The draft is a few short weeks away and that means the league is crossing another major off-season checkpoint. The first wave of free agency is over and a lot of quality free agents are available for the post-draft second wave. As of now, several teams made major inroads to build, rebuild, or in the case of the Patriots, build back better.
In a completely scientific power ranking using technology developed by esteemed professor John Frink, the Los Angeles Rams are an early contender. What a shocker, a website dedicated to LA Football teams has an LA football team in its top 5, way to go Professor Frink! In the name of fairness, the Chargers are NOT a top 5 contender because they’re the Chargers. While the data seems fishy, the Rams are one of the 5 best teams in this very early snapshot of the league.
5. New England Patriots
Until Bill Belichick retires to his Thanos-style cabin and gives the reigns to either Josh McDaniels or his son, the Patriots are always a top-five contender. Yes, last year was a down year because several prominent defensive players opted out of the season and Tom Brady did what most people do in their golden years and went to Florida.
But, Belichick, like Chuck Norris, doesn’t sleep, he waits. His gamble with Cam Newton didn’t go as hoped but he’s running it back this time with a better line and more targets along with a ton of help on defense. Yes, the Bills and Dolphins look better on paper and they might wind up being better but if Cam Newton can give the Pats ANYTHING at quarterback they’re back in business.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
At this point, it might seem like heresy to have the Chiefs ranked lower than two but it’s worth mentioning that the Super Bowl hangover is a real thing and it’s worth monitoring. The Chiefs did address their Super Bowl Achilles heel by signing Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, and Kyle Long to fix their offensive line but their defense is still a concern.
The Bucs figured out how to beat them by generating PI flags and their run defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Bucs defense also seemed to figure out how to disrupt the Chiefs’ rhythm and it’s entirely possible the league might have more success slowing the Chiefs down. Patrick Mahomes is still awesome, there’s no question, but he also has had a lot of near misses with injuries and perhaps that catches up to him this season. Hopefully not but it’s not inconceivable that the Chiefs take a slight step back.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Yeah, the Rams being ranked ahead of the Chiefs reeks of LAFB bias (fair) but this early in the off-season it’s not completely farfetched. The Rams defense is going through a bit of flux with another new coordinator and some missing pieces but they shouldn’t miss much of a beat.
Offensively, their ceiling was lowered due to inconsistent QB play. They’ve rectified that by trading for Matthew Stafford who should be the ideal Jaeger for Sean McVay. The offense is poised to take a massive leap forward BUT the offensive line has a lot of question marks as do the special teams. They’re likely going to draft some help on the line as well as shore up the linebacker spot. They have a new special teams coach but don’t have a reliable returner yet. Their depth is also a bit thinner than it should be so they can’t afford an infestation by the injury bug. That said if all systems are a go this team should be dangerous.
2. Buffalo Bills
It seems weird to rank the Bills this high because success has a restraining order against them but this Bills team deserves it. Josh Allen and that offense is high octane in a way that is sustainable. They kept their offensive coordinator Brian Daboll after he looked around at the available jobs and realized he’d be the pick of the litter next year. Defensively they kept Matt Milano who they couldn’t afford to lose and while they still need help because the Chiefs ran roughshod over them, they still have the flexibility to do so. They have all the pieces to make a run and if the Chiefs are due for a down year the Bills could be the biggest beneficiary.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s still early but considering the defending champs returned all 22 starters and inexplicably lost neither of their coordinators, they deserve to be favorites. Tom Brady is apparently Lestat if he were a day-walker and will be playing football 10 years after the apocalypse. The offense should still hum and the defense got better as the year went along.
They didn’t add anyone major yet but they didn’t have to. Perhaps they don’t get the same breaks they did a year ago because no one does, but aside from being an immortal vampire, Brady is the real-life version of Domino so perhaps the luck isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
If the Bucs remain healthy they are the favorites heading into the season especially with their division getting worse and only a handful of teams in the NFC seeing major improvement. So once again there is the strong possibility America will have to see Tom Brady covered in confetti for an eighth time because time is a flat circle and the universe is a cruel master.
Once again this is a totally scientific and entirely too early look at where the league is at this point. Everything is in flux between now and when the Super Bowl is played at SoFi in 2022 so any and all complaints won’t be listened to. But you can leave them anyway in the comments below or on Twitter, @LAFBNetwork.