We made it. We're finally here.
Football begins Thursday, with 15 more games to follow on Sunday and Monday. This is wonderful. This is a gift. Let's savor every down. But before that, please get mad at me about the placement of your favorite team in the latest Power Rankings.
First ... a shameless plug: The Power Rankings Show returns this season, with the premiere airing Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. If you want to actually hear someone tell me why I'm wrong, that's the job of Matt "Money" Smith on this program. Unfortunately, he's very good at it.
Let's get to it.
NOTE: Team movement below reflects changes from the training-camp edition of Power Rankings.
Previous rank: No. 1
Everyone knows the Chiefs have an incredible offense with Patrick Mahomes at the controls. What gets far less pub is a defense that morphed into one of the league's stingiest in the back half of 2019. Kansas City allowed just 11.5 points per game in the final six games of the regular season, then overcame early hiccups in playoff games to close out a championship. The Chiefs now return 10 of their 11 defensive starters from their Super Bowl team with a full season of familiarity in Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. TL;DR: Sorry, AFC, the Chiefs have the potential to be great on both sides of the ball.
Previous rank: No. 2
We're all about giving Kyle Shanahan the benefit of the doubt, but the defending NFC champs will begin the season with serious issues at wide receiver. Let's recap where they're at: Deebo Samuel is working his way back from a broken foot. Richie James Jr. missed camp with a broken wrist. First-round pick Brandon Aiyuk is week-to-week with a hamstring injury. Jalen Hurd tore his ACL. Tavon Austin hit IR with his own knee issue. Emmanuel Sanders exited via free agency, and Travis Benjamin was a COVID-19 opt-out. Right about now, George Kittle is probably wondering what kind of damage he can do on Sundays while being quintuple-teamed.
Previous rank: No. 3
Lamar Jackson said last week he's fully recovered from a groin injury and will be ready to go in Week 1 against the Browns. Good news for Baltimore, bad news for Cleveland, but we remain interested to see how the Ravens plan to deploy Jackson as a playmaker after 2019's record-setting MVP performance. The Ravens have an embarrassment of riches in their rushing game, with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and promising rookie J.K. Dobbins. Citing that depth as a reason to turn Jackson into a pocket passer would be comically stupid, but there may be logic in dialing down the designed QB runs in an effort to increase the chances of having a healthy Jackson for 16 games and beyond.
Previous rank: No. 4
We know Drew Brees will remain The Man at quarterback for at least one more season. We know Taysom Hill, generous new contract in hand, will have a role as a gadget man and red-zone menace. But what of the 5,100-yard man of 2019? Mr. 30/30 himself: Jameis Winston? Training camp reports have presented Winston as a beam of sunlight in the Saints' locker room, a determined former No. 1 overall pick in the best shape of his career with improved eyesight, to boot, after undergoing LASIK surgery. No one wants to see Brees miss more time due to injury, but how fun is the thought of Winston stepping into the huddle with a chance to resuscitate his career and get the Saints back to the Super Bowl?
Previous rank: No. 5
The Titans won the endless Jadeveon Clowney Sweepstakes, beating out a Saints team that deserves at least a participation trophy for its efforts in the pursuit of the former No. 1 overall pick. As for what Clowney brings to Nashville? Well, the healthy and motivated version can wreak havoc on a game plan with his ability to pressure the quarterback (he'll have help from Vic Beasley and Harold Landry on this front) and stuff up the run game. These were two areas of concern after Jurrell Casey was traded away, and the Clowney acquisition allows you to make a legitimate case for this defense reaching a higher level.
Previous rank: No. 6
There may be no team in the NFL that can match what the Bills have put together in the trenches on both sides of the ball. A very good offensive line will return four of five starters from a year ago (it would have been five if guard Jon Feliciano wasn't on injured reserve with a torn pec), and the team has depth behind those starters to weather any further injury issues. The team is similarly stacked on the other side of the ball, with versatility that might have Jets QB Sam Darnold seeing ghosts in Week 1. It will be interesting to see what Ed Oliver does for a follow-up after a promising rookie year. Get excited, Western New York -- this team is going to bully some people.
