There is a lot of work to be done before next season with both the NFL Draft and NFL free agency on the horizon, so these rankings will likely change a lot before week 1 of the 2021-2022 NFL season.
That being said, it’s never too early to take a look at the power rankings for next season.
Next to each team, I’ll be including the key to the offseason for that team in 4 or fewer words.
Let’s do it!
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Protect Patrick Mahomes
Coming off an ugly Super Bowl loss to Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Chiefs are still the team to beat heading into next season. Mahomes didn’t play his best game, that’s for sure, but the main reason for this is the lack of protection from the Chiefs’ offensive line. Yes, they had some key injuries including star offensive tackle Eric Fischer, but that’s really no excuse for Mahomes to be running for his life on every play.
The Super Bowl loss from KC proved that Mahomes and the Chiefs are in fact human. That being said, they are still the most dangerous roster in the NFL, and with Mahomes back at full strength next season, look for Andy Reid and the Chiefs to make another run at the Super Bowl.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bring back veterans
Tom Brady is going to be 44 years old next season. Putting a team with a 44-year-old QB at #2 on my pre-season power rankings is not something I ever deemed possible but it’s time we all stop treating Tom Brady like he’s a normal person. Brady is a different breed and I am done counting him out, I have learned my lesson.
The key for the Bucs to return to the Super Bowl next season is to retain their big free-agents. This includes Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Ndomakung Suh, Shaq Barrett, and Lavonte David. If the Bucs can bring back their key playmakers I see no reason as to why they aren’t the team to beat in the NFC.
3. Buffalo Bills: Establish the run
The Bills are a dangerous football team and are without a doubt the biggest threat to Kansas City prior to the NFL draft and free agency. Josh Allen has emerged as both a superstar and a very strong leader. The arrival of Stefon Diggs helped both Diggs and Allen flourish to elite status at their positions.
One thing that the Bills have struggled with is establishing the run game. Young running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have gotten opportunities but have not been able to get the job done. If I’m Buffalo I am doing everything I can to get Najee Harris in the first round of this year’s draft. The Alabama product is one of the best college backs I’ve ever seen and would instantly transform the Buffalo offense into a complete juggernaut.
4. Green Bay Packers: Get more weapons
Green Bay is a hell of a football team. Aaron Rodgers is coming off his 3rd MVP and WR Davante Adams is coming off a dominant 2020 campaign in which he scored 18 TDs.
Saying Rodgers needs more weapons is a stretch because he has that innate ability to transform an everyday pass-catcher into a great wideout.
That being said, the Packers continue to fall short when it counts and that blame is not all on Rodgers. Adding an offensive talent this offseason should be priority 1 for Green Bay if they want to get back to the Super Bowl. Kyle Pitts or Rashod Bateman would instantly improve the offense via the NFL draft and free agents Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, and Kenny Golladay are all seamless fits with Aaron Rodgers.
5. Los Angeles Rams: Add veteran playmakers
The Los Angeles Rams made the move of the off-season so far, sending Jared Goff and two 1st round selections for Matthew Stafford. Stafford is exactly what this team needed and is a huge upgrade to Jared Goff. Stafford is a gamer and leaves his heart on the field, which is exactly what this Rams defense does.
Stafford and the Rams are a match made in heaven and I believe the Rams are well-positioned for a Super Bowl run. What the Rams need to do throughout the remainder of the offseason is add veteran playmakers who bring both leadership and big play ability. The Rams should look to do exactly what the Bucs did last season and add guys like Shaq Barrett, Ndomakung Suh, and Leonard Fournette to solidify the roster. They should have no trouble recruiting guys to Los Angeles to play with Matthew Stafford, one of the best teammates in the game.
6. Cleveland Browns: Replace Odell
The Cleveland Browns are on the rise. Baker Mayfield emerged as a legit starting QB this season with the help of the Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski changed the Browns into a run-first, play-action offense that tormented opposing defenses down the stretch.
The Browns began to get hot when Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a season-ending injury. Coincidence? Nope. Odell is a distraction and not what the young Cleveland Browns need at the moment. If the Browns can trade Odell and bring in another wideout to play alongside Jarvis Landry, the sky’s the limit for this team.
7. Baltimore Ravens: Sign a wideout!!!!
It’s hard to stress how badly the Ravens need a star wide receiver. Yes, Lamar Jackson had some issues throwing the football this year but everyone is so quick to forget how talented Lamar is. Surrounded by the right talent, Lamar can be the most polarizing player in the league but having Marquise Brown as your #1 wide-receiver isn’t going to cut it.
