NFL Power Rankings 2021

A Glance At All 32 Teams

NFL Power Rankings New Chiefs May updated

We’re getting a clear idea of what rosters are going to look like in the 2021-22 NFL season now that we’re in the late summer weeks. None of the transactions this spring and summer have moved the needle too much when it comes to our power rankings, as our top NFL teams list features three that were in the conference championship round in 2020-21. But ahead of the regular season, hope springs eternal for every team — save for the Texans.

Here are Nate Weitzer‘s NFL Power Rankings as training camps get underway.

NFL Power Rankings 2021 (updated July 27)

KC Chiefs
After offensive line play cost Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs a chance to repeat as champions, the front office made that a top priority and Mahomes should have excellent protection this year behind Kyle Long, Austin Blythe, Orlando Brown, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and Joe Thuney.
TB Buccaneers
Tom Brady restructured his contract and that helped GM Jason Licht re-sign Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown. The champs also added Gio Bernard to keep the old GOAT happy.
BUF Bills
Josh Allen is a rising superstar and working with veteran route runners Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, and Cole Beasley will only help him improve as a pocket passer. Buffalo re-signed OT Daryl Williams and DB Levi Wallace, and drafted two excellent edge rushers in Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham in the first two rounds. 
LAR Rams
Matthew Stafford is a significant upgrade over Jared Goff and the Rams added some insurance by drafting WR Tutu Atwell in case DeSean Jackson can’t stay healthy. With Aaron Donald anchoring the other side of the ball, the upside for LA is unlimited.
BAL Ravens
Lamar Jackson needed help at WR and the Ravens front office tried to address that by trading OT Orlando Brown to the Chiefs for a slew of draft picks. Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace should make a positive impact on Baltimore’s struggling passing game. Baltimore also added LB Odafe Oweh in the Draft.
SF 49ers
With Nick Bosa (knee) leading a crop of elite players set to return from injury, the Niners are an obvious candidate to bounce back from a down year. Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the roster despite trade rumors and he’ll have to compete with No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance. Either QB could thrive behind a stacked offensive line that now includes elite OT Trent Williams. 
GB Packers
Aaron Rodgers reported to Packers training camp and is set to go for 2021-22. It could very well be his last season in Green Bay, which makes for an interesting dynamic. Will Green Bay rally around their longtime leader for one last dance or will they become frustrated with the notion that the face of the franchise still wants out of town?
TEN Titans
The Titans made the biggest post-Draft splash by trading for All-World WR Julio Jones. The offense should be terrific but the Titans biggest issue last year was in run defense and they may only be marginally better on that side of the ball after signing Denico Autry and OLB Bud Dupree. 
CLE Browns
Browns GM Andrew Berry had a great offseason as he stole Troy Hill and John Johnson from the Rams and landed Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. Berry added more depth in the secondary by drafting CB Greg Newsome II and he took a chance on DT Malik Jackson in free agency.
NO Saints
Drew Brees retired and helped the Saints get out of cap jail by spreading his cap hit out over two years. But New Orleans still had to let go of Trey Hendrickson, Kwon Alexander, and Janoris Jenkins on defense and their QB situation is a question mark with Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston respectively limited.
DAL Cowboys
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper are all back at a handsome price. Jerry Jones is now hoping that the six defensive players he took in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft will help his defense become more viable. 
IND Colts
Carson Wentz might have Philip Rivers beat in youth and athleticism, but there is a huge gap in terms of his intangibles as a leader. The Colts were mostly focusing on re-signing their studs in free agency, with Marlon Mack, T.Y. Hilton, and Xavier Rhodes locked up on one-year deals.
NE Patriots
Clearly fed up after a 7-9 season, Bill Belichick was given free rein to spend and dropped over $250M to re-sign and bring in 15 different players. The Patriots defense is going to be significantly better with LB Dont’a Hightower returning alongside Kyle Van Noy. Cam Newton could thrive in a two-TE offense but if he struggles, Mac Jones might get a shot. 
ARI Cardinals
J.J. Watt and A.J. Green are splashy signings, but can the veterans still play at an elite level? Cardinals GM Steve Keim played it safe by taking solid ILB Zaven Collins in the first round and Kliff Kingsbury got yet another speedy WR on the roster in second-rounder Rondale Moore. 
WAS Football Team
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a consummate pro and has made the most out of his opportunities over the past few years. He’s certainly an upgrade at QB over the Alex Smith-Dwayne Haskins disaster we witnessed last season and Washington’s defense could be even better with DB William Jackson signed and LB Jamin Davis drafted. 
