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Week 6 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus each team’s biggest weakness



The NFL Power Rankings are inherently a judge of each team’s strength. But to find out which team is the strongest, you have to consider their weak spots. That’s what we’re doing in this week’s rankings.

As we rank teams this week, each NFL Nation reporter assesses where the teams they cover have gone wrong this season. Some are nitpicks; others (see the city of New York) are gaping holes.

How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

Jump to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

Week 5 ranking: 2

Biggest weakness: The defense

The Seahawks are 5-0 despite a historically leaky defense. They allowed a combined 1,292 passing yards over their first three games, easily the most to begin a season in NFL history. They had been fine against the run until Sunday night versus Minnesota when they were gashed for 201 yards on the ground. The 2,356 yards Seattle has given up are the most by any team through five games since the 1950 Colts, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Seahawks’ saving grace has been forcing turnovers — they’re tied for second in the NFL with 10 — and getting stops in critical moments, like the stuff on fourth-and-1 against the Vikings on Sunday. — Brady Henderson

Week 5 ranking: 3

Biggest weakness: Injuries

After they were charmed last season in the health department, the Packers have already been hit harder in four games this year than in all of 2019. Consider who they’ve played without for parts or all of games so far: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown, Marcedes Lewis, Lane Taylor, Billy Turner, Kenny Clark, Christian Kirksey, Kamal Martin and Rashan Gary, among others. They’ve survived so far, and they will get several of those players back, perhaps as soon as this week. But if anything (other than the run defense) can derail this team, it is injuries. — Rob Demovsky

Week 5 ranking: 1

Biggest weakness: Too much pressure on Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes is facing too much pressure even when opponents aren’t blitzing. He has been pressured on 34.7% of his dropbacks when not facing a blitz, the second-highest rate in the league. This disparity is throwing off the passing game’s usual efficiency. It’s easy to blame the offensive line, but that group is 14th in pass block win rate at 60.9%. Mahomes deserves some of the blame. He has a tendency to drift in the pocket, which makes a lineman’s job more difficult. — Adam Teicher

Week 5 ranking: 4

Biggest weakness: Passing offense

The Ravens were hoping to see Lamar Jackson take the next step as a passer, but that hasn’t consistently happened through five games. Baltimore ranks 31st in passing, averaging 178.8 yards per game. Only the banged-up New York Jets are worse. Jackson recently acknowledged he is “not happy” with the passing game but said he believes there’s plenty of time left in the season to turn it around. With the running game not being as dominant as last season, Jackson has to become more accurate and efficient in throwing the ball if Baltimore wants to beat the likes of the Steelers, Colts, Titans and Patriots in November. — Jamison Hensley



Marcus Spears and Ryan Clark both like the Bills to continue their winning ways with a victory vs. the Titans Tuesday afternoon.

Week 5 ranking: 5

Biggest weakness: Pass defense

Death, taxes and an elite Bills pass defense. Those are the absolute truths we have become accustomed to over the past two seasons, when Buffalo finished fourth and first, respectively, in passing yards allowed. In typical 2020 fashion, the Bills are polar opposites from their previous selves in that regard, allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game through four games this season. They have battled injuries in both the secondary and at linebacker, neither of which have helped their case; fortunately for Leslie Frazier’s unit, Buffalo’s offense has proved more than capable of winning a shootout. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Week 5 ranking: 7

Biggest weakness: The deep ball

Ben Roethlisberger is off to a solid start with seven touchdown passes, one interception and a 67% completion rate. But one crucial thing is missing from his arsenal: the deep ball. It’s not that Roethlisberger can’t get the ball down the field after elbow surgery; it’s that he is missing his receivers. Big Ben has the highest off-target rate (59%) and fourth-worst completion rate (24% for 4-of-17) on throws 20-plus yards downfield this season, per ESPN Stats & Info data. The veteran quarterback joked after Sunday’s win that maybe the surgeons gave him too much arm strength. — Brooke Pryor

Week 5 ranking: 8

Biggest weakness: Kicking

The Rams’ are hitting their stride on offense and defense, but kicking remains a concern because of inexperience. The Rams selected Samuel Sloman with a seventh-round pick from Miami (Ohio) and stuck with him through a three-kicker competition during training camp. Sloman has connected on 75% of his field goal attempts (6-of-8), which ranks 28th in the NFL. However, it’s fair to question why Sean McVay had the rookie attempt a 53-yard kick in windy conditions in Week 3 at Buffalo (all of Sloman’s other attempts are from inside the 40-yard line). Sloman is 14-of-16 on extra point attempts (87.5%), which also ranks 28th in the league. — Lindsey Thiry

Week 5 ranking: 6

Biggest weakness: Run defense

The Titans have given up 498 rushing yards through the first three games. Mike Vrabel said it comes down to failing to set the edge, not walling and not swarming to the ball carrier. Running backs have been able to find a seam along the line of scrimmage and take advantage of bad angles or poor tackling to gain chunks of yards. Tennessee is allowing a league-high 5.8 yards per carry. The Titans have won some close games, but they won’t be able to keep doing so if they don’t stop teams from imposing their will through the running game. — Turron Davenport

Week 5 ranking: 9

Biggest weakness: Penalties

The Saints lead the NFL in total penalty yards and defensive penalties — including a whopping 11 pass interference flags for a total of 244 yards heading into Monday night’s game and another in Monday’s overtime win. You would think that’s an area they could clean up. But it consistently plagued them throughout the first month of the season, with at least two penalties each by starters Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins and Marcus Williams. And it has helped to turn their talented secondary into a question mark instead of a strength early this season. — Mike Triplett

