It’s that time of year again as NFL experts, prognosticators, and the so called pundits all over the NFL landscape debate and conclude their respective 2014 NFL Power Rankings with NFL Regular season kickoff quickly approaching. At the end of the day, this is only our preliminary power rankings and anything can and will happen in the NFL. But when you’re SafePicks.com, enjoying success year in and year out, then hopefully we have put together a nice piece here.
Although these power rankings are open to debate, one could easily make a case for half the NFL teams this year to win the Super Bowl. Rating each NFL team from one to 32 based on their chances of becoming Super Bowl champions is no easy task when you account for a ton of varying factors. SafePicks.com experts got together last week, assessed offseason acquisitions & changes, examined 2013 performance, forecasted 2014 performance, and finalized some season-ending predictions to come up with these “preseason” NFL Power Rankings. Vegas odds are subject to change, obviously. Comment at your own will. Our money would be on any of the top 7-8 teams to win the Super Bowl in these rankings:
1. Seattle Seahawks (Vegas odds: 6-1) – As with most Super Bowl Champions, one has to consider the “repeat” factor for a talent-rich team like this one. This should be the team to beat. They’re not the all-out favorites, but how can we not like Seattle’s chances of repeating? The Seahawks lost some players this offseason, while securing several key members of the defense. This team has a legit chance of repeating as champions in 2014.
2. New Orleans Saints (Vegas odds: 17-1) – Don’t look now, but the Saints are serious contenders once again. The Saints were one Seahawks team away from NFC championship success. But head coach Sean Payton made a bevvy of notes and followed up with some major defensive changes (upgrades) this offseason. These offseason changes could prove to be so potentially fruitful for the Saints – that they could possibly take the No. 1 seed in the NFC, making sure the playoffs go through the Superdome this time around in 2014. Their offense needs no introduction, coupled with the defense, the Saints (and Seahawks) will almost be a ‘sure thing’ week in and week out this coming NFL season.
3. Denver Broncos (Vegas odds: 6-1) – Yes, as we predicted successfully at SafePicks.com, the Super Bowl would be an utter disaster for the Broncos. But there’s a compelling case to be made that the Broncos simply had a bad day right? Some key departures from the team might have a negative impact. However, with a re-loaded defense, then Peyton Manning back for another year, and a chip on the team’s shoulder, there’s a reason Denver’s one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. However, we’re not buying into the offseason hype just yet – and Manning is not getting any younger. Still, Denver could potentially deliver some good regular season results. We like this team situated here at number three.
4. San Francisco 49ers (Vegas odds: 8-1) – The Niners where a couple of plays short of being defending back-to-back champions. Aside from some minor personnel issues, this team looks pretty good still – but maybe not as formidable as last season. Coach Jim Harbaugh reportedly wants to be paid like a guy who has won a Super Bowl? Some of the post season hoopla has gone to his head and he is now a year and a few months away from becoming a free agent. Meanwhile we believe QB Kaepernick is overpaid and slightly over-rated, and we feel that right now, the fourth spot in these rankings is best suited for the Niners heading into 2014 NFL season. This team should surely make a fourth straight playoff appearance regardless. The jury is still out though on whether or not this is a Super Bowl team.
5. New England Patriots (Vegas odds: 10-1) – They’ve been so close so many times the last several years, it would not shock anyone if this is the season New England ends up back on top. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have to win one more before it’s all said and done, it’s this duo that keeps this team in the thick of things year in and year out. Belichick should have the right mix on defense to be viable contenders once again. On paper, this team should be able to hit the 10-win mark as sure favorites to win the division.
