... wait, what? Yep, that's where we're at in the football world today. Terrell Owens put his own stamp on one of pro football's special events, while plenty of interested folks are now debating not only which players should get inducted into Canton, not only the criteria for election, but also whether the Hall should mandate that inductees come to ceremonies in order to be considered for such honors in the first place. Yikes. More Hall banter ...
No, it was my pleasure, Jeff. And if this is the week of Canton arguments, then shouldn't the Pro Football Hall of Fame consider the USFL accomplishments of players like Herschel Walker and Sam Mills? That's the debate I would like to have.
Another debate worth diving into is the league hierarchy. Below: my first Power Rankings since the 2018 NFL Draft, with a summer's worth of storylines, transactions and holdouts to push, pull and prod the 32 member teams into a new order. The top 10 has changed. The spots from No. 13 to No. 25 are a jumbled mess. The caboose is still the caboose.
Still reigning supreme. Sure, there have been a few departures. Leggie Blount is gone. Patrick Robinson, he of the biggest interception of the Eagles' postseason, is back with the Saints in New Orleans. The most notable departure was offensive coordinator Frank Reich's move to become the head coach in Indy, leaving big shoes to fill for Mike Groh. Yet, Philadelphia is strong enough to repeat. The Eagles own a better chance to get back on top than any team outside of the Patriots over the last 17 years. The players still seem hungry. Doug Pederson doesn't have one foot out the door -- in fact, at this point, both feet are decidedly on the right side of the threshold. And unlike most organizations, this franchise has two quarterbacks who can play.
Shocked? Don't be. Sure, this is a nod to what the Jaguars accomplished last season and how strong they are heading into the preseason. Going beyond those factors, the absences of Julian Edelman (and others) in New England and Aaron Donald in Los Angeles weaken the Patriots and Rams enough to allow Jacksonville to move up another notch. Of course, so much depends on Blake Bortles' play at quarterback. If he fares like he did in the 2017 postseason, Jacksonville will beat New England come Week 2.
We know Julian Edelman (suspended) will be back in Week 5. Dion Lewis, Brandin Cooks, Nate Solder and Malcolm Butler will not. (Insert Super Bowl joke here ...) Can Tom Brady and Bill Belichick manage those losses enough to be the top team in the AFC again? Perhaps. Maybe Eric Decker will recapture some of the magic he had while with the Broncos? Peyton Manning had a little something to do with Decker's productivity there, but remember that Decker scored 12 times with Fitzmagic and the Jets one year, too. My best guess: Decker performs, but the Patriots start 2-2. Again.
Slight drop for the Rams since the last time we performed this exercise. Mainly because Aaron Donald isn't getting exercise ... at least, not at camp. No Donald means L.A. is devoid of the premier player on the roster and arguably the top defensive player in pro football. That doesn't mean Donald won't eventually find his way back to Candy Land. It just means he plans on landing on the double-pink first ... Never mind. Even without Donald, the Rams are as loaded as any team in football. Unless we're putting too much faith in Wonder Twins Jared Goff and Sean McVay, whose power activated last year. Can't wait to see Week 1 versus the Raiders. Fun game.
The Vikings are staying put from their ranking after the draft. All looks well for running back Dalvin Cook in his return from a torn ACL. The talk still centers around new QB1 Kirk Cousins. Don't expect massive passing numbers like the line he put up with Washington in 2016, his Pro Bowl season (4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns, 97.2 passer rating). Cousins could reach the latter figures, but if all goes right in Mike Zimmer's world, he should barely even need to eclipse 4,000 yards. With a healthy Cook, this Minnesota team is destined to run the football and rely on a top-tier defense, not chuck it all over the park, Stefon Diggs' new gold-plated deal notwithstanding.
I worked with former Saints running back Reggie Bush for the first time last week on "Inside Training Camp Primetime," a fancy title for another show where we talk about football things. He and I agreed that the Saints are as balanced, top to bottom, as any team in the NFL. Granted, Reggie might have been playing his homer card, but when you consider he also played for, like, 17 other teams in his career, we'll take it.
