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The Ultimate NFL Power Ranking - 2014 Edition

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The Daily Norseman takes a look at how the Minnesota Vikings compare to every other team in the NFL as the start to the season is close at hand.

Hey look, a shot of a bunch of guys that aren't on the team anymore.
Hey look, a shot of a bunch of guys that aren't on the team anymore.
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Last off-season, I took on a huge project: ranking every NFL starter, at every position, on every team.  I called it The Ultimate Power Ranking (UPR).  It was mostly a response to Pete Prisco's Four-Pronged Approach to power ranking (which I found woefully lacking and that he put out in 2012 and 2013), in which he ranked teams primarily by their ability to pass the ball (QB) and their ability to rush the passer (DE/OLB).  I felt it unfairly judged the Vikings last season and sought to improve upon the idea by looking at every player on every team, not just the quarterbacks and pass rushers.  So using the 2013 regular season player rankings at Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus, I once again assigned a point system to every starter in the NFL to determine an overall point total for each team's offense, defense and special teams.  Then I totaled up the points from each of those three subtotals to create an overall team score, and sorted those scores into the UPR.  Because of the moderate success of the project last season in which 7 out of the top 12 ranked teams made the playoffs (and my top two ranked teams were the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos who faced off in the Super Bowl); I decided it was worthwhile enough to try again and see what kind of results this system could get in 2014.  But this time, instead of doing the project in June, long before training camp and final roster shuffling, I waited until now, the last possible moment when rosters and starters are solidified to hopefully give the system a better chance at being even more accurate (and also because I couldn't find enough free time to get it done until now!).  I wanted to remove my own bias from this as much as I could, so think of it as a depth chart ranking utilizing the player grades from Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus.

Before we get to the ranking, I feel it's important to explain a little bit more of the process.  In looking at the point totals by position, I wanted to make the comparison across positions roughly equal.  For example, on defense since there are 64 starting cornerbacks in the NFL (tied for most players at any given defensive position), the top ranked cornerback received 64 points, and the 2nd best cornerback received 63 points and so on down the line until the worst ranked cornerback received only 1 point for their respective team.  That also means the top ranked player at every other position also received 64 points.  However, since some positions were not as deep as others, this meant the worst ranked player at defensive tackle, for example, only received 33 points and so forth.  On offense, the deepest position is wide receiver with 96 total players, so 96 is the top end point total for all offensive positions.  If a team had the top ranked players at every single position, they would earn the maximum point total of 715 for defense, 701 for offense, and 448 for special teams for a grand team total of 1,864 points.  In keeping with the spirit of Prisco's Four-Pronged approach idea, I gave point bonuses to quarterbacks and pass rushers to greater influence their presence in the ranking.  This meant that the top ranked quarterback received 128 points (compared to the standard 96 on offense), while the top ranked pass rushers in each scheme (3-4 vs 4-3) received 72 points (compared to the standard 64 on defense).  I also gave a bonus to the place kicker, as their effect on the game can be pivotal.

There are a number of criticisms to this approach which will influence the accuracy, but for which I haven't found a good solution.  First, this ranking assumes a linear value system in which the best player at a respective position is quite a bit better than the worst ranked player.  I'm sure the difference between players is not as pronounced in real life, nor does it take into account players who are essentially identical in talent based on their grades.  Every player is exactly 1 point different from the player ranked ahead or behind them.  Second, this ranking ignores other factors that may influence how well a team performs each week: coaching, schedule, weather, depth chart changes and in-season player injury which are mostly impossible to account for.  Also, because rookies and anyone playing a new position for the first time don't receive a score from Football Outsiders or Pro Football Focus from the previous year, they are by default ranked at the very bottom.  That means that teams that are relying on rookies or players in new positions will naturally be ranked lower.  Lastly, this ranking is based on 2013 performance.  As we know a player's performance from one season to the next is not always consistent for a variety of reasons.  So there is a slight built-in bias towards players and teams with at least some level of experience, who also performed well last season.  I'm ok with that last bit of bias, as I need a player to prove it on the field before I'll believe it, and if I'm going to make a prediction on performance this season, I'd much rather choose a team that did well last year over a team that did poorly.  So take the UPR with a grain of salt as there are many variables this ranking does not take into account.  Anyway, it's supposed to be fun!

