Wednesday, November 20, 2019

NFL training camp power rankings: Eagles have competition in NFC

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Now that every NFL team is officially in the throes of training camp, it’s as good a time as any to re-assess the league with a fresh batch of power rankings — our first since the completion of April’s draft.

Here’s the Top 20!

1. Eagles (1): On paper (games evidently aren’t played there), lineup looks stronger than Super Bowl version, assuming Carson Wentz and Jason Peters are full go by Week 1 and Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata fully assimilate.

2. Patriots (2): No team more deserves benefit of doubt. Still, concerning Pats have so many new starters on offense and so few apparent upgrades on defense.

3. Falcons (3): Your fresh reminder that no team came closer to KO’ing Eagles in playoffs. Atlanta looks sufficiently loaded to reach Super Bowl on home field.

4. Vikings (4): Don’t be surprised if Dalvin Cook’s return actually has more profound effect on 11th-ranked offense than Kirk Cousins’ arrival.

5. Rams (5): Early to worry (much) about Aaron Donald given last year’s holdout didn’t ultimately hurt. Still, lot of moving parts on revamped defense.

6. Saints (7): Any more underrated player than WR Michael Thomas? He’s one key to team with plenty of motivation to overcome 2017’s missed opportunity.

7. Packers (10): Aaron Rodgers’ return alone should vault them back to postseason. But success of new defensive philosophy could determine Pack’s course.

8. Jaguars (8): Love the LOB-esque swagger, including DL Malik Jackson’s 16-0 prediction. Still, will lack of offensive balance prove their undoing?

9. Chargers (6): They’re already down two starters (TE Hunter Henry, CB Jason Verrett) yet still seem to have more than enough juice for a Lombardi push.

10. Steelers (9): Is Shazier-less D good enough? How will this preseason’s Le’Veon Bell distraction play out? Already, usual combo of talent and sideshows.

11. Texans (12): Offensive line is a question but perhaps only one of major significance … assuming Watt, Watson, Mercilus et al. bounce back as expected.

12. Titans (14): Unheralded secondary emblematic of team once again flying under radar but poised to do plentiful damage in AFC South and maybe beyond.

13. Panthers (13): Cam Newton’s arm has plenty of whip, but is Torrey Smith enough of a vertical threat to keep defenses from packing in against Carolina?

14. Redskins (20): If first-round ‘Bama products Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne can solidify defensive line, as expected, Washington could be dark horse.

15. Broncos (11): Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders seem like key beneficiaries of Case Keenum’s arrival. Run game, secondary in transition will be tested.

16. Raiders (26): Jon Gruden looks to have weapons he needs. But worth noting that re-acclimating coach had one top-10 offense during seven years in Tampa.

17. Cowboys (19): No mystery, but Ezekiel Elliott is key, both to opening up passing lanes for Dak Prescott and shortening games for defense.

18. Ravens (21): Hard team to read. However for all the talk about quarterbacks, depth along both lines might warrant as much scrutiny as Flacco, Jackson

19. Chiefs (15): Patrick Mahomes couldn’t ask for a better arsenal around him. But will suspect defense put a young gunslinger into holes he can’t climb from?

20. 49ers (16): Garoppolo buzz is great. But preseason expectations should be tempered (for now) by defense that’s ranked 24th or worse last three years.

Content by USA TODAY.

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