The Green Bay Packers garnered a number three ranking in ESPN’s post-draft power rankings this week … something that was somewhat of a surprise given all the hype for other teams considered having a better draft than Green Bay.
There have been plenty of writers over the past couple of weeks bloviating about how their favorite teams outdid everyone else in the draft and will be that much better as a result.
We here at Lombardiave have been guilty as charged — but clearly with good reason.
That’s because, despite the fact that many felt the Packers didn’t do enough to address their tight end position and could have done better in restocking the offensive line and linebacking positions, it seems there are experts out there who feel the team is positioned once again to make a run at a Super Bowl.
Ted Thompson and co. have added just enough of the right pieces that will once again position the team for success in 2016. Disregard the hype the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears have garnered over the past couple of weeks. It’s still the Packers that is the team to beat.
Today we take a look at three of the top reasons the Packers are ranked third in ESPN’s power rankings, but before we get to those reasons, here is the full 32-team ranking released a couple of days ago:
2015 record: 12-4
Post-free agency ranking: No. 1
The top two teams have switched places since we did this in February, which tells you our voters are huge fans of either Josh Norman or Jimmy Garoppolo. Seriously, the Pats have averaged 12.5 wins a year for the past 13 years, so no one’s going broke assuming they’ll be good. But … pass rush? Running game? The 2nd Circuit Court? Has this New England offseason really been that great?
2015 record: 15-1
Post-free agency ranking: No. 2
It’s easy to forget how good the Panthers were last year, mainly because no one ever seemed to buy it while it was happening. This is a team that could lose four games off its 2015 win total and still win its division by three. But Cam Newtonshould be fine with these rankings as long as he can’t overhear any Patriots players explaining why they’re ranked No. 1.
Key additions: DT Kenny Clark, OT Jason Spriggs. Key losses: Eddie Lacy‘s gut. Last year’s Packers won 10 games without Jordy Nelson and more or less without Lacy. There are worse bets than Aaron Rodgers turning it around in 2016.
2015 record: 10-6
Post-free agency ranking: No. 4
Seattle Seahawks: Using three of your 10 draft picks on running backs doesn’t scream, “We’re sold on Thomas Rawls!” and it’s hard to see how Russell Wilsoncan thrive behind this offensive line. But they didn’t have Marshawn Lynch or a line last year, either, and Wilson led the league in passer rating because he’s the NFL’s Harry Potter.
How are they not No. 1? What’s not to like here? Just because Carson Palmer is 36 and went Full Delhomme in the NFC Championship Game doesn’t change the fact that no team is both deeper and better coached. Underestimate now, but don’t act all shocked in September when you look up and no one can cover all of their receivers.
Little bit of inside-the-rankings info for you here: The Bengals had the No. 6 spot locked up. But just before the deadline, Joey Porter tapped one of our voters on the right shoulder then quickly ran away to the left. “Gets ’em every time,” Porter giggled.
What a draft. Tyler Boyd in the second, Andrew Billings in the fourth, Cody Core in the sixth. April is one of the 11 months out of the year when the Bengals look like they’re doing this whole thing as well as any other team. It’s just pesky January that they can’t figure out.
Brock Osweiler and Peyton Manning finished 24th and 28th in Total QBR in 2015, and their team won the Super Bowl anyway. So you can kind of see John Elway‘s point if he thinks Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch can be good enough. But only kind of.
Often, the surprise upstart playoff team takes an ugly step back the year following its breakthrough. The Eagles in 2014. The Chargers last year. The second season of “Friday Night Lights.” The Vikings could be such a team, but they shouldn’t get discouraged if it happens. Clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose.
This team lost Jamaal Charles in October, Justin Houston in November and still managed to win 11 games in a row before the Pats took them out in the playoffs. Kansas City may be a baseball town now, but Andy Reid‘s crew is as good a bet as any to end Denver’s streak of five straight division titles.
The NFC East is the Charlie Sheen of the NFL. Used to be huge, hasn’t done a thing lately and people remain surprisingly fascinated. So maybe Tony Romoand Dez Bryant come back healthy and Ezekiel Elliott proves worthy of the collective Hall of Fame induction that followed his selection in the draft. If not, there are surely some “Two And A Half Men” reruns on somewhere.
2015 record: 8-8
Post-free agency ranking: No. 12
Flawed? Sure. Slow offseason? Absolutely. Worth wondering whether they let the wrong tight end leave? Go ahead and wonder. Just stop and ask yourself, while you’re asking yourself all these questions, where a healthy Andrew Luckranks on the list of offseason acquisitions leaguewide.
Popular sleeper alert! Everybody loves the Raiders’ offseason, and for lots of good reasons. Plus, the Broncos have no quarterback and the Chiefs could win a hundred games in a row and still not scare preseason prognosticators as long asAlex Smith is theirs. Get ready for The Summer of High Derek CarrExpectations. Just spin, baby.