What follows is the Ultimate Power Ranking, first broken down by conference as it shows a better snap shot of the top 12 teams for playoff predictions.  After the table, you'll find the complete 1-32 Power ranking, with commentary about each team.  And at the very end, I've calculated the Vikings win/loss record for the 2014 season based on each teams UPR position.

The Ultimate Power Ranking

AFC Teams

Total Points

NFC Teams

Total Points

1. Denver

1416

1. Seattle

1526

2. San Diego

1402

2. New Orleans

1441

3. New England

1395

3. Detroit

1418

4. Cincinatti

1387

4. San Francisco

1377

5. Indianapolis

1378

5. Arizona

1364

6. Kansas City

1376

6. Dallas

1346

7. Baltimore

1330

7. Atlanta

1343

8t. Pittsburgh

1312

8t. Minnesota

1324

8t. Tennessee

1312

8t. New York Giants

1324

10. Houston

1309

10. Chicago

1299

11. Oakland

1299

11. Green Bay

1286

12. Cleveland

1264

12. Carolina

1282

13. Miami

1226

13. St. Louis

1226

14. New York Jets

1218

14. Washington

1222

15. Jacksonville

1137

15. Philadelphia

1214

16. Buffalo

1131

16. Tampa Bay

1180

1. Seattle Seahawks - 1526 Total Points

The reigning Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks retain the top spot in the Ultimate Power Ranking, and for good reason.  They sport the top defense in the UPR (and it's not particularly close), with a defensive subtotal of 644 out of a possible 715.  This means that they have top players at nearly every defensive position, and as they say "Defense wins championships."  They are clearly the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl Champions in 2014.  They will need to lean on that defense once again though, as their league average offense (tied for 15th) lacks a lot of elite playmakers.  The Seahawks have strong options at every skill position, but have a below average offensive line and tight end.  They also sport the 10th ranked special teams with an elite placekicker and coverage units, but a questionable punter and merely average returner.  In other words, they don't have a ton of weaknesses in any of the three phases which are all ranked in the top half of the league.

2. New Orleans Saints - 1441 Total Points

The Saints have one of the best offenses in the NFL ranked 4th with a score of 563 out of a possible 701.  Their defense is also vastly improved after changing coordinators and making several shrewd roster moves in the draft and free agency, now also ranked 4th with a total of 527 out of a possible 715.  The Saints could make a run for the top spot in the UPR if not for their current special teams conundrum.  They currently rank 20th overall on special teams with a total score of 345 out of a possible 448, due mostly to the fact they just re-signed an aging veteran in Shayne Graham who they cut from their roster not two days before.

3. Detroit Lions - 1418 Total Points

In what might come as a big surprise, the Detroit Lions fare very well in the UPR.  Their new look offense is ranked 7th overall netting them 543 out of 701 points thanks to an elite offense line and Calvin Johnson, but they have other strong pieces too like Matthew Stafford.  But it is their defense that should turn heads, ranked 3rd in the NFL with 529 points out of a possible 715.  They have one of the strongest front 7's in the league led by elite middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch and a pair of solid tackles in Suh and Fairley.  Their secondary should improve a ton with a pair of new veteran additions in CB Rashean Mathis and S James Ihedigbo.  The only question mark is rookie corner Darius Slay opposite Mathis.  Their special teams ranking leaves a little to be desired, clocking in at 19th overall with questionable coverage units and a young, inexperienced placekicker.  But this is a team that looks great on paper, and should thrive under a new coaching staff.

