For those of you who are devotedly following us on either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you may have heard the good news.
In partnership with our good friends at The Vault Studio – we’ll be doing a weekly NFL Power Rankings video with a twist.
We are super excited to have this partnership with Sideline Spice. We look forward to hearing from Sideline Spice each week with their rankings. -Dan
Yes, we’ve ranked all the teams from 1-32, with ties being broken by virtue of who had a better record last year. However, instead of going through all the teams from 1-32, we’ll be outlining the biggest winners and losers each and every week, having an open on-air discussion of some of the biggest talking points from the previous games.
Now, the astute reader may have noticed that I mentioned a video and are wondering where on earth the embed or download link is. Unfortunately, while Ryan and I were recording on Monday evening, it appears that we chose the Dez Bryant of recording software.
You can hear his microphone crystal clear, but despite having the exact same headset, everything I say barely amounts to a whisper. I know what our readers want, and I know that listening to Ryan monologue for 30+ minutes is definitely not the way you want to spend your free time.
With that in mind, we’ve had to improvise this week while we work on ironing out our technical issues ahead of next week’s show. For this week, we’ll be paraphrasing the biggest winners and losers from our video, below.
BOTH WINNERS AND LOSERS
This won’t be your typical start to this segment, but after one of the biggest deals in modern NFL history, it wouldn’t feel right to not include the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders as both winners and losers this preseason.
For those of you who have been living under a rock or in an area devoid of WiFi, the Chicago Bears made an aggressive move by trading for Khalil Mack. They took advantage of his holdout by adding a top 3 defensive player in the world to an already good defense, a move that is almost unheard of in the modern day NFL.
“Why are the Bears a loser as well as a winner when they received a bonafide stud?”, I hear you all asking. The reason why the winner of this trade is not yet apparent simply boils down to two words. Picks and price.
The Bears gave up first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a third-round pick in 2020 and a sixth-round pick in 2019 to acquire Mack. In return, the Bears also received a second-round pick in 2020 and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2020. For a team that I don’t believe is a playoff team even with Mack, that is a lot to give up.
That being said, with the addition of Nagy to the coaching staff as well as the additions of Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton to the pass catching corps, this is a team loaded with play makers that, coupled with the Mack deal, could surprise us all by making the playoffs.
I do like this deal for the Raiders, as they weren’t likely to make the playoffs even with Mack and received an amazing haul in return for him, as well as saving a lot of cap space. However, they’re a loser purely because they are going to be incredibly tough to watch this year. It would not surprise me at all if they finished last in their division.
I have to preface any inclusion of the Baltimore Ravens as a winner with the following difficult-to-even-type-on-my-computer words, this is not Luca’s doing. Yes, admittedly, the happiest man of all to see his favourite purple birds listed in our winners column is Sideline Spice’s very own Luca De Angelis, but the reason is clear for all to see, they’re playing damn well.
Yes the usual preseason caveats apply, but it’s so much more than that, as the combination of a first full preseason with his improved receiver corps, and the competition that steadily improving rookie Lamar Jackson provides has worked to elevate Flacco to levels he has not reached since his Superbowl triumph.
Don’t sleep on the offseason additions of Michael Crabtree and John Brown – Flacco having actual weapons coupled with a consistently dominant defense results in a frightening proposition to any and all opponents this coming year.
This is a team that’s built for the future as well as the present, as I fully expect Lamar Jackson to take advantage of his redshirt year and terrorize AFC North defenses from the moment he gets named the starter. As much as it hurts me to admit this, we may have seriously underrated these Ravens.
A little bit north of Baltimore, the New York Jets are also home to an exciting rookie QB in the shape of Sam Darnold. He been performing to a surprising level throughout the preseason, not making any of the glaring mistakes expected of a 21 year old rookie quarterback.
Whilst his numbers won’t blow you away, he completed 29 of 45 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (for a final QB rating of 83.9), which when you take into account the fact that he’ll be the youngest opening day starting QB in NFL history, is rather impressive.
He has not only showing the poise and accuracy that many anticipated coming out of the University of Southern California, but more surprisingly has shown a beyond-his-years ability in post-snap reads, a skill that is arguably the most difficult for any rookie quarterback to develop.
The biggest win for Darnold however came off the field, with the Jets officially handing him the reigns for the new season with the trade of Teddy Bridgewater to the New Orleans Saints. Darnold now has a golden opportunity to hit the ground running and continue his development in the best way possible in the NFL, by learning on the job. Let’s just hope he continues to progress towards the massive potential he has already shown glimpses of in the last month.
Their defense, led by once in a generation athlete Myles Garrett, finally looks stacked as a result of all the years of early draft picks. Their first team made Superbowl MVP Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles look completely ordinary in their preseason shutout of them.
Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield both played at a good level this preseason, meaning that a team that is famous for their inability to find QB’s is now in the enviable position of rostering two NFL calibre QB’s. When you consider the additions of Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde as well as solid draft picks in Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb, I believe that this is a team that will surprise some teams this year. A true dark horse team despite their stacked division.
Although their roster is riddled with question marks, they remain a winner because Andrew Luck looks healthy.
He had an awful showing against the Ravens to kick off his preseason, but has improved from game to game, increasing with confidence and looking sharper each time he takes the field.
Luck has dragged corpses of rosters to the postseason before, so the Colts have the most possible variation in end of year finishes. It’s safe to say that Luck remains one of the players most singularly responsible for a teams overall success in the NFL. When he’s healthy, Luck is a top 5 QB and for the first time in his career, looks to have a competent offensive line. This is a team that could drastically outplay our pre-preseason ranking, health permitting.
New Orleans Saints
Another favourite team of a Sideline Spice Staffer, Derek Chung’s beloved New Orleans Saints find themselves amongst our winners this week. Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin in terms of highlighting and demonstrating the potential that this team possesses. A strong case could be made for them having a more complete team than anyone else in football, even the Minnesota Vikings.
The scariest part of all for the rest of the NFL, is the fact that some of their stars responsible for their success were only rookies last year. Marshon Lattimore at CB and Alvin Kamara at RB took the league by storm last year as rookies, so imagining how much better they can get with some more experience under their belt is terrifying. Not even the four game suspension of Mark Ingram should slow down this NFC juggernaut.
Age-defying quarterback Drew Brees is 39 and still performing at a high level, but in the event of his decline, they are better poised than most teams to survive. This is because in the offseason, the Saints went and traded for arguably the perfect secondary quarterback option to take them forward into the future in Teddy Bridgewater. I say with almost complete confidence (and jealousy) that the future looks brighter for the New Orleans Saints than almost any other team in the entire NFL.
So much hype has surrounded this team, take one look at the inaugural Sideline Spice power rankings where we placed them (2nd) in the AFC. Most of that hype is warranted. The defense is stacked, the offense has had slight upgrades at the skill positions and Leonard Fournette has plenty of room to grow to reach his huge potential.
The reason they’re a loser? They had the chance to upgrade at QB, which was their one weakness on paper. Instead, they doubled down on Blake Bortles as their guy and offered him a shiny new contract. Preseason isn’t everything and you like the accuracy you’ve been seeing from him (67% completion rate), but 0 TD’s and 3 INT’s is NOT what you want to see from a guy you’ve just invested in. The Jags will only go far if Bortles can limit his mistakes and not actively lose them games.
Kansas City Chiefs
With sophomore starter Patrick Mahomes at QB and one of the NFL’s most electric playmaker’s in WR Tyreek Hill the Kansas City Chiefs boast possession of one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses, and that’s without even mentioning last year’s leading rusher RB Kareem Hunt or All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Why then, after four meaningless preseason games, are they a loser?
It’s simple, NFL is a game of two halves, one being offense, the other defense, and that is where the Chiefs appear frighteningly weak. Perhaps the most telling indicator that highlights the Chiefs defensive ineptitude was the week three performance against the Chicago Bears. Not only was the defensive secondary shredded by an offense not remotely known for its vertical prowess, but the defensive front provided zero threat to the Bears QB, recording zero sacks.
Gone are the times of relying on stars like Dontari Poe and Marcus Peters, with both having having left for a change of scenery in the offseason.
To be clear the Chiefs have almost limitless potential offensively, but it’s hard to ignore the pressure that will be put on them this season. After all, we’re talking about a defense that ranked 28th last season that not only got weaker on paper, but looked weaker in practice too, albeit in a tiny sample size.
If the preseason is an accurate predictor of what’s to come, a lot of teams are going to put up a lot of points on the Chiefs without significant improvements to their downfield passing defense or their ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks. A return to health for all-world safety Eric Berry could go a long way to alleviating these concerns.
–Ryan and Luca
It’s not often you look at the reigning Super Bowl Champions before the season has even officially kicked off and thought “loser”, but this is a situation in which the team at Sideline Spice have found themselves in as we assess the performances and the situations heading into week 1.
It all begins with Carson Wentz. Wentz has yet to be cleared for contact, let alone suited up for practice in any capacity with his team so far this year, and looks to be out for at least the first few weeks of the season. Last year, when faced with a Wentz-less situation, the Eagles had the benefit of possessing one of the NFL’s most able backups in eventual Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Unfortunately this year Foles is dealing with niggling injuries of his own and is yet to show any of the ability that resulted in him lifting the Lombardi Trophy this past February.
The Eagles problems unfortunately don’t stop there either, as lead receiver Alshon Jeffery is also looking to be sidelined with potential injury related rest. There is no question that Philly still possess one of the NFL’s most talented rosters, because when healthy the evidence is clear. With all these key omissions before the season has even begun though, their title defense does not look like it is off to an ideal start. The dreaded Super Bowl hangover may therefore last a little deeper into the season than many may have originally anticipated.
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