NFL Power Rankings (04/16/14)

By John Ewing
With the NFL Draft Machine launching and given the ability to evaluate updated Power Rankings, we first look at how the NFL Power Rankings have changed from the end of the regular season to looking forward to the 2014-15 season following free agency.

With the NFL Draft just around the corner, we updated our NFL Power Rankings to include the fallout from free agency. The updated ranking for each team represents our expectations if the 2014-15 season started today. We have adjusted for multiple factors including regression (for example - turnover differential from year to year), health (many teams expect injured stars to play - Denver for example expects Von Miller to return Week 1) as well as additions/losses in free agency.

Of the teams ranked in the new top ten, seven teams were in top ten of the final 2013-14 rankings. Of the teams ranked in the bottom ten, six were in the bottom ten of the final 2013-14 rankings. The NFL is all about parity, half of the playoff participants change from year to year, but the good teams are still the good teams and the bad teams are still pretty bad.

Below, we look at the teams with the biggest differential in rankings before and after free agency.

Denver Broncos (1)/Seattle Seahawks (2)

Most people would rank Seattle as the best team in the league, especially after dismantling Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, as we predicted. But the Seahawks lost key contributors in free agency including Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Golden Tate, and Walter Thurmond – the departures hurt the talent and depth that Seattle enjoyed last season.

Denver made a splash in free agency adding T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware to boost its defense. The Broncos also expect Von Miller and Chris Harris to return from season-ending surgeries before the playoffs last season, which will improve a defense that ranked 26th overall in our rankings heading into last year's playoffs. Denver's gains and Seattle's losses push the Broncos to the top spot in our rankings, though last year's two Super Bowl participants are still in a tier above the rest of the NFL.

Atlanta Falcons (7)

Atlanta made the biggest jump in our Power Rankings going from 28th to 7th overall. The Falcons went from the NFC Championship game in 2012 to a 4-12 record in 2013. Sure, some of that was due to regression in Atlanta's record in one score games (2012: 8-3, 2013: 4-7), but injuries also were a key factor as well. Starters Steven Jackson, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Sam Baker, Kroy Biermann and Sean Weatherspoon combined to miss 53 games last season. When Jackson and White weren't out, they were dealing with nagging injuries.

Atlanta also made efforts to improve their offensive and defensive lines by adding Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, Jon Asamoah and re-signing Jonathan Babineaux and Joe Hawley.

Washington Redskins (11)

2013 went about as bad as it could for the Redskins. A year after reaching the playoffs Washington finished last in the NFC East – the seventh last place finish in the Dan Snyder era. After a toxic 2013, the Redskins are poised to rebound with offensive-minded Jay Gruden replacing Mike Shanahan as head coach. To make Gruden's job easier, the team added playmaker DeSean Jackson as well as Andre Roberts to go along with Pierre Garcon, giving Washington one of the best receiver corps. in the league. The offense is set to improve after its scoring average dropped nearly a touchdown (2012: 27.3 pts/gm, 2013: 20.9 pts/gm) per game last year.

The Washington defense, that ranked 25th overall in our rankings last year, will also be improved with the additions of Jason Hatcher and Ryan Clark. The improved pass rush and secondary helps to correct the team's biggest weakness – the Redskins were 30th in defensive passing efficiency last season.

Houston Texans (13)

Injuries and turnovers derailed the Texans' 2013 season. Houston lost Arian Foster, Brian Cushing and Duane Brown to injuries while the team was last in the league in turnover differential (-20). To make matters worse, Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates combined to throw five interceptions returned for touchdowns in consecutive games. That is incredibly unlucky and unlikely to repeat next season.

The Texans will rebound from a disastrous 2-14 campaign. Houston is not a serious Super Bowl contender right now but, with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Texans are closer to the playoffs than the league cellar.

Philadelphia Eagles (16)

Were the Eagles lucky or good in 2013-14? Heading into last year's playoffs, Philadelphia was in the top five of our Power Rankings based on the strength of their an offense that ranked first and second in offensive rushing and passing efficiency, respectively. Obviously that is good but some of that is predicated on luck.

Last year, the Eagles were fourth in the NFL in turnover differential (+12). The year before they were last (-24) and finished 4-12. Nick Foles played a key role in the Eagles turnover fortune by throwing only two interceptions. Foles was second in the league with a 0.6% interception rate. Both Philly's turnover differential and Foles' interception rate are likely to regress to the mean.

The Eagles will compete for the NFC East crown and a playoff berth, but most likely will not rank inside the top five of our Power Rankings at the end of next season.

Kansas City Chiefs (20)

The Chiefs didn't make many moves to improve the team in free agency. In fact, Kansas City let most of their top free agents walk including offensive line starters Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz. KC also failed to improve the team's biggest weakness (receiver) by letting Denver steal Emmanuel Sanders after the Chiefs thought they had come to terms on a deal with him. Further complicating matters, the Chiefs faced one of the easiest schedules in the league last season. Based on opponents' 2013 win percentage, KC will face a top ten most difficult schedule in 2014.

Below are updated rankings for each NFL team.

Team Final 2013-14 Rankings Updated Ranking Rank Differential
Denver Broncos 2 1 1
Seattle Seahawks 1 2 -1
San Francisco 49ers 3 3 0
New England Patriots 9 4 5
New Orleans Saints 5 5 0
Green Bay Packers 13 6 7
Atlanta Falcons 28 7 21
Arizona Cardinals 6 8 -2
Detroit Lions 16 9 7
Cincinnati Bengals 7 10 -3
Washington Redskins 27 11 16
Baltimore Ravens 21 12 9
Houston Texans 31 13 18
Chicago Bears 14 14 0
San Diego Chargers 11 15 -4
Philadelphia Eagles 4 16 -12
Carolina Panthers 8 17 -9
Indianapolis Colts 12 18 -6
Miami Dolphins 18 19 -1
Kansas City Chiefs 10 20 -10
Cleveland Browns 26 21 5
St. Louis Rams 17 22 -5
New York Jets 15 23 -8
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 24 -5
Dallas Cowboys 24 25 -1
New York Giants 23 26 -3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 27 -2
Buffalo Bills 22 28 -6
Tennessee Titans 20 29 -9
Minnesota Vikings 29 30 -1
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 31 1
Oakland Raiders 30 32 -2