Week 16 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus two words to describe each team's offseason

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The NFL Power Rankings are relevant for this season (or, to be more accurate, this week in this season), but we're at the point where it's cool to look ahead to the future. We're not talking Week 16 or 17 future, but start of a whole new decade future.

So we've asked our NFL Nation reporters to come up with no-frills descriptors of each team's offseason look. From wholesale rebuilds (Jacksonville and Miami) to creative money management (New Orleans and Houston), we break down each team's offseason goals. Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings:15 |14 |13 |12|11 |10 |9 |8 |7 |6 |5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

1. Baltimore Ravens (12-2)

Week 15 ranking: 1

Offseason in two words: Bolster defense

After the Ravens devoted much of their resources to the offense over the past couple of offseasons, it's time to help the onetime top-ranked defense. The priority has to be addressing the pass rush, which means bringing in an edge rusher as well as possibly re-signing Matthew Judon. Baltimore also has to figure out the plan at cornerback, where Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith are scheduled to become free agents. With Lamar Jackson and his supporting cast intact, the Ravens can focus on a defense that lost C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle and Za'Darius Smith this past offseason. -- Jamison Hensley

2. New Orleans Saints (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 3

Offseason in two words: Money matters

The Saints have one of the NFL's deepest rosters, but how long can they keep it that way? Their offseason will be defined by several tough financial decisions. QB Drew Brees won't leave as a free agent -- but backup QB Teddy Bridgewater might if the right opportunity comes along. G Andrus Peat, CB Eli Apple, S Vonn Bell, DT David Onyemata, LB A.J. Klein and WR Ted Ginn Jr.are among several other notable free agents. And the biggest decision of all might come if RB Alvin Kamara decides to hold out heading into his fourth season. -- Mike Triplett

3. San Francisco 49ers (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 2

Offseason in two words: Difficult decisions

The 49ers have harvested their share of top young players, which is good for their futures but also means things are about to get more difficult when it comes to keeping them around. Defensive end Arik Armstead, safety Jimmie Ward and receiver Emmanuel Sanders are all set to become unrestricted free agents, and the Niners also need to sign defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle to contract extensions as they enter the final season of their rookie deals. Juggling all of that and maintaining flexibility figures to make for some tough choices this offseason. -- Nick Wagoner

4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 4

Offseason in two words: Contenders again

The Chiefs will take the look of being Super Bowl contenders into 2020 regardless of how this season finishes. That's not to say they won't have roster work to do. They will have to address a number of positions, including cornerback, running back and the interior of their offensive line. But they should be among the favorites to win the AFC again next season. -- Adam Teicher

5. Seattle Seahawks (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 6

Offseason in two words: Up front

That's where the most significant changes could come. Just look at how many of their offensive and defensive linemen are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents: Jadeveon Clowney, Jarran Reed, Ziggy Ansah, Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Germain Ifedi, Mike Iupati and George Fant. Justin Britt is under contract for another season but might be a cap casualty. Of that group, Clowney might be the least replaceable and potentially the hardest to re-sign, given that the Seahawks agreed not to franchise him -- meaning they won't have the tag as a last resort, nor will they have the negotiation leverage that the tag can create. -- Brady Henderson

6. New England Patriots (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 5

Offseason in two words: Tom Brady

For the first time in his 20-year career, Brady will be an unrestricted free agent, and the Patriots can't assign the franchise tag to him. So there is intrigue as to how it will all unfold. Will Brady retire? Re-sign in New England? Play elsewhere? Even Brady has said he doesn't know the answer, and he has approached the season by saying everything is a bonus at this point. -- Mike Reiss

7. Green Bay Packers (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 7

Offseason in two words: Help Aaron

Aaron Rodgers is succeeding with only two legitimate playmakers: Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. General manager Brian Gutekunst focused on the defense last offseason -- and rightly so -- but now he has to turn to the other side. If he doesn't sign a productive free-agent wide receiver -- and that seems unlikely after the Packers' spending spree last offseason -- he will have to dedicate draft resources to the pass-catching positions (both WR and TE). The Packers haven't picked a wideout in the first round of the draft since Javon Walker in 2002. That might have to change. -- Rob Demovsky

