Summer is here, meaning that the 2021 National Football League season is around the corner. All 32 teams are heading in with optimism, but Pro Football Focus Ben Linsey injected a dose of reality Thursday, with his ranking of every team based on strengths, weaknesses, and x-factors.
For the Washington Football Team, Linsey has Ron Rivera's squad in 12th place, one year removed from an NFC East title. But despite their playoff appearance and having one of the better defensive lines in football, a couple of non-playoff teams were ranked ahead of Washington, including the division rival Dallas Cowboys at No. 8.
Washington's biggest strength, according to Linsey, is its defensive line, with Chase Young and Montez Sweat leading the way.
When it comes to the weakness, he says the decision to release Morgan Moses at tackle creates a potential hole on the offensive line, even with Cornelius Lucas and second-round rookie Samuel Cosmi as the top candidates to replace Moses.
He said the quarterback position can be the biggest x-factor for Washington, as veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over the reins and can improve the downfield element of the team's offense.
One of the reasons he ranked the Cowboys ahead of Washington, and 24 other teams, is due to the return of their quarterback, Dak Prescott. The 27-year-old will improve their passing game, as he'll lead an aerial attack that includes receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb.
As far as Dallas' weakness, per Linsey, the Cowboys' secondary could remain an Achilles heel as it'll still be reliant on young talent. Finally, when it comes to the x-factor, Randy Gregory can build off a solid 2020 season as the anchor of Dallas' defensive line.
The top three teams in his rankings were the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 1, the Kansas City Chiefs at 2, and the Cleveland Browns at 3. The Baltimore Ravens came in at No. 5 behind the Buffalo Bills. As for the other two NFC East teams, the Giants were ranked 19th and the Eagles 29th.
Rankings don't mean much when the games are played, so it will be interesting to see whether Linsey's hold up involving the two NFC East rivals. Washington and the Cowboys don't see each other until December, when they play twice in one month on the 12th and 26th.