Lucky for the Ravens, this may be the best year to be in the market for a receiver. Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, and Chris Godwin are all set to hit the open market and the NFL draft is loaded with talent at WR. Devonta Smith, Jamaar Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Rashod Bateman, Kadarius Toney, Rondale Moore, and Terrance Marshall are all potential game-changers that will be selected within the first two rounds of the draft.
8. San Francisco 49ers: Get healthy
After missing the playoffs this season, #8 overall may seem a bit high for the Niners but it is certainly not. With Jimmy G. and Kittle healthy, we have already seen what this team is capable of, a Super Bowl appearance. With the team around Jimmy only getting stronger, the Niners are in a great spot heading into next season.
I wouldn’t rule out a blockbuster Deshaun Watson trade for the 49ers, which would only send them higher up the list but I am a Jimmy G + Shanahan believer and I know if they can get healthy, they can be right back in contention in the NFC.
9. Tennessee Titans: Add defensive playmakers
The Titans are one of the best offensive teams in the league, led by this season’s offensive player of the year Derrick Henry, Tennessee averaged 29.6 points per game. Tannehill has been awesome ever since arriving in Nashville and I believe he is capable of leading this team to the Super Bowl.
Where the Titans need to turn things around is on the defensive side of the ball. Tennessee’s defense, specifically their run defense, was abysmal all season. If the Titans can add some defensive playmakers through free agency and through the draft, they can be a sleeper to win the AFC next season.
10. Indianapolis Colts: Find a QB
The Indianapolis Colts are loaded on both sides of the football, they just need a QB. Philip Rivers was serviceable this year but he’ll be retiring and the Colts will be left with a hole at the center of their offense.
I thought Stafford would have been perfect for Indy but the Colts never offered a competitive package. They’ve reportedly had an interest in both Carson Wentz or Sam Darnold but I’d like to see them take a shot at Deshaun Watson. They certainly have the ammo to get him and would be a top of the line contender if they can make a move of that caliber. No matter who’s at QB next season, the Colts will be a very competitive football team.
11. Miami Dolphins: Get Tua weapons
There are a lot of questions surrounding Tua Tagovailoa after his atrocious week 17 performance in a must-win game against the Bills. It’s fair to think about an upgrade to Deshaun Watson, as only a few quarterbacks have more value than Watson, but I believe the Fins should and will see what they have in Tua.
Surrounding Tua with weapons is a major key to his development. This starts with the #3 overall pick in this year’s draft, where I believe the Dolphins should select Tua’s former teammate and Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith. Smith and Tua have had a special connection since their freshman year in college, what better way than getting your young QB comfortable than bringing back his star wideout from his college days?
12. Arizona Cardinals: Protect Kyler Murray
The Arizona Cardinals showed a lot of promise this season but they also had games where they looked like one of the worst teams in the league. This was most likely due to nagging injuries Murray dealt with throughout the year, as well as a lack of protection on the o-line.
Adding to the o-line as well as getting Kyler another weapon could transform the identity of Arizona. I still have a lot of faith in Coach Kliff Kingsbury as well as Kyler Murray and I think if they get the talent on the field, special things could happen in Glendale.
13. Dallas Cowboys: Bring Back Dak Prescott
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of work to do this offseason and almost all of it needs to be focused on Dak Prescott. Before Dak got hurt, he led the NFL in passing yards by hundreds of yards and had the Cowboys offense humming.
The problem with Dallas was the defense. Despite having solid personnel, the defense never put it all together. As the season went on they improved but Mike Nolan’s scheme never really worked. The Cowboys have dismissed Nolan and brought in Dan Quinn to lead the Cowboys defense. If Quinn could get the defense in order and Dak could get the Dallas offense back to where it was, look out for the Cowboys.
14. Seattle Seahawks: Protect Russ! Trade Russ??
Russell Wilson is frustrated with Seattle, that’s obvious. On the Dan Patrick Show, Wilson was asked about his future in Seattle and responded “I’m not sure if I’m available or not. That’s a Seahawks question.” The superstar QB has been sacked 394 times in 9 seasons and is growing tired of it.
If the Seahawks can’t build an offensive line to protect Russ and a defense that can get stops, Wilson’s time in Seattle may be ticking. While I would never advise trading Wilson unless he demanded it, the Seahawks can get quite the haul for the future Hall of Famer.
15. Minnesota Vikings: Strengthen the defense
The Minnesota Vikings have a very underrated offense. Kirk Cousins proved last season that he is capable of getting wins in the playoffs and he is surrounded by some great talent. Wideouts Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are one of the best duos in football and Dalvin Cook is a top-2 running back in the NFL.