6. Green Bay Packers (Vegas odds: 14-1) – Aaron Rodgers must stay healthy for the Packers to have a fighting chance at success. The Packers nearly knocked off the Niners in the playoffs a season ago, and if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get hurt in the regular season, they would have landed a better seed in the NFC playoffs, avoiding such a match-up altogether. Rodgers must play all of 2014 and the Packers would not be such a bad bet to win it all – if they can handle the other NFC contenders. There is a little uncertainty on the defensive side, but all in all, this would be the right spot to place the Pack.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (Vegas odds: 30-1) – Yes, we might get some flack on this one from our Dallas fans, but the numbers tell us a lot about this team, and especially with the quarterback for this team. Nick Foles is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL that has yet to receive his due. If he and Chip Kelly can continue to lead the Eagles to big time success on offense, the defense might have just enough for the Eagles to take it to the next level. Do not count these birds out of a conference top spot.
8. Indianapolis Colts (Vegas odds: 25-1) – Quarterback Andrew Luck was able to win a playoff game a season ago and the next step is for him to lead the Colts on a deep postseason run in his third season. The Colts will play in a division that is unsettled at best, they should easily own the top spot in the AFC South barring a calamitous injury. Depth has been added to an already good team and winning 11 games each of the last two years has Colts fans with heightened expectations. Let’s see if the Colts can take things to the next level.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (Vegas odds: 32-1) – The Bengals have done absolutely nothing to inspire confidence in the playoffs over the last three years. However, the Bengals’ defense is one of the league’s best, (only Seattle gave up less yards per play). The Bengals have the defense, now they need the offense to hold up its end of the bargain, behind $96 million dollar man, quarterback Andy Dalton. He is durable and productive – but turnover-prone. His play must improve for the Bengals to have a fighting chance.
10. Chicago Bears (Vegas odds: 25-1) – The duo of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are both ready to prove their offense has what it takes to win in the postseason, while Alshon Jeffery could be the next Calvin Johnson. A few defensive issues needs to be resolved. But if the Bears can get hot at the right time this year, avoid the injury bug, and if they can handle the Packers in division play, they can absolutely make it to the NFC championship game and beyond.
11. Atlanta Falcons (Vegas odds: 52-1) – This spot might seem a bit low, yes. But a healthy Falcons team was a play or two away from going to the big game the season before last. Don’t sleep on Atlanta’s trio of stars in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White, it’s not too hard to envision them having a solid chance in the NFC South. The Falcons will shift to more of a 3-4 defense this season and this might make the difference for a Mike Smith led Falcons team desperate to go deep in the playoffs.
12. San Diego Chargers (Vegas odds: 50-1) – The Chargers have been rejuvenated by Mike McCoy and there are a lot of reasons to like San Diego starting with quarterback Phillip Rivers. The 2013 Chargers earned the AFC’s final wild card berth on the final day of the regular season, and were they ever the definition of a wild card. It was a successful first season for Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, who oversaw a club that always seemed to give itself a chance to win.
13. Arizona Cardinals (Vegas odds: 50-1) – If they can steal a game in San Francisco or Seattle and bump one of those two down in the NFC West standings, the Cardinals are potentially a major dark horse. Plus, if they make it to the Super Bowl, it will be a home game – the first in NFL history. The Cardinals have a sufficiently capable defense, they need a consistent defense to have even a chance with the likes of the Niners and Seahawks to contend with in the NFC West.
14. Carolina Panthers (Vegas odds: 40-1) – The Seahawks won a title with an elite defense a season ago, so why can’t the Panthers do it as well? Some would argue that Cam Newton (who is quickly approaching his contract renewal talks) might be a better QB than Russell Wilson. Ron Rivera loves to silence his doubters, like we all saw last season, but the Panthers will be fighting in a very tough NFC South division.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (Vegas odds: 32-1) – Big Ben’s already won two, so he knows how to get it done in January and February. Wouldn’t it be fitting for the Steelers to get their third title in the last nine years when no one’s really talking about them anymore? The Steelers have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons under coach Mike Tomlin. While no one has sounded the alarm just yet, another less-than-stellar campaign from the Steelers might potentially instigate a new chapter of change in Pittsburgh.
