Week 1 NFL Power Rankings
Week 1 NFL Power Rankings
NFL football is finally here. After months and months of anticipation, we finally get to watch our favorite teams match up against each other on the field. We'll learn which teams have what it takes to live up to expectations, and which teams are going to be looking for talent at the top end of next year's draft.
This season, we have more quality teams than ever before. There are only a few teams in the league that you can't see making a playoff run. That kind of parity is what the league has been striving for since the beginning of the modern salary cap era over 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, that parity isn't evenly distributed between the two conferences. The NFC has strong teams across the board, while the AFC has only a handful of quality squads, and really only a couple of legitimate title contenders.
The good teams aren’t even spread out amongst the divisions well. There are a few divisions with four quality teams, and a couple that you can only talk yourself into a team or two being in competition for the division title. But, the depth of talented teams across the board means all but a few fan bases have high hopes for their team.
That's what makes this time of year so great. Unless you happen to root for a select few teams, all in the AFC of course, you're already talking yourself into a playoff run this year.
Check out the initial 2013 Power Rankings and see where your favourite team lands in the NFL pecking order as the season starts.
32. New York Jets
They say when you have two quarterbacks, you really have none. So, what does it mean when you have two bad quarterbacks? The New York Jets are going to find out this year. I'm guessing it means losses, and lots of them.
31. Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have over $40 million in dead cap money this year. With almost half the salary that the other teams are using, there aren't too many wins in store for the Raiders. One thing for them to look forward to is the chance that Terrelle Pryor can refine himself into a serviceable NFL quarterback.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
Much to the chagrin of the last remaining Jacksonville Jaguars fan, Blaine Gabbert will be their starting quarterback again this year. Gabbert has been a disappointment so far in his NFL career, but he hasn't had much help. With a bad defense and a struggling quarterback, it looks like its going to be another long year in Jacksonville.
29. San Diego Chargers
Just a couple of years ago, the San Diego Chargers were knocking on the door of the elite NFL teams. Things have gone downhill fast since then. Phillip Rivers has regressed, and the defense, once among the best in the league, will rely on too many unproven players this year.
28. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins made two big moves this offseason. One was to sign speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace, the other was to let former No. 1 overall pick, left tackle Jake Long, walk away in free agency.
Basically, they added a receiver whose best skill is going deep, but let go of the man who needs to give Ryan Tannehill the time to get him the ball. They may sell more tickets this year, but that equation doesn't equal more wins.
27. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans have been in rebuilding mode for a while now. They're still trying to figure out what they have in third-year quarterback Lake Locker. So far, the results have been mixed from the former first-round pick. If he takes a step forward, this team could skyrocket up this list.
26. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills may have found something in first-round pick E.J. Manuel. He's looked good in preseason, and if he can continue to improve, the Bills could find themselves out of the AFC East basement this year.
25. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers have one of the better defenses in the league and an improving young quarterback. If they were in a weaker division, they would have a shot at making the playoffs. Instead, they're in the the NFC South, the best division in the NFL from top to bottom. Look for Carolina to be competitive all year, but in the end, the wins won't add up for them.
24. Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are going to be really interesting this year. Sure, they'll probably finish last in the AFC North again, but at least they should give their fans a few signs that things are heading in the right direction.
23. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals upgraded the quarterback position this offseason by bringing in Carson Palmer. Palmer, and his strong arm, will open up the offense for Larry Fitzgerald this year. But, anytime you're counting on Carson Palmer to be the difference between another losing season and the playoffs, you know things aren't going to end well.
22. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams are a decent team in a really tough division. Sam Bradford needs to improve dramatically this year. But even if he does take that next step and prove himself worthy of being a former No. 1 overall pick, the Rams will still struggle to keep pace with the rest of the NFC West.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
New head coach Chip Kelly brings his up-tempo offense to the NFL this season. That offense won't be the problem for the Philadelphia Eagles this year, but the lack of talent on their roster will be. They have holes at every level of the defense, a lack of playmakers on offense and no good option at quarterback.
Kelly is a good coach — he'll be the reason they stay out of the race for the No. 1 overall pick — but the wins will be hard to come by in Philly this year.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been fighting off the effects of an aging roster for a few years now. This is the year it catches up with them.
Ben Roethlisberger is kind of amazingly already in his 10th NFL season. The defense is equally long in the tooth. They may end up even worse than the 20th ranking by the end of the year, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because of head coach Mike Tomlin and their winning tradition.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I don't expect too much out of Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. Freeman was a disappointment last year, and very well could end up relinquishing his starting job to rookie Mike Glennon before the season is over.
They can run the ball well with second-year back Doug Martin, so they'll be able to keep games close and steal one here and there. They have a good running game and a serviceable defense, but without good quarterback play, you can't expect to win too many games.
18. New York Giants
The New York Giants have built their success under head coach Tom Coughlin on a powerful running game and a dominant pass rush. This year, they're without former team leaders Ahmad Bradshaw and Osi Umenyiora.
Eli Manning has shown the ability to put the team on his back, but more times than not, he ends up making a mistake or two that costs the team. The Giants will need to put all their wins on his back, and that's not something the New York fans want to hear.
17. Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford and the Detroit Lions are again heading into a season with an offense that has all the tools to be a dominant unit. Last year, that didn't work out so well. It wasn't Stafford's fault -- they didn't have enough weapons to keep defenses from taking Calvin Johnson out of the game, and the defense totally let them down.
That defense, led by what has the potential to be a dominant defensive line, should be better this year. But, they still don't have enough depth at receiver for Stafford and the offense to lead them to double-digit wins.
16. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears break in a new coach and offensive system this season. Marc Trestman should be able to get more out of Jay Cutler than other coaches could, but that won't be enough to get them wins against the better teams in the league. The defense, which has led the team the last few years, has been too reliant on turnovers and big plays. The Bears are good enough to beat the bad teams, but not good enough to beat the good ones.
15. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have overhauled their roster since they won the Super Bowl last year. Gone are team leaders Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.
Now the team is officially in the hands of their newly-minted quarterback Joe Flacco. If he can live up to his contract, he just might be able to keep the Ravens from being the latest in a growing trend of teams to win a Super Bowl, then fail to make the playoffs the next season
14. Dallas Cowboys
This is going to be the year the Dallas Cowboys finally live up to expectations. Not that they're going to make a deep playoff run -- Tony Romo will find a way to make sure that doesn't happen. No, the difference this year is that they're expected to be the decidedly average team they are.
13. Cincinnati Bengals
Every year, there's one team that everyone universally agrees is ready to take the next step and go from a good team to a great team. This year, it's the Cincinnati Bengals. Last year, it was the Lions. Remember how that turned out? Well, chances are the Bengals are being equally overrated this preseason. They're good — probably the best team in their division — but I'm not ready to put them in the group of elite teams just yet.
12. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck had an enticing season in 2012, and he still has the most upside of all the quarterbacks in the 2012 draft. Luck is on his way to grabbing the title of best signal caller in the NFL. This time last year, we didn't know if he was ready for the NFL. This year, the rest of the league should worry it's not ready for him.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Don't take for granted what we have in Adrian Peterson. He might end up going down in history as the last true dominant running back. Sure, we'll always have good running backs, but he could be the last one that does his damage running downhill.
As the line between running backs and slot receivers becomes more and more blurred, we might find ourselves having to explain what it was like to see someone dominate a football game taking handoffs. Oh yeah, and the Minnesota Vikings are going to be alright again, I guess. You can win games with running and defense, but not a lot of them anymore.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
I'm all the way in on the Kansas City Chiefs this year. They may have been the worst team in the league last year, but they upgraded in all the important areas this offseason. They have a proven coach, a proven quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick on the offensive line.
Throw in a last-place schedule and and elite running back in Jamaal Charles, and you have all the ingredients for the team that makes the jump from bottom of the standings to the playoffs.
9. Washington Redskins
All eyes this summer have been on Robert Griffin III and his surgically-repaired knee. We know he'll start Week 1, but we don't know if he'll be the same player he was last year. If he can be even close to that good, the Washington Redskins will again be the best team in the NFC East this season.
8. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans have built their recent run of success on a powerful running game and a dominant defense. That may get them wins, but defense and running doesn't win championships anymore.
Arian Foster has been banged up in preseason, but they still have Gary Kubiak and his 1990s offense at head coach, and Matt Schaub is still Matt Schaub. At some point, their window will close. It may already have and we're the last ones to know it.
7. Green Bay Packers
It looked like the Green Bay Packers were at the beginning of another Packers dynasty when they shocked the NFL world and went all the way to the Super Bowl as a wild card in 2010. Now, three years removed from that playoff run, the Packers have become another team that wins games in the regular season but doesn't get it done in the playoffs.
Sure, Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but the defense will need to play at the same level they did in the winter of 2010 for them to have postseason success this year.
6. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are the most controversial team this year. Depending on who you ask, they're either going to dominate the AFC again or struggle to make the playoffs. Like most controversial things, the answer is somewhere in the middle. They won't be the dominant force they've been in the past, but they still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and that's good enough for double-digit wins.
5. New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints are itching to remind the rest of the league that they're still a title contender. They're a legit threat to go all the way as long as they have Payton calling the shots from the sideline and Drew Brees orchestrating the offense on the field.
4. Seattle Seahawks
No team has been getting more hype this summer than the Seattle Seahawks. Much of that is deserved; they have the best defense in the league and a really good young quarterback. They also have one of the toughest schedules in the league.
Defense doesn't win championships anymore; if they want to find themselves at the top of this list by the end of the year, they'll need Russell Wilson to be even better this season.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have been working their way up the NFL ladder since he came into the league as the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. Since then, the Falcon have been one of the most consistent winners in the regular season. They may or may not find a way to win in the playoffs this year, but they'll rack up the regular season wins again.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers were just one more Colin Kaepernick highlight away from a championship last year. That playoff experience will only make them better. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is one of the league's best tactical minds, and he will keep Kaepernick and the 49ers one step ahead of defensive coordinators again this year.
1. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos' quest for a championship, and Peyton Manning's quest for the best year of his illustrious career, are one of the best storylines in the NFL this year. They have an all-time great quarterback playing at the top of his game, the league's best group of receivers for him to throw the ball to and the best home-field advantage in all of football (Sorry, Seattle, it's true).
The defense could suffer with the loss of Von Miller for the first six games and Elvis Dumervil forever, but Manning and the offense will cover up any issues they may have defensively.