Football / Sports

NFL preview: NFC power rankings, team capsules

1. Seattle Seahawks

--Last season's record: 13-3

--Coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider, quarterback Russell Wilson and a stifling defense make the Seahawks as likely to repeat as Super Bowl champion as any team in recent memory. This team has no question marks entering the season and is blessed with perhaps the league's best defense, a well-balanced offense, home-field advantage and unparalleled depth.

--Schedule

Sept. 4 Green Bay

Sept. 14 at San Diego

Sept. 21 Denver

Sept. 28 Bye

Oct. 6 at Washington

Oct. 12 Dallas

Oct. 19 at St. Louis

Oct. 26 at Carolina

Nov. 2 Oakland

Nov. 9 N.Y. Giants

Nov. 16 at Kansas City

Nov. 23 Arizona

Nov. 27 at S.F.

Dec. 7 at Philadelphia

Dec. 14 S.F.

Dec. 21 at Arizona

Dec. 28 St. Louis

2. San Francisco 49ers

--Last season's record: 12-4

--The 49ers added WRs Steve Johnson and Brandon Lloyd, CB Chris Cook and S Antoine Bethea in free agency and DB Jimmie Ward and C Marcus Martin in the draft after they jettisoned CBs Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, C Jonathan Goodwin and SS Donte Whitner. None of this matters unless they find a way to beat the Seahawks.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 at Dallas

Sept. 14 Chicago

Sept. 21 at Arizona

Sept. 28 Philadelphia

Oct. 5 Kansas City

Oct. 13 at St. Louis

Oct. 19 at Denver

Oct. 26 Bye

Nov. 2 St. Louis

Nov. 9 at New Orleans

Nov. 16 at N.Y. Giants

Nov. 23 Washington

Nov. 27 Seattle

Dec. 7 at Oakland

Dec. 14 at Seattle

Dec. 20 San Diego

Dec. 28 Arizona

3. New Orleans Saints

--Last season's record: 11-5

--Quarterback Drew Brees wants to play until he's 45. It might take Brees that long to get back to a Super Bowl if the Saints keep letting valued players such as RB Darren Sproles and WR Lance Moore get away. They did score direct hits by drafting speedy WR Brandin Cooks and signing veteran S Jairus Byrd.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 at Atlanta

Sept. 14 at Cleveland

Sept. 21 Minnesota

Sept. 28 at Dallas

Oct. 5 Tampa Bay

Oct. 12 Bye

Oct. 19 at Detroit

Oct. 26 Green Bay

Oct. 30 at Carolina

Nov. 9 S.F.

Nov. 16 Cincinnati

Nov. 24 Baltimore

Nov. 30 at Pittsburgh

Dec. 7 Carolina

Dec. 15 at Chicago

Dec. 21 Atlanta

Dec. 28 at Tampa Bay

4. Philadelphia Eagles

--Last season's record: 10-6

--Chip Kelly now knows that his high-flying offense works in the NFL. The return of WR Jeremy Maclin from a knee injury and the addition of RB Darren Sproles should mask the loss of No. 1 WR DeSean Jackson. Kelly needs to find a way to get comparable results from his leaky defense before the Eagles take full flight.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 Jacksonville

Sept. 15 at Indianapolis

Sept. 21 Washington

Sept. 28 at S.F.

Oct. 5 St. Louis

Oct. 12 N.Y. Giants

Oct. 19 Bye

Oct. 26 at Arizona

Nov. 2 at Houston

Nov. 10 Carolina

Nov. 16 at Green Bay

Nov. 23 Tennessee

Nov. 27 at Dallas

Dec. 7 Seattle

Dec. 14 Dallas

Dec. 20 at Washington

Dec. 28 at N.Y. Giants

5. Atlanta Falcons

--Last season's record: 4-12

--The Falcons get back WR Julio Jones from a season-ending foot injury and first-round draftee Jake Matthews to help revamp a shaky offensive line. However, there's still the need to replace retired TE Tony Gonzalez, find an every-down running back and add fire to a toothless defense.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 New Orleans

Sept. 14 at Cincinnati

Sept. 18 Tampa Bay

Sept. 28 at Minnesota

Oct. 5 at N.Y. Giants

Oct. 12 Chicago

Oct. 19 at Baltimore

Oct. 26 Detroit

Nov. 2 Bye

Nov. 9 at Tampa Bay

Nov. 16 at Carolina

Nov. 23 Cleveland

Nov. 30 Arizona

Dec. 8 at Green Bay

Dec. 14 Pittsburgh

Dec. 21 at New Orleans

Dec. 28 Carolina

6. Green Bay Packers

--Last season's record: 8-7-1

--Rookie WR Davante Adams gives QB Aaron Rodgers another inviting option in the passing game, which he needs after losing WR James Jones and TE Jermichael Finley. In reality, the Packers are going only as far as their defense takes them. Signing the likes of over-the-hill LB Julius Peppers isn't enough.