LAC Chargers
The Chargers might have snagged the steal of the draft by getting elite OT Rashawn Slater at No. 13 overall. New HC Brandon Staley has plenty of talent to work with on defense with Derwin James healthy and Justin Herbert is a coaches’ dream with his accuracy and ball security. 
SEA Seahawks
Russell Wilson is staying in Seattle and will try his luck with new OC Shane Waldron after the Seahawks offense spiraled down the toilet in the second half of last season. Seattle did not really address a glaring need on the offensive line in the draft. 
MIA Dolphins
The Tua Tagovailoa era begins in earnest in Miami and he’ll have a little more to work with this season with Will Fuller signed and former teammate Jaylen Waddle drafted at No. 6 overall. 
CHI Bears
The Bears front office might finally be developing a long-term plan by trading up for Justin Fields and slapping the franchise tag on Allen Robinson. Cornerback Desmond Trufant is an underrated addition and Andy Dalton is a serviceable stopgap on a one-year deal until Fields is ready. 
NYG Giants
The Giants are loaded on offense with Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, and rookie Kadarius Toney on board. In addition, Saquon Barkely set to return from an ACL tear. Daniel Jones simply has to take care of the ball and let Joe Judge coach up his overperforming defense. 
MIN Vikings
Kirk Cousins posted a 25:3 TD:INT ratio with great numbers across the board over the last two months of the season and Justin Jefferson became a certifiable star. Patrick Peterson should help stabilize an extremely inexperienced Vikings secondary. 
PIT Steelers
Instead of addressing a subpar offensive line that becomes markedly worse following the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers decided to take RB Najee Harris in the first round. Ben Roethlisberger is riding into the sunset while the franchise he carried is headed in a youthful direction. 
DEN Broncos
Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will make life tough on opposing QBs all season and it won’t be easy to find holes in Denver’s secondary with Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller, and safety Justin Simmons joined by rookie CB Patrick Surtain. Oh, and Denver finally scored a reliable QB in Teddy Bridgewater. 
LV Raiders
The Raiders prioritized pass defense this offseason by signing safety Karl Joseph and using a second-round pick on TCU stud Trevon Moehrig. Marcus Mariota has a lot of value as a trade chip, but he could simply be an upgrade over starter Derek Carr. 
ATL Falcons
The Falcons scored one of the most exciting prospects in the draft by taking TE Kyle Pitts No. 4 overall. The Florida product is exactly what their offense needed to soften up the middle with Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones dominating on the perimeter.
CAR Panthers
Matt Rhule did a great job in his first year in Carolina and his defense should improve with LBs Denzel Perryman and Haason Reddick on board. That said, swapping Teddy Bridgewater for Sam Darnold is a risky move that could easily backfire.
PHI Eagles
The Eagles didn’t do a great job filling the holes in their roster during the draft, but likely made Jalen Hurts happy by taking his former teammate Devonta Smith in the first round. Nick Sirianni better figure out how to utilize his dual-threat QB behind an injury-prone offensive line.
NYJ Jets
Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas are rebuilding from the ground up. They started with the defensive line and secondary, then grabbed WRs Corey Davis and Keelan Cole. And, of course, they will be ready to roll with BYU product Zach Wilson at QB. 
CIN Bengals
Joe Burrow is cleared to do most everything in training camp as he recovers from ACL surgery and he will get to throw to his college teammate, Ja’Marr Chase. Cincinnati’s defense improves considerably with Trey Hendrickson, Mike Hilton, and Chidobe Awuzie signed.
JAX Jaguars
There were no surprises with Trevor Lawrence going first overall to Jacksonville, where he’ll work with Urban Meyer and a reloaded corps of WRs that includes Marvin Jones. Jacksonville’s defense has a ton of holes after all those talented players forced their way out of town, however.
DET Lions
The Lions finished their season ranked dead last in most defensive metrics and addressed their problems in run defense by taking DTs in the second and third round. Jared Goff requires good protection and they’ll hope that OT Penei Sewell pans out the best lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft.
HOU Texans
New Texans GM Nick Caserio went wild adding players in free agency including some insurance at QB with Deshaun Watson under fire. Tyrod Taylor could be the starter Week 1 for Houston with third-rounder Davis Mills waiting in the wings. 

How to use NFL Power Rankings

Stay tuned for updates to our power rankings all season long! These can serve as a valuable tool for placing NFL futures bets or planning how to bet on NFL games.

Of course, you have to account for factors such as travel time, home field advantage, and injuries as the season progresses. Yet early in the season, it’s possible to go against the betting public by sticking to your own process.

Bettors tend to overreact to recent results and are very reactionary in an “update league” like the NFL. Therefore, the betting market shifts to these reactions.

