I’ve been crunching numbers now for several weeks and after ranking all the players on NFL team’s offenses, defenses and special teams, I can finally boil it all down to one final, overall ranking. This has been one of the most detailed and time-consuming analysis projects I’ve ever undertaken with regards to the NFL and Minnesota Vikings, but I did my best to remove my own bias and remain objective. As I have mentioned throughout the project, this Ultimate NFL Ranking was motivated by seeing Pete Prisco’s “Four Pronged Approach” ranking which I thought was woefully incomplete. He ranked the Vikings tied for 27th and this was obviously too low for a 10-6 playoff team last year. So, I took it upon myself to rank every starter at every position, on every NFL team, using the data from Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus to right this horrible wrong.
Using the final team point totals from each of the three rankings, I simply added them together to come up with a final overall total. If a team had the top ranked player at every position, the top end point total for offense would have maxed out at 701 points, 715 points for defense and 448 points for Special Teams. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a team with the worst ranked players at every starting position would bottom out with 298 points for offense, 199 for defense and 262 for special teams. That means, for the overall total, the best possible point total would be 1,864 points, and the worst possible point total would be 759. Therefore an average score would land right around 1,312 points. And it probably goes without saying then, that the teams with the highest ranked individual players will have the higher point totals in the Ultimate Power Ranking. But a team’s defensive ranking would have the greater impact on the rankings, because as they say, “defense wins championships.” Special Teams has the least impact on the rankings. I even followed Prisco’s basic premise by giving quarterbacks and pass rushers a slight bump in the individual rankings. If you missed the earlier parts, check out Part 1 on Offense, Part 2 on Defense and Part 3 on Special Teams to see my rankings and commentary on all 32 teams.
And to reiterate one last point that I have been making throughout the project, this is not my prediction for where I think each team in the NFL will rank at the end of the 2013 season necessarily. Because it uses data from the end of the 2012 regular season, if one were to make that prediction, one would have to assume that players would perform more or less exactly the same in 2013 as they did in 2012. Obviously, a player’s statistical production fluctuates from year to year, and they perform better or worse from one season to the next. Rather, it is a ranking for where the teams are at as of this moment, after the conclusion of the 2012 season. However, the ranking does take into account free agency moves and the draft and considers current rosters. It’s also worth noting that it assumes all rookies are the worst at their positions until they can prove otherwise, so teams that are relying on a lot of rookie starters for 2013 will suffer a bit in the rankings. In the end, my intention here is primarily to show the strength and consistency of each team’s overall rosters. So, with that in mind and without further ado, here is the Ultimate NFL Power Ranking.
1. Seattle Seahawks 1520
There is a reason the Seahawks are the team the media darlings consistently rank to win it all in 2013, and after crunching all these numbers, I definitely agree. The Seahawks have the #3 ranked offense, the #3 ranked defense and are tied for second on Special Teams. This team has amassed a metric ton of talent on their roster and is clearly the team to beat in the NFL with no real weaknesses in any of the three team phases.
2. Denver Broncos 1483
The Denver Broncos have made some of the most shrewd free agency moves in recent years with signing Peyton Manning and Wes Welker, and letting Elvis Dumervil go. But this is another loaded roster. The Broncos have the #1 offense in the NFL, are tied for the 15th defense and have a strong special teams, tied for 10th. They have the single scariest offense in the NFL and Manning has a very good chance to lead his offense and team into the Super Bowl.
3. San Francisco 49ers 1459
Last year’s Super Bowl runner-ups have an excellent chance of returning. They have the #6 ranked offense, the #6 ranked defense and the #7 ranked Special Teams. With a Top 10 ranking in every category, there is no major weakness on this team.
4. Green Bay Packers 1442
Aaron Rodgers recently said he liked being “under the radar.” Think again. The Packers are still the favorite to win the NFC North and are rarely under the radar. They have the #4 ranked offense, are tied for 12th on defense and tied for 10th on Special teams. They continue to have one of the stronger overall rosters in the NFL and should win the NFC North and make the playoffs again in 2013.
5. Chicago Bears 1425
In what might be a surprisingly high overall ranking, the Bears find themselves in the Top 10 in spite of their offense. This 10-6 team from 2012 missed the playoffs on tiebreaker rules, but they still have a strong roster. While Jay Cutler and their offense leave something to be desired with a #19 ranking, they have the 2nd best Defense and 2nd best Special Teams in the NFL, and that will keep them competitive all year. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the new coaching staff has on this highly ranked roster.
6. New England Patriots 1413
Like the Bears, the Patriots run the risk of taking a step backwards on offense, despite the steady presence of Tom Brady. Their wide receiver situation is abysmal, and their tight ends got problems. Never-the-less, Tom Brady keeps this offense respectable, ranked #14, and it is in the other areas that this team climbs the rankings, with a #4 ranked defense and #4 ranked Special Teams.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers 1391
The Steelers are another team looking to rebound in 2013 and they should, thanks to their strength on defense. Ben Roethlisberger will need to hope Antonio Brown can emerge as his go-to weapon, because their offense is an average ranked 17th (tied with Baltimore). But the Steelers have the #1 defense in the NFL, which propels them into the Top 10. Their Special Teams could use some improvement as they are only ranked 22nd (tied). But as long as their defense is healthy and performing to their potential, this team can hang with anyone.
