NFL Power Rankings: New Year's resolutions for every team

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The regular season is history, but there’s no time to catch your breath in the NFL. Teams are busy either gearing up for a playoff run or planning for a better future. How can they improve in 2019? Our NFL Nation reporters get into the spirit of the holiday with a New Year’s resolution for every team.

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

Previous rankings: 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

Week 17 ranking: 1

New Year’s resolution: Do penance for Sunday’s ugly performance. The Saints’ regular-season finale could have been “meaningless,” since they already had the NFC’s No. 1 seed locked up. But they played so poorly (especially with their starting defense on the field) that coach Sean Payton vowed this will be a back-to-basics practice week to clean up some fundamental issues. “With the way we played yesterday and some of the things that we’ve done offensively recently, our focus is gonna be strictly on Saints,” Payton said Monday. — Mike Triplett

Week 17 ranking: 3

New Year’s resolution: End a postseason losing streak at Arrowhead Stadium that now is at six games over 25 years. The Chiefs have lost one of those games by one point, one by two points, one by three points and one by four points. They averaged 13.5 points in those four losses. They’ll do better in quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘ first postseason game, but will they be able to outscore what their feeble defense gives up? — Adam Teicher

Week 17 ranking: 2

New Year’s resolution: Make a Super Bowl appearance in Sean McVay’s second season as coach. Sure, the Rams would actually like to win the whole thing, but an appearance alone would be a huge improvement after last season’s first-round exit thanks to a disappointing effort against Atlanta. And keep in mind, few had Super Bowl expectations this early when the Rams made McVay the youngest head coach in modern NFL history in January 2017. The Rams earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record, so they’ll get a week to rest and should be fresh for a playoff game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a probable trip to New Orleans. — Lindsey Thiry

Week 17 ranking: 5

New Year’s resolution: Win in the playoffs. The Bears have just one postseason victory (2010) since they played in Super Bowl XLI. But the month of January looks promising. The Bears take on Philadelphia in the wild-card round at Soldier Field, where they won seven of eight games in 2018, before a potential trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams in the divisional round. Chicago beat Los Angeles 15-6 only a few weeks ago. — Jeff Dickerson

Week 17 ranking: 4

New Year’s resolution: Get more wins on the road. The Chargers are 8-0 when they board a plane this season, and they need to continue that trend to advance in the playoffs, starting Sunday on the road against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC wild-card game. “We love coming into your place — whichever team you may be — and doing our thing,” Chargers free safety Derwin James said. “We come into your place ready to play.” — Eric D. Williams

Week 17 ranking: 6

New Year’s resolution: Surround Tom Brady with more explosive playmakers. The Patriots made 26 transactions at wide receiver since 2017 training camp began, which reflected their struggles to decisively address the position. That put more of the burden on the 41-year-old Brady, who invested heavily in bringing along Josh Gordon before the receiver was lost to an indefinite NFL suspension in mid-December. — Mike Reiss

Week 17 ranking: 7

New Year’s resolution: Make the offensive line the priority in free agency and the NFL draft so you can ensure Deshaun Watson is able to remain on the field. The Texans gave up an NFL-high 62 sacks in the regular season. Watson has been sacked 81 times in 23 career games; he can’t continue to take that kind of beating. The Texans need to bring in an offensive lineman in free agency and target one of the top offensive tackles in the draft. — Turron Davenport

Week 17 ranking: 8

New Year’s resolution: Develop Lamar Jackson as a passer. There’s no question Jackson is an electric runner and a poised leader. The next step in Jackson’s evolution is in the passing game. In seven starts, Jackson completed 58.2 percent of this passes, throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions (82.6 passer rating). With a full offseason, teams are going to pick apart Baltimore’s dominant rushing attack. To counter that, Jackson has to become more consistent with his throws. — Jamison Hensley

Week 17 ranking: 9

New Year’s resolution: Tighten things up on defense. One of the hallmarks of Pete Carroll’s Seahawks teams has been that they rarely give up big gains, but that hasn’t been the case this season. The Seahawks have allowed 5.92 yards per play, easily the most in any of Carroll’s nine seasons in Seattle and almost a full yard more than they allowed in 2017. Adding a playmaker at safety or linebacker this offseason would help, but the Seahawks will need the improvement to come from within during the playoffs, especially if they run into a big-play offense such as that of the Rams or Saints. — Brady Henderson

Week 17 ranking: 10

New Year’s resolution: Acquire a complementary receiver to go with T.Y. Hilton. The Colts’ second-best receiver has been tight end Eric Ebron, who had a team-high 13 touchdown catches during the regular season. Dontrelle Inman, who was signed after Week 6 because of injuries at the position, moved all the way up to the No. 2 receiver by late in the season. But he turns 30 at the end of January. Getting a young No. 2 receiver — or one just as good as Hilton — will make an already impressive offense that finished sixth overall even better. — Mike Wells

