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2013 NFL Power Rankings, final edition: New Year's resolutions

One last edition of the power rankings takes a look at where the 12 teams still playing stand on the eve of the playoffs. As for the other 20 teams, they've got resolutions to fulfill.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NFL regular season is in the books. For twelve lucky teams, 2014 holds the promise of playoff games and the shot at the Lombardi Trophy. For the other 20, unfortunately, 2014 begins with a look back at what went wrong this season. The final edition of the 2013 Power Rankings gives a look ahead for those teams still in the hunt, as well as some New Year's Resolutions for those sitting at home.

1. Seattle Seahawks

NFC No. 1 seed (NFC West champ)

A vintage stomping of the Rams wrapped up a 13-3 campaign and the NFC's top seed for DangerRuss and the Legion of Boom. Seattle should run riot on the New Orleans/Philly winner before needing every bit of the league's biggest home-field advantage to get past a surging Niners squad. From there, it's a well-timed cold weather Super Bowl date. The Seahawks may have the only pass defense capable of truly clamping down the Denver passing game, and General Winter should lend enough of an assist to bring the Lombardi Trophy to the Pacific Northwest. (Last week: 1)

2. Denver Broncos

AFC No. 1 seed (AFC West champ)

Like a boss, Peyton Manning broke the NFL's all-time single season passing mark by a single yard and then dropped the mic. He'll face stiffer resistance than what the Raiders had to offer come playoff time, but the return of Wes Welker should keep the passing game humming and allow Denver to out-shoot whatever a Von Miller-less defense surrenders - at least until they battle Seattle in the Super Bowl. (Last week: 2)

3. San Francisco 49ers

NFC No. 5 seed (NFC wild card)

The Niners needed every bit of fight they had to hold off a determined Cardinals squad, but it's still hard to peg a hotter team coming into the playoffs. While Michael Crabtree may only be running at 75%, San Francisco's offense is running hot while Aldon Smith and the defense are capable of wreaking plenty of havoc. As long as Jim Harbaugh is willing to use Colin Kaepernick's legs and arm in equal measure, the 49ers are fully capable of fighting through their first two opponents for a rubber match with the Seahawks. (Last week: 3)

4. Carolina Panthers

NFC No. 2 seed (NFC South champ)

The Panthers proved that they're much more than overgrown kitty cats this season, but that didn't prevent them from playing with their food and nearly squandering a first-round bye against the lowly Falcons. Cam and company took care of business, but a scant 21 points against Atlanta's pitiful D was a reminder that Carolina's offense isn't replete with weapons. Luke Kuechly and his mates can bring it as strong as any D in the league, but they may come up one possession short if they face the 49ers in the divisional round. (Last week: 4)

5. New England Patriots

AFC No. 2 seed (AFC East champ)

Betting against Tom Brady has proven to be a sucker's game over the years, but Tom barely had to lift a finger last week as LaGarrette Blount ran wild on a faux-formidable Bills defense. It's likely that the New England offense comes up one or two seven-yard outs short against the Broncos in the AFC title game. It's not like Brady dispatching Manning is without historical precedent. (Last week: 5)

6. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC No. 3 seed (AFC North champ)

QBs who throw four interceptions rarely walk out with a victory. It certainly helps when the defense snags three of their own. The theme of Cincy overcoming its quarterback was on display yet again in their win over Baltimore, but it's not a formula that betokens playoff success. The Bengals' D has acquitted itself admirably after losing Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. They'll need Andy Dalton to play above his head a la 2012 Joe Flacco to have any shot at hardware in the postseason. Or at least emulate another Ravens QB and serve as a Trent Dilfer-style bus driver. Anything but actively attempting to send the bus into the ravine. (Last week: 7)

7. Philadelphia Eagles

NFC No. 3 seed (NFC East champ)

The Cowboys gave Philly all they wanted and then some, but Chip Kelly's bunch survived to claim the East crown and the #3 seed in the NFC. They'll face a Saints squad that has them beat on paper, but playoff games aren't played on paper. And since they blew up Veteran's stadium, they aren't played on concrete, either. This game will be played on little rubber blades of fake grass, and since said fake grass isnt in New Orleans it's a good bet that Nick Foles and company will grab a victory - and the right to get slaughtered on the fake grass of CenturyLink field in two weeks. (Last week: 11)


