Power Rankings: 2013 Season Opener
What better way to kick-off the season than with a set of power rankings based on not seeing a snap of regular season action? Our staff, bolder than ever, is throwing caution to the wind and offering themselves up with this pre-Week 1 edition that will set the stage for the year to come.
It’s been a long offseason and we’re eager to get a look at what the many roster and scheme changes will bring — are teams trending up, falling off, or holding ground from where they ended last year? Here’s where it begins, and every Wednesday throughout the season you’ll find an updated poll that’ll be sure to please some and raise hackles for others.
We start with a table showing the eight ballots — each with every team ranked, 1-32 — and follow with the compiled rankings. Who’s lost their mind before the season has even started? Who has it all figured out? Let us know in the comments below.
Taken together, this is how it shakes out:
1. San Francisco 49ers
Small consolation for last season’s 5-yards-short bridesmaids, but at 2013’s outset they’re the pick to top our rankings. A full season of Colin Kaepernick, and a particularly determined little brother calling the shots, could hold them here wire to wire.
2. Seattle Seahawks
The 49ers won’t have far to look for a stiff challenge as our No. 2 team also hails from the NFC West. Another team built around a stifling defense and a dangerous ground game, Seattle looks to take the mantle and could have a Christmas present coming in the form of Percy Harvin to put them over the top down the stretch.
3. Denver Broncos
More power out West. As if he needed another weapon, Peyton Manning was handed Tom Brady’s favorite toy in Wes Welker. The Broncos are hoping that addition helps them out-gun the competition while their depleted pass rush finds its feet on the other side of the ball.
4. Green Bay Packers
Despite the last glimpse of the Packers in 2012 being one of them looking lost against San Francisco’s option game, our team has enough faith in Rodgers, Matthews & Co. to set them off with a spot among the top dogs once again.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Just a step off the pace in 2012, the Falcons broke through their habit of postseason one-and-done’s. The question now becomes where do they go from here? Likely as far as their offense can carry them.
6. New England Patriots
Not a new story… Still Brady. Still Belichick. An improving defense and swapped-out parts on offense. It’s worked before.
7. Baltimore Ravens
The defending champs return with a new look after paying Joe Flacco and showing the defense the door. Let the comparisons begin between the title-toting D’s of the past and the 2013 incarnation.
8. Houston Texans
Who else is dying to see what J.J. Watt does for an encore? As fun as that may be, the offense still needs to take a step forward to compete with the big boys.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Looking to build on their 10-6 record from a year ago, the young nucleus in Cincy has their sights set on a third-straight playoff appearance. Whether Andy Dalton improves could be the deciding factor in that.
10. New Orleans Saints
They’ve got the band back together and rumors have it there may even be a defense in town this time around. Who knows what they’re capable if that’s the case.
11. New York Giants
After watching the playoffs when they’d hoped to be defending their 2011 title, the Giants have to feel like they left things unfinished last year.
12. Dallas Cowboys
O-line worries could be what holds the Cowboys back in a tight division race. That said, our analysts feel there is enough firepower on both sides of the ball to overcome that.
13. Washington Redskins
A repeat in the East won’t be easy, especially now that there’s a book on RGIII and his knee. Others need to step up, especially on defense.
14. Chicago Bears
There’s enough talent here to challenge again in the North. Avoiding a late-season swoon will be a big help and it’s going to be vital that they keep their big players on offense happy and healthy.
15. Indianapolis Colts
The impressive turnaround awaits a second act to prove if it the 2012 version of the Colts was the real deal or just a sizable spike heading for regression. They’ve certainly upgraded the roster.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Have they got another run in them? Our analysts are either too generous or too grim depending on your perspective when it comes to a team desperately trying to manage the cap and get younger.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
Having made the big moves they needed to, the Chiefs now need to see if Andy Reid and Alex Smith can breathe life back into the league’s worst team last year.
18. Miami Dolphins
They collected weapons for Ryan Tannehill and gave Cameron Wake a running mate, now they’ve just got to gel before they go and chase down the Patriots. Good luck.
19. Minnesota Vikings
I’m afraid to ask what more Adrian Peterson can do. Truly seems nothing is impossible, even with a passing game that is at best a question mark heading into the season.
20. St. Louis Rams
Can this largely middle-of-the-road lineup put up a fight in the West again? They have certainly given Sam Bradford some weapons to do some damage with, but can he?
21. Philadelphia Eagles
As exciting as it will be to see how the offense of Chip Kelly fares in the NFL, our analysts temper that with concern as to how that defensive unit will play.
22. Carolina Panthers
Looking forward to seeing the impact of Star Lotulelei in the middle of the Kuechly-Hardy-Johnson triangle. Big year for Cam Newton if this team is to contend.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The team’s re-built secondary could help hide defensive holes, but the pressure is on for Josh Freeman and the O-line to find form.
24. Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson and his inhuman catch radius is a sight to behold, but the Suh-Fairley interior is more intriguing to us. Nonetheless, the success of the team hinges on Matthew Stafford taking his game to a new level. Less yards, but more consistency?
25. Buffalo Bills
An intriguing sprinkling of elite players led by a rookie coach-QB combo should make for some fun Sundays. The rebuild begins (again).
26. Cleveland Browns
The Joe’s (Thomas and Haden) lead this bunch that also features a D-Line in the making that could be worth checking in on. It’s just too soon to buy into a heavily-revamped team.
27. San Diego Chargers
Now Norv-less, can Rivers re-make himself in a new offense? A banged-up corps of receivers won’t help, and it seems a long time ago when we spoke of the Chargers’ golden generation of players.
28. Tennessee Titans
Guard additions of Levitre and Warmack have Chris Johnson flashing back to 2009, but can he deliver in the same way?
29. Arizona Cardinals
How may targets for Fitz? 200? 250? He deserves some make-up time if Palmer can improve upon the ‘arms’ Arizona’s stud has dealt with recently.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
The rookie right tackle will get the attention, but fans will want to see how much spark fellow youngsters Denard Robinson and Ace Sanders can add.
31. New York Jets
I’m sure this will be a peaceful ride off into the sunset for Rex and his QB.
32. Oakland Raiders
So the draft is going to be in May now? That’s a long time to wait.