The absence of suspended RB Mark Ingram for the first four games will hurt, however. Bush looks like he could step in and play for New Orleans right now. There is no sign of the typical cookie belly you see from a 34-year-old running back. The guy is also so friendly that he offered to get me a coffee while he ordered for himself. The look of disgust when I said grande mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream, please strangely resembled Drew Brees' look when he was told Jimmy Graham just got traded.
**Side note:** Love the return of former [Saints](/teams/neworleanssaints/profile?team=NO) TE [Benjamin Watson](/player/benjaminwatson/2506122/profile), who caught 61 balls last season for the [Ravens](/teams/baltimoreravens/profile?team=BAL). How much does he have left at age 37? </content:power-ranking>
If the Saints are one of the most balanced teams, call this team one of the most talented. The sky is the limit for the Falcons. Get it? Falcons ... sky ... Ugh. No, seriously, they are ready to soar. I'll stop. Now that Julio Jones is monetarily happy, the next order of business is to work out the kinks from last year. Namely, getting No. 11 the ball in the end zone, which seemed far more difficult to do than it should have, the most notorious example coming in the Divisional Round loss to the Eagles. No need to be worried defensively in Atlanta. Dan Quinn has plenty of pieces in place to be viable in the postseason once again. These Falcons might spread their wings a bit farther come January. OK, I'll stop now, for real.
[Aaron Rodgers](/player/aaronrodgers/2506363/profile) is back running around, gaily chucking the ball, after a 2017 interrupted by a broken collarbone. New tight end [Jimmy Graham](/player/jimmygraham/497236/profile) is impossible to miss on the practice field. And free agent [Muhammad Wilkerson](/player/muhammadwilkerson/2495490/profile) should further bolster a defensive line that was already improved, thanks to [Kenny Clark](/player/kennyclark/2555282/profile)'s development. Losing [Jake Ryan](/player/jakeryan/2552314/profile) [to a torn ACL](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000943709/article/packers-lb-jake-ryan-torn-acl-will-miss-2018-season) hurt, to some degree. Many sets of eyes have been squarely set on third-round pick [Oren Burks](https://www.nfl.com/prospects/oren-burks?id=32462018-0002-5601-419e-39862d10c2d8), whom team brass is no doubt hoping can be a versatile addition to the LB corps -- particularly in coverage. Speaking of coverage ... young talent abounds in the secondary. </content:power-ranking>
The question surrounding the Steelers is not What about Le'Veon Bell's contract situation? It's How much can we trust the defense? Whence we last saw that unit, Blake Bortles -- BLAKE BORTLES! -- was relaxed in the pocket, tossing first-down throws like Doug Marrone was piping Yanni into his helmet receiver. You might be surprised to discover that coordinator Keith Butler's Pittsburgh defense actually ranked better in points allowed than the much-heralded offense did in points scored. But after a couple of injuries and that playoff loss to Jacksonville, the questions remain.
Offensively, no one knows when Bell will get back on the field, but the guess is, a week before Opening Day -- you know, just in time to miss all of camp. Less-discussed issue: Martavis Bryant might have been an enigma, but he was still a deep-play enigma. All of which leaves this perennial Super Bowl contender at No. 9.
Keeping the Panthers in the 10th spot, but that doesn't mean they're a playoff team. The NFC South is going to be a dogfight again. Whether the NFC's toughest division can carry three playoff participants, as it did in 2017, is a valid question. Because it is hard to imagine either the Saints or the Falcons missing this year.
