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NFL Power Rankings 16-9: Detroit Lions fighting to reach the top table

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Continuing our NFL power rankings with part three of four it's the middle of the pack teams ranked 16-9.

16) San Diego Chargers

Essentially, the Chargers team playing in 2014 is the same one that played in 2013. The key difference is the schedule. Instead of playing the NFC East the Chargers are now playing the NFC West.

A 9-7 record was just good enough for the  playoffs last year. The Chargers would do really well to post the same record again but it looks unlikely.

15) Baltimore Ravens

Whatever the ethics and morals of the decision, having Ray Rice suspended for only two games is a huge plus for the Ravens. Add into this Gary Kubiak's offense which seems to play to the Ravens strengths and Baltimore will improve on their 2013 record. They still don't have enough about them to emerge as contenders though.

14) Minnesota Vikings

The Norv Turner offense in Minnesota is going to be one of the most interesting offenses to watch this season. Adrian Peterson is one of the top running backs in the NFL, second year wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson has explosive playmaking ability, tight
end Kyle Rudolph could be a revelation and when he secures the starting spot Teddy Bridgewater is going to be something special.

The Vikings defense is currently being rebuild however and this will hold Minnesota back. Whilst the offense is essentially the same personnel that played last season the defense is being radically overhauled. Half of last year's starters are no longer on the roster. Big moves have been made on defense such as the massive contract given to Everson Griffin and the acquisition of free agent Captain Munnerlyn but success is unlikely to be instant.

The future looks bright for the Vikings but it isn't here yet.

13) Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals did well last season to make it into the playoffs as the third placed team in the NFC West. This season though they will struggle to replicate those feats.

The defense has been hit by injuries and departures of key players. Combine this with the overall strength of the NFC West and it will be a tough season for Arizona.

12) Carolina Panthers

Much has been made of the Panthers wide receiver corp but when you look at it dispassionately I'm not sure it is significantly worse than the wide receivers that the Panthers have had over the last few seasons - especially if Kelvin Benjamin is the draft hit
that everyone seems to think he is. There was much noise about the release of franchise legend Steve Smith but at his age Smith is not the number one wide receiver that much of the post-departure talk says he is. In truth Smith's presence wouldn't really improve the Panthers wide receiver options.

Even more encouraging for the Panthers though is the defense. The Panthers front seven led the NFL in sacks last year and despite Carolina's tough salary cap situation the star defensive front seven has been kept together. Not everything is rosy for the Panthers though as injuries look to be taking there toll on Cam Newton restricting his best asset; his mobility. Futhermore, the offensive line looks poor. These weaknesses mean the Panthers have regressed from last season.

11) Cincinatti Bengals

The Bengals have signed up Andy Dalton to a deal which suggests they think he could become something special but are not sure. As for me I'm fairly sure that Dalton won't develop into a quarterback that can win playoff games.

Despite a strong defense and a potentially dynamic running game I am still banking on Dalton's presence holding the Bengals back from true greatness.

10) Pittsburgh Steelers

I really like what the Steelers have done in the draft this season. They have cleared out a lot of deadwood and brought in some fast dynamic players. Ryan Shazier in particular looks like a player who will thrive in the modern NFL.

These changes will serve the Steelers well over the next few seasons and reinvigorate the franchise.This season has come too soon for the Steelers to really challenge for the top teams though.Tenth seems about right.

9) Detroit Lions

As I wrote in another article the Lions are a good team. I went so far as to say they were dark horses for the Superbowl. Whilst I stand by this statement the Lions are still only long shots for the Superbowl and they haven't yet shaken their propensity to shoot themselves in the foot.

Everything is in place for the Lions to challenge this season. Whether they do comes down to the intangibles.

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Cincinnati Bengals
Arizona Cardinals
Pittsburgh Steelers
San Diego Chargers
Baltimore Ravens
Minnesota Vikings
Carolina Panthers

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