Continuing with the power rankings, this is the middle ground where teams are either poised to be top dogs or bottom dwellers. Each of these teams has at least one question about their squad ahead of this season. It is only once the season has started that these questions will give us definitive answers.
#11: San Francisco 49ers
A team whose rankings could see some movement depending on the outcome of Deebo Samuel’s situation, the Niners are focused on developing promising quarterback Trey Lance. After trading three first-round picks for the North Dakota State product, Lance would have the starting role locked in as Jimmy Garoppolo looks set to leave. Looking at the rest of the roster, they have some of the best in the league in their positions. A
Samuel’s departure should increase the role of George Kittle, who not too long ago was widely regarded as the best tight end in football. Trent Williams continues to dominate as one of the best tackles in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Niners have two of the best defensemen in defensive end Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner. If Lance can become just an above-average starter this season, the Niners could find themselves in the NFC Championship Game.
#12: Las Vegas Raiders
Despite being the lowest ranked team in their division, the Las Vegas Raiders are still in the top half of the league roster. With one of the best receiving corps in the NFL with Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and recent acquisition Davante Adams, Derek Carr plans to spend a career year in Vegas.
Despite the addition of Chandler Jones and Rock Ya-Sin on defense, new head coach Josh McDaniels will need to show that he has matured since coaching in Denver. Either way, this Raiders team should be one of the highest scoring offenses in the league and will rely on their secondary development to push them to the top. Look for Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones to form one of the league’s most terrifying duos this season.
#13: Cleveland Browns
The Browns made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason, acquiring star quarterback from the Houston Texans Deshaun Watson for a slew of draft picks. Being able to retain their young players is key to their assertion in the AFC as they now wait to see if Watson can start Week 1. This list looks scary on paper as offensively they have one of the best lines in the league. League. Besides that, their skill sets include Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Amari Cooper, David Njoku, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Bell. On the other side of the ball, Myles Garrett should have yet another DPOY-caliber season. He’s not the only one causing problems for opposing offenses, as Denzel Ward and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are becoming elite in their respective positions. If Watson plays like his old self, this team will be in the top ten sooner rather than later.
#14: Indianapolis Colts
The Carson Wentz experiment didn’t work out in Indianapolis, as they missed the playoffs after a brutal loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Therefore, they came out and asked 2015 MVP Matt Ryan to take over under center.
They will also be looking to Jonathan Taylor to continue his dominance from last year into this season. In terms of receiving threats, this is an area Indianapolis needs to address. Michael Pittman Jr. is really the only proven option, which could become a problem if he gets locked down during a game or injuries arise. Despite everything, it is a team that was built on its elite defense. Boasting one of the top seven leading units in the NFL, it features names such as DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, Yannick Ngakoue and Kwity Paye. Moving on to high school, they have a cornerback duo with Kenny Moore II and 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore. If this team could see Alec Pierce emerge or acquire another receiving threat, they could become a true AFC threat.
#15: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings enter this season once again with one of the most promising teams in the NFL. Boasting one of the most productive offensive units in the NFL, Kirk Cousins has all the weapons in place to lead this team all the way. The only concern offensively should be the line, as they will be looking to see the development of Christain Darrisaw and Ezra Cleveland. Defensively, if this unit stays healthy, it should turn out to be a good unit.
Minnesota improved its secondary in the draft with selections from Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr.. In the top seven, they signed LB Jordan Hicks and LB Za’Darius Smith. Smith and Danielle Hunter should create an effective pass-rushing duo, provided the two play a full season this year. The X factor for this team will be new head coach Kevin O’Connell, who will look to bring his knowledge of Sean McVay to Minnesota. Can Minnesota finally get organized and reach their first NFC title game since 2018?
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#16: Arizona Cardinals
The collapse of these cardinals in the second half puts them right in the middle of the pack. A team that hasn’t necessarily improved much this offseason, they hope Marquise Brown
can fill the void as DeAndre Hopkins misses some time to start the season. Their offensive line isn’t very exciting, as it’s the bottom half of the league’s unit. Looking at the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals need to see a breakout season from Isaiah Simmons. He has all the tools to be a top linebacker, but he has to put it all together. Their pass rush is rather non-existent, however, as JJ Watt is no longer himself and Chandler Jones is gone in free agency. Markus Golden is clearly the best passing thrower, but he will now be 31 at the start of next season. Kliff Kingsbury is 100% in the hot seat this season, and if he can’t get this Cardinals team past the wild card, his time in the wilderness may be over.
#17: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has undoubtedly gotten worse this offseason, losing key players Randy Gregory, La’el Collins, Conor Williams, Amari Cooper, Keanu Neal and Cedrick Wilson. To replace the Amari Cooper void, they signed James Washington and drafted Jalen Tolbert. On the offensive line, they drafted Tyler Smith, who would be more of a draft player than a day one starter. Defensively, they did a decent job replacing production for Gregory, signing Ole Miss Edge Sam Williams and signing Dante Fowler Jr.
Trevon Diggs will need to improve his coverage skills heading into the season because despite his ability to force turnovers, he has taken plenty of opportunities to create those interceptions. Parsons and Lawrence should continue to wreak havoc, but they are no longer the best team in their division.
#18: Tennessee Titans
This Titans team is simply interesting to review. Head coach Mike Vrabel has shown us he’s one of the best coaches in the league, but this roster has some questions. Starting at quarterback, Titans fans should be hoping to get the 2020 version of Ryan Tannehill. If not, can Malik Willis step in and help win the game? Moving on, this team will need to have Derrick Henry healthy all season. Last year, they managed to hold on and finish as the AFC’s number one seed, but it’s hard to imagine that could happen again. At receiver, they traded talented Pro-Bowler AJ Brown to the Eagles, but replaced him with Treylon Burks. Burks has a very similar game to Brown, and could be a huge piece if used correctly. With Julio
Jones at the gate, they were able to bring in reliable target Robert Woods from the Rams, who should provide plenty as a possession receiver. As for defense, they will have to see the development of their cornerback group. Their top three corners are unproven and Kevin Byard can’t do it all in the secondary. This team has a wide range where they could end the season, but never count on good coaching.
#19: Miami Dolphins
One of the most improved teams this offseason, the Miami Dolphins would be higher if we knew what we were getting from Tua Tagovailoa and new head coach Mike McDaniel. Either way, this offense could turn out to be must-have football. With the Tyreek Hill trade, the Dolphins have added to a unit that already had Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki and Raheem Mostert to name a few. On the offensive line, they tackled him by signing Pro-Bowler Terron Armstead at tackle and Connor Williams to play guard.
The rest of the offensive line is yet to prove itself, but has promised to help improve this unit significantly. On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins have a young unit that is only getting better. Jevon Holland and Jaelan Phillips are entering their second season, as both players have shown huge advantages as rookies. The Dolphins have what it takes to be a top ten team, but they need to see their quarterback take the next step.
#20: New Orleans Saints
Year after year, the Saints have one of the best rosters in the NFL. This offseason, however, the Saints lost key things that kept them from being higher on this list. The big hit was losing their head coach Sean Payton, who has been instrumental in the success of this team over the years. However, they were able to replace him with an in-house name, promoting former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as their next head coach. They also lost standout tackle Terron Armstead, who headed to South Beach. But despite losing safety Marcus Williams to Baltimore, that defense could be even better this season. Just this week, New Orleans acquired All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu to play alongside newly acquired Marcus Maye in the secondary. This team is still heading into next season with defensive stars Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis and
Marshon Lattimore, all of whom will leave their mark. Offensively, this Saints team needs Jameis Winston to stay healthy, as he was in fine form last season. With the return of Michael Thomas and the draft selection of Chris Olave, the Ohio State tandem could provide Winston with a very productive unit. Alvin Kamara is still around, assuming the legal situation passes. If Allen can get the most out of Winston and that defensive unit, the Saints could surprise and capture the NFC South. But for now, too many questions to put them higher.