Ranking all 32 NFL teams ahead of the 2022 NFL season

We’ve nearly made it through the NFL preseason. It’s time to put out the first power rankings of the year, before the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams kick off the regular season.

To do so, not only did I rank all teams from numbers one to 32, but I also grouped them into six tiers. Each of those consists of four to six teams, other than what I labeled as the “second tier”, which is loaded with AFC teams in particular, who I believe all have the talent to make real noise this season.

As always, many people will hate how low their team is and sometimes the numbers in front of it may look worse than it is. Which is why I’d like to consider the individual tiers, which is more representative of how I look at the NFL landscape heading into 2022.

Let’s get into the list:

Top tier NFL teams – Super Bowl contenders

NFL PLayoffs - AFC Divisional Game - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
NFL PLayoffs – AFC Divisional Game – Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs

Obviously there are more than four teams in contention to win the Super Bowl this year, but these four teams kind of separated themselves from the rest. Number one to me is the most talented team, while the others have each won a Super Bowl over the last three years. Breaking down what they bring to the table, there are no legitimate concerns, other than maybe one or two individual players, who largely don’t play key roles.

#1. Buffalo Bills, AFC East

NFL regular season - Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL regular season – Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers

The Buffalo Bills have been Super Bowl favorites for the majority of the offseason and they have all the pieces in place to go all the way. I’ve heard people say that this team hasn’t proven it yet, but the last two years they have gone to the AFC Championship and then the Divisional Round, with the Kansas City Chiefs being the only team to stop them. Yet, they did beat the Chiefs decisively in the regular season and were 13 seconds away from getting back to the final four.

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Josh Allen had an impressive statistical playoff run (637 yards, nine touchdowns in two games). Their offensive weapons may be better this year, with second-round running back James Cook a perfect match. They addressed their biggest defensive need with their first-round selection of Kaiir Elam at that second corner spot, along with paying up for veteran edge rusher Von Miller to push them over the top.

#2. Los Angeles Rams, NFC West

NFL Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals
NFL Super Bowl LVI – Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals

While I do believe the Bills are the most talented team in the NFC, I couldn’t put the reigning champs any lower than this. They didn’t bring the whole band back together, with the retirement of Andrew Whitworth and Von Miller getting paid big money to help another contender bring home a trophy. Odell Beckham Jr. is still on the open market after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl.

However, the Los Angeles Rams do have young guys in all those spots poised to step up. They made two key additions in free agency with Allen Robinson, who by all reports has looked revitalized in training camp, and Bobby Wagner, replacing the biggest liability for that defense, which finished number one in yards and points allowed in 2020. There are some concerns about Matt Stafford’s throwing elbow right now, but with the way he has opened up the offense, now it’s up to a fully healthy Cam Akers to replenish that balance.

#3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFC South

NFL regular season - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Las Vegas Raiders
NFL regular season – Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Las Vegas Raiders

This makes for an easy transition, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers losing in heart-breaking fashion to the eventual champs in the Divisional Round on a walk-off field goal. The game really wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate, with the Rams allowing their opponents to get back into it. But this group is so talented that you can’t give them that window.

With Tom Brady un-retiring after leading the most explosive attack in the league (6.1 yards per play), he has once again attracted veteran free agents who are hungry for a ring. These include Akiem Hicks and recently Julio Jones. As of now, Gronk is still retired, but I wouldn’t totally rule out another return and they did address that position. We’ll see a change at the top, with Todd Bowles taking over head-coaching duties from Bruce Arians, but we won’t see a whole lot of change. The only real concern is at center after losing Pro Bowler Ryan Jensen for the season.

#4. Kansas City Chiefs, AFC West

NFL regular season - New York Jets v Kansas City Chiefs
NFL regular season – New York Jets v Kansas City Chiefs

Number four seems almost disrespectful to the Chiefs, looking at their dominance in the AFC since Patrick Mahomes took over for them four years ago. Yet, looking at how everybody pumps up the other teams in the West and mentions trading away Tyreek Hill as the biggest loss of the offseason, having them in the top tier seems higher than the consensus.

