Grantland’s Bill Barnwell borrowed AP’s Top 25 ranking of college football teams to rank how he views the top 25 NFL teams this season. One spoiler: He ranked the Broncos ninth, which is arguably fair considering the Broncos’ early struggles on offense.
I imagine everyone has seen my Not So Scientific NFL rankings, but Barnwell’s column prompted a thought about what tiers we might put the NFL teams. It goes like this:
Top tier: Playoff contenders with minor weaknesses. Those would be New England (offensive line issues), Green Bay (same as NE) and Cincinnati (a team that looks strong in the regular season but must overcome that “playoff choker” stigma).
Second tier: Playoff contenders with important flaws. Denver, of course, has issues on offense. Carolina lacks enough playmakers. Arizona isn’t as talented as other playoff teams. Pittsburgh needs to get its starting QB healthy. The New York Jets need to run the ball effectively to beat the better teams. Seattle closed out against San Francisco last Thursday, but needs to show it can keep doing that.
Third tier: Playoff contenders that are making too many mistakes or playing sloppy ball at the wrong times, increasing their chances of being one and done if they make the playoffs. Atlanta, Philadelphia, the New York Giants and Indianapolis would all fall into this category. One could argue that Buffalo belongs here.
Fourth tier: Competitive teams who probably won’t make the playoffs and teams who were thought to be playoff contenders but certain issues conspire to keep them out. The latter description fits the Ravens and Cowboys, and arguably fits the Saints. The former designation would go to Oakland, Minnesota and St. Louis. For the time being, I’ll put Miami in the former group.
Fifth tier: Teams with too many issues to overcome to get into the playoffs, although they could give opponents fits given some of their strengths. That’s Cleveland (good offensive line and solid No. 1 receiver), Kansas City (good playmakers on defense), San Diego (quarterback generally playing well) and Washington (defense better than you think).
Sixth tier: Teams that are most likely to wind up with a top 10 pick and may be getting a top five pick at the rate things are going. Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco and Tampa Bay are those teams.