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2018 SQ NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

USA Today

With a familiar face at the top, how does the rest of the league rank as we begin the 2018 NFL season?

Despite a loss in Super Bowl 52, the New England Patriots begin the season atop our SQ Power Rankings. The team that beat them with Nick Foles at the helm sits just below. Maybe the most interesting are the Minnesota Vikings, who sit at three. The two main changes for them are a healthy Dalvin Cook and, of course, their new quarterback, who recently departed Washington. 

Check out the rest of the teams below to find out how your squad stacks up to start the season.

Ranking (Change)

1 (-)

New England Patriots (0-0)

New England Patriots (0-0)

New England enters the 2018 season with its worst offensive roster in the last five years. However, their schedule (weak conference, weaker division) doesn’t raise any eyebrows. The Patriots have the best head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback in the league to keep their heads above water and grab 11 wins or more. We will see what the Pats are really made of when they face Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship. (Hunter Bonge)

2 (-)

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)

Coming off of a historic Super Bowl victory, the Eagles have significant health concerns entering Week 1. Doug Pederson claims Carson Wentz is “close” to returning, but at this point there’s no telling when that’ll actually be. Surely the team will be cautious. Now, Nick Foles must prove his playoff run wasn’t a fluke. Unfortunately, he’ll have to do so without #1 Alshon Jeffery, who is week-to-week with a shoulder injury. The task may be tall for Foles, but with an elite offensive line and defense backing him, he’s in good position to succeed. (Nick Cardozo)

3 (-)

Minnesota Vikings (0-0)

Minnesota Vikings (0-0)

The Vikings enter 2018 with a fresh face at QB and quite possibly the league’s deepest defensive unit. Newcomer Kirk Cousins likes to spread around and should keep the Vikings’ high-end pass catchers happy. If the defense wasn’t stacked enough in 2017, the team brought in Sheldon Richardson in free agency and used their first-round selection on CB Mike Hughes. The roster’s glaring weakness is the offensive line, which has been a below-average unit for years and didn’t receive much help this offseason. If the team underperforms, it’ll likely be because of that. (Nick Cardozo)

4 (-)

Los Angeles Rams (0-0)

Los Angeles Rams (0-0)

The Rams had one of the splashiest offseasons in NFL history, adding a plethora of playmakers to an already impressive defense, while also locking up their own stars to massive extensions. There will almost surely be an adjustment period, and with a roster full of colorful personalities, controversy is always a possibility. But with perhaps the greatest collection of talent in the NFL, anything short of a deep playoff run will surely be a disappointment. (Kyle Trapp)

5 (-)

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)

The Steelers were essentially one catch short of an AFC Championship berth in the 2018 NFL playoffs—a catch that would now be a completion with the revised catch rules. Had Jesse James’s initial touchdown reception stood, Pittsburgh would have presumably claimed first place in the AFC and avoided a divisional match-up with the Jaguars, thus creating an easier path to the conference championship and potentially the Super Bowl. It’s an overturned ruling that will haunt Steelers’ fans for a long time. Nevertheless, the Steelers return at least two of their “killer bees,” as well as second-year wideout JuJu Smith Schuster, who exploded as a rookie, finishing with 58 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. The Steelers are a sure bet to reach the playoffs once again this season; however, it looks like they might have to start without their star running back Le’Veon Bell, who is currently absent from the team without a long-term deal. (Ryan Grube)

6 (-)

New Orleans Saints (0-0)

New Orleans Saints (0-0)

New Orleans will be in the Super Bowl conversation all season long. They will miss running back Mark Ingram for the first four games, but this could be a blessing in disguise, given the trend in injuries to star running backs early in the season (Adrian Peterson in 2016 and David Johnson in 2017). The Saints return a top-ten defense, not to mention Drew Brees, who is aiming to get to another Super Bowl before his Hall-of-Fame career ends. (Hunter Bonge)

7 (-)

Atlanta Falcons (0-0)

Atlanta Falcons (0-0)

Atlanta avoided a Super Bowl hangover by sneaking back into the playoffs as the sixth seed in a very competitive NFC. Despite the high-flying offense that they had put together the prior season, the offense never looked the same under Steve Sarkisian after taking over for Kyle Shanahan. That being said, now in the second year of the offense, Atlanta’s offense should rebound some, and if Dan Quinn can continue to transform Atlanta’s defense into something resembling the Seahawks of old, then the NFC South could be in for a new divisional champ. (Adrian Nelson)

