Power Ranking Every NFL Division After Peak of Free Agency

James ParadisContributor IIApril 8, 2014

Power Ranking Every NFL Division After Peak of Free Agency

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    Mike Roemer

    Which is the NFL’s most dangerous division? From top to bottom, how complete is each four-team group?

    Now that the busiest period of free agency is finished, most teams’ starting rosters are taking shape for next season. Have any teams made key additions that will provide the necessary missing pieces to contend for a Super Bowl? Which teams lost talented players this offseason and, subsequently, scratched themselves off the list of potential champs in 2014?

    The following rankings take a look at the relative strength of the NFL’s eight divisions, breaking down the quality of each team within a division and adding together their combined value.

     

    How does the ranking system work?

    An evaluation system that takes into account each team's 2013 performance and the impact of free-agency moves, as well as some personal opinion, is used to score the relative strength for every offensive, defensive and special teams unit.

    Every team earns a score out of 25 points (100 points per division) that places them into one of four mixed martial arts-inspired categories: heavyweight (25-19 points), light heavyweight (18-16 points), middleweight (15-13 points) or lightweight (12-0 points).

    Teams that rate as heavyweights qualify as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, in my opinion. Light heavyweights hold an outside shot at winning a title, while middleweights appropriately represent middle-of-the-road clubs. The lowly lightweights are the league’s bottom-of-the-barrel squads.

    The 25-point scoring system assigns relative value to every starting position and unit: quarterback, running backs, receivers, offensive line, front seven, secondary and special teams.

     

    Strength of Team Scoring Rubric (maximum 25 points):

    Offense: 0/15Defense/Special Teams: 0/10TOTAL: 0/25
    Quarterback: 0/7Front Seven: 0/4 
    Running Backs: 0/3Secondary: 0/4 
    Receivers: 0/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 0/2  

     

    The subjective importance placed on each position or group determines the maximum point total for each unit. For example, I believe that having a below-average quarterback is more detrimental to a team’s chances to contend than having a poor secondary, offensive line, etc. Therefore, there is a greater possible point total for each team’s quarterback than for any other unit.

    Note that the system does not include a score for coaching—the offseason brings about too many new hires, which makes it too difficult to predict impact and makes standardized scoring tough in this area.

    The combined scores for each division’s teams equal a total out of 100 points to determine the overall power ranking for every division.

    So, without further ado, let’s get to the rankings!

8. AFC South: 48/100

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    David J. Phillip

    From top to bottom, the AFC South is the weakest division in the NFL. Only one team seems to be on the rise, while the other three teams are veritable locks to miss the 2014 postseason.

     

    HOUSTON TEXANS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (13/25)

    2013 Record: 2-14

    2013 Postseason Result: Missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, FS Chris Clemons, RB Andre Brown 

    Notable Offseason Departures: DT Earl Mitchell, DE Antonio Smith, RB Ben Tate, TE Owen Daniels

    The Texans have truly fallen from grace in the AFC. The former 2012 division champs will have the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s draft and will likely select a quarterback to fill the currently open starting gig (sorry, Ryan Fitzpatrick). The team is not too far from returning to contention, however. The offensive skill positions and defense are ripe with talent at all levels.

    2014 Projected Record: 7-9

    Texans Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 7/15Defense/Special Teams: 6/10TOTAL: 13/25
    Quarterback: 2/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

     INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (16/25)

    2013 Record: 11-5

    2013 Postseason Result: Lost to New England in divisional round

    Notable Offseason Additions: CB Vontae Davis, DE Arthur Jones, WR Hakeem Nicks, LB D'Qwell Jackson

    Notable Offseason Departures: SS Antoine Bethea, RB Donald Brown, LB Kavell Conner

    One could argue that the Colts should be rated higher than a very low-end title contender. Rising star quarterback Andrew Luck carried his team to back-to-back division titles and forged an incredible comeback victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round of the 2013 postseason. However, too many holes exist on their starting roster to imagine Indy making the jump this season. A breakout year from Trent Richardson and high-level play from free-agent additions could get them closer to heavyweight contention.

    2014 Projected Record: 10-6

    Colts Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 10/15Defense/Special Teams: 6/10TOTAL: 16/25
    Quarterback: 6/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 0/2  

    JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS, LIGHTWEIGHT (10/25)

    2013 Record: 4-12

    2013 Postseason Result: Missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: OG Zane Beadles, DE Evander Hood, DE Chris Clemons, RB Toby Gerhart, LB Dekoda Watson, DE Red Bryant

    Notable Offseason Departures:  RB Maurice Jones-Drew

    The Jaguars had some serious money to spend this offseason—$52.5 million in cap space, to be exact. The majority of the team’s efforts thus far have focused on improving the front seven, though the offense could use some free-agency love as well. After shipping former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco, drafting another quarterback early should be a foregone conclusion for Jacksonville, as Chad Henne is not the long-term (or short-term, for that matter) answer. Expect a solid Jags defense in 2014, but overall, this team still has a long way to go.

    2014 Projected Record: 6-10

    Jaguars Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 4/15Defense/Special Teams: 6/10TOTAL: 10/25
    Quarterback: 2/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 0/2  

    TENNESSEE TITANS, LIGHTWEIGHT (9/25)

    2013 Record: 7-9

    2013 Postseason Result: Missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: LB Wesley Woodyard, OT Michael Oher, WR Dexter McCluster, DE Shaun Phillips

    Notable Offseason Departures: CB Alterraun Verner, RB Chris Johnson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Kenny Britt

    The arrow is pointing down for the Titans in 2014, a team that had already set the bar fairly low in recent seasons. Tennessee lost a couple key pieces in free agency but had some decent, albeit low-impact, signings as well. There are question marks at almost every position and few bright spots. Embrace the mediocrity, Titans fans.

    2014 Projected Record: 4-12

    Titans Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 5/15Defense/Special Teams: 4/10TOTAL: 9/25
    Quarterback: 3/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 0/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 48/100

7. AFC East: 57/100

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    Kathy Willens

    One perennial powerhouse plus three second-rate squads does not a strong division make. Could this be the year that a team other than the New England Patriots reigns supreme in the AFC East? In a word: unlikely. 

     

    BUFFALO BILLS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (13/25)

    2013 Record: 6-10

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: OG Chris Williams, CB Corey Graham, LB Brandon Spikes

    Notable Offseason Departures: FS Jairus Byrd

    The Bills continue to add talent across its roster each year yet fail to put the pieces together. 2013 first-round pick E.J. Manuel has yet to prove if he is the answer at quarterback for a Buffalo team that has not yet made the postseason in this Millennium. Also, the team’s stout defense could take a hit after losing Jairus Byrd to the New Orleans Saints in free agency.

    2014 Projected Record: 7-9

    Bills Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 6/15Defense/Special Teams: 7/10TOTAL: 13/25
    Quarterback: 2/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    MIAMI DOLPHINS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (13/25)

    2013 Record: 8-8

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: LT Branden Albert, RB Knowshon Moreno, CB Cortland Finnegan, DT Earl Mitchell, OG Shelley Smith, FS Louis Delmas

    Notable Offseason Departures: DT Paul Soliai, CB Nolan Carroll, FS Chris Clemons, CB Dimitri Patterson, OG Richie Incognito

    Just when it seemed like the Dolphins were on the upswing, the team came crashing back to earth at the end of 2013. A bullying scandal and poor management marred the regular season, and Miami saw its postseason hopes dashed for another year. Now, with a new general manager and a slew of offseason activity, how do the Fins stack up? Branden Albert should finally provide some direly needed protection for third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but a weakened secondary and muddled backfield could keep this team from finding relevance.

    2014 Projected Record: 7-9

    Dolphins Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 8/15Defense/Special Teams: 5/10TOTAL: 13/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, HEAVYWEIGHT (19/25)

    2013 Record: 12-4

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to Denver in AFC Championship Game

    Notable Offseason Additions: CB Darrelle Revis, WR Brandon LaFell, CB Brandon Browner

    Notable Offseason Departures: CB Aqib Talib, LB Brandon Spikes, RB LeGarrette Blount

    Based on its divisional competition, the Patriots have by far the easiest road to the postseason in the NFL. The question is not whether or not New England will dominate the AFC East; rather, it's if the team can get back to the Super Bowl before soon-to-be 37-year-old Tom Brady hangs up his cleats, straps on his Uggs and leaves Foxborough. The team’s chances to contend improved recently when head coach and master of the dark arts Bill Belichick worked his free-agency black magic to secure one of the league’s most talented and intimidating secondaries.

    2014 Projected Record: 13-3

    Patriots Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 11/15Defense/Special Teams: 8/10TOTAL: 19/25
    Quarterback: 7/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 4/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 2/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    NEW YORK JETS, LIGHTWEIGHT (12/25)

    2013 Record: 8-8

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: WR Eric Decker, OT Breno Giacomini, OLB Calvin Pace, QB Michael Vick

    Notable Offseason Departures: OT Austin Howard, QB Mark Sanchez, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes

    In steady decline since “The Sanchize” glory years, the Jets cannot seem to shake their status as a middling team known more as the butt of media jokes than for anything football related. The organization seems content to maintain its current identity as a team with a solid defense and possibly the worst offensive skill position players in the league. Adding Eric Decker should help somewhat in the passing game, though the ball must first find its way into his hands for him to be effective. At least the media circus should die down now that Tebow and Sanchez have been shown the door in back-to-back years. It was a smart move for general manager John Idzik to avoid signing any controversial players this offseason.

    2014 Projected Record: 8-8

    Jets Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 5/15Defense/Special Teams: 7/10TOTAL: 12/25
    Quarterback: 2/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 57/100

6. NFC South: 60/100

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    Bill Haber

    A tremendous amount of offseason activity could result in a much different-looking division in 2014. These kinds of changes are not uncommon in the NFC South, however, as a different team has won the division each year since the NFL realignment in 2002.

     

    ATLANTA FALCONS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (15/25)

    2013 Record: 4-12

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: DT Paul Soliai, DE Tyson Jackson, OG Jon Asamoah, WR/KR Devin Hester

    Notable Offseason Departures: TE Tony Gonzalez

    Going from the NFC’s best record to its second worst in one season is quite a feat. After coming one play away from a Super Bowl appearance in 2012, everything crumbled to pieces for the Falcons in 2013. Luckily, last year should be more of an aberration than a sign of things to come in Atlanta. Most of the team’s issues can be explained by looking at the laundry list of injuries suffered throughout the season, per SportsIllustrated.com. Many key players are set to return in the fall, and Falcons fans should expect a significant bounce-back season. Losing future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez will undoubtedly hurt the offense, but Atlanta should be well on their way back to NFC relevance.

    2014 Projected Record: 9-7

    Falcons Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 10/15Defense/Special Teams: 5/10TOTAL: 15/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    CAROLINA PANTHERS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (15/25)

    2013 Record: 12-4

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to San Francisco in divisional round

    Notable Offseason Additions: WR Jerricho Cotchery, CB Antoine Cason, S Roman Harper, WR Jason Avant

    Notable Offseason Departures: WR Steve Smith, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Mike Mitchell, WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Brandon LaFell, OT Jordan Gross

    Some teams seem to have smaller windows of time to contend for a title than others. The Panthers’ window may have already closed following last season’s surprising NFC ascension. An already subpar passing attack just lost its three top wide receivers, including five-time Pro Bowler Steve Smith. Meanwhile, the offensive line’s left tackle just retired, and star quarterback Cam Newton recently underwent ankle surgery. One of the league’s most ferocious front sevens should still wreak plenty of havoc, but it will unlikely be enough for the team to maintain elite status in a highly competitive conference. Last year’s No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs may experience a 2013 Falcons-esque decline in 2014.

    2014 Projected Record: 8-8

    Panthers Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 8/15Defense/Special Teams: 7/10TOTAL: 15/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 0/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (17/25)

    2013 Record: 11-5

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to Seattle in divisional round

    Notable Offseason Additions: FS Jairus Byrd, OT Zach Strief, CB Champ Bailey

    Notable Offseason Departures: RB Darren Sproles, FS Malcolm Jenkins, OLB Will Smith, LB Jonathan Vilma, CB Jabari Greer, WR Lance Moore

    With the rest of the NFC South struggling, the Saints seem to have a clear path to a division title in 2014. By signing one of this year’s most coveted free agents in free safety Jairus Byrd and adding veteran leadership in cornerback Champ Bailey, the team’s defense should remain stout. Overall, the arrow seems to be pointing horizontally in New Orleans, which should not be bad news for a team that finished 11-5 in 2013. However, the Saints will need to exceed expectations if they plan to compete with the titans of the NFC (more on them later).

    2014 Projected Record: 11-5

    Saints Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 11/15Defense/Special Teams: 6/10TOTAL: 17/25
    Quarterback: 6/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (13/25)

    2013 Record: 4-12

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: DE Michael Johnson, OT Anthony Collins, CB Alterraun Verner, OC Evan Dietrich-Smith, DT Clinton McDonald, TE Brandon Myers, QB Josh McCown

    Notable Offseason Departures: CB Darrelle Revis, OT Donald Penn, LB Adam Hayward, LB Dekoda Watson

    The Bucs might be the toughest team to predict for 2014 performance. This is likely because Tampa Bay's organizational structure and team roster are in flux more than nearly any other team in the league. With a new head coach and general manager, as well as a major question mark at quarterback, the team could take on a number of identities in the coming year. With running back Doug Martin returning from injury and competent, professional quarterback Josh McCown as a go-to option, Tampa Bay should improve on its dismal 2013 season but remain the bottom-dweller of the NFC South.

    2014 Projected Record: 7-9

    Buccaneers Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 7/15Defense/Special Teams: 6/10TOTAL: 13/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 0/2  

    TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 60/100

5. NFC East: 61/100

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    This division earned the moniker "NFC Least" during the first half of last season for its across-the-board mediocrity. Organizational turmoil especially plagued the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, as the teams nearly collapsed in on themselves like dying stars. The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, seem to have found a happy marriage between head coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles.

     

    DALLAS COWBOYS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (15/25)

    2013 Record: 8-8

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: DT Henry Melton, DT Terrell McClain

    Notable Offseason Departures: DT Jason Hatcher, DE DeMarcus Ware, OC Phil Costa, WR Miles Austin

    The Cowboys have been batting .500 for three years running, and there are no signs of change in Dallas. The team should look largely the same as last year, minus its best defensive player, DeMarcus Ware, who will be taking his talents to the Mile High City of Denver in 2014. The postseason is not out of the question for the Boys, considering the NFC East lacks a true powerhouse contender. If head coach Jason Garrett can get the most out of his explosive offensive weaponry and the defense can be even moderately competent, the Cowboys could make the postseason for the first time in five years.

    Projected 2014 Record: 8-8

    Cowboys Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 12/15Defense/Special Teams: 3/10TOTAL: 15/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 0/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 2/2  

     NEW YORK GIANTS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (16/25)

    2013 Record: 7-9

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, OG Geoff Schwartz, RB Rashad Jennings, OC J.D. Walton, CB Walter Thurmond, LB Jameel McClain

    Notable Offseason Departures: DT Linval Joseph, TE Brandon Myers, WR Hakeem Nicks, OG Kevin Boothe, SS Ryan Mundy, DE Justin Tuck, RB Andre Brown

    The Giants’ dumpster fire of a 2013 regular season actually ended with some promise for the future. The defense improved throughout the year, proving to be effective stopping both the run and the pass. If only the offense could muster some semblance of consistency and reduce turnovers, it could have been a very different season for the Giants. Per ESPN.com, the Giants gave the wrong team the ball 10 more times than any other team in the league throughout the regular season. If quarterback Eli Manning returns from his year-long mental vacation for the 2014 season, the G-Men could bounce right back into the postseason discussion.

    2014 Projected Record: 9-7

    Giants Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 9/15Defense/Special Teams: 7/10TOTAL: 16/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 4/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (16/25)

    2013 Record: 10-6

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to New Orleans in the Wild Card Round

    Notable Offseason Additions: CB Malcolm Jenkins, CB Nolan Carroll, QB Mark Sanchez, S Chris Maragos, RB Darren Sproles

    Notable Offseason Departures: WR DeSean Jackson, QB Michael Vick, WR Jason Avant

    First-year head coach Chip Kelly arrived in Philadelphia last season under a mountain of expectations. Between the largely pro-Kelly media and easily frustrated Philly fanbase, all eyes were on the Eagles to hit the ground running in 2013. Though an up-and-down first half of the season led to disappointing 3-5 record, everything started clicking once second-year quarterback Nick Foles assumed the starting role in place of the often-injured Michael Vick. Philly’s phenomenal second half of the season cemented Foles as the starter going forward and separated the Eagles from the rest of the NFC Least crowd. Some offseason upgrades on defense and a fun, new toy for Kelly in running back Darren Sproles could equal potential title contention for Philadelphia in 2014.

    2014 Projected Record: 11-5

    Eagles Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 11/15Defense/Special Teams: 5/10TOTAL: 16/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 3/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    WASHINGTON REDSKINS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (14/25)

    2013 Record: 3-13

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: WR DeSean Jackson, DT Jason Hatcher, OG Shawn Lauvao, WR Andre Roberts, SS Ryan Clark, CB Tracy Porter

    Notable Offseason Departures: TE Fred Davis, DE Adam Carriker, LB London Fletcher

    Everyone from fans to players and coaches alike in Redskins Nation would like to have some Men in Black-style memory-erasing procedure to forget the 2013 season. Between nationwide uproar over the controversial team name, quarterback Robert Griffin III’s injury-related decline in performance and in-fighting between players and coaches, last year’s 3-13 record is representative of a season gone horribly awry. But a new coaching staff, a (hopefully) healthier RG III, a stock-pile of wide receiver talent and whatever this is should allow the healing to begin in Washington.

    2014 Projected Record: 8-8

    Redskins Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 11/15Defense/Special Teams: 3/10TOTAL: 14/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 1/4 
    Running Backs: 3/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 61/100

4. AFC North: 63/100

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Five divisions down and still only a single heavyweight contender. Parity may be the NFL's buzz word for the past decade, but there's currently a clear gap between the league's elite teams and everyone else. It was not long ago that the AFC North, particularly the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, struck fear in the hearts of their opponents. Those days are no longer.

     

    BALTIMORE RAVENS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (17/25)

    2013 Record: 8-8

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels

    Notable Offseason Departures: DE Arthur Jones, OT Michael Oher, CB Corey Graham, LB Jameel McClain, S James Ihedigbo, FB Vonta Leach

    The 2012 league champs suffered a bit of a Super Bowl hangover in 2013. The loss of veteran leadership and veteran talent following their title run predictably led to an inconsistent season. Other than two blowout losses to the Broncos in Week 1 and the Patriots in Week 16, the Ravens defense remained solid, but the offense lacked an identity following the loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to free agency and tight end Dennis Pitta to injury. Now with running back Ray Rice coming off a down year and an unfortunate offseason, it could be another average year in Baltimore in 2014.

    2014 Projected Record: 9-7

    Ravens Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 8/15Defense/Special Teams: 9/10TOTAL: 17/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 4/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 2/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

     CINCINNATI BENGALS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (18/25)

    2013 Record: 11-5

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to San Diego in the Wild Card Round

    Notable Offseason Additions: QB Jason Campbell, S Danieal Manning

    Notable Offseason Departures: DE Michael Johnson, OT Anthony Collins, CB Brandon Ghee, OLB James Harrison, QB Greg McElroy

    Another first-round postseason exit for the Bengals. Per NFL.com, Marvin Lewis is currently the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL without a postseason victory, with 10 seasons and a 0-4 playoff record. This offseason, Lewis signed a one-year contract extension with the team. Meanwhile, the offensive and defensive coordinators found head coaching jobs elsewhere. Considering the skill position talent and top-level defense Lewis has at his disposal, his one-year deal likely signifies an ultimatum: advance in the postseason or exit in the offseason.

    2014 Projected Record: 10-6

    Bengals Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 10/15Defense/Special Teams: 8/10TOTAL: 18/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 2/2  

    CLEVELAND BROWNS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (13/25)

    2013 Record: 4-12

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: SS Donte Whitner, RB Ben Tate, LB Karlos Dansby, WR Nate Burleson

    Notable Offseason Departures: SS T.J. Ward, QB Brandon Weeden, LB D'Qwell Jackson

    It’s hard not to respect Browns fans after all that their team puts them through. It seems like the organization reinvents itself constantly—sometimes multiple times in a single year—resulting in 20 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. The coming season is no different—new coach, new management and likely another first-round draft pick starting quarterback. Somehow, there’s still hope in Cleveland. The team struck gold with wide receiver Josh Gordon and seems to have won the Trent Richardson trade. Their defense is formidable, and newly acquired running back Ben Tate has promise as a playmaker, if he can stay healthy. Now, if the Browns can finally land a true franchise quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater, perhaps?), the team might see its first season with more than five wins in seven years.

    2014 Projected Record: 8-8

    Browns Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 6/15Defense/Special Teams: 7/10TOTAL: 13/25
    Quarterback: 2/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    PITTSBURGH STEELERS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (15/25)

    2013 Record: 8-8

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: SS Mike Mitchell, LeGarrette Blount, DT Cam Thomas, WR Lance Moore

    Notable Offseason Departures: OLB LaMarr Woodley, WR Jerricho Cotchery, DE Evander Hood, WR Emmanuel Sanders, SS Ryan Clark, OLB Larry Foote

    It appears the Steelers’ perennial standing as one of the AFC’s top contenders may be over. After drafting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, Pittsburgh enjoyed eight years of AFC contention, including six postseason appearances, three trips to the Super Bowl and two Super Bowl titles. Recently, the Steelers posted back-to-back 8-8 seasons, missing the playoffs both years. An aging defense and tough salary-cap situation sent some hometown favorites packing this offseason, and the team failed to sign any high-impact replacements. Intriguing talent such as the power running back tandem of Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount could keep Pittsburgh relevant in 2014, but it may be another year or two before the Steelers have the chance to rejoin the AFC’s elite.

    2014 Projected Record: 8-8

    Steelers Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 10/15Defense/Special Teams: 5/10TOTAL: 15/25
    Quarterback: 6/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 63/100

3. NFC North: 65/100

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This division has one team trying to re-emerge as a legitimate Super Bowl contender and two teams annually attempting to get over the hump. Oh, and one more team that cannot shake irrelevancy. The NFC North has three very talented teams worthy of outside title consideration, but the conference is currently crowded at the top.

     

    CHICAGO BEARS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (17/25)

    2013 Record: 8-8

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: DE LaMarr Houston, DE Jared Allen, DE Willie Young, S Ryan Mundy

    Notable Offseason Departures: DE Julius Peppers, DT Henry Melton, DT Corey Wootton, QB Josh McCown, WR/KR Devin Hester, RB Michael Bush

    The Bears locked up quarterback Jay Cutler this offseason through the 2020 season with a seven-year extension. Clearly, the organization believes he can lead the team to the top. It is not concerned with the fact that Cutler has not topped 20 passing touchdowns since 2010, played a full 16-game season since 2009 or passed for 4,000 yards since 2008. Surrounded by some of the best offensive skill position players in the league and with “The Quarterback Whisperer” head coach Marc Trestman in his ear, the stage is set for Cutler to prove his naysayers wrong in 2014.

    2014 Projected Record: 11-5

    Bears Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 12/15Defense/Special Teams: 5/10TOTAL: 17/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 3/3Secondary: 1/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    DETROIT LIONS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (17/25)

    2013 Record: 7-9

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: WR Golden Tate, SS James Ihedigbo

    Notable Offseason Departures: DE Willie Young

    Much like the Bears, the Lions have a big-armed quarterback playing with big-time talent on offense. Also similar to Chicago, the Lions cannot seem to put the pieces together on a consistent basis and translate their talent into postseason success. The addition of wide receiver Golden Tate and a larger role for bruising running back Joique Bell should help provide a balanced offensive attack, allowing Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush to make the most of their touches. If Detroit can overcome its porous secondary, there’s hope for the lions to make their second postseason appearance in 15 years.

    2014 Projected Record: 9-7

    Lions Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 12/15Defense/Special Teams: 5/10TOTAL: 17/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 1/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 2/2  

    GREEN BAY PACKERS, HEAVYWEIGHT (19/25)

    2013 Record: 8-7-1

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to San Francisco in the Wild Card Round

    Notable Offseason Additions: DE Julius Peppers

    Notable Offseason Departures: WR James Jones, OC Evan Dietrich-Smith, OT Marshall Newhouse

    When Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers are a threat to win the Super Bowl. While their defense does not stack up with other NFC contenders, Rodgers has proven his playmaking ability can make up for deficiencies elsewhere on the roster. Now that Green Bay finally landed its franchise running back in Eddie Lacy, the Packers offense should be lethal in 2014. Quiet throughout most of free agency, Green Bay should look to upgrade its offensive line in the draft to help protect its centerpieces.

    2014 Projected Record: 12-4

    Packers Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 13/15Defense/Special Teams: 6/10TOTAL: 19/25
    Quarterback: 7/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    MINNESOTA VIKINGS, LIGHTWEIGHT (12/25)

    2013 Record: 5-10

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: DT Linval Joseph, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DT Corey Wootton

    Notable Offseason Departures: DE Jared Allen, RB Toby Gerhart

    While the rest of the NFC North has its eyes set on a postseason run, the Vikings continue to search for an identity. The team may move forward with the supremely average Matt Cassel as their quarterback in 2014, or they may look for an immediate starter in the draft. Either way, Minnesota is going nowhere fast at the moment. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner should bring out the best in Adrian Peterson and explosive second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but it will be difficult for the team to overcome its shoddy defense.

