Downtown Rams Roundtable: NFL Preseason Power Rankings

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Football is back! All 32 teams have played their first preseason game of the season in an action-packed opening weekend of football. The Downtown Rams staff got together to formulate some preseason power rankings before we have a chance to see what every team has! During the regular season, Downtown Rams will be updating these rankings weekly.

The staff that participated in these rankings are Jake Ellenbogen, Alex Kelly, Alexis Kraft, Dan Gleason, Bill Riccette and Max Perez. None of the rankings were quite exact with each other; they are quite different! The order of teams is done in the average ranking, with the tiebreaker being the single highest ranking if there is a tie. Where does the staff rank your team?

1. Los Angeles Rams
Average Rank: 1.83
Highest Rank: 1 (Jake, Alex, and Max)
Lowest Rank: 3 (Bill and Dan)

The Rams lost key starters in Ndamukong Suh, Lamarcus Joyner, Rodger Safford, and John Sullivan, but they brought in veterans Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews while filling holes on the offensive line with second-year players Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen. Also, rookies Taylor Rapp, Darrell Henderson, and Greg Gaines will see plenty of reps. Cooper Kupp will also be returning from a mid-season ACL tear that he suffered against the Seahawks last year.

Jared Goff is primed for a career season. He appears to have added some upper body strength and he is throwing with more zip on the ball. Expect Dante Fowler Jr. and Gerald Everett to have break out years. The biggest question mark is Todd Gurley’s knee, but he looks like he will be fine.

2. Kansas City Chiefs
Average Rank: 3
Highest Rank: 2 (Jake, Alex, and Max)
Lowest Rank: 5 (Bill)

The Chiefs’ biggest problem last year was that they couldn’t stop a nose bleed on defense. Patrick Mahomes would always have to bail them out by throwing 300+ yards and a handful of touchdowns each game. This year, their defense should be better. Even with the departure of Dee Ford, they added Earl Clark, Tyrann Mathieu, Alex Okafor, and rookie Juan Thornhill.

Tyreek Hill ultimately was not suspended by the NFL for reportedly beating his son, so he will be back even though his career was in doubt. Kansas City drafted Mecole Hardman in case of a Hill suspension, but he will still see a huge role in the offense anyways. Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins will continue to do their thing. The biggest question mark is if they will be able to sustain a Damien Williams-led run game for a whole season. The AFC runner-ups added Carlos Hyde for insurance.

3. Indianapolis Colts
Average Rank: 4.5
Highest Rank: 1 (Dan and Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 10 (Max)

The Colts did not have a flashy offseason whatsoever which was similar to last year. Yet, they won 10 games and were one of the most improved teams. They drafted two All-Pros last year in Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard. This year, they drafted Rock Ya-Sin and Ben Banogu. Nobody is expecting them to be All-Pros, but the Colts are THAT good at drafting, that they could be.

Eric Ebron was a low-risk, high-reward signing last season which paid off for the Colts (and those that took him in the late rounds in their fantasy football drafts last year). He will look to build off his break out year, but the return of Jack Doyle could stymie that. The Colts made a couple of low-risk, high-reward signings this year, bringing in Devin Funchess and Justin Houston. The Colts’ biggest question mark is if Andrew Luck can finally put the Colts over the hump to make it to the Super Bowl, something that he hasn’t done in his seven-year career.

4. New England Patriots
Average Rank: 4.5
Highest Rank: 2 (Bill and Dan)
Lowest Rank: 9 (Alex)

The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions, but they will be without a familiar face, Rob Gronkowski when they open the season. The 30-year-old retired after going out on top. The injury-riddled tight end decided to step away from the game, but some think he will make a mid-season return if New England struggles. To make up for the loss of Gronk on offense, Isaiah Wynn will return from a torn Achilles injury and WR N’Keal Harry was their first-round selection.

Tom Brady gained another year of age. Is THIS the year that he shows something that resembles a decline in play? We will see. He just signed a big extension that will keep him playing for the next three years though! The Patriots will win their division, but how will they fare with a much-improved AFC?

5. Philadelphia Eagles
Average Rank: 5.83
Highest Rank: 3 (Max and Alex)
Lowest Rank: 9 (Alexis)

The Eagles have one of, if not, the deepest roster in the entire NFL. Their first-round pick, Andre Dillard, won’t even be a starter on their offensive line! Their 2015 first-round pick, Nelson Agholor, will be in a battle with rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside for some playtime. Their running back group consists of Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood. Their secondary suffered a lot of injuries last year, but when healthy, they are a top-five group in the league.

The biggest question mark surrounding the Eagles is Carson Wentz’s health. In the past four years, Wentz has suffered a broken wrist (senior year of college), broken ribs (2016 preseason), torn ACL (2017) and most recently, a fractured vertebra (2018). If he can stay healthy, the Eagles will be in the mix for a Super Bowl appearance. That is a big ‘if’ though.

6. Los Angeles Chargers
Average Rank: 5.83
Highest Rank: 4 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 8 (Bill)

The Chargers are a very good football team. Unfortunately for them, the Chiefs are in their division and one of the two teams have to play in the wild card round. Last year, the Chargers took care of the Ravens in the first round but were then booted by the eventual Super Bowl champions in the following round.

The Chargers boast one of the league’s best pass rush and secondary. They also have one of the best skill position groups on offense. Missing from that offensive group is RB Melvin Gordon. The fifth-year pro has not reported to the team in hopes of landing a big extension or being traded. Keep in mind, Gordon has only played a full season once and has only surpassed 1,000 rushing yards once. Take that for what it’s worth. The Chargers will aim to replace him with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson: two under-sized running backs that can pack a punch.

7. New Orleans Saints
Average Rank: 6.83
Highest Rank: 1 (Bill)
Lowest Rank: 13 (Dan)

We all know how the Saints’ season ended a year ago. We are reminded by their fans and the media daily! The only way that you haven’t seen “the play” is if you have been living under a rock.

Star WR Michael Thomas held out a little bit this offseason but was given an extension that made him the highest-paid receiver in the league. Drew Brees played one of his best seasons last year and will look to duplicate it. The NFL’s all-time leading passer is 40, and if he wants another ring, this is his best shot.

Max Unger and Mark Ingram both departed New Orleans this past offseason. That means rookie C Erik McCoy will have to step in right away and Alvin Kamara will have a bigger workload (fantasy football players should be licking their chops). The biggest question looming over the Saints is if they are capable of coming back after missing out on the Super Bowl in heartbreaking fashion.

8. Chicago Bears
Average Rank: 8.33
Highest Rank: 6 (Bill)
Lowest Rank: 13 (Jake)

Just like the Saints, the Bears had one of the most heartbreaking ends to a season in recent memory. Unlike the botched call in the Bayou, the Bears’ season ended on a mistake of their own: a field goal attempted by Cody Parkey that struck an upright.

Chicago will return much of the same roster. Mitchell Trubisky will look to show more growth, Khalil Mack will make a claim for defensive player of the year and Eddie Jackson can solidify his status as the best safety in football despite only being 26 years old. The biggest question mark regarding the Bears is not the play of Mitchell Trubisky, it’s if the defense can play at the same level as the 2018 Bears defense. After losing DC Vic Fangio to a head coaching job in Denver, Chicago might have a different look on the defensive side of the ball. When it comes to fantasy football, I would stay away for that reason. If I’m Chuck Pagano, the new defensive coordinator, I wouldn’t change much.

9. Cleveland Browns
Average Rank: 9.83
Highest Rank: 5 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 15 (Alex)

In 2019, the Cleveland Browns will put their best team of the century on the field. They have a lot of talent, but will it translate to wins? General Manager John Dorsey has built quite the roster since he took over the Browns’ front office, but Hue Jackson was holding him back. First-year Head Coach Freddie Kitchens will look to turn Dorsey’s roster-building into success.

Can Baker Mayfield improve? It looks like all his college antics have left him and he has grown up, and he took the Brown’s offense down the field for a touchdown in two minutes in their first preseason game of the year. Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, and Kareem Hunt highlight their offseason additions. That’s a great squad alone! They will be teaming up with young stars Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward.

I believe the Browns are a year away from being a year away. They built a great roster comprised of Pro Bowl players, but they don’t have chemistry or any winning experience. They have a shot at winning nine games.

10. Green Bay Packers
Average Rank: 11
Highest Rank: 5 (Jake)
Lowest Rank: 14 (Dan and Alexis)

The Packers are one of the biggest wild cards in the NFL. They can win their division, or another Aaron Rodgers injury can put them in the bottom half of the North. This group is much improved from a season ago, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Green Bay stole Adrian Amos from their division rivals (Chicago) and they took Darnell Savage with the 26th overall pick to give their secondary a boost. They also added Rashan Gary with the 12th overall pick and Za’Darius Smith in free agency to get after quarterbacks. The Cheese Heads haven’t seen their team make the playoffs since the 2016 season. Will first-year Head Coach Matt LaFleur be able to put them over the top?

11. Pittsburgh Steelers
Average Rank: 12.33
Highest Rank: 9 (Bill)
Lowest Rank: 18 (Dan)

I believe the Steelers will win the AFC North. Outside of Bill Riccette and I, the rest of the DTR Staff disagrees. They lost Antonio Brown, but JuJu Smith-Schuster should be able to fill his big shoes. Le’Veon Ball also “left” the Steelers after sitting out the whole 2018 season. James Conner did a fine job replacing him and he should be able to make Pittsburgh fans forget about the running back who turned his back on the team.

Rookie linebacker Devin Bush had ten tackles in his first preseason game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: in one half. The Steelers have drafted a handful of linebackers in the first round in the past decade, but Bush looks like he can make up for all the misses.

To gain attention from the rest of the staff here at DTR, the Steelers will have to prove that they can win games without the departure of two Killer Bees. I think they can.

12. Dallas Cowboys
Average Rank: 13.17
Highest Rank: 7 (Alex)
Lowest Rank: 19 (Alexis)

The Cowboys have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. That’s why I have them ranked pretty high. On the other hand, the Downtown Rams staff must’ve put a lot of stock in the Ezekiel Elliott holdout, and collectively ranked them pretty low. Yes, if the All-Pro RB is not with the Cowboys for the first week, the Cowboys don’t deserve to be ranked high. I have a feeling that Jerry Jones will eventually give in and pay Zeke. Jones stated that rookie RB Tony Pollard can handle the load though. That is very high praise for a fourth-round pick.

Fourth-year QB Dak Prescott is also hoping to sign a major contract, but he is actually with the team. I’m not a huge believer in Dak, but his supporting cast is just too good for him to fail. Maybe we can compare him to an Alex Smith-type player? He’s a good game manager that can win with a talented roster.

The Cowboys’ season rests on Ezekiel Elliott’s shoulders. If he doesn’t show up, can Dak prove that he can win without him? The Cowboys lost three straight games in 2017 when Elliott began to sit for his six-game suspension.

13. Seattle Seahawks
Average Rank: 13.5
Highest Rank: 9 (Jake)
Lowest Rank: 22 (Dan)

The Seahawks will finish second in the NFC West, I’m calling it now. I think they will even push the Rams a little bit more than they did last year in the race for the division. Russell Wilson is still Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll is still a great coach even though he’s 97 years old.

Anything is possible when you have a top-five QB at the helm. Wilson will be without his favorite target, Doug Baldwin since he retired, but he will have D.K. Metcalf at his disposal. Metcalf was Jake Ellenbogen’s and I’s number one receiver in the 2019 draft and he fell to the Seahawks in the second round.

Seattle took defensive end L.J. Collier in the first round which was a surprise to many. I’m wondering if he will play up to the billing of a top pick.

14. Atlanta Falcons
Average Rank: 14.17
Highest Rank: 6 (Alex and Dan)
Lowest Rank: 25 (Alexis)

I am surprised that the Falcons were ranked this low amongst the staff. Dan Gleason and I both have them winning the NFC South. Last year, they suffered a bunch of injuries. Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Devonta Freeman, Andy Levitre, and Ricardo Allen all landed on injured reserve before midseason in 2018. Hopefully, they will be a little healthier this season.

The Falcons drafted two offensive linemen in the first round this year: Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. They will come in and help the Atlanta offensive who gave up the 12th most sacks in 2018. With all of the new help around Matt Ryan, I believe he should be in everybody’s top-five MVP candidates.

15. Baltimore Ravens
Average Rank: 15
Highest Rank: 10 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 26 (Alex)

After ranking the Steelers, Cowboys, and Falcons higher than most of the DTR staff, I have to say I am pretty low on the Ravens compared to everyone else. They were a playoff team last year, but Lamar Jackson played as poor of a game as he could’ve against the Chargers in the wild card round. Jackson will have to prove that he can be a better passer than he was down the stretch.

A lot of teams will have the Ravens figured out on offense if they take the same approach as last year. For example, the Ravens beat the Chargers in the regular season in 2018, but the Chargers got the best of the Ravens when it counted. Jackson looked flustered and Baltimore could not get the running game going. Their offense was too predictable for the Chargers and more teams will have them figured out this year.

Their defense isn’t a joke though. They were the number one defense last year and they added Earl Thomas to it. It can be one of the best defenses in the league yet again. They lost C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Eric Weddle, and Terrell Suggs though and will have to find new faces to fill in those big shoes.

16. Minnesota Vikings
Average Rank: 16
Highest Rank: 10 (Dan)
Lowest Rank: 19 (Alex)

Not long ago, the Vikings were an NFC powerhouse. Now, they’re just a middle-of-the-pack team. They decided to pay Kirk Cousins $30 million per year, but he’s also just a middle-of-the-pack QB. Their offensive line was bad last year, Dalvin Cook got hurt and the Bears turned out to be a very good team to win the division.

Minnesota drafted C Garrett Bradbury with their first-round pick and Cook looks to have a break-out season. The departure of Sheldon Richardson could be costly. At least they were able to obtain Anthony Barr after a last-second change of heart to return to the purple and gold.

17. Carolina Panthers
Average Rank: 18.17
Highest Rank: 14 (Alex)
Lowest Rank: 22 (Jake)

I think the Carolina Panthers will be a surprise team that can make the playoffs or at least have a shot at a run. Who knows, maybe we get three teams to represent the NFC South in the playoffs. Cam Newton’s shoulder is healthier than it was last year, Christian McCaffrey is going to make a lot of fantasy owners happy and the additions of Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy give Carolina one of the best defensive lines in the country.

According to Dan Gleason, Curtis Samuel is a sleeper that you should target for in fantasy football. Do it.

18. Jacksonville Jaguars
Average Rank: 18.67
Highest Rank: 11 (Dan)
Lowest Rank: 25 (Jake)

Nobody knows exactly how good or how bad the Jaguars will be this year. Former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is the QB, but Jacksonville will have to get through the regular season first, where Nick Foles is only just average. If they make the playoffs, watch out!

Is Leonard Fournette going to be any good this year? Is he going to remain healthy? There are just too many questions surrounding the Jaguars for the Downtown Rams staff to rank them super high.

19. Tennessee Titans
Average Rank: 18.83
Highest Rank: 16 (Jake and Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 24 (Alex)

This is the year that Marcus Mariota has to get it done if he wants to lock up a huge contract extension. The former second overall pick has shown crazy potential, but he hasn’t won a big game and he is injured quite often. Reports from camp say he might not even be the starter. Could Ryan Tannehill start over Mariota? I’m not too sure if I buy that report.

Tennessee stole OG Rodger Saffold from the Rams this past free agency period to help protect Mariota. He will surely be a great addition, but he might have to start the season at LT because Taylor Lewan is facing a four-game suspension.

20. Houston Texans
Average Rank: 19.17
Highest Rank: 10 (Bill)
Lowest Rank: 27 (Alexis)

Ah yes, finally, the end of the AFC South run. It seems like the Colts have the division and there is a battle for second place. Deshaun Watson will continue to be a beast. He might be a top-10 QB by year’s end. He has to remain healthy though.

Houston allowed 62 sacks last year which led the league. That’s six more sacks than second-place allowed! The Texans brought in Matt Kalil in free agency and Tytus Howard in the draft to “help protect” Watson. Neither are all that good though. The best strategy for Watson would be to take a quick drop back and throw it up to DeAndre Hopkins on every single play. After all, Hopkins didn’t drop a single pass last year. He is currently the best receiver in the league.

21. San Francisco 49ers
Average Rank: 21.83
Highest Rank: 18 (Alex)
Lowest Rank: 28 (Alexis)

Is Jimmy G worth all the hype dating back to his days at New England? He was 7-0 in his first seven starts. Sure, give him credit for that, but his touchdown to interception ratio is 1:1. He will be returning to the field this year after suffering a torn ACL last season.

The 49ers, believe it or not, have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. They drafted my #1 prospect in this year’s draft, Nick Bosa, they signed Kwon Alexander, a budding star linebacker from Tampa Bay and Dante Pettis will shock the league this year. They also have two defensive player of the year candidates on their defensive line, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford. The 49ers have a lot of pieces, but they are a year away from making a serious push.

22. Washington Redskins
Average Rank: 22
Highest Rank: 15 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 29 (Alex)

The Redskins have a decent roster, but 1) can they turn talent into wins and 2) can they stay healthy? The Redskins have to either be cursed or have the worst group of trainers in the NFL. Derrius Guice, Alex Smith, Jordan Reed, Brandon Scherff, and Paul Richardson all ended last season on IR.

Heading into this season, LT Trent Williams has demanded a trade. He is one of the best offensive tackles in the game and that would be a huge hole to fill if he is traded. And who’s going to be the quarterback? Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins? I’d be willing to bet that it’s Keenum because I don’t believe Haskins will be ready for a year or two.

23. Detroit Lions
Average Rank: 22.5
Highest Rank: 18 (Jake and Max)
Lowest Rank: 29 (Alexis)

The Lions plan to shock the league this year. If they make the playoffs, they will shock the whole DTR staff. The trio of Matthew Stafford, Kerryon Johnson, and Kenny Golladay isn’t bad, but what else do they have on this roster?

The Lions chose Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall pick in the draft, but he is currently listed behind Jesse James on the depth chart. To be fair, tight end is one of the toughest positions to transition too from the college game.

24. Buffalo Bills
Average Rank: 23
Highest Rank: 20 (Alex)
Lowest Rank: 26 (Jake)

I ranked the Bills the highest out of anybody from DTR, but I feel like I ranked them too low. I think they can surprise a lot of people. A lot of that depends on the play of second-year quarterback Josh Allen. Allen didn’t impress me in the first preseason game of the year. I thought that Tyree Jackson, their third-string QB, played better. It’s just one game, but Allen has to play better if the Bills are going to be any good.

Former rugby star Christian Wade stole the show last Thursday night! He took the first carry of his career 65 yards for a touchdown. Keep your eyes on this story.

25. New York Jets
Average Rank: 23
Highest Rank: 21 (Alex and Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 25 (Dan)

The Bills and Jets had a tie in average rank, but since the Bills’ highest rank (20) was higher than the Jets’ highest rank (21), the Bills won the tiebreaker.

