(image credit: Jarrett Bell/USA Today Sports)
Football is back! We kick off the 2021 season with a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the defending champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There are tons of great storylines including, how will Aaron Rodgers fair in his final season in Green Bay? Which rookie QB will have the best season? Will Deshaun Watson see the field? Can the Bucs repeat? This is just the tip of the iceberg of what is going to be an action-packed season. Before the season kicks off, we asked our Blitz team to come up with their power rankings for the season. Take a look at the bottom of this article for the full rankings.
We asked some of the members on our Blitz team why they are higher or lower on certain teams as opposed to their peers. An in-depth analysis is provided for each team. Enjoy!
Buffalo Bills (Consensus Rank: 3)
Ashton Moore (Rank: 8) - Last season, the Bills took advantage of a wide-open Tom Brady-less division in the AFC East and launched themselves into a playoff team that made it all the way to the AFC championship game after a rather long tenure of more or less irrelevance in NFL circles. As we enter this upcoming season, I struggle to see much improvement anywhere along with this team outside of potentially pass rusher due to the 1st round selection of Greg Rousseau. It seems Brandon Beane and the Bills are wanting to rely on Sean McDermott/Brian Daboll finding a way to reach another unforeseen level of progression for Josh Allen to make up for their lack of acquisitions or genuine improvement to their roster. Every year it seems that we have a QB fall back down to earth statistically after having a breakout season. Last year it was Lamar Jackson, then it was Patrick Mahomes, then it was Matt Stafford, then it was Matt Ryan. I believe this year Josh Allen will join that group and defenses will adjust accordingly to slow him and the Bills offense down. If Daboll can manufacture a legitimate running game on the back of Zach Moss and Devin Singletary then we could see similar levels of success as last year, but as is I have questions there, in the interior OL, and in the CB room that makes me believe that the AFC East is going to be a much tighter race this year than what we experienced last season.
Green Bay Packers (Consensus Rank: 4)
Matt DiDomenico (Rank: 2)- I have the Green Bay Packers at the #2 spot in my power ranking because of the amount of talent they have on both sides of the football. Obviously having the league’s reigning MVP will also help out tremendously. The Packers were so close in beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Championship Game last year. It certainly would have been a different result if the Packers had star LT David Bakhtiari in that game as well.
Los Angeles Rams (Consensus Rank: 6)
Jett Rosenstein (Rank:3) - I have high expectations for the LA Rams heading into the 2021 season. After getting knocked out by the Packers in the divisional round, the Rams are improved and ready to take off. The biggest difference is the QB change from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford. Stafford is a very talented QB who was never in a good situation throughout his tenure with the Lions. Stafford now has a great cast of characters that includes Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee. Stafford will make this offense better. We also cannot forget about a defense led by All-Pros Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey that was extremely dominant in 2020 and we should expect more of the same in 2021. If the Rams were able to rack up 10 wins with Jared Goff under center, this team should easily be able to pick up a few more wins with Stafford now at the helm and the defense remaining largely the same. I expect them to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year and potentially be the 2nd straight team to win the game on their home turf.
Baltimore Ravens (Consensus Rank: 7)
Connor Pelesh (Rank:4)- The Ravens heading into this year are led by a revamped offensive line which, barring injury, should return them to 2019 form. Lamar Jackson plays very well vs teams with a winning % over .500 in the regular season. Baltimore also has lots of continuity on defense and a very experienced secondary which will be the cornerstone for the team. The Ravens team culture and players make them competitive against anyone in the league.
Los Angeles Chargers (Consensus Rank: 11)
Danny Keller (Rank: 8)- Honestly I think a lot of people sleep on the Chargers because they are in the same division as the Chiefs. If you take a look at their record last year it doesn’t look too hot but if you consider that 1 of those losses was in OT to the Chiefs after a controversial call by Anthony Lynn to give the Chiefs the ball back on a 4th and 1, and also a 1 possession game loss to the Bucs (the two teams who made the Super Bowl last year) it actually is appealing for this season. They also lost Austin Ekeler last year for the majority of the season and it really shook their offense. With the addition of Derwin James back on their defense that just adds another playmaker on the same side of the ball as Joey Bosa as well as Justin Herbert fresh off a ROY season with a healthy Kennan Allen, Austin Ekeler, and Mike Williams. They also upgraded their offensive line which will give more time for Herbert to make big plays and it’ll open up the run game more. I think they will surprise a lot of teams this year.
Miami Dolphins (Consensus Rank: 12)
Dominic Ambrose (Rank: 10)- For the 2021 season, I’m higher than most on how the Dolphins will do partly because of the defense they are returning that is mostly unchanged. They brought in some veterans as well as the incoming rookies who should do well on this defense and help with a continued effort to stand out and improve. The real notable difference to me is the play and presence of Tua Tagovailoa. When he was named starter during the 2020 season, there appeared to be a conservative approach to his play on the field. If it was due to the play calling, or his comfort level is a debate for another day. He has new co-offensive coordinators as well as a new quarterbacks coach. This preseason, he certainly showed more confidence in his abilities as well as the abilities of his teammates. The addition of Jaylen Waddle in the draft is a good compliment to a solid receiving group.