4. Denver Broncos - 1416 Total Points

The Broncos have slipped a bit since last season with the departures of some key contributors like Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, and Quentin Jammer to name a few.  Their replacements are all either unproven, or lower ranked.  Still, they remain a favorite for the playoffs with one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, ranked 2nd thanks to elite playmakers Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas.  They have a slightly above average defense, ranked tied for 12th.  There are some super stars that anchor the defense like DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and T.J. Ward, but there are also some question marks like rookie corner Bradley Roby and linebacker Nate Irving among others.  The Bronco's special teams unit is tied for 21st with Oakland, only netting them 344 points.  They have great kickers in Matt Prater and Nate Freese, but only average returners and some of the worst coverage units in the league.  But as long as Peyton Manning is leading this offense, they will be in the thick of the playoff hunt.

5. San Diego Chargers - 1402 Total Points

Believe it or not, but the Chargers have the top ranked offense in the UPR.  Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews and Eddie Royal are all very underrated and both score highly in the rankings, not to mention all-stars Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates.  They have one of the strongest offensive lines in the game too.  But this team will only go as far as their tied for 20th ranked defense will let them.  They have a pair of elite pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson, as well as one of the best safeties in the game: Eric Weddle.  But after that, there are question marks all over.  The Chargers special teams unit is not much to write home about, ranked 18th overall with an average kicker in Nick Novak, an aging punter in Mike Scifres and underwhelming returners and coverage units.  If the Chargers can get their defense turned around, they could easily be a Super Bowl contender, on paper.

6. New England Patriots - 1395 Total Points

Tom Brady started off slow last year without Rob Gronkowski and a totally new crop of receivers.  But by season's end they were clicking, and this offense is now ranked 10th overall with 530 points out of a possible 701.  They've got elite weapons all over the field and a strong offensive line to boot.  The Patriot defense is ranked a respectable tied for 12th as well, netting them another 473 points.  They get Vince Wilfork back on the defensive line and have one of the strongest group of linebackers in the AFC.  However, Kyle Arrington will have to prove he can fill the void left by Aqib Talib opposite Devin McCourty.  Led by Stephen Gostowski, the Patriots special teams is ranked 4th in the NFL.  This is another loaded team from top to bottom.

7. Cincinnati Bengals - 1387 Total Points

The Bengals find themselves in the top 10 due to having a very balanced team.  Their offense is good, ranked 8th overall with some elite pieces in A.J. Green and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.  Their defense is also ranked tied for 10th, and it will be interesting to see how they do without Mike Zimmer leading it.  The drop-off from Michael Johnson to Wallace Gilberry will be pronounced along the defensive line.  And lastly, their special teams unit is also good, ranked 9th overall with excellent kickers, return men and coverage units.  Overall, it's hard to find a real weakness since they have a top 10 ranking in all three phases of the game.

8. Indianapolis Colts - 1378 Total Points

The strength of the Colts is no longer their offense.  Shockingly, they've built one of the best defenses in the NFL over the course of the last 2 years, which is now ranked 6th overall in the UPR, led by the likes of Robert Mathis, Cory Redding and Vontae Davis.  But for as strong as the defense has become, they will go nowhere until Andrew Luck proves he is an elite level quarterback that can elevate this offense above their middle-of-the road 17th ranking.  They have a strong offensive line, but there are question marks at running back, tight end and the Colts receivers are merely average.  Still, with a little help from their respectable special teams, ranked tied for 14th overall, they should still contend for a playoff spot.

9. San Francisco - 1377 Total Points

The 49ers were a playoff team a year ago, but could not get past the Seahawks in a very tough NFC conference.  Like the Bengals, the 49ers have a very balanced team, although the loss of Aldon Smith for the majority of the season will impact this defense greatly.  They fall to a tie for 15th with only 463 out of a possible 715 points as a result.  Their offense is merely average, also ranked tied for 15th.  Frank Gore is old, and Kaepernick and Crabtree are not yet elite options at their respective positions.  On top of that their offensive line has begun to deteriorate.   Their 2nd best special teams ranking helps prop them up in the UPR, but this is a team that will need to prove it can get by on defense without their star players.

