2015 Ultimate Standings: Seahawks, Packers lead NFL teams

ESPN the Mag's Ultimate Standings: NFL (2:55)

ESPN the Magazine's Peter Keating explains why the Seahawks and Packers are near the top of the Ultimate Standings while the Redskins sit among the cellar dwellers. (2:55)

This year's top NFL squads get some of the best scores in all of sports in coaches, title track and rosters. With the likes of Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh (all in sports' top 10 in coaching) roaming the sidelines, and the recent parity in Super Bowl champs (seven teams in seven years) making every fan believe his team has a chance, the NFL has never been better. Or, of course, more expensive. Eighteen of the NFL's squads rank in the bottom half in affordability (and 12 rank at 80th or lower). That, in fact, is the only thing keeping the Seahawks or Packers from this year's top spot. One thing that could shoot any of these teams up to the top? As always -- bringing home that Vince Lombardi Trophy.

1. Seattle Seahawks (5 overall)

Back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and the Seahawks still fell two spots in our standings. But despite that infamous second-and-goal call in the Super Bowl, Seattle remains the NFL's top franchise largely because ownership has invested in winning by retaining a core group of players and a coach who knows how to win -- and handle egos. Yet some Seahawks fans seem to be facing an internal conflict: Have the results come at too high a cost?-- Sheil Kapadia READ MORE

2. Green Bay Packers (6 overall)

One of only two teams to rank in our top 10 every year since 2010, Green Bay remains a model of excellence. The Packers haven't taken the top spot since 2011, just after their last Super Bowl win, but rest assured -- reach that pinnacle again and a standings climb won't be far behind. -- Rob Demovsky READ MORE

3. Indianapolis Colts (11 overall)

The Colts are considered a small-market franchise, but here they sit 11th overall (up from 13th in 2014), well ahead of heavyweight franchises such as the Cowboys (67th) and the Lakers (101st). Not bad for a flyover state, eh? -- Mike Wells READ MORE

4. Baltimore Ravens (18 overall)

On the field, Baltimore is fantastic. The team's coaching, players, ownership and title track categories all place in the top 15 of all teams, among the best in NFL. Off it, the team is doing its best to revamp its image, from a new emphasis on character for its players (which led to a big increase in likability this year) and improvements to M&T Bank Stadium. -- Jamison Hensley READ MORE

5. Denver Broncos (20 overall)

Denver's legacy of winning continues in this year's Ultimate Standings and, once more, on the field. Since 1984, after all, no team in the NFL has had fewer losing seasons than the Broncos (five). How much longer they can maintain that reputation is the question. -- Jeff Legwold READ MORE

6. Carolina Panthers (24 overall)

If anything, the Panthers are consistent. Last year, they pulled a No. 26 overall ranking. This year? Close to it, but better, at No. 24. Despite a drop in bang for the buck from No. 4 to No. 16, Carolina still rates among the best in the NFL in that category. The team also does well in affordability, which comes in part because of the $4 sodas and $5 hot dogs you can enjoy at a game, as well as a reasonable average ticket price of $72.44. -- David Newton READ MORE

7. New England Patriots (25 overall)

Brady. Belichick. Another Super Bowl title. Life is good in Patriots nation right now -- as long as you're not stuck in traffic on the way to the game. -- Mike Reiss READ MORE

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (30 overall)

The Steelers are never far from the top in these rankings -- in the 13 years of these rankings, they've never ranked lower than 38, wihch was last year -- thanks to the stability (and perennial high rankings) the Rooney family provides, as well as a storied championship history that seems possible to grow in any given year (their title track has placed in the top 10 every year since 2007). The team jumped eight spots in this year's rankings and enters 2015-16 with high expectations after an 11-win season in 2014. -- Jeremy Fowler READ MORE

9. Arizona Cardinals (32 overall)

Just two years ago, the Cardinals ranked 81st in these standings, in the bottom half of NFL teams after a losing season and a fired coach. Two years later, Bruce Arians is a legend in Arizona, after back-to-back double-digit win totals for the first time since the 1970s, and things are looking up in the desert. Now, as the Cardinals soar above the ruins of their past, they're setting their sites on a future that houses a Lombardi Trophy. -- Josh Weinfuss READ MORE

10. New Orleans Saints (33 overall)

The Saints have built up a deep reserve of good will in New Orleans, so their place in the top half of these rankings seems secure enough. But compound the seemingly now-standard dysfunction with more losing, and all of a sudden fans might not feel quite so forgiving. -- Mike Triplett READ MORE