16. New York Giants (Vegas odds: 40-1) – The Giants could absolutely come out of nowhere and win their third title in recent history. There have been some magical runs on the way to two Super Bowl titles for the Giants under coach Tom Coughlin. With a little help from defense and special teams, we have to believe that if the Giants’ offense, along with both Eli Manning and Victor Cruz, can have success – this could potentially prime New York for one more run at the ultimate prize. They will be in tough against division foes like the Eagles though. The Giants have the potential to be real contenders though.
17. Kansas City Chiefs (Vegas odds: 50-1) – Fresh off an all-time playoff collapse and a brutal offseason that saw their roster get gouged, it’s easy to be down on the Chiefs going into 2014. However, head coach Andy Reid has a ton of experience as a playoff coach, but we don’t envision Kansas City playing postseason football this year. The Chiefs provided sound & stout play on their way to a wild card berth. However, the Chiefs had peaked early. They won just two of their final eight games, including a 45-44 playoff loss at Indianapolis marked by Kansas City blowing a 28-point third-quarter lead. In the end, the Chiefs fit here in our NFL power ranking structure. The Chiefs were 10-0 against clubs who missed the postseason but just 1-6 against playoff teams, something that will need to get fixed if the Chiefs are to have any chance.
18. Buffalo Bills (Vegas odds: 75-1) – We’re optimistic this season for the Bills. Mind you, going from 6-10 last season to 10-6 this season requires lots of help, talent, and luck. But with all the tough luck the Bills have had recently, maybe they’ll catch a break in 2014? We actually are leaning towards believing so. We think fans would be happy with a .500 year, as a deep playoff run would shatter all expectations but anything can happen in the NFL. With a new owner coming on board soon, there is lots of pressure on this team to find success, from the top on down.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Vegas odds: 75-1) – The Bucs quietly got a ton better over the last few months, and Lovie Smith has a plethora of playoff coaching experience, but Tampa Bay winning it all is tough to truly see. Unless quarterback Josh McCown proves he should have been an All-Pro over the years, it might not be happening. But we do believe that Lovie brings a sense of stability and brand back for the Bucs. This team could surprise many this season, so conservatively, we like this generous spot in our rankings.
20. Dallas Cowboys (Vegas odds: 48-1) – With all the Tony Romo jokes and punch lines, it’s easy to forget the QB has talent – but recent back surgery and other ailments might have decreased his stock value. Dallas has found so many crazy ways to lose over the last handful of years, maybe 2014 is finally the season it all comes together for Dallas? Doubtful. They will need lots of help in the NFC East and as long as Jerry Jones is the head man, any Cowboys progress will likely be hindered. On paper, this is simply not a great team, let alone a good enough team to make the playoffs.
21. Detroit Lions (Vegas odds: 40-1) – Maybe a change at the head coaching position was what the Lions needed to take the next step. Jim Caldwell didn’t have a ton of playoff success in Indy, but he’s a coach who knows how to win football games. This roster is full of talented players. But we’re taking a wait and see approach in a division that will see the Bears and Packers vying for the division crown.
22. Miami Dolphins (Vegas odds: 50-1) – If absolutely everything went right for the Dolphins, with a new GM and hopefully a new locker room culture, they could make a run at a title. The problem is that quarterback Ryan Tannehill is going to have to take a major step forward, something we’re not convinced will happen. He is entering this season with 32 starts, 15 wins, and a 79.1 QB rating, time for Tannehill to produce or else.
23. St. Louis Rams (Vegas odds: 50-1) – Making the playoffs is going to be a very difficult task. The Rams’ most likely chance would be to finish third in the NFC West, steal a No. 6 seed, and go on a fairy tale playoff run. Anything can and will happen in the NFL right? But overall, the Rams will need lots of help to get into the post season. Stranger things have happened in the NFL though. The Rams should have the best defensive end tandem in the league (Robert Quinn and Chris Long). There is no need to review coach Jeff Fisher’s resume, while bringing back Greg Williams to run the Rams’ defense might just be what the doctor ordered for the the team along with this coaching duo (as we reflect back on the ol’ Titans days).
