All these teams have major playoff aspirations and are close to achieving that.
The last set of power rankings are the teams that are at the bottom of the league. Most of the teams on that last will not be competing for high playoff spots, and look more towards building for future seasons.
These teams, meanwhile, are all close to competing this year. 12 teams make the playoffs every year, and all of these teams on this list have a very legitimate shot of making the postseason.
17. Atlanta Falcons
If you just look at the roster in Atlanta, they could be in the top 10. This team has Grady Jarrett, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Matt Ryan, Deion Jones, and Keanu Neal on the roster. The problem with this roster has always been a lack of depth. Injuries have always killed this team, but what did they do this offseason to get back to winning?
Atlanta did nothing significant this free agency period, as they lacked the cap room to spend a lot. They had to win in the draft instead. The Falcons have always had problems on the offensive line, but they solved them this draft. At pick No. 14, they took Chris Lindstrom, a guard from Boston College. They also selected Kaleb McGary, tackle from Washington with their second first-rounder. Both of these players could potentially be instant starters for Atlanta, which will be major upgrades towards keeping Matt Ryan upright.
Atlanta has the talent to win. I still don’t trust them. Dan Quinn hasn’t had major success since they made it to the Super Bowl, and it feels as if they aren’t super close. I expect changes in Atlanta after this year since they haven’t come close to winning big since.
16. Houston Texans
Houston had one major thing they had to do this offseason; protect Deshaun Watson. Watson was sacked 62 times last year, which is way too much for the young quarterback. They also had a major hole at cornerback this offseason, as their secondary struggled last year to defend the pass. How was Houston going to attack these major problems from last year?
Houston had a ton of cap space this offseason but didn’t spend like crazy. Instead, they took more flyers on players. Houston signed Tashaun Gipson, safety from Jacksonville, CB Bradley Roby from Denver, and CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Houston clearly identified the problems in their secondary, and decided to target them in free agency. They didn’t break the bank for any of them but found three guys who can all be helpful for their pass defense.
I didn’t like Houston’s draft at all. With major needs on the offensive line, they took Tytus Howard at 24. While Howard has good athleticism, he is a project. It didn’t make sense why Houston took him first, with Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford still on the board. Maybe Howard develops into an elite blindside protector for Houston, but it will take time, which is something they can’t afford. Houston also took Lonnie Johnson, a cornerback from Kentucky and Max Scharping, a tackle from Northern Illinois. While all three of these players fill needs, they have a long way to go before developing into good players, and I didn’t like that. Watson already has had multiple major surgeries in his knees, and personally, I would invest a lot into the offensive line, and I didn’t feel Houston did enough there.
I see Houston taking a step back this year. Besides Deandre Hopkins, Watson doesn’t have many weapons. Even with Will Fuller returning, he doesn’t have much else to feel excited about. Combine that with a bad offensive line, and I just don’t feel good about Houston this year.
15. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore had a roller coaster year last year. After drafting Lamar Jackson in the first round, there was a question on how they would handle the situation with Joe Flacco. Flacco was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but had many injuries and wasn’t the same since his miraculous run in the 2013 playoffs. After starting hot, they flattened out, and Flacco got injured. Lamar Jackson was finally put in at quarterback, and he, along with an elite defense, led Baltimore back to the playoffs.
Baltimore had a lot of change in free agency. First, they said goodbye to multiple veterans, such as Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Za’Darius Smith, and C.J Mosley. These players had been major contributors, and wouldn’t be easy to replace. The Ravens decided to use their cap space on two big free agents; Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram. Thomas is an All-Pro safety who is coming off an injury. Even after this injury, Thomas still is one of the best safeties in the league and is still an elite player, so that is a great signing. Ingram is a thumper from the running back spot, and the former Saint runs downhill hard. He is a major upgrade over what they had and will be a key contributor for the future.
Baltimore went into this draft looking for weapons for Lamar Jackson, and they found plenty. They took Marquise Brown in the first round, a receiver from Oklahoma. Brown has injury concerns, but has electric speed, and can beat anyone vertically. Brown will stretch the field, and provide that vertical threat for Lamar Jackson. Baltimore also took Miles Boykin, a receiver from Norte Dame, and Justice Hill, a running back from Oklahoma State. Clearly, Baltimore wanted to surround Lamar Jackson with speed, and now they have plenty. Baltimore also took Jaylon Ferguson, who is the NCAA all-time sack leader. Ferguson lacks speed and burst but has a high motor and power, and Baltimore should develop him into a productive pass rusher.
Overall, Baltimore lost a lot of veterans but replaced them with younger players. Eric DeCosta, new general manager, is clearly pushing a youth movement, which is new for the Ravens, and something that is needed. Baltimore is always competing though, so don’t be surprised to see them competing again next year.
14. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle was the surprise team of the season last year. Most people, myself included, expected Seattle to be near the bottom of the league. The Legion of Boom was gone, and they needed to rebuild. Instead, Seattle rallied and made the postseason. While this was good, Seattle had very tough decisions to make in the offseason.
First, they let Earl Thomas walk. They tried to negotiate a deal, but Thomas didn’t want to be there, and they went separate ways. Seattle had little cap space, hence they didn’t sign anyone in the offseason. They did extend Russell Wilson though, making him one of the highest paid quarterbacks ever. This didn’t come without consequences though, as they had to trade star pass rusher Frank Clark to allow them to sign their free agents. They did get good compensation though, netting a first, a future second, while moving just eight spots down in the third round. Seattle only had four picks this year, so these extra picks helped a lot.
Seattle went into this draft with five selections and came out with 11. After trading down multiple times, they picked up players such as L.J. Collier, a defensive end from TCU, DK Metcalf, the workout wonder from Ole Miss, and Marquise Blair, safety from Utah. The rest of the picks were depth, which this team desperately needed. When you sign your quarterback to a big contract, you need to fill out the roster with depth, and Seattle did that well. They had a great draft, even if they didn’t get great players.
Seattle still has a lot of talent. Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson are still around. With Pete Carroll as a coach, they will always compete, but I see them narrowly missing the playoffs. This team needs pass rushers desperately, and haven’t found any. This team feels like it needs more time to compete, but with Wilson there, they will have a chance.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh is in a tough situation. After having All-Pro players Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in prior seasons, both were disgruntled players and wanted out. Both made the situation worse by talking on Twitter about their issues, which escalated the situation. These players caused Pittsburgh to have a disappointing season, and they had a long offseason in front of them.
I think Pittsburgh handled the situation well. They traded Antonio Brown to the Raiders for a third and fifth round picks. While this isn’t a lot of compensation, they traded Brown for zero leverage. They got rid of the problem in their locker room, while still getting a decent return. They also said goodbye to Bell who went to New York. Pittsburgh didn’t have much cap space, but still signed Steven Nelson, a cornerback from Kansas City. Nelson isn’t great but provides toughness.
Pittsburgh made a big move up in the draft, trading for Devin Bush Jr. They had to give up multiple picks to do it, but Bush is an elite linebacker, who should be a day-one starter for Pittsburgh. Bush has elite speed, instincts, and tackling ability. With Ryan Shazier still on the mend, Bush fills the need for Pittsburgh.
I see Pittsburgh competing. Even though they have lost a lot of talent, I see Pittsburgh rallying together, and proving everyone wrong. Don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh sneaks their way into the playoffs, and I would be scared of Pittsburgh coming into my place in the postseason.
Thanks for reading everyone, the next part will be 12-7. Follow @natech479 on Twitter for film reviews of the Chiefs and the NFL. Leave a comment for ideas you want me to review.