Max Thompson

The 2019-2020 season was a year full of upsets, surprises and fantastic comeback stories. There was no better way to wrap this up than a double-digit come-from-behind victory, let alone against a 49ers team that went from winning only four games in 2018 to dominating the NFC this year.

Luckily for you, it is already time for speculation on the upcoming season. Just a note, these rankings are, obviously, very premature. The draft and free agency could totally change all of this. Nevertheless, I know you want to know who will be the best NFL teams next year. Here are the extremely early power rankings for the 2020-2021 NFL season:

1. Kansas City Chiefs

You may be thinking, ‘Would you look at that, the reigning champs as the number one team next year. How original.’ Do not worry, I am thinking the exact same thing. The issue with not putting the Chiefs as the favorite for next year is: What is the argument against them?

They have talent everywhere on defense, speed everywhere on offense and Patrick Mahomes is everything you could ever want in a quarterback. Combine that with a legendary offensive mind like Andy Reid, and you have a formula for domination.

Their high-powered offense is supplemented by an opportunistic defense that does not get nearly enough credit. The only way the Chiefs are not among the best in the league next year is if Mahomes somehow regresses from Superman to Clark Kent. Even then, it is hard not to see this team getting double-digit wins.

2. Baltimore Ravens

First, let’s start with what we do know: The Ravens were historically dominant this year before falling in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. So dominant, in fact, they were the entire subject of my last article.

On the offensive side, they have little to worry about. Lamar Jackson and his talented group of young skill-position players are all expected to take another step forward. From Mark Andrews to Hollywood Brown, the Ravens have plenty of young weapons.

On defense, however, there are multiple different starters that will become free agents. Additionally, there could be potential aging of veteran stars such as Marshal Yanda, Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram. Next year’s Ravens may not have the same defensive-minded feel to them, but they are still the favorites in the AFC at the moment.

3. New Orleans Saints & New England Patriots

A historic head coach, an all-time great aging QB, above average talent and a disappointment in the Wild Card Round.

Was I talking about the Saints or the Patriots? Trick question, the answer is both of them. For that reason, these two juggernauts are in the same ranking. The window is slowly shutting on these legends, and everyone involved is trying to avoid another lost season.

Both of them have serious questions that need to be answered in 2020. Can Brees continue to play this great at this age? Can Brady still manage to be on the same team as an elite defense at this age? Can the Patriots get a wide receiver that doesn’t have off-the-field issues? Can the Saints ever beat the Vikings in the playoffs? Will Tom Brady have the same Quarterback Rating as Jameis Winston again?

These are more than just fun hypotheticals; the answers will ultimately dictate whether or not Brady or Brees can cap off their careers with another Lombardi.

Honorable Mentions:

San Francisco 49ers

According to Vegas, the 49ers currently have the second best chances of winning it all next year. However, there are reasons to believe that the 49ers may have a tough road back to the big game.

First, they play in the toughest division in football. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals are expected to be more competitive next year. Sean McVay, his cheekbones and the Rams are also looking for another bounce-back season. And of course, the Seahawks will always be around, saving their fantastic quarterback for never, like Thor if he refused to use his hammer.

Also, it is possible that we see some regression on defense, just like what could happen to Baltimore. Don’t get me wrong, the 49ers are one of the five best teams in football at the moment. Nevertheless, it just feels better to temper expectations for next year.

Dallas Cowboys

First of all, remove all of the anti-Cowboys bias. What are you left with? The eighth best team and the second best offense, according to DVOA. On top of that, this Cowboys team was horrendously unlucky: they were the only top ten team in DVOA to miss the playoffs, primarily because they were 1-6 in single possession games.

‘But wait, that must be true because they just aren’t clutch, right?’ No, not at all right. The same Cowboys went 9-3 in one possession games in 2018. In other words, they were lucky in 2018 and unlucky this year. In terms of talent and advanced statistics, the Cowboys are still an elite team. Combine that with the fifth most effective cap space and a brand new head coach, and the Cowboys are a worthwhile sleeper for next year.

Max Thompson is a freshman majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at sthomp92@vols.utk.edu. Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter for high-quality NFL analysis!

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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