By: Denery Noone
1. New Orleans Saints
This one is kind of interesting because of the pretty noticeable decline from Drew Brees over the second half of last season. Brees had an incredible year last year, don't get me wrong, 32 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions is worth serious MVP consideration in any normal year in which someone doesn't throw for 50 touchdowns. Still, Brees basically hit a wall after the first 12 games of the season. 29 of the 32 touchdown passes Brees threw last season came in those first 12 games. In the last four, Brees threw 3 touchdowns and 3 of his 5 total interceptions. Brees can't afford to fall off in similar fashion in 2019 if the Saints want to do anything significant. With all that being said, the Saints are still loaded with talent. They return one of the most explosive offenses in the league, and with Mark Ingram being shipped off to Baltimore, Alvin Kamara will see exponentially more touches, something that should've happened last year. Michael Thomas is still one of the best receivers in the country, and that young defense is only going to continue to improve. They were the #1 seed in the NFC last season despite Brees' decline in the final month and probably would've made the Super Bowl if it weren't for the pass interference no-call in the NFC Championship.
2. New England Patriots
Yes, Gronk retired, Trey Flowers signed with Detroit, Trent Brown signed with Oakland, Cordarrelle Patterson signed with the Bears, and Brian Flores left to coach the Dolphins. They absolutely have question marks at receiver, tight end, and on the defensive line. However, they still have Tom Brady, and they still have Bill Belichick, and as long as those two are still around they have to be the favorite in the AFC. Even at age 41, Brady really isn't showing any signs of decline, and even though his receiving core is weak right now, Brady has historically been able to put up strong numbers with much worse. The one thing that is extremely important to look at when it comes to offensive production is the fact that the Patriots ran the ball with more success a season ago than they have probably since 2004. With Sony Michel entering his second season, don't be surprised if he surpasses the level of success he had a year ago. Defensively, it definitely stings losing Flowers on the defensive line and Flores calling plays. The difference in production with Flowers on the field compared to off was pretty glaring, and Flores' ability to create pressure by sending more than four guys without hindering the coverage on the backend was impressive. Still, the Patriots have typically always been able to find a way to manufacture pressure regardless of who is on the field, and the addition of Michael Bennett to replace Flowers will certainly help.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
I struggled with whether or not I wanted to put Kansas City higher up on this list or not. They were completely unstoppable offensively a season ago with Patrick Mahomes taking over under center, and Mahomes was in his first season as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Mahomes was historically good last season, becoming the third quarterback in the history of the NFL to reach 50 touchdown passes in a season, and even though he will only be 24 next season, it's simply really hard to match those numbers. The Chiefs offense was a complete juggernaut with matchup nightmares in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce running all over the place while Mahomes dished out circus throws, and even though they should be high-powered again next season, that offense had almost everything go right for them a year ago. Additionally, they lost their two best pass rushers in Dee Ford and Justin Houston. Kansas City was tied for the lead league in sacks last season, a mark which slightly helped them mask that porus secondary. Without that same production from the pass rush, it will be tough to see any improvements defensively. They will still be a premiere contender in the AFC, but they may not be as good as they were a year ago.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
I know, Carson Wentz was a shell of himself last season coming off ACL surgery, and it hurt them for much of the season. I still absolutely love Wentz. If you go back and look at the tape from two years ago, Wentz was the most exciting player in football. The throws that he made, his ability to escape the pocket and make throws with his legs, and his pure intelligence on the field displayed everything you could want in a franchise quarterback. It was clear that he came back too soon last season, he wasn't ready, and it impacted his game. With another full offseason to recover, I think Wentz returns to form in a big way in 2019, and if he does, look out, because this Eagles team will be dangerous. The Eagles had enough talent throughout to make a Super Bowl run in 2017 with backup Nick Foles replacing Wentz, and they were a dropped Alshon Jeffery pass turned interception in the divisional round in 2018 from almost doing the same. If this team is at full capacity this year, they have the talent to make a serious run.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
These guys are absolutely loaded, top to bottom. The Chargers return one of the youngest and most talented rosters in the NFL a year removed from a 12-4 season and a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs. People love to look at their offense, because they aren't afraid to light up the scoreboard with Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and a returning Hunter Henry. However, my absolute favorite part of this Chargers team is the defense, in particular, that defensive line. Between Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, they have two of the most lethal young defensive linemen in football. Ingram, an outside linebacker/defensive end pass rush specialist was great for LA last season. He had seven sacks and was extremely disruptive in all facets of the game. On the other side, Bosa, who is entering just his third year in the NFL, had only 5.5 sacks last season but only played in 7 games due to injury. The former 3rd overall pick had 12.5 sacks the year before when fully healthy, and should be even better this season if he can keep himself on the field. In the secondary, Derwin James is a star in the making. James is everything you want in a safety. He has elite coverage skills, can play all over the field, and may actually be at his best in the run game. Those three highlight a really good overall defense, and with the firepower they have on offense, don't be surprised if they make more noise in 2019.