Previous rank: No. 7
In a mailbag on the Cowboys' official site, reporters Nick Eatman and Rob Phillips broke down the similarities in the training camps of first-round pick CeeDee Lamb and 2010 first-rounder Dez Bryant. Lamb has impressed this summer, and it makes you think how truly dangerous Dallas' offense has the potential to be if Lamb quickly develops the way Dez did a decade ago. This is a team that already has an alpha dog No. 1 WR in Amari Cooper and a dynamic Year 3 talent in Michael Gallup. They don't need Lamb to hit the ground running ... but if he does? If Dak Prescott has three receiving stars at his disposal plus Ezekiel Elliott? The 'Boys could field their best offense ever.
Previous rank: No. 8
Aaron Rodgers told reporters last week he used this bizarre pandemic year of 2020 to "[find his] center a little bit." He said this period of isolation and self-introspection has provided him with an extremely healthy perspective on football and life. You could say this awakening comes at a pretty convenient time for Rodgers, who's about to enter the most pivotal year of his football life. He won't say it, but the 36-year-old Rodgers knows he has to do better than the efficient-but-not-special play he's put on tape the last two years. And if he's secretly harboring bitterness toward the Packers for their decision to draft a quarterback in the first round? There's no better way to stick it to the organization than to deliver a vintage season that makes their impending QB decision as agonizing as possible. Can't you see it?
Previous rank: No. 9
Josh Gordon is back in the building, adding another intriguing name to a wide receiver room that will do damage if Brian Schottenheimer lets Russell Wilson truly be unlimmmmmmittted. (I'm sorry.) We're not sure what Gordon has left in the tank at 29 with five drug-related bans (he remains suspended as of this writing), but he could provide value for a team in need of receiver depth. The Seahawks are set in their first two spots: Tyler Lockett was excellent last year stepping in for the retired Doug Baldwin, and D.K. Metcalf's gradual bloom as a playmaker was pretty much a best-case scenario for what you hope for out of a rookie wideout.
Previous rank: No. 11
Kudos to general manager Rick Spielman, who waited out the market and then pounced on Yannick Ngakoue, landing a young, proven pass rusher via a trade in which the Vikings didn't have to a) surrender a premium draft pick (a second- and conditional fifth-rounder went to Jacksonville) or b) pay Ngakoue at the salary he was slated to make under the franchise tag. Granted, that last part has almost nothing to do with Minnesota (Ngakoue was desperate to escape the Jags), but good on the Vikes for seizing on a huge opportunity to get better. Ngakoue -- who has had at least eight sacks in each of his first four seasons -- effectively replaces Everson Griffen and eliminates the most glaring flaw on the defense. Smart football teams do smart things.
Previous rank: No. 10
It doesn't feel like the Colts get enough credit for where they currently stand as a franchise. Many organizations would have fallen in on themselves if the franchise quarterback walked away out of the blue, as Andrew Luck did a year ago last month. But GM Chris Ballard built in too much foundation for collapse, and the support beams are up front with the offensive line. Indy made center Ryan Kelly the highest-paid center in football last week, and the Colts will enter Week 1 with the league's most complete front five, all of whom are under contract through at least 2021. Phil Rivers is well set up to have his Brett-Favre-Joins-The-Vikings moment.
Previous rank: No. 12
The biggest concern entering training camp in Pittsburgh revolved around the physical condition of Ben Roethlisberger, the franchise star QB attempting to come back from surgery to repair tears to all three ligaments in his throwing elbow. That no longer seems to be a worry as we enter Week 1. The Athletic reported last week that Big Ben "made every throw possible over the three-week camp and was impressive doing it." That news should spark a huge sigh of relief for Steelers fans who are undoubtedly aware that team management didn't leave themselves much of a safety net in the event that Roethlisberger had a setback or struggled mightily. Tragedy averted, the Steelers look locked and loaded with an offense that should return to top-five status in the AFC after a down year.
Previous rank: No. 13
Loved the imagery from our buddy Kyle Brandt, who likened the Bucs' relentless acquisition of name-brand talent to the roster construction by Vince McMahon from a bygone era. We know a lot of these guys -- Leonard Fournette and Josh Rosen being the latest arrivals -- but how confident should we be in this veteran stew actually turning into something delicious for the Bucs and their fans? All we can say with certainty is that Tampa Bay gets our vote for 2020 training camp champion. Big names on the marquee, no serious injuries and pretty much nothing but glowing reports for a month. Bruce Arians and Jason Licht nailed March through August -- now we get to see how things go when it truly matters.
Previous rank: No. 14
Vulnerability continues to be a trait connected to the wide receivers room. Alshon Jeffery avoided the PUP list, but stands a good chance of missing the first month of the season as he recovers from foot surgery. The now obligatory summer praise aside, DeSean Jackson (33) has passed the stage where he can be trusted to stay on the field. First-round pick Jalen Reagor is sidelined after suffering a slight tear in his shoulder in the last week of camp. It will be on the likes of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward to keep this group competent and allow Carson Wentz to make this offense go. We remain a tad skeptical.
Previous rank: No. 15
It's unofficially official (ain't it always on Patriot Way?): Cam Newton is the starting quarterback. Newton beat out Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer to claim the job that was effectively his the moment he signed on with New England in July. It's impossible to know if Newton is close to the same guy who won MVP with the Panthers a half decade ago, but he really is the perfect bridge to whatever comes next in New England. One day -- whether it's next year or five years from now -- the Patriots will invest a premium draft pick in a young quarterback. Newton, even if things don't work out in Foxborough, provides a buffer between Tom Brady and the next boy who would be king.
Previous rank: No. 16
The Texans made a very wise decision in working out a deal with Deshaun Watson, signing the superstar QB to a four-year, $160 million extension a week before kickoff. Actually, it's a win-win for everyone: Bill O'Brien no longer enters 2020 with the anvil representing Watson's uncertain future hanging over his head, and Watson gets a huge bag while setting himself up for an even bigger bite at the apple down the road. BOB and Houston were righteously skewered for the DeAndre Hopkins trade, but no one should be stunned when we look at the AFC South standings in late December and see the Texans right in the mix. With Watson at the controls, this team will always have a higher floor than people realize.
Previous rank: No. 17
Jared Goff might be the Least Valuable Player on Hard Knocks (the man could put a rabid raccoon to sleep with his monotone delivery), but it feels like people have prematurely written him off as a quarterback who can be a difference-maker. Yes, last year was not pretty, and it's fair to wonder if Goff's statue-like presence in the pocket will continue to be an issue behind the Rams' suspect offensive line. But Goff is still just 25, and he's proven in the past he can light up defenses in Sean McVay's scheme. With Todd Gurley out of the picture, McVay (still one of the game's best minds, by the way) has had an offseason to cook up an attack that puts his QB in the best position to succeed. Cue the Goffaissance!
Previous rank: No. 18
It's hard to say if the Todd Gurley experiment will work in Atlanta, but you still feel confident in a Matt Ryan-led Falcons offense putting up enough points to win most Sundays. The pressure is on the defense to level up and get the Birds back in the postseason after consecutive dark Januarys. Pass rush was a particular weakness in 2019, when Atlanta had the second-fewest sacks in the NFL. Enter Dante Fowler Jr., the free-agent acquisition who hopes to become the new version of the old Vic Beasley. Last year, Fowler posted the second-most sacks on the Rams (11.5) and added 16 tackles for loss. That's exactly what the Falcons need.