The way we saw them collapse in the second half of the conference title game to the Cincinnati Bengals is unfamiliar, but Mahomes and his crew may be as hungry as ever. Their receiving corps is more complete this year and the O-line could be elite. Defensively, if Frank Clark is in the form he’s been described as in camp, with veteran Carlos Dunlap being brought in, along with the influx of young talent (five picks within the top-135 of the NFL draft to play with for Steve Spagnuolo), they could be scary.

Second tier NFL teams – Super Bowl hopefulls

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers
Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers

This nine-team cluster consists of squads with one legitimate question mark, which keeps them from receiving the “Super Bowl contender” label. This could either be not having a top-tier quarterback or a specific position group that gives me reservations from grouping them with the elite. Generally, they have all the pieces in place to make a deep run.

#5. Los Angeles Chargers, AFC West

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers
Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers

Now that I have given the Chiefs their respects, let’s talk about the team I believe has the best chance of unseating them – the Los Angeles Chargers. Justin Herbert is one of the elite quarterbacks in the game already, capable of plays only two or three other guys in the NFL can make.

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They re-signed Mike Williams after a breakout year and by drafting top guard prospect Zion Johnson, right tackle is the only questionable spot for the offense. However, it’s the additions they’ve made on defense that really have me excited. Adding a multitude of big bodies to complement what they want to do coverage-wise, with Khalil Mack on the opposite edge of Joey Bosa and J.C. Jackson as their boundary corner, who can be in quasi-man-coverage on the backside.

#6. Green Bay Packers, NFC North

NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers
NFC Championship – Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers

If you think this is low for the NFC’s number one seed from a year ago, just scroll down to where I have their AFC counterparts. Trading away probably the best receiver in the NFL over the last four seasons in Davante Adams is obviously a huge factor in why the Green Bay Packers aren’t in that top tier. They’ll need multiple young players to step up in order to replace his production and I don’t see anybody creating those instant wins off the line. Let alone anyone who Aaron Rodgers can build that blind understanding with in this campaign.

The uncertainty around All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari also concerns me. This is still a very good team and I believe we have to change the way we look at them. While they do have the back-to-back MVP at quarterback, they want to be one of the premier rushing teams in the NFL. Their defense could be special this season, with Jaire Alexander returning and two first-round picks from Georgia added to the front-seven.

#7. Cincinnati Bengals, AFC North

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Championship – Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs

And once again, there may be people saying the Bengals should be among the group labeled as “Super Bowl contenders.” Yes, they literally held a fourth-quarter lead in the big game, but just because you were there doesn’t mean you’ll get back to that point in the next campaign. Let’s not forget that this was a 10-7 team whose playoff opponents all had a chance to win on their final offensive drives respectively.

With that being said, I don’t doubt that they can make another deep run, because they have a special quarterback in Joe Burrow, who refuses to go down. They have a dynamic group of skill-position players and a defense that adjusted exceptionally well to every team they faced in the postseason. Jessie Bates’ holdout situation is nagging, but they did address what kept them from ultimately winning a Lombardi trophy. They have three new starters on the O-line, who should help protect their franchise diamond, after getting sacked an NFL-high 51 times.

#8. Baltimore Ravens, AFC North

Wild Card Round - Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans
Wild Card Round – Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans

Right on the heels of the AFC’s representatives in the Super Bowl, are their biggest challengers for that division. The Baltimore Ravens‘ road to success is less challenging, as the Bengals have a tough schedule this NFL season. Let’s not forget that this team was 7-4 in the games which Lamar Jackson played at least one quarter in the 2021 campaign. This was despite being the most injury-rattled team over the last decade, according to Football Outsiders adjusted games lost metric (191.2).

