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NFL Power Rankings: Seattle Seahawks begin season at No. 1

The NFL's 96th campaign is looming. Two days. You know that means?

You know what else it means? Power Rankings time.

These suckers are hot off the presses, too. Actually, it's 2015 -- I have no idea what that means. What we do know is that there are approximately 500 storylines (give or take) worth following this season. Three particular ones I will be watching:

» Eric Berry's return to the lineup in Kansas City. It's intriguing in a football sense, given the makeup of the Chiefs' defense, and wonderful in a life sense. There are so many people following Berry's journey.

» To a smaller degree, I can't wait to see a healthy Sean Lee back in the lineup for Dallas. What a player. Now, what can he do at weak-side linebacker?

» Lastly, I'm amped up to watch NaVorro Bowman, whom the depleted 49ers are absolutely counting on to ball out. He was the best ILB in football pre-injury -- and looked pretty darn stout in the preseason.

Whole bunch more subplots below. Oh, and an updated pecking order! Hit us up with your thoughts: @HarrisonNFL is the place, as per usual.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Aug. 11 Power Rankings.

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Preseason | Post-draft | Post-free agency

The Seahawks leapfrog the Pack following Jordy Nelson's ACL tear. With back-to-back Super Bowl trips under the belt, they can make the claim as the premier team in the league, yet Pete Carroll's group is not without issue. The offense often looked terrible in the preseason. On the other side of the ball, Earl Thomas wore the red jersey through much of preseason practice (#nohit), while Kam Chancellor remains absent. Apparently, his holdout held up John Schneider getting a deal done with Fred Jackson. Interesting.

Enjoyed watching Brett Hundley notch a quartet of touchdown strikes last Thursday ... OK, that's enough of that. Judging by fantasy drafts going on around the country, Davante Adams is going to be the real deal this year. Ridiculously accurate stat projection: 85 catches, 1,176 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sticking with the Packers, sans Jordy Nelson, to be the Seahawks' top competition in the NFC.

Every Colts fan knows this season hinges not on the Frank Gore acquisition. Nor the Andre Johnson signing, for that matter. And no, not on the addition of top draft choice Phillip Dorsett. All eyes are on the defense, which must prove it can stop the run. Maybe this isn't as big a concern when it comes to AFC South foes, but looking around the conference, the Patriots, Broncos, Steelers, Chiefs and Bengals all can run the rock. Indy plays the first three of those teams (New England, Denver and Pittsburgh) in the regular season, and it's a good bet the Colts will run into one or two of them in postseason play.

Jimmy G -- happy or unhappy about the Tom Brady decision? (@HarrisonNFL) While everyone hemmed and hawed about Brady's footballs, Brady's suspension, the Brady sketch ... let us not forget that LeGarrette Blount is not available Thursday. Thus, Bill Belichick had him out there in the second half running around last week. New England will be fine with Jonas Gray ... or not. Maybe Brandon Bolden or James White will pick up some slack. Or rush for 200 yards on the Colts on national T.V. and then get benched.

Offense, offense, offense. Even with Martavis Bryant suspended four games, this Steelers attack can put points on the board. The Maurkice Pouncey loss hurts, but not as much as that secondary, which lets receivers run around like flies on a rib roast.

Everyone is concerned about who's running the rock and how the Orlando Scandrick injury will impact the defense. But Dallas' front seven has a chance to be special. Forget Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy for a second. DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford are developing players who can make the leap, so to speak, this year. And having Sean Lee in there at WLB makes a huge difference, particularly in coverage.

Kansas City managed to complete its first perfect preseason since 1969. Usually, these things don't mean much, but given that the last time the Chiefs did that was back in '69, the season in which they won Super Bowl IV, it's kind of cool. Make that really cool, because their last perfect preseason before that came in 1966, when they reached Super Bowl I. Alex Smith was mostly efficient in the preseason. How he fares is key to how the AFC West shakes out this year.

With Alex Smith dealing in K.C. and a top-10 quarterback ( Philip Rivers) leading the charge in San Diego, Peyton Manning's lackluster preseason is a concern, no? No matter what, I love the potential of coordinator Wade Phillips' defensive unit. Denver could best both the Chiefs and Chargers without the help of a sterling offense. Von Miller looked like he was shot out of a cannon against Seattle's poor right tackle in the preseason opener.

