2014 NFP preseason power rankings

Contrary to popular belief, these power rankings do not exist for the sole purpose of pissing you off. I write this knowing full well that 85 percent of you have skipped this introductory paragraph, just finished scrolling down to find your favorite team and are now in the process of heading to either the comments section or twitter to let loose a stream of vitriolic acid that would make both Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith cease whatever farcical garbage they are currently spewing to bask in the glow of your disdainful diatribe.

I’m throwing around a lot of big words right now and I’m sure that some of you are taking them as a sign of disrespect. Don’t. The preseason hasn’t even started yet and you’ll need to pace yourself and conserve energy if you want to make it through another professional football campaign with your hairline intact and your blood pressure free from a change in diet.

Getting down to brass tacks, the following power rankings are the result of a formula I have been tinkering with since last summer. There’s a good chance another edition will be released just before the start of the regular season to account for any major injuries that occurred during the month of August, but after countless hours of putting together this research, I’m confident in the information you’ll find below.

The numbers in brackets indicate each team’s Power Ranking, which is based on a scale of 60-100. These numbers can be used as a baseline to determine the point spread between any two teams on the list. Keep in mind that these numbers do not account for home field advantage, situational analysis (extra rest, back-to-back road games, divisional rivalries, etc), injuries, weather or public perception. They are merely to be used as a baseline for your initial analysis.

Pythagorean Wins: A concept introduced by renowned baseball sabermetrics expert Bill James, Pythagorean Wins is an approximation of a given team’s win total based on points scored and points surrendered.

1. New Orleans Saints [91.0]

2013 Record: 11-5
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 10.8
2013 Turnover Differential: 0

DC Rob Ryan pulled this defense from the bottom of the sewer and transformed it into a unit that surrendered just 19.0 points per game (fourth-fewest in NFL) one year later. Ryan’s crew will be even better this season thanks to a year in the system and the addition of free agent safety Jairus Byrd. New Orleans will be riding a wave of emotion in 2014 and the organization is well aware of the fact that the Super Bowl window is closing. This one’s for owner Tom Benson.

2. Denver Broncos [90.5]

2013 Record: 13-3
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 11.66
2013 Turnover Differential: 0

San Francisco lost the 2013 Super Bowl and came back the following year to post an 11-5 record en route to a spot in the NFC Championship game, so let’s shelve the “Curse of the Super Bowl loser” talk for the moment. The Broncos have the best quarterback in the game and an upgraded defense thanks to the additions of free agents Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware. The big question is whether or not head coach John Fox can close the show come crunch time.

3. Seattle Seahawks [90.0]

2013 Record: 13-3
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 12.83
2013 Turnover Differential: +20

The most dominant home field advantage in sports, a quarterback gunning for a big payday and a nasty defense that returns all the key pieces. However, the NFL did the defending champs no favors with a high-mileage travel schedule that includes three trips to the east coast.

4. San Francisco 49ers [89.0]

2013 Record: 12-4
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 11.53
2013 Turnover Differential: +12

Michael Crabtree is healthy, Stevie Johnson is in the mix and the contract situation has been resolved. No excuses for Colin Kaepernick in 2014.

T5. New England Patriots [88.5]

2013 Record: 12-4
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 10.49
2013 Turnover Differential: +9

You’re right, the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since February of 2004. They’ve also posted double digit win totals in each of the last 11 years while making seven trips to the AFC Championship game.

T5. Green Bay Packers [88.5]

2013 Record: 8-7-1
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 7.75
2013 Turnover Differential: -3

After winning the 2011 Super Bowl with the league’s fifth-ranked defense, that Packers have ranked 32nd, 11th and 25th, respectively, in total defense over the three seasons since.

7. Philadelphia Eagles [87.5]

2013 Record: 10-6
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 9.36
2013 Turnover Differential: +12

This team is light years ahead of where they were last season at this time. And if a 10-win season topped off with a divisional title is what Philly could accomplish while learning a new system, imagine how far they can go in Chip Kelly’s second year at the helm.

8. Indianapolis Colts [87.0]

2013 Record: 11-5
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 9.42
2013 Turnover Differential: +13

Andrew Luck has been in the NFL for only two years and already has three playoff games and a .687 regular season winning percentage under his belt.

T9. Chicago Bears [86.5]

2013 Record: 8-8
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 7.32
2013 Turnover Differential: +5

Free agent pass rushers Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston upgrade a defense that ranked 30th in the NFL last season, but the real story here is how first-year head coach Marc Trestman took the league’s 28th ranked offense from 2012 and transformed it into a unit that ranked eighth a year later. Quarterback Jay Cutler has to find a way to stay healthy.