I won’t go into detail about all the pieces they lost, but let’s just say they had players starting multiple games who aren’t even on active rosters currently. With the growth Jackson showed early on as a passer, a backfield that doesn’t consist of washed veterans, improved O-line play, their starting secondary around Chuck Clark being improved in a major way and another tremendous draft class, this will be a group to be reckoned with.

#9. San Francisco 49ers, NFC West

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers
NFC Championship – Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers

Getting back to another member of the final four from the 2021 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers are one of the toughest teams to place. There are several knowns in my opinion, such as one of the most electric groups of yards after catching specialists. Deebo Samuel has extended his contract, Brandon Aiyuk is poised for a post-hype breakout season and George Kittle is back healthy. This is added to Kyle Shanahan’s expertise as a run-game designer.

Defensively, under DeMeco Ryans we’ve seen this team evolve into one of the best zone coverage units. They squeeze throwing windows and force quarterbacks to hold onto the ball, while their group of rushers close in. They once again feature great depth and are well-tought at running games. The big question mark is what Trey Lance can be in year two. I believe his vertical passing outside the hashes and dynamics as a part of the run-game could transform the offense, but can he give them enough stability?

#10. Philadelphia Eagles, NFC East

NFL regular season - Philadelphia Eagles v Las Vegas Raiders
NFL regular season – Philadelphia Eagles v Las Vegas Raiders

Closing out the top ten as our final NFC team in this tier is one of the biggest NFL offseason winners we’ve seen. I understand that a lot of these “superteams” often fail to live up to their billing, and Philadelphia sports fans should know this from the Michael Vick years. I believe the core of this team was already strong and now they have just completed the roster. Once the Philadelphia Eagles leaned into that aspect, they became the most dominant rushing team in football (led the NFL with 2,715 total yards). They’ve brought back all 11 starters and now add A.J. Brown as a legit WR1, pushing everybody else down one spot in the pecking order.

I didn’t love what their conservative DC Jonathan Gannon did schematically last NFL season. But with more multiplicity up front, with 13th overall pick Jordan Davis and free agent Haason Reddick and Nakobe Dean potentially being the best linebacker they’ve had in a long time, plus James Bradberry at that other corner spot, they could be more aggressive and see better results.

#11. Indianapolis Colts, AFC South

NFL regular season - Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts
NFL regular season – Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts

If there was one team at the end of last season that nobody in the AFC wanted to face come playoff time, it was the Indianapolis Colts. After a 1-4 start, they won eight of their next ten games, but ultimately shrunk against the Raiders and at Jacksonville, when all they needed was to win one of those. The biggest factor in that was the poor play by Carson Wentz, who they moved on from just one year after giving up a first-round pick for him.

They have moved on to a different veteran QB in Matt Ryan, who should bring a lot more stability to the offense. With Jonathan Taylor blowing the running back competition out of the water and a talented receiving corps headlined by Michael Pittman Jr., they’ll be challenging to prepare for. Coming up just one short of the NFL’s best with 33 takeaways defensively will be tough to recreate. But that deep rotation on the D-line combined with their speed on the second level and a re-grouped secondary will make plenty of plays as they play with the lead more regularly.

#12. Denver Broncos, AFC West

NFL regular season - Denver Broncos v Dallas Cowboys
NFL regular season – Denver Broncos v Dallas Cowboys

Back in the AFC West version of our program, we’ll close out this loaded second tier with the other half of that four-some. The Denver Broncos did have to give up plenty of resources in that Russell Wilson trade. But we finally get to answer one of the biggest ’what if’s’ for people who study rosters and understand what a talented team they’ve had. Now we will see as they have a real quarterback thrown into the mix.

Top-to-bottom, that offense, despite the unfortunate loss of Tim Patrick to a torn ACL in training camp, has the potential to be as good as any other in the NFL. Considering they rushed for at least 83 yards in all but two games last NFL season, without one of my biggest breakout candidates in Javonte Williams being fully unleashed, along with somebody in house to take advantage of the receiving talent. The defense was third in the NFL in points allowed last season (18.9), before paying Randy Gregory as the second edge rusher and putting together a strong draft class to improve their depth.

