Here is my 2014 ranking of the 32 teams, with last year's regular-season and playoff records in parentheses. As always, these teams' cooperation in helping to make this ranking as accurate as possible will be both hugely appreciated and thoroughly unexpected.
1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3, 3-0): Tough to not rank the defending champs on top to start, even knowing no team has repeated a Super Bowl title since New England in 2003-04. Secondary-driven defense is best in league, nobody has bigger home-field advantage and Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch's offense adds a healthy Percy Harvin.
Denver Broncos (13-3, 2-1): Peyton Manning, at 38, cannot possibly approach last year's crazy 55 TD passes ... can he? Even with a spotty ground game, never doubt PeyDay. Manning still has mucho weapons, and the defense adds DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib.
3. New England Patriots (12-4, 1-1): He threw for 4,343 yards and 25 TDs last season. That was Tom Brady having an off year and being washed up. Now his line is better, and he gets Rob Gronkowski back. And a strong defense adds Darrelle Revis. A Super Bowl threat with Gronk's good health.
4. New Orleans Saints (11-5, 1-1): Rob Ryan's defense is improved and adds Jairus Byrd. Drew Brees has a solid O-line and, now, a game-breaker in Brandin Cooks. Oh, almost forgot: Jimmy Graham.
5. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1, 0-1): Aaron Rodgers missed half of last season but is now healthy and still in prime time. RB Eddie Lacy is an emerging star, and the defense has key adds in pass rusher Julius Peppers and rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
6. San Francisco 49ers (12-4, 2-1): A Super Bowl threat once more, but I have a hunch Colin Kaepernick might feel the weight of that huge new contract, despite adding Stevie Johnson. And defensive star Aldon Smith faces a likely lengthy NFL suspension.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6, 0-1): Preceding six teams are my first-level title threats. Birds begin my next tier. Chip Kelly's offense still has LeSean McCoy and adds Darren Sproles, but will miss DeSean Jackson. Nick Foles can't possibly be as good. And don't see much pass rush.
8. Chicago Bears (8-8): Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte troika will make offense potent again, and the defense should be better after a draft emphasis to help run defense and signing of Jared Allen.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5, 0-1): That blown 28-point lead in playoff loss doesn't erase all Andy Reid did last season. Serious offensive issues other than Jamaal Charles, but ground game and big defense will keep KC in every game.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5, 0-1): Andy Dalton, adding the pressure of a large new contract, is 0-3 in playoffs and 'Gals last won a postseason game in 1990. But Cincy is solid enough all-around to at least get there again.
11. Indianapolis Colts (11-5, 1-1): I'll be the one to say. I think Andrew Luck is overrated. But with T.Y. Hilton, a healthy Reggie Wayne and now Hakeem Nicks, that's easy to disguise. Pass defense is not very good, though.
12. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Huge disparity of regard for this team. Saw the Fins rated 31st somewhere second to worst. That's nuts. Miami was 8-6 last year, despite all the Bullygate turmoil, before a late fade. And Dolphins on paper have improved. A lot. Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James help the O-line. Jarvis Landry and Knowshon Moreno give Ryan Tannehill more weapons in Bill Lazor's new offense. And additions of Cortland Finnegan, Earl Mitchell and Louis Delmas bolster an already stout defense. Almost forgot: Tight end/H-back Charles Clay is a budding major force.
13. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Were 6-2 in second half of last season, and Larry Fitzgerald and emerging Michael Floyd give old Carson Palmer big weapons. If defense is as good as some think, they could be a playoff team.
14. San Diego Chargers (9-7, 1-1): Philip Rivers, coming off a great year, gives Bolts another playoff shot, but they need better defense beyond decent secondary.
15. Carolina Panthers (12-4, 0-1): I'm hunching a big downturn in fortunes for Cam Newton's Cats. His receiving corps and line aren't very good, and pass defense could be worst in league.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Blew the playoffs with a late, Miami-esque meltdown, and I don't see much improvement. Joe Flacco's offense is mediocre, even without the Ray Rice turmoil, and defense isn't what it was.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): As Ben Roethlisberger's Super Bowl window creaks to a close, his surrounding cast just isn't better than average.
18. Detroit Lions (7-9): This concludes our broad second tier of teams (7-18) that are playoff contenders but not title contenders. Lions one of seven teams with a new head coach, Jim Caldwell. Matthew Stafford has Calvin Johnson, now adds Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Problem is defense, with lack of a pass rush and subpar secondary.