6. Los Angeles Rams
The other team in Los Angeles. Coming off a magical season that culminated in a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss for a really young team, it may come as a surprise that I have them here at 6. However, there are some legitimate question marks for this Rams team entering 2019. First, the losses defensively. Ndamukong Suh, the biggest name on that list, will be a huge loss on the defensive line. Suh was a catalyst for the Rams a year ago, pairing up with defensive player of the year Aaron Donald to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. He is the type of interior defender that is seldom replaced, and it will be difficult to do so. They also lost Lamarcus Joyner and Mark Barron, two cogs in that secondary that helped hold things together when Talib went down and Marcus Peters was exposed for the overrated player that he is. Offensively, Rodger Saffold is a massive loss on the line. Quarterback Jared Goff is coming off a career year, but there's serious concern that he is as good as he is ever going to be. He isn't particularly savvy at the line of scrimmage, his arm strength is average at best, and he's not especially mobile. He benefited from the lack of familiarity of opposing defenses with Sean Mcvay's offensive scheme, a monster year from Todd Gurley, and strong play from his receivers. Now, I'm not saying he is all of the sudden going to be terrible and so will his weapons, I'm just pointing out that there may not be much room for improvement, and it could force the Rams to regress a bit.
7. Chicago Bears
Outside of Mitch Trubisky, I absolutely love this team. They are supremely talented, well coached, tough as nails, and can beat you in so many different ways. They had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season behind the ferocious effort of Khalil Mack, and with young guys like Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson, Akiem Hicks, and Kendall Fuller gaining another year of experiences, they should only improve. As for the other side of the ball, I wish I could say the same. I think Trubisky is solid, and I'm not ruling out any improvement completely, but until he learns to actually hurt teams with his arm, he is going to hold the Bears back. Trubisky was virtually useless as a passer last season, and as he became more comfortable running outside the pocket, it seemed as if he would revert to that option far too often. The Bears can only go as far as he takes them, and it just seems like he refuses to develop as a passer. I will say I really like the additions of Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis as reprieves for Trubisky's shortcomings. I think Davis will be able to provide more consistent production out of the backfield, and any form of creativity Patterson can help spark will only be a plus.
8. Indianapolis Colts
We finally got to see what a healthy Andrew Luck could look like after almost two full seasons without him due to injury. The former number one overall pick is still dynamite, and it's safe to say there is plenty of room for improvement considering last year was his first full season of action since 2016. I think the most exciting thing about this Colts team is the defensive progress they have made over the past few years. Earlier in Luck's career, particularly in 2013, 2014, and 2015, the Colts were completely one-sided in terms of production. That defensive was porus in every sense of the word. They could not stop a nosebleed, and it led to them being exposed often in the playoffs. To see how far the Colts have come now, ranking 7th in total defense last season behind the emergence of star rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, there is finally serious hope that Andrew Luck may be able to win a Super Bowl in Indianapolis. We all saw it for so many years how those defenses plagued so many of those Peyton Manning led Colts teams with seasons often culminating in devastating playoff defeats. There was legitimate fear the same may be happening with Luck, but if this defense continues to improve, the sky is the limit.
The Rankings page is used for any kind of list or power ranking.