The recently-shortened preseason is in the books, and as the 2022-23 NFL season prepares to kick off on September 8, a final chance presents itself to take stock of the […]
The recently-shortened preseason is in the books, and as the 2022-23 NFL season prepares to kick off on September 8, a final chance presents itself to take stock of the league’s 32 teams while their records are all still 0-0.
Games will matter soon, and while preseason results are hardly an indicator of regular season success, there is still some movement in my final offseason Power Rankings. Injuries, last-minute signings, and depth chart decisions influenced these rankings, but I’m only human, and some movement in these rankings is based more on a change-of-heart or new realization on my side.
Let’s dive right into the rankings, which are sure to drastically change once we see actual football being played in Week 1. If you enjoy this article, be sure to check out more things by me at the bottom of the page, and if you’d like to debate or discuss any rankings, join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
The equation is pretty simple for the Buffalo Bills: they had every bit of talent necessary to compete for a Super Bowl last season, and with arguably the best all-around quarterback in the game (Josh Allen) along with a stellar defense, Buffalo will be one of the best teams in the league once again. One key departure, wide receiver Cole Beasley, could easily be offset by the continued emergence of Gabriel Davis. Not to mention Buffalo’s addition of Von Miller: the 2022 team might be even better than the 2021 version.
Los Angeles Rams [Previous Ranking: 3]
The Los Angeles Rams are the defending Super Bowl champions, and even after losing a few starters (Von Miller, Andrew Whitworth, and though the door remains open for a return, Odell Beckham Jr.) the team is poised to run back the NFC West and make a bid for back-to-back Super Bowl titles. The offense will remain strong behind Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and new addition Allen Robinson, and the defense should still be stellar as well with best-player-in-the-game Aaron Donald terrorizing opposing offensive lines.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers [Previous Ranking: 2]
Tom Brady’s brief absence from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a minor distraction, but I find it hard to believe anyone will remember that when the team wins the NFC South again this season. At 45 years old, entering his 23rd NFL season, Brady will vie for eighth Super Bowl title, as well as his second in three seasons with the Buccaneers. With weapons like Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, Russell Gage, and Julio Jones, Brady is set for one more incredible offensive season in Tampa Bay.
Kansas City Chiefs [Previous Ranking: 5]
The Kansas City Chiefs will look different this season after trading away speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill and losing fiery safety Tyrann Mathieu. But when Patrick Mahomes is your quarterback, there’s always a way to win games. Besides Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman, Kansas City picked up Juju Smith-Schuster and Marques Valdez-Scantling to bolster the offense. Kansas City will be fine, even in a tough AFC West division this season.
Cincinnati Bengals [Previous Ranking: 4]
It will be interesting to see if the Cincinnati Bengals come out just as strong as they finished last season (nearly winning the Super Bowl, in case you forgot) or if Joe Burrow and the young, dynamic offense will need a few weeks to heat up again. On paper, this year’s team is definitely better, with offensive line and defensive secondary needs addressed in the offseason.
Los Angeles Chargers [Previous Ranking: 8]
Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers had the fifth-highest scoring offense in the NFL last season, and if their offseason acquisitions (Khalil Mack, J.C. Jackson) can do anything to improve the 30th-ranked defense, a playoff berth seems very likely this season.
Green Bay Packers [Previous Ranking: 7]
The big story with the Green Bay Packers is the team’s losses of wide receivers Davante Adams and Marques Valdez-Scantling. Losing quite possibly the best wideout in the game makes Aaron Rodgers‘ job that much harder, even if he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Packers should still win the NFC North, but Super Bowl expectations should be tapered until we see Green Bay’s offense this season.
Baltimore Ravens [Previous Ranking: 6]
I actually like the Baltimore Ravens to reclaim the AFC North this season: but being realistic, Lamar Jackson may need a few games after last season’s injury to return to MVP-form, and the loss of Marquise Brown as a go-to wide receiving target may take time to adjust to as well. In the long haul, give me Baltimore over Cincinnati in the AFC North, but as far as Week 1 goes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens were a step slow out of the gate.
Denver Broncos [Previous Ranking: 9]
My tune has remained consistent with the Denver Broncos: if last year’s team went 7-10 with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, trading for Russell Wilson makes Denver a 10+ win team. There are pundits that say Wilson’s best football is behind him, and even if that’s true from a physical standpoint, the decision-making abilities alone of the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback will make the Broncos a playoff team in 2022.