8. Minnesota Vikings (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 8

Offseason in two words: Cap decisions

The NFL informed teams last week that the salary cap will be between $196.8 and $201.2 million in 2020. That's good news for a team with tight finances (ESPN's Roster Management System currently projects the Vikings at $4.8 million over the cap) and a handful of contract decisions to make this offseason.Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook are in line for extensions. Minnesota has two cornerbacks -- Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander -- who need to be paid or allowed to go on the open market. Decisions on the likes of Everson Griffen, Riley Reiff and Xavier Rhodes also are on the horizon once the season ends. -- Courtney Cronin

9. Buffalo Bills (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 10

Offseason in two words: More playmakers

Buffalo reached the double-digit win plateau in 2019 largely on the strength of an elite defense that often carried a sputtering offense. The goal this offseason must be to continue to surround Josh Allen with a full arsenal of offensive weapons -- and build an offense that can provide this defense more of a lead to play with. The Bills have a full complement of draft picks and an estimated $90 million in salary-cap space; even after they take care of in-house players such asTre'Davious White, Matt Milano, Dion Dawkins and Jordan Poyer, they'll still have plenty of resources at their disposal. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

10. Houston Texans (9-5)

Week 15 ranking: 11

Offseason in two words: Big contracts

The Texans should sign quarterback Deshaun Watson and left tackle Laremy Tunsil to contract extensions this offseason, and both should at least be close to becoming the highest-paid players at their positions. Houston has quite a few expiring contracts -- including nose tackle D.J. Reader -- so it will have a lot of holes to fill. Given their lack of draft capital and preference to hand out one-year free-agent contracts, expect Bill O'Brien and the Texans to get creative in free agency. -- Sarah Barshop

11. Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Week 15 ranking: 12

Offseason in two words: Muddy waters

The Titans must navigate a difficult offseason that starts with deciding what to do at QB. Ryan Tannehill appears to be the guy for them, but for how long and at what price? If they decide to take a QB in the draft, they'll need to move up to get a plug-and-play prospect. Then there's Derrick Henry. He has run his way into a higher contract tier, and if he leaves, the fans will riot. Titans GM Jon Robinson has to retool on the fly, which will be tough considering they have upward of 20 contracts expiring after the season. -- Turron Davenport

12. Los Angeles Rams (8-6)

Week 15 ranking: 9

Offseason in two words: Too long

Barring a miracle, the end of the Rams' season will coincide with their regular-season finale against the Cardinals on Dec. 29, marking the first time in Sean McVay's three campaigns that the Rams will not make the playoffs. The long break will sharply contrast with their most recent offseason, following their appearance in Super Bowl LIII. Since that jarring loss to the Patriots in February, the Rams have appeared a fraction of their former selves, so there's no question that a long offseason will provide plenty of time to seek answers and find solutions to their offensive and defensive woes. -- Lindsey Thiry

13. Dallas Cowboys (7-7)

Week 15 ranking: 15

Offseason in two words: High anxiety

There could be a lot of change for the Cowboys, starting at head coach with Jason Garrett. Not even a playoff appearance would earn him a contract extension from Jerry Jones. While the Cowboys want to keep Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper and could have a way to keep both on the franchise and transition tags, the goal is to sign them to long-term deals, which is not a lock. They have 25 players who could be unrestricted free agents. A majority of the coaching staff is in the final year of contracts, as well. There is much work ahead. -- Todd Archer

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6)

Week 15 ranking: 13

Offseason in two words: Offensive weapons

The Steelers have the defense to make them a contender, but the offense needs to catch up. With Ben Roethlisberger eyeing a return from this year's season-ending elbow injury, the Steelers' future hinges on which weapons surround Big Ben. Will they take another stab at adding veteran free agents? Or will they build the offense through the draft? Those are the questions they face this offseason. -- Brooke Pryor

15. Chicago Bears (7-7)

Week 15 ranking: 14

Offseason in two words: Rinse, repeat

The Bears perpetually underwhelm. Every so often, they have a good year and raise hopes across the city. And then, seemingly without fail, the Bears don't live up to those expectations. The upcoming offseason is likely to have the same vibe. Many will expect the Bears to make the playoffs since the roster is talented. Fans will look past the obvious faults and cling to the belief that the Bears are just one or two lucky breaks away from being a Super Bowl contender. Then 2020 probably will end like most years for the Bears: without a trip to the postseason. -- Jeff Dickerson

16. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

Week 15 ranking: 17

Offseason in two words: Youth movement

The Eagles entered the season with the third-oldest roster in the NFL, which included eight original starters who were at least 30 years old. That has come back to bite them in the areas of health and team speed. Philadelphia is projected to have 10 draft picks in April, and it will be looking to craft a younger, more explosive team for 2020. -- Tim McManus

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7)

Week 15 ranking: 21

Offseason in two words: Building blocks

That's what Bruce Arians called the Bucs' four-game win streak, believing that while the Bucs can't make the postseason this year, these victories can go a long way towardoverhauling a losing culture. He said of his players, "They don't accept losing anymore." -- Jenna Laine

18. Indianapolis Colts (6-8)

Week 15 ranking: 16

Offseason in two words: Offensive help

This isn't directed at the offensive line or running back. The Colts have one of the top lines in the NFL, and Marlon Mack is on the brink of cracking 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career. The need for help is at wide receiver and tight end. T.Y. Hilton has not only missed six games this season thanks to injuries, he'll also turn 31 next season. The Colts have struggled finding a No. 2 wideout, partially because of injuries and poor play. The Colts likely won't re-sign tight end Eric Ebron, so they need to add another pass-catcher at that position to go with Jack Doyle. -- Mike Wells

19. Oakland Raiders (6-8)

Week 15 ranking: 18

Offseason in two words: The Meadows

Oh, you didn't know "Las Vegas" means "The Meadows" in Spanish? Indeed, the Raiders' long, strange move to southern Nevada since winning the right to relocate in 2017 will be on the forefront of the franchise this offseason -- even if the Raiders still plan to do their offseason program in Alameda and training camp in Napa back in California. But shy of any construction delays, the Las Vegas Raiders will debut in 2020. It's the end of an era for Oaklandbut the beginning of another for Sin City. -- Paul Gutierrez

20. Cleveland Browns (6-8)

Week 15 ranking: 19

Offseason in two words: Self-contemplation

The Browns had the talent on paper to be a playoff team. But at 6-8, they're already all but out of the playoff picture with two weeks to go. Cleveland has to figure out why this season turned into such a disappointment, which will require some serious self-evaluation. Talent is not the issue, which leaves culture, leadership and coaching as the only explanations for why this team underachieved. The Browns have a window to become a playoff team down the line, but a course correction is required. -- Jake Trotter

21. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 20

Offseason in two words: Quarterback uncertainty

Heading into the offseason after head coach Anthony Lynn's first losing record, the Chargers have major questions to answer at quarterback for the first time in more than a decade. Philip Rivers, 38, had an up-and-down season, and he is in the final year of his contract. Rivers would like to return in 2020, but does the front office want him back? Or are the Chargers ready to move on and either select a quarterback early in the draft or sign someone else in free agency? What happens at quarterback will be the top storyline for the Chargers this offseason. -- Eric D. Williams

22. Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 24

Offseason in two words: Cap hell

The Falcons are expected to enter 2020 about $8 million over the cap, with the top four salaries of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthewsand Grady Jarrett accounting for almost $86 million. The high-dollar contracts will prove costly when it comes to free agency, and fixing needs in terms of a pass-rusher or offensive line help. We'll see which moves the Falcons make -- and who is in charge to make them -- in order to create some cap relief. -- Vaughn McClure

23. Carolina Panthers (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 22

Offseason in two words: Cultural metamorphosis

The Panthers will have a new coaching staff and management structure when owner David Tepper finishes tearing down the old system and putting his own people in place. What that means for key players such as quarterback Cam Newton remains unclear. What is clear is that Tepper is tired of the culture that has produced, in his words, long-term mediocrity and wants to implement a more progressive, analytical-thinking approach that allows Carolina to win consistently, like the team he watched while growing up in Pittsburgh. -- David Newton

24. Denver Broncos (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 23

Offseason in two words: Be smart

The Broncos have three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1970 to 1972, so to say the franchise's faithful are at a football DEFCON 1 is an understatement. But with plenty of expected salary-cap space (perhaps $60 million before any adjustments) and likely 12 picks in the draft if they get their expected compensatory picks, the Broncos need to avoid impulsive, rash decisions. They have a quality core of young players -- Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Noah Fant, Bradley Chubb and Dalton Risner, among others -- and a potential long-term starter at quarterback in Drew Lock, and Von Millerhas plenty of quality football left in him. -- Jeff Legwold