8. New Orleans Saints

NFC No. 6 seed (NFC wild card)

The Superdome Supermen face the unenviable task of winning a game outside of Orleans Parish as they travel to Philadelphia to face Chip Kelly's Eagles. On a neutral field, Drew Brees and Rob Ryan's defense are simply better than what the Eagles have brought to the table this season. But outside of Canton, London and the Super Bowl, NFL games aren't played on neutral fields, and the Saint's tendency to play neutered in opponents' stadiums could spell doom against Philly. (Last week: 8)

9. Indianapolis Colts

AFC No. 4 seed (AFC South champ)

The Colts remain the league's toughest team to figure out, and it's not totally clear whether their own coaching staff has figured them out just yet. At least they've seemed to realize that Andrew Luck throwing for 8 yards a pop is a better option than Trent Richardson running for two yards a carry. It feels like the Colts' defense has been doing it with mirrors for the last few weeks, but mirrors may be sufficient to baffle Alex Smith. (Last week: 9)

10. Arizona Cardinals

New Year's Resolution - Run away from home. The Cards were just in the wrong division this season, and the effort they put forth in their die-hard loss to the 49ers would have thrashed most of the other teams in the NFC. While they won't get to move divisions in the off-season, throwing one or two more bodies at their snake-bitten OL and turning the backfield over to Andre Ellington could be enough to have the Cards playoff-bound next year. (Last week: 6)

11. Green Bay Packers

NFC No. 4 seed (NFC North champ)

Apparently Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb spent their down time watching old John Ford cavalry films. With a third-reel charge that would have done John Wayne proud, Rodgers and Cobb dragged the Pack past Chicago and hooked up for the game's clinching TD on 4th down. A half-crippled defense and a non-NFL left tackle probably spell doom against the 49ers, but don't bet too heavily against the game's deadliest QB. (Last week: 19)


12. Kansas City Chiefs

AFC No. 5 seed (AFC wild card)

The pseudo-Chiefs were one Succop f****p away from banishing the Chargers, and the genuine article gets to take the field against the Colts on Sunday. The genuine article got thrashed by those same Colts a short time ago, but the hope is that Justin Houston's return will get Kansas City's defense back to its destructive ways. Even if Houston rekindles a Twin Terror pass rush, in the playoffs it's usually smart to bet on the best QB. And Alex Smith ... isn't the best QB. (Last week: 10)

13. San Diego Chargers

AFC No. 6 Seed (AFC Wild Card)

The Chargers tried everything they could think of to get the Steelers into the playoffs, but the pseudo-Chiefs simply refused to cooperate. As a result, Philip Rivers and the Chargers' comical defense get to throw down with the Bengals on Wild Card Weekend. If you flipped the QBs in this matchup, the Bengals would win by 28. As Rivers and Dalton are stuck on their respective teams, however, San Diego's weakness in the trenches will overcome its advantage under center. (Last week: 12)

14. Pittsburgh Steelers

New Year's Resolution - Stop procrastinating. The Steelers' slugabed ways ended up costing them a playoff berth this season, as their 0-4 start proved too deep a hole to climb out from. They finished strong, though, and if they can get off to a faster start in 2014 they'll be a solid bet to reclaim the division crown. Of course, you can't get off to a fast start if you're carrying dead weight, and their offensive tackles and a few defensive graybeards could certainly stand to be jettisoned. (Last week: 13)

15. Chicago Bears

New Year's Resolution - Don't be such a pushover. There are still monsters on the Midway, but now they come in the person of Chicago's twin terrors at wideout. Their defense was barely Monsters, Inc. against opposing ground games this season, as everyone from Dick Butkus to Brian Urlacher averted their eyes in shame at the sorry state of Chicago's run D. A healthy Henry Melton will help, but Chicago needs to re-stock the defensive front if they want to recapture the NFC North. (Last week: 15)

