NFL power rankings: Defending champs up top, Detroit Lions in middle tier

Detroit Free Press

The NFL has always been a league of haves and have-nots, with a hearty middle tier of teams capable of joining either group.

Get some good luck on the injury or schedule front and those middle-tier teams can make the playoffs. Get some bad luck and they end up with a top-10 pick.

The Lions, among the dregs of the NFL the past few seasons, have graduated to the middle tier. They have more talent on their roster than the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants, but nowhere near as much as the Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills.

LIONS SEASON PREVIEW:How the offense can reach its full potential

Their margin for error remains slim, but they have legitimate hope entering the season for the first time since I started doing my power rankings (Matt Patricia’s forgettable first season as head coach).

On the injury front, the Lions suffered a potentially significant loss this week when they placed starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai on injured reserve. Vaitai’s timetable for return is not yet known, but it’s never good to lose a starter — potentially for the season — before meaningful games are played.

On the bright side, the Lions have an incredibly strong offensive line, one that might be able to weather Vaitai’s loss, and an incredibly favorable schedule that sets them up well for success. The Lions play eight games against the bottom nine teams in my power rankings. They probably won’t win them all, but they should win enough to take a major step forward in the record department this year.

MORE:Lions motivated by last year’s ’embarrassing’ loss to Eagles

I have the Rams and Bills atop my initial power rankings, though I don’t have either in my projected Super Bowl. The Rams have the difficult task of trying to repeat (with a quarterback who may or may not have a bum elbow). The Bills are a popular pick to win the AFC, but I played a hunch and went slightly off the board.

Either way, the Rams and Bills deserve to be atop these rankings based on who they have coming back. They kick off the season tonight in what should be a great start to the year.

Week 1 NFL power rankings:

1. Los Angeles Rams

2. Buffalo Bills

3. Green Bay Packers

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Cincinnati Bengals

7. Los Angeles Chargers

8. San Francisco 49ers

9. Indianapolis Colts

10. Las Vegas Raiders

11. Dallas Cowboys

12. Philadelphia Eagles

13. Tennessee Titans

14. Baltimore Ravens

15. New Orleans Saints

16. Denver Broncos

17. Minnesota Vikings

18. Miami Dolphins

19. New England Patriots

20. Arizona Cardinals

21. Cleveland Browns

22. Pittsburgh Steelers

23. Detroit Lions

24. Jacksonville Jaguars

25. New York Jets

26. Carolina Panthers

27. Washington Football Team

28. Houston Texans

29. Seattle Seahawks

30. New York Giants

31. Chicago Bears

32. Atlanta Falcons

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

Articles You May Like

Report: Detroit Lions poach analyst from Arizona Cardinals
Comparing Trevor Lawrence and Jared Goff: The numbers and the contracts
Reports: Lions to sign UFL kicker Jake Bates
Report: Detroit Lions expected to sign UFL kicker Jake Bates
All 32 NFL teams (including the Lions) ranked by their safeties

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *