Dec 2, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) is pursued by Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright (50) and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (99) at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Saints 34-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
8. Denver Broncos (12-4 in 2014)
"Peyton Manning is back, baby! Wait … why is no one excited? Really, who’s talking about the Broncos right now? Julius Thomas and Terrance Knighton will certainly be missed. Wonder if diehard Denver fans feel worse about the latter’s defection than the stud tight end going to Jacksonville. (Thoughts? @HarrisonNFL.) Either way, I still like the Gary Kubiak hiring and what the Broncos can do on the ground. Expecting a lot of two-tight end looks with Virgil Green and Owen Daniels."
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5 in 2014)
"As long as the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, they’ll be in contention. Apparently, that isprecisely how management feels, too. Meanwhile, though Pittsburgh has suffered some losses ondefense, you have to be excited about the development at the skill positions. I’m predicting 1,000 yards for Martavis Bryant. I am also predicting that Le’Veon Bell has a better year than DeMarco Murray. And finally, I’m predicting the Browns blurb won’t be coming any time soon in these rankings, so keep reading (for awhile, really), AFC North followers."
6. Dallas Cowboys (12-4 in 2014)
"DeMarco Murray’s departure hurt, no doubt. But don’t think for a second that Joseph Randle — depending on what happens with the investigation of a recent off-the-field incident — or Lance Dunbaror whoever they draft can’t be productive behind the best line in football. Oh, and Darren McFadden should be productive, as well — at least during the eight games he’s healthy enough to play in. Alright, that wasn’t fair … McFadden wasn’t hurt last year. He just wasn’t good (534 yards, two touchdowns in 16 games)."
5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5 in 2014)
"You did not read this wrong; the Cardinals are No. 5. Sure, they lost Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett,Larry Foote (as a player, anyway) and Antonio Cromartie. But they’ll also be returning, like, nine key guys that they were without last year at one time or another. Oh, and they signed the best offensive lineman on the market. With GM Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians locked up,happy and working in tandem, this team isn’t going anywhere."
4. Indianapolis Colts (11-5 in 2014)
"Man, if they were getting the 2009 versions of their free-agent signees, the Colts would be going 15-1. Of course, even if they aren’t exactly in their prime, Frank Gore, Andre Johnson and Trent Cole should all help the team immensely. Let’s make sure they have warm sweaters — and pay no mind if they nap on the sideline. Actually, I’m all for signing older vets if they fill needs. The key here will be whether or not these guys can give GM Ryan Grigson full ROI, as in, a complete slate of games. That’s the key with an older team. Gore will rush for around 800 yards and five touchdowns this year, which should be enough."
3. Green Bar Packers (12-4 in 2014)
"While other teams are out there making their big splashes in the free agency pool, there sits Ted Thompson, reclining in his lawn chair, wearing Oakleys with the string wrapped around his neck, reading the 98th book James Patterson’s written since 2004. Personally, I like that the Green Bay general manager tends to retain his own rather than going after tons of big-name players. Sure, there have been some smaller signings here and there by the Packers over the years, but Thompson’s draft well-retain well strategy never gets old. By the way, with the money Bryan Bulaga is making now, he can afford those expensive Settlers of Catan expansion packs. They’re pricey and you have to own the main game to play them. That’s so unfair. #gamercomplaints"
2. New England Patriots (12-4 in 2014)
"Yes, despite winning the Super Bowl, the Patriots were leapfrogged by the very team they vanquished. To those of you who didn’t pass Stats II, I’ll explain that these Power Rankings represent a complex equation. Super Bowl-winning team – Darrelle Revis = 2. Losing Vince Wilforkhurts, as well. Ditto Shane Vereen. If I were the New England front office, I would’ve given Tramon Williams a long look. Bolster that secondary and play the kind of bubble defense that can keep you in games next season. I did like the Scott Chandler add, by the way. He makes up for Revis’ exit. Not really."
1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4 in 2014)
"Seattle is the new/old No. 1. The Jimmy Graham trade certainly put this team a few nautical miles north of interesting. Now the pass rush could be bolstered if John Schneider can land Greg Hardy– unless the Cowboyssnag him first. Heck, Michael Bennett and Hardy would be quite the duo, and Bennett could teach him how to jump offsides as efficiently as he does — unless, of course, Bennett ends up heading elsewhere. Meanwhile, the biggest move the Seahawks made — and why they are at the top of these rankings — was keeping Marshawn Lynch in house. He is truly a difference-maker, a modern-day John Riggins. Between him and Graham, who do you defend from the 1-yard line? Ricardo Lockette, of course."
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