Washington Football Team (Consensus Rank: 13)
Nicholas Mullick (Rank: 11)- I thought Ron Rivera as the head coach for Washington was going to be a disaster. Boy was I wrong as he has turned out to be a good coach. He has done a tremendous job in improving the culture in the locker room. You see Bruce Allen this is how you make the culture damn good. Their offense may not be the best but it is still solid. They have a ton of offensive weapons for the QB’s to throw to including Logan Thomas, Terry McLaurin, Adam Humphries, and rookie receiver Dyami Brown. The team even has Antonio Gibson and Jaret Patterson who could be a decent backup if Gibson gets hurt. Their offensive line is also solid too and the team added to it in the offseason with Ereck Flowers, Charles Leno, and Sam Cosmi in the draft. Quarterback is their biggest question on offense as they have Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, and Kyle Allen. But the main reason why I am high on Washington is their defense. It is easily one of the Top 5 defenses in the league. I mean this team is extremely talented on defense. They got elite edge rushers in Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Booth, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen have a tremendous impact as defensive tackles. The team doesn't have the best linebacker core but they did select Jamin Davis to help fix those issues. Washington’s secondary is stacked full of talent including Kendall Fuller, William Jackson III, Daryl Roberts, Landon Collins, Bobby McCain, and Kamren Curl who impressed when Collins was injury. That is extremely impressive and if they all stay healthy this defense will be a reckoning for other teams to deal with. Look at last year they almost beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to how strong their defense was. I think their defense will once again bring them to another playoff appearance.
Pittsburgh Steelers (Consensus Rank:15)
Nicholas Mullick (Rank: 20)- I don’t understand the hype for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Big Ben has suffered through a massive decline due to him suffering a ton of injuries. I have no hope he will do well with the team after his performance against the Browns in the first two quarters. The only reason why he is still on this team is due to his contract. This offensive line for the Steelers is not good at all. They did not fix it during the offseason except for signing backup o-lineman BJ Finney who was terrible in Cincinnati and a declining Trai Turner. The team waited till the 3rd round to start fixing the o-line in the draft. This poor o-line is not going to help with the running game even though they drafted Najee Harris in the 1st round. This defense is not as good as people say it is. The defensive line is terrible excluding Cameron Heyward. Who even knows if Stephon Tuitt will play a game this season? I love TJ Watt and Melvin Ingram as Edge Rushers. The linebacker core is solid with Devin Bush and Joe Schobert. This secondary excluding Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden is not good. Safety Terrell Edmunds, who they used a first-round pick on years ago is terrible. To make it worse the team did not even try to fix it during the draft and they only signed Art Maulet who struggled with the Jets. Most importantly this locker room has once again become toxic again. Knowing the Steelers every season they have a habit of playing down to competition. I got to be honest a lot of people will disagree with me on this but Mike Tomlin should have been fired last season after the Cleveland Browns playoff loss. There is no excuse for the way the team performed and prepared for this game. They were outcoached and unprepared against a Browns team without their head coach and had improper practices for weeks. If that doesn’t describe a team being outcoached I don't know what does. Tomlin signed an extension with the team and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Arizona Cardinals (Consensus Rank: 17)
Matt DiDomenico (Rank: 12)- The Arizona Cardinals come into my power ranking at the #12 spot simply because of the amount of young potential they have on the roster. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins certainly will be leading this dynamic offense. Adding JJ Watt in the offseason grants the Cardinals with some defensive leadership on their young defense as well. I see Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons, and Byron Murphy Jr. as young talented players that can be enough to make a run in the NFC West.
Dominic Ambrose (Rank: 20)- The Arizona Cardinals are an interesting team, I like what they are trying to build, however, it is one of the toughest divisions in the league and they seem to have a solid offense and some good parts on defense which is where my questions for the teams overall performance are. Will the defense be able to keep up and get the stops to help the Cardinals get into the playoffs? Time will tell on that, but as of right now, with the offenses of the Seahawks, Rams, and 49ers, I’m skeptical. On defense, it just seems that although they have a solid front the secondary is a concern.
Chicago Bears (Consensus Rank: 18)
Ashton Moore (Rank: 10)- Chicago has established themselves as my personal sleeper team this year and it’s primarily due to the fact that I believe they have found their QB and therein their passing game for the first time in the Matt Nagy era. Andy Dalton has “earned” the starting spot but I’d be surprised if that lasts into October. I believe Justin Fields is not only their QB of the future but also will be in the rookie-of-the-year conversation due to how well he performs with the underrated amount of weapons at his disposal with Allen Robinson, David Montgomery, Darnell Mooney, and Cole Kmet leading the way. On the defensive side, Akiem Hicks is in a contract year, Eddie Goldman is returning after opting out, Khalil Mack is still a premier edge rusher when healthy, and Roquan Smith has established himself as a top LB in the league. The secondary and offensive line are going to be areas that will need to overachieve, but overall I’m feeling bullish on the Bears.