2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 1?

NFL StaffSeptember 5, 2022

2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 1?

0 of 32

    Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

    It has been 204 days since the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. In those six months and change, we have seen dozens of free agents sign with new teams. Witnessed massive trades that shook up the NFL landscape. Watched hundreds of new players enter the league. And seen at least one future Hall of Famer retire—and then un-retire.

    There has been plenty said and written about this year's Super Bowl contenders, bottom-feeders and teams that could surprise this year.

    Now, however, the time for talking is just about over.

    This week's opening slate features no shortage of compelling matchups, whether it's a potential Super Bowl preview in Los Angeles, an AFC West showdown in that same stadium a few days later or a couple of potential revenge games for quarterbacks who changed teams in the offseason.

    Those contests could change how we view quite a few teams across the league. But as we prepare to greet another exciting season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton and Brent Sobleski have gathered to rank the league's teams from worst to first—just as they will all season.

    The top team shouldn't surprise anyone. But the team at No. 32 is one that isn't used to tomato-can status.

32. Seattle Seahawks

1 of 32

    Geno Smith (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

    The Seattle Seahawks were left with an unenviable task in 2022: trying to replace the best quarterback the franchise ever had after it traded Russell Wilson to Denver.

    After a training camp competition, Seattle named Geno Smith (who made three starts in place of an injured Wilson in 2021) the Week 1 starter over Drew Lock, who joined the Seahawks in the Wilson trade.

    However, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll told reporters that the battle under center isn't necessarily over.

    “I think they understand that it (competition) is always on,” Carroll said.

    It's possible that by the time the season ends, both Smith and Lock will have wound up making starts for the Seahawks.

    But in Sobleski's opinion, it doesn't matter who starts for the Seahawks—either way, it's going to be a long season:

    "It's hard to envision the Seahawks as anything other than the worst team in the NFC. Fortunately (or unfortunately for them), they'll have competition for the designation from the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears. Each squad has pieces to compete yet lacks the overall depth and roster quality to do much this season.

    "Of the three, Seattle enters its first year of a rebuild and may have the NFL's worst quarterback situation. Smith earned his spot as the starter almost by default, since Lock is far too inconsistent and turnover-happy. The second the team chose to move on from Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, everyone knew which direction the franchise was going—toward the top of next year's draft."

31. Atlanta Falcons

2 of 32

    Marcus Mariota (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The Atlanta Falcons are at the beginning of a new chapter. For the first time since 2008, when they take the field for the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, they will do so without Matt Ryan under center.

    For now at least, it will be veteran Marcus Mariota who leads the offense after two seasons backing up Derek Carr in Las Vegas. The No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft told reporters that he's looking forward to the opportunity to get his career back on track.

    “To be at this point in my career, to have another opportunity to go out there and play, is very exciting for me,” Mariota said.

    He looked solid in the preseason, but the weapons at his disposal aren't especially imposing. With Calvin Ridley suspended for the season, Atlanta's No. 1 wide receiver is rookie Drake London. There isn't much on the roster behind London and tight end Kyle Pitts. And running back is a major question mark behind Cordarrelle Patterson.

    Add in a defense that was 26th in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed in 2021, and this has the makings of a rebuilding year.

    Given that reality, it's fair to wonder how long it might be before the Falcons give rookie Desmond Ridder a look at quarterback.

30. Chicago Bears

3 of 32

    Justin Fields (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

    The Chicago Bears will go as far as quarterback Justin Fields takes them. But the perception from most on the outside is that the team hasn't exactly put the quarterback in position to succeed. Aside from running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Darnell Mooney, the skill-position talent isn't scaring anyone. The offensive line is shaky enough that Chicago claimed Raiders flameout Alex Leatherwood off waivers.

    However, new Bears general manager Ryan Poles refutes the idea that the roster around Fields is weak. Poles said, via Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “I’m not going to overreach and do crazy things to get a name or anything. Our approach has been consistent from the draft all the way through. We’re going to continue to add talent all around the best we can. It might not be the name that everyone wants to hear. But we’re going to develop the players that we have here.”

    To be fair, Fields and the Bears looked good in the preseason finale against Cleveland. But Davenport remains skeptical this team can make any noise in 2022.

    "The Bears seem to at least be trying to scheme opportunities for Fields to do what he does best—to take advantage of his mobility," he said. "But the Bears have both the weakest collection of offensive weaponry and the worst offensive line in the NFC North. Even if Fields takes a step forward this year, the Bears are much closer to a last-place team than a first-place one.

29. Houston Texans

4 of 32

    Dameon Pierce (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    The Houston Texans have arguably the most talent-deficient roster in the AFC. The team managed just four wins in 2021, ranked dead last in total offense and 31st in total defense. It's not easy to find things to get excited about in Houston.

    However, it appears the Texans may have found a gem in rookie running back Dameon Pierce. A fourth-round pick out of Florida, Pierce was PFF's highest-graded back in the preseason. He wasn't used in a featured role in college, but Houston offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton told reporters that he thinks the youngster has the skill set to thrive in the NFL:

    “You’re looking at what players can do. There’s a ton of different offenses in college football and it’s hard to, at times, try and predict how a player that plays within a scheme is going to be able to adjust and adapt to the pro game. But we do know that certain skill sets have a better chance of adapting to our game.”

    The bigger question for the Texans may be whether they can stay in games and avoid having to abandon the run.

28. New York Jets

5 of 32

    Zach Wilson (Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The long-suffering fans of the New York Jets have become accustomed to bad news at quarterback.

    But it still sometimes feels like the universe is rubbing it in.

