After last Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills, football fans are clamoring to see where their teams rank as the NFL begins the 2014 preseason.
From the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks looking for a championship to the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns trying not to finish in last place, stories abound as the regular season approaches.
Here is the preseason outlook for all 32 teams in the league.
1. Denver Broncos
Seattle may be the defending Super Bowl champions, but the best team in the NFL heading into 2014 is the Denver Broncos. With Peyton Manning under center and an offensive unit looking to build off last season’s success, the AFC has been put on notice.
Denver also went out and reinforced the defense. The additions of defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward will help the team stop any opposing offense in its path.
The Broncos are the team to beat.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Unfortunately for Denver, the Seahawks know exactly what it takes to beat the Broncos and will attempt to achieve the feat for the second season in a row. Seattle dominated its AFC foes in the Super Bowl and proved defense still reigns in the NFL.
With a plethora of top players on the offensive and defensive side of the ball coming back this season and a new crop of rookies ready to prove their worth, the Seahawks will look to repeat as champions.
3. New Orleans Saints
Led by Drew Brees on the offensive side and free-agent safety Jairus Byrd taking over the defensive controls, the New Orleans Saints look to be a legitimate threat in the NFC South and a contender for a Super Bowl.
The biggest question mark for New Orleans will be the rushing attack. If Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet can form a reliable three-headed monster, the Saints will be tough to stop.
4. New England Patriots
Even at 37 years old, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still one of the best players in the NFL, and he will have his full arsenal of weapons healthy to start the season.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and running back Shane Vereen starting the preseason relatively healthy, the Patriots will be championship contenders if the team can keep off the injured list throughout the year.
5. Green Bay Packers
As long as the Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers under center, the team will be in contention. Add in running back Eddie Lacy and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and the offense will be dangerous once again.
The main upgrade Green Bay made was on defense. The addition of veteran defensive end Julius Peppers and rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix filled two serious needs and could be the difference in the postseason.
6. San Francisco 49ers
There is no questioning the defense of the San Francisco 49ers. The ability to stop the run, limit pass attacks and create havoc with pressure has given the team an advantage in the NFC West, but the biggest changes came on offense.
San Francisco struggled passing the ball in 2013 (30th in the NFL), so the team added weapons for quarterback Colin Kaepernick like wide receiver Stevie Johnson and rookie running back Carlos Hyde. The 49ers could be bound for the Super Bowl again.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
The biggest news of the offseason for the Cincinnati Bengals is the monster $115 million deal the team gave quarterback Andy Dalton. After he has struggled in each of his postseason opportunities (0-3 career record), there are concerns about the deal.
Cincinnati’s defense has always been its biggest strength, but with a strong cast of weapons on offense in both the ground and air attacks, this could be the season Dalton finds his rhythm and becomes an elite QB.
8. Chicago Bears
One of the teams that failed to live up to expectations last season was the Chicago Bears, but the franchise is determined to turn it around in 2014. As long as Jay Cutler stays healthy and utilizes stars like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, the offense will be elite.
The biggest upgrades came on defense, though. With the signings of Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen this offseason and the addition of Jeremiah Ratliff last year, Chicago should have the opportunity to pressure the quarterback while also stifling the run.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
Head coach Chip Kelly came into Philadelphia last season and turned the Eagles into a high-powered offensive machine. While the loss of DeSean Jackson will sting, adding Darren Sproles, getting Jeremy Maclin healthy and drafting rookie Jordan Matthews will make up for the star's departure.
The defense remains relatively the same as the franchise continues the transition from a 4-3 under Andy Reid to a 3-4 under Kelly, but Philadelphia did manage to fill the hole at safety by signing Malcolm Jenkins via free agency.
10. San Diego Chargers
The key to success for the San Diego Chargers will be how the offseason signings perform and how the players who had bad seasons bounce back. Running back Donald Brown was brought in to push Ryan Mathews, and the preseason will reveal a lot about the running game.
San Diego’s defense should be stronger this year now that outside linebacker Dwight Freeney is healthy again. If he can stay off the injury list, Freeney could emerge as a dominant outside linebacker and create havoc in the AFC West.
11. Detroit Lions
As talented as Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford were on offense last season, the Detroit Lions needed more weapons. With the addition of Golden Tate and rookie tight end Eric Ebron, Stafford will have more weapons, and Johnson should have more room to roam.
There are legitimate concerns about the defense with the lack of depth in the secondary, but the team has all preseason to make moves or even sign a free agent. Unsigned Asante Samuel should keep his phone with him at all times.
12. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals are the definition of boom-or-bust this season. With players like Carson Palmer and Andre Ellington holding the fate of the team in their hands, an injury to one or both could cripple the offense.
On defense, the team will look to last year’s big-name signing John Abraham to step up and for this year’s free-agent splurge Antonio Cromartie to complement Patrick Peterson in the defensive backfield.
13. Indianapolis Colts
Another team with plenty of questions to answer is the Indianapolis Colts. Will Trent Richardson average more than four yards per carry? Will Reggie Wayne be the same player after knee surgery? Will anyone step up as the clear No. 2 wide receiver?
Preseason will answer all of these questions. Any team with Andrew Luck under center has the chance to be a contender, though, but the players will have to come together and play better than expected to contend in the AFC.
14. Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have all the tools to be a great team, but as seen in the 4-12 regular-season effort last year, things can go off the rails with injuries and lackluster play. With Julio Jones and Roddy White healthy and ready to go, Atlanta looks to turn the corner.
Atlanta’s biggest offseason upgrade was at defensive end when it brought in Tyson Jackson via free agency. After stifling quarterbacks and putting pressure on running backs in Kansas City, Jackson will look to cause havoc for the NFC South.
15. Carolina Panthers
Offensively, the Carolina Panthers are one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL. Cam Newton is a talented dual-threat quarterback, though, who has the support of a talented three-headed running game and now the support of a talented pass-catcher in rookie Kelvin Benjamin.
Carolina’s biggest moves came on the defensive side of the ball. The front seven for the Panthers was tough to top, but the secondary was weak at times. With the addition of safety Roman Harper and cornerback Antoine Cason, the NFL should fear Carolina.
16. St. Louis Rams
Put simply, the health of Sam Bradford is the key to success for the St. Louis Rams moving forward. The offensive weapons aren’t very impressive, but with a tough offensive line, Bradford should be able to make the team around him better.
Add in a returning defense that has shown serious improvement over the last two years, and St. Louis has a chance to be a contender. If the top players stay healthy, watch out for the Rams.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith under center will always limit just how dangerous the Kansas City Chiefs offense can be, but with Jamaal Charles (almost 2,000 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns) in the backfield, the team has the chance to become something special.
The defense could be an issue if the unit doesn’t bounce back from a rough end to 2013, but the Chiefs have enough talent to break into the postseason as a wild-card entry.
18. Baltimore Ravens
The drama surrounding Ray Rice’s suspension has raised questions about the Baltimore Ravens' ability to contend in the AFC, but the additions of Steve Smith and Owen Daniels on offense should make up for the temporary loss.
Baltimore will look to prove the defensive resurgence over the last several seasons has made steps forward, but the Ravens should always be considered contenders in the AFC with Joe Flacco under center.
19. New York Giants
The New York Giants faced serious turnover this offseason, losing Hakeem Nicks to free agency and watching Chris Snee and David Wilson retire. The hope is that quarterback Eli Manning will regain his rhythm and become an elite player again.
With a new cast of characters on defense, including Quintin Demps, Robert Ayers and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York looks to be much more of a contender in the always-tough NFC East.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
On offense, there are doubts that the Pittsburgh Steelers can build any serious momentum. Although depending on young players like Le'Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton is a risk, the franchise has faith in the current roster to get the job done.
