The NFL regular season officially kicks off on Thursday when Green Bay travels to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Shutdown Corner will be previewing everything to come all week, capped off by our awards and Super Bowl predictions on Thursday.
Here are the post-preseason power rankings, updating the initial rankings from four weeks ago, which will be otherwise known as "How could I have known the Bears defense was still going to be this bad?"
Chicago (seventh in the initial rankings) looked putrid against Seattle in its third preseason game, when the starters play the most. The Bears didn't look all that great in the second preseason game at home against Jacksonville either. You'd think that a defense that signed ends Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young, drafted tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, and cornerback Kyle Fuller, and got linebackers D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs back from injury would be better than last season's horrible unit. It definitely didn't look that way.
That raises the tough question of how to weigh the preseason. The Bears weren't using a full defensive game plan. So are they that bad? Is the Buccaneers' offensive line that shaky? Is the Bills offense that bad? Is the Giants offense ever going to score? Will young quarterbacks like Blake Bortles look as good in the regular season when teams actually blitz? Is there anything to make of the 49ers' preseason struggles? It's hard to evaluate because the games are meaningless.
For now, the Bears have to move down a bit until their defense shows something. Other teams might find themselves bumped up or down a spot or two in our final rankings before the seasons starts (and the "last week" rankings this time are where the teams ranked before the preseason):
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week: 32)
Bortles looks great. I think the only reason he's not starting this week is because the Jaguars boxed themselves into a corner in May by saying he wouldn't and now they feel they have to stick to it. Bortles is their best option right now.
31. Oakland Raiders (LW: 31)
Derek Carr throws a nice ball. Matt Schaub doesn't anymore. Ideally the Raiders probably wanted Carr to wait a year but the rookie is their only option after preseason.
30. Cleveland Browns (LW: 29)
I'm not sure how they're going to score at Pittsburgh this week.
29. Washington Redskins (LW: 30)
I still believe Robert Griffin III will have a very good year.
28. Buffalo Bills (LW: 27)
Buffalo fans, you better hope preseason results don't matter.
27. Minnesota Vikings (LW: 28)
I'm not getting too crazy over Matt Cassel looking good this preseason.
26. Houston Texans (LW: 25)
Jadeveon Clowney's burst looks incredible, even on an NFL field.
25. Tennessee Titans (LW: 26)
Between Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, the Titans have some playmakers at receiver. Not sure why rookie running back Bishop Sankey is being held back by the coaches, though.
24. Dallas Cowboys (LW: 24)
Dez Bryant is at his peak power. I'm not sure how teams can defend him.
23. New York Giants (LW: 21)
I can't imagine the offense, under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, is going to be as bad as it was in the preseason. If it is really that bad, McAdoo won't make it to November.
22. Atlanta Falcons (LW: 22)
Not sure who runs the ball or rushes the quarterback, but Matt Ryan is going to have a nice year.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 19)
New left tackle Eric Fisher, last season's first overall pick, struggled in the preseason. The Chiefs need him to be very good.
20. New York Jets (LW: 23)
The offense looks a lot better, particularly quarterback Geno Smith.
19. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 18)
Maybe new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will solve all of the offensive problems. We'll see.
18. Detroit Lions (LW: 17)
I think the balance, with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, might help Matthew Stafford. If he wants to get better, that is.
17. San Diego Chargers (LW: 16)
It might mean absolutely nothing, but the Chargers led the NFL this preseason allowing 138.8 passing yards per game. That can't be bad for a defense coming off such a bad 2013, right?
16. Miami Dolphins (LW: 20)
I'm buying. Like the offensive changes. Like the running back combination. Like the pass rush. Think they get back to the playoffs.
15. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 15)
Losing Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington off last year's defense can't be understated.
14. St. Louis Rams (LW: 14)
Tough to move them too far. I didn't think all that much of Sam Bradford before his second ACL injury, so moving them down because of the switch to Shaun Hill doesn't seem right.
13. Carolina Panthers (LW: 13)
Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin looks a lot more NFL ready than I figured. Now they just have to keep Cam Newton upright behind that line.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 12)
The offensive line scares me a lot. Hopefully guard Logan Mankins, acquired in a trade with New England, settles down that unit.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 11)
They're going to be nasty at linebacker. Ryan Shazier might make some rookie mistakes, but he'll make them at a faster speed than 95 percent of the linebackers in the league. Maybe more like 99 or 100 percent.
10. Chicago Bears (LW: 7)
I could flip back on the Bears if it turns out they were just holding everything back on defense in the preseason and that unit is actually competent.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 10)
Probably not enough has been made of the Bengals getting back All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
8. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 8)
Trent Richardson this preseason: 15 carries, 2.5-yard average. Uh oh.
7. Green Bay Packers (LW: 9)
It's going to be pretty fun watching Aaron Rodgers against that Seahawks secondary on Thursday.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 6)
There has to be some concern about receiver Jeremy Maclin staying healthy for anywhere near 16 games. But if he does, the Eagles offense is loaded.
5. New Orleans Saints (LW: 5)
Very, very excited to see what Sean Payton has in store for rookie receiver Brandin Cooks.
4. New England Patriots (LW: 4)
The running game will be interesting to watch. Steven Ridley was reportedly on the roster bubble. Does Shane Vereen carry it more? Rookie James White? Will they trust Ridley again?
3. Denver Broncos (LW: 3)
Emmanuel Sanders might be an upgrade over Eric Decker. And Montee Ball is a more talented runner than Knowshon Moreno. Ryan Clady is back. My word, this offense.
2. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 2)
Pete Carroll obviously takes the preseason more seriously than most. Wonder if that will ever become a trend.
1. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 1)
Aldon Smith's longer-than-expected suspension gives me some pause keeping them here. And the preseason struggles weren't comforting. But I'm sticking with them here ... for now.
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