25. Arizona Cardinals (4-9-1)

Week 15 ranking: 26

Offseason in two words: Roster rebuild

The Cardinals have seen glimpses of how good Kliff Kingsbury's offensive scheme can be, but there are roster limitations holding it back. The Cardinals need to address holes this offseason if they want to have their first winning season since 2015, most notably on the offensive line and at wide receiver and running back. But the rebuild goes beyond the offense. Arizona also has significant holes on defense, most notably the defensive line. The Cardinals also could use help at linebacker and cornerback. How general manager Steve Keim handles it should dictate whether he continues as the Cardinals' GM in 2021. -- Josh Weinfuss

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 28

Offseason in two words: Complete rebuild

It seems strange to say considering the Jaguars were in the AFC title game two seasons ago, but the roster has significantly regressed. They never adequately replaced six defensive starters/key reserves from 2017, and interior defensive line and linebacker are two of the roster's weakest spots. They haven't figured out tight end, and the wide receivers other than DJ Chark need an upgrade. It would be nice to find a complementary back to Leonard Fournette,too. And what are they doing with the very expensive Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew II? Regardless of who is drafting and coaching in 2020, this roster needs a major overhaul. -- Mike DiRocco

27. New York Jets (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 27

Offseason in two words: Think big

We're talking about the big fellas -- offensive linemen. The Jets, who haven't drafted a lineman in the first round since 2006 (D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold), must overhaul their line in the offseason. They need a left tackle, two guards and quite possibly a center. They can buy one or two in free agency (guard Brandon Scherff?), then look for a franchise left tackle in the draft. Quarterback Sam Darnold's future depends on it. -- Rich Cimini

28. Detroit Lions (3-10-1)

Week 15 ranking: 25

Offseason in two words: Total uncertainty

Will Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia be the Lions' general manager and head coach on Jan. 1? At this point, it seems like a real question. And what the franchise does with its two biggest decision-makers will determine the course that the club takes for 2020 (and potentially beyond). If Quinn and Patricia remain, fixing the team's defense and finding another pass-rusher should be priorities. If they are gone, there will be questions on what happens next at every level of the organization -- so much remains to be seen. -- Michael Rothstein

29. New York Giants (3-11)

Week 15 ranking: 31

Offseason in two words: Defensive playmakers

The Giants need them desperately. Anywhere. At any position, regardless of who the coach and/or general manager is. Only three teams had less money against the salary cap going toward their defense in 2019. That needs to change. The Giants need to find defensive playmakers at the top of the draft and in free agency (where they will have money to spend) after using most of their premium assets on offense in recent years. -- Jordan Raanan

30. Washington Redskins (3-11)

Week 15 ranking: 30

Offseason in two words: More change

The Redskins first need to decide the fate of team president Bruce Allen, which will determine their next direction. They also must hire a new, permanent coach -- the seventh in Dan Snyder's 20 years as team owner. If they move on from Allen, there could be several front-office changes. With that change comes roster overhauls. The Redskins have a lot of young talent, but not all will fit into the new regime. The Redskins conned themselves last offseason into thinking they were closer than they truly were; they can't do that again. They're in the start of a rebuild and must proceed accordingly. -- John Keim

31. Miami Dolphins (3-11)

Week 15 ranking: 29

Offseason in two words: Selling hope

Once the offseason arrives, the Dolphins will put a painful 2019 season behind them and sell the hope of a new beginning, with a large roster turnover expected. The Dolphins have three first-round picks, a projected 14 total draft selections and an estimated $100 million in cap space -- resources that general manager Chris Grier promises they will be aggressive with, starting this offseason. A quarterback of the future is likely to arrive in Miami this spring, as well, setting up the ultimate offseason of selling hope. Only time will tell if the hope is worth buying. -- Cameron Wolfe

32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-13)

Week 15 ranking: 32

Offseason in two words: Quarterback decisions

With one more loss, Cincinnati will cement the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft and will have the opportunity to take Heisman winner Joe Burrow. The other big quarterback decision involves Andy Dalton's future. Dalton's current contract expires in 2020, and the veteran could be moved in the offseason in a trade that could benefit both sides. -- Ben Baby

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