All is almost right with the world once again. NFL fans were treated to the annual Hall of Fame game last evening, a sign that the start of the regular season is just around the corner. While the starters for the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills lasted just a few series and the play was sloppy at times, it was football just the same. With the first full week of preseason games upcoming the weekend, it’s time to present the annual NFL Preseason Power Rankings. These rankings are based on offseason movement by respective teams and won’t be updated until prior to the start of Week One of the regular season.
2014 NFL Preseason Power Rankings:
1. Seattle Seahawks- They start the season as number one because they are the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Repeating is difficult in this league.
2. Denver Broncos- Yes, they were manhandled in the Super Bowl, but they added some big names on defense this offseason.
3. San Francisco 49ers- The defense has already taken a hit. NT Glenn Dorsey has suffered a torn left biceps. LB NaVorro Bowman won’t return until likely around mid-season and OLB Aldon Smith is facing some sort of league imposed suspension.
4. New England Patriots- Is QB Tom Brady regressing? Can TE Rob Gronkowski last an entire season? Is CB Darrelle Revis completely healthy?
5. New Orleans Saints- The Saints finally reached a long term deal with TE Jimmy Graham. Rookie WR Brandin Cooks is turning some heads in camp. Second-year receiver Kenny Stills should continue to improve, giving QB Drew Brees even more offensive weapons. The secondary improves with the addition of S Jarius Byrd and CB Champ Bailey but line play on both sides of the ball are a question mark.
6. Green Bay Packers- Green Bay finally has a viable running game with second-year back Eddie Lacy. They start the season in Seattle, a game which might have a bearing on home field advantage in the playoffs after the regular season is over.
7. Philadelphia Eagles- Head coach Chip Kelly now has one season in the NFL under his belt. Look for him to increase the Eagles offensive workload this season in a division which is theirs for the taking despite losing WR DeSean Jackson.
8. Indianapolis Colts- The Colts play Denver, New England and the entire AFC North. If QB Andrew Luck continues to improve, don’t be surprised to see Indianapolis with the number 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs this season.
9. Chicago Bears- QB Jay Cutler must remain healthy, but even more, Chicago has to improve on last season’s 32nd ranked run defense.
10. Cincinnati Bengals- QB Andy Dalton received a six-year contract extension but his offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, is now the head coach of the Washington Redskins. Can he finally win a playoff game?
11. Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL but still missed the post-season. Can they carry it forward in 2014?
12. Arizona Cardinals- Arizona was the best team that failed to reach the playoffs in 2013. Can RB Andre Ellington elevate the anemic rushing attack in 2014?
13. St. Louis Rams- The window is closing for QB Sam Bradford. He has to show something this year or the team may have to go another direction. Ferocious defensive line.
14. San Diego Chargers- The reports of QB Philip Rivers’ demise were premature last season. RB Ryan Mathews finally put together a solid season. Will TE Ladarius Green have a breakout season?
15. Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs lost too much in the offseason and regress in 2014.
16. Baltimore Ravens- Veteran WR Steve Smith is seeing father time catch up with him. RB Ray Rice had a horrible 2013 season and starts the year with a two-game suspension. Baltimore could be battling for third place in the AFC North this season.
17. Detroit Lions- Matthew Stafford, it’s all on you this season. How many more offensive weapons do you need?
18. Atlanta Falcons- Head coach Mike Smith might be feeling some heat after 2014 if this Falcons team doesn’t finish with at least 9 wins.
19. Carolina Panthers- A great defensive unit, but who is going to catch passes from QB Cam Newton? Running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams take turns battling injuries.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Many publications and pundits have fallen in love with the Buccaneers as this year’s surprise team. I’m not buying it. The defense will be improved under first-year head coach Lovie Smith and they did add talent to the roster, but it takes time for the team to gel. Quarterback is a position of concern.
21. New York Giants- Improved secondary, but defensive line sack production remains a concern as does the completely rebuilt offensive line. Can QB Eli Manning rebound from a dismal 2013 season?
22. New York Jets- The defense should once again be solid, but the questions are once again surrounding the Jets offense. Does RB Chris Johnson have anything left? His longest run in 2013 was just 30 yards. Can WR Eric Decker become the number one receiver the Jets have needed for the last few seasons? Quarterback is a huge question mark.
23. Miami Dolphins- Head coach Joe Philbin is entering his third season and time might be running out for him. They must find an answer at running back. TE Chartles Clay has suffered an injury and might miss all of training camp.
24. Dallas Cowboys- How long does owner/gm Jerry Jones stick with head coach Jason Garrett? Dallas did little to improve on one of the league’s worst defenses in 2013.
25. Buffalo Bills- This is an intriguing team heading into 2014. Stacked at running back. Added a fantastic prospect at wide receiver. Formidable defensive line. Added LB Brandon Spikes. Everything hinges on second-year QB EJ Manuel. If he limits his mistakes, this team might win 9 games this season.
26. Washington Redskins- Another head coaching regime in Washington. The Redskins added some offensive talent but questions continue to surround QB Robert Griffin III. The defense must improve.
27. Houston Texans- A candidate for the team with the largest win turnaround from 2013 based on the defensive talent this team has alone. Still, it’s a team with a new coaching staff and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
28. Tennessee Titans- First-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt is known as a quarterback guru. He’ll have his hands full with Jake Locker. Tennessee might have a top-5 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
29. Minnesota Vikings- Trainning camp reports suggest rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater might be the opening day starter. Why not? He does have some offensive weapons around him.
30. Cleveland Browns- Another coaching change. An uncertain future with WR Josh Gordon. A rookie quarterback that will make some maddening turnovers this season.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars- Early reports from camp suggest that QB Blake Bortles, the third overall selection in the NFL Draft is making significant strides during camp. I like what the front office is doing as far as laying the groundwork for this team. It’s just not all going to come together in 2014. Sorry. Wouldn’t shock me to see them win 7 games though.
32. Oakland Raiders- With the most money to spend around the league heading into free agency, the Raiders certainly didn’t spend wisely. QB Matt Schaub. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, paired with the oft-injured Darren McFadden. The Raiders have a brutal schedule heading into 2014.
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