If you missed Part I of these rankings or need an explanation of what we’re doing with this post, you can get up to speed by clicking here.
T-16.) Los Angeles Rams (25)
MW: Aaron Donald is doing something right now that’s going to happen more often. Players who outplay their rookie contracts, especially those taken in the middle of the first round or later, and whose performances exceed their contract’s worth quickly, are going to end up sitting out. The Rams need Donald for this defense to be anything good. He’s worth double what he’s being paid. Until he plays, the Rams aren’t worth watching at all.
LB: Aaron Donald and his two-gapping shenanigans are the main attraction here, but I’m a bit more bullish on the offense. Andrew Whitworth is a nice addition, if not a very old one. I still cling to the hope that Jared Goff might be good by watching the New Orleans game from last year on repeat. This offense finally has got weapons for the QB to throw to this offseason. Sammy Watkins can hopefully live up to his enormous potential, and the two rookies, Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett, have been nothing but sensational in the preseason. This could all blow up in the my face due the offensive line capitulating and Goff proving that he isn’t actually a good QB. Until then, they are worth keeping an eye on.
T-16.) Miami Dolphins (25)
MW: Miami is going to go 6-10 this season. They won a lot of close games against bad teams to make the playoffs last year. Jay CUTLA stinks, and I hate him. Miami would be better starting off Matt Moore. It’s going to be boring, aside from the occasional Jay Ajayi run. The only thing worth watching here is Ndumakong Suh shoving down offensive guards with both arms while the running back cuts outside for a first down.
LB: The 2015 WR class was a bizarre one. Amari Cooper became a star almost straight out of a college, but the other wide receivers, such as Kevin White, Breshaud Perriman, and Miami’s own DeVante Parker have all stagnated. This year will be big for Parker. He’s always been fantastic at winning vertically, but he’s been hindered by the fact that he’s had injuries and the Dolphins became invested in giving the ball to Jarvis Landry as much as possible. Smokin’ Jay has done well with big physical receivers in the past, so maybe there is cause for optimism. Ndumakong Suh is still a monster and Cameron Wake is still a unstoppable speed demon off the edge.
T-14.) Tennessee Titans (26)
MW: Exotic Methmouth is great. Marcus Mariota is a precise passer filled with wonder, accuracy, and efficiency. Seeing Tennessee load the boxes and pillage through lighter defenses is a beautiful thing as the league has gotten smaller and faster. If Corey Davis can be a downfield threat, and if they split up carries between Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, this offense can be a top five unit. Shout out to Jurrell Casey plumber’s crack and their scoreboard, which is the best in the league.
LB: Unlike my esteemed colleague, I am not quite ready to ‘‘Titan Up’’ just yet. However, the Titans’ offensive is quite good and I’m really interested to see how they integrate Derrick Henry more into the offense. Henry saw what some would say was too much work during his time at Alabama; the lighter load within the Titans’ offense could do him some good in the long run. This year we’ll see just how much the Titans are willing to invest in Henry and take away from Demarco Murray. Also look out for rookie Adoree Jackson. Jackson played on both sides of the ball at USC and has some potential as a kickoff returner.
T-14.) Cleveland Browns (26)
LB: I’ve metaphorically died on a lot of stupid hills: Robert Woods is as good as DeAndre Hopkins, or that Austin Seferian Jenkins is going to be one of the best TEs in the league. However I’m ready to live (and potentially die again) on the hill that is this Cleveland Browns defense.
The addition of Myles Garrett to a line that already includes Danny Shelton and Emmanuel Ogbah is just so enticing. Garrett and Ogbah are Clowney-level athletes, and they are going to be playing on the same defensive line. That’s terrifying. Ogbah already started to show some of that freakish athleticism last year when he just started bullying some offensive linemen. The switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 will do Danny Shelton a world of good also. He’s a two-gap penetrator, not a big, space-eating NT. Allowing him to attack the backfield more and more is exactly what the Browns need to do. On the back end, how Cleveland will deploy Jabrill Peppers is going to be one of the more interesting story lines of the season. Peppers is so versatile that it’s going to be fun to see just how he is used. The Browns’ offensive line is a monster waiting to be unleashed.
MW: Oh hell, yes. This offensive line is going to be one of the league’s best. Seeing Isaiah Crowell’s dreads flutter behind Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio deuce-blocks is why this team is worth watching. DeShone Kizer locked up the starting job, and seeing if he can ever develop short to intermediate accuracy will be fascinating. At a minimum, he’s going to serve up some of the most absurd throws you’ll ever see. Corey Coleman is very fast. Kenny Britt is severely underrated. Hue Jackson does a great job running an offense. They also have Myles Garrett and hundreds of other young, talented, athletic, and interesting players.
If you want to jump on the Browns’ bandwagon, this is the time. They are going to be good soon. This year’s team should win at least five games. They have every draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft (thanks in part to the Texans) and too much cap room to even use.
12.) Los Angeles Chargers (27)
MW: Philip Rivers is my favorite quarterback in the NFL. He makes some of the best throws you’ll see while also making some of the dumbest throws you’ll ever see. It’s like at 36 he wants to go 7-9 on purpose. That way he can still put up numbers, have a semi-decent season, and skip out on going to the NFL Playoffs. He’s also slow as hell yet incredible at getting away from sacks and feeling out the pocket.
The sad thing is that everyone on this team is going to end up on injured reserve. If they fielded a perfectly healthy team, they would be in the top five. Mike Williams is already gone for the year. They all are going to be gone for the year soon enough.
Seeing what the camera angles look like on this soccer field is something I’m genuinely interested in. Seeing how Anthony Lynn uses Melvin Gordon is something I’m also dying to see.
LB: Philip Rivers is great. This offense is endlessly interesting due to the fact that it’s hard to tell sometimes whether or not anyone on it is actually good. Melvin Gordon scored double digit TDs last season and yet had a YPC under 4.0 and less than 1,000 rushing yards. Hunter Henry had a pretty nice rookie year for a TE, which is a rarity. Hopefully Keenan Allen can stay healthy enough to catch enough passes. Joey Bosa is going to be fantastic. Jason Verrett is one of the best corners in the NFL and he’s 5’9”.
T-11.) Dallas Cowboys (29)
LB: HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS? DALLAS’ OFFENSIVE LINE IS REALLY GOOD. If you want any reason to not Game Pass the Cowboys this season, it’s probably the fact that you’ll hear that line repeated a zillion times. If Zeke’s suspension is upheld (at the time of writing, it’s currently gone to appeal), the six games he’s sheduled to miss are going to be very interesting from a tape study standpoint.
Just how will Dallas’s run game work without Zeke? How big a burden will Dak Prescott have to shoulder without Zeke? While those are all playing out, Rod Marinelli will still be creating and running a defense that never seems to have a solid form. It shifts and changes constantly to adjust to whatever Dallas is facing that week. The secondary in particular shifts between man and zone concepts seamlessly. It’s an actual wonder how they have managed to be as decent as they have considering the relative lack of talent on the defense as a whole.
MW: This is about Dallas’ running game and the continued growth of the league’s best young quarterback. It doesn’t matter that Ezekiel Elliott is gone. This run game is going to be incredible again. Alfred Blue could run for 1,200 yards behind the Cowboys’ offensive line. Seeing Zack Martin and Travis Frederick make ‘ace’ blocks, Tyron Smith vaporize defensive ends all by himself, and La’el Colins complete Larry Allen-esque blocks is all you need. They run a variety of different plays, so you get to see an immense number of different blocks. If you put Dallas on, any week, and hit that behind view, you are going to have a raucous good time.
Dak Prescott is a damn tank. He reads the field so well and controls this offense. The right decisions are always made. Passes sprint in a straight line out of his hand. There’s nothing better than seeing defenses seethe after he calmly trots to convert another third down on the ground. If he does struggle at all, it’s going to be beautiful to listen to Cowboys fans complain and cry for Tony Romo again.
T-11.) Houston Texans (29)
MW: This is a Texans site. I’m a Texans’ fan, I think. Regardless of those two facts, seeing this version of Jadeveon Clowney coupled with a possibly healthy J.J. Watt is the Transit of Venus for football fans. If Watt ends up being not right, or if Clowney ends up getting hurt, I’ll never be excited for anything ever again.
LB: All I want for Christmas is this defense to be healthy for the entire season. Just give me this and you can do what you want to the offense. In all seriousness, Mike Vrabel is a rookie defensive coordinator and he’s been given the keys to the fastest car in the lot. How he drives it in comparison to Romeo Crennel is going to be incredibly interesting.
T-11.) Oakland Raiders (29)
MW: It’s fun to watch Derek Carr play quarterback. It’s fun to count in your head as he stands in the pocket for ten seconds at a time and puts the ball around Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. It’s fun to watch Kelechi Osemele turn NFL defenses into a practice squad. It’s fun to watch Khalil Mack be the best combination at stopping the run and pass that the league has. The best part about watching the Raiders, though, are those few sweet weeks where the baseball diamond is on the field. I love that.
LB: Marshawn Lynch, even with a year away from football, running behind this offensive line of overly aggressive human beings is worth it. When that’s not happening, you get to watch one of the most dominant pass rushers and run stoppers in the league ruin teams’ game plans.
T-8.) Denver Broncos (30)
LB: Brock Osweiler is now on this roster. If Trevor Siemian get’s injured, there is a very real chance that Brock Osweiler starts a NFL game for the Broncos again. That alone is worth watching. That and Von Miller.
MW: Von Miller’s 2015 playoff run is the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. He pretty much won a Super Bowl on his own. I’ve never seen a defensive player have that much of an impact during the postseason. Nothing is better than seeing Miller whip tackles with speed rushes and rips over and over again, and then bullrush right through men 75 pounds heavier than him once they overset and lose their pad level and leverage.
T-8.) Kansas City Chiefs (30)
MW: The one thing we disagree on here is the aesthetics. I love the red and yellow. It’s like watching a hot dog play football. Their camera angles are perfect. This is the most pleasing thing my eyes have ever seen watching the Coach’s Film.
LB: I’m going to let you in on a secret: I really like Andy Reid. He’s perpetually handcuffed to Alex Smith, and yet the offense is this beautiful and wild menagerie of plays that force the burden off of Alex Smith and into the hands of the exceptionally talented players around him. Tyreek Hill is fast as all heck, but how Andy Reid gets the ball to him and allows him to make the most of that is gorgeous.
T-6.) Atlanta Falcons (32)
LB: So we both like the Falcons. I know I like them because of their seamless integration of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman into a phenomenally efficient tandem that can hit you with the hard interior slashing of Freeman or use Tevin Coleman as an outside the tackles master who can also ruin the ankles of linebackers with his out routes. I’m always going to love a offense that’s able to integrate two RBs seamlessly.
I still don’t know why Cleveland didn’t keep Alex Mack. This Falcons’ offense is just too damn interesting to not watch. Either their offense evolves into something new and interesting or it stagnates. Both of those prospects are fascinating.
MW: I’m never gambling again. Last November, I had a friend in Vegas. I gave him $25 to make a NFL bet for me. I wanted him to bet on Tennessee to win the AFC South. They didn’t have that bet to wager on. So instead I used him as a conduit to put that money on the Falcons to win the Super Bowl. They made it there. Rather than hedge that bet, I doubled down. Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead. I lost what would have been $500 or so in the process. I’m never gambling again.
This is an offense that is going to be worse. They lost Kyle Shanahan. Matt Ryan is great, but he isn’t that great. And they were so, so good last year that it’s going to be nearly impossible for them to repeat the same level of success. That fast and athletic defense will be better, though. Schematically, they’ll still be FUN. They still have great players. They will just be a little different than last season.
T-6.) New England Patriots (32)
MW: The Patriots are exhausting to watch in this format. They do so many little, smart things to attack the other team. Afterwards you’ll lay on the couch and feel your consciousness seep out of your forehead into infinity, while you think about how truly complicated the world is, how small you are, and how much smarter everyone else is than you.
Their red facemasks is my favorite part of a uniform in the NFL.
LB: Matt is right. It is exhausting to watch the Patriots on Game Pass, but the attention to detail in the offense is truly what makes it so beautiful. The endless sequence of route combinations and run routes, pick plays, and motion before the snap create this symphony of endless efficiency. Pontification aside, the Patriots are worth your time to watch.
