By: Jake Rajala
- Kansas City Chiefs
If Russell Wilson had a defense, the Seahawks would be awarded the crown on top of the NFL. Until that happens, the Chiefs get to be No. 1 in the driver’s seat of the Power Rankings. I don’t care too much about the loss to Las Vegas. The Raiders have an excellent offense, plus they are a divisional foe. I wouldn’t suspect the Raiders to creep up on them for a sweep, especially when pivotal things could be on the line in round two. With Kansas City, we’re talking about a defense that’s given up more than 20 points once all year. Chris Jones looks unblockable and their scheme is as sound as it comes. On offense, they can run the shot plays, 2-minute drill, and control the clock through CEH on the ground. If they play clean and aggressive on defense, there’s not a team that should beat KC.
- Pittsburgh Steelers
I don’t love the Steelers explosive attack, but they are championship material. This defense carries them and they need to. They were tight with Philadelphia for most of the game in Week 7, but they flexed their muscles by obliterating Lamar Jackson in Week 8. I could see this team going punch for punch with Patrick Mahomes, but I don’t know if this offense blows me away to win. They might go 14-2 or 15-1 and garner a bye week, because they are physical and Big Ben doesn’t turn the ball over. This team has a 2019 Saints feeling to me. Veteran QB, aggressive defense, elite coaching, and they own their division (saints did). Yet, They could easily be a big play away from losing at the likes of the Raiders, Bills, or Titans in the playoffs. They don’t have a Top-3 QB or historical defense, but they are an elite team and they hold themselves together. Can they maintain this performance? We know TEN couldn’t.
- Seattle Seahawks
I don’t love the Seahawks defense. Not at all. Although, Green Bay hasn’t looked like a prominent contender as of late. They are slowly forming into a shell of their 2019 version. Why do I bring up Green Bay? Behind Green Bay, I don’t like Tampa Bay or New Orleans, in terms of their ceilings. I don’t care if Tom Brady or Drew Brees post stout numbers and passer ratings. These QBs aren’t the 2017 shell of themselves. Sure, the Buccaneers pounded the Packers. Well, the Vikings just handed the Packers an L. Meanwhile, Tom Brady lost to Nick Foles and he was a big play/penalty from losing to Daniel Jones. If Antonio Brown can be penciled in, and he looks like an elite player, we might have something there. Otherwise, it’s a solid weapon for an offense that slings the football at every angle and 24/7. The Buccaneers have a legit run defense and Tom Brady looks excellent at times, but it takes a lot to be a Top-3 team. An important note-I don’t love Tom Brady or Drew Brees to go blow for blow with Seattle late in the season when we’re seeing those 40+ yr old arm strengths even worse. Colin Cowherd has even said that Brady looks tired in the past few January games, but he won’t anticipate that now.
- Baltimore Ravens
If Lamar Jackson didn’t fold in games of high stakes, he would have his team No. 1 on this list. For right now, the Chiefs and Steelers deserve the spots ahead. I don’t think Baltimore is a worse team than last year–their competition has vastly improved. The Steelers look a lot better from getting healthy and the defense improving with age. If they played KC late in the season last year, they would’ve likely lost. All in all, this is still a 12+ win team and they are talented on both sides of the football. On defense, I love that Calais Campbell is there. He has 4 sacks on the season. Patrick Queen looks like a steal. And let’s not forget about Marcus Peters, who’s been a household name for the past few seasons. It was a bold move to cut Earl Thomas, when you reflect on the pass defense that’s been suspect in the key losses. It also doesn’t help that Ronnie Stanley is out for the year. But, if Queen can be a pro bowl player and Campbell stays healthy, they could be a different team against the AFC contenders that have a leg up on them.
- New Orleans Saints
I don’t believe that the Saints are below Tampa Bay, or Drew Brees is no longer a Top-10 QB. This team handily beat Tampa, even if it was “Week 1”. The Saints have beaten the Bucs in the last five matchups. It’s more than QB play, the Saints stack up well to the divisional foe that they emphasize a lot of their additions for in each off-season. The Saints are stout on the o-line for Tampa’s front, they usually have two established corners, and they know the looks from Bruce Arians. Outside of the Saints No. 1 target in Tampa, the Saints are getting their main man back this week-Michael Thomas. MT will be ready to go moving forward, as the former OPOY gets to join a healthy Alvin Kamara and Emmanuel Sanders. If this offense is somewhat in sync, combined with Marcus Davenport joining Trey Hendrickson/Cam Jordan on the d-line, there’s no reason that they can’t beat Tampa for a second time. I do believe their secondary could be suspect to the guy in Seattle, though.