8. New Orleans Saints 1373
I’m sure the Saints are ecstatic to have Sean Payton back after a dismal 2012 season. But they still have a strong roster. With the #2 ranked offense lead by Drew Brees they always have a chance. But if they want to have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl they will need to improve the other areas. They have the #28 defense and are tied for 22nd on Special Teams. That simply won’t be enough to sustain success in the post season. Hopefully Rob Ryan can turn around this defense.
9. Miami Dolphins 1370
In what might be another surprise, the Dolphins crack the Top 10, thanks in large part to their strong defense and special teams ranking, #5 and #8 respectively. Their offense is below average, ranked #20, but has the potential to improve upon that dramatically. If they can get a jump in development from Ryan Tannehill, and Mike Wallace can return to his 2011 form, then the sky is the limit.
10. Dallas Cowboys 1368
Rounding out the Top 10, we have the Dallas Cowboys, a team always rated highly heading into every season. And this season is no different. They have a lot of talent on the roster, and it is up to the coaching staff to get results. The Cowboys have the #7 ranked offense, the #11 ranked defense, but have a pathetic Special Teams unit ranked #28.
11. Houston Texans 1354
The Texans have been steadily building one of the stronger all-around rosters in the NFL since the team’s inception in 2002. They have an average offense, ranked 15th (tied with San Diego) and an average Special Teams, ranked 19th (tied). But they have one of the stronger defenses lead by J.J. Watt and company, ranked #8 overall. They have a legitimate shot to win their division again and succeed in the playoffs, but they will need better consistency on offense.
12. Cincinnati Bengals 1341
The Bengals have one of the better young rosters in the NFL and are looking for better consistency. They have the 21st ranked offense, the 12th ranked (tied) defense and a very strong Special Teams, ranked 5th overall (tied). Their offense needs another elite option to emerge outside of AJ Green, and if that can happen, look out.
13. New York Giants 1337
The New York Giants always seem to be the perennial underdogs every year. But the fact is, they have one of the better offenses in the NFL, ranked #9. It is the other areas of the roster that hold them back with a defense ranked #23 and a Special Teams unit ranked #14 (tied).
14. Atlanta Falcons 1336
The Atlanta Falcons are not built to win a Super Bowl, yet. But they have an elite offense, ranked #5 and an average Special Teams, ranked 14th (tied). It is their defense that holds them back, ranked an abysmal #29. Until they have a respectable defense, this team will find it difficult to maintain success week in and week out, especially if they make the post-season.
15. Baltimore Ravens 1325
Last year’s Super Bowl champs lost a lot of players on their roster and it remains to be seen if their rookies can step up to the plate. Despite Joe Flacco’s massive new contract, the offense remains average, ranked 17th (tied). Their defense though takes a big hit, falling to #25. But their elite Special Teams unit, ranked #1 overall, should help them be somewhat competitive by winning the field position battle.
16. San Diego Chargers 1324
The San Diego Chargers find themselves firmly entrenched in the “average” part of the rankings and rightly so. There isn’t anything about the Charger’s roster that is distinctive, but at the same time there isn’t anything to really dislike either. Their offense is ranked 15th (tied), the defense is ranked 20th and their Special Teams is tied for 10th. Perhaps the new coaching staff can yield better results with a league average roster, but until they get an infusion of better talent, they will be buried in the middle of the pack.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1316
Like the Bengals the Bucs have a lot of great young talent. They have a great offense led by Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, ranked #10 overall and a respectable defense, ranked #19. But until they can get better production from Special Teams, ranked #30 overall, this team may not win the field position battle enough to keep them competitive.
18. Minnesota Vikings 1305
The Vikings are coming off a surprising 10-6 season, playoff berth and MVP performance from Adrian Peterson that nobody saw coming in 2012, especially after a franchise tying worst 3-13 record in the 2011 season. And while this team has young talent all over the roster, there are still a lot of questions about their #25 ranked offense. Can Christian Ponder improve? Will Greg Jennings return to his 2011 form? Will any of the other receivers like Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson, Cordarelle Patterson or Joe Webb emerge as a consistent weapon? And can Adrian Peterson carry the team on his back once again and reach 2,000+ yards for a second consecutive season? Despite all those questions, they have a talented defense ranked #10 overall and one of the better Special Teams in the NFL, ranked #5 (tied). There is a lot of potential here, and the Vikings could surprise once again, but it all rests on the offense making big strides in 2013.
19. Detroit Lions 1290
The Lions had a disappointing 2012 season after making the playoffs in 2011. It remains to be seen if 2012 was an aberration, or indicative of more things to come. The Lions have the #11 ranked offense led by Stafford and Megatron, but their defense, ranked #21 and Special Teams, ranked dead last, will have to see major improvement if they hope to make a return to the playoffs.
20. Buffalo Bills 1284
The Bills have a below average roster and are searching for a reliable option at QB. They have the #26 ranked offense and the #26 ranked Special Teams. Their strength is actually a top 10 defense, ranked #7 overall. But until they can win the field position battle, and consistently move the ball on offense, this team isn’t going anywhere in 2013.
21. Indianapolis Colts 1281
It may be surprising to see a playoff team from 2012 ranked so low, but the fact is, their roster just isn’t that talented. It’s possible this team overachieved in 2012, perhaps on the inspiration of Chuck Pagano’s incredible medical story. Whatever the reason, the Colts have an average offense, ranked #13 and an average Special Teams also ranked #13. Andrew Luck had an overrated rookie season and will have to improve in 2013 if this team hopes to make a return to the playoffs. But even more than that, they will need to get massive improvement from a poor defense, ranked #27 overall. Even if they can somehow return to the playoffs, until that defense improves, they won’t go far.
22. Washington Redskins 1273
The Redskins will need to hope that RGIII can return sooner rather than later, because without him leading their #12 ranked offense, this team doesn’t have much of a chance. Their #24 ranked defense won’t get it done, and their #27 ranked Special Teams needs to improve. Kirk Cousins did an admiral job replacing RGIII last year, but he isn’t the game-changing quarterback that the Baylor product is, and Cousins doesn’t strike the same kind of fear in a defensive coordinator’s eyes as Griffin.
23. Philadelphia Eagles 1270
Oh how the Eagles have fallen from grace after their “Dream Team” anointing not so long ago. They may hate to hear that term now, but the fact is their roster is nowhere near being a dream team level. They have the #23 ranked offense, the #18 ranked defense and the #16 ranked Special Teams. This is an average or below team all the way around the roster. With a new coaching staff in place, there is nothing special to see here.
24. Cleveland Browns 1266
The Cleveland Browns are almost an exact copy of the Eagles in terms of their roster…is that surprising? They have the #24 ranked offense, the #15 ranked defense and the #18 ranked Special Teams. The Browns excel at nothing, but neither are they league worst. They will need to find something to excel at in 2013 if they hope to be competitive.
25. Carolina Panthers 1247
Did Cam Newton suffer the “sophomore slump”? Perhaps. But their #8 ranked offense isn’t the problem. The issues lie in their terrible defense, ranked #30 and abysmal Special Teams, ranked #29. Cam Newton and company can’t do it all.
26. Kansas City Chiefs 1239
The Chiefs have a new coaching staff, but they also need a new roster overhaul. Alex Smith offers minimal hope for a #28 ranked offense, but perhaps Andy Reid can bring this offense to new heights? They have a respectable defense, ranked #17, but need to improve on Special Teams, ranked 22nd (tied).
27. Tennessee Titans 1237
The Titans desperately need to find an identity on offense, which is ranked 2nd worst in the league. Jake Locker and Chris Johnson struggled behind a bad offensive line last year, and while their defense is still an excellent #9 overall, their Special Teams could use some improvement too, ranked #19 (tied).
28. Arizona Cardinals 1209
How are the Cardinals not the worst team in the NFL? Simple, they have a respectable defense ranked #14 and an average Special Teams ranked #17. But until they can fix the league worst offense, this team is going nowhere. Grabbing Carson Palmer and Rashard Mendenhall in free agency is a start, but neither of them is a long-term answer, and their offensive line needs a complete overhaul.
29. St. Louis Rams 1194
Was Sam Bradford worth the #1 overall pick in 2010? After 3 seasons, I bet Rams fans are wondering too. Yes, he’s dealt with injuries and a lack of weapons, but this is a big year for the young signal caller. The Rams offense is below average, ranked #22 and they have one of the better Special Teams ranked #9. But until this 2nd worst defense can find an identity and make major improvements, this team will remain near the bottom of the rankings.
30. New York Jets 1172
Somehow, by virtue of existing in one of the largest media markets in the US, the Jets still get a lot of attention. But they excel at exactly nothing. They have one of the worst offenses in the NFL, ranked #29, and their once-vaunted defense has slipped down to #26. Even their Special Teams leaves something to be desired, ranked #19 (tied). This team will either rely on a bad Mark Sanchez, or an overrated rookie in Geno Smith at QB, and neither is likely to improve their offensive ranking. The Jets were a playoff team not too long ago, but they certainly don’t look like one now.
31. Oakland Raiders 1159
The Raiders have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. They have the #30 ranked offense, led by…Matt Flynn? They have the #22 ranked defense that has a lot of questions to answer, and the 2nd worst Special Teams in the NFL, even after signing Chris Kluwe. They need a major infusion of talent on a depleted roster devoid of playmakers.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars 1099
As bad as the Raiders are, the Jaguars are worse. They have the #27 ranked offense in desperate need of a quarterback. They lost a few pieces in free agency and now have the league worst defense, and their Special Teams has also struggled, ranked #25 overall. The Jaguars have it rough and will need significant improvement in all three phases if they hope to be competitive in 2013 and beyond.