T9. Cincinnati Bengals [86.5]

2013 Record: 11-5
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 11.08
2013 Turnover Differential: +1

Defensive end Michael Johnson is gone (Tampa Bay), as are coordinators Jay Gruden (Washington) and Mike Zimmer (Minnesota). The quarterback is on the hot seat and the head coach can’t win in the playoffs. There’s no denying the talent on the Cincinnati roster, but it’s tough to rate this team any higher with all of those aforementioned question marks.

T11. Baltimore Ravens [86.0]

2013 Record: 8-8
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 7.1
2013 Turnover Differential: -5

If it’s true that “contracts are awarded based on what a player is expected to do, not what he has already done,” then it’s time for Joe Flacco to start making good on that “faith” the Ravens showed him last year. Torrey Smith, Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta make up one hell of a receiving unit.

T11. Pittsburgh Steelers [86.0]

2013 Record: 8-8
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 8.22
2013 Turnover Differential: -4

Last season featured some of the worst Steelers football we’ve seen in a decade and the team still found a way to grind out eight wins. Second-year wideout Markus Wheaton needs to make impact in 2014.

T11. Carolina Panthers [86.0]

2013 Record: 12-4
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 11.66
2013 Turnover Differential: +11

There are teams like the Houston Texans who possess all the pieces to the puzzle except for a franchise quarterback. Then there’s the Carolina Panthers, who have a franchise quarterback surrounded by one of the worst supporting casts in the National Football League. What good is an elite defense if the offense is going three-and-out 50 percent of the time?

T14. Kansas City Chiefs [85.5]

2013 Record: 11-5
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 11.08
2013 Turnover Differential: +18

Which Kansas City team are we going to get this season? The one that went 9-0 while surrendering an average of just 326.8 total yards per game through the first nine contests of the 2013 campaign, or the crash-and-burn unit that went 2-5 down the stretch while getting torched for 420.4 yards per game? I’m predicting it’s somewhere in the middle, which does not include a trip to the playoffs.

T14. San Diego Chargers [85.5]

2013 Record: 9-7
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 9.21
2013 Turnover Differential: -4

Head coach Mike McCoy did more with this team last season than anybody dreamed was possible, which includes serving as the architect for the resurgence of left-for-dead signal-caller Philip Rivers. There are still a couple of glaring holes on the San Diego roster, but gone are the days when this team was a lock to flame-out in the clutch.

T16. Atlanta Falcons [85.0]

2013 Record: 4-12
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 5.89
2013 Turnover Differential: -7

The return of a healthy Julio Jones as well as upgrades along the offensive and defensive lines will result in a higher level of play for the Falcons in 2014. But you can’t help but wonder if this team missed its window and is now fighting simply to contend in the ultra-crowded NFC.

T16. Arizona Cardinals [85.0]

2013 Record: 10-6
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 9.46
2013 Turnover Differential: -1

I’ve got a feeling this one if going to stir up a heated debate from those who feel the Cardinals are deserving of a much higher spot in the rankings. I’m cool with it, but just remember that despite the tremendous job head coach Bruce Arians did last year, he’s still working with a 34-year-old turnover-prone quarterback in Carson Palmer, a No. 1 wideout in Larry Fitzgerald whose best years are behind him and a defense that is down its top two tacklers in Karlos Dansby (free agency) and Daryl Washington (suspension). The Cardinals would make a whole lot of noise in a place like the AFC South, but in the league’s premier division, they are fighting with a rising St. Louis team for third.

T16. Detroit Lions [85.0]

2013 Record: 7-9
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 8.46
2013 Turnover Differential: -12

Between Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Reggie Bush and rookie Eric Ebron, this offense is absolutely loaded. However, the questions in Detroit, as usual, come down to whether or not quarterback Matthew Stafford can limit the mistakes while the unheralded secondary tries to limit the bleeding.

T19. St. Louis Rams [84.5]

2013 Record: 7-9
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 7.57
2013 Turnover Differential: +8

A popular sleeper pick in Las Vegas, the St. Louis defense has all the makings of a championship caliber unit. But this team will only go as far as quarterback Sam Bradford and his 58.6 percent career completion percentage will take them.

T19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [84.5]

2013 Record: 4-12
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 5.26
2013 Turnover Differential: +10

If nothing else, new head coach Lovie Smith is going to transform the Tampa defense into one of the five best units in the league. And if veteran quarterback Josh McCown can find a way to move the sticks and limit the turnovers, the Buccaneers could very well find themselves in the playoff picture come December.

T21. Washington [84.0]

2013 Record: 3-13
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 4.79
2013 Turnover Differential: -8

New coaching staff, a healthy RG3 and the addition of big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Washington will find itself challenging Philadelphia for the NFC East crown if they can figure out a way to play some defense this season.

