NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into the Preseason?

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterAugust 3, 2014

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into the Preseason?

0 of 32

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The entire 2014 NFL season stretches out in front of us, but what everyone wants to know is who will win it all.

    In the first power rankings of the season, you'll get a look at a prediction of where teams will finish in the 2014 season. It's important to note that these power rankings are based on each team's win-loss prediction for the 2014 season (you can see a full breakdown on each page).

    The "last week" number is based on the team's year-end ranking from the final 2013 season power rankings. From this week on, all rankings will be reflective of performance compared to expectations. 

    Who comes in at the top? Do the Seattle Seahawks have what it takes to repeat as champs? Did the Denver Broncos do enough in free agency to make another run at the Super Bowl?

32. Oakland Raiders

1 of 32

    B/R Design

    The 2014 Oakland Raiders have added talent, but a very tough schedule within the AFC West will take its toll on the win-loss record.

    Not only must the Raiders play three playoff teams within the division, but they take on the NFL's toughest division in the NFC West too. Even with an improved roster and more talent than the 2013 team possessed, the Raiders' schedule is too tough to overcome.

    Matt Schaub and Co. could surprise, but this is a Raiders staff on its last legs. It's win-or-go-home time, and with this schedule and looming questions in the secondary and at quarterback, the Raiders are facing an uphill battle.


    2014 Oakland Raiders
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ NYJLoss
    2Houston   Win
    3@ NELoss
    6San DiegoLoss
    8@ CLELoss
    9@ SEALoss
    11@ SDLoss
    12Kansas City Win
    13@ STLLoss
    14San Francisco Loss
    15@ KCLoss
    17@ DENLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 3-13

31. Tennessee Titans

2 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Tennessee Titans will be relying heavily on Jake Locker to guide them to a winning season in 2014, and even with an improved offensive line on paper and a new coaching staff in place, it's tough to bet on this team being much improved right away.

    Ken Whisenhunt has had success in the NFL, but it will take time for his offense and Ray Horton's defense to take effect here. It doesn't help that the Titans must play Indianapolis twice and face an up-and-coming Jacksonville team twice as well.

    Questions at quarterback and the No. 2 cornerback spot are tough to overlook here, but it's not out of the question for the Titans to overachieve if Whisenhunt can fix Locker.


    2014 Tennessee Titans
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ KCLoss
    2Dallas   Loss
    3@ CINLoss
    4@ INDLoss
    7@ WSHLoss
    10@ BALLoss
    12@ PHI Win
    13@ HOULoss
    14New York Giants Win
    15New York JetsLoss
    16@ JAXLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 3-13

30. Washington

3 of 32

    B/R Design

    Robert Griffin III is back healthy, and a new head coach (Jay Gruden) is in town, but will the season be any kinder for fans in Washington?

    It doesn't look like it. Not only did the NFC East improve, but playing the NFC West will also add losses to the schedule. Sure, a healthy Griffin will help, but the weak links in the secondary and questions about the interior of the defense will be tough to overcome against a talent-heavy schedule such as this.

    Hosting Seattle, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams are tough enough games outside the division, but factor in traveling to San Francisco and Indianapolis, and Gruden will be very lucky to see four wins.

    2014 Washington
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ HOUWin
    2Jacksonville   Win
    3@ PHILoss
    4New York Giants Loss
    6@ ARILoss
    8@ DALLoss
    9@ MINLoss
    11Tampa BayLoss
    12@ SFLoss
    13@ INDLoss
    14St. LouisLoss
    15@ NYGWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 4-12

29. Houston Texans

4 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Houston Texans ended the 2013 season with the NFL's worst record. That led to the firing of longtime head coach Gary Kubiak and the No. 1 overall pick in a loaded draft. There are new faces coaching and playing here, but the results in 2014 might not be all that different.

    Head coach Bill O'Brien brings a refreshing philosophy to the Texans, but he's rolling with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback. That alone leaves room for concern. The team is talented along the defensive line and at linebacker—something defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel can definitely work with—but the schedule is brutal for a team with secondary issues.

    The Texans are on the road to improvement—as long as they can keep J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney healthy—but they're not there yet.


    2014 Houston Texans
    Week  OpponentResult
    2@ OAK   Loss
    3@ NYGLoss
    5@ DALLoss 
    7@ PITWin
    8@ TENWin
    11@ CLELoss
    14@ JAXLoss
    15@ INDLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 4-12

28. Buffalo Bills

5 of 32

    B/R Design

    The 2014 Buffalo Bills are hoping to build upon the growth they showed last season, but Doug Marrone's team will face major adversity along the way.

    Gone is Kiko Alonso, the team's defensive MVP last year, to injury. He's out for the year, and his replacement (Nigel Bradham) is facing a one-game suspension himself. The Bills have a good amount of talent on defense—especially up front and in the secondary—but replacing free safety Jairus Byrd and trying to overcome the loss of Alonso will be felt.

    On offense the team will go as far as quarterback EJ Manuel can carry it. The Bills traded their No. 1 wide receiver (Stevie Johnson) to San Francisco and expect first-rounder Sammy Watkins to make huge plays there, but if Manuel is not on point, the talent level at wide receiver is unlikely to produce wins.


    2014 Buffalo Bills
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ CHILoss
    2Miami   Loss
    3San DiegoLoss
    4@ HOUWin
    5@ DETWin 
    6New EnglandLoss
    8@ NYJLoss
    10Kansas CityLoss
    11@ MIALoss
    12New York JetsWin
    14@ DENLoss
    15Green BayLoss
    16@ OAKWin
    17@ NELoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 4-12

27. Cleveland Browns

6 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Cleveland Browns may actually have more talent on the roster in 2014 and manage to win fewer games than they did in 2013. Sounds impossible, but consider the schedule (facing the already tough AFC North and adding in the NFC South too) plus the impending loss of Josh Gordon, and it's easy to see how the Browns could take a step back in Mike Pettine's first year.

    The defense will be asked to carry the Browns without Gordon, but the offense shouldn't be terrible on the ground. Ben Tate will run behind an offensive line built for the ground game and can succeed there. Depending on who is at quarterback—Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel—we could see rushing yards from under center too.

    The schedule and losses due to suspension have killed the momentum in Cleveland for now, but this is a team on the rise if it can get Gordon committed to staying out of trouble and develop Manziel into a franchise passer.


    2014 Cleveland Browns
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ PITLoss
    2New Orleans   Loss
    5@ TENWin
    7@ JAXLoss
    9Tampa BayLoss
    10@ CINLoss
    12@ ATLLoss
    13@ BUFWin
    16@ CARLoss
    17@ BALLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 4-12

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

7 of 32

    B/R Design

    It's easy to look at what the Jacksonville Jaguars have done since Shad Khan bought the team and be optimistic about the future. But while the future may be very bright for the Jaguars, the 2014 season is still about a young team developing.

    The offense will be loaded with young players at almost every position—except for quarterback. Chad Henne will take the reins as the starter in Week 1, and he'll be asked to mentor first-round pick Blake Bortles until he's ready for the job.

    Henne will have options to work with. The team added Toby Gerhart at running back and drafted Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson at receiver to pair with Cecil Shorts. Add in veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis, and that's a group to be excited for.

    The defense will be tough, even if not led by big-name players. Safety John Cyprien is a hitter, and in his sophomore season big things should be expected. A strong secondary will lead the defense, but keep an eye on outside linebacker Telvin Smith as a playmaker here too.


    2014 Jacksonville Jaguars
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ PHILoss
    2@ WSHLoss
    4@ SDLoss 
    6@ TENLoss
    9@ CINLoss
    12@ INDLoss
    13New York Giants Loss
    15@ BALLoss
    17@ HOULoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 5-11

25. Minnesota Vikings

8 of 32

    B/R Design

    Strong drafting by the Minnesota Vikings is likely to pay off in the future if they have found their quarterback.

    Teddy Bridgewater was the team's second first-round pick in 2014 and has wowed in camp. But how he'll look when the defense is wearing a different helmet from his own will tell the tale of how far this team can go.

    Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder hope to have something to say about that too, and Cassel looks like a potential Week 1 starter. The offense has a strong line, the best running back in the game (Adrian Peterson) and a host of talented pass-catchers for whomever is playing quarterback.

    New head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive genius, and he wanted Anthony Barr to be his secret weapon on that side of the ball. Barr will attack defenses, but he's a rookie on a unit with questions and holes at the other linebacker spots and at defensive tackle.

    The playoffs are in the Vikings' near future, just not in 2014.


    2014 Minnesota Vikings
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ STLLoss
    2New EnglandLoss
    3@ NOLoss
    5@ GBLoss
    7@ BUFWin
    8@ TBLoss
    11@ CHILoss
    12Green BayLoss
    14New York Jets Win
    15@ DETLoss
    16@ MIAWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 5-11

24. St. Louis Rams

9 of 32

    B/R Design

    There is no denying that Jeff Fisher's St. Louis Rams have talent, but they also play in the NFL's toughest division and face a brutal schedule in 2014. That, plus questions in the secondary and still at quarterback, makes it easy to see the Rams taking a step back in wins this season.

    Playing six games against the NFC West is bad enough, but the Rams must also play expected playoff teams Tampa Bay, the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver and the San Diego Chargers. They also see the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants along the way. Even with a few lucky breaks and bounces, that's a murderers' row of a schedule.

    One of the best front fours in football will carry this team, but the loss of Cortland Finnegan at cornerback could be big for this team, as could the inexperience at safety. The hope is that coordinator Gregg Williams will get the back end of his defense going while a healthy Sam Bradford lives up to expectations at quarterback behind a very good offensive line.

    The Rams may be a surprise pick for some as a playoff team this year, but I can't see them getting past this schedule.


    2014 St. Louis Rams
    Week  OpponentResult
    2@ TBLoss
    5@ PHILoss
    6San Francisco Loss
    8@ KCLoss
    9@ SFLoss
    10@ ARILoss
    12@ SDLoss
    14@ WSHWin
    16New York Giants Loss
    17@ SEALoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 5-11

23. Miami Dolphins

10 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Miami Dolphins retooled their offensive line in the offseason, leading many to expect bigger and better things from the team this fall. But not here. It's the team's defense and wide receivers that are a concern now.

    Quarterback Ryan Tannehill enters Year 3 with pressure to start winning ballgames, but the talent around him doesn't impress heading into the season. Mike Wallace may be the NFL's most overrated (and overpaid) player, while Brian Hartline is solid but won't scare anyone. Rookie Jarvis Landry may have the best hands on the team, but first-year wide receivers rarely produce leading numbers.

    Tannehill may be held back (again) by the talent around him.

    On defense, the front four will once again be very good, but at linebacker there are concerns now that Koa Misi is in at middle linebacker and Philip Wheeler is still starting on the weak side. It may not be long before Jordan Tripp is in the lineup for good.

    The secondary play is good and has potential to be even better with Jamar Taylor and Walt Aikens in the mix, but the Dolphins aren't yet good enough to overcome New England in the AFC East.


    2014 Miami Dolphins
    Week  OpponentResult
    1New EnglandLoss
    2@ BUFWin
    3Kansas City Loss
    4@ OAKWin
    6Green BayLoss
    7@ CHILoss
    8@ JAXWin
    9San DiegoLoss
    10@ DETLoss
    12@ DENLoss
    13@ NYJWin
    15@ NELoss
    17New York Jets Win


    2014 Season Prediction: 6-10

22. Atlanta Falcons

11 of 32

    B/R Design

    One year ago, at this time, everyone expected the Atlanta Falcons to make another deep run through the playoffs after they had just hosted the NFC Championship Game. Those expectations fell way short as the Falcons limped to four wins. Now, a healthy team will be expected to start the climb back to the postseason.

    The Falcons reloaded the offensive line with Jake Matthews in the first round and spent much of the draft trying to build up a defense that will feature more 3-4 looks this year. But was it enough?

    The loss of Sean Weatherspoon (again) at linebacker due to injury is huge, but what the Falcons really lack is a pass-rusher. Even with a future star at cornerback in Desmond Trufant and a very good safety in William Moore, the defense has to get to the quarterback. Without that, Mike Nolan's unit won't produce.

    The offense will be great again now that Roddy White and Julio Jones are healthy, but the loss of Tony Gonzalez (retirement) is a big one. Devonta Freeman looks like a starter at running back, but even with a top-tier offense, this schedule will be tough for the Falcons to overcome.


    2014 Atlanta Falcons
    Week  OpponentResult
    1New OrleansLoss
    2@ CINLoss
    3Tampa BayLoss
    4@ MINWin 
    5@ NYGWin
    7@ BALLoss
    10@ TBLoss
    11@ CARLoss
    14@ GBLoss
    16@ NOLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 6-10

21. Carolina Panthers

12 of 32

    B/R Design

    In my time covering the NFL and NFL draft, I've never seen a team lose as much talent in one offseason as the Carolina Panthers did following the 2013 season. Their ability to overcome the loss of key starters and vital depth will be interesting to watch but maybe not very pleasant.

    Gone are Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, Captain Munnerlyn, Travelle Wharton, Brandon LaFell, Mike Mitchell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon. Replacing the franchise's all-time best wide receiver and left tackle won't be easy, and in free agency and the draft the team passed on available tackles for other needs.

    Cam Newton will take the field with a very different look on offense this year, but is he the type of player good enough to overcome a lack of talent around him? We'll find out soon. The good news is that the defense is still great in the front seven.

    Ron Rivera's defense will be the strength of the team, but the secondary is very questionable heading into the season. Relying on Antoine Cason and Melvin White as your cornerbacks in a division with Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Roddy White and Julio Jones is a recipe for disaster no matter how good the pass rush is.


    2014 Carolina Panthers
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ TBWin
    3Pittsburgh Win
    4@ BALLoss 
    6@ CINWin
    7@ GBLoss
    9New Orleans Loss 
    10@ PHILoss
    13@ MINLoss
    14@ NOLoss
    15Tampa BayLoss
    17@ ATLLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 6-10

20. New York Jets

13 of 32

    B/R Design

    The New York Jets will be a better team in 2014, but that may not show up in the standings. Not with a schedule like this.

    Geno Smith was my top-ranked quarterback in the 2013 draft, and he should be much improved as a starter this year. With a rejuvenated offense around him (Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and a healthy Jeremy Kerley), Smith will live up to the predraft expectations he carries.

    But when facing teams like the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota outside the division, it's tough to think the Jets can make up much ground in the division.

    The defense looks very good up front, but the secondary is scary on paper. Dee Milliner may think he's the best cornerback in football, but 2013 showed him ill-prepared to be a No. 1 cover man. He could make up ground this season, but the entire secondary is questionable or inexperienced—or both.


    2014 New York Jets
    Week  OpponentResult
    2@ GBLoss
    5@ SDWin
    7@ NELoss
    9@ KCLoss 
    10Pittsburgh Win
    12@ BUFLoss
    14@ MINLoss
    15@ TENWin
    16New England Win
    17@ MIALoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 6-10

19. Detroit Lions

14 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Detroit Lions have a roster more talented than No. 19 overall, but heading into the season (and with a very difficult schedule), it's hard to get too excited about the team's potential. In fact, the Lions may break more hearts than any team in football on a regular basis.

    The positives here are big. Matthew Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Reggie Bush is a blessing, but Stafford must play more like 2012 and less like 2013. His mechanics cannot regress to the point they were at last season. The hope is that Jim Caldwell, the new head coach, can help here.

    On defense we all know the potential of the pass rush with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah. The key is keeping Suh and Fairley happy in contract seasons, but they may also come out more motivated than ever.

    The pass rush needs to be great because the secondary is not—at least not yet. There are young players with promise, but based on 2013 they're not ready to shut down Chicago and Green Bay in the division.


    2014 Detroit Lions
    Week  OpponentResult
    1New York Giants Win
    2@ CARLoss
    3Green BayLoss
    4@ NYJWin 
    6@ MINWin
    7New OrleansLoss
    8@ ATLLoss
    11@ ARILoss
    12@ NELoss
    14Tampa BayWin
    16@ CHILoss
    17@ GBWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 7-9

18. Dallas Cowboys

15 of 32

    B/R Design

    Jerry Jones has invested heavily—via draft picks and money—in protecting quarterback Tony Romo. And the 2014 Cowboys' season will go as far as Romo and the offense can carry them because the defense looks like the league's worst.

    Romo has big-bodied protectors (and All-Pro candidates) in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, and when you add in veteran Doug Free and first-rounder Zack Martin, the offensive line looks pretty good. A protected Romo will have receiving options too, with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten all dangerous.

    Head coach Jason Garrett needs his offense to score in bunches because the defense will not stop anyone. Losing Sean Lee to injury was devastating, and rookie Demarcus Lawrence suffering a broken foot only makes matters worse. There is no established pass rush, and the secondary isn't good enough to hold up in extended coverage.

    Seven wins may appear low for Dallas at first glance, but given the schedule and questions on defense, it may be too optimistic.


    2014 Dallas Cowboys
    Week  OpponentResult
    1San Francisco Loss
    2@ TENWin
    3@ STLLoss
    4New OrleansLoss 
    6@ SEALoss
    7New York Giants Win
    10@ JAXWin
    12@ NYGLoss
    14@ CHIWin
    15@ PHiLoss
    17@ WSHWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 7-9

17. Kansas City Chiefs

16 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Kansas City Chiefs went from two wins to the playoffs in 2013, but heading into 2014 it looks more like this team will fall somewhere in the middle.

    Losing key players on the offensive line will be tough to overcome, but the Kansas City offense is all about Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs will go as far as the two can take them, and for Smith, the retooled offensive line may be younger, but it's also more athletic. If former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher can hold down the left side, the line could be great in a few seasons.

    On defense there is a ton to love in the front seven, including four All-Pro candidates (Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali), but the secondary is a mess. The Chiefs released Brandon Flowers, opening a spot at the No. 1 cornerback job, and no one has stepped in to fill that role yet. Eric Berry is the team's anchor in the defensive backfield, but he can't cover everyone alone.

    A tougher schedule, an improved division and their own regression will keep the Chiefs from the playoffs this year, but general manager John Dorsey has the team heading in the right direction to build a long-term competitor.


    2014 Kansas City Chiefs
    Week  OpponentResult
    2@ DENLoss
    3@ MIAWin
    4New England Loss 
    5@ SFLoss
    7@ SDWin
    8St. LouisWin
    9New York JetsWin 
    10@ BUFWin
    12@ OAKLoss
    14@ ARILoss
    16@ PITLoss
    17San DiegoLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 7-9

16. Arizona Cardinals

17 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Arizona Cardinals won 10 games in 2013 and narrowly missed the playoffs, but that's life in the super-competitive NFC West. With a rebuilt offensive line and a defense with major question marks, can the Cardinals get back to double-digit wins? It doesn't look like it. At least not on paper.

    The loss of Daryl Washington (suspended) for the year is huge in Arizona, but the delayed return of Tyrann Mathieu from injury is equally important. Mathieu was a key playmaker for the team in 2013.

    The offense may not be great, but with Jared Veldheer at left tackle it should be better. Carson Palmer is a good downfield thrower, and that's what Bruce Arians wants. And he has Larry Fitzgerald and star-in-waiting Michael Floyd working the perimeter, which is great for any quarterback. If Andre Ellington and Co. get going on the ground, the Cardinals offense may carry the team to a few wins.

    Playing San Francisco, Seattle and a brutal out-of-division schedule was the Cardinals' reward for a 10-win season. Now we'll see if 2013 was a fluke or a damn good coaching job.


    2014 Arizona Cardinals
    Week  OpponentResult
    1San DiegoLoss
    2@ NYGLoss
    3San FranciscoLoss
    5@ DENLoss
    7@ OAKLoss
    9@ DALWin 
    10St. LouisWin
    12@ SEALoss
    13@ ATLWin
    14Kansas CityWin
    15@ STLLoss
    17@ SFLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 7-9

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

18 of 32

    B/R Design

    Before the 2013 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were my pick for AFC North champions. They fell short of that expectation, but not before showing considerable improvement by season's end. So why the low expectation this year?

    The defense.

    The Steelers are going through a rebuilding process on defense that involves retooling the secondary and relying on two youngsters (Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones) to rush the passer. If everyone plays up to his potential and stays healthy, the team could win 10 games and make me look foolish. But everyone staying healthy and playing his part is rare for the Steelers these days.

    On offense the line should be the best it has been in years, and that will help fuel a strong run game and give Ben Roethlisberger time to get the ball out to Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton in the passing game. The offense will be able to score if it can effectively run the ball, but can it score enough to cover up for a bad defense? It's a dangerous way to go about trying to win games.


    2014 Pittsburgh Steelers
    Week  OpponentResult
    2@ BALWin
    3@ CARLoss
    4Tampa Bay Loss
    5@ JAXLoss
    6@ CLEWin
    8Indianapolis Loss
    10@ NYJLoss
    11@ TENWin
    13New Orleans Win
    14@ CINLoss
    15@ ATLLoss
    16Kansas CityWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 8-8

14. New York Giants

19 of 32

    B/R Design

    Much has changed for the New York Giants over the course of the offseason and largely for the good.

    Tom Coughlin's team underwent a makeover on the offensive line, and from the outside looking in the group will be bigger, stronger and tougher. That's good news for the running backs and Eli Manning—especially as Manning looks to bounce back from his worst pro season. Expect more of a run game this year to keep Manning from those situations where he's throwing to win as often.

    The offense will be good if everyone is healthy, but the defense is the question mark right now. When healthy, Jason Pierre-Paul is a stud, but he's too often injured in recent years. If he can't get to the quarterback, the team will be relying on Damontre Moore and Robert Ayers to pick up the slack.

    Jon Beason was a huge pickup last year, but he's already hurt to start the year. The hope is the secondary, which looks very good on paper, can keep the defense held together.

    Honest expectations in New York should include the playoffs, but getting past Philadelphia in the division looks to be impossible given this schedule.


    2014 New York Giants
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ DETLoss
    4@ WSHWin 
    6@ PHILoss
    7@ DALLoss
    9Indianapolis Win 
    10@ SEALoss
    11San Francisco Win
    13@ JAXWin
    14@ TENLoss
    16@ STLWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 9-7

13. Cincinnati Bengals

20 of 32

    B/R Design

    Three straight playoff runs have the Cincinnati Bengals confident in their ability to make the postseason, but now it's time to win a game there. The pressure is on Andy Dalton (in a contract year) to get the job done. The supporting cast here is very good, and Dalton is facing a make-or-break season.

    The Bengals have a top-10 offensive line, a top-three wide receiver (A.J. Green), a very promising run game and up-and-comer Marvin Jones opposite Green. What more could the offense need? Dalton to be on point for 16 games.

    Jay Gruden's departure as offensive coordinator may actually benefit Dalton and the offense this season, but in his fourth season the former TCU quarterback must prove he's capable of being the guy for this team.

    The defense should be back to top-tier status with a healthy Geno Atkins wreaking havoc on offenses from the defensive tackle position. Even with the loss of Michael Johnson to free agency, this is a group that has been drafted and developed to pressure the quarterback, so don't expect a huge drop-off in production.

    Vontaze Burfict is already one of the best linebackers in the game, and he rounds out a front seven that is very dangerous. The stress will be on the group to hurry the opposition, though, as the secondary is getting old while also failing to develop (Dre Kirkpatrick) in key areas. The Bengals need Leon Hall back to 100 percent and a big impact from rookie Darqueze Dennard.

    The playoffs are expected here, and nothing short of an AFC North title and a playoff win should be accepted.

    2014 Cincinnati Bengals
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ BALLoss
    3Tennessee Win
    5@ NELoss
    7@ INDLoss
    9Jacksonville Win 
    11@ NOLoss
    12@ HOUWin
    13@ TBWin
    15@ CLEWin
    17@ PITLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 9-7

12. San Diego Chargers

21 of 32

    B/R Design

    In 2013 the San Diego Chargers made a surprise move to the postseason and resurrected the career of Philip Rivers after he had begun to slide down a tier or two. It's amazing what a new general manager and head coach can do for a team, but will the loss of Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator put the team back in neutral?

    It doesn't look like it. Frank Reich steps up as the offensive coordinator and has a great relationship with Rivers and the offense. And as long as Mike McCoy is involved in the offense, the Chargers should be fine. With a healthy offensive line returning to protect Rivers, things should remain the same for the team.

    Keenan Allen looks like a breakout player in his second season, and tight end Ladarius Green is ready to start replacing Antonio Gates' production as the two share targets. Offensively, San Diego is set.

    On defense, though, there are questions. The secondary has a star in Eric Weddle but was soft at cornerback. Jason Verrett comes in as a first-round pick, but this is a very small cornerback depth chart. How that plays against Arizona, Seattle, Buffalo and Denver could be the difference between a playoff season and an early exit.

    However, the Chargers look like a wild-card team on paper—even with a very tough schedule and some lingering questions on defense.


    2014 San Diego Chargers
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ ARIWin
    3@ BUFWin
    5New York Jets Loss
    6@ OAKWin
    7Kansas CityLoss
    8@ DENLoss
    9@ MIAWin 
    12St. LouisWin
    13@ BALLoss
    14New EnglandLoss
    16@ SFLoss
    17@ KCWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 9-7

11. Baltimore Ravens

22 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Baltimore Ravens went from Super Bowl champions to out of the playoffs in 2013, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh have quickly rebuilt and developed a roster capable of another run.

    Quarterback Joe Flacco has no shortage of weapons at his disposal this year. Torrey Smith returns, but he will likely lose targets to newcomer Steve Smith. With tight end Dennis Pitta healthy, Marlon Brown developing and Jacoby Jones playing a part, we could see Flacco have his best season to date.

    He'll be protected well up front, even with a new starter at right tackle (Ricky Wagner), thanks to Gary Kubiak's presence as offensive coordinator. Kubiak's scheme gets the ball out fast, and with a strong run game behind him, Flacco should excel.

    The defense struggled to adapt without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed last year but should be much better in 2014. Arthur Brown and C.J. Mosley look like a freakish duo at inside linebacker, and safety Matt Elam will be better acclimated to the NFL in his second season.

    With mainstays Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb here to provide leadership and production, Baltimore looks like an early favorite in the AFC North.


    2014 Baltimore Ravens
    Week  OpponentResult
    3@ CLEWin
    5@ INDLoss
    6@ TBLoss
    8@ CINLoss
    9@ PITLoss
    10Tennessee Win
    12@ NOLoss
    13San DiegoWin
    14@ MIAWin
    15Jacksonville Win
    16@ HOUWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 10-6

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

23 of 32

    B/R Design

    If you are looking for a surprise team in 2014, look no farther than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The new regime, led by Lovie Smith as head coach and Jason Licht in the general manager's office, will work wonders on the talented roster it inherited.

    Smith and Licht came to a team with good talent already assembled, but their additions have been huge too. Darrelle Revis and his bloated contract are gone, and in his place the team signed youngster Alterraun Verner (a top-10 cornerback no one talks about) and freed up much-needed cap space now and in the future.

    That allowed the team to sign players like Josh McCown, Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson to improve weak areas on the depth chart.

    The draft was as good as the Buccaneers' free-agency spending, and we'll see Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Charles Sims and Robert Herron make impacts early on.

    Throw that much new talent onto a roster with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Mason Foster and Vincent Jackson, and it's really pretty easy to see why the Buccaneers are a legitimate playoff team.


    2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    Week  OpponentResult
    2St. LouisWin
    3@ ATLWin
    4@ PITWin 
    5@ NOWin
    8Minnesota Win
    9@ CLEWin
    11@ WSHWin
    12@ CHILoss
    14@ DETLoss
    15@ CARWin
    16Green BayLoss
    17New Orleans Loss


    2014 Season Prediction: 10-6

9. Green Bay Packers

24 of 32

    B/R Design

    A healthy season for the Green Bay Packers could end with a Lombardi Trophy, but health has been short in Green Bay these past few seasons.

    Expectations, though, won't change here. Every season the fans and media know the Super Bowl is possible for the Packers. But when you start looking at the schedule, an NFC North title may be tough to come by for Mike McCarthy's team.

    The Packers improved the roster by adding Julius Peppers, drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and getting a healthy Casey Hayward back in the fold. This will help, but can the defense finally stop a top-tier offense? It'll have to against Seattle, Detroit (twice), Chicago (twice), Philadelphia, the New England Patriots and even the big wide receivers in Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

    The pressure is on the defense to rise up to the challenge, but the offense must keep going too. A healthy Aaron Rodgers for 17 weeks will take care of that, and this could be the NFL's best offense by season's end. The Packers won't have trouble scoring, but they may have more trouble than you'd guess keeping up with the opposition.


    2014 Green Bay Packers
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ SEALoss
    2New York Jets Win
    3@ DETWin
    4@ CHILoss 
    6@ MIAWin
    8@ NOLoss
    12@ MINWin
    13New EnglandWin
    15@ BUFWin
    16@ TBWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 11-5

8. Chicago Bears

25 of 32

    B/R Design

    Every NFL writer adopts a team before the season as his or her pick to surprise folks. My team this year is the Chicago Bears. That may not be a huge limb to go out on, but a look at the win-loss prediction here and you may be surprised.

    The Bears have an offense built to win big—and yes, I know Jay Cutler is their quarterback. Cutler takes heat from fans, opponents and the media, but as long as he can stay healthy, I expect a 4,500-yard season from him.

    That's not unrealistic with Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett as your top options. Add in Matt Forte, Ka'Deem Carey via the draft and the return of a much-improved offensive line, and the Bears might have the NFL's best offense.

    The defense was bad in 2013, but general manager Phil Emery attacked this unit like he did when remaking the wide receiver corps and offensive line previously. Adding Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and Kyle Fuller will go a long way in improving the defense. Plus, getting a healthy Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings will be vital against NFC North opponents.

    Double-digit wins are expected, and an NFC North title is the prediction here.


    2014 Chicago Bears
    Week  OpponentResult
    2@ SFLoss
    3@ NYJWin
    4Green BayWin 
    5@ CARWin
    6@ ATLWin
    8@ NELoss
    10@ GBLoss
    12Tampa BayWin
    13@ DETWin
    15New Orleans Loss
    17@ MINWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 11-5

7. Philadelphia Eagles

26 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Philadelphia Eagles were a red-hot team in 2013, and in Year 2 of Chip Kelly's scheme and influence, that won't change. In fact, these Eagles may be even better.

    Nick Foles returns as the undisputed starter for the Eagles. In his second season under center he may not match last year's insane stats (27 TD, 2 INT), but he can still move the ball and execute in a wide-open, fast-paced offense designed to attack open spaces.

    Foles has a ton of weapons too, namely a healthy Jeremy Maclin and one of the league's elite backs in LeSean McCoy. The offense has the tools to be the NFL's best in terms of points scored.

    The defense made big strides in 2013, but more are needed this year. That's why Marcus Smith was the team's first-round pick. He'll be asked to help fuel a more dynamic pass rush, which will in turn help a secondary lacking stars.

    The Eagles may struggle to match last season's excitement, but even with a tough schedule they can cruise to an NFC East title.


    2014 Philadelphia Eagles
    Week  OpponentResult
    2@ INDLoss
    4@ SFLoss 
    5St. LouisWin
    6New York Giants Win
    8@ ARIWin
    9@ HOUWin 
    11@ GBWin
    13@ DALWin
    16@ WSHWin
    17@ NYGLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 11-5

6. Denver Broncos

27 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Denver Broncos won the AFC last year and added DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. So why are they ranked No. 6 overall heading into the season?

    Because the schedule is that much tougher, and the defense may have big names, but they have to prove it on the field together first. There is no guarantee that Ware will be back to his old ways after missing time with an elbow injury last year and already getting hit with a lower-leg injury this summer. Ware, at 32 years old, cannot be thought of as a sure thing anymore.

    Yes, the offense will be great as long as Peyton Manning is healthy, but look at this schedule. The Broncos open with their first eight games against teams with legitimate playoff hopes this year—and many of them among the league's best defenses. Manning will be great again, but holding up against such a loaded schedule over the long haul will test this team.

    Speaking of the long haul, that Week 4 bye may be a curse for the older Broncos. Going from Week 5 all the way through the playoffs would be a brutal schedule for Manning, Ware and other veterans.

    Will the Broncos be good again? Of course. Will they win the AFC West? Easily. But they don't look like the superpower many expect them to be.


    2014 Denver Broncos
    Week  OpponentResult
    2Kansas CityWin
    3@ SEALoss
    6@ NYJWin
    7San Francisco Loss
    8San DiegoWin
    9@ NELoss 
    10@ OAKWin
    11@ STLWin
    13@ KCWin
    15@ SDLoss
    16@ CINWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 12-4

5. New Orleans Saints

28 of 32

    B/R Design

    If you want an early pick for the NFL's best offense in 2014, look at the New Orleans Saints. That may seem like an easy or trendy pick, but it's also the pick most likely to be right.

    Drew Brees returns to run the show, and now he has another new toy in Brandin Cooks. The team's first-round pick is a blur of speed and vision after the catch and exactly the type of player the offense was missing. He'll join Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Marques Colston and Nick Toon to round out an offense sure to generate over 5,000 passing yards again.

    The defense will be better with Rob Ryan calling the shots and a healthy Kenny Vaccaro for 16 games. The second-year safety is becoming a leader on defense and will get a big boost with Jairus Byrd lining up next to him at free safety. The Saints could easily have a top-three safety duo this year.

    The pass rush is good, if underrated nationally, and can produce pressures and sacks. It'll need to with this schedule full of big-time quarterbacks, but the balance on offense and defense bodes well for the Saints in 2014.


    2014 New Orleans Saints
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ ATLWin
    2@ CLEWin
    4@ DALWin 
    5Tampa BayLoss
    7@ DETWin
    8Green BayWin
    9@ CARWin 
    10San Francisco Loss
    13@ PITLoss
    15@ CHIWin
    17@ TBWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 13-3

4. Indianapolis Colts

29 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Indianapolis Colts may not be the fourth-best team in football, but they're in the conversation as a top-tier team, and they are blessed with a comparatively weak schedule on paper. Thank you, AFC South.

    The Colts have six very winnable games within the division and also close out the season with a winnable stretch of six games. The record from the Colts this year could be the NFL's best by virtue of the schedule-makers.

    That's not to take anything away from the talent here. Andrew Luck leads an offense that can score in bunches (ask the Kansas City Chiefs) and will be even better with a healthy Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen. The run game needs to get going (hello, Trent Richardson), but the team seems convinced that will happen.

    The defense got better by adding edge defender Arthur Jones and D'Qwell Jackson in free agency. The two additions could be the difference in the AFC as the Colts look to keep up (and overtake) the Broncos and Patriots.


    2014 Indianapolis Colts
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ DENLoss
    3@ JAXWin
    6@ HOUWin
    8@ PITWin
    9@ NYGLoss 
    11New England Loss
    14@ CLEWin
    16@ DALWin
    17@ TENWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 13-3

3. New England Patriots

30 of 32

    B/R Design

    It has become anticlimactic each preseason placing the New England Patriots high in the rankings, but they belong here each season. And in 2014 you could make the argument they need to be even higher.

    Bill Belichick's team was one game away from another Super Bowl last year, and to get over that hump they beefed up on defense in the offseason. In are Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner at cornerback, and the team is banking on them being able to go toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning's wide receivers in Denver.

    The offense will again be good—especially if the Patriots can finally get a full season from Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady has become a bit of a checkdown artist, but adding Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back to the field will make that an effective strategy. The run game will be a key, though, and both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen could have big seasons.

    If the secondary comes together quickly, the Patriots have the talent to make a serious run. But don't they always?


    2014 New England Patriots
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ MIAWin
    2@ MINWin
    4@ KCWin 
    6@ BUFWin
    7New York Jets Win
    11@ INDWin
    13@ GBLoss
    14@ SDLoss
    16@ NYJLoss


    2014 Season Prediction: 13-3

2. San Francisco 49ers

31 of 32

    B/R Design

    Making a prediction on the San Francisco 49ers' season in early August has proven to be tough. For the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era there are questions that haven't been answered yet. That said, looking at the talent and experience here, the 49ers have the goods to make another deep run into the playoffs...and just maybe win the whole thing.

    The success of the team will hinge on Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman and how many games the two miss. Smith is facing a suspension from the NFL, and Bowman is coming back from a torn ACL suffered in the NFC Championship Game.

    Without both, the team will need to rely more on the offense and hope players like Corey Lemonier and Chris Borland are ready to rock and roll. The good news is that Justin Smith is healthy, Patrick Willis is still the middle linebacker and the secondary could be nasty this year with Jimmie Ward joining the crew.

    The offense has the most talent we've seen under Harbaugh, and thanks to additions like Stevie Johnson, Bruce Ellington and Carlos Hyde, the 49ers have new and exciting players to line up with Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore.

    Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a new contract and a ton of talent around him, so the pressure will be on him to produce more in his second full season as a starter.

    If the team can overcome the early losses of Smith and Bowman, this could be an epic season for the 49ers.


    2014 San Francisco 49ers
    Week  OpponentResult
    1@ DALWin
    3@ ARIWin
    5Kansas CityWin
    6@ STLWin
    7@ DENWin
    9St. LouisWin 
    10@ NOWin
    11@ NYGLoss
    14@ OAKWin
    15@ SEALoss
    16San DiegoWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 14-2

1. Seattle Seahawks

32 of 32

    B/R Design

    The Seattle Seahawks took home the Super Bowl trophy in February and managed to insulate themselves against departures while keeping a chip on their shoulder heading into 2014. That's not easy for any defending champion to do, but Pete Carroll has created an atmosphere of competition in Seattle. And the Seahawks will compete—if the rest of the NFL can keep up with them.

    The offense will be more wide open this year with a healthy Percy Harvin getting open for Russell Wilson, but the key will again be smart, controlled football that limits turnovers and takes advantage of weaknesses in the defense. The big plays may be more yards-after-catch than deep bombs, but that's working for them thanks to a super-smart quarterback and a dang good run game.

    The defense is the backbone of the team, and that won't change this year. Even with the loss of Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond in the secondary, the Seahawks defense won't miss a beat. Not with the pass-rushers they've accumulated and the amazing play of Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner leading the way.

    The Seahawks may be an easy pick as the NFL's best team as the season begins, but they're also the right pick for that spot.

    2014 Seattle Seahawks
    Week  OpponentResult
    1Green BayWin
    2@ SDWin
    5@ WSHWin
    7@ STLWin
    8@ CARWin
    10New York Giants Win
    11@ KCWin
    13@ SFLoss
    14@ PHIWin
    15San FranciscoWin
    16@ ARILoss
    17St. LouisWin


    2014 Season Prediction: 14-2


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.