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Football.com's NFL Power Rankings

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The NFC West may be the league's most dangerous division, but who will come out on top? Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.
The NFC West may be the league's most dangerous division, but who will come out on top? Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.

The 2013 NFL season kicks off Thursday and teams are about to embark on a 17-week quest to reach the playoffs.

The pecking order of the elite teams in the league remains mostly the same, but there are a few teams looking to make a splash this year. So now that the draft, free agency, training camps and preseason games are behind us, how do all the teams look heading into the 2013 season?

The Football.com NFL Power Rankings are based on votes tallied each week by a panel consisting of Football.com editors Evan Grossman, Allen Kim, Brett Spielberg, Danny Webster, David Seigerman, Doug Orth, Jake Ciely, Mike Greger, Stan Chrapowicki and Zachary Doleiden.

1. Seattle Seahawks

2012 Finish: 11-5 (Lost in the NFC Divisional Round)

Despite the loss of playmaking WR Percy Harvin, the Seattle Seahawks have what many believe to be the most well-rounded team in the NFL. Their defense is rivaled only by the San Francisco 49ers, and Russell Wilson is poised to soar in his sophomore campaign.

2. San Francisco 49ers

2012 Finish: 11-4-1 (Lost in the Super Bowl)

The San Francisco 49ers were just a few plays away from coming from behind to beat the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII this past February, but they’re positioned to make a return to the promised land for a second season in a row.

Colin Kaepernick looked like a seasoned pro last year, and with a tighter grasp on the offense, he should be even more dangerous. He’ll be working without Michael Crabtree for most of the season, but Anquan Boldin should at least be able to fill the void in the meantime.

3. Denver Broncos

2012 Finish: 13-3 (Lost in the AFC Divisional Round)            

The Denver Broncos may have lost Elvis Dumervil in free agency and Von Miller for six games due to suspension, but their defense should still be a force to be reckoned with. Add Wes Welker and Montee Ball to their high-powered offense, and the Broncos should be favored to take the AFC crown.

4. Houston Texans

2012 Finish: 12-4 (Lost in the AFC Divisional Round)

The Houston Texans are looking to rebound after a late-season collapse. With a potent offense and an intimidating defense, Houston is equally dangerous on both sides of the ball. If Arian Foster manages to stay healthy and rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins turns out to be the threat they’ve needed across from Andre Johnson for years now, their offense can be even better than ever before.

5. Atlanta Falcons

2012 Finish: 13-3 (Lost in the NFC Championship Game)

The Atlanta Falcons finished tied for the best record in the NFL last year, but they fell short of making the Super Bowl after losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The addition of Steven Jackson to the backfield to replace the plodding Michael Turner will pay huge dividends for one of the league’s most powerful offenses, but they can only hope that it’s enough to offset their losses on defense.

6. New England Patriots

2012 Finish: 12-4 (Lost in the AFC Championship Game)

No Wes Welker, no Aaron Hernandez — no problem. The New England Patriots may have lost two of their top offensive weapons from last season, but QB Tom Brady hasn’t missed a beat. More importantly, when Brady and coach Bill Belichick are involved, you can never count out that Patriots.

7. Green Bay Packers

2012 Finish: 11-5 (Lost in the NFC Divisional Round)

The Packers may have lost Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings, but with their deep receiving corps, the addition of stud-in-the-making rookie RB Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers could very well be the last team standing in the NFC.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

2012 Finish: 10-6 (Lost in the AFC Wild-Card Round)

The Cincinnati Bengals are deep, balanced and still improving as a team. They didn’t make any big personnel changes, but things are looking up for the Bengals. Rookie RB Giovani Bernard will give them an explosive option out of the backfield, and James Harrison should bring some experience and a mean edge to their defense.

9. Baltimore Ravens

2012 Finish: 10-6 (Super Bowl Champions)

Even though Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed joined the Houston Texans, GM Ozzie Newsome made some shrewd moves to retool the team’s defense, and it may very well be even better this season.

With Dennis Pitta out for the year and Anquan Boldin on the San Francisco 49ers, Joe Flacco will have to rely on Torrey Smith and Ray Rice even more than ever before. But with a championship pedigree and plenty of talent on all facets of the team, there’s no reason to think that they won’t be contending again.

10. Indianapolis Colts

2012 Finish: 11-5 (Lost in the AFC Wild-Card Round)

Andrew Luck has reunited with his former offensive coordinator from Stanford, and the addition of Ahmad Bradshaw to help balance the offense should make it even more dangerous than it was last year. Now it’s up to the defense to take that next step for them to truly challenge the elite teams of the NFL.

11. Washington Redskins

2012 Finish: 10-6 (Lost in the NFC Wild-Card round)

For once in a long time, Washington had a quiet and stable offseason, and that stability should pay off as they look to build upon their success from last year. However, nothing is more important to the team’s success than the return of Robert Griffin III. Nearly nine months removed from having torn his ACL, the team will only go as far as Griffin is able to take them.

12. New York Giants

2012 Finish: 9-7

Hakeem Nicks is healthy, Victor Cruz got paid, Reuben Randle is ready to break out, and the door is wide open for David Wilson to wreak havoc out of the backfield. If the defense manages to rebound (and that’s a big if with all the question marks for that unit), the Giants could be a very dangerous team.