Indianapolis Colts [Previous Ranking: 10]
The Indianapolis Colts finished last season hot, in no small part due to the emergence of Jonathan Taylor as the best running back in the NFL right now. Swapping out Carson Wentz for a 37-year-old Matt Ryan may not seem like a franchise-altering move from a talent perspective, but just like with Wilson in Denver, Ryan’s leadership and veteran savviness should push the Colts to more wins than last season, and give them a strong chance to win the AFC South.
Dallas Cowboys [Previous Ranking: 14]
Offense and points were the name of the game for the Dallas Cowboys last season, with Dak Prescott and company putting up 31.2 points per game en route to an NFC East title at 12-5. Losing Amari Cooper definitely impacts the heights that the passing game can reach, but with CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Ezekiel Elliot on his side, Prescott can certainly lead the Cowboys to another NFC East title behind another strong offensive season.
Las Vegas Raiders [Previous Ranking: 13]
I flipped the Las Vegas Raiders up a spot, and at 12th overall, the Raiders are the last AFC West team to appear on this list: that’s how good the division is. Derek Carr should have the time of his life throwing to Davante Adams, but if the Raiders 26th-ranked defense doesn’t make significant improvements, the offensive upgrade at wide receiver may as well have been for nothing.
Arizona Cardinals [Previous Ranking: 12]
I swapped the Raiders and Arizona Cardinals, not because I think Las Vegas is the better all-around team, but because from a Week 1 perspective the Cardinals may be a little slow to get out of the gate. Between the absence of Deandre Hopkins and the arrival of Marquise Brown, who may or may not need time to get comfortable with Kyler Murray, the Cardinals may not showcase the best possible version of their team until later this season.
San Francisco 49ers [Previous Ranking: 15]
The San Francisco 49ers roster is littered with talent, and the team made a slightly unlikely run to the NFC Championship Game last season. But while Jimmy Garoppolo remains on the roster, it’s been made clear this is Trey Lance’s team now. I’m not sure the 49ers can reach the same heights as last season with Lance as their full-time starter.
Tennessee Titans [Previous Ranking: 11]
I feel like I could be sleeping on the Tennessee Titans, but I just think this team peaked at some point over the last few seasons. Derrick Henry is back from injury, but just how much more wear and tear can he take before he’s no longer capable of carrying the offense? Ryan Tannehill is still an above average starter, but without A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, his receiving options are looking thinner (though the team also added Robert Woods, coming off an ACL injury.)
Minnesota Vikings [Previous Ranking: 18]
Like a couple other teams already mentioned (Chargers, Raiders), the Minnesota Vikings had a high-end offense paired with a porous defense last season. Somehow, the Vikings were just outscored by one point last season on their way to an 8-9 finish. But with some defensive improvements (highlighted by linebacker Za’Darius Smith) and even last-minute upgrades to an already stacked offense (trading for Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor), Kirk Cousins and the Vikings should be able to secure both a winning record and a playoff berth in 2022.
Philadelphia Eagles [Previous Ranking: 16]
Trading for Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown could revolutionize the Philadelphia Eagles offense. But Jalen Hurts still has to throw the ball more often in that case, and the verdict is still out on how that will go. Best-case scenario, Philadelphia maintains an elite rushing game, Brown helps Hurts put more touchdowns on the board, and the Eagles win or at least compete for the NFC East. But while many are picking Philadelphia to win the division outright, I think the Eagles have their work cut out for them just to become a playoff team again.
Miami Dolphins [Previous Ranking: 17]
There’s a lot of hype around the Miami Dolphins after the shocking trade for Tyreek Hill earlier this year. Hill adds a new wrinkle to Miami’s already talented receiving corps, but can Tua Tagovailoa lead a playoff-caliber offense? Was firing Brian Flores despite a nearly miraculous playoff berth last season the right move? Time will tell.
New Orleans Saints [Previous Ranking: 21]
The New Orleans Saints are 19th here, but I’m still more than glass half-full on them even without longtime head coach Sean Payton. I have the Saints making the playoffs as a wildcard, behind Jameis Winston, talented offensive weapons, and a stingy defense for Dennis Allen to fine tune, including new addition Tyrann Mathieu.
