Before each big offseason event, I will be posting who I think are the top five teams in the NFL. This first one is difficult, because we still pretty much have the same squads from 2013, but here we go.
It’s pretty hard to go anywhere other than Seattle with this first slot. The defending champions will have a tough time retaining all of the incredible talent they have on that defense, but if they are able to keep most of it, then the rest of the NFL better watch out. Russell Wilson isn’t on Andrew Luck’s level, but he is definitely capable of leading a team equipped with a defense, and a running game. I think that Seattle showed the rest of the NFL last Sunday that defense still wins championships, even against offenses as prolific as the 2013 Broncos. If they can keep that defense together, I see now reason why they can’t get back to the big game.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Richard Sherman said after the Super Bowl that he thought the real Super Bowl was the NFC Championship game. As a die hard Patriots fan, I have to agree. I certainly think New England would have given Seattle a much better fight than the Broncos did, but in the end, I don’t think they would have had enough. The Niners are a talented football team, and they came within inches of beating the Seahawks in the NFC Championship. They have a top notch defense, an electrifying quarterback, and a terrific offensive line. They also will be looking for a bit of revenge next year against Seattle, so I have to give them the nod at number two.
3. New England Patriots
I am putting the Pats here assuming that they will be healthy for the start of 2014. They lost just about all of their star players last year, and it prevented Tom Brady from advancing to his sixth Super Bowl. The Pats still have the best quarterback in the game (that’s right), and they have a lot of young talent surrounding him. If they add an explosive outside receiver, some depth at defensive tackle, and another tight end, then you can pretty much book their ticket to next year’s AFC Championship game.
As long as Denver has Peyton Manning, they will be relevant (in the regular season). But after the 35 point shellacking they took in the Super Bowl, it is hard to envision them returning. Erik Decker and Knowshon Moreno will probably be gone, the defense needs a lot of work, and perhaps what is most significant, Peyton will continue to be Peyton in the playoffs. Denver will put together another 11 or 12 win season next year, but as of right now, I don’t think they would be able to beat New England in an AFC Championship game.
If Carolina can bolster their secondary, and give Cam Newton some weapons, they will be right in the mix for the NFC title. Their front seven is arguably the best in football, and that alone got them the number two seed last season. But if they give Steve Smith a partner, and infuse some talent into the back end, I could see them going toe to toe with both Seattle, and San Francisco.