Thursday 17 August 2017 / 01:41 PM

NFL POWER RANKINGS

It’s finally the football season!

As we get ready for the Panthers and Broncos, we present to you the very first Power Rankings of the NFL season.

1. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are the team to beat in 2016, after chalking up the best record in the NFL last year at 15-1. They bring back the entire offense, plus add Kelvin Benjamin. We’ll find out a lot in Denver on Thursday.

2. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals took a big step in 2015, reaching the NFC title game. They’ll look to take another step, after revamping the defense with more pass rushers. They’ll look to start strong against fellow Super Bowl contender New England Sunday night.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh features the most explosive offense in the NFL. They’ve got most of their roster healthy, which hindered them last season. If this team stays healthy consistently,they’re a Super Bowl contender for sure.

4. New England Patriots
The Patriots probably should be higher on the list, but without Tom Brady, it’s probably going to be a loss for the Patriots in the season opener. Arizona is a tough challenger, but the road gets easier after this.

5. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay also enjoys the return of some healthy players from an offense that was depleted by injuries a year ago. With the Vikings struggling to find a QB, the Packers have a wide window to take back the NFC North.

6. Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid and company again were one of the best teams in the AFC a year ago, and figure to be the same again. The defense is nasty, but they’ll need to get some solid offense to stave off Seattle.

7. Seattle Seahawks
The Hawks have been one of the most dominant teams of the decade, consistently contending for the NFC title. This year is going to be a little tougher without Beast Mode. The new era gets an easy start with Miami to lift their spirits, though.

8. Denver Broncos
I’m sure the defending champs feel slighted with a ranking this low, but what do you expect? Trevor Siemian is unproven, and a date with the Panthers’ defense in a Super Bowl rematch is not quite the best welcome party.

9. Cincinnati Bengals
I’m not worried about the Bengals in the regular season. Andy Dalton and company will put up points and the defense will be stout. It’s the postseason Bengals that concern me, and upending the Steelers has to be the goal this year.

10. Houston Texans
The new look Texans are the favorites in the AFC South, but this team is far from a confident pick. We’ll find out quite a bit about this team in the first few weeks, with the Chiefs and Patriots after Week One.

11. Oakland Raiders
Baby-faced Oakland bursts up the list with a revamped defense and the new, trendy QB Derek Carr. He’ll get a great chance to showcase his talents against a weak New Orleans defense.

12. New York Giants
The Giants spent big-time money to fix the defense this offseason, and get a chance to test it against a young Dallas offense. It may only be Week One, but with your opponent being a division rival starting two rookies in their first game ever, this feels like a must-win, right?

13. Minnesota Vikings
The crazy week gets crazier for the Vikings, who have added Sam Bradford. He won’t start this week against the Titans, but he’ll be starting soon. We’ll see if Adrian Peterson shows any signs of decline.

14. Washington Redskins
Washington is competing again, and is most people’s favorite to win a crazy NFC East. It’s Kirk Cousins time to shine with no more RGIII pressure. We’ll find out what the ceiling is for this team with him under center.

15. Buffalo Bills
Rex’s first season in Buffalo was pretty disappointing, and this season feels like playoffs or bust. Tyrod Taylor and the offense have all the pieces to compete, but who knows if it’ll finally click for them.

16. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta had the most memorable collapse of the season last year, going from a dead-heat with Carolina, to fumbling out of the postseason conversation. The roster is roughly the same, and they are hoping they can keep the momentum this time around.

17. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas had all the tools back in February. Then, their defense lost their captain and their best pass rusher. Oh, and Tony Romo is done until midseason, and they are starting two rookies on offense. Just typical for Big D, right?

18. Baltimore Ravens
Speaking of injuries, no team was more impacted by injuries last season than the Ravens, who lost starters in droves last year. Staying healthy is the big key, but this team is still talented. They face a tough division, though, and are going to have to improve drastically.

19. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were another banged up team last year, but most of that was the hits that Andrew Luck took. Luck has had some issues with support over the last few seasons, and it doesn’t look like much was added. Either way, it’s on him to pull this team up to compete again, and back to playing on a big stage.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are back, with another year under their belt. Bortles made a big jump last year, and with more talent around him, the offense should be great. The question is the defense, which is a year behind the offense, but full of talent, too.

21. New York Jets
The Jets were solid last year, and having Fitzpatrick turn into a solid QB overnight was revitalization to the offense. Now, we find out if it’s a one-hit wonder. The Bengals will show it pretty quickly.

22. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees and company are trying to regain their footing in the NFC South. Aside from Carolina, it’s wide open. I doubt Sean Payton and Brees are going to be satisfied with another losing season, and that starts with the defense.

23. Philadelphia Eagles
Oh, man. The Eagles are certainly going to be fun to watch this season. Hopefully it will be more enjoyable for the team this year after the Chip Kelly debacle a year ago. The rookie, Carson Wentz, gets his start – and who better to go up against than Cleveland?

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs were improved with Winston and the offense, but the defense was a major disappointment. New coaches bring a new style, and it remains to be seen if Jameis will struggle because of it.

25. Tennessee Titans
One of the younger teams in the league, the Titans doubled down on the running game by adding DeMarco Murray and Heisman winner Derrick Henry. The defense will have to be better, but things are looking better in Tennessee.

26. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams start their new era on Monday night in the Bay, and they’ll be starting a new quarterback, too. The Rams were fun on Hard Knocks, and look pretty solid. Maybe not playoffs, but this team will make some noise if they can piece things together.

27. Chicago Bears
Chicago has another year of Jay Cutler, and will be without Matt Forte. They have a chance to work their way up in the division with the uncertainty in Minnesota, but this team is far from a safe pick with the quarterback play.

28. Miami Dolphins
Miami is probably the team furthest down the list with the highest upside. Ryan Tannehill has so much promise, and there is talent on this team. Opening in Seattle is rough, though.

29. Detroit Lions
Well, the Megatron era is officially over, but Matt Stafford will get some time to find a new receiver against a bad secondary in Indy. Replicating Johnson’s numbers might be hard, but Stafford is talented enough to keep this team somewhat competitive.

30. San Diego Chargers
I love Philip Rivers. Truthfully, he’s a great quarterback. But what on this team other than him shows any blow-away skill? A trip to Arrowhead to start the season isn’t the best way to find yourself, either.

31. Cleveland Browns
At least it’s not the bottom, right? I think RGIII is going to have a resurrection in Cleveland. Unfortunately, he’s not going to have much around him, and it’s going to be an uphill climb. They’ve got a future with the current staff, but there’s going to be some lumps this year.

32. San Francisco 49ers
The Chip Kelly experiment begins with probably the thinnest roster in the NFL. This team is going to struggle as games wear on. But the home assignment against the Rams gives an opportunity to strike early.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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