13. Chicago Bears

2012 Finish: 10-6

The addition of Marc Trestman and his pass-happy offense should add another dimension to the Chicago Bears. Not only do they still have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but their offense is shaping up to be much more dangerous than it has been in years past.

14. New Orleans Saints

2012 Finish: 7-9

The return of coach Sean Payton should have a monumental impact on the team, but the Saints will need him to work his magic if they hope to overcome their atrocious defense. Drew Brees will once again be counted on to shoulder the load as New Orleans’ high-powered offense focuses on outscoring their opponents.

15. Dallas Cowboys

2012 Finish: 8-8

Jason Garrett has had his play-calling duties unceremoniously taken away from him, and Monte Kiffin was brought aboard to retool their defense. While there’s plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, this is a team in transition, and whether they’re able to adapt to the changes will determine how successful they’ll be in 2013.

16. St. Louis Rams

2012 Finish: 7-8-1

Sam Bradford may have lost Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola in the offseason, but he has a number of young and fast skill players to replace them. Bradford finally has some stability under coach Jeff Fisher, and the Rams are set to once again be a competitive force in the NFC after years of wallowing in the depths of the league.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

2012 Finish: 8-8

Pittsburgh’s offensive line still needs some work, their running game is a mess until rookie RB Le’Veon Bell returns and WR Mike Wallace bolted for the Dolphins. But despite these issues, it’s tough to bet against the Steelers with Big Ben behind center and coach Mike Tomlin running the show.

18. Detroit Lions

2012 Finish: 4-12

The Detroit Lions improved in the trenches, and they added Reggie Bush to boost an already dangerous offense. If Matthew Stafford can regain his form and Calvin Johnson continues to do what he does best, then we may see the same 2011 Lions that caught the league by storm.

19. Minnesota Vikings

2012 Finish: 10-6 (Lost in the NFC Wild-Card Round)

With reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson carrying the load, the Vikings just need Christian Ponder to step up with Greg Jennings as his new top target if they hope to return to the playoffs.

20. Carolina Panthers

2012 Finish: 7-9

The Panthers wisely spent their first two picks to shore up their defensive line, but their secondary is easily one of the most vulnerable in the league. Luckily for Carolina, they have a game-changer behind center in Cam Newton, and he’ll be their catalyst for success.

21. Miami Dolphins

2012 Finish: 7-9

GM Jeff Ireland made some bold moves in the offseason like signing WR Mike Wallace to a lucrative contract, but the Dolphins will still be forced to rely on the development of QB Ryan Tannehill to determine their success.

22. Arizona Cardinals

2012 Finish: 5-11

The Cardinals brought in QB Carson Palmer via trade with the Oakland Raiders, and the impact he’ll have on the Cardinals offense can’t be understated. Their improved offense should also pay dividends for a defense that was overworked last year.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2012 Finish: 7-9

The offense should only improve after a full year of experience together, and the addition of Revis Island should help a defense that was picked on last season. However, they still have to contend with Matt Ryan and Drew Brees if they hope to have any shot at winning the division.

24. Kansas City Chiefs

2012 Finish: 2-14

Under new head coach Andy Reid, it’s hard to see the Chiefs not improving after an abysmal 2012 campaign that netted them the first pick in the 2013 draft. They finally have a competent quarterback in Alex Smith, and the team should thrive with this new pairing.

25. Philadelphia Eagles

2012 Finish: 4-12

New head coach Chip Kelly is bringing along his explosive offense to the Eagles, and they’re going to put up a lot of points this season. However, their defense is clearly a work in progress, and that may end up holding them back from having more success.

26. Tennessee Titans

2012 Finish: 6-10

The Titans improved their offensive line, and Chris Johnson looks rejuvenated. Now it’s up to Jake Locker to step up and truly take the reins on offense.

27. Cleveland Browns

2012 Finish: 5-11

Brandon Weeden looks comfortable in Norv Turner’s system, and the Cleveland Browns may be the most underrated team heading into the 2013 season. Their offense looks fairly impressive in limited action, and the defense is much better than most people think.

28. San Diego Chargers

2012 Finish: 7-9

The Chargers receivers are dropping like flies, and Phillip Rivers has regressed significantly in recent years. Coach Mike McCoy has his work cut out for him in 2013.

29. Buffalo Bills

2012 Finish: 6-10

The Buffalo Bills brought in Doug Marrone as their new head coach to replace Chan Gailey, and he’ll be charged with turning around the fortunes of the franchise. Unfortunately, combined with their rookie QB EJ Manuel, tough schedule and overall inexperience on offense, the Bills are headed toward another rough year.

30. New York Jets

2012 Finish: 6-10

The quarterback controversy could die down quickly if Geno Smith manages to secure the starting job, but this team is in disarray, and coach Rex Ryan looks like he’s on his last legs.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

2012 Finish: 2-14

The Jaguars didn’t make any discernible improvements or changes over the offseason, and it’s tough to find something to like about this team. Whether it’s Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne quarterbacking the team, Jacksonville will be fishing for another top pick in the 2014 draft.

32. Oakland Raiders

2012 Finish: 4-12

The Oakland Raiders are in for a long year. Matt Flynn has already been beaten out by Terrelle “I Never Really Knew How To Throw A Football Before” Pryor, and it would be shocking if they managed to win more than two games.