With the regular season wrapping up the playoffs about to start I’ve decided to do my reverse rankings a little different. Instead of reacting to how each team did this past week I’ll go back to my initial preseason rankings (https://draftbrian.wordpress.com/college-football-preview/nfl-season-preview/) and compare them to these finals standings.
1. Cleveland Browns (1-15)
Preseason Rank: 1
Picking the Browns to finish in last was pretty easy mainly because they were bad before, let their best free agents walk, and then didn’t sign any. With the first pick they should go after Myles Garrett and then it should be interesting to see how their process of accumulating picks panned out.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Preseason Rank: 2
Going into the season I was tempted to have the 49ers higher because I saw talent on the defense and an offense that seemed to fit what Chip Kelly wanted to do. But it’s a good thing I saw past that and saw a razor thin roster and a team that could struggle. It should be interesting to see what the 49ers will do after firing both GM Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly.
3. Chicago Bears (3-13)
Preseason Rank: 14
While I didn’t think the Bears would be a playoff team, I did believe that they made enough moves and had a good enough draft to at least contend for a wildcard slot. Injuries were the big story for the Bears but how tough they played throughout the season makes you believe they could be a playoff contender next year.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
Preseason Rank: 18
After years of struggle a big free agency spending spree on defense was supposed to spark a breakthrough year combining with an improving young offense. Instead the offense (mainly Blake Bortles) regressed and they played like the worst team in the league for most of the year. Bradley was fired but whoever takes over this team has plenty of young talent to work with.
5. Los Angeles Rams (4-12)
Preseason Rank: 7
This preseason I stated that a poor offensive line, undeveloped receivers and having to force Goff in before he was ready would see Jeff Fisher get out of the seven and eight-win plateau and have him finish with four or five wins. I was pretty spot on with that and those four wins cost Fisher his job. But questions still abound a franchise that needs a big boost in their new market.
6. New York Jets (5-11)
Preseason Rank: 16
In year one of the Todd Bowles regime the Jets almost made the playoffs and it seemed like a few new pieces would get them over the hump. Instead their veteran team imploded and is in need of a complete overhaul. Luckily and rightfully so Todd Bowles is getting another chance, but they’ll likely need to bring in a veteran quarterback to run their offense.
7. San Diego Chargers (5-11)
Preseason Rank: 6
Huge gaping holes at receiver, defensive line, and safety and just generally not liking their roster caused me to be low on the Chargers. But the Chargers downfall was the barrage of injuries they faced. The roster was better than I thought and if they can stay relatively injury free next year they could contend for the playoffs. But that’s a tall task for this team.
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Preseason Rank: 27
It would be hard to believe many people thought the Panthers would take this big of a fall was either a Panther hater or wise beyond their years. Whether it was crippling injuries on both sides of the ball or trusting rookies in key roles proved to blow up in the Panthers face. Carolina has been exposed an needs a big offseason to get back in the playoff picture.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1)
Preseason Rank: 26
After a good season was ruined by an Andy Dalton injury and Vontaze Burfict going crazy it was easy to predict the Bengals would be right back in the playoff hunt. Whether was the lack of offensive weapons outside of AJ Green or the defense taking a step back the Bengals are now picking in the top 10 for the first time since 2011.
10. Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Preseason Rank: 10
Injuries to their rookies and a suspension of Marcel Dareus along with Rob Ryan on the staff made me uncertain of the Bills this season. While the Bills seemed to get back on track after a disasters start they bottomed out costing Rex Ryan his job. The Bills don’t seem too far off but need to add some impact players this offseason.
11. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Preseason Rank: 5
A combination of a regressing offense and a poor defense had me thinking the Brees/Payton reign in New Orleans was going to come to an end. While I was wrong on the offense regressing (actually pretty good) the defense did continue to struggle and with talk of Payton showing interest in the Rams the Brees/Payton era could be ending.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Preseason Rank: 3
The Eagles were my pick to be the surprise team picking in the top three because they had so many question marks throughout the team and losing Lane Johnson would really hurt. While the season wasn’t great, the Eagles did find out they have a future stud in quarterback Carson Wentz and know they need to add pieces around him.
13. Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1)
Preseason Rank: 31
Here was a team that was one game away from the Super Bowl who added Chandler Jones to fill their one true weakness and were primed to get Tyrann Mathieu back. The problem was teams were able to figure out the Cardinals offense and the they weren’t able to adjust till their playoff hopes were already gone.
14. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Preseason Rank: 9
After ignoring the offensive line for so long the Colts finally addressed the position and it seemed to help, but holes along the defense continued to sink the Colts. It’s a sad state that Andrew Luck is one of the best young quarterbacks and his early years are being wasted by a mismanaged roster.
15. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
Preseason Rank: 28
To say the Vikings had a roller coaster season was an understatement as they were pegged to be a playoff team before the season, started off red hot looking like the best team in the league before falling flat. This offseason the Vikings added several veterans along the offensive line that didn’t pan out, Minnesota has to reload that unit again this year.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Preseason Rank: 13
Lack of attention to their cornerbacks and receivers really had me questioning how good the Ravens would be. While they did improve from last year the Ravens only beat up on the bad teams while losing to every good team on their roster. Baltimore must find a good offensive coordinator, add another receiver and get someone who can rush the quarterback.
17. Washington Redskins (8-7-1)
Preseason Rank: 19
2015 showed that the Redskins were a growing franchise and that continued this year as Washington pushed once again for a playoff spot before losing to the Giants where a win would have gotten them in. They need to lock up Kirk Cousins and then continue to build this team up because they are on the right path.
18. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Preseason Rank: 4
While some may say the Titans overachieved this year the Titans showed they are a team on the rise. I liked the talented they accumulated this offseason but still thought they were weak in a few areas that would cost them, but instead they are a few pieces away from being a true yearly contender in the AFC South.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
Preseason Rank: 15
After winning six games in Jameis Winston’s rookie year along with a good draft the Bucs were poised for an improvement in year two. That improvement almost got them into the playoffs in a division that is quickly becoming one of the toughest in the league.
20. Denver Broncos (9-7)
Preseason Rank: 21
Denver’s plan from the beginning was to play elite level defense and rely on a running game to put Trevor Siemian in manageable situations. That happened for the first half of the season but an injury to CJ Anderson really weakened their rushing attack. With the sudden retirement of Gary Kubiak it should be interesting what direction the Broncos will go in.
21. Detroit Lions (9-7)
Preseason Rank: 11
Why I picked the Lions so low in the preseason was baffling since I had nothing but good things to say about them. Detroit has been carried by Matthew Stafford all season long but a finger injury has really affected him and they likely don’t have enough to get past the Seahawks in Seattle.
22. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Preseason Rank: 12
While guys like Jason Garrett or Dan Quinn will get most of the coach of the year votes, the true winner should be Adam Gase who’s done a tremendous job leading the Dolphins to the playoffs. Playing in Pittsburgh will be tough, but the Dolphins have a shot.
23. New York Giants (11-5)
Preseason Rank: 8
Normally the old adage of money doesn’t buy you happiness reigns true with free agent spending but that wasn’t the case the the Giants where their defense was greatly improved with those signings. But it was the improvement of Landon Collins that has really sparked the defense. However, their offensive line will be the deciding factor of how far they go in the playoffs.
24. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Preseason Rank: 23
Oakland was the popular choice after their offseason and they more than lived up to those expectations playing like the best team in the NFL all the way up to Derek Carr’s broken leg. Now the Raiders have to travel in the wildcard round and could easily be a first round exit.
25. Houston Texans (9-7)
Preseason Rank: 25
In 2015 the Texans made the playoffs with Brian Hoyer, Alfred Blue and only DeAndre Hopkins being their only weapon. So when they improved (turned out not to) the quarterback, running back (Lamar Miller) and drafted to receivers early it looked like the offense might finally be closing the gap with the defense. While they got back into the playoffs they limped in with continued poor quarterback play and a poorest offensive line. Luckily they get the Derek Carrless Raiders and that’s the only reason they might get to the second round.
26. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Preseason Rank: 22
Before the season I said that as long as Aaron Rodgers is the Packers quarterback they’ll be a playoff team and getting Jordy Nelson would improve the offense. Through the first half of the season I looked to be wrong, but the Packers turned it on in the second half and look to be a team that could make a long playoff run. Nobody wants to play the Packers this year.
27. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Preseason Rank: 29
This preseason the one thing that prevented me from putting the Seahawks as the top team was their offense line that had nobody returning to the same position from the year before. While the Seahawks continued to have success their line got Russell Wilson hit more than ever and could cost them the game in the playoffs.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Preseason Rank: 30
Pittsburgh was one of my favorite teams this offseason because of their high powered offense and the defense filled with playmakers. If the Steelers secondary isn’t a liability in the playoffs they could make a mini run. But the offense has really struggled playing on the road this year.
29. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Preseason Rank: 17
Adding some good pieces to the offensive line and staying relatively healthy helped the Falcons not have the second half collapse that killed their 2015 season. Now the Falcons have a first round bye and Matt Ryan is playing like the third overall pick he was.
30. New England Patriots (14-2)
Preseason Rank: 32
I could have easily put the Patriots 32nd and would have felt good about it and having home field advantage gives them the inside track to making it to the Super Bowl. But the Chiefs just seem to playing on a different level and that’s why the Patriots are here.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Preseason Rank: 20
The Chiefs were going to be good with a tremendous defense and a strong running game. But the emergence of Tyreek Hill turned the Chiefs from a playoff contender to a Super Bowl contender. Having a bye and home field advantage is nice, but they’ll have to win in Foxborough if they want to make the Super Bowl.
32. Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Preseason Rank: 24
I stated this offseason that the Cowboys would be a playoff team if Tony Romo stayed healthy. Well Romo didn’t stay healthy and it didn’t matter as 4th round pick Dak Prescott took over (after Kellen Moore injury) and was amazing leading to the Cowboys to the second best record in the league and cemented his status as starter.