Mike Zimmer runs a tight ship in Minneapolis and the expectation for the Vikings is almost always playoffs or bust. This past season was very disappointing as the defense really let them down in big spots. If the Vikings can protect Cousins and add playmakers to their defense, we may see a much different team in Minnesota next year.
16. Las Vegas Raiders: Trade for Deshaun Watson
“Trade for Deshaun Watson” is not as easy as it sounds and I would only write that as the key to the offseason for teams that I truly think can make a run for the superstar QB. I am a big fan of Derek Carr but when you have a chance to land Watson, you take it.
If the Raiders were to try and make this move, it’d start by shipping Derek Carr to a 3rd team in exchange for draft picks, likely two 1st-rounders. The Raiders can then package these picks with a big-time playmaker to send back to Houston. If the Raiders retain Carr, there is still a lot to be excited about in Las Vegas. I’d like to see them go out and get some more weapons on offense to create a high scoring, high powered offensive attack.
17. New Orleans Saints: Bring back Jameis Winston
The Saints have a lot of question marks heading into next season. They are projected to be $100 million over the cap and Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees is expected to retire. So how will the Saints handle their cap situation? Who will be their starting QB?
It remains to be seen what the Saints do about their cap issues but it is fair to assume that either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill will be the starting QB for the Saints. Hill was very good in his stint as the starter this season but I don’t think he is a long-term answer at that position. Winston on the other hand has gotten the chance to learn under Brees. We know Jameis has talent, he just needs to play smarter. If given the chance, Winston will can and will thrive.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Trade for Sam Darnold
I am not high on Big Ben. He has had a hell of a career and played well for the majority of this season before falling apart late. Unfortunately, Ben is beat up and getting old. If the Steelers want to win a Super Bowl, they’ll have to look elsewhere.
This leads me to Sam Darnold, who is likely on his way out of New York. Yes, Darnold’s tenure as a Jet was not great but I would never blame a guy with that supporting cast and with Adam Gase calling the plays. Darnold has tons of talent and in the right system, he has a ton of potential.
19. Los Angeles Chargers: Protect Justin Herbert
The Chargers hit the jackpot with Justin Herbert. The offensive rookie of the year was spectacular in his first season. With a new coaching staff coming in, Herbert will need to become the leader of this football team as they prepare to build the franchise’s future around him.
The most important thing for Herbert to take the next step is getting him an offensive line. Herbert’s protection was terrible for most of the season and if given time to throw, Herbert has the ability to be special.
20. Washington Football Team: Find a QB
Washington squeaked through the abysmal NFC East and was the surprise playoff team in the NFL this season, they even gave the super bowl champion Buccaneers a run for their money in the first round. The football team was carried by their defense, a young defense which is only going to get better with time.
The only reason Washington is so low on this list is because of the question mark at QB. Because they made the playoffs, Washington’s draft pick isn’t great and thus leaves them with limited options if they wanted to add a QB through the draft. Washington liked what they saw out of Taylor Heinicke but it remains to be seen if they trust him with the starting QB duties.
21. Atlanta Falcons: Trade Matt Ryan
It’s time for the Falcons to move on from Matt Ryan. The Falcons have the best WR duo in the league in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley and they need someone to get them the football. Ryan’s mobility is taking its toll and he’s getting up there in age.
The Falcons own the 4th overall pick in the draft and should look to add either Zach Wilson or Justin Fields, whichever one is still on the board. Wilson or Fields could inject Atlanta with excitement, speed and a high powered offense. There’s work to be done on defense also but this should be priority #1 for Atlanta.
22. New England Patriots: Find long-term QB
Can Belicheck go on a revenge tour? Or was Brady the system? The New England Patriots have some soul searching to do. First, they need to find their long-term solution at QB.
I think they’ll look to the NFL draft to find their signal-caller and the two names that jump out to me are Trey Lance and Mac Jones. They’d likely have to move into the top-10 for Lance but Jones will likely be available when the Pats are on the clock at 15. Are either of these guys the answer? I guess we’ll see.
23. Chicago Bears: Trade for a QB
The Chicago Bears have a lot to be excited about but before they can get excited they need to find the answer at QB. David Montgomery has emerged as one of the best backs in the game and the Chicago defense returned to it’s past dominance this season.
It’s been too long since the Bears have had an elite signal-caller and it’s time they find one. They are interested in Carson Wentz but the Bears need to stop messing around with mediocre QB’s and put together a package for Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson, something neither of those teams could refuse.
