By: Denery Noone
These are my preseason NFL Power Rankings. I will be doing a profile on each team in these power rankings as a season preview, and then after each week of the regular season, I will reassess these power rankings and deliver you all new ones. Since this is the first ever power rankings for the NFL from The Breakdown, this will be a three part ranking, and we are starting with 32-21.
32. Titans 2014: 2-14
Yes, despite the fact that Tennessee drafted Marcus Mariota 2nd overall in this years draft, the Tennessee Titans are the worst team in the league. Finally, the Titans have found their quarterback of the future, escaping from the below average nightmare of quarterbacks like Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger. However, I am not sold that Mariota is ready to be a solid quarterback in this league yet. His transition to the NFL from the spread at Oregon, a place that allowed him to use his athletic abilities without having to read defenses, will not be strong. Mariota did get a great weapon in Dorial Green Beckham, but it will take a few years for that tandem to truly develop. Tennessee ranked 27th last year in total defense, allowing 373 yards per game. The Titans poor defense along with their young quarterback, lack of weapons, and lack of experience will hurt them this year greatly, so expect the Titans to be at the bottom of the league in wins, and drafting at the top of the board in 2016. Hopefully they can prove me wrong.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars 2014: 3-13
The Jaguars are getting better as a team, but they are still a terrible team. Blake Bortles, going into his second year, has not proven that he can lead this talentless Jaguars team quite yet. The Jaguars did add Julius Thomas, which will help Bortles immensely, but they don’t have Justin Blackmon since he is suspended. Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee will have a tough time leading this Wide Receiving Corps. The biggest loss for the Jaguars was the loss of first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. Their defense will not improve much off of their 26th ranking from last year, so expect the Jaguars rebuild to continue through 2015.
30. Oakland Raiders 2014: 3-13
Oakland is a team that is slowly improving, especially with the strong development of second year quarterback Derek Carr. Carr had 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year, which is solid, and with the additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, their offense should be better. The main question mark surrounding their offense is the running game, since they will be relying on the disappointing Trent Richardson to carry them on the ground. The Raiders will have to rely on Carr a lot so don’t be surprised if he makes more mistakes than usual since he will be throwing the ball a lot. The achilles heel of the Raiders is their defense. They ranked in the bottom third in the league last year in defense, allowing 357.6 yards per game, and their best players like Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson are not getting any younger. Khalil Mack will continue to emerge as a superstar but expect the Raiders to struggle heavily in the tough AFC West.
29. Washington Redskins 2014: 4-12
The Redskins were terrible in 2013 and 2014 after the unfortunate knee injury of Robert Griffin III at the end of the 2012 season. Since that injury, Griffin has not been the same quarterback. His aggression has not been there, and without his ability to be aggressive and make plays, the Redskins have nothing. I expect Griffin to be better this year if he can stay healthy, but he is no longer the answer at quarterback for Washington. He will have weapons such as Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to help him, along with his new left tackle, Brandon Scherff, but it will not be enough. The brutal secondary of the Redskins will let them down again in a division with Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., and Victor Cruz. They allowed 27.4 points per game and they lost their best defensive back in Ryan Clark to retirement.
28. Cleveland Browns 2014: 7-9
Who is the quarterback going forward for the Cleveland Browns. In my opinion, they should start Johnny Manziel because Josh McCown is clearly not the short or long term answer for Cleveland. Manziel was terrible last year in the opportunities that he was given, but he did make an effort to clean up his act this offseason by going to rehab. I believe that if the Browns want to go forward as an organization, they need to make Manziel their starting quarterback to start the season. However, they will not. McCown is the leader to win the starting job in Cleveland. With Josh Gordon suspended for the entire season, and an incompetent Josh McCown at the helm, expect the Browns to rely heavily on Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West. The Browns will have a strong defense again led by Joe Haden and Donte Whitner but at this point, their offense is not strong enough to produce the points to support that defense.
27. Chicago Bears 2014: 5-11
In my opinion, the Bears are the worst team in the very talented NFC North. Their defense, ranked 30th last year, allowed 27.6 points and 377.6 yards per game last season. They did not make any necessary improvements to that defense. Their best defensive players, Jared Allen, Lance Briggs, and Antrel Rolle are all on the back 9 of their careers. Kyle Fuller has not proved yet that he can be an adequate option as a number one cornerback. The one thing that will improve this defense is the coaching change from Marc Trestman to John Fox, but that defense is still a project. Jay Cutler is aging, and his team is losing confidence and respect for him. He threw 18 interceptions last year and he lost his number one receiver in Brandon Marshall. Kevin White will be great for them in the years to come, but for the 2015 season, he will not be able to match what Marshall did. The Bears will need Alshon Jeffery to step up to that number one receiver role and help Cutler out if they want to have any success in 2015.
26. New York Jets 2014: 4-12
As many of you saw, Geno Smith is out for 6-10 weeks after being sucker punched and suffering a broken jaw. Yes, Smith is an incompetent quarterback who was not going to lead the Jets anywhere anyway, but still, this proves how awful the Jets organization is. That offense was supposed to be improved with the addition of Brandon Marshall which will take some of the load off of Eric Decker. But do you really expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to do anything with this offense. The Jets defense will carry this team once again, especially with the additions of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine, and the emerging Calvin Pryor at safety. Sheldon Richardson is indefinitely suspended after his most recent arrest but expect that pass rush to continue to be lethal with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets will be improved, but in an improving AFC East lead by the defending champs, I will need to see that offense improve before their position in these rankings does.
25. New Orleans Saints
Yes, despite having Drew Brees the Saints are at 25. The Saints have a horrible defense with arguably the worst secondary in the league. Ranking 31st in defense last year with 251 pass yard per game allowed last year and 26.5 points allowed per game, the Saints proved that they cannot rely on their defense. They did add Brandon Browner but many coaches and general managers across the league feel that Browner cannot carry a secondary as a number one corner. The Saints offense will be productive as usual, but they lost their number one weapon in Jimmy Graham, and Drew Brees is entering this season at the age of 36. Expect Mark Ingram and CJ Spiller to get heavier loads than usual as this offense continues to age.
24. Atlanta Falcons 2014: 6-10
There are two big themes in my rankings that will truly hurt you if you lack, one is quarterback play, the other is a defense. The Falcons have their franchise quarterback, but they do not have much of a defense. Atlanta ranked dead last in total defense a year ago, allowing 398.3 yards per game. In 2015, the Falcons have to play quarterbacks such as, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Drew Brees twice, Cam Newton twice, Jameis Winston twice, Andrew Luck, and Teddy Bridgewater. Those are no easy tasks and with a defense that lacks any ability to stop the pass at nearly 280 passing yards allowed per game, which also ranked last, the Falcons will struggle heavily to beat a lot of those teams. They did draft Vic Beasley from Clemson to help their pass rush, but expect the team to rely heavily on Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White. However, can we expect Matt Ryan, week in and week out, to put up enough points necessary to get this team into the playoffs?
23. San Francisco 49ers 2014: 8-8
The 49ers had one of the most damaging offseasons that I think I have ever seen. They lost Chris Borland (24), Patrick Willis (30), Anthony Davis (25), and Justin Smith(35), all huge leaders retired. Then, they lost their best pass rusher Aldon Smith due to release following his most recent arrest for DUI. Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore both left in free agency. Jim Harbaugh departed to coach his alma mater Michigan. Now, the 49ers are left with a first year coach in Jim Tomsula, who many feel is underqualified, and a still developing quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, who now lacks weapons and support besides Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon davis In the extremely difficult NFC West, I have a tough time seeing the 49ers go anywhere, but let’s see if they prove me wrong.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2014: 2-14
I think that Tampa Bay is poised to make a big jump from their 2-14 record from a year ago. They drafted Jameis Winston 1st overall in the draft, which means they finally got a quarterback to play with Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Also, expect Doug Martin to have a much better season because now when teams play the Buccaneers, they actually have to respect the passing game, which they did not need to do as much in the past with quarterbacks like Mike Glennon and Josh McCown. Their defense struggled a little bit last year at 25th in the league and 269 yards allowed per game. However, they just extended Lavonte David’s contract, and they have Alterraun Verner to man the cornerback position, and Gerald McCoy to rush the passer, so expect that defense to be a little bit better.
21. Buffalo Bills 2014: 9-7
The biggest worry for me regarding the Bills is the quarterback play. Neither Matt Cassel, nor EJ Manuel are true starting quarterbacks in this league. The Bills are leaning towards Cassel, and I have a tough time believing that Cassel can lead this team through an improving AFC East and against teams in the NFC East, a division the Bills do have to play in 2015, as well. Everywhere else besides the quarterback is encouraging for the Bills. They traded for Lesean McCoy this offseason, which will instantly improve their offense. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are both emerging as great options for the Bills for years to come. They added Percy Harvin who will make their offense much more dynamic, as well as Charles Clay, who will be great for them at the tight end position. Their defense will be really good again as they ranked 4th in the league last year with guys like Stephon Gilmore, Mario Williams, Marcel Dareus, Aaron Williams, Jerry Hughes, and Baccari Rambo. Unfortunately, we still have to look at the bad, meaning their quarterback play, which I think will ultimately keep them out of the playoffs. Maybe they can prove me wrong; the ball is in your court, Matt Cassel.
Rankings 20-11 coming soon!