2020 Way Too Early Power Rankings: 24-17
One-fourth of the "2020 Way Too Early Power Rankings" have already been published here on Wildchat Sports. For those teams, a rough 2020 season could be in store unless they can rise above some of the challenges they are facing and outperform their expectations.
The next part of the power rankings will cover the 24th- through 17th-ranked teams, rounding out the bottom half of the NFL's 32 teams.
These teams don't appear likely to be post-season-bound, but should field competitive squads that can provide their fans with some excitement while potentially being in the playoff hunt at the end of the season.
Let's find out who they are.
24. Atlanta Falcons
Head coach Dan Quinn will squarely be on the hot seat as soon as the 2020 season begins.
He was surprisingly brought back for another season, likely as a result of being so respected in the locker room and ownership wanting to give him one final chance.
The pressures facing Quinn to win immediately may be too much to handle. The Falcons are positioned to compete in what looks like a tough NFC South division. The rest of the schedule isn't easy either, as they are slated to face the NFC North and AFC West divisions with road games against the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Kansas City Chiefs.
In terms of what they are putting out on the field themselves, there is enough talent to stay in games and win some. Look no further than last season's 7-9 finish. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley will certainly help to put up points, while Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones are household names on the other side of the ball.
However, there appears to be too many questions facing the team entering the new season. Will Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary improve upon their rookie seasons to solidify the offensive line? Will Hayden Hurst adequately replace Austin Hooper's production at tight end? Can the team replace Devonta Freeman at running back after years of dependability? Can star safety Keanu Neal stay healthy and help out a secondary that desperately needs it?
Swapping out Vic Beasley for Dante Fowler and drafting A.J. Terrell and Marlon Davidson in the first two rounds should be a start in improving the defense, but too many questions still exist to back the Falcons with a lot of confidence.
23. New York Jets
The Jets sneakily finished with a 7-9 record last season, which is a far cry from a complete disaster.
Quarterback Sam Darnold came back from mononucleosis and was able to lead his team to some wins down the stretch, albeit when there was nothing to play for after a 1-7 start to the year.
This is a big year for both Darnold and second-year head coach Adam Gase , who's seen a lot of negative opinions come his way for his performance as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and in his first year with the Jets. Darnold and Gase have publicly backed each other and will want to start the season strong to prove themselves.
The Jets think Darnold is their franchise quarterback and he has certainly shown glimpses he can be. He has also shown glimpses of poor decision-making and has yet to emerge as an impact leader. First-year general manager Joe Douglas has been tasked with building a strong team around Darnold, which isn't an easy job after what he was left with.
Signing four veteran offensive linemen to decently sized contracts, while drafting the left tackle of the future in Mekhi Bechton with the 11th overall pick, signals a complete remodeling of the offensive line. Signing Breshad Perriman to replace Robbie Anderson and drafting Denzel Mims in the second round proves Douglas wants to ensure Darnold has the help he needs.
A return to prime form for running back Le'Veon Bell could be the jolt the offense could use. On defense, the Jets are led by safety Jamaal Adams, a superstar and a tone-setter. If the rest of the defense can show signs of improvement and follow suit, the Jets could truly surprise some people. Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley will play a big part in that after missing most of last year due to injury following his massive contract signing.
22. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals will be a fun team to watch in 2020.
Many pundits believe second-year quarterback Kyler Murray is a dark horse MVP candidate. They also made the trade of the off-season in acquiring All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins in a deal in which it seemed they traded a bag of footballs and a few dumbbells in exchange for a top-three receiver in the game.
Kliff Kingsbury is still an unknown at head coach, but the organization seems to have a ton of faith in the man. All in all, he had an OK first year as head coach and seems to have a great relationship with his cornerstone quarterback. The offense appears like it will have no trouble scoring, especially with Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk in the fold at wide receiver.
Kenyan Drake was a pleasant surprise after he was acquired in a mid-season trade with the Miami Dolphins and provides the Cardinals with an adequate rushing attack that has been missing since David Johnson's monster 2016 season.
