The NFL preseason is over and teams have selected their 53 man rosters. That means that Week 1 of the 2021-2022 season is upon us. Here we’ll start a new weekly post ranking the top ten teams around the NFL and some honorable mentions.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The reigning champions retained practically their entire team, including bringing back WR Chris Godwin on the franchise tag at $15.9M. In addition, Tampa was able to avoid the fate of many Super Bowl champions and retained both of their coordinators under head coach Bruce Arians. They have no real competition in the NFC South either, especially after the retirement of Drew Brees. And of course, any team with Tom Brady under center will be favorites to win a title.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes came close to repeating, but in the end their battered offensive line proved the difference. In their 31-9 defeat at the hands of the Bucs in Super Bowl 55, Mahomes was sacked three times and was under duress the whole game. Kansas City seems to have recognized this weakness, as they acquired Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown from the Ravens and drafted center Creed Humphrey out of Oklahoma in the second round.
3. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are primed to finish the season once again in position to challenge the Chiefs for supremacy in the AFC. The AFC East is all but theirs for the second straight year, barring a major step forward from Tua Tagovailoa in Miami. Despite head coaching buzz, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll remained in Buffalo. Daboll oversaw a season where Josh Allen took a huge leap under center and turned in MVP type numbers with 37 touchdowns and over 4,500 yards with a 107.2 QBR.
4. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have to know that this may be their last year of serious contention. Aaron Rodgers has one foot out the door and Devonte Adams might be with him. Head coach Matt LaFleur took the heat for a playoff loss after electing for a chip shot field goal instead of a touchdown. He will have to handle the lingering ramifications from that and try to keep an unhappy Aaron Rodgers as happy as possible for one more title push. The feeling here is Green Bay might be uncharacteristically aggressive with mid-season trades to maximize the final season of Rodgers.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens will look to establish themselves among the AFC elite after a crushing defeat in the Divisional round to the Bills. A pick six, two missed field goals from Justin Tucker, and a concussion to Lamar Jackson doomed the Ravens in that 17-3 loss. A remade offensive line, including free agents Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva, will look to protect Lamar Jackson after the team traded away their pro bowl left tackle to the Chiefs. Free agent WR Sammy Watkins comes over from the Chiefs and will give the Ravens much needed depth at WR.
6. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams made one of the biggest trades of the offseason, swapping QB Jared Goff for QB Matt Stafford. Stafford suddenly steps into an offense that looks to maximize potential for quarterbacks, something he hasn’t had much previously in his career. In turn, head coach Sean McVay will hope that Stafford will be able to succeed where Goff failed and get the Rams back to the Super Bowl before the end of their title window.
7. Seattle Seahawks
It seems every year that the Seahawks get disrespected but always seem to find themselves among the NFC’s best. D.K. Metcalf will look to repeat a breakout sophomore season where he totaled 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns. Defensively, Jamal Adams starts his first full season in Seattle after breaking the NFL record for most sacks by a defensive back. However, they will have to overcome their playoff clunker against the Rams where Jared Goff didn’t even finish the game and the Rams still won 30-20.
8. Cleveland Browns
The Browns were hit hard by the injury bug last year, losing star WR Odell Beckham Jr. for the season early on. However, Cleveland proved that they can succeed on offense without Beckham thanks to a running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Baker Mayfield was efficient in Head Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski’s offense, posting 26 touchdowns and a career best 8 interceptions. Star pass rusher Myles Garrett will hopefully return to defensive player of the year form after being slowed by a COVID-19 diagnosis last year.
9. Tennessee Titans
The Titans made a huge splash in the offseason, trading for WR Julio Jones from the Falcons. Jones adds to a WR group that already featured A.J. Brown, who totaled 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. QB Ryan Tannehill seized opportunity and played extremely well under center while Derrick Henry ran all over defenses en route to leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns and rushing yards by over 500 yards. Tennessee should have an easy path to the playoffs as they play in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers infamously started out 11-0 before losing four of their last five to finish at 12-4 before suffering a 48-37 loss at the hands of the Browns in the wild card game. Pittsburgh gets some credit for a second half where they made it close, but they doomed themselves with a 28-0 deficit in the first quarter. It’s to be determined what Ben Roethlisberger still has to give heading into his age 39 season. He turned in a solid season last year, posting a 94.1 QBR and a 33-10 TD-INT ratio, but he has only played a full 16 games twice since 2014, with the last time being 2018.