8 (-)

Green Bay Packers (0-0)

Green Bay Packers (0-0)

After becoming the highest paid player in NFL history, Aaron Rodgers is ready to prove once again he’s worth every penny. The offense with new addition Jimmy Graham will be as prolific as ever, but what will ultimately decide how far the Packers can go will once again be their defense. With a lot of youth in the secondary, including two rookie corners, there is going to be growing pains. If all goes well with their defense, the Packers will be one of the five or six teams we are talking about come playoff time that could make a run. (Max Vukelich)

9 (-)

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)

Jacksonville was my dark horse to make the playoffs last season, and they shocked the league as they fell just five points short of getting to the Super Bowl. They will not make it back to the playoffs this year. Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson are back from injury and will face the Jags twice each. Tennessee has upgraded its roster, as well. The Jaguars may have the best defense in the league, but they don’t have the coaching or quarterback play to maintain their impressive 2017 ride. (Hunter Bonge)

10 (-)

Los Angeles Chargers (0-0)

Los Angeles Chargers (0-0)

It’s no secret the Chargers have been one of the unluckiest teams in football over the past few years. Injuries, kicking woes, or anything in between; whatever the reason, there’s no overlooking that Philip Rivers and company haven’t tasted the postseason since 2013. That’s what makes this team so hard to analyze—if everything falls into place, they have the talent to challenge any team in the AFC, but the aforementioned issues have yet to be quelled. (Kyle Trapp)

11 (-)

Carolina Panthers (0-0)

Carolina Panthers (0-0)

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers bounced back after the down 6-10 year they had coming off their recent Super Bowl loss. This year, the Panthers hope to have taken a step towards solving their offensive weapon problem. With McCaffrey and Funchess as holdovers, Olsen returning from injury, and Smith and Moore being added through free agency and the draft, the Panthers should have enough to enable Cam to do his thing and that Panthers’ defense to carry them. (Adrian Nelson)

12 (-)

Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)

Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)

Following an unexpected trade that sent their veteran quarterback Alex Smith to Washington in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick, Kansas City enters the 2018 season with a new signal-caller under center in Patrick Mahomes. Smith experienced a career year in 2017, passing for 4,042 yards and 26 touchdowns, while leading Kansas City to a 10-6 record and the AFC West title. The Chiefs selected Mahomes with the 12th-overall pick in the 2017 draft, and now he’ll attempt to replicate the success Andy Reid and company experienced under Smith. Mahomes will have a tough first task ahead of him, however, as the Chiefs travel to Los Angeles this opening week to take on Philip Rivers and the Chargers in a classic divisional showdown. (Ryan Grube)

13 (-)

Houston Texans (0-0)

Houston Texans (0-0)

Man, oh man, did 2017 have to be difficult to watch for Houston Texans’ fans. First, Whitney Mercilus and hometown hero JJ Watt are lost for the season in the same game. Then, Deshaun Watson bursts onto the scene, throwing for 1,699 yards and 19 passing touchdowns in just seven games (six starts), only to have his season cut short because of a torn ACL suffered in practice. Now with all three players back healthy, and All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu now in the mix, Houston will attempt to improve upon last season’s underwhelming 4-12 record. Although a difficult task, they’ll look to get off to a fast start Sunday against the reigning AFC Champion, the New England Patriots. (Ryan Grube)

14 (-)

Tennessee Titans (0-0)

Tennessee Titans (0-0)

Tennessee has one of the most intriguing offenses in the NFL. Players like Dion Lewis and Delanie Walker are proven vets, while Derrick Henry, Corey Davis, and Taywan Taylor present tantalizing upside. It’ll all come down to how well Marcus Mariota picks up new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s system. Another performance like last year simply won’t cut it. Rookies Harold Landry and Rashaan Evans will give the front seven a nice boost. Mike Vrabel has the pieces to succeed in his first year as head coach and will have to have a strong divisional record to get in the playoff hunt. (Nick Cardozo)

15 (-)

San Francisco 49ers (0-0)

San Francisco 49ers (0-0)

San Francisco is one of the most popular worst-to-first picks going into the 2018 season after they finished 5-0 at the end of last year. Jimmy Garoppolo is still undefeated as a starter, but in order for the 49ers to pick up where they left off, they are going to need the defense to make some drastic improvements. They ranked 22nd in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game a year ago, but that will have to be somewhere in the high teens if they expect to make a playoff push in 2018. (Max Vukelich)