16. Baltimore Ravens

New Year's Resolution - Get back to basics.. The Ravens are wearing Super Bowl rings because Joe Flacco played over his head during last year's playoffs, but he'd never have had the chance to do so if not for a sturdy ground game. That ground game collapsed in 2013, and the Ravens' offensive identity followed it into the ditch. Baltimore may have to make a tough decision on Ray Rice if they judge that his lateral movement is gone for good, but either way they'll need to get tougher up front to win the cold-weather wars that their division demands. (Last week: 17)

17. St. Louis Rams

New Year's Resolution - Prioritize. The Rams dealt the #2 pick in the 2012 draft for a haul ... and saw a potential franchise QB land in Washington. They find themselves holding the #2 pick in 2014, courtesy of those selfsame Redskins, and have already declared themselves "open for business" and up for trading down. While capturing value in the draft is always a worthy goal, nothing is worth trading past the spot where you can grab your quarterback of the future. And make no mistake - Sam Bradford is not the quarterback of the future. (Last week: 16)

18. Detroit Lions

New Year's Resolution - I will be my best self every day. Bush-league personal fouls were a Lions watchword under fake-tough guy coach Jim Schwartz, but the real downfall for Detroit has been wildly inconsistent play from Matthew Stafford. A Marc Trestman/Mike McCoy-style QB Whisperer would be a fantastic fit as the Lions' next head coach - too bad they didn't fire Schwartz last year and actually hire one of those dudes. (Last week: 18)

19. Dallas Cowboys

New Year's Resolution - I'm perfect - why change? Cowboys fans could take heart in Dallas' gutty performance against the Eagles. Unfortunately, coming a couple of plays from the playoffs will simply help Jerry Jones deny the massive gulf between the Cowboys and the league's elite. He'll roll with a hole-filled roster and more of Jason Garrett's bottom-quartile 1990's offensive design in 2014 and ... go 8-8 one more time. (Last week: 20)


20. Miami Dolphins

New Year's Resolution - Fix those cracks in the foundation. Miami didn't so much stumble at the finish line as they completely fell into a chasm and disappeared, and the fault lines were the offensive line's fault. It was an ugly show from the Dolphins' big uglies, and they'll need a big-time overhaul to help Ryan Tannehill live up to his first-round promise. Firing a bottom-decile offensive staff wouldn't hurt, either. (Last week: 14)

21. Tennessee Titans

New Year's Resolution - Don't throw good money after bad. No team has failed to embrace the Iron Law of Running Back Fungibility quite like the Tennessee Titans. They paid a 1300-yard back like a 2000-yard back after Chris Johnson rode Vince Young's backside zone-read constraint to an unrepeatable season, and they followed up their error by dropping $10 million on goal-line plodder Shonn Greene. It's time for the Titans' front office to cut their losses, cut those dudes and re-deploy their financial resources in the trenches to out-muscle the Colts and contend for the AFC South. Save those draft choices for cutting bait on Jake Locker. (Last week: 21)

22. New York Giants

New Year's Resolution - Remember what made you a star. Eli Manning's pick-prone ways were the headline of the 2013 season in New York, but that was largely due to sheer flukiness - at least, the Giants better hope so. What was more concrete was New York's shoddy play along both sides of the line of scrimmage, as Manning was constantly under siege while New York's pass rushers seldom got home. The Giants invested on both lines in last year's draft, but those investments brought little immediate return. They'll need to look hard at those bets and double down if need be if they want to re-establish the physical style that put rings on their fingers. (Last week: 22)

23. New York Jets

New Year's Resolution - Practice fire safety. The Jets' defense has brought the heat on opposing QBs during most of Rex Ryan's tenure, but they were the ones getting burned this season as the pass defense collapsed. Geno Smith is probably destined to fail, but no one is asking the Jets' front office to give up on him after one season. What Jets fans do need to ask for is better edge pass rush and quality secondary play - and no, bringing a crippled Ed Reed back in 2014 won't provide it. (Last week: 23)

24. Cleveland Browns

New Year's Resolution - Spend wisely. . With two first-round draft choices and a high pick in the second, Cleveland is in good shape to acquire their heart's desire in the upcoming draft. But what should they covet most? Pass rushers, receivers and lockdown corners will beckon, and if you assume that Brian Hoyer will pop up off of knee surgery and provide solid play then those could all seem like solid choices. But if there's ample evidence that God hates your franchise, is that a good assumption to make? No. No, it isn't. Get a quarterback, then get a second quarterback and give some though to landing a third. When the Man Upstairs is stacking the deck against you, get as many cards as you can. (Last week: 24)

25. Minnesota Vikings

New Year's Resolution - Strike while the iron is hot.. A 5-10-1 record hardly demonstrated it, but the Vikings are sitting on an offensive powderkeg. Adrian Peterson's talents need little salesmanship, and Minnesota also boasts a strong offensive front and an admirable collection of deep threats with a potential dominator in Cordarrelle Patterson. None of that matters without a QB, though, and if the new Vikings regime is content to stagger around with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder then they'll burn another year of of AP's prime. Get a real QB by whatever means necessary and unleash the hounds on your divisional foes. (Last week: 25)

26. Buffalo Bills

New Year's Resolution - One foot in front of the other. It may not have been totally reflected in their 6-10 record, but the Bills did a lot of things right in 2013. They've assembled a defense with talent at all three levels and put together a solid cadre of weapons for E.J. Manuel, though his triple dose of knee injuries kept him from exploiting them for much of the season. Sticking to the plan will have the Bills in as good a position as anyone when Tom Brady finally falters. Of course, apportioning snaps with the realization that C.J. Spiller is one of the NFL's five most explosive players wouldn't be a bad idea either. (Last week: 26)

27. Atlanta Falcons

New Year's Resolution - Don't be so easy. The Falcons' defense gave up the goods to just about every offense that happened by this season, putting an injury-depleted offense in plenty of untenable situations. Some growth from a young secondary will make Atlanta a tougher customer in 2014. If they can't find a way to get more heat on opposing passers then they'll keep their rep as one of the league's easiest scores. (Last week: 27)

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New Year's Resolution - I will work and play well with others. Oddly enough, employing an insecure jackwagon martinet as a head coach is not a pathway to NFL success. While there's something to be said for discipline, bringing in a coach who won't torpedo the QB, get crosswise with your elite free agent corner or demand bush-league tactics on game-ending kneel-downs is probably the way to go. (Last week: 28)

29. Oakland Raiders

New Year's Resolution - I will be smarter with my money. It sounds like Oakland will retain head coach Dennis Allen, and good on him. No coach has had to deal with a more absurd roster over the past two seasons thanks to Al Davis' late-career free agent shenanigans. With millions in dead money coming off the books, Oakland can address some trouble spots like OL and safety. While frugality might be the smart play, a dominator like Jairus Byrd would look really good in Silver and Black. (Last week: 29)

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

New Year's Resolution - I will stop counting the days until my big move and focus on the here and now. It's at least three years until Shad Khan can fulfill his appointed role and bring his fellow owners big-B billions in fees from L.A. or London (though it seems unlikely the team would ever leave Duval). In the interim, how about sprucing up the roster a tad? While Chad Henne was one of the least-embarrassing things about the Jags, Jacksonville is in a prime spot to grab a franchise QB. If they grab one that's not terrified to step into a throw and take a hit, they'll at least have improved on Blaine Gabbert. (Last week: 30)


31. Washington Redskins

New Year's Resolution - I will stop fighting with my significant other. The weird three-way war between Mike Shanahan, Dan Snyder and Robert Griffin III was one of many factors casting a pall over Washington's dismal season. Catering to RGIII by bringing in Art Briles may be going a bit too far, but a head man who can clean up the dysfunction and get the franchise QB's head in the right place - and his front foot stepping into throws again - is critical for getting out of the NFC East cellar. BONUS RESOLUTION - just change your name to the Washington Warriors and get it over with. (Last week: 31)

32. Houston Texans

New Year's Resolution - I will tone up my unsightly QB position. With Matt Schaub a goner and Case Keenum having been wildly overexposed, there's no reason for Houston to outsmart themselves with the #1 pick - just take Teddy Bridgewater (or Carr, or whoever tickles their fancy at QB). Likely new head man Bill O'Brien is a sharp offensive mind who could get things back on track quickly in Houston. Let's face it - compared to what he walked into at Penn State, this turnaround could be a breeze. (Last week: 32)

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