Week 5 ranking: 14

Biggest weakness: Secondary

The Browns were banking on big things from second-round pick Grant Delpit, but the safety was lost for the season to an Achilles injury in training camp. Days before Delpit’s injury, nickelback Kevin Johnson suffered a lacerated liver in practice; Johnson has since returned but hasn’t yet regained the form he flashed in training camp. Throw in corner Greedy Williams‘ shoulder injury, which has sidelined him all five games, and Cleveland’s secondary has yet to reach full strength. As a result, it has struggled at times defending the pass, surrendering 296.4 passing yards per game, third worst in the NFL. — Jake Trotter

Week 5 ranking: 10

Biggest weakness: Tight end production

Backup quarterback almost was the choice here after four interceptions in Kansas City in Week 4 (one was more a result of wide receiver Julian Edelman letting the ball slip through his hands). But tight end production in the passing game was ultimately the pick based on a larger, four-game sample size. The Patriots have three catches for 44 yards from their tight ends. This comes one year after they ranked last in the NFL in tight end receptions and targets. — Mike Reiss

Week 5 ranking: 11

Biggest weakness: Discipline

The Bucs are tied with the Cardinals for a league-leading 42 penalties through five games, with their 410 penalty yards more than that of any other team in the league. They also led the league with 133 penalties last season. They had 11 penalties for 109 yards Thursday night against the Bears, which caused the Bucs to lose three leads and ultimately the game, 20-19. “They stop drives. We had so many third-and-longs, and we just could never get into any rhythm,” Tom Brady said after the contest. “We obviously have a lot of work to do.” — Jenna Laine

Week 5 ranking: 15

Biggest weakness: Rushing offense

The Bears have yet to establish a consistent rushing attack under coach Matt Nagy, who doubles as the offensive playcaller. The Bears enter Week 6 ranked 26th in total rushing yards (477) and dead last in rushing touchdowns (one). For his part, Nagy is eternally optimistic about the prospects of running the football effectively. “I have a lot of faith in our run game, I really do,” Nagy said. “I feel good about that. There is no panic at all. I know for me that part is exciting to figure out ways to get it back on track because that is ultimately going to help our offense.” — Jeff Dickerson

Week 5 ranking: 12

Biggest weakness: Running game

Guard Quenton Nelson enjoys sporting a hat that reads, “Run the damn ball.” Well, running the ball, a strength of the Colts last season, has been a struggle this season. After finishing seventh in the NFL in rushing in 2019, the Colts now are 19th in rushing yards per game (105.8) and 31st in yards per attempt (3.6). A big factor is the loss of starting running back Marlon Mack (Achilles), but another part is the offensive line not being as dominant as in years past. A better running game will lighten up what has become a heavy load on QB Philip Rivers‘ right shoulder. — Mike Wells

Week 5 ranking: 17

Biggest weakness: Turnover differential

As in, the Raiders need to stop giving the ball away and start taking it away more. With a minus-4 turnover differential, the Raiders were tied for 25th in that department entering Monday night with seven giveaways (6 fumbles lost, 1 interception) and three takeaways (0 fumbles recovered, 3 INTs). Creating a turnover at just the right time can turn a game, as evidenced by Jeff Heath‘s pick of Patrick Mahomes in the fourth quarter of the Raiders’ upset win at Kansas City on Sunday. Easier said than done, but necessary. — Paul Gutierrez

Week 5 ranking: 16

Biggest weakness: Interceptions

The Cardinals have just one interception this season, and it came in Week 4, tying them for 29th in the NFL. Only the Texans have fewer. Even though Arizona is tied for seventh in the league with 14 sacks, the Cardinals are hardly getting pressure on quarterbacks. They’re ranked 31st in pressure percentage with a rate of 19.5. Very little pressure puts very little stress on quarterbacks, and stress tends to lead to bad throws and more interceptions. If the Cardinals can get more pressure up front, that will likely translate into more picks. — Josh Weinfuss

Week 5 ranking: 13

Biggest weakness: Offensive line

The 49ers have questions all over right now, but many of them are related to injuries. The offensive line dealt with some injuries in camp, which undoubtedly hurt early-season cohesion, but the group is still mostly what the team envisioned in the offseason. Yet the 49ers have yielded 18 sacks, fourth most in the NFL, and rank 22nd in run block win rate. If the Niners can’t regain control of the line of scrimmage consistently, it’s going to be difficult for an offense with plenty of playmakers to get back on track. — Nick Wagoner



Ryan Clark discusses Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury and whether the Cowboys feel he’s worthy of a potential megadeal in Dallas.