#13. Las Vegas Raiders, AFC West

NFL regular season - Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders
NFL regular season – Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders

Finally, for this group of very talented teams, the Las Vegas Raiders were the other squad from the AFC West to make the playoffs last NFL season. They were a goal-line stop in the Wildcard Round away from going to overtime with the eventual AFC champions (Bengals). That’s despite firing the head coach mid-season, having players arrested and multiple other off-field distractions.

They’ve overcome those, added one of the premier offensive play-callers in Josh McDaniels at head coach, and somehow snatched up an underrated guy to do so on defense in Patrick Graham. That was before reuniting Derek Carr with his best buddy and the top receiver in the NFL, Davante Adams. They’re also putting Chandler Jones across from Maxx Crosby to go after opposing quarterbacks.

The two question marks as to why I don’t have them even higher are what this offensive line may look like in pass-protection and if that group of corners can hold up against explosive weapons in the NFL.

Fringe NFL playoff teams

NFL regular season - Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings
NFL regular season – Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings

In this third group, we have three teams that just missed out on the playoffs last season and also two 12-5 squads. I anticipate these two teams to regress due to the offseason they’ve had. All six of these NFL teams present more than one concern, which I believe limits how far they can go once the playoffs arrive. But they should be in the running for one of those seven spots for either conference, with three from either side.

#14. Minnesota Vikings, NFC North

NFL regular season - Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
NFL regular season – Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings

How does a team that finished top-ten in offensive yards per play (5.7), second in sacks on defense (51) and fifth in turnover differential (+11) not make the playoffs? Answer – it’s the Minnesota Vikings.

This has been one of the biggest underperformers in the NFL, looking at the talent they’ve had on the roster for an extended stretch. While a lot of the key pieces are still in play, we’ve seen them part ways with a few long-term stalwarts on defense and make a regime shift from Mike Zimmer to Kevin O’Connell.

I expect Justin Jefferson to have a monster season, as he’ll be put on the move more regularly. The run game should have more space, working out of more 11 personnel. Defensively, Ed Donatell should implement more odd fronts and split-safety, which looks built for the modern game. This, along with adding Za’Darius Smith as a chess piece on longer downs and an influx of young draftees in the secondary, with their top two picks Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth likely starting eventually.

#15. New Orleans Saints, NFC South

NFL Regular Season - New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks
NFL Regular Season – New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks

Mid-way through the NFL’s 32 teams, we’ve reached a group here that I don’t believe many people foresaw having the offseason they did. Mickey Loomis rolled back the money for so many years to keep the crew together for the Drew Brees-Sean Payton run. Now, with both of them retired, at least a slight rebuild should have been put in order. The New Orleans Saints did move on from a couple of big names, but brought in at least as many from outside the building and traded major draft capital to acquire two instant difference-makers in the first round at positions of need.

While we can debate whether that was the smart way to approach things, in terms of the team they’ll be rolling out there in 2022, we can’t overlook them. Other than swapping their safety tandem with an arguably better one, they basically bring back the same defense that finished around the top-five in basically all meaningful statistical categories. With Michael Thomas back in the fold and Alvin Kamara’s suspension pushed back, Jameis Winston is set to build on his 5-2 record as a starter from ‘21.

#16. Miami Dolphins, AFC East

NFL Regular Season - New York Jets v Miami Dolphins
NFL Regular Season – New York Jets v Miami Dolphins

Another team likely in the playoff hunt is the Miami Dolphins. They flipped the switch last season, going from a 1-7 start to finishing the year on an 8-2 run. During this their defense nearly cut their points surrendered by half,. This is highly encouraging. They brought in Mike McDaniel (who has been a mainstay on Kyle Shanahan’s staff), to diversify a run-scheme that finished bottom-three in total rushing yards and yards per attempt. They made a splash trade for one of the NFL’s most dangerous weapons in Tyreek Hill, which looks great on the surface.

