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NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys up, Colts down as preseason heats up

Training camp is in full swing, and the preseason is ready to kick off in earnest. Yep, this feels like the perfect time to roll out the latest edition of the Power Rankings.

Only a few teams have made a notable change in direction since the last rankings we rolled out after the draft, but we're starting to get a feel for these rosters as Week 1 creeps closer.

Let's dive in -- and remember, your team's placement in the Power Rankings doesn't define you. You're all No. 1 to me.

NOTE: Up/down arrows reflect movement from the post-draft Power Rankings, filed in May.

Previous rank: No. 1

Tom Brady is a very lucky man for a myriad of reasons, one of them being the wide receivers he gets to call his own in Tampa. The trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown is arguably football's best -- and it appears Brown remains on his best behavior in the second act to his up-and-down career. He's the guy to watch here. Evans and Godwin should produce more or less on par with what they did a season ago, but Brown has the potential to return to Pro Bowl form with a full year in the system.

Previous rank: No. 2

Does anyone else get the feeling that Patrick Mahomes is about to deliver a season for the ages? Soon to be 26, Mahomes is smack in his prime, and the makeover of the Chiefs' offensive line should give the former MVP more time to do his magic. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce will put up monster numbers per usual, but keep an eye on third-year pro Mecole Hardman, who should see more targets and nary a double-team as he steps into the role vacated by Sammy Watkins. Everyone on this offense is gonna eat.

Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: No. 3

Josh Allen produced maybe the best season a quarterback has ever enjoyed with the Bills, and his reward was a $258 million mega-extension. It's the ultimate vote of confidence by Buffalo management, which obviously has no concerns that Allen's breakout 2020 was preceded by two seasons of inconsistent play by the former first-round pick. That said, the Bills are right to be confident: Allen thrived in all phases of the game last season, and he remains locked into a Brian Daboll offense that knows exactly how to get the most out of him.

Previous rank: No. 4

Aaron Rodgers is flipping 50-yard spirals into tiny nets at Packers camp. Awkward press conferences have been replaced by focused preparation for a new season. Life is good again for the Green Bay Packers. Brian Gutekunst might be privately peeved -- especially after he was apparently forced to bring Randall Cobb back into the building at Rodgers' behest -- but the GM is too smart to let his ego get in the way now. The Packers' Super Bowl window is getting smaller -- and the Pack need Rodgers in order to climb through it. 

Previous rank: No. 5

Lamar Jackson now has more COVID-19 infections (two) than playoff wins (one) in his career, but the former MVP still sounds like a man very much on the fence when it comes to getting the shot. "I got to talk to my team about this and see how they feel about it," Jackson said Monday. "Keep learning as much as I can about it. We'll go from there." While Jackson studies up on the research (which has already been done by scientists, by the way), the Ravens will hold their breath and hope their most important player won't disappear again.

Los Angeles Rams

Previous rank: No. 7

The Rams suffered a setback last month, when promising second-year running back Cam Akers went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. Akers' misfortune means a huge opportunity for the remaining healthy backs. Darrell Henderson Jr. is getting the majority of the starter reps in camp, but the 2019 third-round pick is best suited in a complementary role. Undrafted free agent Xavier Jones has earned some praise, but this is a fluid situation that could end with a veteran coming off the street. No, it won't be Todd Gurley.

Seattle Seahawks

Previous rank: No. 8

Jamal Adams holds all the cards in his negotiations with the Seahawks heading into the final year of his contract. He knows Seattle paid dearly for his services, with two first-round picks going to the Jets in last summer's mega-trade. Letting Adams get away would be a PR disaster for the Seahawks, so the Pro Bowler will continue to sit back and wait while his people work toward a contract that will make him the league's highest-paid safety. Adams and left tackle Duane Brown continue to "hold-in" and miss practices -- a subplot that will gain more attention as the preseason ramps up.

Cleveland Browns

Previous rank: No. 6

I've opted out of the hype surrounding Jadeveon Clowney's arrival in Cleveland, but I am all in on Myles Garrett as the Defensive Player of the Year favorite in 2021. Garrett said he was slowed considerably after contracting COVID-19 last fall, a claim backed up by his pedestrian production down the stretch. Back to full health (setting aside camp bumps and bruises, like the hamstring injury that has him day-to-day) and just now entering his prime at 25, Garrett looks like a guy who's ready to take Michael Strahan's sack record. Or is it Bubba Baker's?

Previous rank: No. 9

The breathless dispatches out of Santa Clara summon memories of Chiefs beat reporters hyping up Patrick Mahomes as he prepared to supplant Alex Smith a few years back. Trey Lance, the third overall pick in April's draft, easily outplayed Jimmy Garoppolo in the early stages of camp, starting speculation that Kyle Shanahan will turn to his rookie quarterback sooner rather than later. For the time being, Shanahan will only allow that he plans to play Lance "situationally" as a rookie, but this is starting to feel like a head coach protecting an incumbent veteran from the inevitable. Consider it an upset if Jimmy G makes it to October with the QB1 gig.

Previous rank: No. 11

More "hold-in" fun in Pittsburgh, where T.J. Watt has opted to avoid team drills until a new contract extension gets done with the Steelers. Watt is a 26-year-old ironman who was runner-up to Aaron Donald for Defensive Player of the Year last season, so this one feels like a no-brainer for a Steelers braintrust that usually gets this kind of stuff right. And if you're a Steelers fan nervous Watt could be gathering dust, take comfort in Mike Tomlin's Saturday statement that Watt has been "working hard with our trainers." Grinding, baby.

Tennessee Titans

Previous rank: No. 12

Derrick Henry has been the NFL's preeminent volume monster in each of the past two seasons, tallying an astounding 681 carries since 2019, a number that balloons to 782 when you factor in Tennessee's four playoff games in that time. Henry is a supreme athlete with a freakish physique, but it's fair to wonder when the bill will come due. Don't expect the Titans to get precious with Henry now, however: He's entering his age-27 season, and new offensive coordinator Todd Downing is unlikely to go away from the Henry-dominant game plan that helped take his predecessor, Arthur Smith, to new professional heights.

Previous rank: No. 15

All eyes are on Derwin James as the safety looks to bounce back from two years of injury woes that have rendered his fantastic rookie season as something of a dream. Will James return to form and anchor the Chargers' back end? Or will the lower-body injuries rob him of the athletic explosiveness that helped make him special? James has been going back and forth with Keenan Allen all training camp, an extremely promising sign, given Allen's pedigree as one of the best route-running wide receivers in football. Be nice, Football Gods.

New Orleans Saints

Previous rank: No. 10

The Saints might play their games in the Superdome, but it's difficult to ignore those ominous storm clouds above. Michael Thomas reportedly ghosted the team all summer and angered Sean Payton with the timing of his ankle surgery, which is expected to keep him off the field into the season. Defensive tackle David Onyemata will begin the campaign on the suspension list after a positive PED test. Off-the-field issues have put the availability of cornerback Marshon Lattimore in doubt. Even the kicker has troubles: Wil Lutz will miss extended time after undergoing core muscle surgery. Add in the very uncertain nature of the quarterback position in the post-Drew Brees era, and it's impossible to know what to make of this team right now.

Previous rank: No. 18

Cam Newton needs to step it up if he hopes to fend off rookie Mac Jones for the starting QB job in Week 1. The Athletic reported that Newton is up to seven interceptions in camp after a pick in team drills on Monday. Meanwhile, Jones -- the first-round selection out of Alabama -- has strung together good performances in recent days, ramping up speculation that the Patriots will begin their preseason slate with a wide-open battle at the game's most important position. Bill Belichick seems to respect Newton's work ethic and tenacity, but Jones appears to have a real opportunity over the next month.

Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: No. 14

Crisis averted with Xavien Howard, who returned to practice with Miami shortly before agreeing to a restructured contract that resulted in a modest raise for the All-Pro cornerback. It's the best possible outcome for the Dolphins, who believe they are ready to make a move in the AFC and shouldn't be in the business of trading their best players over salary disputes. Howard has 22 interceptions since entering the league in 2016 -- only Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (23) has more in that span.

Indianapolis Colts

Previous rank: No. 13

Does anyone else find it exceedingly weird that quarterback Carson Wentz and guard Quenton Nelson -- the two most important figures on the Colts' offense -- are both out 5-to-12 weeks after undergoing virtually the same foot surgery days apart? This feels like a beefy segment in the next season of the Unsolved Mysteries reboot. The good news is that there is optimism around both players about returning on the earlier end of the timetable, which would be a massive lift, given the treacherous nature of the Colts' early schedule. Props to Nelson's very on-brand reaction to his plight: "(Third) surgery of the offseason in the books, no time for pity. F--- that."