Week 5 ranking: 18

Biggest weakness: Defense

With Dak Prescott out for the season, you would think it would be the offense’s ability to put up points with Andy Dalton at quarterback. But it’s not. It’s on the defense — the entire defense. Cowboys opponents have had 60 drives in the first five games and have scored on 31 of them, with 19 touchdowns and 12 field goals. (And four of those possessions were either taking a knee or running out the clock to kill the half or a game.) The Giants entered Week 5 with 47 points, and their offense scored 24 points on two touchdowns and four field goals. With dynamic offenses to come, the Cowboys’ defense has a lot to fix. — Todd Archer

Week 5 ranking: 22

Biggest weakness: Run defense

For all the concerns about a young secondary coming into the season, the run defense has been the biggest weakness. The Panthers are giving up 135 yards per game to rank among the bottom half of the NFL. Improving that stat was an emphasis for the new staff after last year’s unit allowed a whopping 143.5 yards rushing per game. That was another reason for drafting run-stopper Derrick Brown in the first round. The Panthers rank as one of the worst teams in the NFL in yards after initial contact. And they have given up eight rushing touchdowns, the most through five games in franchise history. — David Newton

Week 5 ranking: 19

Biggest weakness: Turnovers

The Chargers very well could have started 4-0 instead of 1-3 if it weren’t for their minus-4 turnover ratio. Anthony Lynn, though, is now working with a rookie quarterback in Justin Herbert and a rookie running back in Joshua Kelley (after Austin Ekeler went down with a nasty hamstring injury). The coach has to be a patient or pull out what’s left of his hair to cope. There’s no fun in Costa Mesa right now. And that was before the Chargers had their bye week moved up. — Shelley Smith

Week 5 ranking: 21

Biggest weakness: Pass blocking

Minnesota is getting great play out of tackles Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill, but its pass protection on the interior of the offensive line remains an issue. The Vikings rank 22nd in pass block win rate and can’t establish an effective dropback game because of it. In Seattle on Sunday, Kirk Cousins got hit nearly every time he released the football out of the shotgun in the second half. The QB’s third-quarter fumble after being sacked (a turnover that allowed Seattle to score two plays later) was the direct result of porous pass protection. — Courtney Cronin

Week 5 ranking: 20

Biggest weakness: Linebacker

The Eagles have the smallest amount of cap dollars ($4.3 million) committed to linebacker in the NFL, and it shows. Opposing tight ends have racked up 32 catches for 323 yards and five touchdowns through five games. Much of that damage has come with linebackers in coverage. The position is ranked low (last?) on the team’s priority list when it comes to roster construction. While there is some merit to that philosophy given how often defenses are in subpackages these days, the Eagles have taken it to an extreme — and it’s hurting them. — Tim McManus

Week 5 ranking: 24

Biggest weakness: Running game

The Dolphins’ passing offense is flowing well, but it’s having to offset a rushing attacking that hasn’t found consistency. The Dolphins are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, 30th in the NFL. Miami’s rebuilt offensive line has held up well protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick but hasn’t established itself as nicely run blocking unit. That coupled with the Jordan Howard addition (18 carries, 14 yards) looking like a bust gives plenty of evidence this is the Dolphins’ biggest weakness. Myles Gaskin is a feel-good story as the Dolphins’ surprise lead back, but they will need to be more productive on the ground to be a true playoff contender. — Cameron Wolfe

Week 5 ranking: 23

Biggest weakness: Slow starts

Through five games, the Texans have only gotten one first down on their opening drives. That one came on Sunday, when Deshaun Watson threw a 36-yard pass to Brandin Cooks on Houston’s first offensive play of the game. Still, the Texans didn’t get another first down on the drive. And they have yet to score on their opening possession. That might be OK against the now 1-4 Jaguars, but Houston needs to get off to a faster start if it wants to keep pace with some of the better teams coming up on the schedule, including the Titans and Packers. — Sarah Barshop

Week 5 ranking: 25

Biggest weakness: Literally the entire defense

Where to begin. The Lions have given up more rushing yards per game (170.3) than any team in the NFL and have allowed 5.16 yards per rush. Detroit is yielding 405 yards per game in total and 6.16 yards per play. They can’t get off the field — No. 31 in first downs allowed per game (27.3) — and can’t sack the quarterback (five sacks in four games). Even defensive end Trey Flowers, when asked about the team’s lack of pass rush, said it hadn’t been in enough pass-rush situations because teams are running so well on them. It has led to an inefficient defense and putting more pressure on the offense to have to score on every possession. — Michael Rothstein

Week 5 ranking: 27

Biggest weakness: Offense

Is it acceptable to lump the entire offense into this category? Because every offensive metric is, uh, not ideal. Yards per play, red zone efficiency and touchdowns per drive are among the categories in which the Bengals rank near the bottom of the league. Having a shaky offensive line, a lack of explosive wide receivers, a rookie quarterback and a relatively inexperienced playcaller have all factored into the lack of points. The Bengals will need all of that to improve pretty soon. — Ben Baby

Week 5 ranking: 26

Biggest weakness: Offense

Washington ranks 30th or worse in a number of key offensive categories: points per game, yards per game, third down, rushing yards per game, passing yards per game, total QBR and sacks per pass attempt. The team benched quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. after four starts, but there’s a lot more that needed to be done around him. The defense isn’t playing well or consistent, but it’s the offense that has been bad across the board. The hope for Washington is that in the next five weeks it plays three defenses ranked 23rd or worse in yards allowed per game: Dallas, Cincinnati and Detroit. Now is the time when they need to show growth. — John Keim



Jay Williams and Keyshawn Johnson criticize Vic Fangio’s “tone deaf” comments about the coronavirus.

