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NFL Power Rankings: Team-by-Team Outlook Heading into Week 1

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy runs onto the field before an NFL preseason football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The battle between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers was the perfect way to start the 2014 NFL regular season, and fans are looking to the latest power rankings to see where their favorite team sits before entering Week 1.

While Seattle is the defending champion and one of the most dynamic teams in the league, the Seahawks are not the No. 1 overall team in the power rankings. That honor goes to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Here are the latest power rankings.

32. Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders are arguably the worst team in the league, but the organization has made the right choice starting Derek Carr, according to NFL.com. The only way for Oakland to know if he is the quarterback of the future is to let him play.

31. Houston Texans

The rebuilding process under head coach Bill O’Brien continues for the Houston Texans as the team goes forward with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Houston’s defense will be one of the best in the league this season, but the Texans will struggle on offense until they eventually turn the reigns over to newly acquired backup Ryan Mallett.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

Bringing in running back Toby Gerhart and rookie wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns will help make up for the losses of Justin Blackmon and Maurice Jones-Drew, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are in serious trouble. Just as the Texans will struggle and turn the starting quarterback job over to a younger player, Jacksonville should do the same with Blake Bortles.

29. Buffalo Bills

There is a history of losing in Buffalo, and the 2014 edition of the Bills doesn’t look to be able to buck that trend. The team has a great defensive line and a feared two-headed rushing attack, but the lack of an elite secondary and the inability to pass the ball will ruin Buffalo’s postseason dreams.

28. Cleveland Browns

If the preseason is any indication of what Cleveland Browns fans should expect this season, the offense will struggle to find any rhythm, and the underrated defensive unit will perform better than expected. It’s just a matter of time before Johnny Manziel is the starting quarterback and all eyes are on Cleveland.

27. Minnesota Vikings

The common theme among the teams at the bottom of the rankings is the instability at quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings are no different. Christian Ponder is the starting quarterback for now, but the Vikings should be looking to make the transition to Teddy Bridgewater as soon as the team feels he is ready.

26. St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford was supposed to lead the St. Louis Rams back to the top of the NFC West (or at least into playoff contention), but yet another season-ending injury to his knee has cursed the team once again. There are still plenty of big-time playmakers on the roster, but Shaun Hill may not be the answer at quarterback.

25. New York Giants

For the New York Giants to remain relevant this season, the team needs veteran quarterback Eli Manning to play like he did when he was younger. He was terrible last season, and the defense isn’t good enough to make up for multiple turnovers each game. If New York can protect the football, the Giants could be a dark horse in the NFC East.

24. Tennessee Titans

It’s a make-or-break year for many members of the Tennessee Titans' organization. From the coaching staff to players, the Titans have been in a rebuilding mode for years without showing much progress. If Tennessee doesn’t improve drastically this season, it should be time for an organizational overhaul.

23. Miami Dolphins

The 2014 season for the Miami Dolphins is all about Ryan Tannehill. The franchise has bestowed the starting job upon him, but he must prove this year that he can carry the offense and the entire team to an improved record. Anything less will be considered failure.

22. Washington Redskins

The preseason was rough for the Washington Redskins. Not only did the offensive unit look sluggish under the helm of Robert Griffin III, but the defense also looked lackluster at times and was burnt for big plays on the ground and through the air. In a tough NFC East, Washington will struggle.

21. New York Jets

Rex Ryan has built a stellar defensive unit in New York, but there are concerns about the thin secondary. If the Jets can get quarterback Geno Smith to find a rhythm at the NFL level sooner rather than later, the team could be a threat in the AFC. If Smith struggles, expect Michael Vick to take over eventually.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Under new head coach Lovie Smith, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to set the tone for the season early. With a newfound hunger on defense and more weapons on offense, the Bucs could be one of the biggest surprises in the NFC.

19. Dallas Cowboys

The pressure is on for Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys this year. After yet another 8-8 season, Dallas will look to take the next step and make a splash in the postseason, or owner Jerry Jones will be looking to make wholesale changes. If Jones isn’t happy, no one will be happy.

18. Arizona Cardinals

Injuries on the defensive side of the ball have hurt the Arizona Cardinals, but it was the devastating news that running back Andre Ellington could miss time with a foot issue, according to Mike Jurecki of KGME-AM, that hurt the most. If Ellington is out for several weeks, Arizona’s offense will become one-dimensional and the franchise will struggle.

17. Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers boast a tough defensive unit, a multifaceted rushing attack and a skilled quarterback with Cam Newton. The problem is that beyond rookie Kelvin Benjamin, the team is incredibly thin at wide receiver, even with Stephen Hill now in the mix.

16. Detroit Lions

The connection of Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson is undeniable, and the dynamic two-headed monster running attack makes the offense tough to stop, but the Detroit Lions have questions to answer on defense. If the Lions can’t get a consistent pass rush, the high-scoring offense must make up for the lackluster defense.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

The key for the Pittsburgh Steelers is health. The team has the talent to make the playoffs, but it will be a matter of making sure the veteran stars on both sides of the ball are able to play the majority of the season. If the Steelers start losing players, the franchise is in deep trouble.

14. Chicago Bears

Head coach Marc Trestman is an offensive genius, and he has show it with the standout performances from Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. To be a viable threat, though, the Chicago Bears' defense must prove it can stop the likes of Green Bay and Detroit.

13. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens rewarded quarterback Joe Flacco with a huge contract after he helped the team win the Super Bowl, but now Baltimore would be lucky to make the playoffs. The Ravens need the defense to step up big and the offense to find the rhythm it missed throughout 2013.

12. Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have a dangerous offense that includes Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steven Jackson, among others. Unfortunately, the team lacks a consistent pass rush defensively and will struggle throughout the season. The team hopes the offense can make up for the defensive inefficiencies.

11. San Diego Chargers

Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is looking to make a career resurgence for the San Diego Chargers this season, but he is not the only older player looking to make headlines. On the defensive side of the ball, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney is finally healthy and looking to return to the elite form he showed while with Indianapolis.

10. San Francisco 49ers

Another team that struggled mightily in the preseason was the San Francisco 49ers. With a suspension for pass-rushing presence Aldon Smith hurting the defense and the Colin Kaepernick-led offense faltering, it could be a long season for San Francisco.

9. Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs gave quarterback Alex Smith a vote of confidence when they signed him to an expensive extension, but the real star of the offense is running back Jamaal Charles. It will be imperative that the defense is better this season, but the health of Charles will determine how much success the Chiefs have in 2014.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

It’s time for the Cincinnati Bengals to take the next step. The franchise has an elite defense, talented weapons on offense and a high-priced quarterback but hasn’t lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. No more wasting time, Cincinnati.

7. Indianapolis Colts

Starting Week 1 of the regular season against the Denver Broncos is a huge test for the Indianapolis Colts, but it’s a test quarterback Andrew Luck will embrace. There are major questions on the defensive side of the ball, but as long as Indianapolis has Luck under center, the team will be in contention for the win.

6. Green Bay Packers

A loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 was a devastating blow to the Green Bay Packers, but it’s a long season. Aaron Rodgers showed he will dominate less legendary defenses, but the team must keep running back Eddie Lacy healthy after he suffered his second concussion, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is a football visionary. Using his unorthodox style on offense and a 3-4 defensive scheme, Kelly has crafted an Eagles team that could be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Football fans would love to see Philadelphia’s offense against Seattle’s defense.

4. New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints’ offensive unit may steal most of the headlines, but the team’s biggest improvements have come on defense. Led by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints will have one of the most explosive defenses in football.

3. New England Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has held off father time for several years, and he will do so once again. Rob Gronkowski is returning to the lineup, per Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe, and that will mean more space for everyone on the offense to make even bigger plays. As long as the defense steps up, the Patriots are serious threats in the AFC.

2. Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks utterly dominated Green Bay in the first game of the season. With Percy Harvin shining on the offensive side of the ball and the Legion of Boom picking up where it left off, a Super Bowl rematch between Seattle and Denver is very possible.

1. Denver Broncos

Everyone knows about how dangerous the offensive unit led by Peyton Manning was last season and will be again in 2014, but the major offseason upgrades came on the defensive side of the ball. By adding top stars like DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward via free agency, the Denver Broncos have gone all-in on this season.

*Stats via NFL.com.

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