The one question mark on the offensive side of the ball is the offensive line. Tackle Josh Jones was a steal of a pick in the third round and should be able to help make some strides up front.
On defense, the Cardinals made a concerted effort to improve this off-season. Isaiah Simmons fell into their laps at the 8th overall spot in the draft and coordinator Vance Joseph will be able to use him all over the field. They also signed Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell to complete the revamp at linebacker. They will join a nucleus of Chandler Jones, Budda Baker, and Patrick Peterson to form a defense that now doesn't look so bad on paper.
The Cardinals may be too young and not strong enough up front on both sides of the ball to be contenders just yet, but they aren't too far away from making serious noise.
21. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are loitered with talent up and down the roster.
They are confident in Anthony Lynn's abilities as head coach and are facing a middle-of-the-road schedule. You may ask then, why are they so low on this list? The quarterback position.
Sure, Tyrod Taylor has shown to be an adequate option as proven by his winning record as a starter. The team also selected Justin Herbert with the 6th overall pick and believe he is the future of the franchise.
However, at least for this season, neither option appears to be a strong-enough one to lead the Chargers to more than a middle-of-the-road record. Taylor threw six passes last season and Herbert is thought to need a redshirt year before being thrown into game action.
The quarterbacks may end up splitting time by the conclusion of the season, but whichever one plays will have no shortage of guys to throw to. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler all provide different skillsets to take advantage of.
A potential issue may lie up front, where it seems the Chargers have been porous forever. They tried to address the issue by trading for Trai Turner and signing Bryan Bulaga. The chemistry will be something to watch.
Defensively, they are loaded. You can start with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa coming off the edge. The defense has been a top-notch unit for two-straight seasons and should benefit from having star safety Derwin James for a full season after he missed last year due to injury.
They also went out and signed veteran cornerback Chris Harris and defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Trading up into the first round for linebacker Kenneth Murray will add even more athleticism to the defense.
20. Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley II, Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler, Corey Littleton, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Eric Weddle, and Clay Matthews.
All of these players were starters and legitimate impact players for the Rams last season and in seasons past. All of these players will also be in new homes next season, or retired in the case of Weddle.
The Rams still have arguably the best player in the NFL, Aaron Donald, as well as a quarterback-coach combination that will keep them competitive in most games. But, the players they lost cannot be overlooked. The Rams are also coming off an underwhelming 9-7 season in which they had sky-high expectations coming off a loss in the Super Bowl.
The Rams are seriously in trouble with their salary cap. It is why they had to let go of so many key players. The 2020 rookie class featuring receiver Van Jefferson, defensive end Terrell Lewis and running back Cam Akers among others will be heavily relied on to make immediate impacts. It may be an unfair ask, but that is what the roster situation is looking like.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth returning for another season was extremely important, keeping the offensive line mostly intact from last season. Gurley and Cooks were valuable contributors for the Rams, but appeared to be on their last legs at some times. Jefferson and Akers should provide a youthful jolt to the skill positions to accompany Cooper Kupp and company.
As long as the pass rushing void that currently exists with the departures of Fowler and Matthews can be somewhat replaced, the defense should be at worst a mediocre unit. Having premier players such as Donald and Jalen Ramsey is a major help. It will be interesting to see how a different-looking Rams squad fares in 2020.
19. Houston Texans
For all the negativity that Bill O'Brien faces for his questionable moves as a general manager, the coach always seems to lead his team into the playoffs.
Then again, when you have superstars such as Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and J.J. Watt on your team, it isn't such a gigantic accomplishment.
Nevertheless, the Texans have been a perennial playoff contender recently, but that seems like it could come to an end starting in 2020. Trading Hopkins for a minimal return was a mind-numbing decision. Replacing him with an injury-prone Brandin Cooks and an aging Randall Cobb, both of whom don't come cheaply, is also questionable.
Still, the Texans shouldn't struggle to put points up, especially if they can get some sort of contribution from David Johnson in the backfield. Watson is a premier player in the league and will help to alleviate some of O'Brien's errors. Defensively, there are far more questions to be asked.