However, McDaniel is still a rookie head coach and Tua Tagovailoa is yet to prove he can threaten NFL defenses beyond the sticks. Outside of left tackle Terron Armstead, the O-line is still a major question mark, and some regression might in store defensively. Especially with teams having another year of finding solutions for their pressure looks.

#17. Dallas Cowboys, NFC East

NFL Regular Season - Jacksonville Jaguars v Dallas Cowboys
NFL Regular Season – Jacksonville Jaguars v Dallas Cowboys

I know this seems really low for a 12-win team from a year ago and that the overly optimistic Dallas Cowboys fans won’t like this at all. It’s not that I don’t believe that they have the individual stars to beat just about anybody. Dak Prescott is another year away from that foot injury, Ceedee Lamb is poised to challenge for the receiver crown, Micah Parsons is coming off a stupidly good rookie campaign and a duo of excellent play-callers on either side of the ball. But where is this team from a year ago?

They traded away Amari Cooper, couldn’t retain either La’el Collins or Randy Gregory in key positions and saw some underrated role players walk out the door. That’s on top of some of the head-scratching game management we saw from them last season and being the most penalized team in the league (66.2 yards per game). Both of these were on full display in their home Wild Card round loss to the 49ers. Now you add in Tyron Smith potentially being lost for the entire season, that’s really rough.

#18. Tennessee Titans, AFC South

NFL Regular Season - Arizona Cardinals v Tennessee Titans
NFL Regular Season – Arizona Cardinals v Tennessee Titans

This obviously seems a bit extreme for last year’s number one seed in the AFC, especially considering the Tennessee Titans beat all three of the four teams in the “Super Bowl contenders” tier. They will have a healthy Derrick Henry back to tear into opposing defenses, whilst bringing back all but one of the defensive starters themselves.

With that being said, trading away one of your young stars in A.J. Brown and drafting Malik Willis doesn’t really change who will be under center for them this year. It does somewhat signal a shift in terms of believing this iteration of the team can’t go all the way. Not having Brown, who consistently bailed out the offense on third downs, combined with a paper-thin roster (where I basically trust no one beyond the first string), has me thinking they’ll be fighting for one of the final Wild Card berths.

Challenging for .500 NFL teams

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns

Looking at the range of teams from 2021 that landed in this tier, we have a couple of ten-win teams, but also one that finished the year with a 3-13-1 record (which I have a lot more faith in). Ultimately, they will all be fairly average or slightly below that, considering all circumstances, the coaching staff and rosters.

#19. New England Patriots, AFC East

NFL Regular Season - New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
NFL Regular Season – New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders

It almost seems like a blasphemy to have a Bill Belichick-coached team below a tier named “Playoff contenders”. But this has been one of the most head-scratching offseasons we’ve seen from the New England Patriots over the last two (plus) decades. After strangely spending a shocking amount of money on mostly mid-level free agents a year ago, they’ve parted ways with several long-term stalwarts on defense. Without mentioning any specific names, the Patriots put together one of the least inspiring draft classes, based on consensus boards (which I mostly agreed with).

For a team that scored on the second-highest percentages of drives (48%) under Josh McDaniels, they’re now relying on the offensive “wizardry” of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to transition this to a wide-zone based rushing attack – which has been a disaster, according to all training camp reports – while rolling out three new starting corners.

#20. Arizona Cardinals, NFC West

NFL Regular Season - Arizona Cardinals v Cleveland Browns
NFL Regular Season – Arizona Cardinals v Cleveland Browns

Looking back at the Arizona Cardinals winning their first seven games of 2021, this seems pretty crazy. Especially as that alone would put them at nearly that .500 mark already. But they’re not going to start off that hot again due to multiple factors. Arizona’s offense has not been nearly the same without DeAndre Hopkins in the lineup, as Kyler Murray’s go-to guy on the backside of the formation – he’s be suspended for the first six games.

