This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The last time the Denver Broncos were part of any NFL Power Rankings discussion, they were typically the consensus #1 pick. After losing 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks in last year’s Super Bowl, some might say they could still be there.
Seattle clearly dominated Denver in the biggest game of the year last season, but are they the better team going into 2014? With huge off-season acquisitions by the Broncos on defense, it’s certainly up for debate.
With the release of this year’s NFL schedule getting the NFL juices flowing again, let’s see where the Broncos, Seahawks and the rest of the NFL ranks in the latest edition of the 2014 NFL Power Rankings:
1. Denver Broncos
Denver didn’t show up in the Super Bowl last year, but it’s hard to believe something like that happens again quite at that level. The Broncos should remain quite formidable on offense, while they added major star power on defense with DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward.
If Denver can make a leap on defense and stay elite on offense, there’s little reason to think they can’t get back to the Super Bowl. With last year’s brutal blowout fresh in their minds, they have to be the favorite to get the job done and win it all in 2014.
2. Seattle Seahawks
They’re the Super Bowl champs and they haven’t lost much talent to free agency, but getting back to the Super Bowl (much less repeating) is unbelievably difficult. They’ll still be a tough out every week, but the brutal NFC West doesn’t even make reaching the post-season easy. Still, at least for now, there’s no reason to drop them any lower than the two spot.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers lost two of three games against the Seahawks last year, so clearly they still have some demons to exercise here. Seattle does appear to be the better built team at this point, so how the Niners fare against Seattle in 2014 should tell us the team they truly are. Regardless, they’ll be back in the playoffs and might even win the NFC West.
4. New England Patriots
Tom Brady survived a horrific season of injury and inconsistency from everyone around him, yet the Patriots still won the AFC East and reached the conference title game. A yearly threat to reach the Super Bowl, it’s near impossible to keep the Pats out of any top-five.
5. New Orleans Saints
The Saints looked more like themselves in 2013 with head coach Sean Payton back. This year they’ll work to get all the way back. That should mean chasing down a NFC South title and making a deeper run in the playoffs. If they can get more balanced with a more consistent running game, they just might be able to do both.
6. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is still extremely potent on offense as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy. We saw how much he meant to them last year, as they struggled mightily without him and somehow snuck into the playoffs upon his return. This team is no longer just about Rodgers, though. They desperately need their defense to go from bad to great to be a serious title contender.
7. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton was fantastic for most of 2013, but the success of the Panthers a year ago largely hinged to a defense that bordered on elite. That unit should be even better in 2014, which should keep Carolina in the playoff mix. However, if the cats can’t get Newton some weapons in the passing game, a quick playoff exit can be expected for the second year in a row.
8. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck and his Colts have put in two straight 11-5 finishes and even won an insane wild card playoff game at home last year. In fact, had their offensive coordinator not tried so hard to be a run-first offense, Indy might have been even better. Just how much better their defense can get will likely be the difference between merely another trip to the playoffs and a deep playoff run.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton is a solid quarterback, as he’s turned into a fairly prolific passer en route to three straight trips to the playoffs to start his career. Unfortunately, he hasn’t proven to be a great quarterback and especially struggles against elite defense. Playing in the tough AFC North, Dalton will need to finally reach that next level for the Bengals to finally earn a playoff victory.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid arrived in 2013 and suddenly a bad 2-14 Chiefs team was a force in the NFL again. KC started 9-0 and while they backed their way into the playoffs, they appear built to compete at a high level again in 2014. It won’t be easy with the Broncos in their division, but if their defense can get nasty again, they could still be a dangerous team.
11. Philadelphia Eagles
Chip Kelly’s system works and Nick Foles is a legit NFL starting quarterback. With Philly putting up points with little trouble, the name of the game for the Eagles in 2014 will be how well their defense can progress. Still, even if it can’t, they’re clearly the class of the mediocre NFC East right now.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore is probably the team outside of the top-10 that can make the biggest, quickest leap in 2014. They were Super Bowl champs just two years ago and still have all the key pieces that helped them get there. Joe Flacco needs to get back to being the elite quarterback he fancies himself as, but if he can the Ravens will be right back in the playoff hunt.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona won’t have it easy with another run through the brutal NFC West, but they were better than people thought they were in 2014, missing the playoffs with a solid 10-6 record. Taking the next step will require a better rushing attack and more consistency out of an aging Carson Palmer. If that can happen, Arizona has the elite talent on defense to be a real force in the playoffs.
14. Chicago Bears
There’s no denying the magic of head coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman anymore. With Chicago’s offense bordering on elite on a weekly basis, their 2014 success will likely hinge on whether or not their shaky defense can rebound and be an elite unit again. If so, the Bears can absolutely challenge for the NFC North division crown.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh, much like the division rival Ravens, is another team that missed out on the playoffs in 2013 but has the coaching and talent to jump back into the playoff mix. Their division is still tough, but as long as Big Ben is in the saddle, they have a chance.
16. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers finished just 9-7 last year but were better than people gave them credit for. Philip Rivers had a career revival and San Diego used Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews together perfectly. With Mike McCoy steering the offense, the only thing preventing the Chargers from getting to the playoffs for the second year in a row is a shaky defense.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas is the classic mediocre team that has loads of talent, yet hangs out here outside the top-12. They’re completely content doing so, which is probably their biggest flaw. Right up there is a failed transition to a 4-3 defense, so unless they fix major issues in the secondary, they aren’t likely to be much better than the 8-8 team we’re accustomed to seeing at the end of the year.
18. New York Jets
Gang Green boasts a very solid defense and good coaching, but will absolutely present a much more consistent offense in 2014. We can’t say they’re not trying to do that, though, as they added a ton of talent in Michael Vick, Chris Johnson and Eric Decker. They’re on the right path, but if they truly want to leap over the Patriots in 2014, they’ll need another offensive piece, as well as a new starting cornerback.
19. Detroit Lions
Detroit can ball with just about anyone on offense. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush are a formidable trio and new head coach Jim Caldwell is a sound enough offensive mind to make sure not to screw it up on offense. Ultimately, though, Stafford needs to have more control and the defense needs to rise up another level.
20. St. Louis Rams
The Rams spent half of 2013 without Sam Bradford, yet a stout pass rush and the emergence of running back Zac Stacy kept them from turning into mush. This year they have loads of picks in the draft to improve their overall talent, while Bradford will be back again. Despite some mild optimism, the Rams still reside in the brutal NFC West, so approaching the playoffs will likely stay a pipe dream.
21. Miami Dolphins
Miami certainly showed some progress in 2013 at times, but they also clearly had some major issues inside the locker room. Changing offensive coordinators should shake things up in a positive manner, as will adding veteran running back Knowshon Moreno. They’re not going anywhere if they can’t protect Ryan Tannehill, though.
22. Atlanta Falcons
Injuries and poor line play on both sides of the ball derailed the Falcons in 2013. Julio Jones and so many others will return to full health this year, and if Atlanta can just keep most of their key players on the field, they’ll be about as good as anyone. Adding more help on defense surely would go a long way in helping that out, however.
23. New York Giants
Eli Manning was horrific in 2013, but Big Blue’s failure’s can’t all be blamed on him. His wide receivers and offensive line played like trash, while the defense decided to wait until they were in a 0-6 hole to start playing at a consistently high level. If Manning can rebound, the G-Men have a shot in a pedestrian NFC East. If not, expect more of the same, if not much worse.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lovie Smith takes over a Bucs team that was mismanaged into the ground in 2013. Josh McCown provides a short-term upgrade over the erratic Mike Glennon, as well, while Tampa appears to have enough talent on both sides of the ball to be competitive right now. Smith’s guidance in his first season could be enough to push them to the brink of the playoffs.
25. Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller broke down in 2013 and rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel was insanely inconsistent. A shaky offense held back a defense that improved dramatically, and the story could remain the same in 2014. Just how much better Manuel can get in his second season will tell the story in Buffalo.
26. Minnesota Vikings
As long as the Vikings have Adrian Peterson, they’ll be in the post-season discussion. Having other talent on offense helps, as well, although they may want to try to find a quarterback in this year’s draft. Norv Turner should help make the offense less predictable either way, while a young defense will look to take it to the next level under new defensive-minded head coach, Mike Zimmer. There is reason for optimism here, but Minny is likely to stay grounded in 2014.
27. Tennessee Titans
Ken Whisenhunt takes over the Titans as head coach in 2014, and will quickly have to decide whether or not the often injured and inconsistent Jake Locker is his franchise passer. The Titans already have downgraded in the ground game and have holes to address in the secondary. It should be an uphill battle to remain competitive in 2014.
28. Houston Texans
Injuries rattled the Texans in 2013, but Matt Schaub’s ineptitude late in games to start the year kept a 2-0 start from turning into something special. Instead, the Texans didn’t win another game and now hold the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Who they select could tell us a lot about just how big of a leap they can make in 2014.
29. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III never looked right in his much too rapid return from a horrible knee injury and the Redskins defense didn’t do him any favors during a lost 2013 season. Washington changed head coaches and added the explosive DeSean Jackson. If the offense can be fixed, Washington could compete for the top of the NFC East again.
30. Cleveland Browns
The Browns were surprisingly competitive in 2013, but then the front office got cleaned out and they hired yet another new head coach. Right now they have no clear cut quarterback or running back and how they address those massive holes will have a huge hand in how their 2014 season plays out.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville was another surprisingly competitive team that lost a lot of games in 2013, but could quickly be headed for a spike in wins in 2014. They still don’t have a quarterback or running back, but they have a great system in place for their defense. If they do well in the draft, they could slowly work their way back to respectability.
32. Oakland Raiders
There are some pretty bad teams near the bottom of the league, but even some teams with bad records have enough pieces to make them competitive on a regular basis. Oakland might not be one of them. They traded for Matt Schaub, but that may not necessarily be a good thing based off of how he looked in 2013. They also have an injury prone running back and an aging one. Unless their defense dominates everyone, they’ll be in for a long year.