If you stick with the raw data, i.e. metrics on offensive line play, a quarterback’s record at home, and turnover differential, you might be able to cash big early in the season before oddsmakers and the betting public adjust. Trust your data and stay one step ahead with a comprehensive Power Rankings system.

How to handicap NFL games

What does it mean to “handicap” a game? At first, it might seem that you’ll be running advanced metrics and spitting out numbers and point spreads. In reality, handicapping is a fancy bettor’s term for preparing and researching. There’s dozens of game factors that need to be taken into account like injuries, matchups, and metrics but also market factors like line movement and public biases.

Surface-level factors

First are the surface-level factors that can determine a game like home field advantage (though in 2020, that was severely diminished), key injuries, and the weather. For injuries, don’t just browse the fantasy football injury report– a diminished offensive line or defensive secondary can be devastating to a team’s performance. For example, the Washington Football Team was able to record eight sacks on then-Eagles QB Carson Wentz and overcome a 17-point deficit and underdog odds due to three key offensive line absences for Philadelphia in Week 1 of the 2020 season.

Traditionally, the home team is given a 2- or 3-point advantage for playing in their home city in front of their home fans. Even without fans in attendance, travel takes a toll on visiting teams and has some (albeit diminished) effect on the line. Also needed for consideration is the weather: rain, wind, and snow can hurt a pass-heavy offense and cold weather might hurt warm-climate teams. Teams playing at altitude (Denver) may also have an advantage over teams that don’t frequently play at altitude (Miami).

Strength of schedule is useful when looking at futures bet. The Steelers and Ravens have the most difficult schedules in 2021, based on the combined 2020 record/winning percentage of their opponents. AFC North teams have a tough go of it in 2021, as those teams will play NFC West teams. The Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals all finished .500 or better in 2020, and the 49ers (6-10 in 2020) are a chic pick to be the comeback team of 2021. Be sure to factor in all division vs. division matchups when surveying the NFL landscape.

Deeper factors

Beyond those easily-identifiable factors are matchups, schemes, and metrics. If you aren’t a film junkie, don’t worry – there’s plenty of Twitter follows and websites that can help you break it down and make it easily understandable.

Look for size advantages in receivers and defensive backs; players like Julio Jones can make life difficult for a 5’ 8” corner and the Titans might gameplan to exploit that advantage. Other positional advantages to keep in mind: pass rushers against inexperienced/struggling offensive tackles and athletic pass-catching tight ends against linebackers who struggle defending receivers. Schematic advantages are also worth noting. For example, seasoned vets like Josh McDaniels (Patriots offensive coordinator) or Mike Zimmer (Vikings head coach and former defensive coordinator) will have an advantage against a first-year play-caller.

Advanced metrics can be telling and expose weaknesses in teams, but with thousands of metrics out there, it can be difficult to tell which are really helpful. NBC’s Warren Sharp is a great resource for finding advanced metrics that make significant differences in outcomes. A quick tab on stats worth paying attention to:

  • Yards per play (rather than total yards)
  • Expected points per drive (rather than points per game)
  • Air yards per attempt (rather than passing yards thrown)
  • 3rd down conversion

These numbers will break down the efficiency and effectiveness of an offense (or defense, if you’re going with allowed) and remove the “garbage time” numbers plenty of players can pile on. Contrary to the belief that stats never lie, stats can actually be the best liars when used incorrectly.

If you’ve really got a handle on the NFL game, a popular focus recently has been on coaches’ understanding of analytics and their willingness to utilize probability factors in their gameplan. Failing to use analytics and probability can cost teams victories. Examples include rushing on third and long, hoarding timeouts, settling for field goals inside the three yard line, etc. Older coaches who’ve rejected the use of modern analytics can move lines (especially over/unders) and are worth keeping tabs on.

Market factors

Outside of the game itself, bettors should understand how lines move and react to sharp bettors and the general public. One thing to remember about public betting: they are easily and drastically influenced by recency bias and non-sequitur trends. For example, Sammy Watkins almost always comes out in Week 1 and dominates, but disappears for the rest of the year. Yet year-in and year-out, Watkins is picked up in thousands of fantasy leagues with hopes that he continues his streak. This affects statistical futures from the droves of public bettors that go and bet his over in receiving yards and moves the line up (say, from 405.5 yards to 425.5 yards).

Sharp bettors (professionals and those who prepare correctly) can take advantage of moving lines and get better odds for their wagers. Taking the Watkins example, bettors who take the under now have 20 more yards of breathing room and a higher probability of success. The same goes for good players who play a poor Week 1 (ex. Saquon Barkley in Week 1 of 2020). Their futures will decrease due to the public all betting under their totals, and gives sharp bettors more space to work with when betting overs.