Carson Palmer wasn't exactly gangbusters in the preseason. With Todd Bowles now talking jawbreakers in New York, will this Cards defense be able to compensate? The redbirds drop with that stuff in mind. It would help if this team had a healthy Michael Floyd available.

Philadelphia moves on up, based on the play of Sam Bradford. But let's tap the brakes on going any higher. Building the offense around Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews is still a risky proposition. Zach Ertz hasn't been healthy. And this is a new-look offensive line, with Evan Mathis gone. So while the Eagles can perch atop the NFC East, saying it's likely to happen is another deal at this stage of the game.

The Bengals have been one of the steadiest teams in football in recent years, but that isn't necessarily a wonderful thing. After the brutal run in the '90s, making the playoffs five of six years is obviously a massive step up. Yet, at some point, either Andy Dalton (who looked good in two preseason games, *notsomuch* in another) has to take the next step or the defense will have to carry this team. Or maybe Cincy can ride a 1,500-yard Jeremy Hill campaign to an 11-win season.

Even Rotten Tomatoes would approve of Haloti Ngata getting back into the mix, especially with the Lions using him as a 3-technique (DT in a 4-3). On to other matters: I realize everyone's all hot dogs and apple pie about Ameer Abdullah (especially in fantasy leagues), but when exactly was he named the starter over Joique Bell?

If there is a team that analysts, league observers and football fans don't talk about enough -- at least when it comes to their on-field outlook -- it might be these little Chargers. Enough already about the potential move to L.A. -- Philip Rivers and company have the opportunity to put this San Diego group into the postseason. Love the young nucleus coordinator John Pagano is leading on defense, starting with the linebackers.

Head coach John Harbaugh has said there's a chance Breshad Perriman could be ready to go Week 1. How much he contributes early on could have a large effect on Baltimore staying in the AFC North race. What we do know: Steve Smith Sr. was born ready to go, and Marlon Brown showed flashes in the preseason.

So ... if you paid attention to Dolphins training camp/preseason, then you know Jarvis Landry is going to catch 338 balls this year. In case you're wondering, that will break Marvin Harrison's NFL record by 195. You're welcome for those analytics. By the way, that Dolphin defense is going to be top-10 in fantasy this year. Sack points galore.

Minnesota is the chic "Hey ... nobody is saying this ... but I think THE VIKINGS are gonna make hay" team of this year. Except, no, everyone's saying it. Let me say that I didn't realize Teddy B was going to look this good in the preseason. Still not sold on Mike Wallace as a WR1, but Mike Zimmer's young defense eventually will be the most helpful component of Bridgewater's supporting cast (yes, including Adrian Peterson).

All eyes are fixed on Tyrod Taylor right now. The reality is that the star of the NFL preseason -- discussion-wise, at least -- will not be asked to do too much in the regular season. Expect Taylor to throw 20 to 25 times per game while taking off on his fair share of scampers out of the pocket. ("Scamper" is rarely used anymore, by the way. Let's bring it back!) Buffalo's defense is built to allow all of about 17 points per game, so the need for more from Taylor isn't there.

In the wake of Kelvin Benjamin's crushing injury, Panthers fans are hoping for a lot from second-round pick Devin Funchess. Is the rookie out of Michigan the key to the NFC South? Very well could be, when you think about the water level of the division. Oh, and the fact that Carolina's defense is miles better than the rest of the division's units on that side of the ball.

For all the hoopla regarding the rarest of trades -- quarterback-for-quarterback (that's QB4QB for all you texters out there) -- Nick Foles surprisingly got all of about one-seventieth the attention Sam Bradford received this preseason. Foles dished both dimes and ducks over the past month, but he should provide more stability than the Rams have enjoyed at quarterback since mid-career Marc Bulger about nine years ago.

Weird seeing Ryan Mallett out there with 2 minutes left in the fourth preseason game after Tom Savage got hurt. A handful of those dudes running around out there at that stage of the game will be working at Medieval Times in a few weeks. And to think, Mallett was supposed to be the answer ... On the defensive side of things, how big of an impact can Jadeveon Clowney have, even if he's on a pitch count? Been waiting all offseason to see this guy in real, live game action. As has every Texans fan.

Who is not excited to see Leonard Williams get it on this season? The hair is ridiculous (ridiculously good), he's a high-motor guy (like J.J. Watt), and he's immediately playing a major role (sans Sheldon Richardson in the lineup). Also thinking Chris Ivory puts up 1,100 yards or more in 2015. The Jets need him to kick-start the offense as much as they do Fitzmagic, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.