    Last year, the Jets spent the second overall pick on the player the team hoped would finally solve its long-standing issues under center in Zach Wilson. But Wilson's rookie season was a bumpy one, with a completion percentage barely north of 55 percent, just nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. As if that wasn't bad enough, Wilson will miss time to open the 2022 season after injuring his knee in the preseason.

    However, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post, Jets head coach Robert Saleh isn't worried about Wilson. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    "[I’m] really excited about him getting the chance to get back to the football field to show how far along he’s come," Saleh said. "As far as the development and the course that he’s on, we’re excited about it, and we’re excited about his future.”

    The Jets have a solid array of wide receivers and depth in the backfield, and an offensive line that may not be great but is at least average.

    In other words, if Wilson doesn't take a significant step forward, the Jets could be facing a rocky offseason—and the prospect of potentially having to address quarterback…again.

27. New York Giants

6 of 32

    Daniel Jones (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    This is a make-or-break season for New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. When New York's new regime decided against picking up Jones' fifth-year option, it sent a clear message to the young signal-caller: Up your game in 2022 or your days as an NFL starter could be over.

    Per Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com, new Giants general manager Joe Schoen said he's pleased with how Jones has performed in training camp and the preseason—while at the same time allowing that none of that really matters:

    "I’m not going to get into expectations, but I’m happy where he is. I think you guys saw the two preseason games he played in; I think he played well. You guys were here for the Jets practice. I think he performed well in the Jets practice. So, again, I know some people were getting on him early on. And it’s [against Wink Martindale's] defense, and he’s sending people from left field, and we’re not game planning for that, while he’s also trying to be on the same page with some of the receivers. So, I think Daniel’s in a good place. I’m happy where he is. But again, we all know everybody’s got to go perform on Sundays, and that’s when the evaluations will really start."

    At least one of our analysts is skeptical about Jones' chances of turning things around this season—for reasons that go well beyond the quarterback himself.

    "Jones admittedly hasn't played well the past couple of years," Davenport said. "But he's not the only problem in New York. The wide receivers aren't great, especially if Kadarius Toney continues to struggle to keep his legs healthy.

    "Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line in the bottom half of the league. And New York was a bottom-10 scoring defense last year and now has a gaping hole in the middle after it released linebacker Blake Martinez. It's not a situation that screams 'success!'"

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

7 of 32

    Trevor Lawrence (Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)

    Stop us if you have heard this before.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are rebuilding.

    Actually, rebuilding might not be the best way to phrase it. The Jags are trying to wash off the stink of the Urban Meyer fiasco.

    There are reasons to think Jacksonville might be on the right track. The team has a Super Bowl-winning coach in Doug Pederson. The addition of wide receiver Christian Kirk and a healthy Travis Etienne Jr. beefed up the weaponry at Trevor Lawrence's disposal. And per John Oehser of the team's website, Jacksonville's second-year quarterback is eager to show that last year's struggles are behind him.

    "We're really excited to put all of our focus on an opponent," he said. "We've got a lot of weapons. I'm excited to play with these guys. The way our offense and our team has gotten better through camp is really exciting. I'm excited for that."

    The Jaguars fielded the NFL's fifth-worst scoring defense in 2021, but the addition of veteran linebacker Foyesade Oluokun and rookies Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd should bolster that side of the ball as well.

    It's important to keep expectations in check regarding these Jaguars—Jacksonville hasn't won more than six games in a season since its last playoff trip in 2017.

    But this team could be a tougher out than many realize.

25. Carolina Panthers

8 of 32

    Baker Mayfield (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    From the moment that David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers in 2018, the team has been trying to obtain a franchise quarterback. In 2020, it acquired Teddy Bridgewater. After one mediocre season under center, he was cast aside for Sam Darnold, who went on to have…one mediocre season.

    In 2022, the Panthers have moved on to Baker Mayfield, who will start in Week 1 when Carolina hosts the Cleveland Browns. Per Joseph Person of The Athletic, Carolina head coach Matt Rhule said he's hopeful the Panthers finally have a quarterback who can help get the team back on track.

    “We’re hoping that he moves the offense,” Rhule said of Mayfield. “I don’t want to make it too simple. But I think he’s a guy that’s accurate. He’s a guy that’s smart, plays fast. He knows where to go with the ball. He’s still adjusting to our mechanics, our footwork. So I think making this move now gives him time to really settle in with some guys.”

    It's understandable that Rhule is hopeful—after just 10 wins over two seasons and with Tepper reportedly eyeing Sean Payton as Rhule's potential replacement, per Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, the coach badly needs the Panthers to put together a good season. And Moton thinks Rhule may just get his wish.

    "The Carolina Panthers will get a fired-up Baker Mayfield, who won the starting quarterback job and faces his old team, the Cleveland Browns, in Week 1," Moton said. "Based on his competitive nature, he obviously wants to beat his former squad (maybe with nicer words), but the Panthers will have a signal-caller who has a chip on his shoulder going into a contract term. That’s a good thing."

    "Even better," he continued, "Mayfield has several offensive playmakers around him, including wideouts DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson and Laviska Shenault Jr. along with running back Christian McCaffrey, who, if healthy, can rack up 1,000 yards on the ground and as a pass-catcher (think back to 2019). The Panthers won’t win the NFC South, but they have an offense that can challenge playoff-contending teams."

24. Detroit Lions

9 of 32

    Dan Campbell (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The Detroit Lions got a chunk of the spotlight this summer thanks to their appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks. But the pressing question for Detroit after 11 wins the past three seasons combined is whether the team is any closer to making its first playoff appearance since 2016.

    As Dan Pompei wrote for The Athletic, in the show's first episode, head coach Dan Campbell made it clear the mentality he wanted the Lions to have in 2022:

    “We’ll go a little bit longer, we’ll push a little harder, and we’ll think a little deeper and a little sharper. To me, it means we’ll play anywhere. We’ll play on grass, we’ll play on turf, we’ll go to a (expletive) landfill. It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter if you have one (expletive) cheek and three toes, I will beat your (expletive).”

    Campbell is an interesting cat.

    The Lions have a few things going for them outside a colorful coach. Detroit has quietly built one of the league's better offensive lines. The additions of veteran DJ Chark and rookie Jameson Williams (once recovered from a torn ACL), alongside Amon-Ra St. Brown, give Jared Goff a solid trio of wideouts. And second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson should be a big boost to the pass rush.

    These Lions all but certainly won't make the playoffs. But if a suspect linebacker corps can hold up and Goff can avoid mistakes on offense, there's reason to believe Detroit could be an improved team in Campbell's second season.

23. Washington Commanders

10 of 32

    Carson Wentz (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    It's been an eventful offseason in the nation's capital—and not just because the Washington Commanders got a new nickname.

    After tearing his ACL about halfway through the 2021 season, star edge-rusher Chase Young will miss at least the first four games of the season on the PUP list. So will rookie running back Brian Robinson, who won the early-down role in camp only to be placed on the reserve/non-football injury list after being shot twice during an armed robbery attempt.

    Those are significant blows for the Commanders, but the team's 2022 season still hinges on the one thing it was always going to hinge on—the play of quarterback Carson Wentz.

    As a whole, Wentz played well for the Colts last year—over 3,500 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He faded badly down the stretch, but general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters he thinks Washington has its man under center.

    “(After the team played) eight quarterbacks over two seasons, he has stabilized that position for us,” Mayhew said. “And we’re excited about what he brings to the table in terms of his physical talent and also what he brings to the table as a person, as a leader.”

    If the Commanders are going to make the postseason for just the second time since 2015, Wentz isn't the only player who needs to rebound. The Washington defense also needs to improve drastically after a disastrous 2021 campaign in which it ranked 25th in points per game allowed.

22. New England Patriots

11 of 32

    Mac Jones (left) and Matt Patricia (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    It's not that often that coaching decisions from Bill Belichick are second-guessed. When you're the most successful head coach the NFL has ever seen, you tend to get the benefit of the doubt.

    However, the decision to have someone who came up as a special teams coach (Joe Judge) be in charge of second-year quarterback Mac Jones' development and have a traditionally defensive coach (Matt Patricia) call the offensive plays is a little weird, even by Belichick's standards.

    Of course, we don't know for sure yet that it will be Patricia calling the plays. The former Lions head coach did so in the preseason, but he told reporters recently that it's not guaranteed that will continue into games that count.

    “That was just the preseason. We’ll see what happens as we get towards the regular season as we go forward,” Patricia said. “Right now, I’m just focused on today.”

    Well, gee, Matt. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Regardless of who runs the Patriots offense, Davenport believes that this time, Belichick has overthought things to the brink of disaster.

    "What a stunner that the New England offense hasn't looked good this summer with a special teams guy coaching the quarterbacks and a defensive coach making offensive play calls," he said.

    "Who could possibly have foreseen this except everyone with eyes and a functioning cerebrum. Belichick has long been lauded for outcoaching and outscheming opponents. But this isn’t outside-the-box brilliance. It's trying to be cute. Cute backfires a lot more often than not. And in this case, it's going to keep the Patriots from getting back into the postseason."

21. Pittsburgh Steelers

12 of 32

    Mitch Trubisky (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    You may not have heard, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for a new quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger called it a career following the 2021 season.

    If the team's final preseason game was any indication, it appears that when the Steelers open the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, veteran Mitch Trubisky will draw the start. He played the first half with the starters and fared well, including a 92-yard touchdown drive late in the half.

    However, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters he wasn't ready to announce whether Trubisky or rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett would open the season as Pittsburgh's starter.

    "Who is to say it's not settled," said Tomlin. "I am just not making any announcements. It's fruitless for us. We've got work ahead of us and so that is not on our agenda to make any announcements to feed the beast. We don't care about the beast."

    Uncertainty under center isn't the only problem facing the Steelers in 2022. PFF graded the Pittsburgh O-Line as the league's third-worst ahead of this season, and it has looked the part in the preseason. But this team has skill-position talent. And a stout defense.

    If the line can be even average and the quarterback play decent, the Steelers could make some noise.

    And Tomlin's streak of 15 non-losing seasons will continue.

20. Cleveland Browns

13 of 32

    Jacoby Brissett (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

    No team in the NFL had a more chaotic offseason than the Cleveland Browns. But after months of uncertainty, the team now knows how long it will be without quarterback Deshaun Watson.

    The league suspended him 11 games after he was sued by 25 women for sexual misconduct and assault during massage appointments.

    While Watson is serving that suspension, Jacoby Brissett will lead the Cleveland offense. The team didn't look good in the preseason finale, but Brissett told reporters after the game that he was pleased with how things went.

    “I thought it went smooth. Getting in and out of the huddle was one of the biggest things that we wanted to do, getting up to the line of scrimmage, making the calls, seeing the defense and seeing the structure of the defense. I thought that went well. Obviously, I knew where I was going with the ball at times and seeing it well. Like I said, it was a good step in the right direction."

    Brissett may be confident in his ability to keep the Browns in the playoff hunt until Watson returns. But at least one of B/R's analysts thinks the team will be hard-pressed to keep the season on track.

    "An 11-game suspension for Watson should destroy any hopes the Browns have of putting together a productive 2022 campaign," Sobleski said. "At best, Brissett can probably hold water at quarterback and possibly keep the team around .500.

    "By the time Watson is ready to start, Cleveland is likely looking at an uphill climb to even make the postseason. The Browns will do so with a quarterback who hasn't properly practiced with the first team for three months and hasn't played a meaningful NFL down for nearly two years.

    "The rest of the Browns roster is good enough to compete with any opponent. But it's a QB-driven league, and they're automatically at a disadvantage this season."

19. Miami Dolphins

14 of 32

    Tua Tagovailoa (Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    There has been no shortage of hype surrounding the Miami Dolphins in 2022, largely because the team went out and traded for star wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

    But in order for all (or any) of that hype to be realized, one thing absolutely must happen: Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has to play better after a pair of up-and-down seasons in the NFL.

    There are doubters about Tagovailoa's ability to be a high-end NFL starter. But per Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN, Tagovailoa's new No. 1 wide receiver most assuredly does not share those concerns.

    "Well, Tua is low-key cocky—like, a lot of people don't know that," Hill said. "But when you see him start getting into his zone—when it's like, 'Oh yeah, that dude is unstoppable'—when he gets locked into that zone, it is over with for the opposing defense. I promise you.

    "I've had a chance to see that a few times out of him, where he gets into the zone, and he's like on everybody's behind, and it's like, ridiculous, you know? That really motivates the rest of the guys on the team, having such a great leader in Tua."

    Tagovailoa isn't the only question facing Miami. The running back position has been completely overhauled, and the offensive line was among the league's worst in 2021.

    But in news that should surprise exactly zero people, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. And if the Dolphins challenge the Buffalo Bills for AFC East supremacy in 2022, it will be because Tagovailoa started playing like a top-five pick.

18. Minnesota Vikings

15 of 32

    Kirk Cousins (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    The Mike Zimmer era is over in Minnesota, and the changing of the guard at head coach in the Twin Cities also involves a change in focus. The franchise now has an offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O'Connell, who served as Cousins' quarterbacks coach for a season in Washington.

    O'Connell told Adam Schein of SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio (h/t Kevin Patra of NFL.com) how the success of his signal-caller—and, by extension, the offense—hinges on their relationship.

    "Having the previous relationship with him, building that rapport with him has -- I don't want to say it will -- it has served us very well early on. I feel like we've got a constant dialogue between him and I, you know, we meet a lot about what we're doing offensively, obviously his role in it, but also just big picture.

    "I want him to feel as involved as he's ever been in an offense and how we build it and how we're going to try to attack opponents and I think that's very, very important. If him and I are on the same page he can be an extension of me and vice versa, I can be an extension of him to our football team in a lot of ways that only enhance his ability to just authentically be himself, lead us and then just go play, because he's a talented guy, man."

    There's a renewed sense of optimism in Minnesota this season, and at least one of our analysts is buying into it.

    "The Vikings have arguably the best wide receiver in the league in Justin Jefferson," Davenport wrote. "Dalvin Cook is one of the league's most explosive running backs. Cousins was ninth in the league in passing yards last year, ninth in touchdown passes, seventh in touchdown percentage and fourth in passer rating.

    "And the Minnesota defense has the potential to be better than most are giving them credit for. If there's a team in the NFC North with a realistic shot of de-throning the Packers in 2022, it has to be the Vikings. This could be one of the surprise success stories of 2022."

17. New Orleans Saints

16 of 32

    Jameis Winston (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

    The New Orleans Saints are one of the more interesting teams in the NFL entering the 2022 season.

    Offensively, the team should be significantly improved relative to last year. Jameis Winston, by all accounts, has recovered fully from the ACL tear that ended his 2021 season. The addition of veteran Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave and the return of a healthy Michael Thomas offers Winston an exponentially better wideout corps than he had last season.

    And if Alvin Kamara avoids discipline from his offseason battery arrest, the Saints could field a formidable offense.

    Defensively, the Saints were seventh last year in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. Whether it's Cameron Jordan up front, Demario Davis at linebacker or newcomer Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, the Saints have talent at all three levels on that side of the ball.

    Add it all together, and Sobleski sees a team that could give the Buccaneers trouble in the NFC South—if things fall into place.

    "An eclectic group of talented individuals is coming together in New Orleans with the potential to do big things if everything properly gels. First, Dennis Allen takes over for the retired Sean Payton, though the transition should go relatively smoothly since Allen previously served as the defensive coordinator.

    "Jameis Winston must build upon his impressive start to the 2021 campaign before suffering a torn ACL. Michael Thomas is back after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. Jarvis Landry and first-round rookie Chris Olave are now added to the mix.

    "On the other side of the ball, the secondary has been rebuilt with two brand new starting safeties in Mathieu and Marcus Maye. On paper, this group looks great. But games aren't played on paper. The Saints must prove they're worthy of a higher ranking."

16. Tennessee Titans

17 of 32

    Ryan Tannehill (No. 17) is under center once again for the Titans. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

    There may not be a team in recent memory that has been dismissed as quickly after being their conference's No. 1 seed the year before than the 2022 Tennessee Titans.

    Last year, the Titans won 12 games and were crowned AFC South champions for the second straight year. But this year, good luck finding anyone who views the Titans as any kind of legitimate contender.

    There are some reasons for skepticism. The Titans traded No. 1 wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. Top pass-rusher Harold Landry III tore his ACL last week in practice and will miss the entire season. When last we saw quarterback Ryan Tannehill, he threw three picks in an ugly playoff loss to the Bengals.

    However, after watching the Titans in camp, ESPN's Dianna Russini said that skeptics are writing Tannehill off too soon.

    "This is Ryan Tannehill's team, and I can tell you it's Ryan Tannehill's team because of the way he looks in camp. He looks fantastic," Russini said.

    "Ryan Tannehill looks like he has bounced back mentally [from last year's playoff loss to the Bengals]. And I know there's no A.J. Brown out there on the field, but he's done a really good job of figuring out all the different weapons that he can use and finding their best characteristic."

    The Titans replaced Brown with veteran Robert Woods and used a first-round pick on Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks. Tennessee will also have a healthy Derrick Henry back in 2022.

    After going 23-10 over the past two years, maybe the Titans' best days are behind them. But it's also possible this team is being written off prematurely.

15. San Francisco 49ers

18 of 32

    Trey Lance (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

    There has been no shortage of drama at the quarterback position in San Francisco this offseason, whether it was the future of Jimmy Garoppolo or talks of Trey Lance as his successor.

    After months of speculation and reports that Garoppolo was a goner, the Niners stunned the NFL by re-working the veteran signal-caller's contract and bringing him back.

    However, despite the presence of a player in Garoppolo, who led the Niners to the Super Bowl in 2019 and the NFC Championship Game this past season, San Francisco general manager John Lynch insisted this is Lance's team now.

    "Kyle [Shanahan] makes those decisions, who plays at quarterback and when," Lynch said on the Murph & Mac Show (h/t David Bonilla of 49ers Webzone). "And I know Kyle, just like we've stated many times, we're very committed to Trey Lance. We've got a lot of belief in Trey."

    It's an interesting situation, but Moton thinks the 49ers will be just fine.

    "Shanahan will probably have to answer questions about the dynamic between Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo throughout the season," he said. "For now, he has a young starting quarterback in Lance, who can stretch the field with his arm and move the chains with his legs as well. Lance's physical tools should excite 49ers fans.

    "Wideouts Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Danny Gray, along with tight end George Kittle, can make some big plays over the top with more consistency than they did with Garoppolo under center. Shanahan can marry that with his outside zone run scheme for a prolific multifaceted offense.

    "Don't worry about the defense, either," Moton continued. "Last year, DeMeco Ryans took over for Robert Saleh and fielded a top-10 scoring unit that gave up the third-fewest yards. In the front seven, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Fred Warner will lead another stingy unit."

14. Arizona Cardinals

19 of 32

    Kyler Murray (Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The 2021 season for the Arizona Cardinals was essentially two seasons. In the first, the Cardinals went 9-2 ahead of their bye week and looked like arguably the best team in the NFC. Over the second, Arizona won just two of their last six games and was embarrassed by the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round.

    It marked the second straight season that the Cardinals have faded badly late in the season, and Arizona defensive end J.J. Watt told Albert Breer of the MMQB that the key to avoiding a third such collapse lies with handling adversity better and staying healthy.

    "We have to stay healthy. We're 7–0, and I go down, Kyler [Murray] goes down, Hop [DeAndre Hopkins] goes down for a bit," Watt said. "You start to lose some very important pieces to the team, that's going to hurt you.

    "Also from a leadership standpoint, just being able to handle that adversity, having different guys out there and being able to say, 'It's all right, we got this.' The handling of adversity and the maturity of the team, to be able to go through a difficult stretch of a game, or even if it's a difficult week or two, to be able to handle that. … That's something that definitely, as the leadership of this team, we're working on."

    The problem is that the Cardinals have already suffered at least one significant loss—Hopkins will miss the season's first six games while serving a PED suspension. But while Davenport sees a talented roster in the desert, he has his doubts about the Redbirds again this season.

    "On paper, the Cardinals appear to have a roster that's more than capable of contending in the NFC West. Arizona offset Hopkins' absence with the addition of wide receiver Marquise Brown, and the team has talent across the field on both sides of the ball.

    "But from head coach Kliff Kingsbury to quarterback Kyler Murray and right on down the line, the Cardinals have yet to show they can handle the pressure of the stretch run. Maybe they will do so in 2022. But I'll believe it when I see it."

13. Las Vegas Raiders

20 of 32

    Davante Adams (No. 17) and cornerback Amik Robertson (No. 21) react after a punt return by wide receiver Justin Hall (No. 12) (Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    The AFC West was wild indeed this offseason. The Denver Broncos brought in a Super Bowl quarterback in Russell Wilson. The Los Angeles Chargers bolstered the defense with the addition of edge-rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson. And the Kansas City Chiefs—well the Chiefs have won the division the last six years.

    Not to be outdone, the Las Vegas Raiders made huge moves on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Raiders traded for Derek Carr's Fresno State teammate Davante Adams. On defense, the Raiders signed one of the most productive pass-rushers of the past decade in Chandler Jones.

    As Moton wrote, the Raiders have plenty going for them in 2022. But it's not a team without issues.

    "Unless the Raiders trade tight end Darren Waller amid contract negotiations," Moton said, "quarterback Derek Carr will have one of the league's best pass-catching groups with Adams and Hunter Renfrow at wide receiver. Carr should hit career highs in multiple passing categories this year as a top-10 quarterback.

    "However, head coach and lead play-caller Josh McDaniels may need to plan around a questionable offensive line that doesn't have clear-cut starters at the guard spots and probably features a career backup journeyman in Jermaine Eluemunor at right tackle. We could see max protection with an extra lineman or a blocking tight end along with screens and short passes to take pressure off of the front line.

    "In AFC West matchups," he continued, "young cornerbacks Rock Ya-Sin and Nate Hobbs will have to hold their own against wide receivers who will catch passes from three of the league’s top-10 quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson. That’s a tough task, but not an impossible feat with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones providing a pass rush up front."

12. Philadelphia Eagles

21 of 32

    Jalen Hurts (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Where adding impact players are concerned, there isn't a team in the league that was busier in the offseason than the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Eagles traded for star wide receiver A.J. Brown and veteran safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, signed edge-rusher Haason Reddick in free agency, and drafted a pair of accomplished defenders from Georgia's national champions in defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean.

