NFL Power Rankings Week 1: Patriots, Falcons still linked at the top

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Atlanta Falcons during overtime of Super Bowl LI. (Elise Amendola/AP)

It’s been 213 days since the New England Patriots bested the Atlanta Falcons in overtime of Super Bowl LI. And despite a busy off-season, the two conference champions still hold the most power in our panel’s first rankings of 2017.

After that? Things get interesting.

As will be the case all year, our panel includes editor Geoff Lowe, and staff writers Donnovan Bennett, Mike Johnston and Emily Sadler.

Rank Team
1

The loss of Julian Edelman is going to hurt, but Bill Belichick is brilliant at adjusting on the fly and there’s no reason to believe the Patriots will skip a beat. (GL)
2016 record: 14-2

Previous: -

2

Having a new offensive coordinator will be an adjustment (they went 0-4 in the pre-season), but with elite talent on offence and an improved defence the Falcons have a legitimate shot at avenging that brutal Super Bowl loss. (MJ)
2016 record: 11-5

Previous: -

3

With a healthy Derek Carr and a fan-favourite running back fresh out of retirement in Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders have already made many football bettors’ Super Bowl predictions. This is a team on the rise. (ES)
2016 record: 12-4

Previous: -

4

The Steelers are once again the favourite in the AFC North. Le’Veon Bell is back on a one-year deal after holding out during training camp. The team also added Joe Haden to bolster their young secondary. With Ben Roethlisberger in Year 14 and flirting with retirement, this might be Pittsburgh’s last shot for a while at dethroning the Patriots in the AFC. (DB)
2016 record: 11-5

Previous: -

5

Along with New England, Green Bay looks poised for an NFL-record tying ninth straight playoff berth. With Aaron Rodgers in his prime and a host of supplementary weapons including Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Martellus Bennett and Ty Montgomery, the Packers should be a Super Bowl contender based on their high-octane offence alone.
(DB)
2016 record: 10-6

Previous: -

6

Andy Reid is known for his complicated offensive schemes, and receiver Tyreek Hill will be his most important tool. Get ready to see more from Hill as the Chiefs take aim at a second straight division title. (ES)
2016 record: 12-4

Previous: -

7

The Cowboys need Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup in order to replicate the success of last season, and for one week at least they’ll have him. But it’s improbable he’ll avoid suspension entirely, breaking the NFC East wide open. (GL)
2016 record: 13-3

Previous: -

8

New logo, same hard-hitting Seahawks — on defence, anyway. Russell Wilson has some impressive weapons as well as added run support in Eddie Lacy, but how well they do will depend largely on the offensive line, which had a few holes last season. (ES)
2016 record: 10-5-1

Previous: -

9

The Lions are a team in transition. They’ll have at least nine new starters in Week 1, including four new names along the offensive line. The Lions were smart to lock up Matt Stafford, but having the league’s highest-paid player may not matter if they can’t protect him. (DB)
2016 record: 9-7

Previous: -

10

With three top-notch receivers for Eli Manning and the league’s most-improved defence last season (from 30th in 2015 to 2nd in 2016), the Giants have a chance to repeat last year’s success. However, the offensive line is a big question mark and could hold the G-Men back. (GL)
2016 record: 11-5

Previous: -

11

This year’s featured Hard Knocks team has all the pieces required to make the playoffs. Jameis Winston is the leader, but it’s the imposing defensive front seven that opposing teams will have difficulty handling. (MJ)
2016 record: 9-7

Previous: -

12

One of the most talented teams at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. A revamped receiving corps will help Marcus Mariota reach that next level. The AFC South is the Titans’ to lose. (MJ)
2016 record: 9-7

Previous: -

13

The Eagles went all in on offensive playmakers this off-season, putting pressure on Carson Wentz to take a big step forward in his sophomore season. (GL)
2016 record: 7-9

Previous: -

14

The Kirk Cousins contract saga will continue to dominate the headlines regardless of how Washington performs, but a bigger problem may be the loss of two 1,000-yard receivers this off-season. (GL)
2016 record: 8-7-1

Previous: -

15

How far can the Cardinals go on the strength of running back David Johnson? We don’t know how much longer Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald will be around, so the time to strike is now. But is it already too late? (ES)
2016 record: 7-8-1

Previous: -

16

Ron Rivera’s group is rich with playmakers, including dynamic rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Cam Newton underwent shoulder surgery in March, which is concerning — just like this team’s suspect secondary. (MJ)
2016 record: 6-10

