2018 NFL Preseason Power Rankings

We are officially nine days away from Christmas for grown children with two mortgages and a lower back problem. I guess the opening Sunday is considered the true December equivalent, but I'm fired up meaningful football nonetheless, even if it is still surrounded by anthem protests, counter protests, and endless debates about the new helmet policy.

The last time we saw real football, a once-forgotten backup quarterback was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy after toping perhaps the greatest of all-time. But, February was a long time ago. Your hat and gloves were at the forefront of your closet, and you were rocking that scarf that made you look like Jason Mraz's intern. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Isaiah Thomas were all Cavaliers, and you were in the midst of planning a bunch of summer vacations you would never go on. I think I remember you also doing a juice cleanse for some reason. You were a different man.

What I'm trying to say is, while last season can't go unmentioned, it needs to be kept in perspective. Four new playoff teams are almost always a guarantee year to year, and last season, eight new teams got the playoff nod. So while the initial power rankings reflect a combination of where each team finished last year and where I believe they should theoretically finish this year given their talent and under the pretense that injuries don't exist; I am fully aware that multiple teams ranked in the late teens or early 20s will somehow creep their way into the playoff picture. These are initial power rankings, not bold playoff predictions. It's a thin line, but one that needs to be distinguished.

And speaking of new, I suppose this is the perfect time to formally introduce myself. My name is Bob Campbell, though you can call me Bobby if it is preceded by "god dang it" and shouted in a Hank Hill accent. I am a 26-year old newly-admitted member of the Pennsylvania Bar, and a practicing attorney in Western, PA. This year, I have been given the unique opportunity to provide you with each week's power rankings throughout the season, which will surely be accompanied with outdated pop culture references and poorly-executed jokes.

Now, these power rankings will be well thought out, but they won't be overloaded with meaningless or outlandish statistics. Instead, each week I will aim to capture the hierarchy of the league based primarily on the eye test, while contextualizing the on- and off-field headlines into quick hitting blurbs about your favorite teams. Tell me I'm a genius or tell me I'm an idiot; nonetheless, I hope you enjoy.

1. New England Patriots — Super Bowl loss or not, the Patriots won't miss a beat. This team is pretty much a guaranteed an annual first-round bye, and to be honest, it's getting kind of boring. It's time for Belichick to hang up the old crew neck and let some other teams get their crack at the playoffs. Does he even enjoy it? He has five Super Bowls and the demeanor of a driver's ed teacher who got denied tenure.

2. Minnesota Vikings — The offensive line worries me a bit, as does Dalvin Cook after an ACL tear, but the Vikings are still my early pick to represent the NFC. Ignore the preseason struggles like your service light that's been on since March. Aren't those things more of a suggestion, anyway? Kirk Cousins has weapons, and a defense that won't need him to be Superman.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers — Ben Roethlisberger in the concussion protocol, A.B. dinged up, and Lev Bell isn't getting a deal anytime soon. The Madden Curse thing is a bit scary but this team still wins 12 games in a sleeper hold. Let's not forget that Blake Bortles kind of ripped them up, though. I'll take, "how to know your secondary is trash" for 1,000, Alex.

4. Philadelphia Eagles — St. Nick finished the job, and became an instant Philadelphia legend because of it. Nonetheless, the Eagle's season bodes on the health of Carson Wentz. That city may actually burn to the ground if they go back-to-back. They've looked awful this preseason, but Birds' fans shouldn't overreact.

5. Atlanta Falcons — Year two into Steve Sarkisian's offense, the Falcons will try to be the first team ever to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Calvin Ridley might be Julio Jones's perfect running mate. I think this offense rebounds from a weird 2017.

6. New Orleans Saints — Let's hope that Stephon Diggs miracle doesn't haunt a defense that was most improved a year ago. Combine that with a reestablished run game and Drew Brees still doing Drew Brees things. I think this team can make some noise.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey has gone from funny to annoying pretty quickly, but this defense is still going to be scary. Bortles is a constant punching bag, though he showed some poise down the stretch last year. An opening day matchup in the Meadowlands should be exciting.

8. Green Bay Packers — Aaron Rodgers is a baaaad man (Stephen A. Smith voice). Not much more analysis is needed here; the Packers are going to go as far as Rodgers carries them. I'm interested in seeing Jimmy Graham's impact on a team that has ignored the tight end position in recent history.

9. Los Angeles Rams — The Rams are paying everyone but Aaron Donald, who is arguably the best player in all of football. Do Jarred Goff and boy-genius Sean McVay take a step back this year, or do they substantiate themselves as a legitimate contender? People in St. Louis must be pissed. And bored. If I wanted to look at a giant arch all day, I'd go to McDonalds.

10. Carolina Panthers — Cam Newton is the Russell Westbrook of the NFL. They are unbelievably talented players capable of leading their respective teams to the playoffs regardless of the talent around them, but they don't necessarily elevate their teammates. That makes the Panthers contenders, though I doubt their Super Bowl dreams can turn to reality with offensive line injuries piling up. I'm sure someone else has made that Newton-Westbrook comparison before, but I thought of it myself so shut up.

11. Kansas City Chiefs — That 70-yard bomb by Patrick Mahomes was certainly impressive, but JaMarcus Russell once told me that arm strength isn't everything. I think the Chiefs have the most complete team in the AFC West, and that home field advantage could be the difference in a division that's likely to be separated by inches.

12. Los Angeles Chargers — A lot of people like the Chargers this year, myself included. But, let's not forget that Philip Rivers has only led his team to the playoffs once since 2009. This may be a statement year for a team that just added Derwin James to a defense that got better every week last season.

13. Detroit Lions — The Lions are a good team in a crowded conference, though it may take Matt Patricia more than one season to have them truly competing. Guarantee that dude still has a PokerStars account.

14. Baltimore Ravens — They'll be right in the mix of things, and I like what they've done this offseason. Playoffs will be in reach, but do they have enough to go grab it? Be prepared to hear about Alex Collins loves Irish Dancing or some shit every time somebody hands Cris Collinsworth a microphone.

15. Houston Texans — Another injury-ridden team from a year ago returning to form. Hoping Deshaun Watson can be the same player. They also have the easiest schedule on paper.

16. New York Giants — I may be a bit biased here, but with a retooled offensive line, key players back from injury, and a running back with star potential, the Giants are my dark horse to get back into the playoff picture. Don't forget how good this defense was two years ago.

17. Tennessee Titans — Marcus Mariotta is still a mystery to me after three seasons. Some 6th grader needs to pass him a note so we can get to the bottom of this - Are you good? Circle one. Yes. No. Maybe. Nonetheless, I'm excited to see what Mike Vrabel can bring to a team that people forget won a playoff game last year.

18. Washington Redskins — The Redskins finished with 25 men on IR last year, and the injury bug has already crept back to Washington this season with Derrius Guice going down. Washington's inner circle believes they upgraded at the quarterback position, but Alex Smith seems like a guy teams view as a placeholder until somebody more exciting comes along. They'll battle for second in the division. Does AP have anything left in the tank?

19. Seattle Seahawks —The Legion of Boom is no more, and the Seahawks are trending down fast. Russell Wilson is still the best quarterback in the division though, so I wouldn't count them out just yet.

20. San Francisco 49ers — Jimmy Garoppolo is undefeated as a starter, but I need to see him for a full season before I get on the 49ers bandwagon. I think some people are jumping the gun a bit.

21. Denver Broncos — Last year's quarterback situation in Denver got me reminiscing about Tim Tebow. At least that dude won games. Case Keenum is an improvement at the position, but the Broncos need to get back to smash-mouth football and shutdown defense if they want to get back into the playoffs. I don't see them making any noise in the AFC, but their division is always a tossup.

22. Dallas Cowboys — Will Cain may try to lasso me up here, but I just don't think Dak Prescott is very good. We saw how poor his decision-making was last year following Tyron Smith's injury when he was no longer given 10-mississippi to throw, and now with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten's departure, he's surrounded by fewer weapons than Alec Baldwin's wet dream. Don't be surprised if the Cowboys finish last in the NFC East this season. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

23. Oakland Raiders — The Raiders always seem to be one step forward, two steps back. Gruden is bringing some excitement back to the Raiders, but this team has a ton of questions. The Raiders maintain that Khalil Mack's holdout hasn't been a distraction. I think opposing offenses will agree.

24. Cincinnati Bengals — These aren't your father's Bengals. They were actually good. How Marvin Lewis still has a job astounds me. This is a league that demands immediate payoff, and the Bengals have 0 wins in 15 seasons under Lewis. I'm convinced that 82-year-old owner Mike Brown just doesn't care and Lewis should see how far he could go without getting fired. Bring back Akili Smith. Sign Trent Richardson and run the Wing-T. Throw two-dollar bills with Pacman Jones at Scarlett's Cabaret on a Tuesday afternoon.

25. Arizona Cardinals — Another team in a bit of a transition period. Though, something tells me the Cardinals may shock some people this year.

26. Cleveland Browns — The Browns roster is like going from an F on your chemistry test to a C-. We're kind of surprised. We're kind of impressed. We're still not trusting you around a Bunsen burner. I think Tyrod will do just enough to keep the Baker Mayfield hype train at ease, but the Dog Pound can only be held at bay for so long. And say what you will, but Josh Gordon is a guy that I'm rooting for.

27. Buffalo Bills — The Josh Allen experience may start sooner than expected, and the McCoy situation is still a bit shady. Sorry for that.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Buccaneers were probably going to lose to the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers even with Jameis at the helm, but a slow start could end things quickly in a division most likely to send three teams to the playoffs. The Bucs won't be one of them.

29. Indianapolis Colts — The most discussed shoulder in America is seemingly healthy, but I don't think Andrew Luck's arm can save his supporting cast in a division on the up. I kind of liked Jacoby Brissett's game anyway. Let's see what Frank Reich brings to the table.

30. New York Jets — Sam Darnold is going to be a better Matt Stafford in time, but patience is the name of the game for Jet's fans. I think some basketball team in Philadelphia had a catchy saying about that. Choosing the Mets-Jets life over Yankees/Giants is a worse life choice than trusting the weekend subway schedule.

31. Chicago Bears — The Bears may be significantly improved, but they'll likely find themselves eating deep-dish pizza in the NFC North basement either way. The jury is still out on Mitch Trubisky who can hopefully grow under Matt Nagay, a descendent of the Andy Reid coaching tree. Three of their five wins last season were against playoff teams, though I don't know if stat is relevant and was probably just too lazy to spend any more time on the Bears.

32. Miami Dolphins — Jarvis Landry? Gone. Ndamukong Suh? Gone. Mike Pouncey? Gone. Jay Ajayi? Been gone. Worse yet, Ryan Tannehill is still there. With Tannehill coming off a serious knee injury and joined by a futile receiving corps already plagued with impairments, this team has the potential to be worse than the Marlins attendance numbers. It's not like there's anything else to do in Miami.

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