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Top 5 NFL Teams as the 2018 Preseason Begins

Ryan Lavoie - Top 5 NFL Teams

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have been one of the strongest regular season teams in recent years winning double digit games in four straight years. They bring back a very similar roster for 2018, minus Martavis Bryant who was traded during the 2018 NFL Draft. Still, the combo of Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown form arguably the most intimidating trio offensively in the sport.

The Steelers will need to maintain their solid defensive play in 2018, as the aging Roethlisberger has begun to show signs of that age. However, the Steelers remain in a prime position to come out of the AFC.

4. New England Patriots

2017 was an uncharacteristically drama filled year for the Patriots, with rumors of a rift between owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady that resulted in a trade of future franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Ultimately, the Patriots would once again punch their ticket to another Super Bowl, but would fall short against the surprise Eagles.

The Patriots seemed to lose more than they brought in this year, leaving them with, at best, average talent on their roster. It will once again be almost solely on Belichick and Brady to lead the Patriots back to the place they are so familiar with, but father time is undefeated, and Brady is his next opponent.

3. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have had two straight heartbreaking losses to end their season, including being on the wrong side of the largest comeback in Super Bowl history at the end of the 2016 season. That is to say, the Falcons are close, and with no major losses in the offseason, the potent Falcons offense should be here to stay, and the young defense should continue to improve. The biggest question remaining for Atlanta might be something intangible, meaning what goes on between the ears. The pressure of the biggest stage, and the flashbacks to the previous heartbreaks might be the only thing that can keep the Falcons from taking their last step to greatness.

2. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had one of the more improbable Super Bowl victories in recent memory as with a backup quarterback, Philly was able to take down Tom Brady’s Patriots. With Carson Wentz returning, the Eagles are the favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

However, repeating is easier said than done, and while the Eagles have a very similar look to last year’s team, the Super Bowl hangover can be tough on a younger team. Expect the Eagles to be up there when all is said and done, but not before a few unexpected bumps in the road.

1. Los Angeles Rams

After winning just eleven games combined in 2015 and 2016, the Rams took off behind second year quarterback Jared Goff to an exciting eleven win campaign in 2017. Additionally, the Rams had the busiest offseason of any of the major Super Bowl contenders, bringing in Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, Brandin Cooks, and Marcus Peters amongst others. With a dangerous young duo in the backfield, and a defense that figures to be among the best in the league, the Rams are my pick to be a top of the league when all is said and done in 2018.

JJ Jackson - Top 5 NFL Teams

5. New England Patriots

He may have just turned 41 years old, but I still have a lot of respect for Tom Brady. After missing last season, Julian Edelman returns to the wide receivers room for the Patriots and has long been one of Brady’s top targets. While he still has to serve a suspension to start the year, if Edelman can return to top form in the games he plays, Brady’s go-to wideout is back.

If Rob Gronkowski can stay healthy and the New England defense can be any better than a year ago, it’s likely you’ll see the Patriots playing football in late January and possibly February.

4. Minnesota Vikings

Last year the Vikings got very close to becoming the first team to ever play the Super Bowl in their home stadium, but ultimately lost to Philadelphia in the NFC Championship. Minnesota then went out and signed Kirk Cousins as their franchise quarterback. While Cousins isn’t in the elite quarterback conversation, he is an improvement over Case Keenum.

The Vikings get Dalvin Cook back from injury and signed Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to long term deals. Oh yeah, and the Vikings return the top-ranked total defense and scoring defense in the NFL. While U.S. Bank Stadium isn’t the site for Super Bowl LIII, Minnesota will be just fine spending February 3rd, 2019 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

3. Los Angeles Rams

Of all of the teams in the mix this season, the Rams had the best offseason. Los Angeles went out and acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks to give third-year quarterback Jared Goff another option. Todd Gurley will once again be one of the best running backs in the NFL and I believe that Goff will continue to improve at quarterback.

On defense, the Rams added cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. I believe that NFC West is the Rams division to lose, and after the aggressive offseason, it’s clear that Los Angeles is aiming for the Super Bowl.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

I have always had a lot of positive praise for the Steelers. I think the top three skill position guys that they have in Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are the best combination of offensive skills on any team in the NFL. Pittsburgh’s defense will continue to move on from Ryan Shazier, but returns a lot of talented guys like second year stud T.J. Watt. Pittsburgh has been climbing the stairway to their seventh Lombardi Trophy since 2009 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they arrive at the top of the stairwell in 2018.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

I tend to follow the philosophy that if you won the Super Bowl last season, you automatically start the next season as #1, unless something wild happened in the offseason. That’s not the case with the Eagles.

The Eagles have the greatest quarterback controversy possible where Nick Foles won the title for you, and Carson Wentz was practically the league MVP before injury. Adding Michael Bennett to your defense in the offseason is helpful too. Going back-to-back is hard, but I expect Philly to be one of the final teams fighting to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season.

Christian Page - Top 5 NFL Teams

5. Minnesota Vikings

After a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl last season, Minnesota returns the majority of their NFC North championship roster with the addition of what is expected to be a better pocket passer. Kirk Cousins heads over from Washington to replace Case Keenum, now with Denver, and looks to get the Vikings to the next step: the Super Bowl.

Minnesota is hopeful to have a healthy Dalvin Cook at running back partnering him with all-star caliber receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen (54 percent of receiving yards in 2017). The defense led the league in both major defensive categories and returns nearly every player from the dominating unit. This season may simply ride solely on the success of Cousins and the return of Cook.

4. New England Patriots

It's becoming a trend that regardless of who departs from Foxborough, the Patriots rebound and make another shot at the Super Bowl. The left tackle spot is the biggest question mark as both starting left tackles from a year ago are now with different clubs (Patriots added Trent Brown and drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round).

The offense still shouldn't miss a beat even without Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman for the first four games. The Patriots had some defensive deficiencies a season ago with many of their flaws being exposed in the Super Bowl. If New England can tighten up a few screws, it’s almost certain they will be back in the driver’s seat in the AFC.

3. Atlanta Falcons

If Atlanta finds a way to work things out with Julio Jones, the offense has the personnel to produce the best numbers in the league (tell me if you’ve heard that before). Atlanta ranked eighth in passing (249.4) and 13th in rushing offense (115.4) to produce one of the more balanced offensive attacks in the regular season.

The Falcons look to be sound on defense, once again, with plenty of firepower returning including Vic Beasley, Deion Jones and Desmond Trufant leading the way. The Falcons topped their division in scoring defense (19.7) in 2017 and finished a hair behind the Panthers in total defense (317.1).

2. Philadelphia Eagles

It’s only right to assume the Eagles will click even more on offense with the return of Carson Wentz and Jason Peters. Even if both take patient approaches entering the season, the offense is still poised to light up scoreboards throughout the year.

The defense gets stronger with acquisitions Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata being added to an already strong defensive line unit. As opposed to last year’s “underdog” approach to the postseason, the Eagles enter with the target on their backs this season, which could call for some different outcomes.

1. Los Angeles Rams

In year three as the Rams' starting man under center, Jared Goff is poised for a big season. The offense adds Brandin Cooks from New England, three consecutive 1,000-yards seasons, and Les Snead made sure to lock up MVP candidate Todd Gurley at running back with a multi-year extension (four years, $60 million).

The defense only gets better adding all-pro players Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib. With established players and what seems to be an established coach, Los Angeles has Super Bowl written all over them heading into the season.

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