NFL Team Tiers
Super Bowl or Bust: These are the teams that will feel disappointed if they aren’t hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Super Bowl Favorite: These are some of the most talented teams in the NFL, but they have longer title windows than the aforementioned “Super Bowl or Bust” teams. Los Angeles should be the goal, but it is not a necessity.
Super Bowl Longshot: Any of these teams could make Super Bowl runs, but they will most likely fall short. Also expect a couple of these teams to miss the playoffs entirely.
Rising Contender: Teams that have talented rosters coupled with a young QB who has shown promise.
Fading Contender: Teams who are trying to hang on to the last remnants of their former glory.
Stuck in a Rut: Teams who are stuck in the middle of the power rankings with no clear way to improve their standing.
QB Question Mark: Teams with talented rosters coupled with inconsistent veteran QBs. Could be contenders if they can get quality quarterback play.
Rebuilding: Teams that have brought in new regimes often coupled with a young QB.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Super Bowl or Bust
- This one’s a no-brainer. The Bucs brought back all twenty-two starters from last year’s Super Bowl winning team. They also added some linebacker depth in 1st round selection Joe Tryon. Brady has everything he needs to make a run at what would be a mind-blowing 8th Super Bowl.
- Kansas City Chiefs- Super Bowl or Bust
- The O-Line is revamped going into 2021 following a poor perfromance in Super Bowl LV. Kansas City moved on from longtime starters Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. They signed Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, and Kyle Long while trading for star tackle Orlando Brown Jr.. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a 2019 starter who opted out of the 2020 season, is returning. Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey, the team’s 2nd round pick, will provide valuable depth on the interior. Patrick Mahomes lost one of his top weapons when Sammy Watkins left for Baltimore, but Mecole Hardman could take a third year leap and step up to be a bonafide WR2.
- Buffalo Bills- Super Bowl Favorite
- The Bills will look to build off of their 2020 season where they won their first playoff game since 1995. The squad remains relatively untouched, with the biggest move being the addition of Miami standout defensive end Greg Rousseau via the draft. Josh Allen, having just signed a 250 million dollar contract extension, should be able to build off of his MVP-caliber 2020 season. This team is hungry to take the next step.
- Cleveland Browns- Super Bowl Favorite
- It appears as if the twenty year QB carousel in Cleveland is finally over. Baker Mayfield silenced all of his doubters with an excellent 2020 season. Odell Beckham Jr. is returning after suffering a torn ACL in a Week 7 win last season. Myles Garrett anchors a talented defense that added Takkarist McKinley and Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. Then there’s second round addition Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah who many are calling the steal of the draft. The Notre Dame linebacker had a great past season topping it off as 2020 ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
- Los Angeles Rams- Super Bowl or Bust
- Matthew Stafford is finally free. After suffering through eight losing seasons in twelve years with Detroit, he gets the chance to lead one of the league’s most talented rosters. He also gets to play under Sean McVay, who is one of the most innovative coaches in the league. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are the NFL’s best players at their respective position, and the defense as a whole should be dominant.
- Baltimore Ravens- Super Bowl Favorite
- Following a second consecutive divisional round exit, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta knew that moves had to be made if this team was going to have a shot at an AFC title. He addressed Lamar Jackson’s lack of weapons by bringing in Sammy Watkins alongside first rounder Rashod Bateman. Knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to retain tackle Orlando Brown Jr, he sent him to Kansas City. In exchange, DeCosta used the first round pick to select edge rusher Jason Oweh. Linemen Ben Cleveland and Kevin Zeitler were brought in to replace Brown. All in all it was a very successful offseason for Baltimore. This is hampered now by all of the season ending injuries that occured before the regular season has begun.
- Green Bay Packers- Super Bowl or Bust
- Green Bay’s 2021 offseason was mired in drama and controversy. The NFL world held their breath for months as the Aaron Rodgers saga unfolded. In the end he decided to return for one more year in Green Bay, and all appears to be fine up in Titletown. Besides that it was a pretty quiet offseason for the Packers, with the exception of the loss of star center Corey Linsley, and the squad that appeared to have Tom Brady on the ropes in the 2020 NFC Championship remains relatively untouched.