Week 5 ranking: 28

Biggest weakness: Takeaways

The Broncos’ lackluster scoring offense isn’t far behind their defense’s inability to create takeaways in terms of the team’s biggest weakness after four games, but the two go together. The team has lost the turnover battle in three of its games, including a minus-3 effort in their only win over the struggling Jets. They have forced turnovers in just one game — their Week 2 loss in Pittsburgh. Their two takeaways tie them with Houston for last in the league. As a result, they haven’t created many short fields for an offense that has used three quarterbacks already and has lost its best wide receiver — Courtland Sutton — for the season with a knee injury. — Jeff Legwold

Week 5 ranking: 30

Biggest weakness: Defense

The Jaguars have given up 30-plus points in four consecutive games, something that’s only been done twice before in franchise history (2013 and 2014), and they’re allowing 417 yards per game. They can’t blame injuries, because the three starters who missed Sunday’s game (DE Josh Allen, LB Myles Jack, CB CJ Henderson) have been on the field in every other game. The front hasn’t gotten much pressure, and coordinator Todd Wash doesn’t like to blitz much anyway, but the Jaguars haven’t gotten home when they have blitzed. This side of the ball needs an infusion of talent. — Mike DiRocco

Week 5 ranking: 29

Biggest weakness: Defense

Yes, Matt Ryan hasn’t thrown a touchdown over the past two games, and the 0-5 Falcons are built to rely on offense. But the defense can’t continue to surrender 32.2 points and 446 total yards per game. And it can’t continue to blow big fourth-quarter leads like it did against the Cowboys and Bears. — Vaughn McClure



After Arthur Blank doesn’t commit to Matt Ryan as the Falcons’ QB of the future, Adam Schefter speculates the team could be eyeing Trevor Lawrence in the draft.

Week 5 ranking: 31

Biggest weakness: Scoring touchdowns

The Giants have six touchdowns through five games, with one coming from the defense. That means the Giants’ offense is averaging exactly one touchdown per game, and its lack of truly explosive playmakers is glaring with Saquon Barkley out for the season and Sterling Shepard dealing with turf toe. It’s not as if the Giants are moving the ball flawlessly and just failing to reach the end zone, either. Their 4.66 yards per play is 29th in the NFL. — Jordan Raanan

Week 5 ranking: 32

Biggest weakness: Football

The Jets aren’t good at anything, so it’s hard to pinpoint one weakness. They’re one of only four teams in the past 30 years (and the first since the 2013 Jaguars) to lose their first five games by multiple scores. They’ve lost by at least nine points in every game, as the offense has managed only six touchdowns. They’ve given up at least 27 points in every game, and the defense, which kept them in many games last season, is yielding 395 yards per game. It’s a dumpster fire. — Rich Cimini


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Way-too-early 2021 MLB Power Rankings: What’s next for Dodgers, Rays and all 30 teams



We can only hope 2021 will be a more normal season, with 162 games and fans in the stands and hot dogs to eat and overpriced beer to drink. We don’t know what the state of things will be come April 1, when the 2021 season is scheduled to begin, but we can speculate on the state of the 30 franchises.

Yes, we’re back with our annual Way-Too-Early Power Rankings. There are a few obvious teams at the top, a handful at the bottom and a whole bunch in the middle. Throw in the difficulty of analyzing a 60-game season and the uncertainty of how the offseason will play out due to the financial losses of this season, and these are the most difficult rankings we have had to do. But we fearlessly move forward.

(Title odds for 2021 from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill)

2020 record: 43-17
Won World Series
2021 title odds: 4-1

They’re reigning champs. They’ve won eight straight division titles. They have Mookie Betts signed for the long term. They have young starters such as Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin to keep the rotation strong for years to come. They have players capable of better seasons (Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Gavin Lux). They have a good farm system. They have financial flexibility, with only Betts signed past 2022 and all those young players to help them keep the payroll in check. Justin Turner is a free agent, but he would be a nice DH option if the NL makes that permanent. We know they will be good. But we know it’s really all about October.

2020 record: 35-25
Lost NLCS to Dodgers
2021 title odds: 12-1

The offense gives them a high floor:Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, even Travis d’Arnaud and Adam Duvall raked in 2020. Marcell Ozuna is a free agent and it would be nice to bring him back, but rookie center fielder Cristian Pache is ready and he looks like he’ll be valuable on both sides of the ball. The rotation will see the return of Mike Soroka from his Achilles injury and a full season of Ian Anderson to back up Max Fried. Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson have potential, and Atlanta will probably bring in a veteran starter on a one-year deal the way they did with Dallas Keuchel in 2019 and tried to do with Cole Hamels in 2020. The Braves will be favored to win a fourth straight division title even if they don’t do anything this offseason.

2020 record: 37-23
Lost Division Series to Dodgers
2021 title odds: 17-2

Sure, an argument can be made to put the Padres ahead of the Braves, but I think we have to first make sure Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger are completely healthy in spring training. San Diego brings back essentially every significant player after running out the youngest lineup in the NL, with Jake Cronenworth and Trent Grisham looking like foundation additions alongside Fernando Tatis Jr. (All were acquired in trades; good job, A.J. Preller!) We’ll see if Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers can match their 2020 rate of production, but if Luis Patino and MacKenzie Gore become impact starters, the Padres are poised to make a multiyear run in challenging the Dodgers for NL West supremacy.

2020 record: 40-20
Lost World Series to Dodgers
2021 title odds: 10-1

The Rays won their first division title since 2010 and did it in quite remarkable fashion, with 12 different relievers recording a save and the pitching staff overcoming a slew of injuries along the way. They were able to pull that off because of the depth of their staff, but having expanded rosters over the 60-game season made it possible to rely so heavily on the bullpen. Of course, you can argue that pitching depth will be even more valuable over 162 games. The offense isn’t elite, although we can’t wait to see what Randy Arozarena will do over a full season or if super rookie Wander Franco is ready to make an impact at some point in 2021.

2020 record: 35-25
Lost Wild Card Series to A’s
2021 title odds: 12-1

Much like the Braves, the offensive firepower of the White Sox should give them a high floor. Even if you see some regression coming from Jose Abreu or Tim Anderson, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada should improve and a full season of Nick Madrigal will help. Michael Kopech, who opted out of 2020, will hopefully be back, but he hasn’t pitched in two years, so finding another veteran arm to go with ace Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel will be key. Closer Alex Colome is a free agent, but the White Sox have several power arms in their organization, including 2020 first-round pick Garrett Crochet, who could be a dominant reliever right away. Manager Rick Renteria and longtime pitching coach Don Cooper got the boot, with A.J. Hinch a possible replacement for Renteria. That would be an upgrade.

2020 record: 33-27
Lost Division Series to Rays
2021 title odds: 6-1

You can make an argument to put them a couple of spots higher, but not winning the AL East in 2020 points to some flaws. They simply can’t count on Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton being healthy for an entire season, plus DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka are free agents, two important players to re-sign or replace. Of course, we know the Yankees will do something big, perhaps signing J.T. Realmuto and moving on from Gary Sanchez or trading for Francisco Lindor and shifting Gleyber Torres to second. Getting Luis Severino back from Tommy John surgery will be a big boost as well.

2020 record: 36-24
Lost Wild Card Series to Astros
2021 title odds: 14-1

The Twins didn’t do it quite like they did in 2019, when they bashed a record 307 home runs (although their 162-game pace for 2020 was still 259), as their team batting average dropped nearly 30 points, and they fell from second in the AL in runs to 10th. Still, they’ve established a foundation of success with three playoff appearances in four seasons. The big issue is they have a lot of free agents to replace or re-sign, starting with 40-year-old Nelson Cruz, but also Jake Odorizzi, Marwin Gonzalez, Rich Hill, Tyler Clippard, Trevor May and Homer Bailey. Those players were minor contributors, but with Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Taylor Rogers getting more expensive in arbitration, the Twins may not be able to fill out the roster with minor free agents the way they’ve done of late. They need a healthy Josh Donaldson, especially if Cruz leaves, and they will have to discard the emotional baggage of 18 consecutive playoff losses to get revved up for 162 games just to get back to October again.

2020 record: 36-24
Lost Division Series to Houston
2021 title odds: 14-1

The A’s weren’t as impressive as they were in 2019 — Matt Olson morphed into an extreme “three true outcomes” slugger, Matt Chapman‘s OBP dipped to .276 and Marcus Semien declined from his third-place MVP performance. They still coasted to the AL West title though, and the division projects as being pretty soft, at least right now. Semien and closer Liam Hendriks are free agents as are several other key role players, so this ranking is not presented with a high degree of confidence. The A’s always seem to maximize their talent, and I do think the rotation will be much better, making up for some of the likely bullpen regression.

2020 record: 26-34
Tied for fourth in NL East
2021 title odds: 30-1

I feel like we need another National League team here, but let’s be honest: There is a wide gap between the NL’s top three teams and the block of mediocre teams in the middle. Let’s roll the dice on the Mets with new owner Steve Cohen to the rescue (once he gets formally approved). Let’s just say Mets fans are pumped about Cohen’s WAW (wins above Wilpon). There have already been reports about all the money he’ll sink into the franchise, not just on players but things like building out a more robust analytics staff. Aside from any splashy moves Cohen may make — trading for Nolan Arenado or Francisco Lindor? Signing J.T. Realmuto or Trevor Bauer? — there is a strong base of talent here. They ranked third in the majors in wOBA (behind the Braves and Dodgers) and fifth in the majors in pitcher strikeout rate. They should be better — a familiar refrain for Mets fans, unfortunately.

2020 record: 34-26
Lost Wild Card Series to Marlins
2021 title odds: 25-1

Everyone was down on the Cubs, especially after that sad two-and-out to the Marlins, but we do need to point out Chicago still won the NL Central despite Javier Baez (59 OPS+), Kris Bryant (73) and Kyle Schwarber (88) all producing well below an average major league hitter and Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras performing below their career norms. That continues a downward trend for this once-great offensive core, from second in the NL in runs in 2016 and 2017 to fourth in 2018, fifth in 2019 and 10th in 2020. Baez, Bryant, Schwarber and Rizzo are all free agents after 2021, but frankly, the trade value for Bryant and Schwarber — and even Baez, to a lesser extent — has cratered. Theo Epstein also hinted that 2021 will be his last season with the Cubs. Does this group get one last chance? In a weak division, with some bounce-back potential, the Cubs could be better than everyone believes. Or maybe the front office will just tear it all down.

2020 record: 29-31
Lost ALCS to Rays
2021 title odds: 20-1

It promises to be a busy winter for the Astros. George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are all free agents, while Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr. and Zack Greinke are set to be free agents after 2021, as are Justin Verlander and Roberto Osuna, both of whom will likely miss the season following Tommy John surgery. They’ll need more from Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman (and don’t forget about Yordan Alvarez) but they could have a strong rotation if they keep McCullers and Greinke to go with Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy. The outfield free-agent market is thin, so if Springer and Brantley sign elsewhere, the Astros may have to scramble to find help for Kyle Tucker.