If Watt can stay healthy and be available at the end of the season when the Texans are potentially in a playoff hunt, that would be huge. Unfortunately, it has been difficult for Watt to do that recently.
D.J. Reader's departure is no small loss and will be a massive problem if rookie Ross Blacklock can't step in and replace some of his production. The secondary is young and must improve for the defense to become a formidable unit. Overall, Watson may have to win MVP for the Texans to make the playoffs, especially when the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans appear to have stronger squads within the division.
18. Las Vegas Raiders
2020 marks the first season for the newly relocated Raiders franchise.
Hopefully fans will be able to take in games from the new stadium, or spaceship depending on how you view it, in Las Vegas. It will be Jon Gruden's second year in charge in his second go-around as Raiders head coach, looking to improve upon a 7-9 record in his first season.
Between Gruden returning to coach the Raiders and being featured on Hard Knocks last training camp, there was some buzz surrounding the Raiders. At some points during the year, it looked like they were ready to break out and put something real nice together. Unfortunately, they kind of stumbled to the finish line and proved to have issues to address.
It was another busy off-season for the Raiders, still reaping the benefits from the Khalil Mack trade and signing plenty of veterans in free agency. No one really knows yet if Gruden believes in Derek Carr to be the face of the franchise at quarterback, but only signing Marcus Mariota as a backup is at least a short-term vote of confidence.
Second-year general manager Mike Mayock saw how little weapons Carr had to throw to last season and targeted three wide receivers in the first three rounds of the draft: Henry Ruggs (12), Lynn Bowden (80), and Bryan Edwards (81).
Pairing those rookies with Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow at wide receiver, as well as the emerging star tight end Darren Waller, provides Carr with no more excuses, especially playing behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Running back Josh Jacobs was also a star last year in his rookie season.
The new-look defense could need some time to gel, but appears to have a nice blend of youth and veterans within it. Clelin Ferrell, last year's No. 4 overall pick, must take a massive step forward to live up to his billing and provide the defense with needed pass rush.
Corey Littleton should solidify the middle of the defense as an excellent cover linebacker and having Jonathan Abram, a Hard Knocks star, in the mix at safety will be huge. The Raiders should be an intriguing team to follow on both sides of the ball and could make some noise in their first year in Vegas.
17. Cleveland Browns
Having the Browns outside the top half of teams entering the 2020 season could result in some raised eyebrows, but then I counter with this: What have the Browns done recently to warrant a higher position?
It is true they have a boatload of talent at all spots on the roster, but the same thing was said last off-season and look what happened: 6-10. The head coach didn't even last 12 months and Browns fans remained hopeless.
The good news is that new head coach Kevin Stefanski seems to have a good head on his shoulders. New general manager Andrew Berry made some impressive moves in his pressure-filled first off-season. The Browns say they are going to let their play on the field do the talking, a welcome change compared to their approach last year.
As things stand, everything appears to be on the up. After all, you can almost only go up after a 17-season playoff drought. Putting aside the snide remarks, the Browns are trending in a good direction. The whole key is Baker Mayfield's ability to be a franchise quarterback and leader. He has plenty of surrounding talent around him to be able to do that. He just has to prove it.
Getting two new starting offensive tackles, veteran Jack Conklin and rookie Jedrick Wills, was huge. The offensive line was brutal last season and now Mayfield should be under less duress.
Signing tight end Austin Hooper from the Falcons, albeit to a large deal, seems like an awesome move. Mayfield hasn't had a true security blanket to rely on at tight end and maybe David Njoku can live up to his first-round status learning from him. As stated, Mayfield has all the help he needs.
The defense was solid last year and should be even better this season. Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams should be a more experienced and dynamic duo at the boundary cornerback spots and rookie Grant Delpit could provide a needed spark at safety.
The front-seven was great at generating pressure in 2019 and it should be much of the same in 2020. The pieces are in place. It is time to put them all together. Until they prove it, they will on the outside looking in.