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Shutdown Corner

Shutdown Corner’s Premature 2014 NFL Power Rankings

For every champion, there's an inevitable dynasty question.

In the case of the Seattle Seahawks, it's a fair topic to discuss.

Seattle was the best team in the NFL from beginning to end this season, and capped it with a dominant Super Bowl XLVIII victory against Denver. The roster, thanks to some great drafting and some key free-agent moves, is probably the deepest in the NFL (although San Francisco is very close). It is one of the youngest in the league too. Seattle has another year before it has to rework quarterback Russell Wilson's contract, which gives it tremendous flexibility most other teams don't have.

All of that doesn't mean Seattle will win another title next season. Champions need to avoid complacency. All teams need to get a bit lucky to win it all, avoiding a key injury or going up against a hot team on the wrong day in the playoffs. The Seahawks still have to battle the 49ers in their own division. Maybe we'd be talking about San Francisco in this space had Colin Kaepernick's pass to Michael Crabtree been a few inches longer, and not picked off at the end of the NFC championship game.

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(USA TODAY Sports)

But right now, it's impossible to put the Seahawks anywhere but the top spot in the way-too-early power rankings for the 2014 season. This list will change dramatically before next season begins. We'll see who makes significant moves in free agency, gets a few key pieces in the draft or suffers unexpected injuries. But this is a quick glimpse at which teams are set up best right after Super Bowl XLVIII to make a run at Super Bowl XLIX.

Here's our initial power rankings of the season, and starting Friday we'll take an in-depth look at every team's offseason outlook, one per day starting with the Houston Texans and finishing with the Seattle Seahawks, leading us into the start of free agency on March 11:

32. Oakland Raiders
They finished last season on such a bad note. They need to re-sign offensive tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, or there are even more holes to fill. The great news is they're finally out of salary-cap prison, with a projected $63 million in cap space, according to Sportrac. Let's see how well they use it.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars
The third pick of the NFL draft should produce a much-needed quarterback. That's a necessary step. They also have gobs of salary-cap space to fill some holes.

30. Washington Redskins

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Robert Griffin III (USA Today Sports Images)

A hard team to gauge considering we don't know what Robert Griffin III will look like another year removed from ACL surgery and with a new coaching staff. The roster was depleted. And their No. 2 overall pick goes to St. Louis. But you know Daniel Snyder will spend that projected $23 million in cap space on someone.

29. Minnesota Vikings
The offense wasn't good, the defense wasn't good, Jared Allen is a free agent and Adrian Peterson isn't going to be in his prime forever. Like many teams drafting in the top 10, getting the right quarterback will define their offseason grade.

28. New York Giants
They could lose free agents Justin Tuck and Hakeem Nicks off a team that was bad in 2013. They have a great championship pedigree, but that doesn't give them a pass forever.

27. Cleveland Browns
The coaching search was not all that comforting to Browns fans. But they're positioned to improve tremendously in the draft (fourth, 26th and 35th overall picks), have a lot of salary-cap room and a manageable list of their own free agents (center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward are the top priorities). They could have a big offseason, but finding the right quarterback is obviously the key.

26. Buffalo Bills
EJ Manuel needs an offseason of development. The defense was really good, though coordinator Mike Pettine left to take the Browns' job. They had a nice draft in 2013, and another nice draft (starting with the ninth overall pick) might push them up.

25. Tennessee Titans
They need to retain free-agent cornerback Alterraun Verner. Then figure out Chris Johnson's future and how much they like quarterback Jake Locker. They played well at times last season, but it's still a team without an identity.

24. Atlanta Falcons
They were a bit lucky in 2012 and a bit unlucky in 2013. Losing Tony Gonzalez hurts, but getting Julio Jones back helps. Should be better, but not back to that 2012 form.

23. New York Jets
The 8-8 record was good, but the minus-97 scoring differential says this was not a great team. Continuity in the coaching staff should help, and Geno Smith could improve. But offensively, it's time to get better.

22. Dallas Cowboys
Somehow, they have the worst salary-cap situation in the NFL. Sportrac projects them to be $24 million over the cap. That's a lot of money spent on a lot of 8-8 seasons. How are they going to get better?

21. Houston Texans
They can't be as bad as they looked in 2013. A few months ago they were considered one of the NFL's best teams. There aren't a lot of free-agent concerns other than running back Ben Tate, and obviously they will get some help from the first pick of the draft. This will turn around fast.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers
We'll see if the move to bring back offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who wasn't always popular last season, works out. They're projected to be about $10 million over the cap with some key free agents hitting the market (safety Ryan Clark, linebacker Jason Worilds, receiver Emmanuel Sanders among them) so any improvement will probably have to come from within.

