37 wins and 11 losses. That’s the win-loss record for the New Orleans Saints over the past 3 NFL regular seasons, but unfortunately for Who Dat fans that follow the team religiously on a day-to-day basis, their heroes wearing the Black and Gold have had not just one or two but THREE straight heart-breaking losses in a row during the NFL Playoffs in that same time, to show for it.
Nevertheless, New Orleans remains near the very top of the NFL, and it obviously says a lot about just how good that the Saints still are when you consider that they’re Super Bowl contenders once again in 2020. With that in mind, just exactly where do the Saints rank overall heading into the upcoming season?
Here at Big Easy Magazine we’re taking a look at the answer to that question, with our season-opening 2020 NFL Power Rankings.
Starting first with the current defending Super Bowl Champions….
WHAT. A. COMEBACK! Patrick Mahomes with an unreal quarter.
— Undiluted Media (@undilutedmedia1) February 3, 2020
1. Chiefs: As always, the defending champions of the League remain firmly in the top spot until someone knocks them off. That said, K.C. will have nearly every starter back from the team that won the Super Bowl over the 49ers last February, and they now have a legitimate future NFL superstar in rookie RB and former LSU All-American Clyde Edwards-Helaire to lead their running attack in support of QB sensation Patrick Mahomes.
2. Ravens: If there’s any one team that should scare Kansas City the most, clearly it has to be Baltimore — who of course will have the incredibly talented 2019 League MVP Lamar Jackson back under center — along with one of the NFL’s top defensive units and a stout running game led by former Saints RB Mark Ingram. Most observers are expecting the Ravens to eventually meet the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, where they’ll have to prove that they can win the “big one” after their shocking Divisional Playoff loss to Tennessee in January.
3. Saints: Speaking of teams that have trouble winning “big games”, that’s the current narrative throughout the entire sports world surrounding New Orleans, who has won 3 straight NFC South Division titles and have been to the Playoffs in every one of those years, only to lose in some unthinkable scenario at the end of each one of those games. The one advantage however that the Black and Gold might have in its favor (due to the effects of the on-going COVID-19 / coronavirus health crisis), is the players’ familiarity with the team’s program and schemes on both sides of the ball that have been in place for the past several seasons. That alone arguably makes them the team to beat in the NFC, and once again a serious Super Bowl contender.
4. 49ers: San Francisco advanced all the way to the Super Bowl last year and nearly won it, had it not been for QB Jimmy Garoppolo over-throwing then-WR Emmanuel Sanders (now the #2 WR for the Saints) in the game’s final minutes. Nevertheless, the 49ers return the majority of its starters as well, and with a defense led by pass-rushing extraordinaire Nick Bosa that seemingly continues to get better with each game, they will challenge the Saints for the top spot in the NFC when the Playoffs arrive this coming January.
5. Seahawks: Seattle much like New Orleans, is a veteran team capable of going all the way but was passed up by the 49ers at the end of the season last year. However, they remain a viable threat to bounce back and unseat San Francisco, especially with veteran All-Pro QB Russell Wilson continuing to perform at the highest level. And with the recent trade with the Jets that landed them superstar safety Jamal Adams for their defense, the Seahawks “will be in the hunt” until the very end once again this upcoming post-season as well.
Cam Newton’s first official photo in his Patriots jersey. pic.twitter.com/tn5SVJIl1M
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 4, 2020
6. Patriots: Obviously losing Tom Brady during the off-season gave everyone the false impression that New England’s nearly 20-year long “dynasty” had come to an end, but the recent addition of free agent and former Panthers starting QB Cam Newton has since changed that notion for most League observers. And with one of the League’s best defenses returning and guided by THE #1 head coach in all of professional sports in Bill Belichick, the Patriots will remain in the conversation (for now) as one of the NFL’s best franchises.
7. Buccaneers: By now all NFL fans (except those who live in or support Tampa Bay) have grown tired of the constant “hype” from the National Media, over the Buccaneers’ well-publicized additions of 6-time Super Bowl winner QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski this past off-season. Brady and Gronk now join an already lethal offense that features two All-Pro WR’s in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and two other top pass-catchers at the TE position in young veterans Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. But that aside, the Bucs have had little time for Brady to fully absorb their offensive scheme under head coach and offensive “guru” Bruce Arians, and questions linger about the stability of their offensive line, unproven running game, and somewhat-suspect defensive secondary.