Previous rank: No. 19
The Browns open with Ravens Week, a significant challenge for a defense trying to find its footing after a training camp dotted with injuries to key contributors. Cleveland traded for safety Ronnie Harrison following Grant Delpit's season-ending Achilles injury and added former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith to bolster the linebackers room while Mack Wilson recovers from a hyperextended knee. Lamar Jackson presents a potentially unforgiving litmus test for the Kevin Stefanski era.
Previous rank: No. 20
So much for the Marcus Mariota hype train. The Raiders signed the former first-round pick to significant backup QB money this offseason, but The Athletic reported that Mariota was "[not] sharp at training camp and is no threat for the starting role." And then Mariota ended up on injured reserve. Whether you're a Derek Carr fan or not, you get the feeling they'll move the ball and score points with Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and first-round pick Henry Ruggs III in the mix. The loss of Tyrell Williams to a season-ending shoulder injury tests the depth of the wide receivers room. Perhaps an Antonio Brown reunion is in play?
(I'm kidding. C'mon.)
Previous rank: No. 21
This time next year, will we view Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy as the best wide receiver duo in the NFL? That's obviously the ceiling John Elway had in mind when he selected Jeudy with the 15th overall pick in April's draft. Sutton piled up 72 receptions, 1,112 receiving yards and six touchdowns with a messy quarterback situation in 2019, and camp reports presented Jeudy as an explosive star-in-waiting who will perfectly complement what Sutton brings to the offense. We haven't seen enough to know if Drew Lock is a legit starter in the NFL, but the Broncos have supplied the young passer with the best 1-2 punch in Denver since Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
UPDATE: Von Miller suffered what could potentially be a season-ending ankle injury at practice on Tuesday, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
Previous rank: No. 22
Sometimes, sports are just plain unfair. This should have been the year Derwin James played a full season and reminded the world that he's the most talented safety in football. Instead, a knee injury ends his season before it begins. If he's back on the field for Week 1 next September, he'll return having missed 27 of his last 32 games due to lower-body maladies. Even without James, the Bolts' defense has the talent to be a strong unit. But coordinator Gus Bradley's group had the chance to be special with James doing his thing on the back end. It ain't right.
Previous rank: No. 23
Kyler Murray said last month that the wide receiver trio of DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk could all surpass 1,000 yards in 2020. Impressively, this particular team feat has its own Wikipedia page, and it tells me triple 1Ks (my term) have occurred five times in NFL history, most recently achieved by -- you guessed it -- the Cardinals back in 2008. (Hi, Steve Breaston!) You can make a legitimate case for all three of the modern Cards wideouts pulling it off in Kliff Kingsbury's "crazy fast" offense. Relatedly, it makes you wonder if there's any role to be had for 2019 second-round pick Andy Isabella.
Previous rank: No. 24
People shouldn't be that surprised Mitch Trubisky won the starting QB job out of camp. Even after the Bears declined his fifth-year option, there have to be people in the building who still harbor some guarded optimism for the former second overall pick. Beyond that, Matt Nagy knows what we all do: Nick Foles is pretty much the ideal backup quarterback -- a guy you can throw into the fire at any time and know he'll be ready with the capability to thrive in the right circumstances. All that said: Expect Trubisky's leash to be incredibly short ... as in, "Matt Nagy announced Tuesday that Nick Foles will start Sunday's Week 2 game against the Giants" short.
Previous rank: No. 25
What can be expected from Sam Darnold? That's ultimately what this season is about for the Jets, who won't contend for a Super Bowl but still believe they have the quarterback who can one day get them there. Now it's on Darnold to prove the organization's faith and take the next step in his development. Camp reports were positive about GM Joe Douglas' rebuilt offensive line, and Darnold isn't exactly bereft of playmakers, with Le'Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims and Chris Herndon in the building. Darnold needs to stay healthy and must eliminate some of the mistakes that dotted his 2019. If he doesn't, and the Jets end up with a high first-round pick come April, speculation of yet another QB reboot will run rampant.