19. Miami Dolphins
There are some questions on both lines, and also the priority of re-signing free agent cornerback Brent Grimes. This wasn't a great team in 2013, but they have a good young quarterback and perhaps will be better without the off-field distractions.

18. Baltimore Ravens
The defense was still good, but the offense was terrible. Maybe there are quick fixes to the running game. Maybe the Ravens can get a receiver or tight end in the middle of the first round. But those are hard to count on.

17. San Diego Chargers
It's amazing they went to the playoffs with a defense that wasn't very good. The offensive line still needs improvement too. To hold onto the 2013 gains, they need to make some moves. The problem is, they won't have a lot of cap space.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is a good roster held back by horrible coaching. I like Mike Glennon. Doug Martin comes back. The coaching upgrade is enormous. The defense will be nasty under Lovie Smith. They don't have any key players who are slated to be free agents. Buy stock in this team now; they're making a big jump.

15. Chicago Bears
Can the defense be fixed? Henry Melton and Charles Tillman are free agents, and Julius Peppers either needs to restructure his huge salary-cap number or he will be too. The young linebackers will be better in 2014 though. The good news is the offense will be among the NFL's best.

14. Detroit Lions
A coaching change will unquestionably help. It will also help if Matthew Stafford dedicates himself to getting better. The cap situation says they won't be active in free agency, but it's not like talent is the question with them.

13. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals played really well last year. I don't trust their quarterback situation, and I can see the Rams passing them in the NFC West. But the defense is tough and maybe this is the year they find some answers for the offensive line and running game.

12. St. Louis Rams

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Robert Quinn and Chris Long (USA Today Sports Images)

I'm far from sold on Sam Bradford. But the rest of the roster is really good. The obstacles remain the same: Inconsistent quarterback play and a brutal division. But of the teams that might pull a 2013 Chiefs or Panthers and surprise everyone, I'll pick the Buccaneers and the Rams. St. Louis has two of the top 13 picks of the draft, remember.

11. Indianapolis Colts
We saw in the playoffs that there are a surprising amount of holes for a division champ. The good news is there's more than $33 million in cap space, according to Sportrac, to fill some. Not having a first-round pick as a result of the increasingly ugly Trent Richardson deal hurts. But ... Andrew Luck.

10. Kansas City Chiefs
Well, the schedule can't be that easy again. Re-signing offensive linemen Branden Albert and Geoff Schwartz is key. Example of a team that could be better in 2014 but have a worse record. A priority will be finding another weapon for Alex Smith.

9. Cincinnati Bengals
The negativity about the playoff failures of Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis will linger. And losing both coordinators is a blow. But defensive tackle Geno Atkins' return is enormous to a defense that was still strong without him. And they're in a surprisingly good salary-cap situation. Still a talented roster, just one that hasn't experienced playoff success.

8. Philadelphia Eagles
A lot of reasons to be excited about this team. The priority, obviously, is upgrading the defensive talent. Some immediate improvement at safety (and, on the offensive side, receiver) would make this team  intriguing.

7. Carolina Panthers
Expectations will be enormous. They have a huge free agent in end Greg Hardy (he's one of eight starters who are free agents), not much salary-cap flexibility and huge holes at receiver and defensive back. Could take a step back.

6. Green Bay Packers

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Aaron Rodgers (USA Today Sports Images)

They'll be better with Aaron Rodgers healthy, of course. They are in good salary-cap position, but GM Ted Thompson is allergic to free agency. But if some recent defensive draft picks start paying off, we know the offense should be just fine, especially now that it has balance with offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy.

5. New Orleans Saints
They showed last season they're as strong as ever. Making Jimmy Graham happy is the key to the offseason. It won't be easy, considering Sportrac has them projected at more than $13 million over the cap, the second-worst situation in the NFL.

4. New England Patriots
Give a 12-4 team Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and others back, and you think they'll be worse? They do need to figure out a way to get free-agent cornerback Aqib Talib back.

3. Denver Broncos
Don't freak out. It was one game. This is the same team that has earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC two straight years. And they'll get Von Miller and Ryan Clady back. The biggest question might be is if they pay up to retain free-agent receiver Eric Decker. Until we see some slippage in Peyton Manning's play, they'll be contenders.

2. San Francisco 49ers
Richard Sherman was right, the NFC championship game was the Super Bowl. The NaVorro Bowman injury is a concern, but not enough to drop them. It'll be interesting to see how they handle free agents Anquan Boldin, Tarell Brown and Donte Whitner, especially since quarterback Colin Kaepernick is in line for an extension.

1. Seattle Seahawks
There aren't many flaws. And you'd assume that the offense gets much better with a full season from Percy Harvin, which is scary.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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