That's the macro issue. Micro issue? The Norval effect. Norv Turner, in case you haven't heard, is running the offense with Cam Newton in it this year. Yep, the same Norv Turner who coached guys like Troy Aikman, Heath Shuler, Kerry Collins and Philip Rivers -- exactly none of whom own a skill set similar to Newton's. Traditionally, Turner's offense has required accuracy more than it has relied on designed runs from the quarterback. That's an understatement. You know what? It's also a good thing. With veteran RB Jonathan Stewart gone, the temptation could be to use Newton as a thumper inside the 10-yard line, as Carolina has done in years past. Let running back C.J. Anderson grind on those downs instead.
Sounds like QB Deshaun Watson and defensive star J.J. Watt look just fine down at Texans camp coming off seasons lost to injury. Throw in a Honey Badger -- the baddest ass on the planet -- and this season has the makings of a playoff campaign in Houston. Maybe all of the media is putting too much stock in Watson's performance as a rookie last year in what amounted to less than half a season. In theory, opponents will have had all offseason to properly prepare for Watson and take away his strengths, as is true of 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Uh, can you really take away Watson's tool belt? Dem's some funky tools he has at his disposal. Here, watch this Chiefs-Texans vignette and tell me how Kansas City could stop that. Not impressed? Try these.
I'm not down on the Chargers, but I sure hated to see the team lose TE Hunter Henry (ACL) and CB Jason Verrett (Achilles) for the season, which happened since the last Power Rankings were completed. Someone should lobby the league now and request that Injured Reserve be called Chargered Reserve. This organization has lost so many key components over the last few years. Look at 2017, when top picks Forrest Lamp and Mike Williams missed the majority of the season. Thankfully, those guys should be back and ready to contribute. Perhaps Williams can mitigate the absence of Henry in the red zone.
Showing respect for what the Titans accomplished last year while acknowledging what was widely thought to be a solid draft for this group. Lots of changes in Tennessee, in case you've gotten sucked into the political-news-cycle whirlpool and are late to the sports page. Mike Vrabel, who you'll remember catching Super Bowl touchdowns despite being a linebacker, is the head coach. Formerly retired Dean Pees is now the defensive coordinator in place of the now-retired Dick LeBeau. That's like trying to replace Gandalf. Derrick Henry is THE MAN at tailback now, with DeMarco Murray calling it a career. Dion Lewis is in the mix. Malcolm Butler is in the mix. And Kenny Vaccaro has joined the AFC South fray, too.
No other team has received as much spring and summer hype. Jimmy Garoppolo became a real-life Willie Beamen during the 2017 season, bringing much hope to both the team and the region. Of course, Joe Montana did the same in 1981, especially after leading the largest comeback in regular-season history in 1980 against the Saints. Yet, much of that wouldn't have been possible -- including, of course, the historically significant win over the Cowboys in the '81 NFC Championship Game -- without his top wide receiver ...
[The late Dwight Clark](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000935666/article/san-francisco-49ers-great-dwight-clark-dies-at-age-61) brought more than merely hope to the Bay Area. He secured the franchise's first [Super Bowl](http://www.nfl.com/superbowl) berth. He wasn't a one-act play, either. Clark caught 82 passes in 1980, 85 in 1981 and a whopping 60 in only nine games during the strike-shortened 1982 season. That total led the NFL that year. Clark's three-year tally was easily the highest among wide receivers in the league in that span, with or without "The Catch." Clark's memorial last month didn't get nearly as much attention as his legendary grab did, but we would be remiss to not use this space to honor someone who altered the course of history. </content:power-ranking>
The early word out of Ravens camp was that the passing offense felt a bit more 2018-ish and not so 1968-ish. Wide receiver had persisted in being a black hole for this team since Anquan Boldin left town, a spacey void that only Matthew McConaughey could find his way out of ... so enter Michael Crabtree (with chain) and John Brown. One has been known to make plays around the end zone, while the other has been the deep dish in Bruce Arians' attack in Arizona. Both must contribute. Though confidence in rookie tight end Hayden Hurst is high, that position might not be as much of a productive crutch as it was last season, with Ben Watson now in New Orleans.
