NFL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Heading into 2013 Season Opener
With the arrival of the 2013 NFL season comes the beginning of power rankings that will wildly fluctuate over the course of the season.
The preseason saw major injuries help or hurt the stock of some teams, but the additions or losses of the offseason truly determine the rankings heading into the opener.
All teams are not created equal. A team at the bottom of the barrel in rankings can make a meteoric rise just as quickly as a contender can lose its spot at the top.
Injuries, depth and simple parity will see to changes from week to week, but here is how the league stacks up before the opening kickoff on Thursday, September 5.
32. New York Jets
The media circus continues whether Rex Ryan and the Jets truly like the attention or not. New York will either field a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith, who is as green as it gets, or an injured Mark Sanchez (ego and physically) to take snaps.
Either way it's a horrific outlook for a team entrusting a running game to a back who cannot stay healthy in Chris Ivory. Overall the talent is just not there on either side of the ball.
31. San Diego Chargers
Quarterback Philip Rivers is on a downward spiral, and that won't change as the front office continues to give him little help in the form of both weapons and protection.
Top talent Louis Vasquez is gone, and linebacker Melvin Ingram is lost for the year. San Diego's in for a pitiful performance.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
It may not seem like it at first glance, but things are on the upswing in Jacksonville. Outside of the quarterback position, that is. Both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne won't necessarily lose games for the team, but they won't win them either.
The Jaguars still have Maurice Jones-Drew to keep things competitive, and defensively the unit is quietly improving with the addition of rookie safety Jonathan Cyprien. It's a heartbreak-loss kind of season in Jacksonville.
29. Oakland Raiders
The new regime in Oakland inherited a horrific situation and is doing its best to turn things around given the hand it was dealt.
The good news is the team has some offensive firepower with quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who at the very least can combine with running back Darren McFadden to keep defenses searching for answers when it comes to stopping the rushing attack.
28. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans will go as Jake Locker goes in 2013, and that's not a good thing. Locker is surrounded by plenty of weapons in Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Chris Johnson (who is backed by a re-vamped offensive line with Chance Warmack and Kevin Levitre), but he's simply limited as a quarterback.
Johnson will win some games on his own, but a porous defense is going to prevent the Titans from reaching .500.
27. Philadelphia Eagles
The Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia is only in its infancy, and to expect anything more than six wins is unreasonable.
Not only is Kelly implementing a new offense that has perhaps never been attempted at a professional level, but he's also implementing a scheme change on defense and has too many leftover pieces from the previous one to instill confidence in its effectiveness as early as this year.
26. Arizona Cardinals
If there's one team that could make a major leap in the coming weeks in terms of power rankings, it is the Arizona Cardinals.
Carson Palmer quietly hit 4,000 yards last season and now has Larry Fitzgerald to hit on every down. Additionally, there are quality weapons such as Michael Floyd and tight end Rob Housler to utilize—a drastic change from his days in Oakland.
The biggest loss for Arizona comes in the form of defensive coordinator Ray Horton (now in Cleveland), but the talent left over should keep the team in games anyway. Watch out for Arizona.
25. Buffalo Bills
Much of Buffalo's movement in the rankings in the coming weeks hinges on the health of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.
Manuel looked great in the preseason when healthy, but it's important to keep it in perspective—not only was it preseason, it was with vanilla schemes. The Bills go as Manuel goes thanks to a horrible defense.
24. Carolina Panthers
Once again the Carolina Panthers did nothing to help Cam Newton out on the offensive side of the ball. He's backed by hobbled running backs and the same receivers who could not catch passes a year ago.
Thankfully a revamped defensive line with rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short will do wonders and free up Luke Kuechly even more. The defense, not the offense, could keep Carolina in games this year.
23. Detroit Lions
It's great quarterback Matthew Stafford has a weapon like Reggie Bush in the backfield now. Calvin Johnson will be good as always, but it's Bush in the passing game that will do wonders.
The problems still reside on the defensive side of things, and until those issues are shored up, every game is going to be a shootout. That's not how games are won in the NFL.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What a difference an offseason can make. Dashon Goldson joins the fray via free agency to pair with Mark Barron at safety, and corner Darrelle Revis joins via trade to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a scary-good defense on paper.
The offense is solid with Doug Martin toting the rock, but it's Josh Freeman's last chance to prove he can put the team over the top.
21. Miami Dolphins
The big spenders in free agency never walk away happy the following season. The addition of Mike Wallace in Miami will help, but more than anything it will free up Brian Hartline.
Defensively the unit is stacked, but it is not all going to come together right away. Add in a ridiculously tough schedule with questions along the offensive line and the Dolphins are still a few years out from the playoffs.
20. Cleveland Browns
Another team set to surprise in a big way is the Cleveland Browns. Second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden has been great in the preseason and is backed by Trent Richardson.
Under Norv Turner, receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron should have huge years. An underrated defensive front led by free-agent acquisition Desmond Bryant will make the Browns scrappier than ever.
19. Kansas City Chiefs
New head coach Andy Reid is going to get the most out of quarterback Alex Smith, and the defense, led by safety Eric Berry, is flying under the radar as a top unit.
Still, the Chiefs are a work in progress, and Smith's ability to scare defenses deep could hold the team back. Jamaal Charles is an injury scare waiting to happen, and receiver Dwayne Bowe could be hindered by Smith's limitations.
The Chiefs could easily jump up the rankings in the coming weeks, but for now anything higher would be premature.
18. St. Louis Rams
St. Louis showed well against the division last year at 4-1-1, but it's still a brutal stretch for any team and will leave the franchise exhausted.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Things in Jerryworld have not changed much outside of Tony Romo being gifted over $100 million this offseason.
Romo is a statistical monster but still a quarterback who loses games for his team. That won't change in 2013, and until the issues on the defense are better patched, it's going to be another season of heartbreak in Dallas.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Yet again an NFL season kicks off where the Pittsburgh Steelers are too old and have lost a step.
Except once again the team will prove otherwise.
The team is getting younger with prospects like Jarvis Jones and receiver Markus Wheaton. As long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is upright, the Steelers will be wreaking havoc on the league.
15. New York Giants
It's hard to hate what the New York Giants have done over the last few years, but in the NFL, remaining at the status quo is a recipe for failure.
Eli Manning is surrounded by elite targets, but entrusting the running game to David Wilson is risky. The defense will be solid but continues to lack playmakers in the secondary. It's an iffy formula entering 2013.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Last year the Minnesota Vikings shocked some with a postseason appearance, but it should not have come as a surprise.
It shouldn't this year, either.
The defense is still solid, but it is the offensive side of things that will impress. Adrian Peterson will get his, but now Christian Ponder has veteran Greg Jennings and an exciting rookie in Cordarrelle Patterson to go to on each down.
Expect big things.
13. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears should have an electric offense under the guidance of new head coach Marc Trestman, which is a change in philosophy from the focus on defense in the Lovie Smith era.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
On paper the Cincinnati Bengals may be the most talented team in the NFL. It would be difficult to point out a weak spot on the defensive side of things, but the weakness on offense is glaringly obvious—quarterback Andy Dalton.
There are no excuses for Dalton in 2013, especially after the addition of running back Giovani Bernard. A.J. Green can only carry the team so far, so expect wild fluctuations in Cincinnati's stock in the coming weeks based on Dalton's performance.
11. New Orleans Saints
What a difference a year can make.
Sean Payton is back calling the shots, and the offense in New Orleans will be the best in the NFL as a result.
The real focus here should be on the defense with Rob Ryan implementing his 3-4 look. The unit sounds like a patchwork job on paper, but Ryan is known for getting the most out of his players.
The additions of cornerback Keenan Lewis and rookie Kenny Vaccaro mean the defense will be a strength in New Orleans to go along with the offense.
10. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III is the story here.
If RGIII stays healthy, the Washington Redskins are back on their way to the postseason. If not, the Redskins will be competitive with Kirk Cousins, but playoffs are out of the question.
Griffin is set to go in Week 1, but how he reacts to his first NFL hit since the serious knee injury will go a long way in predicting how the season unfolds.
9. Houston Texans
Matt Schaub may be a game-manager, but running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate behind an efficient zone-blocking line will once again make the Houston Texans one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.
Brian Cushing returns on what should be a top defensive unit to boot. Overall Houston is quietly one of the most complete teams in the NFL.
8. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck will be the beneficiary of a new offensive scheme in 2013 under coordinator Pep Hamilton, who is implementing a more efficient short-yardage passing game to make up for the lack of efficiency in the backfield.
The defense is still a mess, but Luck did plenty with less a year ago. Big things are on the horizon for the Colts this year.
7. Baltimore Ravens
The big hoopla surrounding the champs this offseason has been the loss of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, yet losing older, slower players is usually a good thing.
That's the case here. Baltimore loses a bit of leadership but picks up Elvis Dumervil. Offensively the team takes a hit with the loss of Dennis Pitta (injury) and Anquan Boldin (free agency), but running back Ray Rice will keep the team in games as the Ravens don't skip a beat entering the season.
6. Green Bay Packers
Shaky defense, offensive line and questions at running back will not stop Aaron Rodgers from guiding the Green Bay Packers to a great season.
The loss of tackle Bryan Bulaga hurts, but running back Eddie Lacy is what the doctor ordered for the offense. He'll help carry the team on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.
5. Atlanta Falcons
The combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones will once again be unstoppable, but the real story for the Atlanta Falcons is the presence of a legitimate running game with veteran back Steven Jackson.
Jackson will help to compensate for what should be a shaky defense for the Falcons next season. Too many questions linger on that side of the ball for Atlanta to enter the season any higher.
4. New England Patriots
Wes Welker gone? No problem, Danny Amendola is in town. Lose a major tight end? No problem, Tom Brady will just make a stud out of Zach Sudfeld.
Brady does what Brady does and wins with or without weapons. Shane Vereen will help to keep defenses honest, and Brady's surgical precision will lead the Patriots to 12 or more wins despite whatever offseason issues folks want to bring up.
3. Denver Broncos
The loss of Elvis Dumervil truly hurts a defense that needs more consistency to help keep the pressure off Peyton Manning. Add in Von Miller's suspension and things won't be as easy as they seem.
Then again, the offense is so loaded with firepower that Manning will be able to out-duel anyone. When Manning can choose from Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on each snap, it's hard to hate the Broncos' chances next season.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Depth is a major part of the equation that wins championships in the NFL, and no team save the one in the No. 1 spot is deeper than Seattle.
On defense things are elite thanks to cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. Additions of pass-rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to go with Chris Clemons simply make things unfair.
Offensively Russell Wilson will be without Percy Harvin, but he's backed by one of the NFL's best backfields in Marshawn Lynch and Christine Michael. Wilson himself is a top quarterback in the league and will lead a special run in 2013, health provided.
1. San Francisco 49ers
The old cliche "rich get richer" applied to the San Francisco 49ers this offseason. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not even play a full season in 2012 and led the stacked roster to the Super Bowl before being downed by a quarterback on a historic run.
The loss of Dashon Goldson hurts, but the defense overall should not see a drop thanks to the additions of rookie safety Eric Reid and end Tank Carradine.
Veteran leadership on both sides is still there, and Kaepernick has a shiny new target in Anquan Boldin. No team is better on paper than the 49ers.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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