I believe Sam Darnold will be the best quarterback from last year’s draft class. Yes, even better than first overall pick and rookie of the year runner-up Baker Mayfield. He shined towards the end of last season and looked good in his first preseason game.

The Jets added C.J. Mosley and Le’Veon Bell in free agency. The former AFC North studs will bring a lot of excitement to New York this year.

26. Denver Broncos
Average Rank: 24.83
Highest Rank: 12 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 28 (Jake, Max, and Alex)

Alexis Kraft ranked the Broncos a lot higher than everyone else, but I think she likes rookie OL Dalton Risner a little too much (Sorry Alexis, I had to). The Broncos took the Denver native in the second round and he looks to be a very solid piece on their offensive line.

Their quarterback is Joe Flacco though. The once “elite” quarterback lost the starting job in Baltimore to Lamar Jackson. He will try to keep Drew Lock on the bench for as long as he can.

27. Oakland Raiders
Average Rank: 25.67
Highest Rank: 20 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 30 (Dan)

The Clemson Tigers added a lot of talent this offseason. Wait a minute, this team is called the Oakland Raiders? Got it. Sources tell me they added a lot of Clemson Tigers this offseason: Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen, and Hunter Renfrow. The former National Champions will look to bring a championship pedigree to one of the most mediocre teams in the NFL.

Also making headlines is Antonio Brown. His feet froze off in a cooling machine because he didn’t wear the proper footwear. Well, I guess his feet didn’t exactly freeze off, but that’s what everyone is making it sound like. AB set some more headlines because he said he would retire if he wasn’t allowed to wear the helmet that he has always worn. The league didn’t accept his appeal, but Brown seems like he will return to playing.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Average Rank: 27
Highest Rank: 19 (Jake)
Lowest Rank: 30 (Max and Alexis)

Bruce Arians looks to reboot Jameis Winston’s career. He did it with Carson Palmer, so he can do it with Winston, right?

The Bucs took running back Ronald Jones pretty early in last year’s draft, but he averaged a couple of yards per carry. He will set out to prove that he is not a mistake.

Also, Tampa’s secondary is still pretty bad.

29. Cincinnati Bengals
Average Rank: 28.33
Highest Rank: 22 (Alex)
Lowest Rank: 32 (Jake and Alexis)

Guys, Andy Dalton isn’t that bad, trust me. Marvin Lewis ran the simplest offense in the league and couldn’t fool anyone. Dalton has A.J. Green, Joe Mixon, and Tyler Boyd to work with on offense. New head coach Zac Taylor will have a lot of fun with them.

A.J. Green might not start in the opener, but luckily his injury isn’t as bad as it could’ve been.

30. New York Giants
Average Rank: 29.33
Highest Rank: 24 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 32 (Max and Alex)

Do the Giants know what they’re doing? They traded away OBJ for pocket change and drafted Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick. I gave Jones a fourth-round grade, I am not a fan.

Yes, he played well in his first preseason game, but hold your horses Giants fans. He isn’t the next coming of Eli Manning. At least you have Saquon Barkley in your backfield.

31. Arizona Cardinals
Average Rank: 29.67
Highest Rank: 27 (Dan)
Lowest Rank: 31 (Bill, Alex, and Alexis)

Kyler Murray is the real deal. He was my number one quarterback in the 2019 draft. He will have David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and a bunch of young receivers to work within his rookie year. The offensive line has to be a lot better for the Cardinals to win more games than last year.

Rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury can be good. He is already building a great offense and he has to be happy with the things he saw in their first preseason game.

32. Miami Dolphins
Average Rank: 30.33
Highest Rank: 26 (Alexis)
Lowest Rank: 32 (Bill and Dan)

The Dolphins will have the first overall pick in next year’s draft, I am calling it now. Josh Rosen is not a good quarterback. They will draft Tua Tagovailoa with the first pick next year.

Please save these hot takes for this time next year.

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