NFL Power Rankings: Patriots starting No. 1 is the only safe bet on this list

The first NFL Power Rankings of the season are always a print-and-save version, one bound to get plenty of laughs come January.

That's because as much as we think we have a grasp on the season, we usually don't. Surprises happen, good teams fail and bad teams aren't nearly as bad as we thought, and some even emerge as playoff teams.

That's the NFL way.

With one caveat:  The New England Patriots are still the best team in the league.

The Patriots have the look of a team that is destined to repeat as Super Bowl winners. They are loaded on offense, even without Julian Edelman, who is lost for the year with a knee injury, and they still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Why wouldn't we pick them to repeat?

The only team in the AFC that has that look of a group that might keep them from winning it all is the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Brady is 10-2 against them in his career, and 3-0 in the playoffs. He has 29 touchdowns passes and three interceptions against the Steelers. He owns them.

That's why the Patriots open the season in the top spot of these Power Rankings. There aren't any real challengers in the AFC.

In the NFC, there are a lot of good teams, but I think the Green Bay Packers are the best right now, with the Atlanta Falcons right behind them.

I already picked a repeat of last year's championship games in both conferences: Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots.

Yes, very chalky.

That's why I implore you to keep these rankings. There's always a team or two or three that make us all look foolish come January.

So print and save.

Biggest Movers
9 Chargers
9 Saints
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Patriots They actually got faster on offense by getting Brandin Cooks and Philip Dorsett. That's something that will make them even tougher to defend. -- 1-1-0
2 Packers We know Aaron Rodgers and the offense will be good, but it's about the defense for the Packers. Have they done enough to improve a unit that struggled against the pass last year? 1 1-1-0
3 Falcons They will be a better team than the one that blew the Super Bowl. That doesn't mean they will get back, but they will win the NFC South. 1 2-0-0
4 Steelers Adding Joe Haden to play corner will help the defense and the offense will be explosive. Can they overtake the Patriots in the AFC? That will be tough. 2 2-0-0
5 Seahawks The defense will be nasty again, but it's all about the offensive line. That maligned unit has to be better. 1 1-1-0
6 Giants The thing that concerns me most is their offensive line. Can it show enough improvement? We know the defense will be good. 1 0-2-0
7 Cardinals Their defense could be special this season. That unit has a ton of talent. Carson Palmer needs to play like he did in the second half of 2016. 3 1-1-0
8 Buccaneers This young team will push for the division title behind quarterback Jameis Winston and his cache of weapons. -- 1-0-0
9 Cowboys The pass rush will be a season-long issue that could derail this team. The Ezekiel Elliott situation bears watching. -- 1-1-0
10 Chargers Watch out for this team. They have a great passer in Philip Rivers and they have two good pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. That's a nice formula for success. 9 0-2-0
11 Raiders The defense didn't play well last season, despite the successful year for the team. That unit has to be better. 4 2-0-0
12 Dolphins The Adam Gase-Jay Cutler pairing will be an interesting one to watch, but one that will have success. Cutler has a lot of weapons to throw the football to outside. -- 1-0-0
13 Chiefs Andy Reid does a great job with his team every year, making it a playoff contender. The one question about this team is the same every year: Are they explosive enough on offense? 2 2-0-0
14 Titans They will run it, play good defense, and take some shots with Marcus Mariota. They look like the class of the bad AFC South. 2 1-1-0
15 Texans They will again have a dominant defense, but this season is about the offense. Is Tom Savage ready to be the full-time starter? 6 1-1-0
16 Bengals They still have a lot of talent, but it's all about the offensive line this year. There is a lot of youth up front. 1 0-2-0
17 Broncos Can Trevor Siemian lead this team to a playoff berth? We know the defense will be good. 3 2-0-0
18 Eagles If Carson Wentz takes a big step forward, they will be much higher on this list at season's end. The division is a tough one, which hurts. 7 1-1-0
19 Panthers They had the Super Bowl hangover last year, but they appear to be way past that. The offense should be fun to watch again with more weapons for Cam Newton. 2 2-0-0
20 Redskins Kirk Cousins is playing for his future, but he did not have a good preseason. Even so, expect the offense to be good again. 2 1-1-0
21 Vikings They have a good defense and Dalvin Cook should amp up the run game. The improved offensive line will be the key to their season. 2 1-1-0
22 Saints If the defense shows any improvement, they could be a playoff team. You know Drew Brees and the offense will score. 9 0-2-0
23 Lions They gave Matt Stafford a big contract, which was the right decision, but now he has to play to it. The defense has to find a pass rush. 1 2-0-0
24 Ravens They've been crippled by injuries and quarterback Joe Flacco is coming off a back injury that kept him sidelined in the preseason. They just don't have a good feel about them right now. 4 2-0-0
25 Colts How long does Andrew Luck stay on the sideline with a bad shoulder? If he misses an extended period of time, they are done. 3 0-2-0
26 Rams New coach Sean McVay will improve the offense. But if they don't get Aaron Donald on board, it might be a tough go for the defense. 2 1-1-0
27 Bills Are they tanking like the Jets? They've made a lot of moves that make it look that way. 1 1-1-0
28 Jaguars The defense will be solid, but it might not matter if they don't get anything from their offense. It's all on Blake Bortles. 1 1-1-0
29 Browns With a rookie starting at quarterback, there will be growing pains. But they are building to something down the road, and it's the right approach. -- 0-2-0
30 Bears How long do they go with Mike Glennon and not rookie Mitch Trubisky? I bet it's not for long. -- 0-2-0
31 49ers They have some good, young players and they will be feisty every week, but this might be a long year for first-year coach Kyle Shanahan. -- 0-2-0
32 Jets They are headed to a rough season as they clearly don't have enough to compete. Is 0-16 a possibility? You bet it is. -- 0-2-0
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

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