Wow, the Giants' offense stunk up the joint this preseason, right after GM Jerry Reese said they should be putting up 28 points per game. So we might be seeing a puntfest in the season's early goings. And even that position isn't straight, as *the man whose abs have abs* ain't booming balls for the Giants anymore. No more Steve Weatherford -- will Big Blue be flying high with Brad Wing? You're welcome.

Pass rush. That's what it's all about for the Falcons this season. Can we get to the other guys' passer -- and can we prevent our guy from getting pummeled? Sack differential is not always the hottest topic in these Power Rankings spaces, but for Atlanta, it might be the logline to the outcome of the 2015 season. What will Dan Quinn procure from investments in Vic Beasley (draft) and Adrian Clayborn (free agency)? And how steady is this offensive line, Falcons fans? (@HarrisonNFL) Seems like more than a few people are excited about Tevin Coleman.

How concerned should everyone be about the winless preseason? So you know, there have been plenty of clubs that went winless in the preseason before going on to make the more important season: the POSTseason. New Orleans' offense should compete with Atlanta's for divisional supremacy. Rob Ryan's defense is still the question mark here -- specifically, what kind of pass rush can the unit generate? That will be the difference between the Saints and the Falcons, one way or another. No matter what, Kelvin Benjamin's injury sure does open the door wider in the NFC South.

Who thinks the Bears are going to do jack in the NFC North? Yes, they are literally the one team that can claim, for real, that "Nobody gave us a chance!" Fans in Chicago (and everywhere else) are skeptical (at best) about Jay Cutler. Something ... er ... someone to be positive about? Eddie Royal. Bet you a Taco Bell Nachos Bell Grande he catches over 70 balls for this Kevin White-less offense. Listen up, you last-second fantasy drafters. #sleeper

Boy oh boy, does Amari Cooper look legit. Derek Carr should find him plenty, although Carr's preseason was bargain-brand material, relatively speaking. Meanwhile, Brice Butler had himself a heckuva preseason, although we've seen this before. Can Butler provide help on third down? It'd be better if Michael Crabtree were to become that guy. He didn't do diddly in the preseason -- well, unless three receptions for 21 yards wets your whistle.

For all the negative talk hovering over the 49ers' prospects this season, Carlos Hyde could be quite the bright spot. Hyde looked solid -- if not superb -- in the preseason, and will be the salve for a defense that necessitates more help than in the past. On that note, Jarryd Hayne was a downright pleasure to watch during the oft-insignificant August football sessions. I particularly enjoyed watching him absorb a Charger DB's best blow and just glare at him like Drago when Rocky gave him his best punches in the first round. I don't think Hayne frosts his tips, though.

Working with Maurice Jones-Drew so much this preseason, I must say I have been paying even closer attention to Jags football. The No. 1 guy worth paying attention to is not Blake Bortles ... and not T.J. Yeldon ... It's Allen Robinson. Monster year for him, Jags fans? (The correct answer is yes.) The big question this season is if Gus Bradley can get the defense to dictate situations to opposing offenses, starting with that Luck guy ...

Good Jameis, bad Jameis. That's the way it's going to go for a while in Tampa. Lovie Smith's defense and the offensive line will be more important during the season's early goings, as the Bucs can't afford to be chasing 28-7 deficits. Hopefully, Doug Martin will find a few holes to run through. OK, let's not get carried away -- a few creases to run through.

This organization is in disarray right now. Faith in Jay Gruden doesn't seem to be particularly strong, and the reality is that the coaching staff prepared all offseason with Robert Griffin III -- not Kirk Cousins -- as the starting QB. Not that Washington can't recover, but Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris and Jordan Reed need to come up big for whoever is under center. (That man could be Colt McCoy before we know it.)

Why are the Browns this low? Too many question marks. At least the questions about John Football don't revolve around his desire, but rather his health. Not that that's a great thing, but Manziel's play in the preseason quieted some critics. Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil is going to have to turn a decent unit into a top-10 group in order for the Brownies to compete.

Last place for now, and it will stay this way until the running game gets sorted out. Bishop Sankey and (eventually) rookie David Cobb must become the elixir for a rookie quarterback's woes, an offensive line's struggles and a so-so defense's so-so-ness.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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