11. Kansas City Chiefs (38 overall)

Even though quarterback Alex Smith hasn't shown he's of championship caliber, things look bright for the Chiefs this season. They may not win a Super Bowl any time soon, but the rankings show that the players have heart (ranked 42 overall, with high scores from their fans in "shows a commitment to winning" and "players give their best effort"), and head coach Andy Reid continues to settle in and produce winning results. -- Adam Teicher READ MORE

12. Buffalo Bills (49 overall)

When team founder Ralph Wilson died in 2014, the future of the Bills suddenly became uncertain. Enter Terry and Kim Pegula, owners of the NHL Buffalo Sabres. The purchase was a relief for the organization and its fans, who had feared that an outside bidder would buy the team and move it elsewhere. And the rankings (No. 13 in affordability and No. 53 in bang for the buck) show that the Pegulas have plenty to work with in the Bills, whose overall ranking has climbed 33 spots since 2014, from 82nd to 49th. -- Mike Rodak READ MORE

13. Houston Texans (50 overall)

Though a quarterback is typically the face of an organization, that hasn't been true for Houston lately. Defensive end J.J. Watt basically is the Texans-he's a big reason the team is ranked No. 41 in the players category, and he's a big reason only five NFL rosters ranked higher in likability. In fact, the 26-year-old Watt is so popular locally that the Houston Chronicle did a 22-page special section devoted solely to the Wisconsin native. -- Tania Ganguli READ MORE

14. Atlanta Falcons (60 overall)

What happens when you go from four wins (after three straight playoff seasons) to six? A meager seven-place increase in these rankings, apparently. The Falcons made some off-season moves to right the ship -- most notably firing longtime coach Mike Smith -- and started off the 2015 season well. With a new coach and, next year, a new stadium, the Falcons now hope to return to their old (winning) ways. -- Vaughn McClure READ MORE

15. Jacksonville Jaguars (64 overall)

The Jaguars might not have much success on the field, but at least fans at EverBank Field aren't shelling out top dollar to watch bad football. The Jags rank No. 4 in affordability, best in the NFL. At $57.65 on average for a ticket, there's only one team in the NFL cheaper (and it's the Browns, who aren't exactly tearing it up, either). -- Michael DiRocco READ MORE

16. Dallas Cowboys (67 overall)

It's amazing what one year can do. After three seasons of 8-8 finishes, the Cowboys went 12-4 in 2014. Tony Romo had his best year, Jerry Jones was named the league's top executive, and Jason Garrett got a new five-year deal. All of that helped the Cowboys climb from 107th overall in the Ultimate Standings to 67th. -- Todd Archer READ MORE

17. New York Giants (76 overall)

Even when the Giants look like they're down, their fans remain hopeful thanks to organizational stability and a glorious past. Jets fans might not recognize this foreign substance, but the rest of us call it optimism. -- Dan Graziano READ MORE

18. Philadelphia Eagles (79 overall)

In Chip they trust -- for now. That's clearly the message conveyed by the results of this year's Ultimate Standings. With Chip Kelly now effectively serving as GM, there's been plenty of change in Philly: Out with LeSean McCoy, Nick Foles and Trent Cole. In with Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso. As long as the wins come along with it (and they didn't during the first couple of weeks of the NFL season -- the Eagles might be glad this vote happened in July), fans seem to like that kind of aggressive action. -- Phil Sheridan READ MORE

19. Minnesota Vikings (86 overall)

Last season, the Vikings received a lot of attention because of Adrian Peterson's child-abuse case, but the team, including head coach Mike Zimmer, handled the situation well. Through it all, fan opinion of the roster actually rose 11 spots (up from 79 to 68 in the players category), and the owners secured a big coup for the franchise: The Wilf family helped the Twin Cities land the 2018 Super Bowl at the Vikings' new stadium, which is due to open in 2016. -- Ben Goessling READ MORE

20. Cincinnati Bengals (87 overall)

On the field, the Bengals are moving in the right direction -- a 10-5-1 2014 record helped them jump from 99th overall in the Ultimate Standings to 87th this year. Around it, in the seats and concourses? Not so much. To climb higher in the Ultimate Standings, Cincinnati needs to improve an aging facility -- and maybe win a playoff game or two. --Coley Harvey READ MORE

21. Detroit Lions (89 overall)

For a team that has only one playoff win in the Super Bowl era -- and none in nearly a quarter-century -- Detroit's place in the Ultimate Standings isn't quite as bad as you might think. -- Michael Rothstein READ MORE

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (91 overall)

Last year, the most interesting thing that was happening with the Bucs was the discussion of whom they'd take with the first pick in the NFL draft. That's what happens when your historically bad team is playing ... historically badly (the 2-14 record was worst since 1986). But despite a slight drop in our standings, the Bucs didn't bottom out like they did on the field. That's a start. -- Pat Yasinskas READ MORE

23. Miami Dolphins (92 overall)

Fan relations have been tough for most professional teams in South Florida: Both the Marlins (No. 105) and Dolphins (103) have had their share of issues. It also doesn't help that the Miami Heat (ranked No. 10 in that category) have dominated the local sports market for the past several years with LeBron James leading the team to four NBA Finals and two championships. But with James gone, the Heat's grasp on the sports market in Miami is much looser. This opens the door for the Dolphins to improve in fan relations and ticket sales. But it won't happen overnight. This will be a gradual process. -- James Walker READ MORE

24. San Francisco 49ers (104 overall)

The 49ers are a franchise steeped in history, tradition and championships ... even if they haven't won a Super Bowl in two-plus decades. There is a standard to live up to in the Bay Area, and with so many player arrests over the past five years, the opening of $1.3 billion Levi's Stadium some 38 miles south of Candlestick Park in Santa Clara and the "mutual parting" with a popular coach in Jim Harbaugh, fans are starting to look sideways at the, ahem, Santa Clara Niners. No wonder their 76-point fall from last year is the biggest of any team in the standings. -- Paul Gutierrez READ MORE

25. Oakland Raiders (105 overall)

The last time the Raiders had a winning record, George W. Bush was in his first term in office. With a promising young core, though, Oakland fans are starting to feel a little hope. Now they just need the team to stay in Oakland. -- Bill Williamson READ MORE

26. St. Louis Rams (108 overall)

Yet another losing season? Check. Another (sigh, yes, another) QB under center? Check. An NFL-worst yards per game average? Yep, that, too. It wasn't a great season for the Rams, and a 20-place fall in these standings isn't unexpected. But the silver lining: Checking in at No. 48 on the title track offers a sign that some fans believe the Rams are headed in the right direction in the one place it matters most: on the field. -- Nick Wagoner READ MORE

27. Cleveland Browns (109 overall)

The good news? The Browns took a jump in these standings this year! The bad? By ... one spot. These rankings show what Cleveland fans have long known: This is still -- sigh -- the same forlorn, frustrating team that hasn't won more than five games since 2007 (and hasn't finished outside the triple-digits here since 2011). Always looking for a quarterback -- and a championship -- yet seemingly never getting any closer to either (they're worst in the NFL this year in title track). There's always next year ... ? -- Pat McManamon READ MORE

28. Chicago Bears (114 overall)

The Bears are ranked 114th overall -- a steep drop from No. 77 last year -- and their title track rating dropped from No. 49 in 2014 to No. 73. Chicago has not won a Super Bowl since the 1985 season, and the Bears have missed the postseason in seven of the past eight years. But change is afoot, and there is renewed championship optimism in the city. -- Jeff Dickerson READ MORE

29. San Diego Chargers (115 overall)

It should be no surprise that the Chargers fell 15 spots in this year's standings. They missed the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five seasons, produced just one Pro Bowler (safety Eric Weddle) and were shut out in an embarrassing 37-0 loss to the Dolphins, their worst defeat since 1996. Oh, and fans never like to hear that their team could be bolting town -- especially when the next stop is a despised city just two hours north. -- Eric Williams READ MORE

30. New York Jets (116 overall)

For years, the Jets have defied explanation. Accordingly, so do some of their long-suffering fans' survey responses. -- Rich Cimini READ MORE

31. Tennessee Titans (117 overall)

Only the Redskins stand in the way of the Titans ranking dead last among NFL teams in our standings. Last year's 2-14 disaster was the franchise's worst record since 1994, when it was still based in Houston, prompting Tennessee fans to give their team the second-worst score in the league when asked if it demonstrates a commitment to winning. -- Paul Kuharsky READ MORE

32. Washington Redskins (120 overall)

Believe it or not, the Redskins have won -- even dominated! -- during the lifetime of many of their fans. It's just hard to remember those glory years with what has transpired over the past six seasons: five losing campaigns, a wild-card loss, and, now, the worst NFL showing in the rankings this year (last year they were just fifth from the bottom). Oh -- and not to mention that whole RG III thing. -- John Keim READ MORE