2020 record: 35-25
Lost Wild Card Series to Yankees
2021 title odds: 20-1

We start with one of the biggest questions of the entire offseason: Will Cleveland trade Francisco Lindor? It seems weird to say this, but there isn’t an obvious fit, as most of the top teams are set at shortstop. It will be interesting to see if a team tries to pull the Mookie Betts maneuver: trade for Lindor, then sign him to a big extension before he hits free agency after the 2021 season. Aside from the Lindor issue, it’s going to be a similar Cleveland team as we’ve seen the past two years: enough starting pitching to be a playoff team, but an offense that may prevent them from getting there. Please, find some competent outfielders. Cleveland’s outfielders hit .196/.270/.304.

2020 record: 30-28
Lost Wild Card Series to Padres
2021 title odds: 30-1

In one sense, it’s harder to evaluate what the Cardinals did in 2020 than any other team, with them having to play 11 doubleheaders after the team’s COVID-19 outbreak early in the season. On the other hand, they were exactly what we thought they would be: below-average offense with no power, good defense, good bullpen, decent starting pitching. I just don’t how they’re going to get better, especially given that some of their pitching peripheral numbers don’t quite match the ERA figures. Look, as always, you can never discount the Cardinals. They haven’t had a losing season since 2007. The division is wide open. Jack Flaherty will be better. Dylan Carlson could give them an impact outfielder. The bullpen projects as a big strength.

2020 record: 26-34
Tied for fourth in NL East
2021 title odds: 30-1

No team had less incentive in 2020 than the Nationals, and once Stephen Strasburg went down, it kind of felt like the entire team went down with him. Juan Soto played at an MVP level for 47 games, leading the NL in batting average and the majors in OBP and slugging. It wasn’t a full season so I’m not saying it compares, but his 212 OPS+ was the best since Barry Bonds in 2004.

There are concerns in the starting rotation, however, beyond Strasburg’s nerve issue. Anibal Sanchez fell apart, Patrick Corbin got knocked around (85 hits in 65⅔ innings) and even Max Scherzer had his highest ERA since 2012.The real problem may have been the defense: The Nationals ranked last in the majors with minus-43 defensive runs saved. As always, depth is an issue and they need youngsters Carter Kieboom (no home runs in 99 at-bats) and Victor Robles (.608 OPS) to contribute at the plate. If Strasburg is healthy, don’t ignore the 2019 champs.

2020 record: 32-28
Lost Wild Card Series to Rays
2021 title odds: 50-1

The Blue Jays face a very interesting offseason after making the playoffs as a wild card and ranking third in the AL in runs. The offense potentially looks even better if you’re buying the breakouts of Teoscar Hernandez and Rowdy Tellez. Worth noting: The Jays hit much better at their temporary home in Buffalo, so we have to be careful about overrating the offense. Hyun-Jin Ryu was terrific (at least until his playoff start), but the rest of the rotation was so problematic that the Jays acquired Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling for the stretch run. Walker and Ray are free agents, but Nate Pearson will help, and the Jays should have some money to spend in free agency.

2020 record: 28-32
Third in NL East
2021 title odds: 40-1

It’s hard to see the Phillies much better than the .500 team they’ve been the past three seasons, which led to general manager Matt Klentak being reassigned within the organization. They had two great starters in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler and finished fourth in the NL in runs, but the bullpen (6.92 ERA, worst of all time) undermined all the positives. The Phillies allowed a .345 average on balls in play, and maybe that would drop over a full season, but it stands as the highest ever. This has been a multiyear problem. They were middle of the pack in BABIP allowed in 2019, but fifth-worst in 2018 and sixth-worst in 2017. They’ve been unable to fix the defense. Anyway, J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius are free agents. The payroll would have been more than $200 million given a full season in 2020, so you wonder if there is room to re-sign Realmuto and fix the bullpen and replace/re-sign Gregorius and maybe add another starter.

2020 record: 26-34
Fourth in AL West
2021 title odds: 40-1

Billy Eppler is out as general manager after a five-year run that included no winning seasons. Yes, he inherited the bad Albert Pujols contract, but he also inherited Mike Trout and was never able to build a successful team around him, despite additions like Andrelton Simmons, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon. Simmons is a free agent, Pujols is finally down to his final season and Jared Walsh (.971 OPS, nine home runs in 99 at-bats, a low 13.9% strikeout rate) has to play. The immediate concerns are trying to turn Jo Adell into a major league hitter (.161, 55 strikeouts, seven walks in 132 PAs), figure out what happened to Ohtani (.190) and Justin Upton (.204) and — as always — address the pitching. Sounds like the same story as the past five years.

2020 record: 29-31
Lost Wild Card Series to Dodgers
2021 title odds: 50-1

This is a difficult team to read. The Brewers didn’t hit at all in 2020 (I think the NL must have stored its balls in Lake Michigan, because nobody could hit). Two-time batting champ and 2018 MVP Christian Yelich hit just .205, and I know it was just 58 games, but his strikeout rate went from 20.3% to 30.8%. Something doesn’t add up there.

They do have two great one-two combos in Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes in the rotation and Devin Williams and Josh Hader in the bullpen. Does Williams’ stunning breakout (53 K’s in 27 innings) make Hader trade bait? Burnes certainly looked like the real deal with his new cutter, but he’ll have to prove he can do it over 30 starts instead of 10. David Stearns is one of the more creative GMs around, although he’d probably like a do-over on the Trent Grisham/Zach Davies for Luis Urias/Eric Lauer deal.

