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On Saturday, NFL teams trimmed their rosters down to 53 players in preparation for the 2017 regular season. Leading up to the deadline, big names hit the free-agent market and others moved to new destinations via trades. How did the transactions affect the latest power rankings?
Players with under four years of NFL experience will go through waivers before becoming free agents. Teams that placed claims on those available will receive word by noon ET on potential pickups. At 1 p.m. ET, eligible individuals can sign to practice squads. Sporting News writer Tadd Haislop goes further in depth on waiver-wire details and practice squad salaries.
Before rosters undergo another wave of changes, we’ll revisit a previous 2017 power ranking and discuss three teams leading the pack as Super Bowl favorites.
1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Green Bay Packers
6. New York Giants
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. Arizona Cardinals
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. New Orleans Saints
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Carolina Panthers
15. Miami Dolphins
16. Houston Texans
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Washington Redskins
19. Detroit Lions
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Denver Broncos
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Los Angeles Chargers
25. Indianapolis Colts
26. Los Angeles Rams
27. Buffalo Bills
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. San Francisco 49ers
30. Chicago Bears
31. Cleveland Browns
32. New York Jets
No. 1 New England Patriots
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According to The MMQB’s Albert Breer, the New England Patriots lost wideout Julian Edelman for the season because of an ACL tear. They quickly reloaded the receiving corps via trade, per ESPN’s Field Yates:
Field Yates @FieldYates
The Patriots are trading QB Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for WR Phillip Dorsett, league source tells ESPN.
After losing Edelman in the third preseason game, the Patriots strategically showcased quarterback Jacoby Brissett in their preseason finale. He completed 28 of 39 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception.
Clearly, the Indianapolis Colts liked what they saw and traded for the second-year passer. Why? There’s still uncertainty on quarterback Andrew Luck‘s return to action even though he’s off the physically unable to perform list, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
The #Colts have officially taken QB Andrew Luck off the PUP list, as they planned to do.
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
#Patriots showcased QB Jacoby Brissett the other night & need a WR. #Colts needed a QB with Andrew Luck not quite ready. Makes sense
The Patriots executed trades for wideout Brandin Cooks, tight end Dwayne Allen and defensive lineman Kony Ealy but released him on August 26. The team also signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore. General manager and head coach Bill Belichick has taken an aggressive approach to maintaining the top spot in the league.
Even after losing Edelman and having to cope with linebacker Rob Ninkovich’s retirement, New England looks primed to repeat as champions. By the way, the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski tandem goes into the season healthy with a stable of running backs set to exploit matchups on the ground and through the air.
No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers
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Over the past three seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense ranked within the top 10 in points scored and yards gained. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will have another Killer B on the field in addition to running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. After a yearlong suspension, the NFL recently reinstated wideout Martavis Bryant for the 2017 season, per ESPN.com reporter Jeremy Fowler.
With a loaded offense, the Steelers signed cornerback Joe Haden, who may have lost a step from his 2014 Pro Bowl year but is still a quality defensive back who may benefit with a change of scenery.
General manager Kevin Colbert also acquired tight end Vance McDonald to tie up loose ends at the tight end position after Ladarius Green fizzled out because of injuries in the previous season. The former San Francisco 49er notched career highs in yards (391) and touchdowns (four) with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback.
As second-year cornerback Artie Burns develops opposite Haden and with veteran William Gay in the slot, Pittsburgh should field a pass defense that won’t allow many leaks on the back end this season. The team ranked No. 5 in passing touchdowns allowed in 2016.
The Steelers have a loaded roster on both sides of the ball and pose the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC.
No. 3 Seattle Seahawks
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Let’s start with the obvious. The Seattle Seahawks still have issues across the offensive line.
Quarterback Russell Wilson will have a sharp eye on the blind-side pass rush. Starting left tackle George Fant landed on injured reserve because of an ACL tear; Rees Odhiambo will attempt to fill the void. Luke Joeckel, the 2013 No. 2 overall pick who struggled with the Jacksonville Jaguars through four seasons, will line up on the same side at guard.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell may opt to utilize Wilson’s athleticism and frequently roll him outside the pocket or lean on a three-man rotation in the backfield featuring Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise as a viable quick-read option receiver. Rookie ball-carrier Chris Carson’s impressive preseason may help him see limited action as well.
The Seahawks should field one of the best front sevens in the league after acquiring defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson via trade with the New York Jets on Friday. The defense brings a blend of pass-rushers and run defenders that should make the defensive backs’ jobs easier in the secondary.
Mark November 20 on your calendars. That’s when the Atlanta Falcons travel to CenturyLink Field for a Monday Night Football showdown. It may serve as a prelude to the 2018 NFC Championship Game.