2015 record: 5-11
Post-free agency ranking: No. 14
In order to sustain their first losing season since 2007, the Ravens had to lose their starting quarterback, running back, No. 1 wide receiver and top pass-rusher to injury. Fair to assume they’ll be back to slug it out in the AFC North with the Steelers and the Bengals and the … the … hmm. Guess it’s just the Steelers and the Bengals.
2015 record: 10-6
Post-free agency ranking: No. 15
Unprecedented in the annals of Power Rankings history, the Jets appear to have attained their ranking because of a collective belief that a quarterback not currently on their roster ultimately will be. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the most widely assumed return since Jon Snow’s. If it doesn’t happen? Well, 15 will seem high.
The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat champion since the Eagles in 2003-04. (Coincidentally, the first two seasons of “Two And A Half Men.”) If Washington bucks that trend, Kirk Cousins will end up with a contract that makes Aaron Rodgers drool and Howie Roseman go out and get three more quarterbacks next offseason.
What we know about Brock Osweiler is that the Texans will pay him $37 million guaranteed over the next two years to be their quarterback. What we don’t know is … really much of anything else. The Texans have long considered themselves a franchise quarterback away from something special. The question is whether that’s still true.
This team has a franchise quarterback who has never been hurt and has won two Super Bowls. They killed it in free agency, and their draft has been well reviewed. So why only 18th? Because they haven’t finished .500 since Obama’s first term and they no longer get (or deserve) the benefit of the doubt.
When the most interesting thing about your offseason is a Ryan Brothers reunion, that’s … well, that’s actually kind of awesome. But is it enough to prevent a 17th straight season out of the playoffs? Probably not.
Remember when the Falcons were one of the best teams in the league? Sure you do. It was Halloween. They started 6-1, finished 2-7, and now we’re left to wonder whether Matt Ryan‘s window closed before it ever fully opened.
Until Laremy Tunsil’s draft night went up in smoke and he fell into their laps, there weren’t too many potential positives about the Dolphins’ offseason. Unless Mario Williams snaps out of whatever was bugging him in Buffalo last year and Ndamukong Suh is ready to start playing again, it’s hard to see how they can stop anybody.
Hey! Sam Bradford is back! Which is great, because without him they may have run out of quarterbacks. Just kidding, of course. The question now is how many members of the Philadelphia Quarterback Club hit the field this year. If it’s more than two, the smart money says this ranking drops.
The defense adds Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Dante Fowler Jr., Tashaun Gipsonand Prince Amukamara. The offense was top 10 in passing yards last year. They haven’t won more than five games in a season this decade (yes, seriously), but there appears to be reason to hope.
In “Transformers,” when Megatron is defeated, his mind stays alive inside of his severed head until he gains the strength and opportunity to become reborn as Galvatron. The Lions are replacing Calvin Johnson with Marvin Jones.
Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston decided to take a few shots at Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this offseason. “He’s a little arrogant for me,” Houston said. “The whole championship belt thing kind of gets on my nerves.” In a written statement, Rodgers replied: “Who?”
One of the stories of this offseason is Rams owner Stan Kroenke rolling out of St. Louis, Jed Clampett-style, in that two-decker convertible jalopy with Granny up on that big chair in the back, looking around. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars. But still not really anyone to catch the ball from No. 1 pick Jared Goff.
Not to say the Saints’ defense was bad last year, but if you’d brought it to court to help you fight a parking ticket, you’d have ended up doing 25 to life. To fix it, they’re hoping for immediate contributions from their draft picks. Along with a lot of points from Drew Brees and the offense.
Five months ago, the Chargers thought they were the ones in the driver’s seat to move to Los Angeles. Now, their best bet may be to be Jack Tripper to the Rams’ Mr. Furley. Tough times out there by Mission Bay. At least the weather’s nice.
The Bucs fired their coach after their franchise quarterback’s first season — a move that looks patient by the Titans’ standards but makes you wonder how close they believe themselves to be. If nothing else, this could be a fun developmental year for Jameis Winston and his receivers — as long as the line can protect him.
It’s easy to like the Titans’ offseason so far, and DeMarco Murray and Rishard Matthews should help Marcus Mariota. But this is a team that decided it needed much more help than the No. 1 overall pick could offer, and they were right.
Great news, 49ers fans! Sure, Chip Kelly was a huge flop in Philadelphia. But the current Niners roster doesn’t have many really good players for him to trade away because he doesn’t like them.
2015 record: 3-13
Post-free agency ranking: No. 32
I don’t know. I’m all for new points of view, and I recognize that nothing the Browns were doing was working. But I’d love to get a look at the groundbreaking analytic study that says Robert Griffin III is worth $7.5 million a year.
OK, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to the three top reasons the Packers earned their number 3 power ranking …
Next: Up the middle