2020 record: 24-36
Fifth in AL East
2021 title odds: 60-1

This was the hardest team to project. The pitching was so awful — 5.85 runs per game, the most for the franchise since 1932 — that it’s easy to assume it will be bad again in 2021. It was also bad in 2019 (5.11 runs per game), so we have a two-year track record. Maybe they get Chris Sale back at midseason and Eduardo Rodriguez returns from his COVID-related heart issue. There is a nice offensive core with Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo and Christian Vazquez (and J.D. Martinez if he bounces back). I’m not sure what Bobby Dalbec will be. I guess his upside is Joey Gallo, if that’s a good thing. More importantly, is Chaim Bloom playing the long game or will there be pressure to get the Red Sox immediately back into contender status?

2020 record: 31-29
Lost Wild Card Series to Braves
2021 title odds: 25-1

The Reds sneaked into the playoffs as a wild card with a late surge, but the team embarrassingly exited with two shutouts to the Braves, including a 13-inning defeat. The Reds have morphed into the most extreme example of a “three true outcomes” offense we’ve seen in this launch-angle era. They ranked fourth in the NL in home runs and first in walks, but hit a pathetic .212. The entire package added up to ranking just 13th in the NL in runs, then you dig deeper and realize they hit 55 home runs at home and 35 on the road, so much of their power was simply a result of their home park. It’s a bad offense, and I’m not sure it improves much in 2021. Trevor Bauer is a sure bet to sign elsewhere as a free agent, and we still don’t know if Nick Senzel is the solution in center field or an injury-prone role player.

2020 record: 31-29
Lost Division Series to Braves
2021 title odds: 60-1

It was a fun ride to their first postseason trip since 2003, but once you get past the starting trio of Sixto Sanchez, Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez, holes remain. The pitching staff was next to last in the majors in strikeout rate, and the team’s top five relievers were all 30-something guys you can’t necessarily count on for 2021. There are no offensive stars as the lineup relied on stopgap veterans, while the young hitters still have trouble controlling the strike zone (and the young hitters aren’t really all that young). The minus-41 run differential is a little misleading as the Marlins had to use more players than any other team due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but I’m not sure I see another .500 season unless some of the young hitters suddenly develop into solid regulars.

2020 record: 29-31
Third in NL West
2021 title odds: 80-1

Call me skeptical. They went from the second-worst offense in the NL to a top-five offense — without making any significant additions. Brandon Belt with a 1.000 OPS? Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson over .900? Donovan Solano chasing a batting title? I smell a lot of regression coming on, and the Giants don’t have the rotation to back that up. They also had the oldest lineup in the league: Mauricio Dubon is the only returning regular who won’t be 30 or older in 2021. Maybe catcher Joey Bart makes an impact, but a 41 to 3 strikeout-to-walk rate suggests he’s not ready for prime time. Several of their big contracts come off the books after 2021 if you factor in buyouts, so look for the Giants to wait until that big 2021-22 free-agent class to start flipping over the roster.

2020 record: 27-33
Third in AL West
2021 title odds: 100-1

There were some nice positives in 2020: Kyle Lewis may win Rookie of the Year, Justus Sheffield was much improved, Marco Gonzales solidified himself as one of the most underrated starters in the majors, Dylan Moore turned into one of the best utility players as a power/speed combo. But there is still zero star power here, at least until Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez arrive as potential All-Star outfielders, Kelenic in 2021 and Rodriguez probably in 2022. Jerry Dipoto will have to reconstruct a bullpen that was one of the worst in the league (5.92 ERA). The Mariners are on the rise and have other potential impact prospects, including pitchers Logan Gilbert and Emerson Hancock, but look for them to hold the course in 2021 and push forward in 2022.

2020 record: 26-34
Fourth in AL Central
2021 title odds: 150-1

The Royals have some interesting young pitchers in Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic, with Josh Staumont as a potential closer, but there are still huge gaps across the roster, especially on the offensive side of things. They need to figure out center field, second base and left field, and even Adalberto Mondesi Jr. now looks like just a placeholder at short until Bobby Witt Jr. arrives in a couple of years. This ranking could be selling the Royals a bit short, as young pitching can carry a team if it comes fast (and 2020 top pick Asa Lacy may not need much time in the minors), but they need to find some hitters.

2020 record: 25-35
Fifth in NL West
2021 title odds: 60-1

That was ugly, and the fans are turning on the team after a couple of years of trades (Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke and the deadline deals this season) that don’t appear to have returned any front-line talent. Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar, so good in 2019, fell off, with Marte inexplicably deciding he no longer wanted to walk. Robbie Ray couldn’t throw strikes and was finally traded. Merrill Kelly hurt his shoulder. Madison Bumgarner didn’t win a game. The problem for 2021? The Diamondbacks had the second-oldest lineup in the NL (six of their top eight regulars were 29 or older). Bumgarner now looks like a bad $80 million gamble. They’re only a season removed from going 85-77, so there is rebound potential, but the Snakes are a mess at the moment.

2020 record: 25-35
Fourth in AL East
2021 title odds: 150-1

Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of positives in 2020, especially after losing 108 games in 2019 and 115 in 2018. Anthony Santander had a small-sample breakout with the metrics to back it up. Ryan Mountcastle looks ready to join the lineup in 2021 and Trey Mancini will hopefully be back at full strength after finishing his chemo treatment in September. Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer could be arms to watch for the rotation.