--Schedule

Sept. 4 at Seattle

Sept. 14 N.Y. Jets

Sept. 21 at Detroit

Sept. 28 at Chicago

Oct. 2 Minnesota

Oct. 12 at Miami

Oct. 19 Carolina

Oct. 26 at New Orleans

Nov. 2 Bye

Nov. 9 Chicago

Nov. 16 Philadelphia

Nov. 23 at Minnesota

Nov. 30 New England

Dec. 8 Atlanta

Dec. 14 at Buffalo

Dec. 21 at Tampa Bay

Dec. 28 Detroit

7. Carolina Panthers

--Last season's record: 12-4

--It's a stretch to envision rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin making Panthers fans forget about mainstay Steve Smith anytime soon. Yet, the Panthers need Benjamin and others to play at a high level from the outset if they are to build upon last season's surprising run.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 at Tampa Bay

Sept. 14 Detroit

Sept. 21 Pittsburgh

Sept. 28 at Baltimore

Oct. 5 Chicago

Oct. 12 at Cincinnati

Oct. 19 at Green Bay

Oct. 26 Seattle

Oct. 30 New Orleans

Nov. 10 at Philadelphia

Nov. 16 Atlanta

Nov. 23 Bye

Nov. 30 at Minnesota

Dec. 7 at New Orleans

Dec. 14 Tampa Bay

Dec. 21 Cleveland

Dec. 28 at Atlanta

8. Chicago Bears

--Last season's record: 8-8

--Coach Marc Trestman showed that the jump from the Canadian Football League to the NFL wasn't too much for him last season. He is hoping that the arrival of veteran DEs Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young gives the Bears a defense that complements an explosive offense led by QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte and WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 Buffalo

Sept. 14 at S.F.

Sept. 22 at N.Y. Jets

Sept. 28 Green Bay

Oct. 5 at Carolina

Oct. 12 at Atlanta

Oct. 19 Miami

Oct. 26 at New England

Nov. 2 Bye

Nov. 9 at Green Bay

Nov. 16 Minnesota

Nov. 23 Tampa Bay

Nov. 27 at Detroit

Dec. 4 Dallas

Dec. 15 New Orleans

Dec. 21 Detroit

Dec. 28 at Minnesota

9. Detroit Lions

--Last season's record: 7-9

--Offensive-minded Jim Caldwell replaces Jim Schwartz as coach, WR Golden Tate was signed away from the Seahawks as a complement to all-world receiver Calvin Johnson, and the Lions selected TE Eric Ebron in the first round. QB Matthew Stafford has every reason to be giddy, but Lions fans still must be wondering how the defense is going to stop teams from scoring.

--Schedule

Sept. 8 N.Y. Giants

Sept. 14 at Carolina

Sept. 21 Green Bay

Sept. 28 at N.Y. Jets

Oct. 5 Buffalo

Oct. 12 at Minnesota

Oct. 19 New Orleans

Oct. 26 at Atlanta

Nov. 2 Bye

Nov. 9 Miami

Nov. 16 at Arizona

Nov. 23 at New England

Nov. 27 Chicago

Dec. 7 Tampa Bay

Dec. 14 Minnesota

Dec. 21 at Chicago

Dec. 28 at Green Bay

10. Arizona Cardinals

--Last season's record: 10-6

--They were the only team to win at Seattle last season, proving they can beat the league's best team even in adverse conditions. They also know this: Three of their six losses were by three points, and the Cardinals came within a win of making the playoffs. QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald aren't getting any younger. The window is closing.

--Schedule

Sept. 8 San Diego

Sept. 14 at N.Y. Giants

Sept. 21 S.F.

Sept. 28 Bye

Oct. 5 at Denver

Oct. 12 Washington

Oct. 19 at Oakland

Oct. 26 Philadelphia

Nov. 2 at Dallas

Nov. 9 St. Louis

Nov. 16 Detroit

Nov. 23 at Seattle

Nov. 30 at Atlanta

Dec. 7 Kansas City

Dec. 11 at St. Louis

Dec. 21 Seattle

Dec. 28 at S.F.

11. St. Louis Rams

--Last season's record: 7-9

--The Rams play in the league's toughest division and they have lost QB Sam Bradford to another torn ACL and must turn to Shaun Hill. Adding impact players such as OL Greg Robinson, DT Aaron Donald and RB Tre Mason helps. Defensively, the Rams feature ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, as talented as any end duo in the league.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 Minnesota

Sept. 14 at Tampa Bay

Sept. 21 Dallas

Sept. 28 Bye

Oct. 5 at Philadelphia

Oct. 13 S.F.

Oct. 19 Seattle

Oct. 26 at Kansas City

Nov. 2 at S.F.