    2014 Projected Record: 6-10

    Vikings Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 8/15Defense/Special Teams: 4/10TOTAL: 12/25
    Quarterback: 2/7Front Seven: 1/4 
    Running Backs: 3/3Secondary: 1/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 2/2 
    Offensive Line: 2/2  

    TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 65/100

2. AFC West: 66/100

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    This division represented half of the AFC in the 2013 postseason. While all but the Oakland Raiders pose a formidable threat to win the conference in 2014, the AFC West does not quite stack up against the NFC's best when it comes to legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

     

    DENVER BRONCOS, HEAVYWEIGHT (21/25)

    2013 Record: 13-3

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to Seattle in Super Bowl

    Notable Offseason Additions: WR Emmanuel Sanders, CB Aqib Talib, DE DeMarcus Ware, SS T.J. Ward

    Notable Offseason Departures: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, WR Eric Decker, DE Shaun Phillips, LB Wesley Woodyard, RB Knowshon Moreno, OG Zane Beadles, CB Champ Bailey

    After all the accolades and talk of all-time greatness, the Broncos received a huge helping of humble pie in Super Bowl XLVIII. It turns out that Denver did not face many elite defenses throughout 2013, nor did its defense have much experience playing from behind—and it showed. How did Denver respond to its super-sized embarrassment? Stockpile assets and try to do it all over again next year. Between their three major free-agency additions on defense and the slew of starting players returning from injury—Von Miller, Ryan Clady and Chris Harris, just to name a few—the 2014 version of the Broncos could be pretty special. Oh, and about that lack of experience playing elite defenses? Denver will play nine games next year against defenses ranked in the top 13 last season, per FootballOutsiders.com.

    2014 Projected Record: 12-4

    Broncos Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 14/15Defense/Special Teams: 7/10TOTAL: 21/25
    Quarterback: 7/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 3/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 2/2  

    KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (18/25)

    2013 Record: 11-5

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to Indianapolis in the Wild Card Round

    Notable Offseason Additions: DT Vance Walker, LB Joe Mays

    Notable Offseason Departures: OT Branden Albert, DE Tyson Jackson, OG Jon Asamoah, OG Geoff Schwartz, WR Dexter McCluster, LB Akeem Jordan

    The Chiefs started 2013 with a 9-0 record, yet few in the media seemed to take them seriously as Super Bowl contenders. After finishing the season 2-5 and failing to win a playoff game, it turns out that mainstream perception was correct. Chiefs fans still have plenty to cheer about—their team has a ton of Pro Bowl talent and had a major bounce-back year following their 2-14 abomination in 2012. However, limited by their one-dimensional offense, it’s unlikely the Chiefs will contend for a title with their current composition. Losing three offensive linemen in free agency doesn't help, either.

    2014 Projected Record: 10-6

    Chiefs Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 10/15Defense/Special Teams: 8/10TOTAL: 18/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 3/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 2/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    OAKLAND RAIDERS, LIGHTWEIGHT (11/25)

    2013 Record: 4-12

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Notable Offseason Additions: QB Matt Schaub, DE Justin Tuck, DE LaMarr Woodley, CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, OG Austin Howard, OT Donald Penn, DE Antonio Smith, OG Kevin Boothe, WR James Jones

    Notable Offseason Departures: DE Lamarr Houston, OT Jared Veldheer, RB Rashad Jennings, CB Mike Jenkins, CB Tracy Porter, DT Vance Walker

    The Raiders had nearly $60 million in cap space entering free agency this year. After proving to be deficient in nearly every facet of the game, Oakland went into full makeover mode this offseason. The team added three offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, two cornerbacks, a wide receiver, a running back and a quarterback. The result should be marked improvement in several areas but modest improvement in overall record. Though the team signed several good players in free agency, it also lost two great players in Lamaar Houston and Jared Veldheer, and it did not add any truly elite talent. The Raiders should improve from putrid to below average in 2014.

    2014 Projected Record: 6-10

    Raiders Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 7/15Defense/Special Teams: 4/10TOTAL: 11/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 2/4 
    Running Backs: 1/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (16/25)

    2013 Record: 9-7

    2013 Postseason Result: lost to Denver in divisional round

    Notable Offseason Additions: RB Donald Brown, LB Kavell Conner

    Notable Offseason Departures: DT Cam Thomas

    The 2013 reemergence of Philip Rivers ignited hope in San Diego. Combined with breakout years from rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Ryan Mathews, the Chargers put together a surprisingly fantastic offense last season. The defense, however, was among the worst in the league and kept them from true contender status. Minimal offseason changes thus far point toward another good but not great year ahead in San Diego.

    2014 Projected Record: 9-7

    Chargers Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 11/15Defense/Special Teams: 5/10TOTAL: 16/25
    Quarterback: 6/7Front Seven: 3/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 1/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 1/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

     TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 66/100

1. NFC West: 74/100

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    It may be difficult to remember now, but it was not long ago that the NFC West represented, by far, the weakest division in the NFL. A few new quarterbacks, coaches and productive offseasons turned the league on its head. The division has sent a team to the Super Bowl each of the last two years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

     

    ARIZONA CARDINALS, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (17/25)

    2013 Record: 10-6

    2013 Postseason Result: missed playoffs

    Major Offseason Additions: OT Jared Veldheer, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Ted Ginn Jr.