24. Carolina Panthers: Upgrade QB
The Panthers were competitive in the bidding for QB Matthew Stafford but ultimately fell short. So where do the Panthers go next? If Justin Fields is on the board, he’d be a great option for Carolina. Trey Lance is also a possibility but he’d likely have to sit under Bridgewater for a year.
The Panthers have a talented receiver group highlighted by DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and pending free-agent Curtis Samuel. I love Teddy Bridgewater but he simply doesn’t have this Panthers team playing to their potential.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Protect Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow’s season came to a tragic finish when he was carted off with a season-ending knee injury. On the bright side, Burrow’s rehab is reportedly ahead of schedule and he expects to be back by week 1.
Cincinnati desperately needs to protect Burrow. He has good weapons on the outside in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins but needs protection to be able to find him. With the #5 pick in the NFL draft, the Bengals need to select OT Penei Sewell out of Oregon and if they don’t know if he’ll be there, they need to trade up. Sewell is a dominant OL prospect who can protect Burrow for the next decade.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Build around Trevor Lawerence
The Jacksonville Jaguars hit the lottery this season when the New York Jets decided to squeak out 2 wins at the end of the regular season, handing the Jaguars the #1 overall pick in the draft and the rights to Trevor Lawerence. Lawrence may be the future of the NFL and it’s extremely important that the Jaguars don’t waste time surrounding him with weapons.
With Lawrence at QB and Urban Meyer on the sidelines, the Jaguars should be an attractive landing spot to free agents. If they can add some playmakers on both sides of the ball before week 1, who knows what Lawrence is capable of?
27. New York Giants: Find playmakers
This year may be somewhat of a “Okay Daniel Jones, this is your last chance” kind of year for the Giants. In order to best evaluate what they have in Jones, they need to surround him with weapons. Evan Engram is not cutting it and Shepard is simply not a #1 WR.
With Saquan coming back, the Giants will have a chance to make noise if they can right the ship offensively. The defense put it together in the second half of the season last year but the offense just didn’t have enough juice. With #11 overall in the draft, the Giants should look to add Devonta Smith, Kyle Pitts, or Jaylen Waddle.
28. Philadelphia Eagles: Build around Jalen Hurts
The Eagles found something in Jalen Hurts. They have a lot of work to do but there is certainly reason for excitement when it comes to the quarterback position for Philly.
The Eagles have options at #6. They can look to add to the middle of their defense by adding a playmaker like Micah Parsons at LB, or they can look to help Hurts by adding either Jamaar Chase or Devonta Smith. Both options are good ones for the Eagles, who likely will just take the best player on the board as they have a lot of holes to fill.
29. New York Jets: Draft Zach Wilson
The New York Jets have the potential to have a very entertaining offseason. With lots of cap space and the #2 overall pick, a lot will change in New York before week 1.
Starting with the draft, the Jets need to key in on BYU gunslinger Zach Wilson. Wilson is a playmaker who can get out of the pocket, plus he has more than enough swagger to handle the New York media. After selecting and then protecting Wilson, the Jets will need to spend money on offensive weapons. Juju Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller, and Allen Robinson will all likely be targeted by Joe Douglas and the Jets.
30. Detroit Lions: Help Jared Goff
The Detroit Lions need to find their identity and they have the right man at the helm in Dan Campbell to do so. After trading away Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff and two first-rounders, Goff will have to prove himself as the long-term starter in Detroit.
In order for him to do so, he’s going to need some help from the offensive line and his receivers. Unfortunately, it looks like Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay will be on their way out of Detroit. Hockenson emerged as a great tight end and if the Lions want to be competitive, they’ll go out and draft a top of the line WR for Jared Goff in round 1.
31. Denver Broncos: Find a QB
I was a huge Drew Lock guy when he came out of Missouri but it is without a doubt time for the Broncos to move on. Whether they choose to do this through trades or through the NFL draft is up to them.
Star wideout Jerry Jeudy made it known on social media that he wants to play with Watson and apparently Watson has an interest in Denver as well. That being said, Houston is still not close to trading Watson. If that stance changes, which it eventually will, expect the Broncos to make a competitive offer.
32. Houston Texans: Trade Deshaun Watson
The Houston Texans need to bite the bullet and trade Deshaun Watson before this turns into an in-season holdout. The Texans are not even listening to offers, which is insane for a QB who just demanded a trade. If they don’t start listening soon, Watson’s value could go down.
Deshaun does not have a future in Houston and they have a chance to get a massive haul of draft picks and players to start a rebuild. This should be a no-brainer for new Texans GM Nick Caserio. Maybe he’s just playing hardball and waiting for the perfect offer. Only time will tell.