Add in the selection of linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round of the draft, and Pittsburgh has the defensive weapons needed to emerge as a threat in the wide-open AFC North.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone all-in with Josh McCown. While Mike Glennon had a solid season last year, new head coach Lovie Smith has a game plan and McCown fits it to perfection. Smith has revamped the defense as well, and there is an outside chance that Tampa Bay contends in the NFC South right away.
22. Washington Redskins
The NFC East is open for any team to step up, and the Washington Redskins have as good a chance as anyone. Bringing in DeSean Jackson via free agency and getting QB Robert Griffin III and the rest of the team healthy again will make the franchise look dangerous.
23. Miami Dolphins
The addition of Knowshon Moreno to a backfield that already includes Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas is a major upgrade for the Miami Dolphins, but the offensive line woes could negate the offseason changes.
Miami’s biggest upgrade was at cornerback with Cortland Finnegan. His hard-nosed style will make him a leader on the defense and give the team the edge and intensity it needs.
24. Dallas Cowboys
There will be incredible pressure on quarterback Tony Romo to perform at an elite level this season and bring the Dallas Cowboys to the postseason. This is the ultimate playoffs-or-bust situation, and owner Jerry Jones will settle for nothing less.
25. Minnesota Vikings
It’s unclear whether Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater will win the starting quarterback job, but the team is clearly moving into the future. For the franchise to find success this season, though, the large cast of younger prospects on both sides of the ball must step up and become elite players.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
Another team with uncertainty surrounding it is the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Toby Gerhart pegged as the starting running back and a unique mix of veterans and younger players, Jacksonville could be the worst team in the NFL. On the other hand, the Jaguars could easily win six games.
27. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans are a tough code to crack. It looks like the team has made steps backward on offense with Ben Tate and Matt Schaub leaving (Ryan Fitzpatrick is the new starter), but Houston made a major upgrade on defense in the draft with Jadeveon Clowney.
As the No. 1 overall draft pick, expectations are high for Clowney. His speed off the line, his power at the point of attack and his tenacity will be on full display as he becomes a major focal point of the defense.
28. New York Jets
The hope for the New York Jets is that Geno Smith will blossom into the reliable starting quarterback the franchise needs. Eric Decker was a high-profile addition, and Chris Johnson instantly improves New York’s rushing attack.
On defense, the Jets have returned many of the same starters. The difference this year is that everyone is coming into camp healthy and focused on the same goals. If the rest of the AFC East struggles, New York could be a threat to make the postseason.
29. Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders deserve immense credit for making offseason changes. While there are questions about whether it will pay off or not, Oakland added Matt Schaub at quarterback, Maurice Jones-Drew at running back and James Jones at wide receiver.
There were also improvements on defense. Adding Justin Tuck at defensive end was a smart addition, but the Raiders' best move of the offseason came in the form of first-round pick Khalil Mack.
30. Cleveland Browns
If wide receiver Josh Gordon’s suspension is upheld by the league, the Cleveland Browns will have a hard time staying relevant in the AFC. Bringing in Ben Tate and Miles Austin bolstered the depth chart, but neither is the game-changer that Gordon has been.
On defense, Cleveland added linebacker Karlos Dansby and rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert to the mix and look to be much improved on that side of the ball. The Browns are an enigma, and fans will have to be patient with the team.
31. Tennessee Titans
The rebuilding process with the Tennessee Titans continues this season. After signing a stud like Michael Oher along the offensive line, the new running back tandem of Shonn Greene and rookie Bishop Sankey will make up for the loss of Chris Johnson.
Add in several new faces on the defensive side of the ball and a year to get acclimated under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, and Tennessee has the potential to stun many fans across the league.
32. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills have a roster full of talented players, but the inability to put it all together has plagued the franchise for years. While many fans are hoping that this is finally the year Buffalo makes the postseason, we’ll have to see it to believe it.
*Stats via NFL.com.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!