As part of the previews, we had all of our writers submit season predictions in the form of a power ranking of the league. While there were plenty of disagreements among the group, the list below represents the average of all of our predictions. Essentially, these are our consensus picks. We ranked them by conference, with league rank in parentheses.
A class of their own
It's rare to see so much stability atop a conference. It's also rare to see two of the best quarterbacks of all time playing at their peak in their upper thirties. These have been the best two teams in the AFC for back-to-back seasons, and they both got better.
Note that the teams are ranked in order of our overall power poll, rather than what their theoretical playoff seed would be. Even though the Colts could be no lower than the No. 4 in AFC seeding, their significant shortcomings outside of Andrew Luck show up here. No other team in the AFC South ranks in the top 25.
We project a return to normalcy in the AFC North. The Steelers are back as division champions, while we have the Ravens back in the playoffs as a wild card team. The offense can only get better. We also project the Chargers' 2013 resurgence to stick. Philip Rivers should love the team's new up-tempo offense.
Stuck in the middle
There are an average of five to six new playoff teams every year. After three one-and-done appearances, we have the Bengals on the outside looking in. The Chiefs got a lot of schedule luck last year that should change this year, and their offensive line could be a mess. The Browns have a playoff-ready defense, but it's hard to see their passing game succeeding.
End of the line
10. Miami Dolphins (24)
11. New York Jets (26)
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (28)
13. Buffalo Bills (29)
14. Houston Texans (30)
15. Tennessee Titans (31)
16. Oakland Raiders (32)
The bottom five teams in our power poll reside in the AFC Six of the seven teams listed above are in the AFC South and AFC East, the two worst divisions in football. Miami's outfit feels directionless. They lack difference-making units on both sides of the ball, although their pass rush is intriguing. It wouldn't surprise us if the Jaguars out-play this ranking, especially with that AFC South schedule. The Titans could make the same argument. We still haven't given up on Jake Locker as a quality starter.