- Tennessee Titans – Super Bowl Longshot
- Few contenders had as much roster turnover as the Titans. Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith, Tennessee’s 2nd and 3rd most productive pass-catchers, are gone. They lost both of their starting corners, Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler, and replaced them with Janoris Jenkins, who has clearly started to show signs of his age in recent years. They brought in Bud Dupree in one of the more controversial moves of the offseason. He is certainly a good player but he likely will not be able to produce the pressure that Tennessee needs. Overall, Tennessee was panned for their offseason moves, but that all changed with the move to bring in Julio Jones. Now they enter the 2021 season with the three-headed monster of Jones, AJ Brown, and 2020 rushing champ Derrick Henry. If Tannehill can continue to play at an elite level, this team has the ability to go on a deep playoff run.
- San Francisco 49ers- Super Bowl Longshot
- With twelve minutes to play in Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers held a 20-10 lead with the ball over the Kansas City Chiefs. They then proceeded to completely implode, punctuated by the oft-replayed clip of Jimmy Garropalo overthrowing a wide open Emmanuel Sanders for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown. That is a throw that an NFL quarterback, particularly one on a contending team, has to be able to make. That is why the 49ers brought in North Dakota State QB Trey Lance with the 3rd overall pick. The organization believes that Lance has the physical gifts to lead a team to the promised land. It’s only a matter of time until he takes the reins from Garoppolo. 2020 was a lost year for San Francisco, with almost every key player missing significant time. However there are enough pieces of that 2019 team to give John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan hope that the Niners can once again get back to the Super Bowl.
- Indianapolis Colts- QB Question Mark
- This will certainly be one of the more controversial spots on the list. But the talent and potential of this Colts team is undeniable. Quentin Nelson anchors what is arguably the league’s best offensive line. Darius Leonard, now the league’s highest paid linebacker, leads a solid defensive unit. And running back Jonathan Taylor will look to build off of his exceptional rookie season. But the quarterback position is what will make or break this team. Carson Wentz was named to the 2nd Team All Pro in 2017, his final season playing with Frank Reich as his offensive coordinator. If Reich can get Wentz back to that elite level, the Colts are genuine Super Bowl contenders. If not, they will be lucky to sneak into the playoffs.
- New Orleans Saints- QB Question Mark
- The Drew Brees era is over. But don’t be too fast to write off the Saints. Jameis Winston could be just what this team needs. He possesses one of the strongest arms in the league. This is a welcome change from the end of Brees’s career, where there was a decline in his throwing power. The problem with Jameis has always been his accuracy. But if the preseason was any indication, he may have finally gotten past these issues. The Saints have won at least 11 games in each of the past four seasons, and that streak should survive, especially with the extended season.
- Seattle Seahawks- Stuck in a Rut
- Seahawks fans had to sweat through some Russell Wilson trade rumors, but thankfully the franchise QB remained on the team. Seattle appears to be stuck in a rut at this point. They have had nine consecutive winning seasons, and eight playoff appearances in this span. Now though it’s been seven years since they’ve even made a conference championship. None of the moves Seattle made this offseason have improved them enough to change that. To make matters worse, all three of Seattle’s divisional rivals got better this offseason. The Seahawks are a good team, and Russell Wilson is a great quarterback, but it is time to officially close the door on their Super Bowl window.
- New England Patriots- Super Bowl Longshot
- Bill Belichick refuses to bow down. The Pats missed the playoffs last season for the first time in just over a decade. Belichick made sure this wouldn’t happen again as he retooled this past offseason. He gave sizable contracts to Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith, while drafting NCAA Champion Mac Jones. Jones has received highly touted reviews throughout training camp and the preseason, with experts saying he is perfectly suited to be a star in the NFL. New England should be back in the postseason this year.
- Miami Dolphins- Rising Contender
- 2020 was a mixed bag for Miami. On the bright side, Brian Flores appears to be an excellent head coach. His two year turnaround of this Dolphins team has been very impressive, and Miami is good enough to make the playoffs. A lot of it will come down to whether or not Tua Tagovailoa can improve upon a very disappointing rookie season. He has a great new weapon and former teammate in sixth overall pick Jaylen Waddle to help him out.
- Los Angeles Chargers- Rising Contender
- Justin Herbert may have just had the greatest rookie season of any quarterback ever. He has two very good receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. LA did however lose tight end Hunter Henry, but the managed to replace him with Jared Cook. This swap shouldn’t make much of an impact. The Chargers selected Asante Samuel Jr. out of FSU to fill a big hole at cornerback. LA’s most glaring need however heading into the offseason was the offensive line, and they repaired that in a big way by adding three new starters, Pittsburgh guard Matt Feiler, first rounder Rashawn Slater, and Packers star Corey Linsley. This squad is a fringe playoff team, but regardless the Chargers are a team on the rise.
- Minnesota Vikings- Stuck in a Rut
- It’s only fitting that Minnesota occupies the 16th spot in these power rankings. Everything about this team just screams “Average”. In every one of Kirk Cousins’ seasons as starter he has finished between 7-9 and 10-5. His career record is right at .500 at 51-51-2. One can spend hours arguing about how good he is as a quarterback, the general consensus seems to be the 10-15 range. As far as wins and losses go it’s hard to see Minnesota as anything other than an 8-9 or 9-8 team.
- Washington Football Team- QB Question Mark
- There is a lot to be excited about in Washington. The Football Team went 7-9 last year and won the dismal NFC East, but all signs point towards improvement in 2021. Washington boasts an elite defense that was top five in most statistical categories last season. They lost longtime star Ryan Kerrigan to free agency, but drafted Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis in the 1st round. The real question here is the offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the most up-and-down QBs in NFL history. If he plays at the Pro Bowl level that he’s capable of, Washington could be a legit Super Bowl contender. If Fitzpatrick struggles to stay consistent it is likely that the Giants or Cowboys swoop in to steal the division.
- Arizona Cardinals- Rising Contender
- Can Kyler Murray take a year 3 leap? He had an interesting second year that should ultimately be pegged as a disappointment due to the fact that he did not reach that next level many thought he was capable of. Arizona got out to a 6-3 start last year but proceeded to drop six out of their final seven games to finish with a record of 7-9. They brought in some big names this offseason including JJ Watt, Malcolm Butler, Rodney Hudson, and AJ Green. This season everything will ultimately come down to Murray. The Cards are playing in the NFL’s toughest division, and unless Murray ups his game the playoffs are a longshot.
- Las Vegas Raiders- Stuck in a Rut
- It looks like the Jon Gruden era is going to be labeled a failure. The Raiders have repeatedly failed to live up to expectations. Derek Carr is one of the more polarizing QBs in the league. When looking at the rest of the team it is clear that Gruden has failed to properly build the roster. He spent day 2 picks on guys like Tanner Muse, PJ Hall, Lynn Bowden, Arden Key, and Bryan Edwards. His first rounders haven’t been much better, with Johnathan Abram, Damon Arnette, and Clelin Ferrell all looking like busts early in their NFL careers. He also completely deconstructed the offensive line, getting rid of Trent Brown and All-Pro center Rodney Hudson. His choice to draft tackle Alex Leatherwood 17th overall has been criticized by almost everyone. The Raiders should be a solid team this year, but it is almost impossible to envision this team even winning a single playoff game.
- Pittsburgh Steelers- Fading Contender
- After starting 11-0 in 2020, Pittsburgh’s season went off the rails, as they finished 1-4 and got sent home in the Wild Card Round. The dismal finish leaves many questions to be answered within the organization. The offensive line is going to be among the worst in football in 2021, and veteran linebacker Bud Dupree is gone. Big Ben is 39 years old, and definitely showing signs of age at this point. They brought in Alabama star Najee Harris to boost the running game, but there are a lot of holes on this team.
- New York Giants- Rising Contender
- The New York Giants are in prime position to win the NFC East for the first time since 2011. They brought in star receiver Kenny Golladay from Detroit and selected Florida wideout Kadarius Toney 20th overall. They signed Kyle Rudolph to back up Evan Engram at tight end. Saquon Barkley is finally healthy and should be able to return to form. The defense is elite. New York added corner Adoree Jackson to play opposite James Bradberry, and have what many believe is a top three secondary in the league. The offensive line is the only true weakness on this team. Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick in 2020, is one of many unproven young players who will need to step up and become quality starters. Ultimately it will all come down to Daniel Jones. Jones showed great promise down the stretch last year. In his final six games he turned the ball over three times leading the Giants to a 4-2 record. If he can build off of that success, the sky’s the limit for New York. If he struggles though, he could find himself out of a job.
- Dallas Cowboys- Rising Contender
- Dak Prescott enters 2021 as the odds-on favorite to take home the Comeback Player of the Year. He has one of the league’s best trio of receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 2020 first round pick Ceedee Lamb, who is poised for a breakout season. Add on Ezekiel Elliot and Dallas has one of the league’s best offenses. All the positives on offense are weighed down by Dallas’s awful defense. They added Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, who is a favorite to recieve the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. As impactful as that is, there are just too many defensive issues to think about Dallas being a contender.
- Denver Broncos- QB Question Mark
- Denver boasts one of the better defenses in the league. Von Miller should return to form after missing the entire 2020 season with a dislocated peroneal tendon. Justin Simmons, Bradley Chubb, and top ten pick Patrick Surtain II are just some of countless talented players on Denver’s defense. On the other side of the ball, receiver Courtland Sutton returns after playing just one game last year. He’ll play alongside 2020 rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. They also have 2019 first rounder Noah Fant at tight end. The Broncos have invested a lot of assets into building a quality receiving core, but their QB situation is looking bleak. The past offseason had many Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Russell Wilson trade rumors. Unfortunately, Denver struck out on all three, and had to settle for Teddy Bridgewater, who beat out Drew Lock to earn the starting job. Bridgewater looked decent last year for Carolina, but Denver needs elite quarterback play if they want to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
- Atlanta Falcons- Fading Contender
- Atlanta made the decision to pass on Mac Jones and Justin Fields with the fourth overall pick, instead opting to select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, an athletic freak who should produce right away. Defensive coordinators across the league shuddered at the thought of having to guard Pitts, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley, but it was not to be. Atlanta had to trade Jones to Tennessee in order to sign Pitts and the rest of their 2021 rookie class, which includes UCF safety Richie Grant, and undrafted QB Felipe Franks. Atlanta should still have a very good offense, but it is not good enough to overcome their defense, which should rank in the bottom five in most statistical categories.
- Carolina Panthers- Rebuilding
- Matt Rhule’s first year in Carolina was certainly a success. Carolina went 5-11, but they clearly have some foundational pieces in place, especially on defense. DE Brian Burns, DT Derrick Brown, and S Jeremy Chinn all look like they can develop into stars in the coming years. Carolina also added South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn with the 8th overall pick. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are a solid duo for new quarterback Sam Darnold to throw to. Darnold never could get into a rhythm in New York, but it is clear that he has potential. Carolina should lose a lot of games this year, but if Darnold emerges as the QB of the future, Carolina could be ready to compete as early as 2022.
- Chicago Bears- Rising Contender
- Bears fans couldn’t be happier with their team’s offseason. Chicago traded up to select Ohio State QB Justin Fields eleventh overall. Andy Dalton was been named the week 1 starter, but expect Fields to be the starter by Week 8 at the absolute latest. The rest of the team is still solid. Allen Robinson begrudgingly returns as Fields’s top weapon, and a lot of the defensive pieces from that great 2018 team are still intact. Chicago was a playoff team last year, but expect a lot more losses this year as Fields learns the ropes.