16 (-)

Dallas Cowboys (0-0)

Dallas Cowboys (0-0)

The Cowboys are a major wild card entering this season. With the departures of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, as well as a murky timetable for Travis Frederick’s return, the Cowboys’ offense seems likely to struggle, unless a true #1 WR emerges or if Zeke is a one-man show. Backup C Joe Looney has big shoes to fill, and his play will dictate how far the line can go sans Frederick. Defensively, the Cowboys are very young and have players with intriguing upside, but they must prove themselves. As always, Sean Lee’s health status will play a major role in the defense’s success. (Nick Cardozo)

17 (-)

Baltimore Ravens (0-0)

Baltimore Ravens (0-0)

Baltimore bungled their way to missing the playoffs last year after losing in dramatic fashion to Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17, securing the Buffalo Bills their first trip to the playoffs in nearly two decades. The Ravens should have the ability to rebound this year if they stay healthy, as last year many major names were added to the injury report every week. Still though, as it often comes down to, it will be on the back of Joe Flacco to merely play average instead of terrible if the Ravens hope to make any noise this year. (Adrian Nelson)

18 (-)

Detroit Lions (0-0)

Detroit Lions (0-0)

The Lions are hoping they can surprise some people this year. A new head coach and a couple of nice offseason acquisitions have them set up nicely for the season, but a daunting division will give them troubles throughout the year. It’ll be a long season for the Lions as they get accustomed to a new style of football in Detroit. (Matt Fowler)

19 (-)

Washington Redskins (0-0)

Washington Redskins (0-0)

The trend of mediocrity continued for the Redskins in 2017, as they concluded the season with a pedestrian 7-9 record. Although they finished the year with a whopping 22 starters or key reserves on IR, the season was still a disappointment for head coach Jay Gruden’s standards. Consequently, Washington determined that quarterback Kirk Cousins was not worth the eventual $84 million, which he received from the Vikings in free agency. Instead, they opted for a cheaper veteran in Alex Smith, whom they signed to a four-year, $94 million contract. Smith is coming off, easily, his best season of his 14-year career, Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed are back healthy, and newly-signed running back Adrian Peterson looks like a serviceable replacement for the injured Derrius Guice. The Redskins are poised for an improved season in 2018; the key for them is going to be, once again, staying healthy. (Ryan Grube)

20 (-)

Seattle Seahawks (0-0)

Seattle Seahawks (0-0)

Seattle has taken a beating this offseason, losing Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Kam Chancellor from their defense. Their offensive line is one of the league’s worst, and their running game is mediocre at best. Head Coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson are on a mission to keep the team afloat this season against one of the toughest divisions in the league. (Hunter Bonge)

21 (-)

Denver Broncos (0-0)

Denver Broncos (0-0)

After another season of mediocrity spearheaded by lackluster quarterback play, the Broncos nabbed one of the bigger fish in the pond this summer when they signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal. The career journeyman was great last year in Minnesota, but it remains to be seen if he’s the answer at the quarterback position. If he isn’t, then Denver will have wasted another year with their star-studded, albeit aging defense. (Kyle Trapp)

22 (-)

Oakland Raiders (0-0)

Oakland Raiders (0-0)

Jon Gruden’s return as the Raiders head coach has already gotten off to a bumpy start. The Khalil Mack trade is going to go down as one of the most controversial moves of the decade, but there is no time to second guess it now if you are Oakland. Derek Carr and that offense is going to have to carry a defense that will be pedestrian at best. Losing a former defensive MVP pass rusher on a team that already ranked in the bottom ten of the league in sacks could create some massive issues for the Raiders’ defense. (Max Vukelich)

23 (-)

New York Giants (0-0)

New York Giants (0-0)

The Giants are going to be the NFL’s most improved team from 2017 to 2018. The team lost nearly its entire receiving group to injury last year and had possibly the worst offensive line in the league. The Giants have since signed left tackle Nate Solder and extended star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and drafted an electric running back in Saquon Barkley. The Giants are in a hyper-competitive division and a stacked conference, but they will be in the playoff hunt until the very end. (Hunter Bonge)

24 (-)

Chicago Bears (0-0)

Chicago Bears (0-0)

Going into Mitch Trubisky’s second season, there is a lot of optimism in Chicago. The defense is going to be much improved after adding Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith to the mix. If Trubisky can play turnover free football and rely on Jordan Howard and the running game, this could be one of those sleeper teams that makes a run at the Wild Card spots. (Max Vukelich )