This tactic is known as fading the public and has a long track record of success.

Power Rankings vs. Power Ratings

Everyone sees Power Rankings just about everywhere you look – SportsCenter, the Herd, just about every website – and those are useful in their own right. The concept is simple, just a 1-32 list of the best team to the worst team. Maybe it’s based on metrics, maybe it’s based on the eyeball test, maybe it’s both.

Power Ratings differ quite a bit despite sounding similar. Ratings quantify the numerical advantage one team has over another based on past scores and season performance. Ratings are drawn exclusively from quantifiable metrics (though those metrics may differ person to person) and are used to help predict future scores and outcomes, rather than saying Team X is just better than Team Y and should win.

How to build your own Power Rankings

For those looking to rank teams 1-32 based on last season, the games ongoing this season, and looking quickly at the depth chart, you can do just that. However, it likely won’t serve as a useful tool when it comes to betting, especially against the spread; you’ll want to build (or find) a set of power ratings first. That way, you’ll have a more accurate and quantifiable justification to your rankings and remove potential biases.

To create these power ratings, begin with ranking the teams according to projected number of wins. This will give you a base to work with rather than working from scratch. Assign a number to each team, starting at the top with 16 and running down to the bottom where the last ranked team receives -16. From there, adjust the numbers– 16 through -16, with zero being the middle– based on projected point totals, defensive ranks, and personnel. If interested, look up formulas on expected point differentials to create a more pinpoint rating for each team.

Putting it together

Once you have your numbers, compare two teams (numbers in parentheses are hypothetical power ratings): Indianapolis (12) @ Los Angeles Chargers (-8).

The difference between these teams ratings, 4, is now your theoretical point spread. Add in a 2.5-point advantage for the home team (Los Angeles) for an adjusted point spread of 1.5 in favor of the Colts.

Now add in your factors (injuries, metrics, etc.) to fine-tune your spread. Derwin James is out for the season and creates a massive disadvantage for the Chargers’ defensive secondary (the numbers on this are worth looking up) and should benefit the Colts at least half a point. Your final spread for this game comes out to Colts -2 (-110) @ Chargers.

Now, take your projected spread of -2 and compare it to the Vegas lines. Say the opening line comes out to Colts -4.5 (-110) @ Chargers. That should be an easy bet, since our projected point total is -2 and we would take the Chargers to cover. The process will take some refining and new factors will emerge as the season goes on, but this is the basic process in handicapping your own NFL games.

Not only will this help you quantify point spreads and decide on feasible spreads, but it will help you dig deeper and find new metrics that create a new dimension of understanding for betting on the NFL.

2021 NFL Pre-season Power Rankings

Here were our initial 2021-22 Power Rankings accompanied by their FanDuel Sportsbook Super Bowl odds at the time. Also included are current odds to win this coming season’s big game.

RankTeamSuper Bowl odds - FebruarySuper Bowl odds - MaySuper Bowl odds - July 25
1Tampa Bay Buccaneers+950+500+600
2Kansas City Chiefs+500+650+500
3Buffalo Bills+1100+1200+1000
4Green Bay Packers+1100+1700+1200
5LA Rams+1200+1300+1400
6New Orleans Saints+1900+2700+2500
7Baltimore Ravens+1400+1400+1400
8Tennessee Titans+2700+3500+2800
9Cleveland Browns+2200+1700+1600
10Pittsburgh Steelers+3100+4000+4000
11Seattle Seahawks+2000+2300+2500
12San Francisco 49ers+1300+1400+1400
13Miami Dolphins+2800+3000+3500
14Indianapolis Colts+2900+2500+2800
15Dallas Cowboys+3300+2800+3000
16Chicago Bears+6000+4800+6500
17Arizona Cardinals+4100+4000+4000
18Washington Football Team+8000+5000+5000
19LA Chargers+3100+3200+3000
20New York Giants+7000+6500+8000
21Philadelphia Eagles+5000+8500+10000
22Las Vegas Raiders+5000+7500+10000
23Minnesota Vikings+4400+4000+5000
24Atlanta Falcons+5000+5000+8000
25Carolina Panthers+5000+7000+8000
26New England Patriots+3700+3200+2800
27Denver Broncos+8000+2400+3500
28Houston Texans+7000+18000+20000
29Cincinnati Bengals+8000+8000+15000
30New York Jets+6500+10000+15000
31Jacksonville Jaguars+8000+10000+10000
32Detroit Lions+12000+15000+20000