    All those moves have ramped up the pressure on quarterback Jalen Hurts to take the next step as a passer and lead the team on a deep playoff run. There are those who feel that Hurts isn't up to that task, but he told reporters that he has tuned out all the outside noise swirling around the team.

    "I don't hear it," Hurts said. "I know there are a ton of different things that are said. I don't hear 'em. I don't listen. I don't look for it. I just come here, I come to work, and I do my job. I strive to grow in doing my job every day. I do me."

    Sobleski isn't listening to that that noise, either.

    "The Eagles have everything a team needs to win a division championship and make a deep postseason run, as long as quarterback Jalen Hurts continues to develop," he said. "A second-year jump (as a full-time starter) for Hurts should come naturally when playing behind the game's best offensive line and the additions of wide receivers A.J. Brown and Zach Pascal.

    "Defensively, the Eagles revamped all three levels with the inclusion of Jordan Davis, Haason Reddick, Nakobe Dean, James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Poor quarterback play may be the only thing holding this squad back. Don't expect it, though."

11. Dallas Cowboys

22 of 32

    Dak Prescott (No. 4) reacts with linebacker Luke Gifford (No. 57) and safety Tyler Coyle (No. 31) (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

    The Dallas Cowboys won 12 games and the NFC East last year. The team fielded the No. 1 offense in terms of yards and points per game in 2021. Both of those things didn't matter even a little bit when Dallas was unceremoniously booted from the postseason in the Wild Card Round.

    As if that wasn't bad enough, it has been a rocky offseason. After left tackle Tyron Smith suffered a serious injury, the Cowboys will open the 2022 season with three new starters on the offensive line. When Dallas takes the field in Week 1, it will be without two of their top three receivers from a year ago.

    One of those wideouts (Amari Cooper) was traded to Cleveland in what amounted to a salary dump. Team owner Jerry Jones pointed to quarterback Dak Prescott's contract as a reason the Cowboys had to make some difficult financial decisions this offseason.

    "The more you pay the quarterback, the teams that pay the big ticket on the quarterback, they have to sacrifice other places," Jones said Friday during an interview with Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan (h/t Jori Epstein of USA Today). "The facts are there's no free lunch. Every dollar you spend on a player is a dollar you can't spend someplace else."

    To be clear, the Cowboys still have no shortage of talent, whether it's Prescott, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on offense, or reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs on defense.

    But in a year when the Philadelphia Eagles seemingly added pieces left and right, the Cowboys may have come back to the pack a bit in the NFC East.

10. Indianapolis Colts

23 of 32

    Matt Ryan (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

    There isn't a team in the NFL more eager to get back on the playing field than the Indianapolis Colts. When last the Colts were on the gridiron, they completely collapsed in a 15-point loss to the NFL's worst team—a defeat that cost the them a spot in the playoffs.

    That faceplant in Jacksonville led to some big changes in Indianapolis this year, including another change at quarterback after Carson Wentz was unceremoniously shipped off to Washington. When Matt Ryan takes the field as the team's starter against the Houston Texans on September 11, it will mark the sixth different Week 1 starter for the team in as many seasons.

    Ryan—a former MVP and Super Bowl starter—is the most accomplished player the Colts have had under center since Peyton Manning. Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters in training camp that it didn't take long for Ryan to make an impact on what the Colts do offensively.

    "The speed that he operates on, the practice tempo," said Reich. "Listen, every guy is focused, every guy is all business, but Matt is just at another level. He's always on, and it's—he's out here to work. This work—always thinking, always talking through things and ways to get us better, get us on the same page as an offense.

    "So, really felt like we made a lot of strides. It came from a lot of players' leadership, but he played a significant role in the leadership he provided in this training camp."

    On paper, at least, the Colts have the most balanced roster in the division and maybe one of the most balanced rosters in the AFC. An elite running back in Jonathan Taylor. One of the league's best offensive lines. A defensive line that added edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue. And one of the NFL's best off-ball linebackers in Shaquille Leonard.

    But as we saw when the Colts were last on the field, none of that will matter unless Ryan can make better use of the team's talent than Wentz did.

9. Denver Broncos

24 of 32

    Russell Wilson (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

    You may not have heard, but the Denver Broncos have a new quarterback.

    In Russell Wilson, the Broncos hope to have added the final piece in the playoff puzzle—the best quarterback the team has had since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset after winning Super Bowl 50.

    The Broncos certainly believe in Wilson, as evidenced by the five-year, $245 million extension the team just gave the 33-year-old. Wilson has already made a believer of his receivers as well, with Courtland Sutton remarking that he and Jerry Jeudy are ready to start running the patented Russell Wilson scramble deal in games that count.

    "We know to be where we're supposed to be on our routes because he expects us to be in the right place," Sutton said to reporters. "And we know if it breaks down, we have to help him, be there for him, get to a spot where he can get us the ball. Because we know he isn't going to believe a play is ever over in those situations."

    In Sutton and Jeudy and running backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III, Wilson has no shortage of weapons at his disposal. But Davenport thinks the Denver defense will be every bit as important if the Broncos are going to make it back to the playoffs.

    "In cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Patrick Surtain II and veteran safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons, the Broncos may well have the best secondary in the AFC West," he said.

    "That's most assuredly going to matter in a division that is loaded with big-name receivers and star quarterbacks. To win the West, you're going to have to win shootouts. And to win shootouts, you need to make a timely stop here and there."

8. Baltimore Ravens

25 of 32

    Lamar Jackson (Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The story of the 2021 season for the Baltimore Ravens was injuries. The team was ravaged by them on both sides of the ball. The running back position and defensive backfield were decimated. Lamar Jackson missed five games. And Baltimore missed the playoffs for the first time since Jackson got to town.

    Baltimore's star quarterback is healthy again, but his injury raised questions about all the scrambling that Jackson does in games. However, as the former NFL MVP told reporters, he wasn't running with the football when he got hurt.

    "Do you know how the injury happened? Trying to pass in the pocket," Jackson said. "I've been good [with] how I've been playing. But when I tried to shed and stay in the pocket, I got hurt for the first time. So, yes, I think it speaks for itself."

    Offensive coordinator Greg Roman also made it clear that the team isn't concerned with Jackson's durability or his getting injured while running.

    "The thing about Lamar is that he is probably one of the best athletes at the position in the history of known mankind," Roman said. "So, to not tap into that would be somewhat silly, would it not?"

    The Ravens may not be worried about Jackson's health, but his contract is another story. Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and reports have circulated that Jackson (who doesn't have an agent) is seeking a fully guaranteed contract à la Deshaun Watson.

    As soon as the Ravens take the field against the New York Jets, Jackson's contract will take a back seat to what the team does on the field. But so long as Jackson remains un-signed, a cloud will be hanging over the team, and the cost of his new contract will only continue to increase.

7. Green Bay Packers

26 of 32

    Aaron Jones (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Over the past three seasons, the Green Bay Packers have had all kinds of success in the regular season, owning a ridiculous record of 39-10. They have won the NFC North all three seasons, and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has won the last two NFL MVP awards.

    However, the Packers are just 2-3 in the playoffs since 2019, including a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round a year ago. Now, there are questions facing the team at wide receiver after Davante Adams was traded to Las Vegas, and Rodgers admitted to reporters in training camp that Green Bay's young wideouts have work to do.

    "The young guys, especially the young receivers, we've got to be way more consistent," Rodgers said. "A lot of drops, a lot of bad route decisions, running the wrong route. So we've got to get better in that area."

    However, as Moton wrote, it may not be those young receivers who help key Green Bay's offense at all in 2022.

    "While many people will look for a young wide receiver to replace Davante Adams (Allen Lazard, Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs), they should keep their eyes on the Green Bay Packers backfield," he said.

    "No, Aaron Rodgers isn't going to post MVP numbers with a run-heavy offense, but Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon could possibly rush for 1,000 yards apiece, which hasn't happened for a running back duo since Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams accomplished the feat in 2009.

    "By the way," Moton continued, "rookie defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt and first-year linebacker Quay Walker could help Green Bay field a top-10 scoring defense. The Packers' winning formula won't appeal to some fans, but they should remain a playoff contender with a power ground attack and a stifling defense."

6. Los Angeles Chargers

27 of 32

    Justin Herbert (Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

    Among teams that failed to make the postseason last year, none are ranked higher in these power rankings than the Los Angeles Chargers.

    On some level, it's not hard to see why. In Justin Herbert, the Chargers have one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. As Chargers quarterbacks coach Shane Day told Steven Ruiz of the Ringer, Herbert is only just scratching the surface of what he can do at the NFL level.

    "We kind of get numb to the splash plays—the deep throws, the runs down the sideline, all that," Day said. "But I think what's most impressive about Justin [is] when you watch him play quarterback … he goes one-two-three through progressions, and I think that's what he does better than anything. It's not the splash plays; it's playing quarterback."

    In wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, Herbert has one of the better one-two punches in the league at his disposal. Austin Ekeler is a do-it-all running back who scored 20 total touchdowns in 2021. After adding edge-rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, expectations are high for the Chargers defense this season.

    In Davenport's opinion, if there's one thing that could derail the 2022 Chargers, it's the weight of those expectations and the protection in front of Herbert.

    "The Chargers are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball," he said. "But there are a couple of questions that linger in La-La Land. The first is the right tackle spot in front of Herbert—a spot that was a weakness for the team in 2021.

    "The second is the expectation that this is a team that will not only make the postseason but do damage once they get there. When last we saw the Chargers, they were coming up short in a must-win Week 18 tilt with the Raiders. Maybe Herbert and the Bolts will use that as motivation. But this is a team that will have to win those kind of contests to reach their potential this year."

5. Kansas City Chiefs

28 of 32

    Andy Reid (left) and Patrick Mahomes (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    This is the weirdest sentence in this entire article, given that the Kansas City Chiefs have won the AFC West each of the last six years and hosted the last four AFC Championship games.

    But in some respects, the Chiefs are being slept on this year.

    While the rest of the AFC West added players left and right, the Chiefs lost one of their biggest offensive weapons in Tyreek Hill. However, the Chiefs took steps to replace Hill with the likes of veteran JuJu Smith-Schuster and rookie Skyy Moore, and head coach Andy Reid told reporters that he's confident the Chiefs will be just fine offensively in 2022.

    "[General manager] Brett Veach brought in some people here, young and veteran guys, and so we're excited about that and where the playbook kind of takes you within those guys," Reid said.

    "And then we've also incorporated some running back in the offense to go in with a layer, and so that's exciting too. But we're excited about what we can do offensively and, you know, it's a matter of doing it. That's what people are going to be looking for."

    Reid is probably right—any team led by Patrick Mahomes is probably going to put up plenty of points. But the Kansas City defense lost some pieces as well, and given all the offensive firepower in the AFC West, that may be the determining factor that decides if the Chiefs remain on top.

    But to be the best, you have to beat the best.

    And for a long time in that division, the Chiefs have been the best.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

29 of 32

    Alex Cappa (No. 65) and La'el Collins, left, block Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (No. 99) (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

    It's incredibly hard to get to the top in the NFL. But it can be even harder to stay there.

    Last year the Cincinnati Bengals sprung a pair of surprises on the NFL. First, it was winning the AFC North. Then, it was making a stunning run all the way to Los Angeles and Super Bowl LVI before coming up just short against the Rams.

