2022 PRE TRAINING CAMP NFL POWER RANKINGS

BY ADAM GREENE

It’s time to factor in our offseason free agent additions, our drafts and our franchise altering trades in the first official NFL Power Rankings of the upcoming 2022-23 NFL Season.

It’s been the wildest, most tumultuous, most litigious NFL offseason of my lifetime. The Los Angeles Rams broke the league with how they did business last year to hoist a Vince Lombardi Trophy. Now, teams with the actual cash on hand to make similar moves are not content to sit pat with a lackluster quarterback or position group and just hope some star rookie drops into their lap.

It’s a sea change and I (as well as every NFL broadcasting partner) am all for it.

1. LOS ANGELES RAMS

If you’re a regular reader, the first two entries here shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m a firm believer in Ric Flair’s adage, “to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” While the Rams did lose some key players from last year’s Super Bowl run, Andrew Whitworth, Von Miller and Robert Woods being the most important. They’ve added Bobby Wagner on defense, Allen Robinson on offense and remain the frontrunners to bring back Odell Beckham Jr. Not to mention the fact that they should get back a huge number of injured players they had to work around in the regular season a year ago.

Last season: Super Bowl Champion, NFC Champion, NFC West Champion

2. CINCINNATI BENGALS

The Bengals had one serious issue heading into the offseason and solved it in free agency. With the addition of Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and La’el Collins, their offensive line should now be a strength on a team with plenty of them. Until the Rams add OBJ, Cincinnati has the best wide receiver group in the NFL.

Last season: AFC Champion, AFC North Champion

3. BUFFALO BILLS

Speaking of Von Miller, the Bills are the team that added him in free agency and if they get the same guy LA had over the last month of the regular season and the playoffs, he’ll be well worth every penny of the massive contract they gave him. Buffalo is getting all the offseason love from everyone across the NFL landscape and, if you follow the NFL at all, you know that does not bode well for where they’ll end up at the end of the season. For now, with every other AFC team outside of Ohio taking a significant step back, there’s no way to keep them out of the Top Three.

Last season: AFC East Champion

4. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Tom Brady’s return instantly makes the Bucs an NFC favorite and a legitimate contender for Super Bowl Champion. This remains a team loaded on both sides of the ball, even with the retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski. I do think the idea that there will be no drop off from Bruce Arians to Todd Bowles is a little suspect, but Bowles is absolutely in the best position not only of his career, but of any new head coach in the league by a mile.

Last season: NFC South Champion

5. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The notion that Skyy Moore will step right into Tyreek Hill’s shoes is downright laughable. This team had to completely rebuild its wide receiver corps with cast offs from other teams. JuJu Smith Schuster is an upgrade over Byron Pringle, but he’ll have to be Hill in this offense at least for a while. Patrick Mahomes hasn’t played with a crew like this since his senior season at Texas Tech. He went 5-7.

Last season: AFC West Champion

6. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Adding Matt Ryan to an already loaded Colts team is one of the most underrated moves of the offseason. Under Frank Reich, Indy made the playoffs with good quarterback play from Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers. Ryan could be the difference between just getting into the bracket and making it all the way through.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

7. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The only franchise getting anywhere near the preseason love that the Bills enjoy are the Chargers, who live at the top of most pundit’s rankings. There’s good reason to have them in the Top 10, but they’ve not won anything yet and Justin Herbert has yet to start a playoff game. Like everyone else, I think LA makes it to the postseason. I’m just not ready to anoint them as a Top Four team just yet.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

8. DENVER BRONCOS

While Matt Ryan’s acquisition by the Colts seems to be flying under the radar, Russell Wilson’s addition by the Broncos has the world abuzz for good reason. Like the Rams last year, the Broncos have been a real QB away for a while. Also like the Rams a year ago, they weren’t afraid to mortgage the house in order to fix that problem.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

9. CLEVELAND BROWNS

I have avoided going too deep into Deshaun Watson’s off the field problems and, frankly, it’s been an absolute joy. Not many of my contemporaries have that option. The good news for Watson, I guess, is that he’s apparently settled 20 of his civil cases. That leaves four more and they’ll probably get handled soon enough. That will toss the figurative massage oil over to the NFL to dole out the obvious suspension that’s coming (rumors go as high as a full season) and the court battle that will come after to lower whatever number Sue Robinson, a former US District Court Judge and the NFL’s impartial arbitrator comes up with. My guess is 6-8 games. With Watson, the Browns are a serious AFC contender. Without him, they’ll be setting the Houston Texans up with some solid draft picks.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

10. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Josh McDaniels has had more than a decade to rehabilitate his image since the last time he flamed out as an NFL head coach. He’s been tossed the keys to a loaded team that’s only gotten better this offseason with the addition of Devante Adams at wideout. He’s not called plays for a team this talented on offense since the 2007 New England Patriots.

Last season: AFC Wild Card team

11. GREEN BAY PACKERS

While the Packers might have finally buried the Ivermectin with their volatile quarterback, Aaron Rodgers will take the field with the weakest wide receiver group of his career. And for a team that was one-and-done in the playoffs at home a year ago, that can’t be a good thing.

Last season: NFC North Champion

12. MIAMI DOLPHINS

The Dolphins are another team that’s gone all in on its wide receiver group, though they have way more questions at quarterback than the Raiders. Tyreek Hill will add an instant playmaker to an offense that already boasted Jaylen Waddle and free agent Cedric Wilson; It’s one of the best groups in the league on paper, but the need a guy that can get them the ball and Tua Tagovailoa has no excuses this season with this crew in a Mike McDaniel offense.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

13. DALLAS COWBOYS

Like the Packers, the Cowboys had a serious loss in wide receiver talent this offseason. And while Cedric Wilson’s departure could be mitigated with the addition of James Washington, they all but gave away Amari Cooper for peanuts. CeeDee Lamb can step up to be a No. 1 wide receiver and Michael Gallup’s return from injury is big, but tossing Cooper out the door was dumb and could cost them.

Last season: NFC East Champion

14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The draft day acquisition of AJ Brown should not only make the Eagles a serious contender for the NFC East, but Jalen Hurts a legit QB2 for your fantasy football team. This is a solid squad with a playoff roster that needs a lot to go right in the NFC to do anything past the divisional round.

Last season: NFC Wild Card

15. TENNESSEE TITANS

Speaking of AJ Brown, the Titans shipped him out to Philly for a first and third round pick. Considering Ryan Tannehill is coming off his worst season with Tennessee, it probably wasn’t a great idea to toss away his best wide receiver. Robert Woods will do a lot to mitigate the talent drop off, but trading Brown was a loser move made by a loser franchise. I don’t expect Mike Vrabel to voluntarily last much longer himself.

Last season: AFC South Champion

16. BALTIMORE RAVENS

Lamar Jackson should open the season healthy which should mean the Ravens will get out to a hot start, only to sputter when Greg Roman’s inept Pop Warner playcalling inevitably gets Jackson injured again. 

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

17. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

It took 17 spots for the sixth NFC team to show up on the Power Rankings, which shows exactly how far ahead the AFC is as a conference. The bright side for a team like the Saints is they’ll have a much easier time making the postseason than every AFC team ahead of them.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

18. ARIZONA CARDINALS

Well, it’s time for Kyler Murray to prove he’s worth a monster new quarterback contract for the Cardinals and if you think I have any faith in that happening, you’re not paying attention to where I just ranked them.

Last season: NFC Wild Card

19. MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Here’s a fun fact: Kirk Cousins is 59-59-2 as a starter in the NFL. That’s right, a perfectly even record across the board. Right in the middle of it all, exactly mediocre. For that, he’s collected, as of this writing, $161,669,486. That amounts to $2.740 million per victory in his career. Or $2.740 million per loss, however you want to look at it. Anyway, I think the Vikings probably make the playoffs this season for the good it will do them.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

20. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

If you think this is too low a ranking for the Patriots after what they did last season, just wait and see where they end up ranked after this coming season.