If rookie RB Kerryon Johnson looks like Billy Sims (or even James Jones-esque) in the preseason, the Lions will leapfrog the Ravens and start climbing. Spent time with a Detroit fan last weekend (from the town of Climax, Michigan) who feels they are a 9-7 ballclub with a healthy offensive line. Thinking 8-8, mostly because the schedule isn't too forgiving. Johnson is so important to the cause because fans (or Lions coaches, while we're at it) can't be subjected to watching Ameer Abdullah run into his linemen's backs any more. So ... which old-timer reading this here article remembers James Jones? @HarrisonNFL. (And I'm not talking about the one with the hoodie who was in Green Bay.)
With all the offseason chatter around Patrick Mahomes, who's watching the store? In theory, the Chiefs' defense should be better with Eric Berry back and playing a nifty center field. Here's hoping he is the same player post-Achilles injury. That guy has been through enough, no? Most of the talent -- and money -- resides on offense. If Mahomes falters, it won't be for a lack of Legos. He has the pieces in Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and -- if you missed a few offseason items -- Sammy Watkins, too. My best guess is that Kansas City gets off to a really rough start (at Chargers, at Steelers, 49ers, at Broncos, Jaguars, at Patriots) but finishes a respectable .500 when the kid with the rubber arm turns it loose.
The season could go any which way. Given the schedule the Cowboys face, finishing with a mediocre record might not be indicative of the quality of the squad, just like with the Chiefs. Since the last Power Rankings, Jason Witten confirmed his retirement, and the intensity of the Dez Bryant-Team Brass soap opera ... well ... intensified. So why the move up? The Seahawks lost one All-Pro safety to retirement and seem to be retiring another All-Pro safety (at least, from their roster) with their contractual tactics. The Bucs lost their quarterback for multiple games. The Bills have their own drama, and are unsure at their quarterback spot. The big boon for Dallas is the potential emergence in the young secondary. That and a solid pass rush can mitigate many things, namely the Cowboys' offense being forced to score 30 points to win.
For all the reasons mentioned in the above blurb, the Giants take a (giant) leap in the rankings. Not all of it is due to the fleeting prospects of other teams. Odell Beckham Jr. is healthy and seemingly happy after losing most of last season to an ankle injury. Rookie RB Saquon Barkley is ready to get his Zeke Elliott from 2016 impact on. Eli Manning will be ready. Hopefully, his arm is, too, lest you believe in the declining skills narrative. Which is possible, given that Manning is 37 years old. The key here -- for Beckham, Barkley and even Manning -- is the retooled left side of the offensive line. Nate Solder, late of the Patriots, and second-round pick Will Hernandez might be the difference when it comes to making the playoffs.
[No Khalil Mack in camp](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000943251/article/raiders-khalil-mack-havent-talked-contract-since-feb) means no high ranking. Cool. Let's not discuss that tired storyline anymore. The offense has a new play caller, a healthier quarterback and [Jordy Nelson](/player/jordynelson/1032/profile) in the mix. While Nelson's age and speed arouse the speculation of naysayers, that doesn't mean the former [Packers](/teams/greenbaypackers/profile?team=GB) great can't be impactful. Former *Raiders* great Tim Brown told me that, as he and Jerry Rice got older, they were more focused on their hand-eye coordination than their proverbial 40-yard-dash times. So they numbered the footballs, like No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4, then called the number out when they caught the ball in practice. Pretty interesting stuff. In 2001, their first year together in Oakland, they each tallied over 1,100 yards receiving with nine touchdowns apiece. Rice was 39, Brown 35. Nelson is 33. For what's it worth, they all will have had the same head coach, too. </content:power-ranking>
Maybe the least-talked-about team in the league, otherwise known as the NFC's version of the Bengals. Perhaps it's because Washington had such a nondescript season in 2017, a campaign marred by multiple injuries up front and constant Kirk Cousins speculation. The truth is that Alex Smith might not be a step down at all. Although he is getting on in years (34), the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick has not shown much reluctance to use his feet. That element of Smith's game is stronger than Cousins'. Oh, and didn't Smith lead the NFL in passer rating, too? Wondering about those Redskins wideouts, though.