    Major Offseason Departures: LB Karlos Dansby, WR Andre Roberts, RB Rashard Mendenhall

    Few predicted the Cardinals to have a 10-win season and boast one of the league’s most complete defenses in 2013. Arizona proved that it belongs in the discussion of the NFC's elite. Being the first team to beat Seattle at home in the Russell Wilson era alone validates the team’s status. Rookie running back Andre Ellington and rookie cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu offered high-level contributions almost immediately, and the team made some key upgrades this offseason. If quarterback Carson Palmer can limit the unforced errors and Larry Fitzgerald and stay healthy, the Cardinals are in the discussion for 2014 title contention.

    2014 Projected Record: 11-5

    Cardinals Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 9/15Defense/Special Teams: 8/10TOTAL: 17/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 4/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 0/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, HEAVYWEIGHT (20/25)

    2013 Record: 12-4

    2013 Postseason Result: Lost to Seattle in NFC Championship Game

    Major Offseason Additions: SS Antoine Bethea

    Major Offseason Departures: SS Donte Whitner, CB Tarell Brown, CB Carlos Rogers

    The 49ers possess top-level talent in every unit on offense and defense. The team was a couple plays away in 2011 and 2013 from three consecutive Super Bowl appearances yet somehow seems underrated as a title contender for 2014. Offseason losses in the secondary should not prove detrimental if the 'Niners can add some decent talent in the draft. Another moderate jump in performance from quarterback Colin Kaepernick could be all that San Francisco needs to get over the hump and win its first title in 20 years.

    2014 Projected Record: 11-5

    49ers Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 11/15Defense/Special Teams: 9/10TOTAL: 20/25
    Quarterback: 5/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 3/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 2/2 
    Offensive Line: 2/2  

    SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, HEAVYWEIGHT (22/25)

    2013 Record: 13-3

    2013 Postseason Result: Won Super Bowl

    Major Offseason Additions: None

    Major Offseason Departures: WR Golden Tate, DE Chris Clemons, OT Breno Giacomini, CB Brandon Browner, CB Walter Thurmond, DT Clinton McDonald, DE Red Bryant

    This team is good. Very good. The Seahawks embody team chemistry and confidence like no other organization in the NFL. The scariest part for opposing teams is that Seattle is very young and only getting better. The scary part for Seahawks fans is that the team’s top players are making nickels and will soon be making dollars. Major contracts are coming for the likes of Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, among others, and there’s only so much cap space to go around in Seattle. The team bid farewell to much of its second-tier talent in the offseason with this impending scenario in mind. However, it should be full steam ahead for Seattle in 2014. For at least one more year, the Seahawks are the best team in football.

    2014 Projected Record: 14-2

    Seahawks Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 12/15Defense/Special Teams: 10/10TOTAL: 22/25
    Quarterback: 6/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 3/3Secondary: 4/4 
    Receivers: 2/3Special Teams: 2/2 
    Offensive Line: 1/2  

    ST. LOUIS RAMS, MIDDLEWEIGHT (15/25)

    2013 Record: 7-9

    2013 Postseason Result: Missed playoffs

    Major Offseason Additions: OG Rodger Saffold, DE Alex Carrington

    Major Offseason Departures: OG Chris Williams, CB Cortland Finnegan, OG Shelley Smith

    Sam Bradford will be back in the saddle at quarterback for the Rams in 2014 following his recovery from a knee injury suffered last season. For a team that has not made the postseason or put together a winning record in a decade, this should be Bradford’s last chance to make his case as the team’s quarterback of the future. Considering his enormous $17.6 million cap hit in 2014, St. Louis can ill afford to pay Bradford a fortune with so many needs elsewhere on the roster. With the help of second-year talents Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin, Bradford could be in line for a nice year. And if not, it’s time to move on.

    2014 Projected Record: 8-8

    Rams Scoring Breakdown:

    Offense: 7/15Defense/Special Teams: 8/10TOTAL: 15/25
    Quarterback: 4/7Front Seven: 4/4 
    Running Backs: 2/3Secondary: 2/4 
    Receivers: 1/3Special Teams: 2/2 
    Offensive Line: 0/2  

    TOTAL DIVISION SCORE: 74/100

     

    All salary cap and contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.