32. New York Jets: I think there is a good chance the Jets have the leagues worst record in 2014. Uncertainty about whether Geno Smith or Michael Vick starts at quarterback along with players on the team with huge egos costs the team.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jacksonville will remain a doormat team in the NFL until Blake Bortles is named the starting quarterback.
30. Cleveland Browns: Josh Gordon has been suspended for the entire season after another off-the-field incident. RIP 2014 Cleveland Browns season.
29. Houston Texans: How can Houston win without a quarterback? The Texans' may move down to 31 or 32 on the power rankings if they are foolish enough to trade Andre Johnson.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The rest of the NFC South has 3 top 15 quarterbacks with Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton. I won't believe that Tampa Bay is a winner until I see it.
27. Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota could go 9-7 if they started Teddy Bridgewater week 1. For now the Vikings come in at 27 on the list because Matt Cassel is projected to start.
26. St. Louis Rams: The St. Louis Rams drafted Greg Robinson hoping to fortify the offensive line. Finding a second offensive tackle to compliment Jake Long was this teams top priority. A few days after the 2014 NFL Draft, the Rams' opted to move Robinson inside to left guard. Robinson has struggled playing left guard during mini-camp drills after making offensive line coaches gush over his potential with his performance at the 2014 NFL Combine. Last thing the Rams need is another Jason Smith.
25. New York Giants: The New York Giants did nothing to upgrade the offensive or defensive lines. Expect another mediocre season by the New York Giants.
24. Kansas City Chiefs: Without Brandon Flowers, I expect the Chiefs to take a huge step back. Eric Fisher will eventually become a premium starter at left tackle. He struggled at right tackle during his rookie season, so he may struggle to learn how to pass block in year 2 at left tackle. Fisher will become a premier left tackle in 2015 after being the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
23. Oakland Raiders: Oakland has a cornerback tandem of D.J. Hayden their 2013 first-round pick and Carlos Rodgers at cornerback. Oakland had an outstanding free agency and NFL Draft for the first time in years. Oakland will finish ahead of Kansas City or San Diego. This franchise invested too much this off-season during the 2014 Free Agency Period and the 2014 NFL Draft to finish in last place again.
22. Dallas Cowboys: Dallas has a complete offense when Romo is healthy and plays turnover free football. The Cowboys' defense is too irrelevant for this team to make the playoffs. Last season they were 28th in run defense and dead last in the NFL in pass defense. Do not forget that middle linebacker Sean Lee is out for the season.
21. Carolina Panthers: Carolina has a defense that can contend along with a potential top 5 quarterback in Cam Newton. Unfortunately Newton has no pass blocking offensive tackles and lacks a true #1 receiver since Benjamin was Winston's secondary target at Florida State. Carolina will need to run the ball to win games because they have a strong interior offensive line.
20. Detroit Lions: Detroit is loaded on offense with playmakers. Besides left tackle Riley Reiff, nobody on the Lions' offensive line can pass block. Did I mention that the secondary is garbage too despite having a deadly front 7 that is capable of finishing in the top 10 in sacks and run stuffing.
Turnovers hurt the Lions in 2014. Stafford posted a career high fumbles and his worst interception amount since his rookie season. Reggie Bush had a career high in fumbles lost while the Lions' defense led the NFL in penalties.
Jim Schwartz had to go. Not sure if Jim Caldwell was the right hire since Joe Flacco and Ray Rice had career low seasons with Baltimore in 2013 after the Ravens won Super Bowl 47.
19. Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton is not an elite quarterback because he cannot win in the playoffs. Andrew Whitworth may start at left guard instead of left tackle. Carlos Dunlap was a left end in Cincinnati his entire career even though he played right end with the Florida Gators. Darqueze Dennard was a boundary corner at Michigan State and is now the top corner on Cincinnati's roster. Losing Jay Gruden and Mike ZImmer as coordinators also hurts. I have a feeling that one or more of these setbacks keeps Cincinnati from a playoff appearance.
18. Miami Dolphins: Bill Lazor was an offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles before he came to Miami. If Lazor designs an offense where Tannehill has to throw on the run and move out of the pocket. Even if Tannehill posts good numbers again, I still think he misses the playoffs in year 1 with Lazor.
17. Buffalo Bills: I love what Buffalo has going with E.J. Manuel. Bringing in Sammy Watkins to compliment Manuel will be cool. I think Buffalo starts the season 6-2 after 8 games due to an easy schedule going 2-2 in November being 8-4 after 12 games. Buffalo loses four in a row and finishes 8-8 after being one game ahead of the New England Patriots heading into December.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Arizona has a much improved offense in year 3. The Cardinals brought in left tackle Jared Veldheer from free agency. Drafting Troy Niklas at tight end out of Notre Dame in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft will help. Palmer will have a big tight end to throw to in addition to having Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Ted Ginn Jr. as his receiving targets. Missing the regular season may have been the best thing for Jonathan Cooper since he would have had to play right guard rather than playing left guard which was his natural position at North Carolina. Bradley Sowell will move to right tackle after starting most of the 2013 season at left tackle. No doubt this offense improved in the passing game.