Nov. 9 at Arizona

Nov. 16 Denver

Nov. 23 at San Diego

Nov. 30 Oakland

Dec. 7 at Washington

Dec. 11 Arizona

Dec. 21 N.Y. Giants

Dec. 28 at Seattle

12. Dallas Cowboys

--Last season's record: 8-8

--Owner Jerry Jones concedes that he came close to drafting QB Johnny Manziel in the first round of this year's draft. Instead, he is all-in once again, not only with QB Tony Romo, but also with coach Jason Garrett despite three consecutive 8-8 seasons. This can't end well, especially if Manziel flourishes in Cleveland.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 S.F.

Sept. 14 at Tennessee

Sept. 21 at St. Louis

Sept. 28 New Orleans

Oct. 5 Houston

Oct. 12 at Seattle

Oct. 19 N.Y. Giants

Oct. 27 Washington

Nov. 2 Arizona

Nov. 9 at Jacksonville

Nov. 16 Bye

Nov. 23 at N.Y. Giants

Nov. 27 Philadelphia

Dec. 4 at Chicago

Dec. 14 at Philadelphia

Dec. 21 Indianapolis

Dec. 28 at Washington

13. Washington Redskins

--Last season's record: 3-13

--QB Robert Griffin III no longer wears a knee brace or worries about aggravating the injury that required surgery last offseason and limited his effectiveness. Having WR DeSean Jackson to throw to makes life even easier for Griffin. That's fine and dandy for first-year coach Jay Gruden, but where is the help for a defense that allowed an average of 29.9 points per game?

--Schedule

Sept. 7 at Houston

Sept. 14 Jacksonville

Sept. 21 at Philadelphia

Sept. 25 N.Y. Giants

Oct. 6 Seattle

Oct. 12 at Arizona

Oct. 19 Tennessee

Oct. 27 at Dallas

Nov. 2 at Minnesota

Nov. 9 Bye

Nov. 16 Tampa Bay

Nov. 23 at S.F.

Nov. 30 at Indianapolis

Dec. 7 St. Louis

Dec. 14 at N.Y. Giants

Dec. 20 Philadelphia

Dec. 28 Dallas

14. N.Y. Giants

--Last season's record: 7-9

--Longtime coach Tom Coughlin endorsed an offensive-scheme change in hopes of breathing life into aging QB Eli Manning, who struggled with his accuracy and threw a league-high 27 passes interceptions. The change might do Manning some good, but the Giants' issues are too wide-ranging to expect much from them this season.

--Schedule

Sept. 8 at Detroit

Sept. 14 Arizona

Sept. 21 Houston

Sept. 25 at Washington

Oct. 5 Atlanta

Oct. 12 at Philadelphia

Oct. 19 at Dallas

Oct. 26 Bye

Nov. 3 Indianapolis

Nov. 9 at Seattle

Nov. 16 S.F.

Nov. 23 Dallas

Nov. 30 at Jacksonville

Dec. 7 at Tennessee

Dec. 14 Washington

Dec. 21 at St. Louis

Dec. 28 Philadelphia

15. Minnesota Vikings

--Last season's record: 5-10-1

--First-year coach Mike Zimmer arrives with a strong defensive pedigree. Good thing, too, since his Vikings surrendered a league-high 480 points last season. If that's not enough, he also has to figure out whether Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel or rookie Teddy Bridgewater is the best option at QBs. In other words, most rushing yards is the only title Adrian Peterson has a chance of seeing this season.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 at St. Louis

Sept. 14 New England

Sept. 21 at New Orleans

Sept. 28 Atlanta

Oct. 2 at Green Bay

Oct. 12 Detroit

Oct. 19 at Buffalo

Oct. 26 at Tampa Bay

Nov. 2 Washington

Nov. 9 Bye

Nov. 16 at Chicago

Nov. 23 Green Bay

Nov. 30 Carolina

Dec. 7 N.Y. Jets

Dec. 14 at Detroit

Dec. 21 at Miami

Dec. 28 Chicago

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

--Last season's record: 4-12

--Lovie Smith is back with the Buccaneers for a second go-round, only this time as head coach. The cupboard isn't bare, as the Bucs get back RB Doug Martin from injury, CB Alterraun Verner in free agency and WR Mike Evans and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins through the draft. Hope is returning to Tampa, albeit slowly.

--Schedule

Sept. 7 Carolina

Sept. 14 St. Louis

Sept. 18 at Atlanta

Oct. 5 at New Orleans

Oct. 12 Baltimore

Oct. 19 Bye

Oct. 26 Minnesota

Nov. 2 at Cleveland

Nov. 9 Atlanta

Nov. 16 at Washington

Nov. 23 at Chicago

Nov. 30 Cincinnati

Dec. 7 at Detroit

Dec. 14 at Carolina

Dec. 21 Green Bay

Dec. 28 New Orleans

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus