Still high on Pa­tri­ots

The Morning Call - - NFL - By Brad Biggs

1. Pa­tri­ots (11-5 in 2018): The cham­pi­ons re­main No. 1 to start the sea­son and why wouldn’t they? If Josh Gor­don can avoid off-field is­sues, he could be a huge weapon.

2. Chiefs (12-4): Pa­trick Ma­homes will have a dif­fi­cult time top­ping the 50-touch­down sea­son he had last year when he won NFL MVP. Andy Reid has a wealth of tal­ent on of­fense.

3. Rams (13-3): There are ques­tions about the dura­bil­ity of Todd Gur­ley, who re­port­edly has an arthritic knee con­di­tion. Man­ag­ing his work­load is im­per­a­tive.

4. Saints (13-3): Drew Brees, 40, doesn’t have a lot of time left, but the Saints made re­ceiver Michael Thomas happy with an ex­ten­sion and Alvin Ka­mara is an all-around run­ning back.

5. Bears (12-4): Mitch Tru­bisky is ex­pected to take a big step for­ward in his sec­ond year in the of­fense. Chuck Pagano in­her­its a de­fense with elite play­ers at all three lev­els.

6. Charg­ers (12-4): They are brac­ing for a hold­out by run­ning back Melvin Gor­don. The loss of safety Der­win James is big­ger, who will miss at least half the sea­son with a foot in­jury. 7. Ea­gles (9-7): The Ea­gles did a fine job of han­dling some se­ri­ous in­juries last sea­son and they ab­so­lutely need Car­son Wentz to re­main healthy as fix-it-man Nick Foles has de­parted. 8. Cow­boys (10-6): With Ezekiel El­liott ex­pected to ar­rive sooner than later, the Cow­boys will have the team’s most im­por­tant com­po­nent in place.

9. Sea­hawks (10-6): The trade for pass rusher Jade­veon Clowney com­pletes a re­built front seven af­ter de­fen­sive end Frank Clark was traded.

10. Browns (7-8-1): The hype ma­chine is prob­a­bly run­ning ahead of the Browns, but the job gen­eral man­ager John Dorsey has done in re­shap­ing this ros­ter is im­pres­sive.

11. Steel­ers (9-6-1): Things are a lot more tran­quil in Pitts­burgh with An­to­nio Brown gone, and that’s a good thing. JuJu SmithSchus­ter looks ca­pa­ble as a No. 1 re­ceiver.

12. Ravens (10-6): La­mar Jack­son is go­ing to have to im­prove as a passer be­cause it’s go­ing to be chal­leng­ing for him to re­main durable run­ning the ball as much as he did last sea­son. 13. Vik­ings (8-7-1): The Vik­ings spent the off­sea­son try­ing to up­grade an of­fen­sive line that did a poor job pro­tect­ing Kirk Cousins last sea­son.

14. Fal­cons (7-9): In­juries dec­i­mated the Fal­cons on de­fense a year ago. If they can have a lit­tle more luck and Matt Ryan gets hot, they could chal­lenge the Saints in the NFC South. 15. Tex­ans (11-5): The Tex­ans made a bold move that will up­grade a por­ous of­fen­sive line by trad­ing for Dol­phins left tackle Laremy Tun­sil. Good news for De­shaun Wat­son.

16. Jaguars (5-11): If you be­lieve in Nick Foles as a starter, the Jaguars could be po­si­tioned to re­turn to the suc­cesses the fran­chise en­joyed in 2017.

17. Colts (10-6): Coach Frank Re­ich was dealt a tough hand with the re­tire­ment of An­drew Luck. The Colts like Ja­coby Bris­sett a lot, but he’s go­ing to need time to de­velop.

18. Pack­ers (6-9-1): The mar­riage of new coach Matt LaFleur with two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers is likely go­ing to work spec­tac­u­larly or blow up.

19. Pan­thers (7-9): Cam New­ton en­ters the sea­son com­ing off an an­kle in­jury suf­fered in the pre­sea­son, which has to be at least some­what con­cern­ing.

20. Bron­cos (6-10): Vic Fan­gio in­her­its a bet­ter ros­ter than the Bears had when he joined them in 2015 as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. But Joe Flacco isn’t the QB of the fu­ture.

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