On defense you have a formidable 3-4 defensive line featuring Darnell Docket, Dan Williams, and Calias Campbell. Having Frostee Rucker, Alameda Ta'amu, and Kareem Martin as backups on this 3-4 defensive line will do wonders too. The secondary will be led by Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson. Peterson had to carry this secondary his first two seasons. Now he has Antonio Cromartie to compliment him at cornerback along with rookie strong safety Deonne Buccannon. Tyran Mathieu AKA the "Honey Badger" may do better in year 2 after struggling in coverage during his rookie season.
Having no pass rushers and a weak linebacking core will keep Arizona from the playoffs. Playing in the NFC West will also likely keep them out. Also keep in mind that teams that host the Super Bowl rarely make the playoffs. Super Bowl 49 is in Arizona just saying.
15. Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta has a top five offense when healthy. Sam Baker and Jake Matthews will give Matt Ryan tons of time in the pocket while opening up running lanes for Steven Jackson. Having interior offensive lineman like left guard Justin Blaylock, center Peter Konz, and right guard Jon Asamoah also helps. Julio Jones is back at full health along with Roddy White.
Atlanta runs a combination of plays from the 4-3 and the 3-4 scheme. There was speculation that Atlanta switched to a 3-4 last season, but I believe they run a 4-3. Regardless, I expect the Falcons' defense to be suspect. That keeps Atlanta out of the 2015 NFL Playoffs.
14. Chicago Bears: Chicago has the one of the best rushers in the NFC with Matt Forte. You also have the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL with Marshall and Jeffery. This offensive line is Jay Cutler's best to date. Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills emerged as quality starters at offensive tackle last season. Garza did good, but Cutler had no consistent play at guard. This year Matt Slauson will play left guard while 2013 first-round pick Kyle Long plays right guard.
Chicago brought in two new pass rushers with right end Jared Allen and left end Lamaar Houston. Everybody on this defense has a role. I think Jon Bostic will step up this season after being a 2013 second-round pick.
If Chicago misses the playoffs it is all on Cutler. Jay Cutler only had one season with less than ten interceptions, that was his 2011-2012 season where he suffered a season-ending injury.
13. San Diego Chargers: San Diego brought in Brandon Flowers from the Chiefs. If they can defeat the Baltimore Ravens or the Tennessee Titans then they could end up getting back to the playoffs as a wild card once again. While this offensive line is overrated, Rivers had the best completion percentage in the NFL last season. Left tackle King Dunlap is in a contract year, and having Dwight Freeney healthy along with Flowers at CB makes San Diego's odds of making the playoffs that much higher.
San Diego won't go to the Super Bowl, but I could see them defeating a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers if they got the six seed and then getting lucky against Manning in the divisional round making a run to the AFC Championship assuming Freeney and Flowers are both healthy while the defense avoids injuries.
12. Washington Redskins: The Washington Redskins are my six seed in the NFC. After a 6-6 start, Washington wins four straight games to go to 10-6 by claiming the final wild card spot.
Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, and Arizona could all go 10-6 . Why should Washington get the final wild card?
Robert Griffin III will thrive in Jay Gruden's offense. Having wide receivers like DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Santana Moss in the slot does wonders for Griffin. Griffin can throw on the run and has more upper body strength than he did as a rookie coming out of Baylor.
You haven't seen Griffin in any off-the-field commercials. After his rookie season he did the Subway and Gatorade commercials to make some additional side money. He hasn't done any commercials this off-season because he knows his job is on the line again.
Griffin carried this passing game during his rookie season when he had a weak offensive line. Besides left tackle Trent Williams, nobody on the offensive line could pass block in Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme. Cincinnati operated a run blocking offensive line when Gruden was offensive coordinator with the Bengals. Morgan Moses started right tackle at Virginia for four consecutive seasons. He will become a great pass blocker complimenting Williams. Griffin will have more time in the pocket to throw the ball and he can hand the ball off to Alfred Morris who will thrive in the new run-blocking offensive line.
On defense you have a pass-rushing tandem of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Both guys can generate double-digit sacks. Having Darryl Sharpton and Perry Riley at middle linebacker will help. Having reserve pass-rushers like Rob Jackson, Trent Murphy, and Brandon Jenkins will help. Washington has guys that can rush the quarterback along with the linebackers to make big plays.