Defensively, without Chandler Jones, they lack any legitimate threat rushing off the edge. They are counting on last year’s first-rounder Zaven Collins to take a monster step after barely seeing the field over Jordan Hicks as a rookie, and outside of Byron Murphy, their corner room is the worst in the entire NFL. That, along with notoriously having finished with 2-7, 3-6 and 3-6 in three years under Kliff Kingsbury, is why I expect major regression.

#21. Cleveland Browns, AFC North

NFL Regular Season - Miami Dolphins v Cleveland Browns
NFL Regular Season – Miami Dolphins v Cleveland Browns

Before the news about Deshaun Watson’s suspension was increased from six to eleven games, I had the Cleveland Browns a couple of spots higher and a tier higher. But this appears to be somewhat of a lost season, with all the distractions off the field for Cleveland. Having the cap space to trade a fifth-round pick for Amari Cooper should be a great move and I think their defense has a chance to be really good, with the investments they’ve made into the back-seven in recent years.

However, with second-year center Nick Harris recently placed on IR as the designated J.C. Tretter replacement, that position has become a major question mark. I still don’t see a true nose-tackle in the middle on the other side of the ball to win those early downs. Now Jacoby Brissett is playing quarterback until week 13, who at best should be a wash with an injured Baker Mayfield, I just can’t put them any higher.

#22. Detroit Lions, NFC North

NFL Regular Season - Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions
NFL Regular Season – Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions

At the point where this ranking is coming out, I’m guessing a lot of people have somewhat jumped on the Detroit Lions bandwagon. Many will at least have become fans of how they run things there, having watched them on Hard Knocks. I’ve been a fan of the way they’ve put together the power structure and approached this rebuild for a while now.

Having Frank Ragnow back, I really believe they could be a top-five offensive line in the NFL, and they added speed on the perimeter to keep defenses from deploying extra resources against the run. Defensively, they now have one of the deeper units up front as well and 2020 third overall pick Jeff Okudah has looked like a true shutdown corner. Considering the upgrades they’ve made, that 1-6-1 record in one-score games should at least regress to the mean.

#23. Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC North

NFL Regular Season - Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL Regular Season – Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers

This was a tough team for me to slot in, because on one hand, the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ quarterback play is a major unknown and I feel pretty secure about saying they’ll once again have one of the worst O-lines in football. However, it’s tough to imagine the passing attack being as limited as it was over the last couple of years, looking at the intended air yards per attempt with Ben Roethlisberger under center (28th and 31st respectively).

Yet, as long as that protection can’t hold up, we don’t know how much deeper they can design their dropback passing game. I really like their young group of skill-position players and now with Myles Jack looking like a significant upgrade at MIKE linebacker, they have individual star plays on defense. But once again, the depth at corner is non-existent and they were shockingly bad at stopping the run, finishing dead-last in yards per attempt (5.0) and explosive runs (24).

#24. Washington Commanders, NFC East

NFL Regular Season - New York Jets v Washington Redskins
NFL Regular Season – New York Jets v Washington Redskins

Another squad that should see an upgrade at the quarterback spot, but still isn’t inspiring a whole lot of confidence with their new solution, is the one that also has a new name as a franchise. The Washington Commanders are another group I struggled with trying to find the right place for, because what they said this offseason was: “we have much pretty everything in place, and now we add in Carson Wentz.”

They’re largely the same team, finding very similar players to what they already had on the roster. First-rounder Jahan Dotson is the only different element they’ve really brought in. Considering they never made it above the .500 mark, finishing 23rd in points scored and 25th in points allowed, that may not be a recipe for success. I do like the fit of Wentz, at least giving them average QB play in Scott Turner’s offense and with the talent coming back on the defensive front, regression is in store, but it’s tough for me to get overly excited.

Unknown quantities – unproven NFL teams

NFL Regular Season - New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
NFL Regular Season – New York Jets v Buffalo Bills

Here, we have four teams who have legitimate reasons for optimism, but simply haven’t shown it on the field yet. There are just multiple areas and components that have a chance to go either way. If everything goes right, they could potentially make a run at a Wild Card spot, but they could also end up picking in the top-five of next year’s draft (again).