25 (-)

Indianapolis Colts (0-0)

Indianapolis Colts (0-0)

At last, Andrew Luck has returned. He holds a 43-27 record as the Colts’ starter and should almost certainly help improve the team’s 4-12 record from last season. There are still concerns about the offensive line and defense, but the Colts have plenty of youth on the roster and could surprise people in what should be a highly competitive AFC South. Sixth overall pick Quenton Nelson will be a force from the start and could turn the unit around himself. (Nick Cardozo)

26 (-)

Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)

Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)

The Bengals haven’t done much to change their roster, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I don’t see how this year will deviate from the typical mediocre Bengals. Joe Mixon should impress, but this could be the year where ownership cleans house and starts fresh in Cincinnati. (Matt Fowler)

27 (-)

Cleveland Browns (0-0)

Cleveland Browns (0-0)

After becoming just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16 in a season in 2017, the Browns decided it was time for yet another quarterback change. Consequently, they reached an agreement with the Bills for veteran Tyrod Taylor, sending a third-round pick to Buffalo in exchange for the sixth-year man out of Virginia Tech. Furthermore, they also drafted Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. With the additional draft picks of cornerback Denzel Ward and running back Nick Chubb, the key offseason acquisitions of Jarvis Landry (trade with Miami), Carlos Hyde, and Damarious Randall, as well as the return of Josh Gordon, Cleveland is destined to win some games this season. They’ll attempt to end their prolonged 17-game losing streak when they face the Steelers at home for Week 1. (Ryan Grube)

28 (-)

Arizona Cardinals (0-0)

Arizona Cardinals (0-0)

The Arizona Cardinals are not believed to be very good, and frankly after finishing third in the division last year and not really adding much talent, that might be a fair assessment. However, they’ve added talent at two very important positions, which may be enough to make the difference. Arizona shored up their quarterback spot by adding Sam Bradford, who, if healthy, will really stabilize that offense. Also the whole world seems to have forgotten about David Johnson, the do-it-all running back whom they lost early last season. He may be the best back in the league and will be a true impact player. Sleep on the Cardinals at your own peril. (Adrian Nelson)

29 (-)

New York Jets (0-0)

New York Jets (0-0)

The Jets are going into the season hoping that Sam Darnold plays as advertised. It’s not going to be easy, as they have one of the worst receiving corps in the entire league. This defense is young with playmakers in the secondary, but still has a ways to go. In all likelihood, this season isn’t going to be defined by whether the Jets win more games than last year; instead, the season will be considered successful if Darnold shows he is their quarterback of the future. (Max Vukelich )

30 (-)

Miami Dolphins (0-0)

Miami Dolphins (0-0)

The Dolphins might be the team with the most question marks of all this season. How will Ryan Tannehill bounce back from injury? Is Kenyan Drake ready to take over as a three-down back? Can Frank Gore continue to defeat Father Time? The only certainty surrounding this team is that second place in the AFC East is there for the taking. (Matt Fowler)

31 (-)

Buffalo Bills (0-0)

Buffalo Bills (0-0)

It’s a rare occurrence when a team coming off a playoff berth is projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, but such is the narrative for the Buffalo Bills this season. Uncertainty at the quarterback position will do that to a team, and trading in the unspectacular-yet-consistent Tyrod Taylor for a guy who tossed five interceptions in a half definitely adds a degree of doubt. Behind the Patriots, the AFC East is uninspiring to say the least, so it’s not out of the question that Buffalo builds upon their feel-good postseason appearance. But with Nathan Peterman penciled in as their starting signal-caller, expectations should be limited. (Kyle Trapp)

32 (-)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

A trendy breakout pick ahead of the 2017 season, the Buccaneers took a pretty significant step back in Dirk Koetter’s second season, winning just five games behind an anemic defense and a turnover-prone offense. Tampa Bay added a plethora of playmakers this offseason in both the draft and free agency, but there is still a significant uphill battle back to relevancy. The NFC South remains arguably the best division in football, and the ever-controversial Jameis Winston will have to ride the pine for the season’s first three games. (Kyle Trapp)

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

SQuiz
What was the final score of Super Bowl 52?
Created 9/5/18
  1. 31 - 27
  2. 41 - 33
  3. 38 - 30
  4. 35 - 31

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