Free safety Ryan Clark will help channel the egos of DeAngelo Hall and Brandon Meriweather. All three of these players along with second-year cornerback David Amerson will thrive on this secondary.
The Washington Redskins have enough talent to get into the 2015 NFL Playoffs by winning in December making a late-season run. Once January arrives, they will struggle to win a playoff game.
11. Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore goes 11-5 and gets the six seed in the AFC barely edging out the San Diego Chargers for the final wild card. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice will improve upon last year with Gary Kubiak as the new offensive coordinator.
Having Steve Smith and Torrey Smith run effective routes will serve Baltimore well. The Ravens' have a chance to win as long as Flacco doesn't throw 22 interceptions like he did in 2013.
Baltimore drafted two starters at middle linebacker and free safety with C.J. Mosley and Terrence Brooks. Baltimore finally found two potential replacements for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in the 2014 NFL Draft. Neither Mosley or Brooks will replace what Lewis or Reed accomplished. These guys will be quality starters that fill the void that both players left after retiring in 2013 following Super Bowl 47.
I have the Ravens facing the 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens are 0-3 all time at Heniz Field. I don't expect them to break that trend anytime soon.
10. Tennessee Titans: Tennessee gets the five seed in the AFC going 11-5. Jake Locker has a quality offensive line and will correct accuracy flaws in his game under Ken Whisenhunt. This is assuming Locker stays healthy, which I think he will now that you drafted Taylor Lewan and signed Michael Oher in free agency.
Having receivers like Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, and Justin Hunter will do wonders for his game. I also think roookie running back Bishop Sankey will thrive in Tennessee.
With a healthy Locker, the Titans will clinch a wild card by making a playoff appearance. The Titans' need to reload on defense in the 2015 NFL Draft by finding some pieces for the 3-4 defense before they win playoff games and become a threat to the Colts.
9. Philadelphia Eagles: The Philadelphia Eagles are my NFC East Champion and the four seed in my NFC Playoffs with an 11-5 record. You have Nick Foles along with all five of your offensive lineman guaranteed on this roster for the next two seasons. With that in mind, Philadelphia will be a powerhouse in the NFC East during 2014 and 2015 assuming Foles makes good choices while this group of guys sticks together.
One problem the Eagles have is finding players on secondary. You really don't expect the Eagles to get by one of the NFC West power house teams like the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks right.
8. Seattle Seahawks Seattle could be a top 4 team and lots of people will criticize me for not making them one. Teams will be gunning after Seattle, and I think they finish 11-5 second in the NFC West with the 49ers going 12-4. That would make Seattle the five seed in the NFC.
Seattle will edge out the Eagles and go to New Orleans to take on the Saints. New Orleans made some key upgrades on secondary with Champ Bailey and Jarius Byrd. Kenny Vaccaro will start at safety after a season-ending injury midway through 2013. Seattle still has Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, and Maxwell.
Both Drew Brees and Russell Wilson would have problems throwing the ball. New Orleans is nearly unbeatable at home. While the Seahawks and 49ers have the best chance of dethroning the Saints in New Orleans, I think the Saints' are too good to lose their first playoff game at home to one of these teams.
All of us agree that Seattle should be ranked much higher than eighth. Because the Seahawks were the only five seed to make it past the opening round, they come in at eighth on this list. One thing I will say is that Russell Wilson will probably win a second Super Bowl. I just don't think it will be this season.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh ends up going 11-5 and winning the AFC North due to strength of schedule. After receiving the three seed they face the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field where Pittsburgh is 3-0 against the Ravens in the NFL Playoffs.
Todd Haley will have new positional coaches working under him like running backs coach James Saxson and offensive line coach Mike Munchak. Quarterbacks/wide receiver coach Randy Fitchner will help Roethlisberger keep his ego in check if tension arises with Todd Haley again.
Coach Tomlin knows what is expected of him, and I think Pittsburgh drafted two premium starters to solidify the defensive line with Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh is not good enough to get by the Broncos, Patriots, or Colts.
6. Green Bay Packers: Green Bay will go 11-5 and occupy the three seed in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers will carve the Redskins at Lambeau Field because this is his best team since the Packers won Super Bowl 45.
David Bakhitiari will remain at left tackle after a stellar rookie season. Former left tackle Bryan Bulaga will move to right tackle and be an asset if he stays healthy. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang will thrive at guard while J.C. Tretter plays center.