    The track record of NFL teams following a Super Bowl loss isn't great, but Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said that he's less worried about backing up last year's success and more excited to see his young team take the next step in 2022.

    "It's not worry, it's excitement," Taylor said. "You know you want to see how quickly some guys come along, and there's a lot of unknowns with how this team is going to look, even though we have a lot of pieces coming back. There's new pieces that are going to be integral to what we do."

    The most important of those new pieces is the team's revamped offensive line. After allowing a staggering 70 sacks last season, including the playoffs, the Bengals added three veteran starters on the O-line in free agency in La'el Collins, Alex Cappa and Ted Karras. Davenport believes that the new-look line could make all the difference in the world this year.

    "In most respects," he said, "the Bengals are loaded. The wideout corps might be the NFL's best. Joe Mixon is an elite running back. The defense is one of the more underrated units in the league. But the team lost the Super Bowl because they could not protect Burrow.

    "If the new additions up front lift Cincinnati's line to above-average status, this is not only the best roster in the AFC North but one of the best in the entire league. And a return to the Super Bowl just might happen after all."

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

30 of 32

    Tom Brady (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

    The NFL is all about the quarterback position. Tom Brady is the greatest to ever play the game at the position. So it's no surprise that the offseason chatter in Tampa has been all about No. 12.

    First, it was Brady's retirement. Then his stunning decision to un-retire. Then his absence for a chunk of training camp—an absence that Brady stated was for personal reasons.

    "It's all personal," Brady said. "You know, everyone has got different situations they're dealing with, so we all have really unique challenges to our life. You know. I'm 45 years old, man. There's a lot of s--t going on. So you've just got to try to figure out life the best you can. You know, it's a continuous process."

    It's not that often that an NFL quarterback spends more time in the gossip pages than on the sports page. But that's not the only potential problem for the Buccaneers. The team brought in Russell Gage and Julio Jones to bolster the wide receivers, but Chris Godwin's health creates some uncertainty at the position. The loss of Ryan Jensen was a blow to the offensive line.

    For Sobleski, it's that offensive line that is the most pressing concern.

    "The Buccaneers may be a little lower than they deserve to be based on how well the overall roster is built, but concerns over the offensive interior and how the group will protect a 45-year-old Tom Brady are very real," he said.

    "Center Ryan Jensen is currently on injured reserve after suffering a significant knee injury in training camp. Shaq Mason fills in for Alex Cappa, who left in free agency. Left guard is a question mark since Aaron Stinnie is out for the season and rookie second-rounder Luke Goedeke takes over the role. The Bucs have the ability to overcome this changeover, yet a suspect offensive line shouldn't be overlooked among the NFC's elite."

    Still, any team led by Tom Terrific (and that is loaded on both sides of the ball) is a lock for the top-five in these Power Rankings—at least to start the season.

2. Los Angeles Rams

31 of 32

    Matthew Stafford (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    The Los Angeles Rams are riding high after winning Super Bowl LVI. But as the Rams prepare to defend their title, there could be trouble in paradise.

    The final step in the Rams' championship puzzle last year was the addition of veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, who finished his first season in Los Angeles third in the NFL passing yards (4,886), second in touchdown passes (41) and sixth in passer rating (102.9).

    It was a great year, but the 34-year-old missed a sizable chunk of training camp with tendinitis in his elbow. As one might expect, Stafford downplayed the injury and proclaimed himself ready to roll for the 2022 season while talking to reporters.

    "I felt like I got a bunch of good work in," Stafford said. "I feel good and right on track to be doing what I want to be doing. I know that functionally I feel like I can do everything I need to do. So, just trying to continue on that road."

    Stafford's toughness is unquestioned—he has missed time just once since 2010. But it also can't be denied that if Stafford is out for a portion of this year, the Rams will be in big trouble. And that underscores just how hard it can be to repeat as Super Bowl champions. How many things have to go right. How easily they can go wrong.

    Still, one of the analysts at B/R is leaving the Rams in the top spot until another team knocks them out of it.

    "Stafford. Cooper Kupp. Aaron Donald. Jalen Ramsey. The Rams have impact players in as many positions as any team in the league," Davenport said.

    "The Rams have also shown something that teams like the Bills and Chargers have not—the ability to survive the gauntlet that is the NFL postseason. The Rams may not be the best team in the league on paper, but they are the defending Super Bowl champions. That matters."

1. Buffalo Bills

32 of 32

    Josh Allen (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

    Per the oddsmakers at DraftKings, there isn't a team in the league with a better chance of holding the Lombardi trophy at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023, than the Buffalo Bills.

    Per Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports, there's a good reason why the Bills are the Super Bowl favorites to enter the season and the top-ranked team in the power rankings here at Bleacher Report.

    "Chalk play," Sullivan said, "but if there was ever a year that the Bills win it all, it's this year. Going into the offseason, Buffalo already had one of the top rosters in the NFL. Then, they turned around and added Von Miller into the equation on a defense that was No. 1 in the league in DVOA a year ago and will be getting back All-Pro cornerback Tre'Davious White at some point.

    "The departure of Brian Daboll was a concern for me until I saw Josh Allen and the offense hum whenever they were on the field during the preseason. Ken Dorsey will be just fine leading this unit, and Buffalo is a rightful favorite to win it all."

    It's rather difficult to argue with Sullivan. Even without White for a chunk of the 2021 season, the Bills still allowed just 163 passing yards per game—far and away the fewest in the league. Buffalo's offense was fifth in yards per game and led the AFC at 28.4 points per game.

    Best of all, we won't have to wait long to see if the Bills deserve to be ranked ahead of the defending champion Rams. The two open the regular season against one another at SoFi Stadium on September 8.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.