4.) Carolina Panthers (33)
MW: Carolina’s defense is a perfect example of how everything is connected. They can get pressure with their front four, so they don’t need to blitz. They have one of the best coverage linebacker units in the NFL to cover the short pass game and the center of the field, which gives their secondary a short time to cover and a constricted field to deal with. It’s why they don’t invest in their secondary and can survive not investing in it. The Josh Norman thing was more of a result of cutting him before the season started and injuries than a fault in team-building. This defense will be similar, again a machine with gears crunching into place.
Offensively, it seems like Carolina is going to do what the rest of the league is doing and focus on quick passes. The offensive line isn’t good enough to give Cam Newton enough time. Carolina opted to skip on trying to correct it this offseason. Instead, they are going to get the ball out immediately, utilize their backs in the passing game, and run that fake filled power run offense. Carolina has been great at utilizing their talent to make their scheme and personnel mesh so well. This year shouldn’t be any different.
LB: I’m on the Christian McCaffrey hype train. The Panthers’ offensive line will hopefully function well enough for Cam Newton to keep flinging the ball to Greg Olson and a slimmed down Kelvin Benjamin. The defense is excellent, too. Kawann Short and Star Loutelei are the best interior defensive line combo in the league. They have three otherworldy linebackers who can clean up any mess that the line doesn’t take care of. As always, the the question will be about the secondary, but if the seven dudes in front of them do their job, they won’t have to worry at all.
3.) Pittsburgh Steelers (34)
LB: Watching Antonio Brown run routes is pure football opulence.
MW: We’ve talked about individual talents during this piece, and no team has better individual players than Pittsburgh. Le’Veon Bell has the patience of a wildlife photographer. He took what other zone runners have done and doubled down on it. Antonio Brown is one of the best route runners in the league and shouldn’t be able to do what he does. David DeCastro makes blocks in space that no one else ever has. Maurkice Pouncey is so fluid going from the first to second level. T.J. Watt will grit his way to ten sacks this season while doing all the right things. You can always put the Steelers on, focus on one of their great players, and have yourself a day.
2.) Green Bay Packers (35)
MW: Part of the reason why quarterbacks are so revered is that it’s easy to see why they are great. They dance around strong men trying to crunch their spine and turn the football into a puppet that they can control to do anything they want to do. You only need watch YouTube videos or go to r/NFL on game day to see highlights of those that make the impossible possible.
But Aaron Rodgers is someone you have to watch closely to completely appreciate. Every play is littered with so many little spectacular things. With the coach’s film, you can really see how he subtly looks off a linebacker to shift zone coverage, or created yards after the catch on a dump-off, or flips through his progressions, and the perfect spots the ball is always placed in.
Mike Adams plays with perfect technique, and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix is one of the few safeties that can control the entire center of the field.
LB: What Matt said. Rodgers is the biggest ticket in down and everyone should savour everything that he does while we still can.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (37)
MW: Seattle is worth watching just for Earl Thomas. He should have won the MVP last year for how much the Seahawks’ defense fell without him on the field. He controls the entire center of the field. He can move from the center to the sideline to impact plays. He hits. He’s a cannonball incarnate. He’s the reason this secondary works. Yeah, Russell Wilson is an escape artist and could play quarterback without an offensive line and zero Mississippi rushes. Yeah, Michael Bennett is a premier defensive lineman. Yeah, Doug Baldwin is precise and exact with his routes. But Thomas is transcendence personified.
LB: I feel like great safety play is always going to be underappreciated due to just how much of it is out of or sight on the regular broadcast. Game Pass was made for safeties. It was made for them to be seen as what they can be, the keepers of a defense. Earl Thomas does the impossible almost every time he steps out on the field. He walks the tight rope of playing safety with a grace and ease that you would never suspect. He’s on a island in Seattle’s Cover 3, yet instead of being trapped there surrounded by flying WRs and deceiving QBs, they are trapped with him. He’s a constant presence in the center of the field.
Those are the best of the best for you to indulge in if you should ever get some time to watch. Who are you looking forward to studying this season?