NFL 2015 Power Rankings: It’s The Patriots’ Game

Written by Rodney Campbell

Defending champion New England and QB Tom Brady enter the 2015 NFL season as the ones to beat. Again. Here are sports editor Rodney Campbell’s top 32 rankings …

aNewDomainrodney-campbell-anewdomain — The NFL is back this week. (Insert sound of trumpets blaring here.)

So how do the league’s 32 teams stack up, you ask? Read on for a quick look at our NFL Power Rankings entering Week One.

1.New England Patriots

With Captain America Tom Brady’s four-game suspension lifted, the Patriots are well armed for another Super Bowl run. Biggest question will be whether their secondary will be able to stop anyone.

2. Seattle Seahawks

An inexplicable play to close the Super Bowl should stoke the Seahawks’ fire this season. Quarterback Russell Wilson will benefit from the addition of tight end Jimmy Graham, who came over from the Saints in an offseason trade/salary dump.

3. Green Bay Packers

Packers were one flubbed special-teams play away from making the big game last season. Preseason injuries will test the passing game a little in the early going.

4. Dallas Cowboys

Losing DeMarco Murray, last season’s leading rusher in the league, will hurt. The Cowboys still have the best offensive line in the game, so the running game will never go dormant.

Peyton_Manning_-_Broncos5. Denver Broncos

Denver’s biggest question will be whether 39-year-old Peyton Manning is at the end of his rope. He looked rough at the end of last season. Fortunately, the Broncos’ defense looks fierce so maybe the offense won’t need to set records in order to win.

6. Baltimore Ravens

A few wise guys are picking the Ravens to emerge from a muddled AFC pack to reach the Super Bowl. Quarterback Joe Flacco has done it before with an offensively challenged team.

7. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts will go as far as their beleaguered defense takes them. Their only concern on the other side of the ball is on the line, which has allowed Andrew Luck to get sacked 100 times in his three pro seasons.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

Boom or bust? The Eagles are putting a lot of faith in oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford and running back DeMarco Murray, who led the league in both carries and rushing yards last season.

9. Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback Carson Palmer’s health is paramount to the Cardinals’ success. The team was 8-1 when he tore his ACL last season and finished 3-4 with a variety of guys taking his place.

10. Detroit Lions

Losing talented distractions Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will affect the defense but it seems the Lions’ fate has been predicated on winning shootouts anyway.

11. Miami Dolphins

Here’s where Ndamukong Suh ended up in Miami’s efforts to prop up its pass rush. This is an interesting season for quarterback Ryan Tannehill after a solid 2014.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

The vaunted Steelers defense is no more, putting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and the rest of a good offense to keep the team in games.

13. San Diego Chargers

What’s the next step for the Chargers after their surprising 9-7 finish last season? A similar result could end with a playoff spot.

14. Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s quick maturation and the return of running back Adrian Peterson makes the Vikes an intriguing group.

15. Cincinnati Bengals

Coach Marvin Lewis has exactly zero playoff wins in 12 seasons with the Bengals. He and QB Andy Dalton are on the hot seat.

16. Kansas City Chiefs

Adding playmaker Jeremy Maclin from the Eagles will help a ho-hum offense. But there’s still the matter of quarterback Alex Smith.

17. New Orleans Saints

The Saints finished 7-9 for the second time in three seasons last year. This is a team that’s clearly trending downward.

18. St. Louis Rams

St. Louis’ pass rush is among the best in the game. We’ll have to see how the offense responds with new QB Nick Foles.

19. Buffalo Bills

Adding Rex Ryan as coach put this organization under the microscope. His ups and downs with the Jets were legendary.

20. Carolina Panthers

Losing second-year receiver Kelvin Benjamin was a crushing blow to a shaky offense. QB Cam Newton will be forced to carry a heavy load.

21. Atlanta Falcons

New coach Dan Quinn has his work cut out for him, even in a poor NFC South Division.

1920px-Eli_Manning_2013_Pro_Bowl22. New York Giants

Eli Manning has plenty of targets with highlight-reel guy Odell Beckham Jr. and the return of Victor Cruz. Loads of injuries will still hold the Giants back.

23. Houston Texans

Much of Houston’s success will rely on a dominant defense and how long running back Arian Foster sits with a groin injury. Some reports have him returning Week 3.

24. San Francisco 49ers

Another team on the downward slide. Niners could finish last in the division just three seasons after making the Super Bowl.

25. Chicago Bears

Because of Jay Cutler. Bears fans are already practicing their booing.

26. New York Jets

Why did cornerback Darrelle Revis come back to this disaster? Coach Todd Bowles has a tough rookie assignment.

27. Washington Redskins

Team Dysfunction kept outcast QB Robert Griffin III on its roster, making that position an intriguing distraction.

28. Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr had a good rookie season at quarterback and will be helped by rookie receiver Amari Cooper.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay’s defense is getting better under second-year coach Lovie Smith, and there’s enthusiasm about Bucks’ rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.

30. Cleveland Browns

New uniforms won’t be the answer to stopping the Browns’ seven-year streak of losing records.

31. Tennessee Titans

After finishing 2-14 last season and turning over the reins to a rookie QB, no one should expect a lot from Tennessee, even in a poor division.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

We like the potential of second-year quarterback Blake Bortles, but this team needs a serious talent infusion.

For aNewDomain, I’m Rodney Campbell.

Image credits:

Tom Brady photo courtesy of Andrew Campbell. All rights reserved. Photo of Peyton Manning courtesy of Jeffrey Beall All rights reserved. Photo of Eli Manning courtesy of Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth. All rights reserved.