24. New York Jets (Vegas odds: 70-1) – We’re not convinced the quarterbacks on this roster will take the NY Jets to the promise land, that and playing in a division owned by the Pats, makes us place the NY Jets somewhere in this area code. Sorry Jets fans, just going with what the sheets tell us. Let’s wait and see.
25. Cleveland Browns (Vegas odds: 70-1) – He’s been the talk of the offseason recently; and wouldn’t it be fitting for Johnny Football (Johnny Manziel) to make the Browns football relevant again with a crazy run to an AFC North title? The Hoyer/Manziel quarterback battle is not over yet mind you. We’re not betting on a big playoff run, but the Browns have enough talent to warrant such a conversation and a 25th spot here.
26. Baltimore Ravens (Vegas odds: 40-1) – Some will probably hate our assessment here. But things just look different for Baltimore, a team that has already lost so much talent from their Super Bowl team of 2012. With so much turnover effect still being felt, our faith in Baltimore and ultimately quarterback Joe Flacco is not very high. The Ravens failed to make the playoffs last year and they’re facing a degree of transition thanks to last year’s post-Super Bowl retirements and free-agency defections. Some of the offseason behavior from Flacco, with his typical nonchalant ways, was concerning too.
27. Tennessee Titans (Vegas odds: 90-1) – The Titans will need a lot of things to come together to make a playoff run. Former coach Munchak posted a 6-12 record, in three seasons, against division opponents. That record must change for the Titans to have a chance. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt might succeed eventually in Tennessee, but this year it’s not going to happen, at least not in our books. As well, quarterback Jake Locker is in a make or break season. If Locker plays well and the newly installed defense can play with consistency, maybe the Titans become division contenders? Let’s see.
28. Houston Texans (Vegas odds: 60-1) – The Texans are an intriguing pick, as J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney should be one of the top defensive duos in the league, no question. Also, let’s not forget Houston was nearly the No. 1 seed in the AFC in 2012 before a late season collapse. Still, a ton of questions at quarterback remain and it will probably doom this team from the get go. Simply put, a lack of a superior quarterback will hold most teams back.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (Vegas odds: 250-1) – There’s no doubt they had a really good draft and Gus Bradley has his team trending in the right direction – but there’s a reason Jacksonville is the biggest long-shot to win the Super Bowl. But based on our assessment only, this is the right place for the Jaguars as they continue on rebuilding for a couple more seasons to come. However, do not be too shocked if this team finishes at .500, because we won’t be. Read our prior post, remember Blake Bortles, we assessed his credentials back in June, this guy will be the real deal if he (and likely will) gets the nod for the Jags.
30. Washington Redskins (Vegas odds: 55-1) – What the Redskins do this season is all dependent on one person, that would be RG3. If Robert Griffin III plays at his Baylor / 2012 level again, the Redskins will remain a viable contender. Mind you, his backup (Cousins) is a good quarterback too. Realistically, this team will be finishing in the 5-11 to 8-8 range.
31. Oakland Raiders (Vegas odds: 155-1) – The Raiders actually got a little bit better over the last three months without a lot of people noticing. While they won’t win the Super Bowl in 2014, we don’t doubt they’ll be a much improved football team, but how much improved remains to be seen. Some veteran additions to the roster should help steer the team in the right direction, but for now, that’s about all we expect this season and a 31st spot on our preseason rankings.
32. Minnesota Vikings (Vegas odds: 120-1) – Without a true franchise quarterback, and unless Adrian Peterson rushes for 2,500 yards (not happening), the Vikings simply are not going to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl. There’s an all- out re-build process going on in Minnesota, and maybe when the city hosts the game in 2018, they’ll be closer to winning it? Let’s see. For now, we will put the Vikes in this spot, lucky to make. 500.
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