The 2016 season is nearly (finally!) upon us and there is plenty to be sorted out. Heading into Week 1, there appears to be a handful of teams that are substantially better than the rest of the league, but things change in the NFL -- and they change quickly. Just ask the defending Super Bowl champs, who are starting Trevor Siemian in the opener. Here are your Week 1 power rankings (sorry, San Francisco).
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Seattle Seahawks: 13-3
The Seahawks enter the season as the best team in football. Despite losing Marshawn Lynch to retirement, Seattle is loaded at running back and Russell Wilson is building on a stellar second half of 2015. The Seahawks play in the NFC West, where the Cardinals also reside, but the rest of their schedule is favorable.
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New England Patriots: 12-4
Even with Tom Brady on the field for only 12 games, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC. They’ll feast on the AFC East and take care of business in the conference with the Steelers being the only threat to their chances at reaching the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers: 12-4
Green Bay is a close second to the Seahawks in the NFC and should improve on a disappointing 2015 season now that Jordy Nelson is healthy. The Packers’ secondary is loaded with talent and is on the verge of breaking out in a big way. They should take care of business in a Teddy Bridgewater-less NFC North.
Carolina Panthers: 12-4
The defending NFC champions are stronger on offense but noticeably weaker on the defensive side of the ball. That’s because three-quarters of the secondary is gone, namely Josh Norman. The Panthers will put up points in bunches and wear down defenses with a relentless rushing attack, though.
Arizona Cardinals: 11-5
Carson Palmer gets a lot of credit in Arizona, and for the most part, he deserves it. But in order for the Cardinals to beat the Seahawks in the NFC West, they’ll need Palmer to be outstanding – which he hasn’t always been down the stretch. Fortunately, they play against the Rams and 49ers four times combined, which will equate to four wins.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsDerick E. Hingle
Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-5
While Pittsburgh will be without Le’Veon Bell for the first three games, it will merely be a small bump in the road. Cincinnati is their only real threat in the first three weeks, and upon Bell’s return, the Steelers will return to form. They’re a team to watch in the AFC.
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Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6
The Bengals and Steelers: at it once again in the AFC North, as they typically are. The Bengals aren’t far behind the Steelers, but they do lack firepower on offense due to the departures of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. The rushing attack will need to step up in a big way.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY SportsIsaiah J. Downing
Denver Broncos: 10-6
Back to defend their title, the Broncos lack identity on offense. Trevor Siemian is a huge question mark and the run game is far from dominant. The defense is exactly that, though. Denver will win games thanks to its defense, just as it did last season en route to a ring.
Minnesota Vikings: 9-7
Had it not been for Teddy Bridgewater’s injury, the Vikings would have been slightly higher. Not much, however. Sam Bradford has the talent to lead Minnesota to a playoff berth so long as he fixes his sometimes-erratic accuracy and meshes well with Norv Turner’s offense. He absolutely has the weapons around him, but the offense will go as he does.
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Kansas City Chiefs: 9-7
Kansas City has a fairly rough schedule to start the year, and it only gets slightly easier down the stretch. That’s because the Chiefs play in the AFC West where the Broncos and Raiders are also located. The Chiefs have a dynamic rushing attack and a stout defense, which will help them weather the storm until Justin Houston is able to return.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
Oakland Raiders: 9-7
The Raiders are among the biggest risers in the NFL and are poised to make a serious playoff push. They’ll have to overcome a daunting schedule in the AFC West, but they have the leadership, youth, as well as the overall talent to make it happen. Derek Carr should continue to improve.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY SportsTim Heitman
Dallas Cowboys: 9-7
No Tony Romo? Slight problem. Unlike in years past, the Cowboys have a viable backup in Dak Prescott. He, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant can combine to keep the offense going until Romo returns, which could be as soon as Week 7 or as late as Week 10. It’s unclear as of now, but the Cowboys are certain he’ll play this season. If he does, Dallas can take advantage of a mediocre division with no clear front-runner.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Houston Texans: 9-7
An offseason filled with changes, smart drafting and free agent acquisitions, the Texans are no longer a team that got lucky a year ago. They’re a serious threat in the AFC South and the Colts should be worried. Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins are going to carry the offense while J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney will be outstanding up front.
Indianapolis Colts: 9-7
Speaking of the Colts, Indianapolis lacks weapons on offense and the defense is short of playmakers. Fortunately, they have Andrew Luck. He boasts the rare ability to carry a passing game, much like Aaron Rodgers did last season with a lackluster group of receivers. Luck has to remain healthy, and if he’s able to stay out of harm’s way, the Colts are in good shape to contend for a playoff berth.
New York Giants: 8-8
The Giants completely retooled their defense, adding Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, among others. There are still questions about the secondary even after the addition of Jenkins, which doesn’t bode well for them in the pass-heavy NFC East. At least there is no runaway favorite in the division, which means they can easily come out on top.
Washington Redskins: 8-8
The Redskins didn’t do much to win the division last season, but at least they had a run game. Washington now boasts arguably the worst backfield in football and it’s going to have a significant impact on Kirk Cousins and the offense. The Redskins aren’t far behind Dallas or New York, but they have far more holes to fill on both sides of the ball.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-8
Jameis Winston has the Buccaneers trending in the right direction despite the fact that the roster is relatively young. Doug Martin is coming off of a career year while Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are two towering targets for Winston. If rookies Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence can play well early on, the defense will be in good shape. That’s a big “if,” though.
