2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

The start of the NFL season is much anticipated every year, but this year it really felt like it might never come. Ladies and gentlemen, it's finally upon us: Football is back, and so are numberFire's NFL Power Rankings. Our rankings are based on numberFire's nERD metric, which is our efficiency metric based on in-game data. These ratings allow us to understand which teams and players are performing best. So let's get to it.

Who sits atop the rankings? Is it the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs? Or are the Baltimore Ravens picking up where they left off at the end of last season's rankings? Let's find out.

Teams Ranked 32nd to 23rd

Rank Team nERD Proj W-L Playoff
NEP Rank
NEP Rank
32 Cincinnati Bengals -6.23 5.0-11.0 8.7% 26 30
31 Washington Football Team -5.94 5.1-10.9 9.4% 29 28
30 Carolina Panthers -5.49 5.2-10.8 9.9% 28 23
29 Jacksonville Jaguars -5.24 5.5-10.5 13.9% 27 24
28 Miami Dolphins -4.87 5.7-10.3 16.5% 22 32
27 New Your Giants -3.88 5.9-10.1 15.8% 24 26
26 New York Jets -3.16 6.2-9.8 21.7% 32 14
25 Detroit Lions -2.96 6.7-9.3 23.9% 21 27
24 Arizona Cardinals -2.2 7.0-9.0 26.3% 8 29
23 Las Vegas Raiders -1.97 6.9-9.1 28.5% 13 31

Starting from the bottom -- the Cincinnati Bengals (ranked 32nd) are hoping Joe Burrow can jump-start one of the worst passing offenses from last season, finishing the year with the fifth-lowest Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) of -17.12. The receiving corps of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Tee Higgins could be a very interesting group if a few things break right.

The New York Jets (27th) saw the Bengals’ poor passing offense and said “hold our beers” as Sam Darnold and company finished dead last in Adjusted Passing NEP in 2019 (-41.91). Starting wide receivers Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, and Chris Hogan are joined by rookie Denzel Mims, who could be the spark the Jets' passing game needs. However, at the moment, the Jets receiving room doesn't seem poised to make a huge leap forward.

Last season, the Jets ranked last in the league in both percentage of drives that ended with a score and points per drive. They did, however, finish 14th in Adjusted Defensive NEP, but we'll have to see how the trade of Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams and opt-out of linebacker C.J. Mosley impact that side of the ball.

At the top of the bottom tier are the Las Vegas Raiders (23rd), who recently completed one of the more peculiar trades you’ll see by sending away their third-round pick -- Lynn Bowden -- to the Miami Dolphins only a few months after making the pick. You can’t say that general manager Mike Mayock isn’t entertaining.

Teams Ranked 22nd to 13th

Rank Team nERD Proj W-L Playoff
NEP Rank
NEP Rank
22 Los Angeles Chargers -0.68 7.9-8.1 40.5% 14 20
21 Cleveland Browns -0.55 8.0-8.0 41.8% 20 25
20 Houston Texans -0.48 7.7-8.4 38.1% 10 21
19 Denver Broncos -0.46 7.5-8.5 35.9% 25 10
18 Chicago Bears -0.42 7.9-8.1 40.5% 30 5
17 Atlanta Falcons -0.15 7.6-8.4 37.1% 9 22
16 Indianapolis Colts 0.45 8.6-7.4 51.2% 17 19
15 Buffalo Bills 1.19 8.6-7.4 52.9% 18 8
14 Los Angeles Rams 1.29 8.4-7.6 45.1% 16 9
13 Pittsburgh Steelers 1.46 9.0-7.0 57.2% 31 3

The Los Angeles Rams tied for the largest drop from last season’s final power rankings, coming in four spots lower at number 14. The Houston Texans dropped three spots to 20.

Both teams shed big names during the off-season. The Rams cut loose Todd Gurley. In a bold move by Bill O'Brien, Houston traded other-worldly wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, to the Arizona Cardinals. His replacement, Brandin Cooks, has been limited in practice leading up to the first game of the season against the Chiefs.

The Denver Broncos are holding steady in our rankings at 19, but recent reports say star pass rusher Von Miller is going to miss some significant time this season.

Ultimately, the Broncos will go as Drew Lock goes. Some think that Lock will take a leap forward this year, but there are others that are skeptical. PFF recently ranked Lock last among quarterbacks heading into 2020. Miller’s injury, as well as Bradley Chubb slowly coming back from an ACL injury, could put a lot of extra pressure on the young offense early in the season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won't be sitting in the middle of these power rankings very long if Ben Roethlisberger can turn back the clock, avoid the dreaded walking boot, and the defense remains as stout as the 2019 version.

Teams Ranked 12th to 1st

Rank Team nERD Proj W-L Playoff
NEP Rank
NEP Rank
12 Tennessee Titans 1.71 9.2-6.8 61.8% 12 11
11 Minnesota Vikings 1.72 8.9-7.2 54.1% 11 6
10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.74 9.0-7.1 55.0% 23 4
9 Seattle Seahawks 1.78 8.8-7.2 52.0% 7 18
8 Green Bay Packers 1.85 8.9-7.2 53.2% 6 13
7 Philadelphia Eagles 2.39 9.1-6.9 58.7% 15 16
6 New England Patriots 3.09 9.4-6.6 65.6% 19 1
5 Dallas Cowboys 3.61 10.0-6.0 72.2% 2 17
4 New Orleans Saints 4.33 10.1-5.9 72.5% 4 15
3 San Francisco 49ers 5.04 10.4-5.6 74.2% 5 2
2 Kansas City Chiefs 5.47 10.8-5.2 82.3% 3 12
1 Baltimore Ravens 5.9 11.0-5.0 83.2% 1 7

Looking at the top-12, there are a couple of teams that jumped up the rankings from last season, and no, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not one of them (we’ll get to Tompa Bay in a minute).

The Seattle Seahawks jumped four spots to ninth, and Philadelphia Eagles rose seven spots to seventh. Here's an astonishing fact: Russell Wilson has never received a single MVP vote. Even the typically unflappable Wilson was surprised when he heard. Carson Wentz was an MVP favorite in 2017 before missing the final three games of the season when he tore his ACL, finishing third in the MVP race.

Ok, now to Brady. While his move to Tampa was the talk of the off-season, it didn’t much impact the Buccaneers' place in the power rankings. They jumped only one spot from 11 to sit just inside the top-10. Their high finish last season was due in large part to a defense that finished first in Adjusted Defensive NEP from Week 11 through the end of the regular season.

Brady’s former team comes in at six in the Week 1 power rankings. Earlier, we saw how good Pittsburgh’s defense was last season. Well, the New England Patriots were better. New England finished first in Adjusted Defensive NEP in 2019, mainly due to an exceptional secondary.

How likely is a repeat performance given the number of opt-outs on the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots?

And that’s not even the biggest question mark for the Patriots heading into week one. The biggest question is, what are they going to get out of Cam Newton this year? Per NFL’s next gen passing stats, Cam’s average intended air yards (IAY) fell off a cliff from 2016 to 2018, going from first to pretty much worst.

Season IAY IAY Rank
2016 11.0 1st
2017 8.2 20th
2018 7.1 33rd

A lot of New England's success will depend on which version of Cam shows up.

Alas, we see the Ravens atop the power rankings for Week 1, narrowly edging out the defending champions in Kansas City. Baltimore was unarguably dominant during the regular season, with MVP Lamar Jackson leading the Ravens to a 14-2 record and posting an absurd plus-249 point differential.

As for the champs, they overcame deficits of 24, 10, and 10 points in the playoffs. That 24-point rally was the largest in Chiefs history. Patrick Mahomes got paid, and essentially the same team is coming back to defend their title. With limited training camps and no preseason, continuity between teammates and coaches may be more valuable than ever this year.

It's been a long summer. So let's enjoy some football and see how this crazy season shakes out.