2022 NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stack Up Entering Training Camp?
Break out the sleeping bags. Pack the mosquito netting. Grab the graham crackers, Hershey's bars and marshmallows.
It's camping time.
Wait? It's not that kind of camp? Oh. Never mind then.
Joking aside, we have hit an important point on the NFL calendar. There's no more shorts and shells—it's time to strap on pads and get after it. The whole "voluntary" thing is out the window. Now, if a player no-shows for a workout, it can hit them right in the wallet.
Training camp is here. And that brings us one big step closer to the Buffalo Bills and Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams kicking off the 2022 regular season at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 8.
As we move closer to the offseason becoming the in-season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton and Brent Sobleski have gathered again to rank all 32 teams from worst to first.
Spoiler alert: You won't be seeing the Bills or Rams for a while.
32. Houston Texans
At the risk of starting these power rankings on a harsh note, the cold reality in Houston is that the Texans are probably the most talent-deficient team in the NFL. It's a roster that is woefully short on impact players.
Yes, the Texans have a solid veteran wide receiver in Brandin Cooks, who topped 1,000 yards for the sixth time in seven years in 2021. Edge-rusher Jonathan Greenard tallied eight sacks in 12 games last year. And quarterback Davis Mills was better as a rookie than just about anyone expected.
But outside of Cooks, the Texans have precious little in the way of offensive firepower.
That was before news that rookie wide receiver John Metchie III has been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and will miss the entire 2022 season.
Greenard missed five games a season ago, and Houston ranked 31st in total defense and 27th in scoring defense. And while Mills wasn't bad, he wasn't great, either—26th in passing yards, 23rd in passing touchdowns and 21st in passer rating.
The Texans had the second-worst defense and worst offense in the NFL last year on the way to a 4-13 record.
Expecting things to be markedly different in 2022 just isn't realistic.
31. Atlanta Falcons
It's the dawn of a new age in Atlanta. For the first time since selecting him third overall in the 2008 draft, the Falcons will head into the regular season with a quarterback not named Matt Ryan as the starter.
The question now is who will replace him. Veteran Marcus Mariota joined the Falcons in free agency, and Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith talked up the 2015 No. 2 overall pick while speaking to reporters at OTAs.
"With everybody, you get another shot at something, there are lessons to be learned, they are hard lessons, but if you take them the right way, you're more appreciative of the opportunity," Smith said. "He's authentic. He is who he is. We're not asking him to come here and be Matt Ryan or be Peyton Manning. Be Marcus Mariota. That's what we want."
Of course, this is the same Marcus Mariota whom Smith benched as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, and the Falcons landed Bleacher Report's No. 1 quarterback prospect in 2022 (Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder) in the third round of April's draft.
Mariota still appears to have the edge on opening the regular season as the starter. But he's probably not going to have much margin for error.
And given the overall lack of talent around him, success isn't going to be easy to come by.
30. Chicago Bears
There's little question what the biggest storyline in Chicago is as training camp gets underway.
What will Justin Fields' second season look like after a rocky NFL debut?
As a whole, Fields' rookie season wasn't good—he was 31st in the league in passing yards, threw three more interceptions than touchdown passes and posted a woeful passer rating of 73.2.
But as Josh Schrock wrote for NBC Sports Chicago, it wasn't all doom and gloom for Fields. Get him on the move, and he is actually quite effective.
"Last season, Fields led the NFL with 14 runs of 10 more yards," he said. "That athleticism helped Fields notch an NFL-leading 90.5 passing grade when outside the pocket over his final five starts. That number meshes well with Fields' 138.5 passer rating on designed rollouts which led the NFL, per SportsInfoSolutions."
"The problems in Chicago go well beyond Fields' rookie struggles," Davenport said. "Besides Darnell Mooney and maybe running back David Montgomery, no one on the Chicago offense frightens opponents even a little. Add in that Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line as the league's second-worst, and the team's young signal-caller isn't exactly being set up for success."
29. Seattle Seahawks
Much like the Falcons, the Seattle Seahawks are headed into uncharted waters under center after Russell Wilson was traded to the Denver Broncos in the offseason.
And just like Atlanta, the Seahawks aren't entirely sure who will be the team's starting quarterback when they open the 2022 season against (coincidentally) Wilson and the Broncos.
So far, Geno Smith appears to have the edge over Drew Lock to be the team's Week 1 starter. Head coach Pete Carroll expressed confidence in Smith's ability to lead the offense during an interview with Seattle Sports 710 (h/t Corbin K. Smith of All Seahawks):
"He showed us a good deal of command of our offense when he played last year and he has a terrific understanding of it so he's out in front of the other guys that are involved in the competition in that regard. By the time he got a couple games under his belt after sitting for three or four years, he functioned in the Jacksonville game as well as you can function and he had a beautiful game there... He popped the ball around, he was fast with the football and got it out and did some really cool things."
Seattle has talent at wide receiver and in the backfield. But with a suspect offensive line and defense and a pair of quarterbacks for whom mediocrity has been closer to ceiling than floor, Seattle's days of dominance in the NFC West appear to be long gone.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
The 2021 season was an absolute disaster for Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Running back Travis Etienne suffered a season-ending injury before ever taking a regular-season carry. Urban Meyer was a complete fiasco as the team's head coach. And Lawrence's first professional season was a mess.
Now, there's a new head coach in Jacksonville in Doug Pederson. And Lawrence said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd that the difference between this year and last is night and day (h/t Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk):
“[H]is resume speaks for itself. But then seeing the way he carries himself, the way he treats people. The way he leads, I think we’re similar — just our demeanors our personality. Doesn’t get too high or too low. I think that’s really important to have if you’re going to be a really good head coach, especially in the NFL. So it’s been great getting to know him. I think he’s done a great job just planning out our offseason. There were a lot of changes we needed to make and I think he’s made those. He’s put together a great plan of progressing our team offensively and defensively. So now that we’re ready going into camp, I think he’s done a great job. So, I’m excited."
The Jaguars added talent on both sides of the ball in the offseason, whether it was veterans like wide receiver Christian Kirk and Foyesade Oluokun or rookies like No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker.
But the Jags have had the first pick in back-to-back drafts for a reason, so expectations need to be tempered in 2022.
27. New York Jets
There's an odd emotion swirling about the New York Jets in 2022. One that hasn't been seen around the team in some time.
The Jets managed just four wins last season and ranked 26th in total offense and dead last in total defense. But after an offseason that saw the team add talent on both sides of the ball (including three first-round picks in April's draft) the hope is that the Jets are primed for a major step forward in 2022.
As a matter of fact, while appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, wide receiver Braxton Berrios said that if these Jets can't make the playoffs, then the season will be a failure.
"We have a lot to do," Berrios said (h/t David Scott of the New York Post). "We have all the tools to be able to do that, absolutely. If we don't get there, it's obviously a failed season to everybody in the building, especially us players.”
Going from 4-13 to the playoffs may be pushing it—the Jets are a young team led by a second-year quarterback in Zach Wilson who had his share of ups and downs as a rookie.
But just threatening to post a .500 record and proving to be a tough out on a weekly basis would be a huge step in the right direction for a team whose last winning season came in 2015.
26. Carolina Panthers
There's a new sheriff in town in Charlotte.
And the Carolina Panthers hope that Sheriff Mayfield can turn around the team's lagging fortunes and be what owner David Tepper has vigorously pursued since buying the club: a legitimate franchise quarterback.
After four seasons of highs and lows in Cleveland, Baker Mayfield will play out the final year of his rookie contract with a new team. And he told reporters that he's confident a fresh start will help him regain the 2020 form that saw him lead the Browns to their first postseason win in almost three decades.
"A lot of ups and downs," Mayfield said, "a lot of things I learned, but when it came down to it, it was wanting a fresh start, wanting to be with a coach and a GM that truly wanted me ... and just wanting the same thing, and that's to win football games."
Mayfield still has to beat out Sam Darnold for the right to start in Carolina, but given how badly Darnold struggled in 2021, it's not especially difficult to imagine that happening.
"Baker Mayfield may not be the difference-maker the Carolina Panthers envisioned at quarterback when the offseason opened," Sobleski wrote. "But he turned into the best option available to the team. With that in mind, Carolina upgraded behind center, even if it's marginally. The rest of the roster is solid with a healthy Christian McCaffrey potentially back, a rebuilt offensive line, wide receiver DJ Moore and a good, young defense. This team can make some noise if it can keep all of the drama in check."
25. Detroit Lions
To say the Detroit Lions are used to futility is something of an understatement. The Lions haven't won more than six games since 2017. This is a franchise that has all of one postseason win in the past six decades.
However, after joining the Lions last year (and then suffering through a miserable 3-13-1 campaign in his first season as starter, quarterback Jared Goff insists the Lions are on the right track.
"People outside the building can't see it, obviously," Goff said, according to Peter King of Pro Football Talk. "But we have a plan, and we're all-in. People see some of what Dan [Campbell] says, and that's great. But I can tell you—Dan knows what the hell he's talking about, and he's got the respect of that [locker] room.”
Detroit's head coach echoed those sentiments:
"I know that people are probably tired of hearing foundation and the culture, but I do feel like we set that in year one. I do feel like that for us was the primary goal. We have to create our own style, our own identity, our own culture of who we are, what we accept, what we don’t accept, and now let’s build from there. Now, in year two, we feel like we have that foundation built now. Let’s start stacking on top of it."
Detroit does have some things going for it, including a revamped wide receiver corps and a top-five offensive line.
But for the Lions to be a legitimate threat in 2022, both Goff and the Detroit defense are going to have to improve markedly this year.
24. New York Giants
This is it for New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. After three rocky years as the team's starter, the Giants passed on Jones' fifth-year option. If he struggles again in 2022, Jones will be moving on next year.
There's also a new head coach in New York in Brian Daboll. Per Shanna McCarriston of CBS Sports, former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick thinks the former Bills offensive coordinator can bring out the best in Jones.
"I'll say this, you know, with his new coach, and what they've already been able to do with Josh Allen. You take a guy that was low-50s completion-percentage guy and [Daboll] brought him all the way up to the top five—67-68 percent, whatever it was (69.2 percent in 2020)," Fitzpatrick said. "That was Josh Allen, but a lot of that was also Daboll on what he was able to do. So hopefully they can get on the same page and get comfortable quickly, and I think Daboll is going to do great things for his career."
However, at least one of our analysts has his doubts about Jones and the Giants in 2022.
"The passing-game talent in New York isn't great," Davenport said. The defense is average. And the offensive line aspires to one day be average. The hiring of Daboll as head coach was a good move for the G-Men, but there's not enough around Jones to have significant optimism that Jones' fourth season will be markedly different than the first three."
Moton agrees, although he likes the potential of the New York defense in 2022.
"Aside from the production on the field, Big Blue’s top playmakers must stay healthy, and that includes running back Saquon Barkley," he said. "This team has been plagued by injuries at the skill positions over the past few years. Defensive coordinator Don Martindale fielded a top-three scoring defense in three of his four years with the Baltimore Ravens. He has some playmakers with Leonard Williams, Azeez Ojulari, Dexter Lawrence and rookie first-rounder Kayvon Thibodeaux in the front seven. Daboll and his staff may steer the Giants in the right direction, but the process may take some time before it translates to wins."
23. Washington Commanders
Carson Wentz is at a crossroads in his career.
It has been quite the ride for Wentz—from No. 2 overall pick to MVP candidate to watching Nick Foles lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl to traded from the Eagles to the Colts to one disappointing year in Indy followed by another trade to Washington.
However, while appearing on 106.7 The Fan's The Sports Junkies, NFL insider Adam Caplan asserted that Wentz is more than capable of turning things around—and that he's better than the quarterback who will be starting for the Eagles in 2022.
"It's not even close. Wentz is so much more talented than [Jalen] Hurts," Caplan said. "I mean, the guy can play. The thing you're gonna see, folks, that Commanders fans are gonna see this season, there are gonna be some games where you're gonna go, 'Why did Philly trade him?'"
It's not just Wentz who is looking for a turnaround in 2022. Washington finished last season 22nd in total defense and 25th in scoring defense despite being littered with first-round picks.
If that defense plays to its potential (it finished second and fourth in those respective categories one year prior) and if Wentz can turn back the clock this year, Washington could surprise in the NFC East.
But those are some big "ifs."
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have quite a few things going for them. Running back Najee Harris ranked fourth in the league in rushing as a rookie. Keyed by a record-tying 22.5 sacks from 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, the Steelers once again led the league in sacks last year.
But there's also a massive question mark looming over the team at the game's most important position. Whether it's veteran Mitch Trubisky, rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett or a mixture of the two, someone has the unenviable task of replacing maybe the best quarterback in franchise history in Ben Roethlisberger.
While appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Harris said he expects the battle to start under center to sort itself out quickly once training camp begins in earnest.
"When this camp starts up on the 26th, I think we're going to have a good identity of who's going to be the guy," Harris said. "As of now, we just had OTAs, minicamp, it's kind of hard to say who's the guy right now. But this upcoming week, we're going to see for sure."
The Steelers haven't had a losing season since Mike Tomlin took over as Pittsburgh head coach in 2007. But between the uncertainty at quarterback and an offensive line that Pro Football Focus ranked 30th in the NFL, keeping that streak going in 2022 isn't going to be easy.
21. New England Patriots
After a one-year hiatus, the New England Patriots were back in the playoffs in 2021, led there by the NFL's fourth-ranked defense and an efficient rookie season from quarterback Mac Jones.
Per Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston, Jones made it a priority in the offseason to improve in several areas, whether it's his conditioning or his relationship with his teammates.
"It all goes back into just trying to be a better player and person. That was my goal this offseason," Jones said. "I feel better, I feel confident, and that's what's important. I'm just gonna try and go in there and do my thing and lead everybody and help us come together as a unit. That's kind of what it's all about, and the offseason's a great time to sit back and relax a little bit but also try and make strides in where you want to make strides, so I feel like I've done that."
The Patriots also took steps to get better around Jones in 2022, adding a new No. 1 receiver in DeVante Parker and replacing the departed Shaq Mason with rookie first-round pick Cole Strange. But these Patriots, just like last year's iteration, will likely advance only as far as the team's defense takes them.
20. Cleveland Browns
There isn't a harder team in the NFL to slot in these power rankings right now than the Cleveland Browns.
As of the publication of this article, there has been no word when retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson could issue her decision as to a potential suspension of quarterback Deshaun Watson for violating the personal conduct policy after he was sued by 24 women for sexual assault and misconduct.
No one knows when that decision will be handed down or what it will be. Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Watson and the NFLPA plan to challenge the suspension in court if it spans the entire 2022 season. Another report from Florio states the Browns are bracing for as much as an eight-game ban to open the season.
The Browns have made contingency plans, signing veteran backup Jacoby Brissett and recently adding 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen. But Cleveland is a much different team with Brissett than Watson, and even if he does play this season, it will be his first game action since January 3, 2021.
The Browns could be a legitimate playoff contender. Or they could just as easily finish last in the AFC North. But until we know who the team's quarterback will be in 2022, it's almost impossible to say with any certainty which they will be.
19. New Orleans Saints
Most of the offseason chatter in New Orleans has centered on the health status of quarterback Jameis Winston, the condition of Michael Thomas' balky ankle or the felony battery charge levied against running back Alvin Kamara and the suspension that could result from it.
But the Saints didn't win nine games in 2021 because of the offense. This is a team that was carried by the defense last year, and while appearing on Good Morning Football, safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said he'll stack that defense up against any in the league (h/t Kevin Patra of NFL.com):
"I mean from first level, second level, third level. I mean, you got Cam and the front to pop it off, Shy (Tuttle), Marcus Davenport. Then you got Demario in the middle calling all the shots. ... You saw what they were doing last year with ... Pete [Werner], [Kaden] Elliss, all those guys in the middle. Then the back end, bringing in the Honey Badger (Mathieu). We just had a Super Bowl safety, two-time Super Bowl safety (Malcolm Jenkins), now we are bringing in another hometown hero, won a Super Bowl, Pro Bowler. So he knows, and we know what to expect. We're just going to go out there and dominate and take advantage of the opportunity. Cause all this talent, why not? Can't waste it."
Moton believes the Saints can be a real player in the NFC South in 2022.
"The Saints made a couple of splashy post-draft moves, signing three-time All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu and five-time Pro Bowl wideout Jarvis Landry," he said. "If wideout Michael Thomas makes a full recovery from ankle/foot surgeries, the Saints would have a solid trio of receivers with Landry and rookie first-rounder Chris Olave also on the perimeter. This offseason, the front office replaced Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams with Mathieu and Marcus Maye at safety. The Saints have balance, which gives them a chance to upend the division-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South."
18. Minnesota Vikings
A lot of things are different in Minnesota this year. There's a new head coach and a new general manager. But one thing has not changed: When the team opens the regular season against the rival Green Bay Packers, Kirk Cousins will be the quarterback.
In the opinion of former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, Cousins should thrive under head coach Kevin O'Connell.
"I think he's gonna finally thrive, really thrive, in a system and a coach that actually respects him," Leber told the Zach Gelb Show. "I mean, it's not like I'm not breaking news here that Mike Zimmer did not like Kirk Cousins. And I think that showed in the way that Kirk behaved and the way that he carried himself. The team was never given to him, or he was never allowed to earn the trust of the team, because the head coach I think just didn't like him."
"The Vikings are going to be a good offensive football team," Davenport wrote. "The skill-position weaponry is good, the offensive line is decent, and while Cousins may not be Tom Brady, he threw 33 touchdown passes against just seven picks in 2021 and ranked fourth in the league in passer rating. The question in the Twin Cities is a defense that allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game a year ago. If that defense is better this season, the Vikings have some playoff potential."
"The Vikings' rejuvenated offense with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith Jr. should be able to win scoring shootouts, but an improved defense will get them back into the playoffs," Moton added. "With the addition of edge-rusher Za'Darius Smith, linebacker Jordan Hicks, rookie first-round safety Lewis Cine and first-year cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., the unit could make a significant jump."
17. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when they swung a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs that brought star wideout Tyreek Hill to Miami.
That deal made the Miami offense significantly more dangerous, but it also ratcheted up the pressure on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to turn it on big-time in his third season.
There have been quite a few questions raised about whether Tagovailoa has the arm talent to take full advantage of the weapons at his disposal. One person who isn't at all concerned about that is Hill himself.
"It's gonna be a lot of people taking their words back on what they said about [Tua]," Hill said on his podcast, It Needed to Be Said. "Reporters, analysts, Twitter trolls. All those people are gonna take their words back on what they said about [Tua]. I'm gonna be sitting there, eating my popcorn."
In Hill, second-year pro Jaylen Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki, Tagovailoa isn't hurting for weapons. The signing of Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead should help fortify Miami's offensive line. And the Dolphins fielded a top-15 defense in terms of yards allowed last year.
In theory, first-year head coach Mike McDaniel has the tools at his disposal to be a factor in the AFC East this season.
But how big a factor will depend to a large extent on what kind of season Tagovailoa puts together in 2022.
16. Tennessee Titans
Last year, the Tennessee Titans were a 12-win division champion and the AFC's No. 1 seed. Fast-forward seven months, and after the Titans traded star wideout A.J. Brown to the Eagles, most analysts are lukewarm at best on the team's 2022 prospects.