Previous rank: No. 26
That Josh Rosen trade worked out pretty terribly for the Dolphins, huh? Last spring, Miami surrendered second- and fifth-round picks to the Cardinals to acquire Rosen, and he made all of three starts and 109 pass attempts before the Dolphins gave up on the former top-10 pick. The silver lining here is that Rosen's expendability must mean Miami isn't merely paying lip service when they say they're happy with the progress of Tua Tagovailoa and his surgically repaired hip. He'll open the season as the backup behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who isn't exactly known for stringing together multiple years of success. Tua is coming.
Previous rank: No. 27
We're not going to throw a parade in Chris Wesseling's hometown of Cincinnati or anything, but good on the Bengals for keeping things simple this summer. There was never a doubt that anyone other than No. 1 pick Joe Burrow would be the starter when the season began. The Bengals believe Burrow is the franchise-resetting superstar they've been looking for since the salad days of Carson Palmer. With limited practices and no preseason, Burrow will make mistakes. And Cincy can live with that, as long as he delivers the big plays and excitement that's been missing from the organization for years. A new era begins.
Previous rank: No. 28
Is this the year Evan Engram blows up? There are few tight ends who can match Engram from a pure skills standpoint, but it's fair to wonder if Engram's body will ever allow him to develop into the superstar trapped within. Production has declined in each of his past two seasons as injuries piled up, but he enters 2020 healthy and ready for a major role in a Jason Garrett offense that loves to utilize the tight end. Engram has a high ceiling and low floor -- it makes him a pretty neat representation of where we see the Giants' offense as a whole entering this season.
Previous rank: No. 29
Christian McCaffrey was the ultimate workhorse for the Panthers last season, and don't expect that to change under a new coaching staff. McCaffrey averaged more than 25 touches per game during his 1,000/1,000 season in 2019, and Matt Rhule doesn't see any reason to curb that usage. "I think that's the right number," the coach said. McCaffrey had an astounding 116 receptions last year, breaking his own NFL record for catches by a running back set the previous year. We wonder if he sniffs that territory again with Teddy Bridgewater spreading the ball around to Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore in 2020.
Previous rank: No. 30
The late-period version of Adrian Peterson has a way of clearing low bars set for him by people on the outside. He carved out a bigger role than people expected for two years in Washington, and now he lands in a crowded Lions backfield that already includes Kerryon Johnson, second-round pick D'Andre Swift and Bo Scarbrough. Perhaps Peterson is simply a temporary depth rental while Swift and Scarbrough get healthy. But, like we said, Peterson has a way -- and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has a history with the future Hall of Famer.
Previous rank: No. 31
Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice are out the door, and there's suddenly a huge opportunity in the Washington backfield. Antonio Gibson seems to be the early favorite to soak up PT; the national media and fantasy heads were geeking out last week about his eye-popping output in limited touches at Memphis. Sophomore Bryce Love figures to get his shot, as well, with J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber also in the mix. To borrow a term from legendary coach Bill Parcells, Peterson was ultimately a "progress-stopper": a veteran player with limited upside who was blocking the path for prospects who needed a chance. Ron Rivera needs to see who's part of the future and who isn't.
Previous rank: No. 32
The team that was one bad call away from making the Super Bowl has now been taken down to the studs. The demolition was completed in the past week with the trade of Yannick Ngakoue and release of Leonard Fournette, two stars during Jacksonville's run to the AFC Championship Game in 2017. Fournette's release leaves the backfield particularly barren. Who'll get the touches back there? Ryquell Armstead's back on the COVID-19 reserve list. Can undrafted rookie James Robinson truly answer the bell? Devine Ozigbo? Chris Thompson? The fullback is a guy named Bruce Miller, who spent the last four years out of football. Everything is fine.