1. Seattle Seahawks (2014 Record, 12-4)
The greatest criticism that could be thrown at Seattle last year (other than a certain play call which shall remain nameless) was that they lacked play-making receiving threats.So what did they do this off-season?Sign Jimmy Graham.Check.
2. Indianapolis Colts (2014 Record, 11-5)
We’ve seen what Andrew Luck can do withoutAndre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett and Frank Gore, and now he gets to try his hand with them.The Colts went all in in free-agency but it remains to be seen if the defense is shored up enough to avoid another 45-7 playoff blowout.
3. Green Bay Packers (2014 Record, 12-4)
It was a quiet off-season for the Packers, but they kept Randall Cobb in-house and they still have Aaron Rodgers.Departures on defense may catch up to them, as Tramon Williams, Davon House, and A.J. Hawk all left the team.
4.New England Patriots (2014 Record, 12-4)
The defending champs probably deserve more respect than this, but it hasn’t been a great off-season. They’ve lost their corners, Vince Wilfork, and Tom Brady for potentiallyfour games (could be less if a settlement is reached).They’ll right the ship and make the playoffs, but snagging home field may be a challenge if Brady misses more than a couple games.
5.Baltimore Ravens (2014 Record, 10-6)
The Ravens gave the Patriots all they could handle in Foxboro last January, but they’ve lost two big contributors in Torrey Smith and Haloti Ngata. They did keep Justin Forsett in town after many speculated he might walk.The veteran was a revelation in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal last year, and the low tread on his tires might mean he keeps it up even as he approaches 30.
6. Dallas Cowboys (2014 Record, 12-4)
Dallas finally came to terms with Dez Bryant, and that has to feel good heading into the season.The question “can anyone be successful behind that offensive line” will be answered one way or another this season, as Dallas attempts to rejuvenate Darren McFadden after DeMarco Murray walked away.
7. Arizona Cardinals (2014 Record, 11-5)
It’s always about Carson Palmer’s health for Arizona, which isn’t the best thing to roll the dice on.They did bring in Mike Iupati to try and keep Palmer a little more well protected, but they also lost a few pieces on defense, including one that had been around forever: Darnell Dockett.
8. Denver Broncos (2014 Record, 12-4)
Everyone is aware Denver’s window is closing, but it might already be shut.The offensive line is in tatters, and that’s the last thing you need with Peyton Manning in the pocket.Getting Manning nicked up derailed the 2014 season, and it could easily do the same in 2015.
9.Pittsburgh Steelers (2014 Record, 11-5)
These aren’t your father’s – or even slightly older brother’s -Pittsburgh Steelers.Following a season that included back-to-back six touchdown performances by Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers fans can feel great about the offense, led by Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown.They can feel less so about the defense.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (2014 Record, 10-6)
They could easily be five spots higher or ten spots lower depending on your amount of faith in Chip Kelly’s various abilities that include but are not limited to: Rebuilding an entire roster faster than you did in Madden, coaxing career-best performances out of anyone and everyone he puts in his system, and injecting ACLs with enough culture and sports science to last an entire 16 game season.We’ll see.
11. Miami Dolphins (2014 Record, 8-8)
Miami came close last season, and then decided to throw caution to the wind by making Ndamukong Suh the league’s highest paid player.Detroit can speak to Suh’s game-changing ability, but it can also remember preparing to face Dallas in the playoffs without him, until his suspension for stepping on Aaron Rodger’s calf the previous week was reversed.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (2014 Record, 9-7)
It was a well publicized stat last year that Kansas City went the entire season without throwing a single touchdown pass to a wide receiver.That problem has seemingly been rectified by Andy Reid’s reunion with Jeremy Maclin.If the Broncos hold on the AFC West is slipping, the Chiefs will be the first team looking to capitalize.
13. Buffalo Bills (2014 Record, 9-7)
Signing Rex Ryan as your head coach is a pretty surefire way to generate interest around your team, but the Bills didn’t stop there.Adding LeSean McCoy means, he, Rex, and the Bills stud defensive unit are just a quarterback away from ending the NFL’s longest playoff drought.Yep, just one quarterback.
14. Minnesota Vikings (2014 Record, 7-9)
The one thing Adrian Peterson couldn’t evade is the Vikings, so he’s back in Minnesota, and Minnesota is back in playoff contention, just by virtue of that.If Teddy Bridgewater builds on a good rookie year, maybe Minnesota won’t be too bad for AP.
15. Detroit Lions (2014 Record, 11-5)
When you lose both defensive tackles, and one of them is the aforementioned Suh, it’s fair to question if Detroit can maintain their stout defense against the run.They did bring in Haloti Ngata to that effect, and if all else fails, Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson can hang points with the best of them.
16. Houston Texans (2014 Record, 9-7)
Bill O’Brien engineered a big turnaround in his first season.Bringing one of the NFL’s most underachieving squads the year before from 2-14 to 9-7, and doing it while quarterbacks were dropping left and right.Year two should have more consistency, more Jadeveon Clowney, and more success.
17. San Diego Chargers (2014 Record, 9-7)
Philip Rivers is still in town, as are the Chargers for the moment, and as long as that’s true, the team will be going after the division.Orlando Franklin’s timely arrival should help Melvin Gordon establish himself as a rookie threat out of the backfield.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (2014 Record, 10-5-1)
The Bengals have been stuck in neutral for awhile, and while it’s a lot better neutral than they experienced in the early 2000s, they need to take that next step in the playoffs to convince fans that $115 million to Andy Dalton was a wise investment.
19. New York Giants (2014 Record, 6-10)
The Giants keep trying to improve the line in front of Eli Manning.If he has time to throw the long ball to Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, now back from injury, the Giants could make noise.Fans will be hoping Steve Spagnuolo’s return to shepherd the defense works out as well as it did the first go-around.
20. Carolina Panthers (2014 Record, 7-8-1)
The Panthers didn’t do a whole lot to get better this off-season and, given the division they play in, maybe that’s understandable.Asking Cam Newton to do it all on his own time after time might not work out that well in the long run though.
21. St. Louis Rams (2014 Record, 6-10)
The Rams are hoping they get 2013 Nick Foles, and if they do, could combine that with the good defense they’ve been playing to pip the Niners and start working their way up one of the NFL’s toughest divisions.
22. Atlanta Falcons (2014 Record, 6-10)
Atlanta had a chance to sneak into the playoffs, but it backfired badly and cost Mike Smith his job.They look like they had a good draft, and they’ll need those defensive selections like Vic Beasley to start contributing quickly in 2015.
23. New Orleans Saints (2014 Record, 7-9)
Jimmy Graham is gone, but we can probably still expect almost 5,000 yards passing out of Drew Brees and the Saints.If any wins come from those yards, it will rely on the team improving the defense even after cutting Junior Galette last week and reestablishing the Super Dome as a venue teams fear to enter.
24.San Francisco 49ers (2014 Record, 8-8)
No team in the NFL may be falling faster.Add it all up: the messy parting of ways with Jim Harbaugh, the sudden retirement of Patrick Willis and rookie Chris Borland, and the fact that even last year San Francisco was just 8-8.It’s hard to see the 2013 Super Bowl runners-up in this squad.
25. New York Jets (2014 Record, 4-12)
Darrell Revis’ and Antonio Cromartie’s homecomings spell great things for the Jets’ secondary in 2015. Getting to add the steal of the 2015 draft Leonard Williams to their pass-rush can’t hurt either.
26.Chicago Bears (2014 Record, 5-11)
Chicago sent Brandon Marshall away to the Jets and promptly spent their first round pick on a very Brandon Marshall-ish receiver.Kevin White should be in an ideal situation to adapt to the NFL – Alshon Jeffery drawing coverage, Jay Cutler heaving the ball downfield – but none of that will help the very un-Chicago defense that’s been plaguing the Bears in recent years.
27.Jacksonville Jaguars (2014 Record, 3-13)
Dante Fowler’s injury – before he ever even got to suit up for the team that drafted him – hurts.But the Jaguars are committed to giving Bortles weapons to play with on offense, signified by signing Julius Thomas, and all his young receivers are another year older.
28. Oakland Raiders (2014 Record, 3-13)
Oakland is also trying to get weapons around Derek Carr after his promising rookie season, and even if they couldn’t land Adrian Peterson, Having Amari Cooper – probably the most pro-ready wide receiver in the class – can only help Carr and the Raiders going forward.
29. Washington Redskins (2014 Record, 4-12)
It’s do or don’t time for Robert Griffin’s career in Washington.From a stunning rookie year to a disastrous third season, he’s been all over the place in a short time.As he goes, so will Washington.
30.Cleveland Browns (2014 Record, 7-9)
They’re in much the same situation they were last year: without Josh Gordon, a veteran quarterback the nominal starter, and the same questions about Johnny Manziel.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014 Record, 2-14)
Jameis Winston comes to town with all the confidence in the world.If he can ignite the Bucs’ offense, he’ll have earned that.
32. Tennessee Titans (2014 Record, 2-14)
Tennessee had a lot of options on draft night, but they ultimately stayed put and went with MarcusMariota.If he needs the time most think he might to develop at the NFL level, the Titans may have those options again next April.