1. Rams: Good news, the defending champs always start on top. Bad news, there’s only one direction to go.
2. Buccaneers: It feels like Tom Brady‘s last ride. And it has always felt as if he’s destined to walk away with a trophy under his arm.
3. Bills: They’re carrying the target of a Super Bowl winner without getting to the game in nearly 30 years.
4. Chiefs: How are they not more widely regarded to be ready to get right back to where they’ve been for four straight years?
5. Packers: With a depleted receiver room, the Cheeseheads soon may pivot to ayahuasca.
6. Bengals: Will 80-percent turnover make the offensive line better? It can’t really be much worse than it was in the postseason.
7. 49ers: If they can get adequate performance from the quarterback position and avoid a rash of key injuries, they could make it back to the Super Bowl.
8. Titans: Is this Ryan Tannehill‘s last chance to take the Titans to the next level?
9. Eagles: Five years after winning a Super Bowl, they’re ready to contend again.
10. Cowboys: Can they win in the playoffs this year? First, they have to get back there.
11. Colts: At a time when everyone is wondering whether Russell Wilson will join the Tom Brady/Matthew Stafford parade from new team to NFL title, Matt Ryan may be in a better position to actually pull that off.
12. Ravens: In a tightly-packed AFC, they’re as capable as anyone to get to the postseason and win more than one game there.
13. Cardinals: They’ll be fine in September and October. The pressure will be on in November and December, especially with the Hard Knocks in-season cameras and microphones there.
14. Raiders: The offense should be fine. Can the defense slow down the other three offenses in the division?
15. Chargers: Is it already playoffs or bust for second-year coach Brandon Staley?
16. Steelers: Write them off at your own peril.
17. Patriots: How many years of post-Tom Brady struggles before Brady gets more credit than Bill Belichick for the Super Bowls?
18. Dolphins: If Tua can get it done, the Dolphins can get to the round of eight, and maybe even to the AFC Championship.
19. Broncos: The bar is higher than it should be for a team that has undergone many changes over the past two years. Especially since they have to compete with the Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers.
20. Saints: The departure of Sean Payton is being met with a surprising degree of nonchalance. It’s a huge void, and it’s still not clear whether anyone still on the coaching staff will be able to fill it.
21. Browns: If they eventually win a Super Bowl with Deshaun Watson, the bizarre journey of 2022 presumably will have been worth it. For anything less than that, it won’t be.
22. Vikings: Ding dong the Zim is dead. That alone could be enough to get the Vikings to the playoffs.
23. Panthers: They’ve got the talent to contend. Which will only make the seat even hotter for the coaching staff.
24. Washington: This is Carson Wentz‘s last chance to be an NFL starter. Will that be enough to get him to stop being reckless with the ball?
25. Seahawks: The presence of Pete Carroll forces us to take them more seriously. Even then, it feels like they’ll have a hard time — especially in a tough division.
26. Falcons: Matt Ryan was the cornerstone of the franchise since 2008. How will they not take a step back without him?
27. Giants: It’s going to take more than a year to fumigate the roster.
28. Lions: Can they climb the ladder? Absolutely. Will they? We’ll see.
29. Jaguars: If they were in the NFC, they’d be a fringe playoff contender. In the AFC, there are just too many good teams.
30. Bears: They’re tearing it down to build it up. It may take a while to build it up.
31. Jets: Hopefully, ownership will give the current regime enough time to get the most out of their current roster.
32. Texans: Bad news, they’ve earned this spot. Good news, there’s only one direction to go.