Previous rank: No. 17

Like Lamar Jackson, Kirk Cousins is keeping his decision on the COVID-19 vaccine "private," and in the meantime missed time in camp as a close-contact designation. Upon his return, the quarterback told the media about the idea of encasing himself in Plexiglass -- a KirkWorld of sorts -- to help ward off the virus in the Vikings' quarterbacks room. Mike Zimmer, meanwhile, remains outspoken in his frustration with players who choose not to be vaccinated. "It's important to be available when you're playing football, a team sport," Zimmer said recently. Though Cousins has insisted they are fine, the potential tension between coach and QB is a subplot to track in Minnesota.

Arizona Cardinals

Previous rank: No. 16

"(We) folded -- point blank. Period." That was running back Chase Edmonds' blunt assessment of the 3-6 tailspin that sunk the Cardinals' season in 2020. Much has been made about the Kyler Murray shoulder injury that limited the QB's play during that closing stretch, but the pressure is on coach Kliff Kingsbury to be better in a pivotal third year on the sidelines. The Cardinals were far too conservative on offense, and their predictability made them easy to game-plan against. Murray is a unicorn on the field, but how does Arizona not fall into the trap of simply waiting for magic from the No. 1 overall pick? Kingsbury's job depends on building a more functional attack in 2021.

Chicago Bears

Previous rank: No. 19

An interesting note from The Athletic: Only seven starters remain from the 2018 Bears defense that carried an otherwise ordinary Chicago team to 12 wins and an NFC North title that season. It was a talented unit that stayed healthy and had an ace DC in Vic Fangio (now the head coach in Denver); the question is whether the modern Bears defense -- still led by Khalil Mack -- can ever come close to those heights again. Speaking of Mack: The star linebacker is coming off a down season that saw significant drops in production across the board. Is Mack slowing down as he reaches his 30s, or was he simply banged up physically? A major subplot to watch.

Dallas Cowboys

Previous rank: No. 21

The Cowboys are always in the public eye, but that will be especially true during the team's star turn on Hard Knocks over the next five weeks. Dallas fans are hoping that the gravitas-drenched narration from Liev Schreiber provides positive health updates on several key Cowboys players currently working their back to action. Amari Cooper (ankle) and DeMarcus Lawrence (back) came off the PUP list in the past week and are believed to be trending upward. The same can be said for quarterback Dak Prescott, throwing lightly as he works back from a shoulder injury. A healthy Dallas team is the NFC East favorite.

Las Vegas Raiders

Previous rank: No. 20

You don't have to squint very hard to project the Raiders as a very good offense in 2021. Derek Carr is coming off a strong season, running back Josh Jacobs is healthy and tight end Darren Waller has entered The Superstar Club. Then there's the compelling wide receiver group that includes Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, John Brown and Zay Jones. Each player is intriguing, with Ruggs offering the highest ceiling, while Edwards is getting the summer shine. In one week, Jon Gruden compared Edwards to Terrell Owens, while Carr likened him to Davante Adams. Take it easy, fellas!

Previous rank: No. 24

There might not be a more promising young pass-rushing duo in football entering 2021 than what Washington has in Chase Young and Montez Sweat -- or Young & Sweaty, as I will refer to them from this point forward. Sweat told reporters on Tuesday that he and Young have set a goal to break the NFL's single-season sack record for a duo (Chris Doleman and Keith Millard combined for 39 sacks for the 1989 Vikings). "We got two dynamic players on one line. You can make things happen," Sweat said.

New York Giants

Previous rank: No. 22

The Giants made headlines last week for the team brawl that saw quarterback Daniel Jones at the bottom of a dog pile. Fiery head coach Joe Judge was furious about the skirmish, ripping into his players while handing out extra conditioning as a punishment. This is Judge's thing, and you just wonder if the hard-ass act still works in 2021 -- especially if the Giants struggle and find themselves out of the playoff race in late December. For now, the players seem tuned in: "If you don't like it, then you're welcome to leave," said wide receiver Sterling Shepherd.

Denver Broncos

Previous rank: No. 26

All eyes remain focused on the quarterback competition in camp between newcomer Teddy Bridgewater and incumbent Drew Lock. Coach Vic Fangio is looking for a passer who can aggressively lead the offense without an avalanche of turnovers. That was an issue for Lock last season, but the third-year QB swears he's changed. "I feel like I'm a smarter player now," Lock said. "I feel like the chances that I do take are more calculated chances rather than when I was a rookie or in that second year." In reality, it's likely we see both Lock and Bridgewater starting games. And if that's how it plays out, inconsistent QB play might keep Denver out of the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

Atlanta Falcons

Previous rank: No. 23

Arthur Smith takes over the Falcons after running an extremely proficient offense that was built off the dynamic talents of running back Derrick Henry. How will Smith's approach change now that he doesn't have a Henry-like superstar lined up behind his quarterback? Mike Davis did some nice things while Christian McCaffrey was on the shelf last season in Carolina, but the veteran also faded down the stretch. The depth chart behind Davis is a question mark: Javian Hawkins and Caleb Huntley saw significant action during Saturday's open practice, but Atlanta feels like a team that could use another veteran in the mix.

Previous rank: No. 25

Much was made in the offseason about an impending divorce between the Eagles and Super Bowl hero Zach Ertz, but fast-forward to August, and the veteran tight end has been one of the favorite targets of second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, according to one camp dispatch. It makes you wonder if Ertz's down 2020 season was less about a genuine decline -- as had been widely speculated -- and more a product of injuries limiting his play. Hurts threw to his tight ends nearly a third of the time in his limited play as a rookie, and a healthy Ertz -- playing alongside the rising Dallas Goedert -- will make the young QB better.

Carolina Panthers

Previous rank: No. 28

Sam Darnold enters 2021 as a difficult player to make sense of, given the quagmire he was caught in under Adam Gase in New York. The former No. 3 overall pick got his desperately needed fresh start, and he'll undoubtedly have more talent around him with the Panthers. Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore all present vast upgrades over Darnold's 2020 supporting cast, and keep an eye on newly acquired tight end Dan Arnold, who has shown noticeable chemistry with Darnold this summer. Carolina is probably a year or two away, but the offense has a chance to surprise people this fall.

New York Jets

Previous rank: No. 27

Many emotionally scarred Jets fans were quick to hit the panic button after rookie Zach Wilson flopped in front of the 20,000 in attendance at the annual Green & White open practice over the weekend. Wilson's struggles carried into this week, but this was always inevitable. The Jets made the decision to turn over their franchise to a 22-year-old who's as green as the helmet he wears. Growing pains are part of the gig, and if Wilson is the real deal, he'll process his mistakes and learn from them. He's a highly touted prospect, but it's important to remember he's also a project. Beleaguered Gang Green fans will have to take the good with the bad this season.

Previous rank: No. 30

A report surfaced last week that the Jaguars are shopping C.J. Henderson, one year after the team selected the cornerback with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Having such little patience with a premium draft pick is unusual, but Henderson didn't join the Jags on Urban Meyer's clock and is thus outside the circle of trust. Henderson struggled as a rookie, but the potential he showed in college would hypothetically make the 22-year-old a valuable asset on the open market. One thing is clear: It's Urban's show in Duval.

Cincinnati Bengals

Previous rank: No. 29

The hope here is the Bengals are doing right by Joe Burrow. Yes, the reports paint a bleak picture of a training camp filled with misfires and interceptions as the young quarterback works his way back from reconstructive knee surgery. The question that looms over everything: Is Burrow in the right place physically to move forward as the Week 1 starter? If Burrow is moving gingerly and without confidence on his surgically repaired knee, does it make more sense for Cincinnati to re-evaluate their battle plan? You hope these are conversations happening inside team headquarters, because there is simply too much at stake.

Detroit Lions

Previous rank: No. 32

Looking for a sleeper star to grab in the back end of your fantasy drafts this month? How about T.J. Hockenson, the third-year tight end who quietly came into his own last season during a 67/723/6 campaign? The former top-10 pick has all the tools to be a star, and he'll operate in a Lions offense not exactly loaded with competition for targets from Jared Goff. We're in a fallow period in terms of high-production tight ends -- Hockenson and Falcons rookie Kyle Pitts look ready to shake things up at the position.

Houston Texans

Previous rank: No. 31

The truth is impossible to deny: The Texans will remain underwater as a franchise until there is resolution to the situation surrounding Deshaun Watson. The quarterback is in camp while the allegations of sexual assault made in the 22 lawsuits filed against him remain under investigation, but Watson's presence in camp feels entirely about the avoidance of fines over anything else. It seems far-fetched that Watson will be moved in a trade, and it seems equally far-fetched to imagine Watson playing football this season. David Culley is in the least enviable position you can imagine for a first-year head coach.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter.

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