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2014 NFL Powre Rankings – Training Camp Edition
Every summer, fans of each team engage in virtually useless conjecture about their team, and the fans and players on other teams, suppositions about where each team will go (in relation to the playoffs), and talking up fantasy football. No one can predict injuries and outlier career seasons from individual players and teams, however. That is what makes the beauty of viewing the NFL so palpable. And with that, the 2014 Inaugural Powre Rankings for the upcoming NFL season kick off today.
- - Note: The 2014 Hall of Fame game, featuring the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills will be played next Sunday, August 3, 2014, 8:00 PM; Fawcett Stadium, Canton, Ohio.
As always, where a team is ranked in July has no real portend of their success, just merely a barometer based upon free agency signings, outstanding injuries from 2013, draft selections and other personnel movement.
1. Seattle Seahawks.
The Seabags won their first Super Bowl in February 2014, and look to repeat. However, this will not be easy with RB Marshawn Lynch already holding out of camp, and with the entire league gunning for them with their best game.
2. Denver Broncos.
Denver continues to address its relative defensive woes (some would argue that there is more stress placed upon the defense because of the efficiency and prolific nature of the offense) by acquiring players such as DE/LB DeMarcus Ware, S TJ Ward and CB Aqib Talib. However, it will be interesting to see whether those players are able to integrate with the remaining pieces on defense, and whether Denver can have a consistent running game with RB Knowshon Moreno now in Miami.
3. New England Patriots.
One would think that with all the injuries the Patriots sustained (and still made the AFC Championship Game) that they would be favored to be right back in that game (barring major injuries) once again in 2014, or nah?
4. San Francisco 49ers.
San Francisco won’t be as good as they were in 2013, regardless of the health of NoVarro Bowman. They still do not have a legitimate #1 WR, and now TE Vernon Davis is engaged in contract squabbles. This is their last year to try and win a Super Bowl with the current core of players, before major changes will be made (starting with RB Frank Gore).
5. Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay will be right there this year. Aaron Rodgers’ injury likely cost the Packers three wins and valuable advantages over a team such as Carolina, who it would have likely faced had the season continued on the plane in which it was heading prior to Rodgers’ injury.
6. Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s put up or shut up time for Andy Dalton. The Bengals have surrounded him with talent and a great defense.
7. New Orleans Saints.
It will be worth noticing how the Saints continue to mutate offensively, as they have continually shuffled several of their RBs out of town in the past three years. Their defense was much better in 2013, but the offense was not nearly as efficient (particularly away from the Superdome.)
8. Kansas City Chiefs.
Andy Reid-led teams are almost always in the hunt, but they always seem to come up short because of some coaching detail that costs them in close games. In 2013, it was the complete sieve that the defense became following their midseason BYE Week, and the misuse of RB Jamaal Charles (while relying far too much on QB Alex Smith) that did them in.
9. San Diego Chargers.
The Bolts benefit from playing in the far extreme southwest, out of the minds of many. However, they will be sneaky good with several key offensive players returning, and continuing to reload with younger players on defense.
10. Indianapolis Colts.
Andrew Luck continues to get a pass for his performance in his three career playoff games, but the Colts do need to bolster the offense and prepare for life after Reggie Wayne, while the defense is still missing a stalwart LB and defensive line pressure.
11. New York Football Giants.
The Giants made more moves in free agency in 2014 than they have in many years; mostly out of necessity. With a complete overhaul of an offensive system under which even casual fans could predict 80% of the plays correctly, and further bolstering the depth on a defense that was 8th in the NFL in 2014, the Giants are in position to prove that 2013 was the nastiest of aberrations, rather than an actual barometer of the team’s fortunes heading forward.
12. Arizona Cardinals.
The Cards will be every bit as good as they were in 2012, especially defensively, but they are indeed heading in a different direction offensively, as curiously pointed out by QB Carson Palmer, who would be looking for work right now if not for a strong finish to 2013. They had zero run game for long stretches last season until RB Andre Ellington emerged. They lost WR Andre Roberts and are entering what is likely their last year with WR Larry Fitzgerald.
13. New York Jets.
The Jets had one of the best drafts in the NFL in May, and also added several complementary pieces such as WR Eric Decker and LB Jason Babin. Jokes about their irrelevance and being a circus atmosphere had best be put to rest, even with Loudmouth Rex forever lurking.
14. Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are going to take somewhat of a step back, but not too far, because they run the ball especially well. They won’t really lose much defensively, with the departure of non-key members of what was the weak link of a great defense in the first place (the secondary, and FS Mike Mitchell). WR Kelvin Benjamin appears to be starting out in a Cris Carter-in-Philadelphia package, but the player who inhaled the game-winning touchdown pass in the 2014 BCS National Championship for Florida State has Calvin Johnson build and Calvin Johnson ability.