In part, it's likely because when we last saw Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill, he threw three picks in an ugly loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round of the playoffs. The team's top two receivers are an unproven rookie (Treylon Burks) and a veteran coming off an ACL tear (Robert Woods). Star running back Derrick Henry missed a big chunk of last season with an injured foot.
However, while Tannehill's numbers dropped in 2021 relative to the year before, he's still 23-10 over his last two seasons as the team's starting quarterback. Tennessee's defense was 12th in the league in yards per game allowed and sixth in points per game allowed. And the AFC South isn't exactly a loaded division.
"The Titans aren't a team without problems," Davenport said. "But the wide receiver situation isn't as dire as some make it out to be, the defense is underrated, and while Tannehill may not be a star, he's a capable veteran quarterback. There's a reason this team has won its division each of the past two years, and a three-peat by Tennessee can't be ruled out."
15. Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders were one of the most active teams in the offseason. They added impact players on both offense and defense, whether it was through free agency (edge-rusher Chandler Jones) or trade (wide receiver Davante Adams).
But as they play in a stacked AFC West that includes three superstar quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson, Moton wrote that the Raiders, while talented, will have their work cut out for them.
"Quarterback Derek Carr believes outsiders have overlooked the Raiders despite the team's headline moves for Adams and Jones," he wrote. "Whether Carr is right or looking to motivate his teammates, head coach Josh McDaniels and his staff must sort out the offensive line, specifically the right side. After a rough rookie campaign, Alex Leatherwood needs to improve or else Carr could be under constant duress in 2022.
"Furthermore, with cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. on the physically unable to perform list following surgery in May, the Raiders head into training camp with two new starters on the boundary," Moton continued.
"Even if Mullen makes a quick return, the club has a question mark on the opposite side of the secondary. Rock Ya-Sin or Anthony Averett will have a big role this year. On the other hand, the Raiders have high-profile players on both sides of the ball, including Carr, Adams, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Maxx Crosby and Jones, who can keep this team competitive against top-tier competition."
14. Philadelphia Eagles
The 2021 campaign was a tale of two seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles. The front half of the season was a mess. But after they transitioned to a run-heavy offense, the second half was a different story. The Eagles won six of their last eight games and made the playoffs.
They added a new No. 1 wide receiver in the offseason in A.J. Brown, and as Dave Zangaro wrote for NBC Sports Philadelphia, head coach Nick Sirianni thinks Brown's arrival and more comfort in Philly's offense will make quarterback Jalen Hurts that much more dangerous as a playmaker in 2022.
“I’m not BS-ing you guys,” Sirianni told reporters in June. “I’ve been really impressed with the ability to process the plays that we’re going through, and to get it out on time. He’s making good, accurate decisions, and he’s doing them on time.”
While the Dallas Cowboys couldn't do much to improve in the offseason (and may have taken a step back), the Eagles added quite a bit of talent on offense and defense, whether it was Brown or rookies Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.
Much will depend on how Hurts fares in his third season in Philadelphia, but the Eagles appear to have the talent to be a legitimate challenger to the Cowboys in the NFC East.
"General manager Howie Roseman is the preseason favorite to be named NFL Executive of the Year after he traded for Brown, drafted Davis and Dean, and signed Haason Reddick and James Bradberry," Sobleski said. "The Eagles don't have a single glaring hole on the roster, no matter how you feel about Hurts, who is much better than he's often given credit for. The Eagles should be the class of the NFC East."
13. San Francisco 49ers
The big storylines in San Francisco as camp gets underway concern a player who quite possibly won't be on the team in Week 1 and another who not that long ago said he didn't want to be.
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, as 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continues his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery, the team has given the 30-year-old's agents permission to seek a trade. Meanwhile, after wide receiver Deebo Samuel requested a trade this offseason, the sides have been in discussions about a contract extension.
However, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network said on NFL Total Access, player and team aren't especially close to an agreement.
“They have had contract talks on a long-term deal that would keep Deebo in San Francisco," he said. "But at this point, there is absolutely nothing that is imminent.”
It's quite a bit of drama for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, but Davenport sees a scenario where all the hubbub amounts to nothing.
"Fans and the media may be champing at the bit for the Trey Lance era to begin," he said. "But Lance is nowhere near a sure thing, and Garoppolo was one game from a second Super Bowl in three years in 2021. If the 49ers can't get any kind of real return for Garoppolo, the argument can be made that the wisest course is to keep him around in case Lance shrinks in the spotlight."
12. Arizona Cardinals
There has been no shortage of attention on the desert this offseason, whether it was because of the six-game suspension handed down to star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, the trade that brought Marquise Brown to town to offset Hopkins' absence or the contract kerfuffle with quarterback Kyler Murray.