Week 17 ranking: 12

New Year’s resolution: Reach a long-term deal with DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys wanted Lawrence to prove he was not a one-hit wonder after he recorded 14.5 sacks in 2017, so they placed the franchise tag on him. He answered in 2018 with another Pro Bowl season and 10.5 more sacks. The Cowboys have a history of keeping their own players off the market, and Jerry Jones has sought a “war daddy” pass-rusher since DeMarcus Ware‘s departure. Lawrence has shown he is one of the best pass-rushers in the league, and the Cowboys will have the cap room necessary to keep him. — Todd Archer

Week 17 ranking: 15

New Year’s resolution: Make the most of their second chance. The Eagles rallied late and got a little help to break into the playoffs. The defending champs have a shot to defend their title, and they plan to make the most of it. — Tim McManus

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Adam Schefter breaks down why Antonio Brown isn’t returning calls from the Steelers and if the team is going to look to trade him.

Week 17 ranking: 11

New Year’s resolution: Become closers. The Steelers are the most talented team not in the playoffs because they turn the ball over too much and can’t win close games. After pumping out a six-game winning streak, the Steelers lost four of their last six games, all by seven points or fewer. The defense hemorrhaged touchdown drives in the final minutes. All of this created a dubious distinction: The Steelers are the third NFL team since 1990 to go 7-2-1 or better through 10 games and fail to make the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. — Jeremy Fowler

Week 17 ranking: 13

New Year’s resolution: String it all together. The Vikings played very little complementary football during an embarrassing finish to the season. One week might have featured a pivotal game for the offense, while the next belonged to the defense, but the Vikings were unable to put all three phases together when it mattered most down the stretch. That has been a theme ever since Mike Zimmer arrived in 2014. Minnesota has struggled to find consistency. Although it appears Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are staying put, they will more than ever need to be on the same page to make up for a disappointing season. — Courtney Cronin

Week 17 ranking: 14

New Year’s resolution: Add a game-changing pass-rusher. The Titans’ defense is far from a weak spot, but adding a pass-rusher to get after quarterbacks would be a big-time addition. Outside linebacker Harold Landry showed promise, finishing with 4.5 sacks as a rookie. Quarterbacks had too much time to sit in the pocket or move around, which makes it tough for defenders to cover opposing pass-catchers. If they can add a dynamic rusher on the opposite side, defensive coordinator Dean Pees won’t have to get too creative to find ways to generate pressure. — Turron Davenport

Week 17 ranking: 16

New Year’s resolution: Make the playoffs. The Browns proved in the second half of the season that they have a quarterback and can play with anyone. The next step is to fill in missing gaps in talent and compete from the beginning. The fans are ready and the team is ready. It’s time for a playoff run. — Pat McManamon

Week 17 ranking: 19

New Year’s resolution: Get Cam Newton‘s shoulder healthy. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner admitted there is a “sense of urgency” heading into the offseason to resolve the shoulder issue that forced the Panthers to shut down the 2015 NFL MVP for the final two games this season and limit his throwing in practice the past two seasons. There also is a sense of urgency to find a dependable backup who can fill in if Newton’s shoulder remains an issue. The sore shoulder led to a lack of deep passes, which limited Turner’s scheme. — David Newton

Week 17 ranking: 17

New Year’s resolution: Hire another coach who can last 12-plus seasons: That’s what they did the last time they hired a coach. They got it right with Mike McCarthy in 2006, and it turned into a long, successful run that included a Super Bowl win and nine playoff appearances, but it came to an end this season. Their coaching search begins in earnest this week. — Rob Demovsky

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Chris Mortensen explains that fired Dolphins coach Adam Gase is a candidate for other head-coaching jobs.

Week 17 ranking: 18

New Year’s resolution: Build a clear plan for future success. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross sounds like a man willing to rebuild after firing head coach Adam Gase and giving general manager Chris Grier control over football operations. The first step is hiring a strong coach to lead the rebuild and having the patience to let him see it through. — Cameron Wolfe

Week 17 ranking: 21

New Year’s resolution: Get back to the playoffs. The Falcons suffered their first losing season under Dan Quinn by finishing 7-9. Changes were made immediately, with Quinn parting ways with all three coordinators. Now the onus is on Quinn — the new defensive coordinator — and the rest of Quinn’s staff to get the players back to playing at a Super Bowl-contending level. Postseason or bust. — Vaughn McClure

Week 17 ranking: 20

New Year’s resolution: Make more timely plays. Defensive end Derek Wolfe might have said it best when asked what the Broncos needed, and he offered the resolution that fits: “To score some points and get some stops when it really counts … and get back where we’ve been as a team.” Yes, the Broncos need all of that and a new head coach as they work toward returning to the postseason after three consecutive playoff misses. — Jeff Legwold

Week 17 ranking: 22

New Year’s resolution: Stay healthier. The Redskins clearly need a few things to contend at a high level, but it starts with finally staying healthy. In the past two years combined, the Redskins have placed 47 players on injured reserve, including 24 this season. They went from 6-3 to 7-9 this season largely because of the heavy injury toll, starting with quarterback Alex Smith. The Redskins must look hard at all facets of their operation to determine what else might be causing the health issues. It’s possible Smith doesn’t play again, which would leave a major void. — John Keim