15. Detroit Lions.
The Lions have to put it all together eventually, don’t they? QB Matthew Stafford has to cease and desist with the National Stone Skipping Association sidearm throws, which seemed to doom the Lions whenever they lost games. They don’t quite have a good enough defense to overcome the massive errors of the offense. But when this offense is on, it is extremely difficult to slow down.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers.
If the Steelers go anywhere in 2014, it will be because their defense made plays. QB Ben Roethlisberger carried a very lacking WR/TE corps in 2013, and they lost a key cog from that WR corps to Denver, without adequately replacing him. That is asking a lot from #7.
17. Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens had arguably the best draft along with the Jets and Rams, but most of those players are on defense.
18. St. Louis Rams.
Same thing goes for the Rams, who will almost certainly have a Top 5 defense this year, and the absolute best pass rush (with or without LB Michael Sam), but unless WR Tavon Austin has a breakout season, where is the explosiveness going to come on offense? This is make or break time for QB Sam Bradford.
19. Chicago Bears.
The Bears have done little to improve their defense, outside of plugging a couple of holes. The problem is, nearly the entire defense WAS a hole in 2013. Jared Allen alone will not cut it.
20. Minnesota Vikings.
Offensively, you’d think the Vikes would be set with RB Adrian Peterson, and all-world playmaker-in-the-making WR Cordarrelle Patterson, with others in tow. But once again, questions about their defense will continue to linger.
21. Cleveland Browns.
Whether it is Brian Hoyer or John Pigskin, the Browns will be better than they finished in 2013. Their defense is plenty good enough, and they played well under Hoyer before his unfortunate injury 1/3 of the way through last season. Manziel brings a different dynamic, but is an unproven commodity at this point.
22. Philadelphia Eagles.
Most rational minds viewed 2013 as an extreme aberration for the Eagles; particularly the performance of QB Nick Foles. With a still-bad defense, and teams having a year of tape to adjust to Chip Kelly’s offense, the Eagles will take a step back. It remains to be seen how big of a step back that will be, but it would be logical to assume that it will be somewhere in the middle of their 2012 and 2013 results.
23. Miami Dolphins.
Lots of bloviation coming out of Miami regarding the tempo of the new offense. Practice is one thing. During a live game is another. The Fins haven’t done all that much to improve their offense, so not many teams have reason to be concerned. Yet.
24. Atlanta Falcons.
Obviously getting Julio Jones back (sooner than later) will help, but the Falcons are awful defensively, and have not done much to shore up that glaring weakness. Matt Ryan got exposed in 2013.
25. Washington Redskins.
Much talk out of Landover about Griffin being relieved that Shanahan is out of town, but having a coach who will go to the other extreme and cater to his every demand isn’t necessarily a good thing. DeSean Jackson does not scare any defense in the NFC East, so looking at the reality that Washington has done nothing to improve one of the worst defenses in the NFL, it is hard to see how the Skins (and no, I will not stop calling them by that name, much like I still use “Bullets” for that other Washington team) will be drastically better. It is possible, but as a starting point (which these rankings are, heading into camp), it is not evident as yet.
26. Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders have a long way to go. But drafting future all-world/son of mine Khalil Mack is one step in the right direction.
27. Tennessee Titans.
No idea what their plan is.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars.
Do they have any receivers? Counting on a rookie does not count.
29. Buffalo Bills.
The Bills are the Bills. Their offseason moves were decent, albeit the trade to swap spots with Cleveland to draft Sammy Watkins was baffling. The Bills always seem to be missing a very important piece that causes them to lose 5 or 6 games in the final minute every season.
30. Houston Texans.
Defense wasn’t the issue in Houston. It’s all about the lacking offense. Booting Matt Schaub out of town did not change that fact. Who is their quarterback? RB Arian Foster is about to further show why he wasn’t drafted in the first place (and largely a product of the zone blocking system when he was successful), and you have a WR in Andre Johnson who no longer wants to be there. This is not to be glazed over.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There are too many questions surrounding this team, even if they had a decent draft. On paper, they should be a playoff team. That was the case in 2013, though.
32. Dallas Cowboys.
Tony Romo is coming off major back surgery and is now 34 years of age. Dallas may score relatively well, but they had the worst defense in the NFL (and the second worst of all-time) last season, and lost their top three defensive players to free agency (LB DeMarcus Ware, LB Jason Hatcher) and season-ending injury before the season began (MLB Sean Lee), while not adding anyone of any consequence to the defense. That pretty much dooms them to being the worst defense of all-time, particularly given Dallas’ aversion to running the football and managing the clock; further putting their defense in peril. They won’t go 8-8 again for the fourth straight year, but what they will actually be will have their fans begging for 8-8.