The 2021 NFL season is over – a season full of thrills, milestones, and unexpected twists and turns. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won his second MVP award in a row, but it was a bittersweet victory as the Packers were ejected from the playoffs. At 44, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady led the league in passing yards before shocking the world by announcing his retirement. Cooper Kupp of Los Angeles Rams led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches, and was named Offensive Player of the Year before earning Super Bowl LVI MVP.

And, perhaps most surprisingly, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals improved from four wins in 2020, to ten in 2021, an AFC North title, and a run to Los Angeles and a Super Bowl spot.

As the curtains fall on the 2021 NFL season, attention shifts to team preparations for the next season. There will be players moving, retiring, managerial changes, and contract extensions.

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The Los Angeles Rams were crowned Super Bowl LVI winners as the confetti dropped at SoFi Stadium at the end of the game. Deservedly, they top the power ranking list, but who else makes the cut?

LA Rams

The Rams put everything on the line and got a royal flush. The 23-20 victory over the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday was a monument to mental toughness, perseverance, and the allure of star power. In the waning minutes of regulation, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp willed the offense to the go-ahead score, and Aaron Donald smashed through the Cincinnati offensive line to force an incompletion, clinching the first NFL title for a Los Angeles franchise since 1984. Donald evaded concerns about an early retirement after the game, an offseason subplot the Rams and their fans can worry about later.

Kansas City Chiefs

The offense’s collapse in the AFC Championship Game will be remembered for a long time, but Kansas City is still in a strong position as the season progresses. The pass rush is the most pressing necessity, and Chiefs brass should note that Joe Burrow was sacked only once in the AFC title game and 16 times in the two postseason games that followed. This season, the Chiefs were 29th in the league in sacks, putting too much pressure on the defense’s back end. Chris Jones will be the defensive line’s backbone, but the front seven might use some help.

Buffalo Bills

The pain of a sad loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoffs lingers in Western New York, but the AFC East champs’ future seems bright. Josh Allen is set for a September return as a superstar quarterback at the top of his powers, and the Bills are hoping that promoting from within will help offset the loss of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who went south to join the Giants. With less than $5 million in expected cap space, the Bills will have to get inventive if they want to keep adding pieces around Allen.

Cincinnati Bengals

The fairy tale ended on a bitter note, but Bengals fans will remember an underdog club that rose from the ashes to come within a whisker of winning the Super Bowl. More than anywhere else in the NFL, the offseason objective is clear: protect the quarterback. Solutions at guard and tackle are needed, so don’t be shocked if Cincy spends its first-round selection and a large portion of its salary space on the big men in front of Joey Franchise.

Green Bay Packers

It all comes down to No. 12 in Green Bay, as it always does. Recently, Aaron Rodgers won his second straight NFL MVP award. Wisconsin and the nearby regions are waiting to see whether green smoke rises from Rodgers Manor’s chimney, announcing the great quarterback’s homecoming. Rodgers has hinted at both retirement and a desire to complete his career somewhere else, but another strong season for the Packers seemed to ease tensions between the player and the organization. Green Bay is allegedly willing to go “all in” to maintain its best player, and Rodgers’ final decision will significantly impact the franchise’s future.