Healthy move up for the Broncos, who feature a new quarterback and a retooled, if not rebuilt, defense. Denver's first-round pick (Bradley Chubb), one in the third (Isaac Yiadom) and a fourth-rounder (Josey Jewell) all went toward Von Miller's group. What would help Miller more than anything, even if Chubb turns out to be a stud, is a robust running game. That's where the other third-rounder, RB Royce Freeman, factors significantly in the Broncos' outlook. Word on Case Keenum in camp thus far: impressive, accurate and nearly no turnovers.
While wanting to respect that this was a playoff outfit in 2017, I have to acknowledge the Bills have a few clouds looming over their 2018 prospects. The obvious is the LeSean McCoy situation. No one knows how that will play out. Then there's the quarterback position, where the hope and expectation (?) is that AJ McCarron can step in and play right away. While the former Bengal showed flashes, throwing the football in Foxborough in Week 16, possibly down 20, will be a different matter. The first six games will be very tough sledding for these hard-charging Bills ... at Baltimore, vs. Chargers, at Minnesota, at Green Bay, vs. Tennessee, at Houston.
This ranking might not be indicative of the positive vibes your hack writer (and many others) feel toward this Bears team. Still, signs point upward. Mitch Trubisky effuses enthusiasm over the new offense. New talent outside, like Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, provide him with toys. The challenge for Chicago is QB-related, however -- namely, Rodgers, Stafford and Cousins. Trubisky can't be merely solid. He must produce in Year 2, because the defense isn't quite stout enough to win 20-17 week in and week out.
**Side note:** [Love the approach the team is taking](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000935843/article/bears-place-zach-miller-on-reservepup-ending-season) with [Zach Miller](/player/zachmiller/238457/profile). Had dinner with him and my colleague [@MJD](https://twitter.com/MJD) once, and couldn't help but notice what great energy Miller had. The guy gave his body for the team -- nice to the see the organization stick this process out with him. </content:power-ranking>
Too harsh? Not according to every Seahawks fan I have spoken to, even the diehards. Earl Thomas' absence from camp only makes it worse. The loss of Kam Chancellor is huge -- he was "The Enforcer" on a defense that earned respect from players old and new. Seattle could fall to 5-11 or, with a few Russell Wilson miracles, hang around in the wild-card chase for a while. Which brings up another point: Every analyst I've heard has talked about Wilson being able to win three games by himself. If a guy is capable of doing that, why isn't he mentioned in the same breath as Brady, Rodgers and Brees? Just wonderin'. All that said, even after writing this blurb, I can't quite believe this team is this low. But the Doug Baldwin injury puts Seattle squarely in the bottom half of the league for now.
The Sam Bradford/ Josh Rosen discussion will persist through the preseason and probably into October. Meanwhile, RB David Johnson is the V8 engine in this offense. Although he's returning from injury, remember that it didn't affect his legs. It was a broken wrist, meaning that he should be as quick as ever. With LB Markus Golden back, S Budda Baker entering Year 2 and Brandon Williams (hopefully) seizing the starting CB job opposite Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals' defense has upside in a post- Tyrann Mathieu world. How much, though?
So no one is excited about the Bengals. Speculation about Marvin Lewis' future lingers on, and on and on. Can Cincy surprise and return to the postseason? Methinks it starts on the offensive line, with young guys on the right side and veteran newcomer Cordy Glenn on the left. Second question: Can this team get anything out of sophomore speedster John Ross and oft-injured tight end Tyler Eifert? Third: Who is the disruptive factor on the Bengals' defense? They ranked 16th in points allowed. Nobody there scares OCs, though.
