Top 5 NFL Teams On the Rise In 2014

By Court Zierk

Top 5 NFL Teams On the Rise In 2014

Ben Roethlisberger
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NFL training camp is set to begin, and every team has a clean slate with their eyes focused on the Lombardi Trophy. Last season was full of its fair share of surprises and letdowns, and this year will be no different. Here are the top five teams to keep an eye on as they rise up the standings and rebound from a disappointing season.

5. Houston Texans

JJ Watt
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5. Houston Texans

JJ Watt
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There is no way to sugar coat it; the Texans had an awful season in 2013, and they have Jadeveon Clowney to show for it. Clowney and JJ Watt will form what could become the most feared pass-rushing duo in the NFL. Ryan Fitzpatrick will try to pick up where Matt Schaub left off two years ago and bring the Texans back to respectability. Don’t be surprised if you see a major turnaround this year. There’s really only one direction to go.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers
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4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers
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It’s hard to say that the Steelers are a team on the rise, because they are rarely ever down, but the past two seasons have been an exception. This offseason, they replenished their receiving corps, got much younger on defense and look to once again return to prominence. They will be in the hunt for the division this year. Look for Lance Moore to return to his 2012 form and Ryan Shazier to compete for defensive rookie of the year.

3. St. Louis Rams

Tavon Austin
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3. St. Louis Rams

Tavon Austin
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The Rams showed flashes of what they are capable of last season but have the unfortunate fate of being in the NFC West. The Rams are stacked on offense, and if anyone can consistently beat the formidable defenses in their division, it is St. Louis. Tre Mason will make teams sorry that they passed on him and adding Kenny Britt was a risk worth taking. It will be an uphill battle, but don’t count them out.

2. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan
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2. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan
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Like the Texans, there is really only one direction for the Falcons to go -- up. Just getting their core talent back from various injuries already improves this team significantly. Throw in a vastly upgraded offensive line, and Matt Ryan should be able to resume the upward trajectory he was on two seasons ago. If their defense can be even a little better, they should make some noise in the NFC South.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vincent Jackson
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1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vincent Jackson
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The Buccaneers may very well be the surprise team of the 2014 NFL season. Adding Josh McCown will prove to be the difference, and they will look much more like the team that won four out five games during a stretch last season than the team that started 0-8. Lovie Smith will have this team contending in an extremely strong NFC South. Also, look for them to return to their vaunted Tampa-2 system to take advantage of an opportunistic defense.

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