New England Patriots [Previous Ranking: 19]
Unless Bill Belichick has something up his sleeve (which to be honest, would hardly surprise anyone), the New England Patriots just haven’t done much to improve on last year’s roster. Granted, the Patriots nearly won the AFC East and still made the playoffs as a wildcard last season, but the gap between New England and Buffalo is growing wider. Unless Mac Jones takes a big leap in Year Two, the Patriots may be a seven-to-eight win, middle of the pack team in the AFC.
Cleveland Browns [Previous Ranking: 20]
I never know where to rank the Cleveland Browns, amid Deshaun Watson’s suspension and the overall impact the former Texans quarterback’s situation may have on the franchise. On paper, Jacoby Brissett may be able to keep the ship afloat with Nick Chubb and Amari Cooper on offense, but again, I’m more worried about the team’s overall psyche.
Washington Commanders [Previous Ranking: 22]
Carson Wentz is an upgrade over Taylor Heinickie, but if he starts throwing interceptions for the Washington Commanders at inopportune times like he did for the Colts, then Washington’s 25th-ranked defense from last season will have a hard time making up the difference.
Pittsburgh Steelers [Previous Ranking: 23]
Mitch Trubisky is not a bad option at quarterback, and head coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season in his career. But this Pittsburgh Steelers team is missing a few key pieces, and quite frankly, an identity in the post-Big Ben era.
Carolina Panthers [Previous Ranking: 24]
Save for Denver, no team made a more significant upgrade at the quarterback position this offseason than the Carolina Panthers: retaining Sam Darnold, but trading for former first overall pick Baker Mayfield and naming him their starter. The idea of Mayfield slinging it and Christian McCaffrey dominating on the ground is a scary thought, but given McCaffrey’s injury history and Carolina’s subpar defense, I don’t see the Panthers as a strong team from the get-go (though the potential is certainly there.)
Detroit Lions [Previous Ranking: 25]
The Detroit Lions will be better than last season, but the question is how much better. Dan Campbell’s team was gritty last season despite a 3-13-1 finish, and Jared Goff’s offense looks better this year with new pass-catcher D.J. Chark joining emerging top tight end T.J. Hockenson.
New York Giants [Previous Ranking: 27]
Daniel Jones has one more season to prove his worth to the New York Giants. The roster is getting better, and new head coach Brian Daboll seems like a huge step in the right direction, but with Jones at quarterback, the ceiling still feels low in New York.
New York Jets [Previous Ranking: 26]
The New York Jets arguably improved their roster more than their MetLife Stadium con-tenants this offseason, but quarterback play is an issue here too, and Zach Wilson isn’t even as good as Daniel Jones. To make matters worse, Wilson will miss at least the season opener, with Joe Flacco expected to start in his place against his former Ravens team, and 2020 first round pick Mekhi Becton will be missing from the offensive line for the entire season with a knee injury.
Seattle Seahawks [Previous Ranking: 29]
Losing Russell Wilson (well, willfully trading him away) eliminates any chance of a winning season for the Seattle Seahawks this season. There isn’t enough talent on either side of the ball for Geno Smith to improve on last year’s 7-10 mark.
Chicago Bears [Previous Ranking: 28]
Justin Fields will be running for his life and playing from behind for most of this season for the Chicago Bears. I don’t think Fields is a bad quarterback, but given the circumstances, it’s going to be a long season with very few wins in Chicago.
Jacksonville Jaguars [Previous Ranking: 30]
After an expensive offseason and selecting some high draft picks, the Jacksonville Jaguars should be on an upwards trajectory. But free agency spending was frivioulus, out of desperation to contend, and Trevor Lawrence hasn’t done anything yet to prove he’s a long-term NFL starter.
Houston Texans [Previous Ranking: 32]
The Houston Texans roster is missing talent in multiple spots, but getting Deshaun Watson out of the organization is a win all by itself. If Davis Mills continues to improve, the Texans could start to bounce back sooner than expected, but I wouldn’t hold your breathe for this season.
Atlanta Falcons [Previous Ranking: 31]
The Atlanta Falcons are looking thin all over, and now in addition to wide receiver Calvin Ridley being suspended for the season, first round draft pick Drake London hasn’t played since injuring is knee earlier this preseason.
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