- Philadelphia Eagles- Rebuilding
- Philly has officially entered a rebuild. It is crazy to think that just four years ago they were Super Bowl champions, and that they won the division as recently as 2019. Last year everything went off the rails. Philly moved on from Carson Wentz, and it will be interesting to see how he’s remembered by Eagles fans. Hurts is expected by most to fail. Philly has a ton of future draft assets, including potentially three first rounders next year, so they can move up to select any quarterback that they want in the 2022 draft. They are also one of the frontrunners to trade for Deshaun Watson. Some are optimistic about Hurts though, saying that if he’s given enough time he may be able to develop into Philly’s QB of the future.
- New York Jets- Rebuilding
- The Jets are once again back at square one. Robert Saleh, who served as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator from 2017-2020, is in as head coach. More significantly, Sam Darnold is out and BYU’s Zach Wilson is in. Wilson has drawn praise from many, most notably Tony Romo, who compared him to Patrick Mahomes. The Jets seem to always miss on quarterbacks, and New York fans just have to pray that GM Joe Douglas got it right. Away from the QB position, the Jets had a very active offseason. They signed Titans receiver Corey Davis and added Ole Miss wideout Elijah Moore in the 2nd round. They dished out a massive contract to pass rusher Carl Lawson, who unfortunately will miss the entire 2021 season with a ruptured Achilles. New York also selected USC guard Elijah Vera-Tucker 14th overall. The Jets will likely struggle to win games this year, but at the very least there is a lot for New York fans to be hopeful about.
- Cincinnati Bengals- Rebuilding
- Joe Burrow had a very promising start to the 2020 season before he tore both his ACL and MCL in a Week 11 loss last year. He is set to start Week 1, but there are many questions about his protection. The Bengals were near the bottom of the league in pass protection last year, and those issues should run over into 2021. Cincy had the opportunity to select star left tackle Penei Sewell fifth overall, but instead opted for Burrow’s former college teammate in Ja’Marr Chase. Chase, who should have a great rookie season, is playing alongside Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, giving Burrow a lot of options in the passing game. Expect Burrow to show a ton of promise when he has time to throw, but also expect to see this team picking in the top five in next year’s draft.
- Jacksonville Jaguars- Rebuilding
- The Trevor Lawrence era is finally here. The best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck is set to make his much anticipated debut Week 1. He is going to be a very good player, but there will be growing pains. The Jaguars lost fifthteen straight to close out the 2020 season. This team is not good. How much Lawrence will elevate the Jags is still to be seen. Jacksonville has a relatively easy schedule and it’s easy to envision them winning six or seven games if Lawrence is everything people say he is. As long as there’s some positive momentum headed into 2022 this season should be considered a win for Jacksonville.
- Detroit Lions- Rebuilding
- Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions are ready to bite some kneecaps. The new head coach had one of the most memorable opening press conferences in recent memory. He’s bringing in a completely new culture, a welcome sight for Detroit fans who had to suffer through three years of Matt Patricia. 7th overall pick Penei Sewell is the embodiment of the new culture, a tough, gritty player who wants to win. In other Lions news, Matthew Stafford, the face of the Lions for twelve seasons, is gone. In exchange Detroit receives Jared Goff, who is a very capable QB that is only 26 and could be the quarterback of this team for a long time. More importantly, they received two first round picks and a third rounder. These picks will be instrumental for Campbell and new GM Brad Holmes to bring in players that fit Campbell’s vision. There’s a long rebuild ahead in Detroit, but both Campbell and Holmes have assured that they have plenty of time.
- Houston Texans- Fading Contender
- This was probably the easiest spot to pin down out of all 32 teams. How can the Houston Texans be anywhere else? They accomplished almost nothing this offseason. Franchise icon JJ Watt has left for Arizona. To make matters even worse, Houston wasn’t even able to turn the corner and officially start their rebuild because of the Deshaun Watson situation. At a minimum the return for a Watson trade will be two first rounders and two second rounders. It remains to be seen if a team like the Dolphins will offer a package like that due to the allegations against Watson. There isn’t much to look forward to in Houston. The best case scenario is probably an 0-17 season so they can secure the #1 pick. Tyrod Taylor may be a decent player, but it’s hard to imagine him shining on such a poor roster. This is a bleak time to be a Texans fan.