That last bit was only recently resolved. As Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported for NFL.com, Murray received a five-year, $230.5 million extension that keeps him under contract through 2028. Armed with approximately all the money ever, Murray said his priority now is guiding the Redbirds to the first Super Bowl win in franchise history.
"My job is to fulfill my promise and bring a championship here," Murray told reporters. "There's no questions about it. There's no other place that I wanted to be this whole time. And I mean that."
However, at least one of our analysts has his doubts about whether that will happen in 2022.
"The Cardinals are a good team with quite a bit going for it," Davenport said. "But there are problems as well. The departure of Chandler Jones leaves questions on the edge. Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line 25th in the league.
"Murray looked absolutely awful in the postseason last year. And the Cardinals have faded badly in the second half of the past two seasons. This team might make the playoffs, but it won't host the Super Bowl next February."
11. Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts were one of the teams that took a spin on the league's quarterback carousel in the offseason. After one year in Indy, Carson Wentz was shipped to Washington and replaced via another trade with former NFL MVP Matt Ryan.
Ryan's arrival marks the fifth starter the Colts have had in five years. But running back Nyheim Hines doesn't expect the offense in Indianapolis to miss a beat.
Hines told the Jim Rome Show (via Matthew
VanTryon of the Indianapolis Star):
"The offense is a little bit different from last year this year. I won't say it’s anything do with Carson (Wentz’s) playstyle or anything, but I think it’s seeing how the quarterback likes things. Having five quarterbacks in five years, you see how an offense completely changes based on one guy.
"Based on what Matt sees or what Matt likes, there'll be a little bit different plays, a little bit of different wrinkles. I think some of those wrinkles will benefit me. I think Matt's gonna be a great commander and leader of this offense, and we all have trust in him. We've worked with him for eight weeks, and I'm already ready to run through a brick wall for him."
The Colts have offensive weaponry. Talent on defense. And a quarterback who has taken a team to the Super Bowl. With a positive break or two in the season to come, this team can make some noise in the AFC.
"The Colts are built to dethrone the Tennessee Titans as the AFC South champ," Sobleski said. "But plenty of work had to be done to reach that point. Ryan should provide a steadying, veteran presence behind center.
"The running game is counted among the league's best. The offensive line is still rock-solid despite changes at left tackle and right guard. Yannick Ngakoue gives the defense an actual edge presence. Plus, Stephon Gilmore should thrive in coordinator Gus Bradley's coverage schemes."
10. Denver Broncos
Changes abound for the Denver Broncos this year, including a new head coach in Nathaniel Hackett. But the new face everyone wants to see as training camp gets underway is quarterback Russell Wilson.
Per ESPN's Jeff Legwold, Wilson said he has already developed a level of comfort in Hackett's scheme, which just produced back-to-back MVP seasons for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
"I feel extremely confident in what we're doing," Wilson said. "We look really good. ... We're making touchdown plays."
Denver wide receiver Tim Patrick also gushed about the offense's potential in 2022.
"Outside run, throwing it deep, everything plays off each other," Patrick said. "There's no tells in our plays. We have, I guess you could say, five routes that all look the same, and so you can never just key in on one route. The defense has to play us honestly, especially corners."
There's a difference between moving the ball in practice and doing it once the games begin. But the Broncos have their best quarterback since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season. There's offensive firepower galore. Ample talent on defense.
This team could do damage in 2022. But while playing in arguably the NFL's toughest division, the AFC West, there's little margin for error.
9. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys were the NFC East champions in 2021 and owners of the NFL's most prolific offense. But for all the team accomplished during a 12-win regular season, the year ended in inglorious fashion when Dallas was bounced from the playoffs at home by the 49ers.
The Cowboys had a bumpy offseason, losing some major contributors from last season such as wide receiver Amari Cooper and edge-rusher Randy Gregory. But Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated still thinks Dallas has a chance at a Super Bowl run:
"The Cowboys have one of the five best quarterbacks in football; one of the game’s most sought-after play-callers; a defensive coordinator (Dan Quinn) who, a year into his head coaching rehab assignment, was one of the hottest names on the market; a game-changing, positionless pass rusher and a running game that should be solid enough to complement the times Dak Prescott isn’t hurling the ball to CeeDee Lamb.
"While this team has let us down before, Prescott is now more than a year removed from a devastating ankle injury and Dallas has a cleaner route than most to the postseason through an NFC East that shouldn’t offer much pushback outside of the Eagles."
However, Moton isn't so sure.
"The Cowboys will have two new starting offensive linemen following the departure of guard Connor Williams and right tackle La'el Collins," he wrote. "Prescott won’t have two of his top four wide receivers from the previous season in Cooper and Cedrick Wilson Jr.
"Yet the Cowboys have depth in their pass-catching group with wideouts CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup along with tight end Dalton Schultz. Dallas also selected wide receiver Jalen Tolbert in the third round of this year's draft. Prescott may defer to the ground game with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield.
"The Cowboys offense could struggle early in the season because of the changes up front and on the perimeter."
8. Baltimore Ravens
After an injury-marred mess of a 2021 season that saw the Baltimore Ravens miss the playoffs, a distraction is the last thing they need as training camp gets underway. But the team potentially has one in the contract status of MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Per NFL.com's Nick Shook, Kyler Murray's extension sets a new baseline for Jackson's next deal—and it's a whopper:
"The new benchmark, then, is in the $230 million range for five-year deals. That's the target the NFL should expect Jackson to seek whenever he and the Ravens get around to negotiating a new deal. For now, though, Jackson remains as the only star quarterback without a lucrative, long-term deal in place. We'll see whether this prompts Jackson and the Ravens to work on a new contract, or ride it out through his fifth-year option."
Jackson's contract isn't the only potential issue facing the Ravens. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are both returning from ACL tears. After the team traded Marquise Brown, Baltimore's wideouts are a huge question mark. And the Ravens secondary was beset by injuries last season.
"The Ravens are one of the hardest teams in the NFL to get a bead on," Davenport wrote. "If the team stays healthy and Jackson plays well, Baltimore could easily win the AFC North and make a deep playoff run. But as we saw last season, if the injuries start piling up again, Baltimore's status as a contender could be on shaky ground."
7. Green Bay Packers
In each of the past three seasons, the Green Bay Packers have won 13 games and captured the NFC North. In each of the past two seasons, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has captured the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.
And yet, uncertainty reigns supreme in Titletown as training camp gets underway. After the Packers traded Davante Adams, the wide receivers in Green Bay are a huge question mark looming over a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
However, as Matt Schneidman wrote for The Athletic, Rodgers expressed confidence this group can get the job done in 2022.
"Excited about Randall [Cobb]," Rodgers said. "We’ve played a lot of football together. Excited about Sammy [Watkins]. Excited about Allen Lazard. He’s been our dirty-work guy for most of his career here, now he’s getting an opportunity to be a No. 1 receiver, so I’m not worried about him at all stepping into that role."
The Packers remain the favorite to win the division by a fairly sizable margin. Any offense led by Rodgers will be formidable. And the Green Bay defense is underrated. Even if these Packers aren't quite as good as prior iterations, they remain one of the NFC's more dangerous teams.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
The 2021 season ended in crushing fashion for the Los Angeles Chargers—a loss to the rival Raiders in Week 18 cost the Bolts a berth in the postseason. But the team didn’t take that disappointment lying down.
The Chargers offense was already loaded with talent. But the defense ranked 23rd in the league last year, and Los Angeles vigorously attacked that deficiency. The Chargers traded for an edge-rusher to pair with Joey Bosa in Khalil Mack and signed one of the league's best young cornerbacks in 26-year-old J.C. Jackson.
However, for all those additions, quarterback Justin Herbert is the key to a deep playoff run, and Dan Hanzus of NFL.com expects Herbert's third season to include an ascension into true superstardom:
"As a rookie in 2020, Herbert broke a number of records, most notably logging 31 touchdown passes. He was even better in Year 2, crossing 5,000 passing yards with 41 total touchdowns. But Herbert's value goes beyond his gaudy counting stats. The 24-year-old is simply different—he makes throws the vast majority of NFL passers can only dream of. He's the master of the 35-yard 'turkey hole' shot, the king of the scramble and 60-yard heave, the expert of the 10-yard sandwich coverage dart. In a golden age at the position, no quarterback has delivered more "Wow!" plays over the past two seasons."
The AFC West will be quite the gauntlet in 2022. But Sobleski believes the Chargers are up to the task.
"This is the year for the Chargers to finally strike," he said. "The Chiefs will once again be in the mix among the AFC's best, but the Tyreek Hill trade coupled with Orlando Brown Jr.'s contract demands completely change Kansas City's offensive dynamic.
"On the opposite side of the ball, Los Angeles has the horses on defense to make Patrick Mahomes a little uncomfortable and possibly force him into some mistakes. With Herbert's continued evolution, the Chargers could easily become the team to beat in the AFC."
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are in a similar situation as the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs have been the gold standard in the AFC over the past several seasons. The team has hosted the last four AFC Championship Games, won a Super Bowl and appeared in another.
But after Kansas City sent Tyreek Hill packing, there are questions about whether the Chiefs can maintain the same level of excellence in 2022.
However, for once, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has
been healthy in the offseason after he rehabbed from toe surgery a year ago. Per ESPN's Adam Teicher, Mahomes has taken advantage of that by working on building a
rapport with an overhauled wideout corps. The quarterback said:
"We got some chemistry in just working with the guys for almost a month. Working out with them, throwing with them. We go to lunch, go to dinner, stuff like that. You kind of build that chemistry and I think a big part of especially our offense is having that chemistry on the field.
"Being able to know what the guy is doing without needing to talk about it. I think it's translated. So far in the practices that we've had, we think we're on the same page and kind of having chemistry and we're going to keep building on that."
"Say what you will about all the changes in Kansas City," Davenport said. "Or about last year's disappointing second half against the Cincinnati Bengals. But this is a team that has hosted four straight AFC title tilts for a reason.
"The receiving corps is better than many are giving credit for, especially when you have Mahomes slinging the rock. If the Chiefs defense can improve on last year's ranking of 27th in yards allowed, there's no reason to think Mahomes can't lead the team to a third Super Bowl."
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new head coach in Todd Bowles. The team nearly had a new quarterback, but Tom Brady decided to give it one more go in 2022. And for what it's worth, the former believes that taking pressure off the latter is important if the team is going to get back to the Super Bowl.
"I think if everyone gets to the mindset of, 'We need to make Tom’s job easier, not him make our job easier,’ we’ll be a better team,” Bowles told the Ira Kaufman Podcast. “If we don’t have to rely on the [Brady] heroics ... and everybody’s doing their job and earning their keep, we’ll be a better team."
This Tampa team isn't that much different from the squad that won Super Bowl LV. And where differences do exist, the franchise has addressed departures. Shaq Mason replaced Alex Cappa at guard. Russell Gage provides some insurance as Chris Godwin attempts to come back from a late-season ACL tear. Second-year pro Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will step in at edge-rusher to replace Jason Pierre-Paul.
The Buccaneers have no shortage of talent on both sides of the ball and the greatest quarterback in NFL history leading the offense.
And if history has shown us anything, it's that you can never count out Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals enjoyed a fantastic run to the AFC title in 2021—a run that came up just short against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.
As Mitch Stacy reported for the Associated Press, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow wasted no time putting the Super Bowl loss behind him—and he said the first step in getting back to the big game is getting off to a faster start as a team in 2022:
"We need to start stronger this year. As an offense, we kind of just skidded at that beginning part when we weren’t quite doing all the things we needed to do to win those games that we expected to win. Just going into this year, I just expect to be a more refined, more technical offense that really maintains the explosiveness and efficiency throughout the entire year."
The Bengals have an offense loaded with skill position talent, whether it's running back Joe Mixon or arguably the NFL's best threesome of receivers in Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase.
After adding three veteran starters up front—right tackle La'el Collins, right guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras—Cincinnati's offensive line should be vastly improved in 2022. And while the contract impasse with safety Jessie Bates III would be a blow for the defense, the Bengals already have a replacement in rookie first-round pick Daxton Hill.
The days of the Bungles are in the rearview mirror. This is the age of "Joe Cool."
And these Bengals have what it takes to return to the Super Bowl.
2. Buffalo Bills
When last we saw the Buffalo Bills, they came up short in the most exciting playoff game in recent memory. But while 2021 may have ended in disappointment, 2022 begins with considerable optimism.
In three seasons, 26-year-old Josh Allen has become one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league, leading a Bills offense that was fifth in the NFL in yards per game and paced the AFC in scoring at 28.4 points per contest.
The Bills are more than just a high-octane offense, though. With talent galore at all three levels, they led the league last year in both total defense and scoring defense—and that was with cornerback Tre'Davious White on the shelf for a chunk of the season. The Bills also added a future Hall of Famer on the edge with the signing of Von Miller.
At OTAs, backup quarterback Matt Barkley told reporters that the Bills have one goal this year: winning the franchise's first Super Bowl.
"We have high goals. I think we’ve come close almost every year now, and even last year when I wasn’t with them. But the Super Bowl is the goal. And I think we’ve got the pieces in place, but every week is a new week, and you have to stay focused and persevere through those challenges of some injuries during the year, and the ups and downs of the schedule. So I think having older guys in the room, at least with Josh, and then kind of bringing back that leadership will hopefully help us go far into February next year."
This is a team fully capable of achieving that lofty goal.
1. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams are the reigning kings of the NFL after they downed the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. But many times, staying on top can be harder than getting there. In addition to having an excellent roster, teams need good fortune to make it back to the promised land.
The Rams have already received a little in 2022. After offseason surgery to repair the injured elbow that bothered quarterback Matthew Stafford much of last year, his rehab has progressed to the point that head coach Sean McVay told reporters he'll be a full-go for training camp:
“He’s feeling good. He’s been able to do a lot of things over the last handful of weeks, even since we’ve been off. I think with a veteran player, anyone of his magnitude or really with the amount of experience, you want to be smart with following some pitch counts and different things like that. He is going to be ready to go, but we will be smart with what that workload looks like within our four- and three-day work week increments.”
The news isn't quite as rosy for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will open camp on the PUP list because of shoulder surgery. The Rams also have questions on the offensive line and at edge-rusher after Andrew Whitworth retired and Von Miller signed with the Bills.
But for our NFL analysts here at Bleacher Report, the Rams remain the NFL's top-ranked team.
"The Rams might not have the NFL's best roster on paper," Davenport said. "But the team has the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in Cooper Kupp and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Aaron Donald. You want to be the best? First you have beat the best."