By Doug Hamilton & Zack Upchurch
Welcome to the first installment of a weekly four-part series brought to you by The Sports Wave’s very own podcast; The Play After. The rankings can be found here as well as on the podcast, so feel free to check them out in any way that your heart desires.
In this week’s section of the power rankings we take a look at the bottom 8 teams in the League. Listen to the podcast below for extra insight and entertainment to go along with these rankings!
25. Baltimore Ravens
This may seem low for a team which won the AFC North last year, but questions surrounding Lamar Jackson development and key offseason losses give us reason to doubt the Ravens. We here at The Play After think Jackson won’t develop much at all and certainly not enough to win consistently in 2019. The Ravens largely succeeded last season on the back of a great defense combined with a gimmick offense that is surely unsustainable. Jackson was a sub-60% passer in college which is historically a mark of death for a QB prospect, if he cannot improve his passing proficiency rapidly, he will not last long as a starter. The run game should still be strong, but an aging Mark Ingram must prove he isn’t merely the product of a system, offensive line, and a legendary quarterback that commands respect from defenses. Safety Eric Weddle has been replaced with a superior talent in Earl Thomas, but the loss of Terrell Suggs and Zadarius Smith seems likely to be a significant dent to their pass rush, and CJ Mosley was an above average mike that has thrived as a run defender, so replacing him will prove difficult.
26. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have a sneakily talented and young defense that looks poised to be good in the coming years… but not just yet. Rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver and free agent wide receiver addition Cole Beasley may be enough to spark something of a run with this team, and it wouldn’t be very surprising if they made a run at the Jets for second in the division. While they are ranked here now, this is one team that is surely subject to change based mostly on the performance of second-year quarterback Josh Allen.
27. Washington Redskins
While Washington may have had a decent draft and landed a great free agent safety in Landon Collins, It’s possible that his multi-year deal was structured that way for a reason, they’re building a team. Dwayne Haskins, Montez Sweat and the rest of the crop of talented rookies will comfortably take a year to learn and develop, all while posing no actual threat to the NFC East whatsoever. And with a receiving core of Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson Jr, and an aging Jordan Reed, it is definitely fair to wonder if Dwayne Haskins will have sufficient weaponry to even succeed at the NFL level immediately.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made one of the most interesting coaching hires of the off-season by bringing in Bruce “No Risk It, No Biscuit” Arians. Arians’ aggressive passing philosophy which emphasizes the deep ball and deep drops by the quarterback is likely to mesh with Jameis Winston. Winston looks to finally take the next step in his development as a franchise quarterback but questions remain not only about his maturity on the field but the very essence of his character now that he has been repeatedly accused of perpetrating sexual violence against women. The Bucs’ running attack is unlikely to be much better than last year which means their success will likely hinge on the Winston’s right arm and Mike Evans’ ability to make big catches in clutch situations. They made moves to improve the defense in the off-season by bringing in former Broncos outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett who possesses a well-rounded skill set yet doesn’t excel in any particular area. Linebacker Devin White was a tremendous pick-up at number five in the draft, and should help solidify what was a leaky run defense, but the secondary seems likely to remain repellent.
29. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have the chance to put together a Brownsesque resurgence this year with Baker Mayfield’s college back-up and fellow Heisman trophy winner Kyler Murray, but the odds are slim. Kliff Kingsbury is a well-respected offensive mind who ought not to be entirely blamed for Texas Tech’s mediocrity during his time there given the infamous difficulty the school has recruiting athletes. It is worth remembering that other FBS coaches have turned around programs with just as many if not more limitations and that should concern Cardinals fans. The cupboard isn’t bare in Arizona but it isn’t well stocked either. Outside of running back David Johnson, who underperformed in his return from injury, Kingsbury doesn’t have a plethora to work with. The defense, which excelled at pass defense but struggled everywhere else seems likely to regress with the six game suspension of Patrick Peterson.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals needed to make major improvements to their defense after a dismal showing in 2018, they failed to successfully address their roster needs and their much needed first round offensive line talent Jonah Williams is going to spend the season on the sidelines after a shoulder surgery. This team shouldn’t achieve a winning record unless they found some diamond in the rough hall of fame talent in the draft, and that seems unlikely. Joe Mixon will be held to sporadic highlight reel plays every so often due to bad line play, and AJ Green may make the occasional acrobatic catch, but nothing they have will be enough to make a run at the division.
31. Miami Dolphins
Make no mistake about it, the Miami Dolphins are baaaaaad. Josh Rosen has the potential to be a step-up from the combination of Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler, we here at The Play After have long been high on his potential, but the Dolphins weren’t awful passing the ball despite producing a low yardage total and by most metrics Rosen was one of the worst in the league last year. Adam Gase struggled both to win games and produce better than subpar offenses during his tenure as Miami’s head coach, but he’s shown a strong aptitude for maximizing quarterback potential both as a head coach and offensive coordinator. Chad O’Shea has yet to establish he has the coaching chops necessary to develop talented albeit damaged young quarterback. New head coach Brian Flores has his work cut out for him on the defensive side of the ball as he looks to turn around a totally ineffectual unit with first-round pick Christian Wilkins
32. New York Giants
Truthfully, it was in the Giants best interest to move on from Odell Beckham Jr. He wasn’t meshing well with the team, it didn’t feel like he wanted to be there, and Eli made random undisciplined throws in his direction very often. While getting Jabrill Peppers and a first rounder is good compensation for having to lose OBJ after things ran their course, that only somewhat softened the blow of losing another key player in Landon Collins from a defense that struggled anyway last season. Overall, the Giants do not have enough talent to win many games this season, and while Eli could possibly surprise us a bit, he’ll never be able to play well enough to halfway make up for their lack of talented players not named Saquon Barkley.