#25. New York Jets, AFC East

NFL Regular Season - New York Jets v Los Angeles Rams
NFL Regular Season – New York Jets v Los Angeles Rams

It’s tough to make a case for a team that finished second-to-last in points and turnover differential last year, now all of a sudden making a run at a playoff spot. But I truly believe the New York Jets at least have the ceiling to push for it. In no way does that mean I predict them to get there, because Zach Wilson could miss the first couple of weeks and they’ve got other guys coming back from more serious injuries and half the defense looks completely different.

However, I’m a big fan of all the talent they’ve put together. After Wilson was under constant heat as a rookie, that O-line could be tremendously improved, with my top-ranked RB from the draft running behind it, and the weaponry at receiver to defeat man-coverage. Flipping things around, they have the guys rushing off the edges and challenging receivers on the outside to make opposing passers uncomfortable, with two of my top-ten draft prospects.

#26. New York Giants, NFC East

NFL Regular Season - New York Giants v Houston Texans
NFL Regular Season – New York Giants v Houston Texans

Switching over to the other New York squad, I feel apprehensive about Big Blue once again, after they were so disappointing last season. But I do believe they have the pieces in place for their best season since drafting Daniel Jones, if everything goes right. Not having picked up the quarterback’s fifth-year option signals a make-or-break for his New York Giants tenure. But working under easily the most creative and competent offensive coaching staff with Brian Daboll and Mike Kafk will help. As will having a healthy group of skill-position players along with a much-improved O-line. This should set Jones up to lead the offense out of the bottom-two in yards, points and turnovers.

Defensively, they’re making a substantial transition from flooding zones under Patrick Graham to bringing extra rushers with Wink Martindale, where I still have to see those young DBs hold up in coverage, although they did draft my top-ranked prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux to play on the edge.

#27. Jacksonville Jaguars, AFC South

NFL Regular Season - Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars
NFL Regular Season – Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars

Remember me saying making a case for the Jets to be in the playoff hunt is tough, since only one team was below them in scoring and turnover margin? Well, I present to you the Jacksonville Jaguars. Considering they have another first-year coaching staff in the building and more turnaround on the roster, I have more faith in the Jets taking that step forward. But there’s no denying they have a lot of talent on the roster in Jacksonville.

We saw signs from Trevor Lawrence being able to play the game like you want to see from an NFL quarterback. Although he was tied for the lead-league in interceptions (17), all but one of those were when trailing – which they did a lot. We may disagree with the capital invested, but there’s no doubt that this group of skill-position players is much more dynamic. And I certainly like the versatile pieces they’ve accumulated on defense. The biggest change compared to 2021 however is a coaching staff with a track record of putting their players in position to succeed.

#28. Carolina Panthers, NFC South

NFL Regular Season - Washington Redskins v Carolina Panthers
NFL Regular Season – Washington Redskins v Carolina Panthers

This may feel like a different category of team, as the Carolina Panthers will now have their third different starting quarterback week one in as many years of the Matt Rhule regime. But if you look through the rest of the roster, there’s still plenty of home-grown talent that they’ve drafted recently. The big question is how much of Christian McCaffrey they’ll get back this season, after basically two lost season – he can still be one of the premier offensive weapons in the game.

They do have some good, young receivers around him and with sixth overall pick Ikem Ekwonu and some under-the-radar free agents, this could be the best O-lines we’ve seen for them in years. What really has me excited in terms of potential, however, is their defense. The defense started 2021 blazing hot and still finished inside the top-ten in yards per play (5.1), pressure rate (26.1%) and third-down percentage (37.1%).