The wide receivers have been tremendous this off-season. Outside of Rodgers, wide receiver is the strong suit of the Packers. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, DaVante Adams playing the slot as a rookie, Jarrett Boykin moving to a backup role, and having Jared Abbrederis as a #5 guy gives Rodgers the guys to throw to. Having Eddie Lacy in the backfield doesn't hurt either after his 284 carries, 1,178 rushing yards, and 11 rushing touchdowns.
The defense will feature multiple pass-rushers with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk are both capable of registering 100 total tackles. Having Mike Davis, B.J. Raji, and Datone Jones on the Packers' 3-4 defensive line will help.
Late last season, Sam Shields emerged into a solid #2 corner at the boundary across from Tramon Williams. Morgan Burnett finally has a quality safety starting across from him in HaHa Clinton-Dix. Having special teams with Mason Crosby at kicker helps too.
Until Green Bay defeats the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick in the NFL Playoffs, they cannot call themselves a top 5 team in the NFL.
5. Denver Broncos: Denver will go 14-2 in the regular season and have the NFL's best regular season record for a third straight season. Tom Brady was disgusted that Seattle schooled Denver that easily in Super Bowl 48. Brady is motivated to beat Manning on the road in Denver.
If these teams meet again in the playoffs I think that may happen. New England has a ton of depth at secondary. 4 corners capable of starting, 2 strong safeties capable of starting, and 2 free safeties capable of starting. Darrell Revis and Brandon Browner can contain Manning's wide receivers.
Also, if Rob Gronkowski is healthy the Patriots can win this contest. Aqib Talib always gets injured for the Patriots during the AFC Championship. Denver has nobody in the nickel or the dime that can start if Talib or rookie Bradley Roby goes down with an injury. Roby struggled in coverage when you watched his Ohio State tape. Brady has a much better chance of picking apart Denver's new secondary than Manning does of picking apart New England's secondary.
4. New England Patriots: The New England Patriots are 7-5 heading into December before winning four straight games to finish the regular season 11-5. Brady wins two playoff games against the Titans and the Broncos.
You have Tom Brady at quarterback. Brady will still deliver. Facing the Indianapolis Colts on the road may work out for the Colts because Luck does better in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Having a secondary with four corners like Revis, Browner, Dennard, and Logan Ryan is something. Having two strong safeties like Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon at strong safety is something else. Having two free safeties like Devon McCourty and Tavon Wilson that can start gives New England a badass secondary.
If New England can continue to pass block effectively without offensive line coach Dante Scarneccia, then they will likely go to Arizona. If linebackers Jerod Mayo, Donta Hightower, and Jamie Collins adjust to their respective roles at linebacker while the defensive line stays healthy, New England will win the Lombardi Trophy.
I just have this strange feeling that Luck finds a way to maintain his composure and pick apart this secondary. Last year during the 2014 NFL Playoff press conferences, Brady gave off a cocky vibe by calling former teammate Adam Vinatieri one of the best kickers ever after Vinatieri won three Super Bowls with New England. Karma is bound to work in Luck's favor with the Colts hosting the AFC Title game after Luck appeared so poised in that game.
All the experts will say Luck has no chance against a much tougher secondary if these teams meet for the AFC Title because Luck struggled in Gillette Stadium. That will motivate the Colts, Brady will choke in the AFC Title game for the third season in a row, and many Patriots fans besides myself will be disappointed in the Patriots.
3. New Orleans Saints: Everybody will expect the top seed 12-4 New Orleans Saints to win the NFC Championship at home in New Orleans. San Francisco will use ball control to deliver in the running game while the Saints' struggle to run the ball.
Having no pass-rusher that can get by left tackles to register 10 sacks in the regular season or no running back to compliment a passing game led by Drew Brees speaks disaster.
2. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have enough talent on both sides of the ball to get to Super Bowl 49. One reason why they fail to win the Super Bowl is because they lack any cornerbacks. Carlos Rodgers is gone and nobody else on San Francisco can play cornerback.
When we look back on Colin Kaepernick's career we may end up reflecting on how Kaepernick lost two Super Bowls 47 and 49 while Russell Wilson won two Super Bowls 48 and 50. That would be something else.
1. Indianapolis Colts: My regular season prediction involves the Colts defeating the 49ers. Donald Thomas, Khaled Holmes, and Jack Mewhort will make the interior offensive line strong. Andrew Luck has multiple targets to throw to at wide receiver including Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, DaRick Rodgers, and Griff Whalen. Don't forget that Luck also has two tight ends with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Allen got placed on IR along with Donald Thomas after week 1 last season.
The Colts have Vontae Davis and LaRon Landry on secondary. Their secondary is better then the 49ers. Regardless of whether the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, or Indianapolis Colts win the AFC, I think one of those three teams will defeat the 49ers in Super Bowl 49.
By: Chris Ransom Follow him on Twitter @CMRRansom
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