Nick Wass/Associated Press
Per Digest tradition, we say goodbye to one season with deadly accurate power rankings for the next:
32. Cincinnati Bengals: Who’s not excited to watch Joe Burrow (probably) play with 52 guys who were almost good enough to win a playoff game in 2015?
31. New York Giants: There’s a laptop on a card table in the middle of an otherwise empty room in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Dave Gettleman is trying to wedge a VHS tape into its USB port. Joe Judge is calling tech support, but Bill Belichick won’t pick up. Jason Garrett is clapping them on. Freddie Kitchens is ready to hit it with a sledgehammer. All of them keep calling Daniel Jones “Eli” by accident. Through these old-school tactics, the Giants plan to become the next 49ers.
30. Washington Redskins: Getting rid of longtime exec/general manager Bruce Allen so new head coach Ron Rivera could represent a full fresh start was a great idea. Replacing Allen with a “Technical Difficulties: Please Stand By” sign at GM was not.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: They’re like the Broncos, but (somehow) more expensive, less successful and dressed for a 1980s ZZ Top video.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: Who?
27. Detroit Lions: The team fell to 3-12-1 this year because of injuries. With Matthew Stafford and others returning and Matt Patricia providing his unique brand of culturally transformative leadership, look for that win total to double next season.
26. Miami Dolphins: All they have going for them are three first-round picks, $90 million in cap space and a driving ambition to not end up like the Browns.
25. New York Jets: They’re two or three good players from being competitive. Head coach Adam Gase will spend the offseason trying to get rid of those players.
24. Carolina Panthers: The only recognizable faces left in the organization are Christian McCaffrey and the person who operates the MRI machine for Cam Newton.
23. Indianapolis Colts: How far can one All-Pro guard carry a shockingly mediocre football team?
22. Cleveland Browns: Say, you know what’s gonna get Baker Mayfield to pay more attention to his playbook than his Twitter mentions, keep Odell Beckham Jr. from swatting cops on the tuckis and Kareem Hunt from driving around with an open vodka bottle and weed? More “analytics.”
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Watch them spend $100 million on their quarterback room so Tom Brady and Philip Rivers can sit on either side of Jameis Winston and explain why interceptions are bad.
20. Chicago Bears: Either general manager Ryan Pace gets proved right for drafting Mitchell Trubisky ahead of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, or else everyone except Ryan Pace gets fired.
19. Denver Broncos: Drew Lock’s development heading into his second season upgrades the Broncos offense to “pretty good.” Unfortunately, five years of noodling with journeyman quarterbacks while Von Miller and others got older and more expensive have also downgraded the Broncos defense to “pretty good.”
18. Las Vegas Raiders: They won’t reach the playoffs until “Las Vegas Raiders” stops sounding like something from a movie about a near-future dystopia where the world is run by the robot mafia.
17. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray probably isn’t the next Lamar Jackson, but it will be fun watching him turn into the First Kyler Murray.
16. Atlanta Falcons: If their defense finally comes around, they are gonna be special. (Editor’s note: That comment was surprisingly not copy-and-pasted from last year’s end-of-season power rankings.)
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethisberger is serious about being in top condition for his comeback. Rumor has it he’s down to five Krispy Kreme mornings per week.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones will spend $200 million to keep a .500 team together while Mike McCarthy prints out 53 copies of his entire playbook without having to change the toner cartridge.
13. Los Angeles Rams: Sean McVay already has that “’90s teen idol pop star attempting a desperate comeback” vibe.
12. Seattle Seahawks: The top four NFC West teams at limiting Russell Wilson’s effectiveness: 4) Arizona Cardinals, 3) Los Angeles Rams, 2) San Francisco 49ers, 1) Seattle Seahawks.
11. Philadelphia Eagles: Tune in next year when the entire roster contracts a zombie virus in September, Carson Wentz throws for 4,000 yards while dragging practice-squaders and hoagie-makers into the playoffs, suffers a concussion when a defender spears him after he’s down and then gets criticized for being “injury-prone.”
10. New England Patriots: Tom Brady is searching for the perfect moody Instagram filter for the photo that expresses his feelings about this ranking.
9. Houston Texans: Bill O’Brien is going to be awfully busy now that he is officially both the head coach and general manager. Luckily, he already arranged to take the next few draft weekends off.
8. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen will never be exposed as a passer and decision-maker so long as the Bills never ask him to throw much or make many decisions.
7. Tennessee Titans: What happened in 2019: Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry delight Titans fans by leading the team to a 9-7 record. What to expect in 2020: Tannehill and Henry disappoint Titans fans by leading the team to a 9-7 record.
6. Minnesota Vikings: No organization in history has committed more time, energy and resources to making sure it’s the sixth-best team in the NFL.
5. New Orleans Saints: If Drew Brees retires and the Saints hand the reins to Taysom Hill as their franchise quarterback, the Saints will tumble to seventh in the rankings. The XFL rankings.
4. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers has trouble believing in a God who allows so many people to suffer. Coaches may soon stop believing in Aaron Rodgers for the same reason.
3. Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson has been figured out! All you have to do is play as well as the Titans played in the postseason, stuff every single 4th-and-short and hope Jackson’s 508 total yards of offense are not enough to beat you. Good luck with that!
2. San Francisco 49ers: The difference between finishing second and finishing first often comes down to being aggressive instead of settling for field goals, trying to score before halftime instead of running out the clock and doing whatever it takes to finish the game when you have a lead. Kyle Shanahan is running the risk of making a habit of not making those aggressive decisions. And of finishing second.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: They’re ready to settle in and make themselves comfortable here.
Nick Wass/Associated Press