Week 17 ranking: 23

New Year’s resolution: Let the new year bring a rare winning season and a franchise quarterback. The Giants have missed the playoffs in six of the past seven years, and only the Browns have won fewer games over the past two seasons. This organization needs some hope and wins. What better way than to have a new franchise QB fall into its lap? — Jordan Raanan

Week 17 ranking: 26

New Year’s resolution: Fix the offense. The surprise of the 2018 season for the Lions — more than the record or the gaffes made on and off the field by first-year head coach Matt Patricia — was Detroit’s lackluster offense that left Matthew Stafford with one of the worst seasons of his career. Considering how much money and draft capital the Lions have sunk into Stafford (five years, $135 million) and the offensive line (two first-round picks, two high-profile free agents), Detroit needs more from its offense in both scheme and production. — Michael Rothstein

Week 17 ranking: 24

New Year’s resolution: Find the right coaching staff to take Jameis Winston to the next level. Although Dirk Koetter developed Winston and a strong vertical passing attack in Tampa, some inside One Buc Place believe Winston needed more than what Koetter could provide and that the two weren’t always on the same page. That will be paramount this time. — Jenna Laine

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Louis Riddick reacts to Cincinnati’s decision to part ways with head coach Marvin Lewis.

Week 17 ranking: 25

New Year’s resolution: Evolve. The Bengals took a big step Monday when they parted ways with Marvin Lewis after 16 years. But the Bengals need to evolve as an organization, which might mean a fresh start and an outside hire. The Bengals really need to hit on this hire to appease a fan base that has grown frustrated with the league’s longest active streak without a playoff win. Hiring a candidate from within is probably not going to cut it at this point. — Katherine Terrell

Week 17 ranking: 28

New Year’s resolution: Add young talent around Josh Allen. The Bills are encouraged with the progress Allen, the No. 7 overall draft pick, showed after returning in Week 12 from an elbow injury. Leading the Bills this season in both passing and rushing, Allen’s legs and arms accounted for 1,718 of the team’s 2,092 total yards over its final six games. Ideally, Buffalo can find help this offseason at running back, wide receiver and tight end to take some of the load off its quarterback. — Mike Rodak

Week 17 ranking: 27

New Year’s resolution: Pair a young quarterback with an offensive coordinator and be flexible about the offensive scheme. As we’ve seen over the past two seasons, it’s possible to have success with young, inexperienced QBs. The Chiefs did it with Pat Mahomes, the Texans with Deshaun Watson and the Browns with Baker Mayfield. The key, though, is those teams adapted to the quarterback’s skills. Bill O’Brien worked with Tom Brady but has added elements of the read option and RPOs into the offense. Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone need to be willing to give the new offensive coordinator freedom to be creative. — Mike DiRocco

Week 17 ranking: 29

New Year’s resolution: Add game-changing defenders. Given all the moving pieces the 49ers dealt with on defense this year, their final numbers were pretty good in many categories. But they were woefully behind when it comes to takeaways, where they set an NFL record for futility with just seven. That highlights the obvious need for real playmakers on defense. Edge rusher is the priority, but ball hawks in the secondary and another sideline-to-sideline linebacker could elevate the Niners’ defense in short order. — Nick Wagoner

Week 17 ranking: 30

New Year’s resolution: Give QB Sam Darnold a chance to reach his potential. To do that, it’ll take an overhaul on offense, starting with the line and including the running back position. Oh, yes, a No. 1 wide receiver would help, too. With the third pick in the draft and $100 million in cap room, the Jets have the resources to make it happen. Finding a quality coach will be a big part of the equation, as well. — Rich Cimini

Week 17 ranking: 31

New Year’s resolution: Get more people on the same page (Jon Gruden’s page) and find a home. This season’s 4-12 campaign — just two years after a 12-4 season — was about setting up a foundation for the future, and yes, to Gruden’s liking. Consider: Entering Sunday’s finale, 38 players on Oakland’s 53-man roster did not play a single down for the Raiders in 2017, and just seven of former general manager Reggie McKenzie’s 50 pre-Gruden draft picks were on the 53-man roster. Also, the Raiders do not have a lease to play anywhere in 2019. Finding a front-office executive to jibe with Gruden is one thing; finding a home for next season is another altogether. — Paul Gutierrez

Week 17 ranking: 32

New Year’s resolution: Win. After just three wins in 2018, the Cardinals fired first-year coach Steve Wilks because he couldn’t produce. Now, that wasn’t all his fault, but after 49 regular-season wins over the previous five seasons, a standard in Arizona was set. But Wilks wasn’t put in position to replicate that success. The Cardinals hope their next coach can return Arizona to its winning ways, but a few things need to change: Arizona needs more depth at key positions, such as offensive line and wide receiver. It needs to keep developing Josh Rosen. And it needs to get either a defensive scheme that fits the roster or a roster that fits the scheme. — Josh Weinfuss



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