We’re just over a month away from the start of the 2014 NFL training camp. That means all’s dead in the NFL world. This has led to some fun stories about the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns (sort of) making allegations that the Patriots make it a point to collect other people’s playbooks, then (sort of) apologizing for it.
Another lead story on ProFootballTalk today is that the Chargers claimed a guy off of waivers who has a weirdly spelled last name and once told a story about being lost at sea on Hard Knocks.
So, yeah, those who make their living telling NFL stories are a little thirsty for things to talk about right now.
This guy included.
So with a short film to finish, a sports season to work on and a trip to China to take, I’m going to go ahead and do my NFL preseason power rankings now. Any objections? Nope? Okay, here we go.
1. Seattle Seahawks
There’s no reason to not list the Super Bowl champs at the top of the list. Everyone is pretty much back, the team is still young and Russell Wilson has another year of experience under his belt.
2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos were very aggressive in upgrading their defense after their humiliating Super Bowl loss. Can the unit be rebuilt overnight?
3. San Francisco 49ers
The team is still in tact and ready to give the Seahawks a run for their money. Can Colin Kaepernick take it up a notch and become an elite NFL QB?
4. New Orleans Saints
The loss of Darren Sproles will hurt. But the Saints offense still has a ton of weapons, assuming they get TE/WR Jimmy Graham back in the fold soon.
5. New England Patriots
The Patriots have suffered from some relatively poor drafting over the last few years, and have kept it together with spit and polish. This won’t be the season when the wheels come off, but it’s coming soon.
6. Indianapolis Colts
QB Andrew Luck is already one of the top signal-callers in the league. This season, he’ll take a step into the Top 5.
7. Arizona Cardinals
Quietly had a very impressive winning streak last season. This is a team on the rise, but they need an answer for when Carson Palmer can’t do it anymore – that day is coming.
8. Green Bay Packers
The team fell apart last year without QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is healthy again, but is this a team ready for prime-time?
9. Carolina Panthers
Lots of discussion about whether the Panthers’ wide receivers are good enough. With a decent rushing attack and Cam Newton creating opportunities, they will be good enough – just.
10. Philadelphia Eagles
The offense will miss WR DeSean Jackson more than they think they will and the defense isn’t even mediocre. Still, the Eagles should take the NFC East as long as QB Nick Foles doesn’t suffer a sophomore slump.
11. Chicago Bears
The Bears overhauled their defensive line. With a solid (if unspectacular) offense already in place, the Bears should give the Packers a run for their money in the NFL Norris.
12. Baltimore Ravens
The best-drafting team in the NFL on a consistent basis, Baltimore has reloaded with young talent on defense and added a much-needed veteran presence in WR Steve Smith. They should be back atop the AFC North.
13. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs fell off the map after winning their first nine games last year. A thin offensive line and weak WR corps spell problems for the offense.
14. Cincinnati Bengals
This team will miss OC Jay Gruden more than they think. QB Andy Dalton has the makings of a good (if not great) NFL signal-caller, but if he loses one more playoff game, they’ll run him out of the Queen City on a rail.
15. San Diego Chargers
QB Phil Rivers looked rejuvenated last year with new coach Mike McCoy. The defense has a new weapon in Jason Verrett. Catching the Broncos isn’t too likely, but making another wild card push in the west looks good.
16. St. Louis Rams
The Rams could be starting four top-20 picks on the defensive line. WR Tavon Austin seemed to figure out things in the second half of the 2013 NFL season. The 2014 Rams will go as far as oft-injured QB Sam Bradford can take them – and if it’s not far, they’ll go shopping for a new quarterback in 2015.
17. Atlanta Falcons
There was a lot more wrong with this team last year than the loss of WR Julio Jones. Fixing the offensive line will help a lot, but don’t expect a massive rebound in 2014.
18. Detroit Lions
No more excuses for franchise QB Shane Stafford. The offense is loaded with weapons, including Megatron himself.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers seem to have treaded water in the offseason. They’ll be competitive, but hard to see them leaping to the top of the division.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa went all-offense in the draft for the first time in team history. New offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will get QB Josh McCown ready, RB Doug Martin will be back in the fold and with Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 back in the Bay Area, the Bucs could be interesting in 2014.
21. Miami Dolphins
Miami’s got a brand-new offensive line for QB Ryan Tannehill. The weapons are still lacking, though.
22. New York Giants
The big question for the G-men in 2014: Will QB Eli Manning rebound, or is he done? If he’s anything like he was in 2013, it’ll be a long season in NY.
23. Tennessee Titans
New head coach Ken Whisenhunt has his work cut out for him. QB Jake Locker needs to prove he can play a full season, let alone consistently. A new RB to replace the departed Chris Johnson is in the offing, as well.
24. Washington Redskins
The Redskins (or whatever they may soon be called) have a former AFL head coach running things in DC, which is good because winning games 41-38 could be a standard for the team in 2014. QB Robert Griffin should improve after completing his first NFL offseason, and he’ll have a ton of weapons. But the defense needs a LOT of work.
25. New York Jets
It’s only a matter of time before QB Michael Vick sees the field this year in relief of Geno Smith. HC Rex Ryan seems to thrive on the drama – but will the Jets be able to handle it?
26. Dallas Cowboys
QB Tony Romo is not the guy to lead the Cowboys to the promised land. But ripping apart the defense wasn’t the way to make that situation better.
27. Buffalo Bills
The Bills traded two first round picks and a fourth rounder to move up and draft WR Sammy Watkins. He’d better be the missing piece – and it’s doubtful one guy takes the team from 6-10 to 10-6.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
They’re building things right in Jacksonville. But the team was so far away to begin with that it’ll take another year – maybe two – before the Jags will be relevant again.
29. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders seem to be grabbing any slightly past their prime free agent they can get their hands on. With the QB situation settled with Matt Schaub, they could have a chance. It’ll be tough, as they were the only team in their division to miss the playoffs in 2013.
30. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have a long way to go talent-wise, but made some great strides this past offseason. Grabbing an extra first rounder from a team likely to miss the playoffs (Buffalo) was huge. Burning question: is Johnny Manziel the guy? And when will he see the field?
31. Houston Texans
A lot is being made of pairing #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt on defense. That doesn’t help the secondary, let alone the offense. The team has a journeyman quarterback, an aging, injury-prone running back (and no big-time backup) and a wide receiver who is holding out for a trade.
32. Minnesota Vikings
The team’s best player by a mile is RB Adrian Peterson, and at 29, they should have traded him. 29 year old running backs don’t often last long, and a team like New England or Denver might have been willing to overpay in their respective Super Bowl pushes.