Last season: AFC Wild Card

21. PITTSBURGH STEELERS

I keep seeing pundits and such predicting Kenny Pickett will supplant Mitchell Trubisky as the Steelers starting QB before the season starts. I’m telling you now, the only way Pickett sees the field for significant time is if Trubisky gets hurt or Pittsburgh has already locked in its first losing season of Mike Tomlin’s entire head coaching tenure.

Last season: AFC Wild Card

22. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

See: New England Patriots’ entry. You’re going to miss Jimmy Garoppolo Niner Nation.

Last season: NFC Wild Card

23. ATLANTA FALCONS

The Falcons didn’t look very different last season than the team that got Dan Quinn fired the year before. I like Marcus Mariota and think Atlanta will be better than most people do, but I also thought the same thing last year. It didn’t work out too well for the team or for me.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

24. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

A decade ago Pete Carroll had the balls to look at his roster and bench the highly paid quarterback the team just brought in as a free agent (Matt Flynn) for rookie Russell Wilson. No one should ever forget that and the two Super Bowl appearances and one championship it brought to the franchise. But Carroll was instrumental in running Wilson out of town here 10 years later and everything that happens this season, the bad and seriously awful, are all on him.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

While I think the 49ers and Patriots could end up ranked lower at the end of the 2022-23 season, I don’t see the Jags hanging around the basement all year. They won’t be a playoff team. The AFC is too tough. They will be significantly better and more fun to watch. If they were in the NFC, they’d be angling for a Wild Card spot.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

26. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

It’s been a rough offseason for the Commanders, but it feels like you could say that pretty much every offseason. Roger Goodell says it’s not in his power to force Daniel Snyder to sell the team, but I’m betting that 31 other owners could. Well, maybe 29 since I’m pretty sure Jimmy Haslem and the McNair family would be next on the forced firing list.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

27. CHICAGO BEARS

I expect a breakout season for Justin Fields, who showed flashes last year, but even with a down NFC the Bears might still be a season away from returning to the playoffs. Especially if they can’t make peace with the best pass rusher left on their roster, Robert Quinn.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

28. DETROIT LIONS

I’d love to get swept up in the Lions excitement, but I’m still not sold on Dan Campbell. The team’s Hard Knocks appearance doesn’t bode well. The NFL Films showcase has regularly gotten coaches fired, most in the same season the show aired. In fact, in the last decade only Sean McVay and, as of this writing, Mike McCarthy are still employed by their featured teams. McVay only got on the show because of COVID-19 shut down filming outside of LA. His counterpart in that “All Los Angeles” season, Anthony Lynn, did get canned. Make no mistake, barring an NFC Championship game appearance, the clock is ticking down on McCarthy. It doesn’t look good for Campbell is what I’m saying.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

29. NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants aced the draft and all but rebuilt their team in one offseason. Now it’s all down to what new head coach Brian Daboll can get out of Daniel Jones. I’m optimistic.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

30. CAROLINA PANTHERS

After being connected to every NFL QB trade rumor on the planet, the Panthers decided to stick with what they had and draft Matt Corral. I like Corral and I’m positive he’s already the best QB on the roster, but it wouldn’t break my heart to see them bring in Cam Newton for one last go. I’m not ready to toss him on the trash heap just yet. What do they have to lose?

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

31. NEW YORK JETS

I’m not sure what to expect out of the Jets in Year Two, but it better be more than four wins or Robert Saleh will need to dust off that defensive coordinator resume.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

32. HOUSTON TEXANS

The worst team in the league only got worse this year in spite of adding major draft capital by shipping out Deshaun Watson and ensuring every CVS will have an overstock of massage oil in the Houston metro area for the next year.  The fact that they managed to toss Watson out of town, but still managed to stupidly get caught up in his problems is something only the Texans could successfully pull off.

Last season: Did not make the playoffs

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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