8. Titans: Easily the NFL’s most surprising team last year, Tennessee advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game after upsetting Baltimore in the Divisional Round before eventually losing to Kansas City. During the recent off-season, the Titans smartly made certain to sign starting QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry to new contracts to stay with the team for the next several years. The biggest question will be whether or not head coach Mike Vrabel can build upon last year’s success, and help keep the Titans and the city of Nashville as one of the NFL’s best “feel good” stories in recent memory.
9. Eagles: Many fans (especially Dallas Cowboys fans) will find this ranking a bit too high, but Philadelphia has a knack for winning when they absolutely have to, in spite of the trepidation that they seem to put their loyal fan-base through on a weekly basis. As it is with every year in recent seasons, the biggest question of course will be whether or not starting QB Carson Wentz can stay healthy for an entire 16 regular season games, as he finally managed to do last year. If the Eagles can somehow avoid the injuries that have derailed their past two previous seasons, they are more than capable of winning another Super Bowl as they did back in 2017.
10. Bills: Slowly but surely, Buffalo has very quietly and with little fan-fare outside of upstate New York, become one of the League’s better teams under head coach Sean McDermott, Their defense remains top-notch, but the offense saw the biggest improvement this off-season after they traded their top pick in the Draft to acquire former Vikings WR (and big-time vertical threat) Stefon Diggs. The addition of Diggs will give Bills starting QB Josh Allen a legitimate down-field weapon in their passing attack, and when combined with their outstanding running game it should allow them to challenge New England for supremacy in the AFC East.
11. Packers: This ranking might be a bit high for some folks, especially those in Minnesota who feel that Green Bay overachieved last season under 1st-year head coach Matt LaFleur. Now the Packers will head into the new season with even more questions surrounding how good their team actually is or isn’t, after they unexpectedly passed on drafting another WR / pass-catching weapon to put with All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers and instead took Utah State QB Jordan Love. Now they face the prospect of a full-blown “QB controversy” that could see their success of last season, come crashing down all around them.
Looking fresh 🥶 #DallasCowboys
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) August 1, 2020
12. Cowboys: Dallas missed the Playoffs last season, but they once again will field a loaded line-up of overwhelming talent on offense (QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliot, WR Amari Cooper and potential Rookie of the Year candidate WR Cee Dee Lamb). But the biggest question will be whether or not new head coach Mike McCarthy can finally help get the Cowboys over the proverbial hump, and not allow their talent to go to waste for yet another season.
13. Vikings: Minnesota beat the Saints in the Wild Card round last year, but failed to advance any further into the Playoffs and now are attempting to “reload” for another Super Bowl run. But they lost several key players in the Off-Season including #1 WR Stefon Diggs, and once again the pressure will squarely be upon QB Kirk Cousins to get the Vikings to a Super Bowl before their “window of opportunity” eventually comes to a close.
Matt Ryan x Todd Gurley x Julio Jones.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 20, 2020
14. Falcons: After they started out in rather horrendous fashion with a dismal (1-7) record and seemed headed for a complete disaster, the Saints’ hated arch-rivals rebounded STRONGLY with a (6-2) record in the 2nd Half of the season and finished at (7-9) overall. Despite their losing record, Atlanta retains plenty of talent on offense (QB Matt Ryan and All-Pro WR Julio Jones, along with the off-season addition of former Rams RB Todd Gurley); but will only go as far this upcoming season, as their suspect defensive unit under head coach Dan Quinn will take them.
15. Steelers: Pittsburgh missed the Playoffs last year, but when they’re healthy there isn’t any doubt that they remain among the top teams within the AFC. With QB Ben Roethlisberger and #1 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster both now expected to be back on the field this season under head coach Mike Tomlin, they should challenge the Ravens for supremacy in the highly-competitive AFC North Division.
16. Broncos: Denver could see some improvement this coming season under young veteran QB Drew Lock, but unfortunately they’re stuck in the same division as the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Nevertheless, they still have a solid defense led by linebacker / edge rusher Von Miller, and the potential is there for the Broncos to become one of the true “sleepers” in the entire AFC.
17. Colts: Just two years ago Indianapolis was one of the rapidly-rising Playoff contenders within the AFC, but that all changed when the team’s former #1 draft pick and “franchise” QB Andrew Luck abruptly retired. That left the Colts and head coach Frank Reich forced to improvise all season last year, and they finished with a losing record (7-9). Now they will have 17th year veteran QB Phillip Rivers at the helm after they signed him in Free Agency this past off-season, and it will be interesting to see if Indy can successfully challenge Tennessee for the the AFC South title.
18. Texans: For all of the teams that readers will find that we might have ranked too high, Houston is a team that some might feel that we have “low-balled” or disrespected by having them here at #17 overall. However, they lost several key players in the off-season, most notably former All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins, whom they traded to the Arizona Cadinals. That’s put head coach and acting GM Bill O’Brien on the coaching “hot seat”, and one that might eventually burn him if top-rated QB DeShaun Watson is unable to have another stellar overall performance.
19. Browns: Not all that surprisingly to some of their biggest critics throughout the League, Cleveland had yet another disappointing season and missed the Playoffs for an 18th straight year; in spite of the fact that they were allegedly “loaded” on both sides of the ball. But offensive stars Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry were all major contributors to that disappointment with sub-par seasons; and it will now be up to 1st year head coach Kevin Stefanski to turn the Browns’ losing culture into a winning one.
Kyler Murray. DeAndre Hopkins. Larry Fitzgerald. Kenyan Drake. Christian Kirk.
Chandler Jones. Patrick Peterson. Budda Baker. Isaiah Simmons.
The future is bright in the desert. pic.twitter.com/9mkRJKP9HY
— Zona (@AZSportsZone) April 24, 2020
20. Cardinals: Perhaps the one team in the NFC this off-season that improved itself the most was Arizona, who after drafting last year’s top-notch rookie QB Kyler Murray, gave him an “elite” player to become an added weapon on offense after they acquired former Texans superstar and All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins. Like a handful of teams on this list, the Cardinals ultimately will go as far as their defense will take them; and if they can demonstrate notable improvement on that side of the ball, Arizona potentially could shock some folks this year in the ultra-competitive NFC West.
21. Chargers: As mentioned above: the Chargers and long-time QB Phillip Rivers parted ways after the 2019 Season, and now the pressure will be on veteran journeyman QB Tyrod Taylor to try and help Los Angeles regain some of the respectability that they clearly lost; with last season’s disappointing (5-11) win-loss record. The Chargers still have a top-ranked defense led by defensive end Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James, but the name most Bolts fans will be concerned with is that of rookie QB Justin Herbert — the team’s #1 draft pick out of the University of Oregon — who could see an extended amount of playing time should Taylor falter.
22. Raiders: Much has been made of the move by the team from their former home in Oakland, CA to the gambling capital of the world in Las Vegas, but the Raiders legitimately are a team slowly on the rise under head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock. Las Vegas loaded up on weapons in the draft (most notably former University of Alabama WR Henry Ruggs, the blazing fast speedster who’s been compared often to former Raiders legendary WR Cliff Branch), and if their defense can continue on its upward trend against the likes of arch-rival defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City, the Raiders might even end up being the biggest surprise of the entire 2020 NFL Season.
23. Rams: As the old saying goes: “How the mighty have fallen”. Just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance after they beat the Saints in the still-controversial 2018 NFC Championship Game at the Superdome, Los Angeles is now a team seemingly undergoing an entire transition after some bad spending methods on player contracts via trades and Free Agency. Gone are names such as defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, and CB Marcus Peters; and starting QB Jared Goff has dropped off considerably after that one stellar season two years ago. As of now, it appears that the Rams will be fighting Arizona to stay out of last place in a NFC West Division that they were projected to dominate at one time. Clearly, that time has since expired.
24. Jets: New York is viewed as the “whipping boy” of the AFC by most of their opponents, but to their credit they too (like the Falcons) finished strongly in the 2nd Half of the season by winning 6 of their final 8 games after a (1-7) start and ended their season with a (7-9) win-loss record. Much has been made about the loss of safety and defensive mega-star Jamal Adams after he forced a trade to Seattle, but the Jets will actually go as far as 2nd year QB Sam Darnold can take them under head coach Adam Gase‘s offensive scheme.
25. Bears: Chicago has been on an “up and down” trend in their first two seasons (12-4 in 2018, but only 8-8 last season) under head coach Matt Nagy, and now the attention will be drawn directly to the team’s starting QB position; where former Eagles QB Nick Foles is expected to beat out the team’s #1 draft pick of a few years ago in often-injured and inconsistent passer Mitch Trubisky. If Foles (or Trubisky) can lead the offense to any sustained success, it could allow them to stay out of last place and slightly ahead of Detroit but still behind Green Bay and Minnesota, in the NFC North.
26. Dolphins: Miami is in the midst of a rebuild under 2nd year head coach Brian Flores, and they will be relying heavily on the development of several promising young players which includes this year’s #1 draft pick, former University of Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, who will likely learn behind starting veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for a majority of the season. However, Miami is very capable of winning more games than they’re being projected to and could even surprise a few folks, especially with the “break out” performance last season of WR DeVante Parker.
27. Lions: Undoubtedly this will be a “make or break” season already for 3rd year head coach Matt Patricia, who unfortunately hasn’t been able to duplicate the same amount of success in Detroit that he had previously as the long-time defensive coordinator of the Patriots for a sizable portion of their recent dynasty. As it’s been the case for the past decade, the Lions ultimately will go as far as the arm of long-time starting QB Matthew Stafford will take them. which hasn’t been very far because of his never-ending issues with remaining healthy.
28. Bengals: Cincinnati is yet another team undergoing a rebuild under 2nd year head coach Zac Taylor, but there is some proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” after the team drafted former LSU All-American and National Championship-winning QB Joe Burrow, who was taken with the #1 overall selection of the 2020 NFL Draft a few months ago. Expectations are low since Burrow hasn’t had much time to acclimate himself fully to the professional level because of the effects of COVID-19 / coronavirus, but once he does the League had better watch out.
29. Giants: New York is actually in the 2nd year of their current rebuild, but the head coaching baton was passed in the off-season from former head coach Pat Shurmur to brand new head coach (and former Patriots special teams coordinator) Joe Judge. The Giants have some promising players on offense with 2nd year QB Daniel Jones, 3rd year RB Saquon Barkley, and veteran WR Golden Tate; but like many teams near this point of the list will only go as far as their still below-average defensive unit will take them.
30. Panthers: Carolina fans will have their pitchforks out and ready to some damage because of where we have their team ranked, but the honest truth is that the franchise is undergoing a complete overhaul. Gone are former head coach Ron Rivera, former League MVP and starting QB Cam Newton, and former All-Pro LB Luke Kuechly. Now the future of the team moving forward will be led by former Baylor University head coach Matt Rhule; who might just be in over his head and will likely hinge a majority of his initial success (or failure) upon new starting QB (and former Saints back-up) Teddy Bridgewater and the team’s lone remaining “superstar” in RB Christian McCaffery.
31. Jaguars: Much like the Rams in the NFC, Jacksonville has fallen quickly down to the lower echelon of the League; following their inspired run to the AFC Championship Game in 2017. Since that time, the Jaguars appear to have regressed under head coach (and former Saints offensive assistant) Doug Marrone, and though the team has some capable stars on offense such as QB Gardner Minshew and RB Leonard Fournette, their defense has consistently been a major disappointment throughout that time, and will continue to be the “weak link” for them again in 2020.
32. Washington: There really isn’t a whole lot to be said about the team formerly known as the “Redskins”, other than they will be entering into an entire new era under first year head coach and defacto general manager Ron Rivera. The former Panthers head coach essentially has taken over the reins of the franchise in lieu of owner Daniel Snyder, who has allowed this once proud and respected franchise to sink down to unthinkable depths that allegedly included rampant sexual harassment of female employees and reporters covering the team. If Rivera can get the on-the-field issues corrected after straightening out the horrific mess off-the-field, hopefully the Washington NFL franchise can one day reclaim the respectability that has been lost and get things headed back in the right direction….
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius