🏈 Happy Friday! Please enjoy our 2019 NFL Season Preview below.
Today's word count: 2,068 (<8 minutes)
These rankings were put together prior to last night's game (Packers 10, Bears 3), so check back next week to see how far Chicago falls...
It's been 15 months since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting.
The big picture: The NFL's current broadcast rights deals with CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN all expire in 2022, which could make sports betting a key part of any future negotiations.
The other side: While sports betting is poised to play a role in the NFL's future, it won't radically reshape how you watch games, at least not this year.
🎙 Go deeper: On yesterday's Axios Pro Rata Podcast, my colleague Dan Primack discussed the future of legalized sports betting with DraftKings co-founder and CEO Jason Robins. Give it a listen.
Hello, Tom. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
1. New England Patriots: Gronk's retirement will change the way they play, but the Patriots reshape their offense virtually every season based on personnel and they always find an edge. Tom & Friends will be just fine.
2. New York Jets: Sophomore QB Sam Darnold looks poised for a breakout and should benefit from Le'Veon Bell's presence. But he'll need help from his rebuilt O-line (3 new starters).
3. Buffalo Bills: "The Bills want their young QB [Josh Allen] to opt for his check-downs and intermediate options over pushing the ball downfield this season. His ability to do so and take care of the ball is paramount to offensive success." (ESPN)
4. Miami Dolphins: This offseason, the Dolphins stripped down their roster, compiled draft picks and gave Brian Flores a fully guaranteed, 5-year contract — an unprecedented commitment to a first-year head coach that signifies the long road ahead. In other words, they're tanking. (Proof).
Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers lead two of the AFC's best teams. Photo: Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images
1. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs return nearly every key member of an offense that led the NFL with 565 points last year. If the completely overhauled defense can make a jump, watch out.
2. Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers were one of the best teams on both sides of the ball last year, and they return most of their core. Even with All-Pro safety Derwin James on IR, the defense is loaded. Now, we wait on Melvin Gordon.
3. Denver Broncos: The Broncos couldn't score last season. They're hoping that adding a veteran QB in Joe Flacco fixes that problem, and it sounds like teammates are responding well to his "calm, been there, done that" demeanor.
4. Oakland Raiders: The Antonio Brown situation has gotten completely out of hand and overshadows all other storylines as the Raiders prepare for their final season in Oakland. A theory: Is Brown suffering from CTE?
Baker Mayfield and the Browns mean business in 2019. Photo: K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
1. Cleveland Browns: For the first time in a long time, the Browns are legitimate playoff contenders. They have a new coach, a new star receiver, a new plan and renewed hope, "and this time, that hope seems warranted."
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: "The Steelers believe they have a chance in every game with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. The next step is discovering whether receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner can turn Pro Bowl seasons into Year 3 greatness." (ESPN)
3. Baltimore Ravens: Now that the Ravens have had a full offseason to build around dual-threat QB Lamar Jackson, expect to see one of the strangest — and most fun — NFL offenses in years.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: With a rebuild likely on the horizon, this season's top priority is gauging whether first-year head coach Zac Taylor is the right man to lead the organization into the future.
Andrew Luck's retirement dramatically changes the AFC South picture. Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images
1. Houston Texans: The trade for LT Laremy Tunsil was a bit of a head-scratcher in terms of what Houston gave up, but it makes them better in the short term and shores up an offensive line that gave up a league-high 62 sacks last year.
2. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck's shocking retirement is a devastating blow for a franchise with Super Bowl aspirations, but there's still hope that the Colts can contend in the AFC South.
3. Tennessee Titans: "On offense, Derrick Henry's late-season dominance is reason for hope, but this unit's ceiling is all about the development of the passing game," with Marcus Mariota entering his 5th season. (The Ringer)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Has the offense improved enough to complement what should be one of the league's best defenses? That will depend on new QB Nick Foles and RB Leonard Fournette, who could be headed for a bounce-back season.
Ezekiel Elliott is ready to roll in Week 1. Photo: George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
1. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have the NFL's deepest roster and a top-five offense with Carson Wentz healthy. They also have the third-easiest schedule heading into the season. These are all very good things.
2. Dallas Cowboys: "If Jason Garrett wants to be the Cowboys' coach in 2020, winning a divisional playoff game seems to be the minimum the team will have to accomplish." Probably the best roster they've had in over a decade. (ESPN)
3. New York Giants: Eli Manning is the starter, but the clock is ticking. Will coach Pat Shurmur go with rookie Daniel Jones at the first sign of trouble? Or will he wait until the Giants' playoff dreams disappear? Probably the latter.
4. Washington Redskins: The Redskins should have a solid running game, but that's about it. "Bottoming out ... wouldn't necessarily be the worst outcome for the franchise's long-term health," writes The Ringer's Robert Mays.
Friendly reminder that Sean McVay is just 33. Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
1. Los Angeles Rams: There are some issues on the defense and offensive line, but there's just way too much talent returning from a team that started 8-0, finished 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl to consider the Rams anything but a juggernaut.
2. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks haven't won fewer than 9 games since Russell Wilson took over, and with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney, they might finally have the defensive firepower to hang with the Rams and reclaim the division.
3. San Francisco 49ers: QB Jimmy Garoppolo is 28 and one of the NFL's highest-paid players, yet he's started just 10 games in his career. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and prove himself this season, but the Niners are running out of time.
4. Arizona Cardinals: "There’s a significant disconnect between how good the Cardinals will probably be in 2019 and how excited people should be to watch them in Week 1. With Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury in place, seemingly anything could happen." (The Ringer)
Jimmy Graham celebrating last night's only touchdown. Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images
1. Chicago Bears: Chicago has arguably the most talented defense in the league, but the offense struggled at times last year. Third-year QB Mitchell Trubisky is the key to changing that, but he looked horrendous last night.
2. Green Bay Packers: As I mentioned yesterday, "never has a Hall of Fame QB in the latter part of his prime been cast into the type of schematic overhaul that Aaron Rodgers is enduring under Matt LaFleur." Will be fascinating to watch.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins' first year in Minnesota was a bit of a disappointment, but there's reason to believe this season could be special, as he steps into an offense perfectly suited for him (lots of play action).
4. Detroit Lions: The Lions are undeniably more talented on paper than last year's 6-10 squad. But questions still linger about Matt Patricia as a head coach, and the NFC North is brutal.
Nobody has more swag than Alvin Kamara. Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
1. New Orleans Saints: The Saints have a 12.3% chance of winning the Super Bowl, per ESPN, which trails only the Chiefs and Patriots. But if Drew Brees' inevitable decline is already upon us, all bets are off.
2. Atlanta Falcons: A Julio Jones extension is on the way after the Falcons restructured a few deals to create $5 million in cap room. That's great news for QB Matt Ryan, as is the fact that Atlanta doesn't play outside until mid-November.
3. Carolina Panthers: It's difficult to predict how the Panthers will fare in 2019 because their season rests squarely on Cam Newton's surgically-repaired shoulder. If he's healthy, Carolina could make some noise.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: James Winston enters the most important season of his career with a bevy of talented receivers. Plus, Bruce Arians' aggressive scheme should suit him well. Overall, though, this team still has a long way to go.
Kendall "That Brady picture cracks me up" Baker