Bottom tier – unlikely NFL teams

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers

And finally, I think after that previous tier there was a cut-off. These final four teams may have individual players or position groups of note, but simply don’t have the comprehensive ingredients to be competitive teams in the win-loss column. I don’t see any of them getting eight wins due to a combination of underwhelming roster build-ups, coaching staff, quarterback play, etc. With the offseason moves (or lack thereof) that they’ve made, they acknowledge which phase of their life cycle that they’re currently in.

#29. Atlanta Falcons, NFC South

Las Vegas Raiders v Atlanta Falcons
Las Vegas Raiders v Atlanta Falcons

I still don’t quite understand how the Atlanta Falcons won seven games last season. They finished 26th in offensive points and 29th in yards, with those rankings flipped for their defense. They could not run the ball effectively (outside of a couple of explosives delivered by Cordarelle Patterson per week), had maybe two legitimate targets in the passing game and defensively they were tough to watch (unless you zeroed in on A.J. Terrell shutting down his receiver at an All-Pro level).

They now go from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota/rookie Desmond Ridder at quarterback, lost arguably their top play-maker on defense in Foyesade Oluokun and we should expect regression from their 7-2 record in one-score games last season. I like their ’22 draft class a lot and think they’re starting to put some pieces together for a new iteration of the team. But realistic expectations this year would be challenging for a top-five pick.

#30. Houston Texans, AFC South

Houston Texans v Detroit Lions
Houston Texans v Detroit Lions

I’m actually on board with what the Houston Texans have done this offseason, especially putting together one of the best all-around classes in the entire league. They retained some key pieces and trimmed a lot of fat, in terms of clearing their books from replaceable veterans, and added some much-needed pieces on defense in particular. They really attacked their weaknesses throughout the draft.

After finishing dead-last in rushing yards (1422) and yards per attempt (3.4), they selected the biggest road-grader at guard in Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green and the most violent running back in Florida’s Dameon Pierce. The motto on defense is versatility, as they targeted LSU’s uber-talented corner Derek Stingley Jr. to orchestrate their coverages around and other names from big programs. I like the idea of Davis Mills coming into the offseason knowing he’s playing for a long-term job rather than being a backup third-rounder. But I’m just still not quite sure if they have the firepower or will gel quickly enough to put together extended winning stretches.

#31. Seattle Seahawks, NFC West

Detroit Lions v Seattle Seahawks
Detroit Lions v Seattle Seahawks

Talking about teams letting their long-term quarterback walk out of the building this offseason, this definitely hurts more for the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson is still a top-ten guy in his position with potentially another decade in him. That wasn’t the only major loss by any means, with the forced retirement of Chris Carson, just straight-up cutting Bobby Wagner and watching another seven starters go.

Now, was this roster build somewhat flawed and they needed to regroup somehow? – Yes, and I don’t blame Wilson for not wanting to waste some of his best years in that situation, but man, the drop-off to Geno Smith or Drew Lock is massive. l loved their draft, potentially getting up to five quality starters out of it by this year, but those aren’t the only young guys they’d need to really step up to make much noise in 2022. I just believe they’ll be in contention to draft number one overall next year and finding the new kid under center.

#32. Chicago Bears, NFC North

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers

The reconstruction of the Chicago Bears may not appear as massive to casual NFL fans, mainly because they can identify with a star QB like Russell Wilson more easily. But new Bears general manager Ryan Poles completely tore this thing down to the ground. Just looking at their projected salary cap for 2023 at just over 100 million dollars – which is nearly double of the next-closest team – the organization rid themselves of nearly all future financial obligations.

They even went out of their way to pay out players the rest of their contracts to not be in the building anymore, leading to a whopping 60 million in dead money this year. These things reflect in their lineup, where outside of two guys I’ve hyped up the last two years – Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet – they basically have no reliable pass targets. Their O-line is thrown together with veteran fill-ins, their interior D-line has seen basically the same changes and now Roquan Smith wants to re-set the linebacker market. The two things they can really hang their hats on are a secondary with several promising youngsters and whatever Justin Fields can show in year two – if he doesn’t get killed because of the protection.

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