was one of the best in football and they retained all of their key pieces. While Aaron Rodgers absolutely deserves the benefit of the doubt in trying to win without a #1 wideout, it’s easier said than done.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Until the Eagles, Commanders or Giants can consistently knock off the Cowboys, Dallas will sit comfortably in the fourth spot here. The team did lose some key pieces like Randy Gregory and Amari Cooper, but the team is still loaded up front, and Dak Prescott still has Ceedee Lamb. This isn’t a bad football team that could play over their heads this year with another soft schedule.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
You can put the 49ers, and Saints here with Philadelphia and I wouldn’t argue. The Eagles improved a playoff roster dramatically in the off-season and are a lot better heading into 2022. If Jalen Hurts has a big season, the Eagles could very well challenge the three main powers in the NFC. Training camp will be huge for this team.
6. San Francisco 49ers
If JimmyG is the QB, I would put the 49ers above Philadelphia. However, there are more questions surrounding Trey Lance than Jalen Hurts heading into 2022. Hurts led his team to the playoffs, while there have been conflicting reports about just how good Lance will be. The 49ers are an easy team to see move up in these standings, but I won’t do it until we see Lance in action more, and training camp won’t be enough.
7. New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton – Gone. Drew Brees – Gone. The Saints have a loaded roster on offense and defense but Jameis Winston will be the obvious name to watch. While he has shown massive improvements since coming to New Orleans, Dennis Allen is not Sean Payton. An Alvin Kamara suspension will also be something to watch that can deter the Saints from being true favorites. How Jameis performs in training camp would be a major help.
8. Arizona Cardinals
What a weird offseason for Arizona. First DeAndre Hopkins gets suspended for six games, then Kyler Murray gets the team in a contract dispute…and then signs a massive contract with the second largest per-year hit in NFL history. That contract, as reported, has a “study-hall” clause where they are basically forcing the guy they paid millions for to act like an NFL QB. Just a weird team that I see going nowhere in a make-or-break year for their coach. Training camp will be extremely fascinating with this group.
9. Washington Commanders
I trust Washington’s cast behind Carson Wentz far more than Minnesota’s or Carolina’s. Contrary to the national beat, Wentz isn’t a bottom 10 quarterback and can absolutely sneak up on the league if they don’t put enough respect. Training camp will be fascinating for this franchise with Daniel Snyder’s investigation continuing as well. Mix in a solid defensive front, and a very good skill position group, and the Commanders could be a dark horse for the playoffs this season.
10. Minnesota Vikings
It’s hard to buy the Vikings as a playoff contender as long as Kirk Cousins is quarterback. New head coach Kevin O’Connell comes with an offensive background that will certainly help the Viking’s potent offensive attack, but there are major questions on defense and the offensive line that keeps me from moving Minnesota up more.
11. New York Giants
Is Daniel Jones the guy? That’s the question Brian Daboll and the Giants are going to look to find out this year, The Giants improved their roster from the draft very nicely this year and should have a much better offensive line and defensive line in 2022. While I like the Commanders as a dark horse playoff team, this Giants team could easily get in if Daboll is as good of an offensive coach that he showed in Buffalo.
12. Carolina Panthers
It’s hard to judge the Panthers. They are a team that is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and they got a playoff-winning quarterback in Baker Mayfield. Say what you want about the former number one overall pick, but he led Cleveland to a playoff win in Pittsburgh and took Mahomes and the Chiefs down to the wire. He’s not a bad quarterback and will greatly improve the Panther’s chances of winning.
13. Detroit Lions
The Lions are a fun team to watch. They were in almost every game last season, got the best defensive player in the draft, and continue to try and build up a team through the foundations. Dan Campbell is a fun guy to get quotes from and took solid steps as a leader in the locker room, but year two will be a large distinction on whether or not he’s going to be the long-term answer in Detroit.
14. Seattle Seahawks
The Russell Wilson era is over in Seattle. While the Geno Smith-Drew Lock quarterback battle is not exactly going to shatter any expectations, the Seahawks do have a lot of talent on offense. If the offensive line improves at all, this team could be fun to watch. But that is a big if. Training camp might be the perfect time for the Seahawks to potentially trade for JimmyG…maybe.
15. Chicago Bears
Nothing says we trust our young first-round pick more than hiring a defensive-minded head coach, letting your top receiver walk, and basically doing nothing to help him. The Bears are a mess and will probably be one of the worst teams in football next year unless Justin Fields becomes the next Donovan McNabb. It’s almost unfair to expect Fields to show anything in this training camp.
16. Atlanta Falcons
For some reason, Atlanta Falcon fans were happy when Matt Ryan was traded to Indianapolis. It’s egregious that a quarterback who won an MVP trophy, turned around a franchise that was the worst before he got there, and made them a perennial playoff power. The Falcons are clearly in tank mode and it won’t really matter what Marcus Mariota does. The team will be in the running for a young quarterback in the draft. Not even a training camp trade for Garroppollo could save this Falcons team.
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