10. Kansas City Chiefs - 1376 Total Points

Alex Smith and Andy Reid were supposed to be a great pairing, but this offense is still below average ranked 25th overall.  Their offensive line is above average, and they have an electric running back in Jamaal Charles, but this ranking is not kind to Alex Smith's low position, and they have a sub-par receiving group.  That said they still find themselves in the top 10 overall thanks to a very strong defense, ranked 2nd overall with 581 out of a possible 715.  Rookie Dontari Poe lived up to expectations last year and the Chiefs might have the best defensive line in the AFC, which will be terrorizing quarterbacks all season.  Their special teams leave a bit to be desired however with a 23rd ranking.

11. Arizona Cardinals - 1364 Total Points

The Cardinals are very similar in make-up to the Bengals: pretty much league average in everything.  They have the 11th best offense, 14th best defense and 11th best special teams.  They have good, but not great options at nearly every position.  Their strongest asset is probably their defensive front led by John Abraham and Calais Campbell.  That said, for every elite star like Patrick Peterson, they have a lesser option too, like Antonio Cromartie.  It all comes out in the wash as the quintessential league average team, which is hopefully enough to squeak into the playoffs, although it will be tough with both Seattle and San Francisco ahead of them in their division (and the Cards even finished 10-6 last year!).

12. Dallas Cowboys - 1364 Total Points

The Cowboys, perennially ranked as a playoff team nearly every year, find themselves ranked 12th overall, just enough to call themselves a playoff caliber team once again.  They do have a potent offense, ranked 5th overall and led by Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray.  They are all elite options in their own rights and helped out by one of the top ranked offensive lines.  But that defense still needs a LOT of help.  They recently switched to a 4-3 scheme, but still have a lot of growing pains to work through as they are ranked 31st overall.  They have a respectable defensive line, but are seriously hurting at linebacker with the loss (again) of Sean Lee.  Their secondary is suspect once again too with the likes of Brandon Carr and J.J. Wilcox not living up to their potential.  On the bright side, they have one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranked 3rd with elite kickers Dan Bailey and Chris Jones and an excellent returner in Dwyane Harris that could help out with the field position game alongside one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

13. Atlanta Falcons - 1343 Total Points

The Falcons have everything they need on paper to have a good offense, ranked 9th overall.  But they will need to seriously over perform compared to last season.  With Julio Jones back in the mix, and Steven Jackson hopefully healthy, they should be on track.  But until they can get their 24th defense turned around, they will have a hard time finding their way into the playoffs.  They have a few talented pieces along their defensive line in Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai, but their linebackers might be the worst group of four, on the whole, in the NFL.  Outside of Desmond Trufant, they have serious question marks in the secondary as well.  But they have an elite special teams unit ranked 5th overall, which can help overcome some of the field position deficiencies of their defense.

14. Baltimore Ravens - 1330 Total Points

Baltimore finds themselves in the "above average" category thanks to their top 10 ranks on defense and special teams.  They have one of the strongest pairs of pass rushers in the NFL in Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, which help anchor this defense as the 10th ranked unit.  Their offense has a lot of question marks though with a below average offense line, average running backs, and sub-par receivers.  Joe Flacco can only do so much, and it's why this offense is ranked 22nd overall.  Their 8th ranked special teams unit probably won't be enough to push them back into the playoffs.

15t. Minnesota Vikings - 1324 Total Points

In what might come as a shocker, the Vikings climb up from the lower ranks right into the middle of the pack.  Despite the addition of Norv Turner, they are returning almost all of the same pieces on offense, for a ranking that is 21st overall.  The UPR does not like their QB position, and despite having an above average offensive line and solid receivers, Peterson and Rudolph have relatively low ranks thanks to underwhelming seasons last year.  But in a sign of good things to come, this defense gets a major boost thanks to rookies proving themselves like Xavier Rhodes and Shariff Floyd, as well as the addition of key free agents like cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and defensive tackle Linval Joseph.  They made all the right moves to boost this defense to 8th overall.  It would be even higher if not for their linebacker situation.  They have an average special teams unit ranked 16th overall which shouldn't hurt them too much.  If they can get improved play out of the quarterback position and bounce-back seasons from Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, then this is a team primed to break out of the playoff bubble ranking and into contention.

15t. New York Giants - 1324 Total Points

The New York Giants offense was in shambles last year, and it's hopeful that with a new coordinator and a new scheme they can improve what is otherwise a 27th ranked unit.  Eli Manning had one of the worst years of his career last year and the loss of Hakeem Nicks hurts their receiver group.  They also have a totally unknown tight end in Larry Donnell and an offensive line that is below average.  That said, the pick-up of Rashad Jennings proved to be a wise move with them losing David Wilson.  The Giants defense is what gives this team a fighting chance, ranked 5th overall with 516 out of a possible 715 points.  Their defensive line is above average and they should have a vastly improved secondary with Antrel Rolle coming into his own and the addition of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  Their special teams ranking doesn't hurt them any either, ranked tied for 14th with the Colts.

17t. Pittsburgh Steelers - 1312 Total Points

The Steelers have a league average offense and defense ranked 12th and tied for 15th respectively.  That would normally be enough to put them in the conversation with the Bengals and Cardinals who also have similarly balanced rosters.  But unlike those two teams, the Steelers have a special teams unit that is one of the worst in the league, which knocks them down the rankings a bit.  They have one of the worst pair of kickers in the NFL, and below average coverage units.  If not for Antonio Brown's excellent punt return skills, they would easily have the worst special teams in the league.  Never-the-less, if they can get improved play on special teams, and their younger players like LeVeon Bell, Markus Wheaton, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Stephen Tuitt can all take a big step in development, they could surprise some people this year.

17t. Tennessee Titans - 1312 Total Points

The Titans lone bright spot is their defense, ranked 7th overall.  It is the quintessential "team" defense with very few weaknesses, and solid options at every position, but lacking elite star power.  Their offense is a different story however, ranked 19th overall with only 496 out of a possible 701 points.  They have an above average offensive line, but then a bunch of question marks are every skill position outside of maybe Delaine Walker.  They have a sub-par special teams unit with a decent punter and not much else, ranked 25th overall.

19. Houston Texans - 1309 Total Points

The Houston Texas are one of those "slightly below average teams" that aren't horrible in any one area, but don't excel in any phase of the game either.  They have the 18th ranked offense with a good offensive line and a good running back in Arian Foster, but not much else.  Fitzpatrick is one of the lowest ranked quarterbacks in the league, and even past superstar Andre Johnson has fallen down the rankings with age.  There are a lot of unproven options at wide receiver and tight end too.  While their defense has a few superstars in J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing, there are also some unproven options like Jadeveon Clowney, D. J. Swearinger and Kareem Jackson along with mostly "league average" players.  The end result is a defense ranked 19th overall.  Even the Texans special teams unit is ranked merely 17th overall.  They've got an elite punter, a good placekicker, but their coverage units are below average and Keshawn Martin is a better punt returner than kickoff returner.

20t. Chicago Bears - 1299 Total Points

The Bears have one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL right now, ranked 3rd overall with 581 out of a possible 701 points.  They have the strongest group of wide receivers in the game, a strong running back and an above average quarterback.  Even their offensive line is strong.  But that defense...yikes.  The Bears won't be threatening too many teams if they don't get their 27th ranked defense turned around.  What used to be a major strength of the team has grown old and moved on.  They still have a few playmakers, swapping out Julius Peppers for Lamarr Houston, and Lance Briggs is still a very good linebacker, but there's not much after that worth mentioning.  And their secondary is one of the weakest group in the NFL.  The Bears only shot is to hope to outscore their opponents, because they won't be getting much support out of their 28th ranked special teams.

20t. Oakland Raiders - 1299 Total Points

The Raiders might be the oldest team in the NFL, but they are far from the worst.  Their 20th ranked offense is lead by a young and promising tight end Mychal Rivera.  Although, the rest of their offense is comprised of league average options at best.  Derrek Carr was just named the starting quarterback, and being that he is the only rookie starter in the league, he has the lowest ranking until he can prove otherwise.  Their defense is slightly better, ranked 17th overall and they have some strong pieces in place with Justin Tuck and Pat Sims anchoring their defensive line, and the promising Sio Moore and heading up a young linebacker group.  But their secondary needs some help beyond the past-his-prime Charles Woodson and the inexperienced Tarell Brown.  Their special teams is ranked a modest tied for 21st overall, and needs a much better punter and punt coverage unit (both ranked near the bottom of the league) if they want a ranking in the top half of the league.

21st. Green Bay Packers - 1286 Total Points

In what come as another major shocker, the perennial playoff contender Green Bay Packers find themselves in the bottom half of the rankings.  It's not because of their 4th ranked offense, with elite players at nearly every position except tight end, and one of the stronger wide receiver groups and offensive lines in the league.  No, this ranking depends solely on their tied for 29th ranked defense, one of the worst in the league.  Losing B.J. Raji impacts their ranking a lot as the drop off to Letroy Guion is significant.  But this defense has a weak linebacker core outside of Clay Mathews.  Mike Daniels is one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the league, but his platoon mate Datone Jones has a lot of developing still to do.  But the biggest issue is still their secondary with Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett all below average options and Micah Hyde transitioning to a new position lands him with one of the worst safety rankings.  Green Bay's special teams is also underwhelming, ranked 29th overall with sub-par returners, and one of the worst ranked kickoff coverage units in the NFL.  It's fair to wonder if Mason Crosby has already reached his ceiling and is approaching career decline at age 30.

23rd. Carolina Panthers - 1282 Total Points

The Panthers are known for having a good defense, but free agency was not kind to them.  They are ranked 20th in the league with only 449 points out of a possible 715.  They still have a strong front 7, anchored by one of the best middle linebackers in the game, Luke Kuechly, but their secondary is a shell of its former self.  Charles Godfrey and Thomas DeCoud are ranked near the bottom of their respective position groups, and Antoine Cason and Roman Harper are below average options at best.  Their offense doesn't give them much help either, ranked 23rd overall.  There are some strong pieces in place with Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Greg Olsen, but they have merely an average offensive line, and their receiver group is one of the weakest in the NFL with Jerricho Cotchery being their strongest, veteran option.  The Panthers Special Teams is ranked a respectable 12th, led by kickers Gano and Nortman, but that isn't enough to raise this team into the playoff hunt.

24. Cleveland Browns - 1264 Total Points

The Browns continue to have a strong defense ranked 9th overall with 478 points out of 715.  They have a very strong linebacker group, and an elite corner and safety in Joe Haden and Donte Whitner.  However, their offense leaves something to be desired, especially after the year-long suspension of star receiver Josh Gordon.  They have a weak offensive line, a lower ranked quarterback and easily the worst set of wide receivers in the league.  Despite having one of the best tight ends in Jordan Cameron, they are still only ranked 28th.  Their 13th ranked special teams should avoid making any major mistakes, but until they get figure out a way to get by without Josh Gordon, this team will find it difficult to maintain success week in and week out.

25t. Miami Dolphins - 1226 Total Points

As we get closer to the bottom of the ranking, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find competitive teams.  The Dolphins have the 24th ranked offense thanks to a poor offensive line, young quarterback and running back, and a disappointing wide receiver group.  Charles Clay is perhaps the most promising piece of their entire offense.  The Dolphins have some elite pieces on defense including Cameron Wake, Randy Starks and Brent Grimes.  But they have a weak set of linebackers, and outside of Grimes their secondary is woefully inadequate with Reshad Jones and Jimmy Wilson both near the bottom of the safety rankings.  It all adds up to a defense ranked tied for 29th overall with the Green Bay Packers.  They manage to stay near the top of these lower ranked teams thanks to a very strong special teams group, ranked 6th overall with strong kickers and great coverage units.  Ultimately, they won't make it to the playoffs on their special teams play and will need massive improvements in the other phases of the game.

25t. St. Louis Rams - 1226 Total Points

The Rams have been dealt another major blow with the loss of Sam Bradford, but the dropoff from Bradford to Shaun Hill is not as pronounced in the rankings as one might think.  This 29th ranked offense was missing some important pieces even with Bradford in the mix.  While the Rams have a strong offensive line, and a good tight end their receiver group is one of the weakest in the league and their young running back is merely average in the rankings.  The Rams are known for having a good defense, but it doesn't really show up in the rankings, unfortunately.  They are ranked 28th overall and here is why: that secondary is scary bad.  Their defensive line has some strong pieces lead by Robert Quinn and Chris Long, but their linebackers are merely average.  The Rams have literally the worst pair of starting safeties in the NFL, and their cornerbacks Jenkins and Johnson are inexperienced, below average options at best.  But hey, it's not all bad news.  The Rams have the best special teams unit in the NFL with literally the best coverage units, a strong kicker and good returners.  But like the Dolphins they are tied with overall, having a good special teams unit won't be enough.

27. Washington Redskins - 1222 Total Points

The Redskins have a respectable offense, ranked tied 14th overall with 517 out of 701 points.  The signing of DeSean Jackson boosts what is otherwise an average wide receiver group, and Alfred Morris and Jordan Reed are both good, young options at running back and tight end.  That said, their offensive line is average at best, and Robert Griffen III still has a lot to prove.  But the Redskins find themselves down here near the bottom of the league because of a defense ranked 26th overall, and a special teams unit that is 2nd worst in the league, ranked 31st.  The Redskins have a strong set of linebackers, and not much else, especially in the secondary.  With an average offense, a bad defense and a bad special teams group, this team may find it hard to generate many wins in 2014.

28. New York Jets - 1218 Total Points

The Jets have an almost identical team make-up as the Redskins just above.  Their defense is literally the worst ranked in the NFL, and their special teams is poor, ranked tied for 26th with Chicago.  On defense they have a decent set of linebackers led by Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, and David Harris.  But their defensive line and secondary are atrocious.  Calvin Pryor and Sheldon Richardson are unproven options at safety and nose tackle, and Dee Millner struggled last year.  All that youth puts this team near the bottom of the rankings.  They have a respectable offense though, ranked 13th overall.  Chris Johnson was an underrated option last year and should still have some gas in the tank behind an otherwise average offensive line.  The acquisition of free agent Eric Decker gives the young Geno Smith a legitimate option at wide receiver.  Tight end Jeff Cumberland had an outstanding 2013 and will look to improve upon that this year.  But their special teams unit needs some major improvement, ranked tied for 26th overall with Philadelphia.  Outside of Nick Folk and average coverage units, their returners are unproven.  This is a young team that will need to prove it on the field if they want to jump up the UPR.

29. Philadelphia Eagles - 1214 Total Points

Unfortunately, we're at that point in the rankings where almost no team has anything positive to talk about.  The Eagles are poor in all three phases of the game ranked 26th, 23rd and tied for 26th in offense, defense and special teams, respectively.  Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy both have elite rankings thanks to an excellent 2013 season, but they lost DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant in free agency, which has decimated their wide receiver depth.  Zach Ertz had a promising rookie year, but with one of the worst offensive lines in the league this offense is going to need some more Chip Kelly magic to make it click in 2014.  The Eagles have an above average front seven, but a very poor secondary.  Even the special teams is poorly ranked with a pair of kickers that might be the worst in the NFL, and a bad kickoff coverage unit to boot.  This team has some elite pieces, but not enough of a surrounding cast or depth to make consistent noise in the NFC East.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 1180 Total Points

Where to begin?  The Tampa Bay offense is in desperate need of an overhaul, ranked 30th overall.  They've begun the overhaul this season, but are relying on journeyman Josh McCown at quarterback as a temporary placeholder, an average level player.  They have nothing more than an average offensive line supporting  Doug Martin at running back, who underwhelmed last season before getting injured.  Other than Vincent Jackson, who's become nothing more than a league average receiver at age 31, there are three other rookie options in the receiving game that have yet to prove themselves.  This is a young, mediocre offense that could face a lot of growing pains.  Their defense is a little better than the offense ranked 22nd overall, but we'll see what kind of results Leslie Frazier and his worn out Tampa 2 defense can do.  This defense does have a few above average pieces they acquired in free agency like Michael Johnson and Alteraun Verner to add to Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy.  But there are still major question marks in the secondary with Mark Barron, Jonathan Banks and Dashon Goldson needing to prove themselves.  The Bucs special teams is below average with a 24th ranking due to an unproven rookie kicker, and a huge 5-year deal for an underwhelming 31-year old punter.  Their returner Eric Page is also an unproven rookie.  In short, if their youth movement can provide immediate dividends, this team could vastly outperform their 30th ranking.

31st. Jacksonville Jaguars - 1137 Total Points

At some point, the Jaguars will get back to their playoff caliber seasons of the early 2000s, but alas, this is not that season.  We'll start with the good: special teams.  Ranked 7th overall, they've got a great placekicker, an average punter, a dynamic kick returner and some excellent coverage units.  Unfortunately, their defense is lacking, ranked 25th overall with only 404 out of a possible 715 points.  They have a few elite pieces on defense, like Red Bryant and Dekoda Watson, but they are hurting everywhere else, especially at safety where they have rookie John Cyprien slotted in as a starter.  But the Jaguars aren't going anywhere until they fix their league worst offense, collecting only 354 out of a possible 701 points.  They have hands down the worst set of receivers in the league, and a mediocre quarterback in Chad Henne.  If that wasn't bad enough, their offensive line is 2nd worst which will make it tough for above average running back Toby Gerhart to find running room.  It would appear that Jacksonville will have a hard time putting points on the board, and they will also have a hard time stopping teams from putting points on the board, which is never a good position to be in.

32nd. Buffalo Bills - 1131 Total Points

The best thing to say about the Bills is that they have one least worst option: their defense.  Ranked 18th overall the Bills have some good players like Brandon Spikes, Marcell Dareus and Leodis McKelvin.  But there are many question marks like Stephon Gilmore, Da'Norris Stacy and rookie C.J. Mosley.  But the biggest reason they find themselves at the bottom of the UPR is a 31st ranked offense and a 32nd ranked special teams.  On offense outside of starter C.J. Spiller and Scott Chandler, both above average options, they have a poor quarterback in E.J. Manuel, weak, unproven receivers and a bad offensive line.  Dan Carpenter is a decent kicker, but unproven 2nd year punter Jordan Gay is the lowest ranked punter in the NFL.  They also have one of the worst punt coverage units in the NFL and poor returners on top of that.  Until the Bills can fix their offense and special teams, they will struggle to be competitive.

And there you have it!  The Ultimate Power Ranking.  Since this a Vikings blog, and we're only days away from the first game of the season, it seems to be an appropriate time to offer up a season prediction.  So, using the UPR as a guide, I'll give the Vikings a win against any team ranked lower than them, and a loss against any team ranked higher.  That gives us the following results:

Week 1: Vikings @STL - W
Week 2: Vikings vs NE - L
Week 3: Vikings @NO - L
Week 4: Vikings vs ATL - L
Week 5: Vikings @GB - W
Week 6: Vikings vs DET - L
Week 7: Vikings @BUF - W
Week 8: Vikings @TB - W
Week 9: Vikings vs WAS - W
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Vikings @CHI - W
Week 12: Vikings vs GB - W
Week 13: Vikings vs CAR - W
Week 14: Vikings vs NYJ - W
Week 15: Vikings @DET - L
Week 16: Vikings @MIA - W
Week 17: Vikings vs CHI - W

UPR Record Prediction: 11-5

Yep, that's right 11-5 and likely good enough for the playoffs as a wildcard behind the Detroit Lions.  The first part of the schedule is brutal, and after 6 weeks the Vikings are 2-4 and trying to stay alive.  But the back half of the schedule is a cake-walk with games against 4 of the bottom 6 ranked teams in the UPR.  All of this may sound outlandish right now, but if these teams perform the way that Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus rated their players last season, then this could be a totally believable outcome.  We'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.