T21. New York Giants [84.0]

2013 Record: 2013 Pythagorean Wins: 5.57
2013 Turnover Differential: -15

Do Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have one more rally left in the tank, or has this franchise bottomed out to the point where an overhaul is in order?

T23. Houston Texans [83.5]

2013 Record: 2-14
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 4.17
2013 Turnover Differential: -20

For the guy who found a way to steady the ship at Penn State in the midst of the most horrific scandal in college football history, turning around the 2-14 Houston Texans will feel like a walk in the park. Bill O’Brien has an elite defense at his disposal, but has to find a way to grind out some wins with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.

T23. New York Jets [83.5]

2013 Record: 8-8
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 5.36
2013 Turnover Differential: -14

Rex Ryan doesn’t give a damn what you think about him, just so long as he’s got the attention of the locker room. With the possible exception of San Diego’s Mike McCoy, no head coach got more out of less last season than Ryan, who brings another nasty defense to the field in 2014. But the Jets are going to struggle this year if Geno Smith doesn’t elevate his game in a hurry because veteran Michael Vick is well past his prime and can’t be counted on to stay healthy.

T23. Miami Dolphins [83.5]

2013 Record: 8-8
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 7.47
2013 Turnover Differential: -2

This is a make-or-break year for head coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who will be without star center Mike Pouncey until late October and desperately need overpaid wideout Mike Wallace to step up and earn his salary. Take a good long look at this organization and see if you can find any viable reason to believe the Dolphins will be a legitimate threat this season.

T23. Dallas Cowboys [83.5]

2013 Record: 8-8
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 8.15
2013 Turnover Differential: +8

To paraphrase a line from comedian Dave Chappelle, “What can I say about the Dallas defense that hasn’t already been said about Afghanistan? It looks bombed out and depleted.”

Defensive woes aside, the Cowboys haven’t won more than eight games in a season since 2009 and quarterback Tony Romo is 34-years-old and coming off back surgery. If Dallas wants any chance at all of making it four straight years with a Week 17 loss for the right to go to the playoffs, they’ll need to keep Romo upright and healthy because serviceable backup Kyle Orton i s gone and has been replaced by Cleveland castoff Brandon Weeden.

27. Tennessee Titans [83.0]

2013 Record: 7-9
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 7.51
2013 Turnover Differential: 0

Like so many other teams on this list, the fate of the Tennessee season will be tied to a young quarterback who needs to jump-start his game in a hurry or risk washing out of the professional ranks. The upside for Jake Locker is that new head coach Ken Whisenhunt played an integral role in Philip Rivers’ turnaround last season, so there’s hope.

T28. Cleveland Browns [82.5]

2013 Record: 4-12
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 5.47
2013 Turnover Differential: -8

Lost in the Pulitzer-winning news coverage of Johnny Manziel’s Vegas bathroom breaks is the fact that the Browns are going to trot a pretty damn good defensive unit onto the field in 2014. But the loss of Josh Gordon at wide receiver delivered a serious blow to the Cleveland offense…no matter which quarterback winds up under center.

T28. Minnesota Vikings [82.5]

2013 Record: 5-10-1
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 6.09
2013 Turnover Differential: -12

Generally a collection of people I thoroughly enjoy conversing with, Minnesota fans went ape shit last summer when I power-ranked their beloved Vikings in the bottom third of my rankings. I tried to have the last laugh come December, but by that point nobody gave a damn what I had to say on the matter.

This season is a different story. Gone are the playoff expectations, arrived has the rebuilding process. Bring rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater along at his own pace and start looking towards the future.

30. Buffalo Bills [82.0]

2013 Record: 6-10
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 6.73
2013 Turnover Differential: +3

I really want to rank this team about five spots higher, but I’ve got to see something on the field before that can happen. The Bills haven’t posted a winning record since 2004, haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999 and just lost stud linebacker Kiko Alonso for the entire 2014 campaign. Still, there is hope in the form of offensive skill players Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and C.J. Spiller, who give second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel more than enough firepower to succeed.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars [80.5]

2013 Record: 4-12
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 3.12
2013 Turnover Differential: -6

Patience, Jacksonville fans. Head coach Gus Bradley has something cooking in north Florida, which was evident in the Jaguars’ 4-4 record over the final eight games of the 2014 season. This is a young offense that will need time to adjust to life at the professional ranks but, mark my words, come next summer, this team won’t be bottom-dwelling like usual in the power rankings department.

32. Oakland Raiders [80.0]

2013 Record: 4-12
2013 Pythagorean Wins: 4.42
2013 Turnover Differential: -9

Not even the Raiders are excited about the Raiders this season. Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack is certainly worth watching, but by the time this team is finally ready to start making some noise in the AFC, all that money that was spent during the off-season (Justin Tuck, James Jones, Matt Schaub, Lamarr Woodley, etc.) will be retired or well past its prime.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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