Breaking Down Sports Illustrated NFL Power Rankings | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com
There’s nothing like predicting what will happen during a sports season that’s four months away. Yet, just like preseason college football power rankings, now that most of the NFL media has posted draft grades for all 32 teams, the time has come to rank how good every team looks. So, as the pros approach their slowest time of the year, here how Sports Illustrated has ranked some of the teams to watch during the 2021 season.
After the 2021 draft, there's a serious shakeup in the NFL hierarchy.@theMMQB staff unveils its power rankings and expectations for the 2021 season https://t.co/MMYWpCGAzn
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 5, 2021
Before going too deep into these NFL power rankings, as noted by Sports Illustrated, when they did the same post-draft team rankings list last year as they did this past week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 11th on their list. Three road playoff wins and a Super Bowl victory later, and the Buccaneers are still ranked second behind the Kansas City Chiefs. Not very creative, however, when it’s May and training camps don’t open for months, creativity is not yet needed.
While a Super Bowl rematch would be fun come February, I have a feeling a trendy pick from experts will pair the teams ranked third and fourth by SI, Buffalo and the LA Rams. Josh Allen took big strides forward last year in leading the Bills to the AFC Championship game. Now Bills Mafia will hope that there are two more steps left in his development, being able to reach and win the Super Bowl before the AFC East becomes a three or four team deep division.
The Rams, of course, traded for Matthew Stafford this offseason after Sean McVay gave up on Jared Goff; but in the four-deep NFC West, the Rams may be lucky to get 10 or 11 wins, making their road to the Super Bowl tougher and more likely to include road games. Nevertheless, with Stafford in the mix, LA has at least one team I expect many people will call upon to make a title run in 2021.
After the fifth ranked Baltimore Ravens, who SI clearly still believes in after their setbacks last year, come two teams at sixth and seventh that have been linked in recent days; Green Bay and San Francisco. It is believed that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the 49ers to “come and get him” out of Green Bay prior to the draft, with an effort being made but coming up short.
Now, it appears Rodgers has his eyes set on a trip to the AFC West as the Broncos are talked about at the front-runners to land the future Hall of Famer. There are also reports that Jon Gruden and the Raiders will try to trade for Rodgers, pairing two of the most interesting people in the NFL. Of course, if Rodgers leaves, Green Bay’s ranking and expectations will fall, and in my opinion, if the 49ers pull Jimmy Garoppolo for Trey Lance, they too will slide in the standings for that matter.
One person believes Cleveland, who ended up 8th on the list, is a one-year wonder as they voted the Browns the 15th best team coming out of the draft. Another person had them third on their ballot, a sign that some people believe in Baker Mayfield and company, and other down.
For me it is not the quarterback that will be the problem for the Browns, but rather the diva wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who so often drags teams down when he is not playing well, and doesn’t do much to lift them up while he is padding his stats. Rest assured that the conversation about the Browns this summer will run the gamut from Super Bowl contenders to busts; which is much more interesting just waiting for them to implode.
Ninth on SI’s list is another team who made a drastic and dramatic change at quarterback, the Indianapolis Colts. Where anyone puts Indy would be strongly influenced on how well they think former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz will do in his new home. As someone who would have preferred the Colts trade for Stafford over Wentz, Indianapolis does have a chance to be a top ten team with their new QB. What worries me is that they might be just good enough to break the top ten, but be held back by the better teams with better quarterbacks ahead of them, forcing them to be in no man’s land behind the true contenders and ahead of the pretenders. With the AFC South a two-team division, Indianapolis should be a playoff team even with Wentz at quarterback.
Finishing out the top ten is Seattle, who appear to have handed the baton of teams with quarterback drama to the Packers. Seattle will be dealing with the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers all season, so their ranking is based on a curve, since they may be better than whatever record their division allows them to post.
Behind the newly healed Seahawks are two teams who were linked by one quarterback in this year’s draft, New Orleans and New England. Post-draft reports were Sean Payton tried to trade up and pick Mac Jones from Alabama; but was unable to, forcing him to watch as Bill Belichick and the Patriots took him at 15th overall.
As for the Saints, how far back will they fall now that Drew Brees is an NBC commentator remains to be seen. They will have the benefit of playing the Falcons and Panthers four times, and facing two rebuilding NFL teams twice should help their record, if not their power rankings. If there’s one quarterback facing a huge amount of pressure this year, it is Jameis Winston, and with news that New Orleans was one trade away from finding his replacement before he became the full-time starter, it will be up to the former Heisman Trophy winner to prove he is still a viable starting NFL quarterback for his current or future team.
Rounding out the top half of the 32-team ranking are the Titans (#13), the Chargers (#14), the Steelers (#15) and Vikings (#16).
By taking three of the last four spots AFC teams have nine teams ranked in the top half of the league compared to the NFC’s seven team. Does that mean that the road back to the Super Bowl for Kansas City is tougher than Tampa Bay?
Only the Titans (8th) and Chargers (6th) earned a vote in the SI poll that put them in the top ten, putting two more roadblock on the way to the Super Bowl for anyone interested in making a playoff run come January. Having to face Justin Herbert means KC’s division is going to be a whole lot tougher in 2021, especially if Rodgers crashes the party after a trade that would likely happen after June 1st.
As for Tennessee, can we really expect Derrick Henry to maintain the pace he has been on over the last two years; and will Ryan Tannehill finally return to his Miami Dolphins days or maintain the success he has found with the Titans. I say, “Remember the Titans,” because their days could be over as soon as this year just as the Herbert Administration begins.
In Pittsburgh and Minnesota, I still believe in Big Ben to chime in this season and play well enough to reach the postseason, but 15th best is about where his team belongs overall in the league. Regardless of what happens in 2021, enjoy what you see from these quarterbacks, because there will probably be changes coming in 2022 for both of these franchises even if one of them vaults up from the middle of the field to become Super Bowl Champions.
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Breaking Down Sports Illustrated NFL Power Rankings | TooAthletic.com
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