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Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8
The Jaguars, like the Raiders, have improved dramatically of late. They have a bevy of young talent on defense, led by Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler. Yet, the offense is the more stable unit. Blake Bortles and the “Allen Bros.” – Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns – are as explosive of a trio as any in the NFL. They just need more experience as a whole.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Baltimore Ravens: 8-8
Baltimore was forced to deal with injury after injury last season, but they’re healthy for the most part in 2016 – at least the core is. Joe Flacco will have to work his magic and carry the offense that has depth at running back but lacks elite wide receiver talent. It’s going to be an up-and-down season.
William Hauser-USA TODAY SportsWilliam Hauser
New York Jets: 8-8
Ryan Fitzpatrick is back after winning 10 games with the Jets a year ago, but he’s going to have a very difficult time replicating his 2015 campaign. As a result, the Jets are going to take a step back and regress a bit. The defense is aging and Fitzpatrick is just mediocre, which will make for a lackluster season in the AFC East.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY SportsLogan Bowles
Atlanta Falcons: 7-9
For a team that has Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones, you’d expect the Falcons to be much better than they are. They struggle because the defense lacks even a decent pass rush and there are questions at just about every spot. If Ryan can cut down on the turnovers, perhaps they’ll finish above .500. I just don’t see that happening, though.
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Buffalo Bills: 7-9
After declaring that the Bills had won the offseason, Rex Ryan has seen his team deteriorate by the day. Karlos Williams was cut, their two best rookies are injured and LeSean McCoy has gotten himself in some hot water this offseason. Not to mention, Sammy Watkins is Buffalo’s only reliable target. Outside of him at wide receiver, there’s nothing to get excited about. It’s playoffs or bust for Ryan and the Bills.
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New Orleans Saints: 7-9
Drew Brees continues to put up astronomical numbers at quarterback despite reports suggesting his arm isn’t what it once was. Regardless of that rumor, Brees is still a top-10 quarterback. Unfortunately, the Saints are thin at several positions, particularly cornerback and wide receiver. Brees will need a career year to get them over the hump and earn the Saints a winning record.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY SportsEric Hartline
Philadelphia Eagles: 7-9
The Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings, so how many wins will that cost Philadelphia? Not many, if any at all. Carson Wentz will certainly have his share of rookie struggles early on, especially after playing just a handful of preseason snaps in his career. Expect him to get off to a rough start before righting the ship and inching Philly towards .500, only to come up short. It’ll be a rebuilding year for the Eagles.
Miami Dolphins: 6-10
The Dolphins have talent at key spots – Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Arian Foster – and have looked great in the preseason on offense, but the defense is filled with no-name players. The cornerback position is an absolute mess and the linebackers aren’t any better, despite having the oft-injured Kiko Alonso. The defense is just not good enough to stop anyone through the air.
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Detroit Lions: 6-10
Year 1 without Calvin Johnson should be telling of Matthew Stafford’s ability to elevate the offense, but it’s going to be a struggle to say the least. And with no true three-down back behind him, he won’t get much help from the running game. The Lions need to find a rushing attack if they want to win even six games.
Chicago Bears: 6-10
Matt Forte’s departure is far from Chicago’s biggest issue. The offensive line is porous and the defense doesn’t have a true No. 1 cornerback, let alone any worthy starters that are healthy at the moment. And with the Packers and Vikings in the same division, Chicago is going to have a hard time winning games. Jay Cutler will be airing it out early and often, which isn’t a good thing.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
Tennessee Titans: 5-11
Marcus Mariota got a much-needed boost on offense with the additions of DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Jack Conklin and Andre Johnson. Unfortunately, they won’t be enough to make up for a defense that has one of the worst secondaries in football. It’s a passing league, and the Titans won’t be able to limit any opponent through the air.
San Diego Chargers: 4-12
Philip Rivers has a good shot at throwing for more than 4,500 yards. The Chargers also have a good chance of winning fewer than five games. As a whole, San Diego looks like it’s in for a rough 2016 season. The schedule isn’t favorable and the AFC West is stacked, which doesn’t bode well for a team that didn’t improve a whole lot in the offseason.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Los Angeles Rams: 3-13
No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff can’t currently beat out Sean Mannion for the backup quarterback job, let alone crack the starting lineup. The Rams’ best assets are Todd Gurley and the defense, but even they won’t be strong enough to overcome Los Angeles’ deficiencies at quarterback and receiver.
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Cleveland Browns: 3-13
Don’t act surprised. The Browns are bad once again, even with RG3 under center. The defense is so unspectacular that the Browns were happy to part with two former first-round picks in Barkevious Mingo and Justin Gilbert. There’s no depth at any position on defense and the offense isn’t very explosive without Josh Gordon. The best thing that can happen for the Browns is landing Deshaun Watson with the first-overall pick next year.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
San Francisco 49ers: 2-14
Chip Kelly has gone from winning 10-plus games a year at Oregon to hoping he can lead San Francisco to a handful of wins. The 49ers arguably have the worst quarterback and wide receiver situations in the league, which means they’re going to put up very few points this season. It’s time for Kelly and the Niners to start over and land a franchise quarterback in the draft, because Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick aren't the answer.