Previous: -

17

The Dolphins have the offensive weapons to compete for an AFC wild-card spot, but Jay Cutler must limit mistakes if Miami are going to have any chance to compete. (GL)
2016 record: 10-6

Previous: -

18

Despite still boasting a strong defence featuring Von Miller, Aquib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., the Broncos could be held back from contention by their ongoing messy quarterback situation. (ES)
2016 record: 9-7

Previous: -

19

The injury bug has already hit the Chargers, bringing down notable rookies Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp in training camp. Various ailments prevented the Chargers from a playoff run last season, and they’ll need all the health they can get if they want to emerge from the tough AFC West. (ES)
2016 record: 5-11

Previous: -

20

The Ravens’ biggest issue a year ago was staying healthy. To start 2017, it is their biggest concern again as a back injury kept Joe Flacco from partaking in the pre-season. To make matters worse, Tavon Young, Crockett Gilmore, Kenneth Dixon and Dennis Pitta were all lost to season-ending injuries. The Ravens will have a strong defence once again but the offence will be lost if Flacco misses time. (DB)
2016 record: 8-8

Previous: -

21

J.J. Watt returns after playing only three games in 2016. He’s a boon to the defence. Rookie QB Deshaun Watson looked shaky in the pre-season, which is why Tom Savage is the starter. When Tom Savage is your starter, it doesn’t instil any confidence that this team will thrive when they have the ball. (MJ)
2016 record: 9-7

Previous: -

22

The Vikings might end up with the worst offence in football. In the first three pre-season games their first-team offence mustered just one field goal. That said, they return the important parts of a defence that was ranked third in the league last year. Minnesota has .500 written all over them. (DB)
2016 record: 8-8

Previous: -

23

Marvin Lewis’s perpetually hot seat got even hotter after the Bengals went 6-9-1 last season. Despite seven playoff appearances and four AFC North titles in 14 years in Cincinnati, a playoff win still eludes the Bengals under Lewis. (DB)
2016 record: 6-9-1

Previous: -

24

The success of this team hinges on Andrew Luck, but the franchise QB is not 100 per cent healthy and doesn’t have much support around him. The Colts could be a hot mess in 2017. (MJ)
2016 record: 8-8

Previous: -

25

This might not be the air-it-out offence we’re used to seeing. Even with Drew Brees at the helm, expect more run-heavy attack with Adrian Peterson now in the fold. The defence will once again be a liability. (MJ)
2016 record: 7-9

Previous: -

26

The Bills roster is a strange mix of trying to win now while also building for the future, and the result is a team that’s likely to finish a game or two under .500 at best. (GL)
2016 record: 7-9

Previous: -

27

After hanging their rookie quarterback out to dry in Year 1, L.A. has set Jared Goff up for success this season. A fortified offensive line should give Goff some time to succeed and help running back Todd Gurley find his stride, while new receiver Sammy Watkins can be a game-changer if he stays healthy. (ES)
2016 record: 4-12

Previous: -

28

How quickly can new head coach Kyle Shanahan turn this offence around? The rebuilding 49ers have a long way to go and should see improvements thanks to Shanahan’s dynamic offensive schemes, but it’s their defence that could end up getting noticed this season. (ES)
2016 record: 2-14

Previous: -

29

Will drafting Leonard Fournette and Cam Robinson, plus signing defensive studs A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell and Barry Church, result in a respectable record? We’ll reserve judgment until they actually show some progress on the field. (MJ)
2016 record: 3-13

Previous: -

30

Remember when Mitch Trubisky was a long-term project? It is tough to discern much from the pre-season, but he looked outstanding. Mainly playing against first-teamers he completed 70.8 per cent of his passes. Still, he’ll start the year behind Mike Glennon on the depth chart. Expect John Fox to answer QB-controversy questions all year. (DB)
2016 record: 3-13

Previous: -

31

The Browns paid $16 million for Brock Osweiler to go away. DeShone Kizer won the job out of camp. In the second year of their rebuild the Browns might have a bright future, but expectations should be limited when you’re coming off a 1-15 season and your opening-day starter is a rookie who wasn’t drafted in the first round. (DB)
2016 record: 1-15

Previous: -

32

Now in full rebuild mode, the only thing the Jets will be competing for this season is the honour to select first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. (GL)
2016 record: 5-11

Previous: -