Bryan Woolston/Associated Press
As the Tennessee Titans’ addition of Jadeveon Clowney displayed, teams can still improve themselves ahead of the 2020 NFL season.
Saying that, so many of the major dominoes have already dropped that we have a decent grasp of football’s hierarchy…for now.
Once Week 1 washes over the football world this weekend, though, we may to rethink what we know (or think we know) about the league’s 32 participants.
For now, let’s take stock of where we currently rank everyone and how we see each team faring in their first matchup, then spotlight three items on our Week 1 must-watch list.
NFL Power Rankings (Projected Record after Week 1)
1. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
2. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
3. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
4. New Orleans Saints (0-1)
5. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
6. New England Patriots (1-0)
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
8. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)
10. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
11. Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
12. Tennessee Titans (1-0)
13. Buffalo Bills (1-0)
14. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
15. Indianapolis Colts (1-0)
16. Houston Texans (0-1)
17. Los Angeles Rams (0-1)
18. Cleveland Browns (0-1)
19. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
20. Arizona Cardinals (0-1)
21. Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
22. Denver Broncos (0-1)
23. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0)
24. New York Jets (0-1)
25. Chicago Bears (0-1)
26. Miami Dolphins (0-1)
27. Detroit Lions (1-0)
28. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
29. New York Giants (0-1)
30. Carolina Panthers (0-1)
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)
32. Washington (0-1)
What To Watch in Week 1
Tom Brady’s 1st Game in Tampa
The Bucs were an explosive team last season (tied for third in scoring), but they weren’t particularly good. They lost more games (nine) than they won (seven) because of both defensive generosity (fourth-most points allowed) and a host of head-scratching decisions by former quarterback Jameis Winston (30 interceptions).
Well, newcomer Tom Brady will be tasked with changing one of those things. And the entire city of Tampa Bay can bet its life savings on the team’s interception numbers improving. Brady hasn’t thrown 30 picks in the last four seasons combined (29), and he’s never thrown more than 14.
Where his stats could spike, though, are in the categories where he’ll want a high number. He gets Rob Gronkowski back, has two electric wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and maybe this rushing attack will be juiced by the arrival of Leonard Fournette, 2017’s fourth overall pick. That could pay massive dividends for Brady.
“When teams stack the box because of Fournette, it means opposing defenses are less likely to key in on or roll coverage toward Mike Evans, Chris Godwin or Gronkowski, for fear of leaving holes elsewhere,” ESPN’s Jenna Laine wrote.
It’s anyone’s guess how this all comes together for Brady and the Bucs, but the clock is already ticking. The quarterback turned 43 in August, so it might already be now or never for Tampa Bay.
The Kyler Murray-DeAndre Hopkins Connection
Save for Brady, Hopkins stands out as the biggest offseason addition in the league. The trade particulars still seem silly—Arizona somehow turned David Johnson’s bloated contract, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-rounder into Hopkins and a fourth-round pick—and the payoff could be spectacular.
“I think it’ll take pressure off of everybody,” Larry Fitzgerald said, per Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official site. “It takes pressure off our defense, special teams. … Everyone gets better when you have good players around, especially unselfish good players like he is.”
Of course, no one benefits from this more than Kyler Murray, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. He gains an elite go-to target in Hopkins and still has the sure-handed Fitzgerald as a chain-mover. Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson can move down the pecking order and perhaps into better-fitting roles.
This offense should produce fantasy fireworks on a weekly basis, but how much will that matter in real-life football? The Cardinals could answer that question already this weekend, as they open with the defending NFC Champion 49ers.
Joe Burrow’s Debut
The Bengals bet the No. 1 pick on Burrow becoming a franchise quarterback. They already like what they’ve seen enough to give him the Week 1 start.
“He’s just been impressive,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said, per ESPN’s Ben Baby. “He’s what we expected when we took him No. 1 overall. He hasn’t disappointed one day he’s been out there.”
Burrow spent 2019 electrifying LSU to the point of leading the Tigers to a national title. The runaway Heisman Trophy winner completed a ridiculous 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns against only six interceptions.
Obviously, Cincinnati can’t expect that level of production, but this offense has a chance to be better than its 2-14 record in 2019 would suggest. With Joe Mixon in the backfield and A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate and John Ross III out wide, the Bengals aren’t hurting for playmakers.
Can Burrow take advantage of the talent around him? Will the offensive line give him enough time to find his targets? Will the defense, which allowed the eighth-most points last season, make enough stops for the offensive production to matter? If Burrow lives up to the hype, the Bengals must do everything they can to put him in a position to succeed.