Tampa plummets in the rankings with the loss of its franchise quarterback for the first three weeks of the regular season. Confidence is not at an all-time high regarding these Bucs, not with negative speculation surrounding the outlook of Jameis Winston. The coaching staff is considered to be on the hot seat. And Robert Ayers didn't do them any favors with his Twitter shorthand breakdown of the Bucs' coverage "schemes." All is not lost, however. Ronald Jones II has the opportunity and ability to fill the running back void on offense, which clearly held this team back in 2017. Ryan Fitzpatrick has enough talent surrounding him to keep Tampa Bay afloat, and the defense is strong enough to plug the leaks if he doesn't play at a Pro Bowl level. In this division, what they can't afford is faulty Fitzmagic and a 0-3 start.
Like the Bengals and Bucs, the Dolphins could climb rather quickly. Much depends on where Ryan Tannehill resides on his long road back to playing meaningful football. As with half the teams in the league, Miami's fortunes are contingent on their quarterback. With so many rules favoring the offense, winning big with mediocre QB play is almost impossible. (The Jags' ridiculously loaded defense makes for an exception. And don't count the Eagles, either; even though Philly won with its backup, that backup played his ass off.) As Tannehill goes, so go the Dolphins.
**[Hall of Fame](http://www.profootballhof.com/) note:** I know fans in Miami were pumped up about Jason Taylor getting enshrined in the [Pro Football Hall of Fame](http://www.profootballhof.com/) last year. Others were startled that he was a first-ballot guy. Meanwhile, Zach Thomas receives no such love, whether you're talking the first ballot or the 71st. Thomas is barely mentioned. You tell me, [Dolphins](/teams/miamidolphins/profile?team=MIA) fans ( [@HarrisonNFL](https://twitter.com/HarrisonNFL)) ... was Taylor really *better* than Thomas? Yeah, I get it. Sacks get chicks ... well, er, something like that. You can't tell me Thomas wasn't the leader on those Johnson/Wannstedt defenses. Heckuva football player. </content:power-ranking>
Sure, the Jets will be better. Josh McCown is back healthy. Quincy Enunwa is back healthy. Isaiah Crowell is a decent back. Then again, we are talking McCown-Crowell-Enunwa as QB1-RB1-WR1, still one of the weaker triumvirates in the league ... even if Robby Anderson is the top receiver again. The defense is trending upward and could morph into a top-10 unit eventually. But the Jets aren't there yet. McCown is 39. That's where Teddy Bridgewater, as much as Sam Darnold, makes this team's season arc compelling.
The Browns are going to be better, there's no doubt about that. Whether that means winning five to seven games or something even more modest, the AFC North stacks up in such a way that Cleveland can be reasonably expected to split in its division. The Steelers didn't improve in the offseason and will be facing the Browns in Week 1 with a presumably rusty post-holdout Le'Veon Bell. The Ravens fortified the wide receiver corps but still appear mired in mediocrity on offense. The Bengals are no great shakes, either. What's disturbing is the trade of Corey Coleman, completing the circle of Browns first-round picks no longer with the organization. If you're scoring at home: Trent Richardson (2012) was traded, Brandon Weeden (2012) was released, Barkevious Mingo (2013) was traded, Johnny Manziel (2014) was released, Justin Gilbert (2014) was traded, Cameron Erving (2015) was traded, Danny Shelton (2015) was traded and Coleman (2016) was traded. Yucky.
It's impossible to write about the Colts without mentioning Andrew Luck. But let's try! (Even though we already failed.) Marlon Mack and rookie Nyheim Hines should develop into a fine tandem. Ryan Grant flashed in Washington, though Donte Moncrief he's not. (Of course, the latter couldn't stay on the field.) Signing former Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron was a worthwhile free agency swing if the tight end seizes his second at-bat. The interior offensive line is relying on kids but suffered a loss when Jack Mewhort retired. Indy's defense is, well, it leaves a bit to be desired. On paper. That's why they play the games, though. There's your dime-store Colts breakdown.