Preseason NFL Power Rankings 2014
Seahawks are number one but not without question marks
1. Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawks lost both Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond from their defensive backfield that was so strong last season. They still have their great safety duo and Richard Sherman though, and the emergence of Byron Maxwell gives them a formidable defensive back combination at corner. Offensively the Seahawks should continue to grow as Russell Wilson matures as an NFL passer with significant postseason experience at this point.
2. Denver Broncos - The Broncos got better this off season by adding cornerback Aqib Talib to replace Dominique Rodgers Cromartie after he left for New York. The Broncos also added all pro level talent at the safety position in TJ Ward. They may have downgraded offensively by signing Emmanuel Sanders to replace the departed Eric Decker, but they have more than enough depth to fill that void with Demarius Thomas, Wes Welker and Andrew Caldwell still at the receiver position.
3. San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers were a wildcard last season behind the Seahawks in the NFC West, but their appearance in the NFC Championship game proved they are a legitimate force in the NFC. Colin Kaepernick should continue to mature this season, and the 49ers will continue to lean on a fantastic front seven with hard hitting safeties behind them.
4. New Orleans Saints - The Saints return most of the players that had them as one of the best teams in the NFL last season. They lost Darren Sproles, but after getting edged out by the Carolina Panthers for the NFC South last season, they should come out with a vengeance this season.
5. New England Patriots - The Patriots lost their most productive running back from last season, but they still have Tom Brady under center so they should remain among the top offensive teams in football. Their young receivers should take a step forward after gaining valuable experience last year, and they added high profile defensive backs to replace Aqib Talib. Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis could give the Patriots one of the best cornerback combos in 2014.
6. Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles are now a threat in the NFC after finding their franchise quarterback in Nick Foles. They are the favorites to repeat as the NFC East division champs this season and they are a dark horse Super Bowl contender entering the season. LeSean McCoy figures to have another huge season for the Eagles. With more pass rush depth this season, the Eagles could find a way to produce a defense similar to what they had when Jim Johnson was their defensive coordinator.
7. San Diego Chargers - The Chargers had it all working to finish out last season, and they should pick up where they left off by pushing the Broncos in the AFC West. Phillip Rivers has found his way into the conversation among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, and he is backed by a young athletic defense that is always ready to take the football away when the opportunity is presented. The Chargers begin the season as a legitimate force in the AFC that could be a huge threat if and when they get to the postseason.
8. Indianapolis Colts - With Andrew Luck entering his third season, NFL fans should start to see some of the elite numbers that many expected when he was made the first overall pick. The Colts once again have some question marks defensively, but with a solid defensive front they should be able to win ballgames in which their outstanding offense is able to find their stride.
9. Green Bay Packers - The Packers will always be a threat with Aaron Rodgers under center, and bringing back his best weapon in Jordy Nelson should allow him to produce another big season. Question marks remain along the Packers defensive line, but if they are able to generate a pass rush, their secondary should be better this season with the addition of dynamic free safety Haha Clinton-Dix with their first round draft pick.
10. Baltimore Ravens - Joe Flacco and Ray Rice have much to prove after what happened last season and the incident with Rice in the offseason. These two extremely talented players will respond in a big way to carry the Ravens offense in 2014. On the defensive side of the football, the Ravens have another year of experience for a young safety duo that plays behind a really good front seven on the Ravens defense.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Buccaneers had a great offseason by getting a new coach in Lovie Smith, a new quarterback in Josh McCown and they added Mike Evans in the draft along with some key free agents on defense. This could result in a recent trend continuing in the NFC South, where the last place team from the season before, bounces back to win the division the following season. For the Bucs, this could definitely happen, but for now the Saints remain the favorites in the South.
12. Chicago Bears - The Bears will look to bounce back after a disappointing finish to last season. They are very good offensively with Forte, Jay Cutler and his big weapons at wide receiver, but their defense has many question marks up front. The Bears success this season will depend on how well they are able run their defensive scheme and find or develop the necessary personnel to play good defense. Lance Briggs is the only veteran linebacker remaining from the great Bears' defenses in recent years, but they do have excellent edge rushers which become useful if they can stop the run.
13. Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals are very strong offensively, but their biggest flaw on that side of the ball is at the quarterback position. Defensively they are anchored in the middle by Atkins and Peko, but they have lost most of the edge rushing talent that they have had at defensive end in recent years. They are strong at linebacker, very deep at cornerback and free safety Reggie Nelson patrols the deep middle, ready to punish any receiver who attempts to make a catch in his area of coverage.
14. New York Giants - The Giants likely will be the second best team in the NFC East this season with a chance to make the playoffs provided Eli Manning has a bounce back season. The Giants have some depth at receiver coming into the season and they will need Rashad Jennings to be their feature back now that David Wilson has been forced into retirement. The Giants have a strong front seven and they made some nice additions to the secondary which will allow them to match up well with just about every division rival in the NFC East this season.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers finished strong after starting 0-4 last season, but some of the flaws in their team that caused the 0-4 start are still there. The Steelers have added some new dimensions to a team that was already solid offensively last season, and they will be looking for some contribution from rookies Dri Archer along with Martavis Bryant in limited roles this season. The Steelers addressed their needs on the defensive line, but issues in the secondary remain beyond adding free safety Mike Mitchell on the back end of the defense.
16. New York Jets - The Jets are likely to contend for a playoff spot in Geno Smith's second year as their starting quarterback. The Jets have a fantastic front seven, and now they have a very talented safety to play behind them in Calvin Pryor. Free agent addition Eric Decker should make life easier for Geno Smith in 2014, along with Chris Johnson taking over as the Jets feature running back.
17. Kansas City Chiefs - After a big year for the Chiefs last year, their limitations will likely catch up to them in 2014. The Chiefs have no vertical pass catching threat to prevent teams from loading the box to stop Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs have enough talent to return to the playoffs if things go well for them, but they will once again have to lean heavily on their defense in order to win ballgames. Playing in a division that features offenses like the Chargers and Broncos, will make it hard for the Chiefs to replicate the success that they had last season.
18. Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan is looking for a big bounce back season in 2014 and he should have a big season with the weapons he has around him. Running back Stephen Jackson will look to improve on his first season in Atlanta with bounce back 2014 campaign as well. It is Atlanta's defense that will hold them back though if they end up missing the playoffs this year, because their offense figures to be one of the best in football this season.
19. Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings now have their franchise quarterback of the future in Teddy Bridgewater, but the Bridgewater era could be delayed some if Matt Cassel plays well to start the season. Adrian Peterson, Cordarelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph lead the outstanding group of skill players for the Vikings on offense. Defensively the Vikings have some question marks in the secondary, but the addition of Captain Munnerlyn should help them along with another outstanding season from safety Harrison Smith.
20. St. Louis Rams - Quarterback Sam Bradford returns from an ACL injury this season as the franchise quarterback for the Rams. The Rams improved in the trenches by adding fantastic players in the draft with Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald, as they will complete units that were already a strength for the Rams. Without having much at wide receiver, the Rams will need Kenny Britt to live up to the potential that he showed in his best years for the Titans. The Rams will rely on a strong two back system in the running game with Zac Stacy and Tre Mason getting the majority of the carries.
21. Detroit Lions - After a disappointing finish to last season, the Lions could be in for more disappointment this season. Matt Stafford is their franchise quarterback, but they may be asking him to do too much without a true running game. Calvin Johnson, Reggies Bush and Eric Ebron will help to move the ball effectively through the air for the Lions, but they have nobody who can carry the load between the tackles 20 or more times a game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions are strong up front, but their linebackers along with their secondary are lacking in impact talent.
22. Houston Texans - The Houston Texans have some very good players on both sides of the ball. At wide receiver, Hopkins and Johnson can be dominant forces, while Arian Foster is one of the best running backs in the NFL. On the defensive side the Texans have Jonathan Joseph in the secondary, Brian Cushing and Jadaveon Clowney as linebackers as well as dominant defensive linemen JJ Watt. Their biggest flaw is the question marks at quarterback, as well as inexperience at safety.
23. Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals had a very good season last year but ended up staying home during the playoffs because of the division in which they play. After the Rams have taken a step forward this offseason and Carson Palmer is not getting any younger, it becomes more and more likely that the Cardinals will take a step back. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu remain as impact players in the Arizona secondary and they are very strong at wide receiver. Arizona remains unlikely to have much a of running game in the NFC West due to a lack of impact talent at the running back position and the defense their division rivals play.
24. Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins have their franchise quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, and they even have offensive weapons for him. They do not have a very good offensive line though, and it cost them in the final two games of last season. The Dolphins have some good players on the defensive in cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes, but they do not have a spectacular front seven. They have the upside to improve in the trenches, but right now they do not look dominant on either side of the ball.
25. Washington Redskins - The Redskins have great offensive players going into the season which include a healthy Robert Griffin for the first time since 2012. The Redskins have significant question marks on the defensive side of the ball and in a division with two teams clearly better than them, the Redskins could be in for another tough season. Defensive schemes under new head coach Jay Gruden, could help them to improve their play on that side of the football if the players they have are able to fit well within the scheme.
26. Dallas Cowboys - Much like the Redskins, the Cowboys have very good players at just about every offensive skill position. The Cowboys could have one of the worst defensive units in all of football this season after losing their best linebacker in OTAs to an ACL injury. Sean Lee will be out for the season in 2014 and the Cowboys will struggle to find a way to replace their best defender and signal caller.
27. Buffalo Bills - The Bills have a nice array of young skill players on the offensive side of the ball, which includes quarterback EJ Manuel. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills are strong at cornerback and they have a very good front seven. The departure of Jairus Byrd leaves a hole at safety for the Bills, but they will turn to a couple young safeties that they believe can get the job done in 2014. As a young team, they have plenty of room for growth as the season wears on, but their ultimate success will depend on their quarterback play.
28. Carolina Panthers - The Panthers return their franchise quarterback in Cam Newton, but they do not have enough around at the skill positions. They have good running back depth right now, but they do not have quality or experience at wide receiver to start the season, and they lost some key members of what was a very strong secondary last season. Without being able to challenge teams vertically or cover teams down the field, the Panthers are in a bad spot going into the season.
29. Cleveland Browns - The story of Browns camp is Johnny Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer. Both could have some success this season as the Browns' starting quarterback, but without much depth at receiver, that success will be limited. The Browns have a nice collection of defensive talent that they have assembled in the front seven, and they are strong at cornerback. The departure of TJ Ward leaves the Browns with some question marks on the back end of their defense.
30. Oakland Raiders - The Raiders now have Matt Schaub at quarterback, but it still looks like it is going to be another rebuilding year in Oakland. The Raiders have good running backs in McFadden and Jones-Drew, but not enough at receiver, combined with a lack of impact talent on the defensive side of the ball. Khalil Mack could have a breakout season as a rookie, but the Raiders overall lack of ability to play well in the trenches will hurt them in 2014.
31. Tennessee Titans - The Titans come into 2014 lacking impact talent on both sides of the ball after the departure of Chris Johnson. Jake Locker will start at quarterback for them, and while he may have a promising future, he faces an uphill battle in 2014 with the Titans. Kendall Wright and Nate Washington will be his primary weapons in the passing game, with neither of them having shown that they can handle the every down assignments of being a number one receiver in the NFL. There are some noteworthy pieces on the Titans defense, with one of them being a youngster in nose tackle Jurrell Casey. The Titans will look to establish a strong defense anchored by the big man in the middle.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars - Chad Henne will likely be the starting quarterback for the Jaguars to start the season, but Blake Bortles is their quarterback of the future. It is very much a rebuilding period for the Jaguars, but they do have Cecil Shorts coming off a good season last year at receiver and he will be joined by Marquise Lee. The Jaguars lack of impact talent in the backfield and lack of impact talent defensively, will likely make 2014 into a very long season for the Jaguars.