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Jesse Pantuosco

Power Rankings

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Week 1 Power Rankings

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


If I told you a year ago that Nick Foles would catch a touchdown pass from Trey Burton in a Super Bowl win over New England, you’d probably take my keys, grab me an Uber home and tell me to sleep it off. But that’s exactly what happened (yes, even the Trey Burton part). As the messy, ever-changing landscape of sports has taught us time and again, truth really is stranger than fiction.

 

And isn’t that what keeps us coming back, year after year? The dawn of a new sports season brings more than just excitement—it brings hope to fan bases like the Eagles and Jaguars, who nobody expected to compete last season. Underachiever, draft bust—call Blake Bortles whatever you want, but it won’t erase the fact that he was a quarter away from playing in last year’s Super Bowl. That actually happened.

 

It can work the other way too. Expectations were sky-high for Green Bay in 2017—I listed the Packers behind only Atlanta and New England in my initial Power Rankings last year. The Giants, coming off their first postseason appearance in five years, were also a team on the rise. Neither panned out as both teams were hamstrung by injuries to star players (Aaron Rodgers and Odell Beckham).   

 

Unlike the NBA, where the question is no longer will the Warriors win but by how many points, the NFL hierarchy is constantly evolving. Of the 10 playoff teams from 2016, only four—the Chiefs, Falcons, Patriots and Steelers—made it back a year later. That’s parity, folks.

 

Will this be the year the candle finally burns out on New England’s decades-long dynasty? Will 2018 be remembered as the year the embattled Browns finally put it all together? I can’t wait to find out. Here are your Week 1 rankings …

 

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1. Philadelphia Eagles

 

2017 Record: 13-3

 

How do you order your cheesesteak? I’m a wiz wit guy myself. Well the Eagles order theirs with a special ingredient—adversity. Not much fazes the Eagles these days and I’m sure they won’t be sweating it with Carson Wentz (ACL) sidelined in Week 1. With Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) also out of commission, look for Philadelphia to employ more two tight-end sets. That means you’ll be seeing a lot of rookie Dallas Goedert, who impressed with nine catches for 149 yards and a touchdown during last month’s preseason slate.

 

2. Los Angeles Rams

 

2017 Record: 11-5

 

My god, the Rams are stacked. This offseason alone they brought in Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib. Aaron Donald’s tenure as the highest-paid defender in football lasted all of one day (way to steal his thunder, Khalil), but at least he can put away the knives and start practicing with his teammates again after holding out all summer. Todd Gurley admitted he doesn’t like dogs and the Rams still gave this psychopath $45 million guaranteed? You have to question Les Snead’s judgment sometimes.

 

3. Minnesota Vikings

 

2017 Record: 13-3

 

The Vikings were a win away from hosting New England in Super Bowl LII, but instead they fell apart with a lopsided loss to the Eagles in last year’s NFC game. That was a letdown, but with Kirk Cousins under center and Dalvin Cook back from ACL surgery, Minnesota could be even better this year. According to Yahoo’s Matt Harmon, Stefon Diggs boasted a success rate in the 95th percentile against man coverage last year. And he might not even be the best receiver on his own team. Can we see that helmet toss again? It never gets old … you know, unless you’re a Saints fan.

 

4. New England Patriots

 

2017 Record: 13-3

 

New England’s receiving corps was gutted this offseason, leaving Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson atop the team’s depth chart. That will obviously change when Julian Edelman returns from suspension, but in the interim, Hogan makes for an appealing WR2 in all formats. Bill Belichick broke from tradition by drafting Sony Michel, making him the first Patriots running back taken in the first round since Laurence Maroney in 2006. Hey Bill, Mark Zuckerberg called. He wants his flip flops back.

 

5. New Orleans Saints

 

2017 Record: 11-5

 

What do I like about the Saints? Everything. You know you had a good draft when your team has both the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year. Michael Thomas, who was drafted behind fellow wide receivers Corey Coleman and Laquon Treadwell in 2016, set a New Orleans single-season mark with 104 catches last year. Meanwhile Drew Brees continued his march towards the NFL’s all-time passing yards record currently held by Peyton Manning (he trails Manning by 1,495). Is it Ka-mare-a or Ka-marr-a? EVEN HE DOESN’T KNOW.

 

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

 

2017 Record: 13-3

 

Jerry Rice is still the unquestioned GOAT, but is it crazy to call Antonio Brown the second-best receiver of all-time? I know it’s a spicy take but consider this—his 582 catches and 7,848 receiving yards between 2013-17 are the most over any five-year span in NFL history. James Conner shined this summer, totaling 100 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while adding seven catches for 61 yards on seven targets during the preseason. He’s a sensible handcuff for Le’Veon Bell owners.

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

 

2017 Record: 10-6

 

Rather than get in on the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes or even considering another option (trading for Teddy Bridgewater may have done the trick), Jacksonville doubled down on Blake Bortles, inking the frequent Pardon My Take guest to a three-year, $54 million extension. With Marqise Lee on IR, the door is open for Keelan Cole to assert himself as the Jags’ No. 1 receiver. Fantasy owners seem to forget that Cole led the NFL with 475 receiving yards between Weeks 13-17 last season. Jalen Ramsey versus Odell Beckham in Week 1? Yeah, count me in.

 

8. Atlanta Falcons

 

2017 Record: 10-6

 

The Falcons seem to have cornered the market on Alabama receivers, adding first-round rookie Calvin Ridley to a pass-catching corps already featuring Crimson Tide alum Julio Jones. Both will be catching passes from Matt Ryan, who faltered in the follow-up to his MVP 2016, but was nonetheless rewarded with a monster six-year, $169.25 million extension this offseason. The Falcons ranked 24th in red-zone touchdown percentage (49.2) under first-year OC Steve Sarkisian, which may explain why their points per game average dipped from a league-leading 33.8 in 2016 (first) to just 22.1 (15th) last season.

 

9. Green Bay Packers

 

2017 Record: 7-9

 

The Packers no longer have to worry about Aaron Rodgers getting grouchy about his contract because the two-time MVP just landed a four-year extension that will keep him in Green Bay through his age-40 season. Jamaal Williams seems to be winning the power struggle in Green Bay’s backfield, though Aaron Jones (5.5 yards per carry) could threaten his role when he returns from suspension. Jimmy Graham averaged a puny 32.5 yards per game in Seattle last year but now that he’s on the receiving end of Rodgers’ passes, a cheese country renaissance seems like a near certainty.

 

10. Los Angeles Chargers

 

2017 Record: 9-7

 

How insanely loaded is L.A.’s defense? The Bolts lost two of their best defensive backs (Jason Verrett and Jaylen Watkins) to season-ending injuries this summer and might still have the league’s best secondary. For years we’ve been saying, “if only Keenan Allen could stay healthy.” Well last year he finally did and the results were astonishing—Allen’s 1,393 receiving yards were the most by a Charger since 1965 (Antonio Gates wasn’t even born yet!). In a wide-open AFC West, L.A. looks like the early favorite.

 

11. Carolina Panthers

 

2017 Record: 11-5

 

Carolina bolstered its receiving corps this offseason by drafting Maryland standout D.J. Moore. The first-round rookie took home Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors in 2017. With All-Pro Andrew Norwell now in Jacksonville and injuries to Daryl Williams and Matt Kalil, Cam Newton could be running for his life this year, which I guess is no different from any other year. 

 

12. Houston Texans

 

2017 Record: 4-12

 

Even though I want no part of him in fantasy (but you already knew that), Draft Guide cover athlete Deshaun Watson’s return should make the Texans an immediate contender in a surprisingly loaded AFC South. Houston also improved its secondary this offseason by adding Aaron Colvin and Tyrann Mathieu (aka Honey Badger) in free agency. I wasn’t high on Lamar Miller when we put out our magazine this summer, but with D’Onta Foreman (Achilles) on the shelf, he could be a sneaky RB2.

 

13. Tennessee Titans

 

2017 Record: 9-7

 

No trick (sorry … illusion) by David Copperfield or Criss Angel could ever top the magic Derrick Henry performs every time he miraculously fits into his uniform. That’s like Lou Ferrigno squeezing into a Fiat. The shear enormity of Henry is well-documented, but did you know he also totaled 634 yards from scrimmage over his final eight games last season (playoffs included), most of it while splitting time with DeMarco Murray? Look for Dion Lewis to play David Spade to Henry’s Chris Farley this season. It’s okay, Kevin—Deion Sanders doesn’t know who I am either.

 

14. Kansas City Chiefs

 

2017 Record: 10-6

 

Don’t kid yourself—Patrick Mahomes is going to have a bad week at some point. Like really bad. Interceptions, fumbles, botched snaps, fans ducking for cover. Variance comes with the territory when you’re a young gunslinger, which is exactly what Mahomes is. But when the 22-year-old isn’t decapitating his own teammates with errant throws, he’s going to be an absolute blast. Put a frame on this pass and hang it up in the Louvre, because it’s a masterpiece. In other news, Sammy Watkins, the shrug emoji of wide receivers, landed an eye-popping $48 million contract this offseason. Capitalism, am I right?

 

15. San Francisco 49ers

 

2017 Record: 6-10

 

Jerick McKinnon, he of $30 million American dollars, will miss the season after tearing his ACL at Saturday’s practice. Next up is Kyle Shanahan favorite Alfred Morris, who quietly finished seventh in the league in yards per carry (4.76) last year. Matt Breida (190 pounds) doesn’t have workhorse size, but he can be an asset on passing downs. Clearly Jimmy Garoppolo enjoyed himself this offseason. Let’s hope he enjoys throwing to George Kittle, who I have now drafted in two of my five fantasy leagues. The Iowa alum finished second among rookie tight ends with 515 receiving yards last season.

 

16. Chicago Bears

 

2017 Record: 5-11

 

Who cares how many draft picks they gave up—Khalil Mack is a Chicago Bear! And thanks to his landmark six-year, $141 million extension, he’ll be one for a very long time. Even the notoriously hard-to-please Kanye West is on the Bears’ bandwagon these days. With Adam Sheehan on the shelf, Trey Burton should begin the year as an every-down tight end. The man who stunned New England with this play last February has been going as the TE9 in Yahoo leagues this summer.

 


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Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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