They do have financial flexibility, especially as they get closer to the end of Chris Davis‘ deal, and with Adley Rutschman close to the majors and starters D.L. Hall and Grayson Rodriguez perhaps ready in 2022, the farm is better than it’s been in at least 10 years. But the base level of talent here remains pretty low.

2020 record: 26-34
Fourth in NL West
2021 title odds: 100-1

Right now, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story are still on the roster. Will they be there come spring training? The relationship between Arenado and the Rockies is strained, making him a trade candidate this winter. He won’t be easy to trade, though: He didn’t have a good 2020 at the plate, ended the season on the IL, has a full no-trade clause and can opt out of his deal after 2021. If Arenado is traded, you could see the Rockies dealing Story as well since he’s a free agent after 2021. Mostly, this team just needs a makeover. They ranked eighth in the NL in runs, and for a Rockies team, that’s horrible. (They had finished below fifth just one other time in franchise history.)

2020 record: 23-35
Fifth in AL Central
2021 title odds: 200-1

Sometimes you just have to point out the obvious: Jeimer Candelario was the team’s best player in 2020 — a 26-year-old first baseman who hit .203 the year before. Look, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal project as good starters at some point, but their struggles in limited action in 2020 suggest that may not be in 2021. Along with Spencer Turnbull and prospect Matt Manning, there is a rotation to dream on, but there is no offense, and Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, their top position player prospects, are more on a 2022 timetable.

2020 record: 22-38
Fifth in AL West
2021 title odds: 100-1

The Rangers continue to go backward. They were bad in 2020 in a year they thought they could contend, they weren’t particularly young and the farm system has struggled to develop pitchers and turn toolsy position players into quality hitters. The offense had a brutal year — and not just because of the new park. They didn’t hit on the road either. It’s time to admit that Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor are never going to be the core of a championship lineup, and if Lance Lynn is traded — he’ll be a free agent after 2021 — the rotation will have a huge hole to fill.

2020 record: 19-41
Fifth in NL Central
2021 title odds: 300-1

Let’s see, a small-market team coming off the worst record in the sport, won’t spend any money in free agency, and whose three best players in 2019 were all terrible in 2020. The first step is to hope Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman rebound, but with most of the organization’s top prospects still a ways off, the short-term outlook looks bleak. Heck, the long-term outlook isn’t exactly full of roses and puppies.


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Bryant, out 2 years, joins Ravens practice squad



OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Dez Bryant is back in the NFL.

The Baltimore Ravens signed the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver to their practice squad, the team announced Tuesday. Bryant has been out of the league for two years.

Bryant appeared to acknowledge the deal in a tweet Tuesday: “My emotions running high right now… I’m thankful…I can’t stop crying”

The biggest question is when Bryant will suit up for the Ravens. Baltimore’s wide receivers rank last in the NFL in receptions (58) and receiving yards (737).

Bryant, 31, could become a physical possession-type receiver for reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and can complement the speed of Marquise Brown.

The addition of Bryant might lead to a high-profile reunion on Dec. 3, when the Ravens play host to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. Bryant starred for the Cowboys for eight seasons, totaling 531 receptions for 7,459 yards and a franchise-record 73 touchdown catches.

“Obviously, that’s kind of like an ‘OG’-type guy,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said when asked about Bryant on Monday. “He’s been around the league for a long, long time. He actually followed me on Twitter a year or two ago, so I’m excited to meet him, and I’m excited to [be] around him hopefully, and just learn.”

This marked Bryant’s second workout with Baltimore in two months. When Bryant left in August without a contract, he was told to improve his conditioning, a source said.

The Ravens are off to a fast start at 5-1, but their passing game ranks 31st in the NFL. It looks as if Jackson would benefit from another target on the outside because Brown is the only Baltimore wide receiver with more than 11 catches this season.

Bryant is attempting to become the second Pro Bowl wide receiver to miss two full seasons and then return to the NFL since the 1970 merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Josh Gordon was the first.

Bryant hasn’t played in a game since December 2017.

In November 2018, Bryant signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. But he tore an Achilles tendon during his first practice with the Saints and has been out of the NFL since.

Bryant’s 531 career receptions would be the most by any wide receiver before missing two full seasons and then returning to the NFL, according to Elias’ data.

To make room for Bryant, the Ravens waived safety Marcus Gilchrist from the practice squad.


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Augusta National to host College GameDay during Masters



ESPN’s College GameDay Built By the Home Depot show has originated from dozens of college campuses across the country since 1993.

On Saturday, Nov. 14, the show will combine two of sport’s greatest traditions — college football and the Masters.

ESPN announced on Tuesday that College GameDay will originate from Augusta National Golf Club, which is hosting the postponed Masters Tournament next month, Nov. 12-15.

Top matchups that day are No. 9 Wisconsin at No. 13 Michigan and No. 2 Alabama at LSU.

“Any time College GameDay travels to a new destination, it’s special, and the opportunity to be on the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters is extraordinary,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “As this iconic event coincides with the college football season for the first time, we look forward to getting fans ready for a football Saturday while also showcasing the Masters and the greatest golfers in the world.”

Longtime ESPN hosts Rece Davis, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and others will broadcast from the par-3 course from 9 a.m. to noon ET.

In its 13th year at the Masters, ESPN will once again televise the first and second rounds, Nov. 12-13, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. There will also be expanded coverage on ESPN+, including exclusive practice-round coverage Nov. 10-11.

Golf fans will also be able to watch featured holes coverage on ESPN+ on Nos. 4, 5 and 6 in each of the four rounds of the Masters.


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