2022 NFL Power Rankings: End of Season Edition

We’ve made it to the end of the regular season, which means it’s time for my final power rankings! Eighteen teams said goodbye this week, though many of them knew the end was upon them weeks ago. Maybe even months ago for a select few. They’ll all have the draft and free agency to try and climb up the rankings later. But for now, here are my end of season 2022 NFL power rankings!

32. Chicago Bears (3-14; Previous Ranking: 27)
I was right about this one in the first place. Silly me for moving them up in the midseason rankings. This team hasn’t been competitive for weeks, and I can’t give Matt Eberflus coach of the year because he didn’t reach 5 wins (that was my promise). Their incompetence has earned them the #1 overall pick, which presents an interesting decision. The team is high on Justin Fields, but the current regime didn’t draft him. I’m not high on him, but I haven’t been sold on any of the QBs in the draft either. The optimal outcome is to trade the pick to a desperate team, but my faith in this organization isn’t super high.

31. Indianapolis Colts (4-12-1; Previous Ranking: 25)
I think the Colts are done acquiring veteran QB stopgaps. The Matt Ryan experiment failed spectacularly, but Ryan isn’t solely to blame. No QB was going to be great behind this surprisingly putrid line. They started off reasonably competitive, even beating the Chiefs. Since then, they fired coach Frank Reich and hired Jeff Saturday straight out of the ESPN studio as their interim coach. He won his first game but then lost every single remaining contest, even one where they had a 33-0 lead. Chris Ballard is safe as the GM, but should he be? You can’t get this upcoming pair of coaching and QB decisions wrong again.

30. Arizona Cardinals (4-13; Previous Ranking: 19)

I warned in my midseason rankings that another second-half collapse by this team would be trouble. They went from 4-6 to 4-13, demonstrating the late-season performance woes that have defined this team. Arizona subsequently cleaned house, firing coach Kliff Kingsbury and allowing GM Steve Keim to “step down.” Keim definitely had to go. Kingsbury isn’t a great coach, but he’s more of a fall guy. With QB Kyler Murray’s contract, he wasn’t going anywhere, so someone had to take the blame. Murray makes this job really unattractive due to his personality issues and performance. The small, injury-prone player just isn’t a franchise QB, but you’ll have to use him if you want this job. Not ideal.

29. Houston Texans (3-13-1; Previous Ranking: 32)

I thought about putting the Texans one or two slots higher, but their organizational ineptitude keeps them here. This team was greater than the sum of its parts in the second half of the season, but the man responsible for that, HC Lovie Smith, was fired. Cal McNair and Nick Caserio have no clue what they’re doing. It’s probably better that they lost the #1 pick because they’d simply squander it anyway. Houston needs a QB, pass rushers, receivers, additional linemen, another corner, and now a coach. Other than that, Caserio has this roster in fantastic shape! Beware if you take this coaching job.

28. Denver Broncos (5-12; Previous Ranking: 24)

Denver actually looked competent in week 18, but take that with a grain of salt. The Chargers are known for these types of implosions, and the game was meaningless for them. Still, it was easily Russell Wilson’s best passing game of the season, which should give the next head coach hope that he can fix the one-time star passer. The defense is still in good shape; they got tired of carrying the feckless offense down the stretch, and I don’t really blame them. Denver is stuck with Wilson for at least another year or two, but if he’s fixable, this isn’t a major rebuild. Their division remains challenging though.

27. Los Angeles Rams (5-12; Previous Ranking: 16)

This is probably the biggest rankings fall for a defending Super Bowl champion. That makes sense if you consider no defending champion has ever lost 12 games the following season (or even 11 if you want to complain about comparisons in the 17-game era). In their defense, their IR players could form their own Pro Bowl roster. Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Joe Noteboom, and Allen Robinson are just some of the names that missed significant time. Their OC Liam Coen left for college, HC Sean McVay might step away, and DC Raheem Morris could be hired as an HC elsewhere. The Rams are looking at a period of transition much sooner than they’d hoped. I think GM Les Snead could use “them picks”.

26. Atlanta Falcons (7-10; Previous Ranking: 17)

Coach Arthur Smith reluctantly switched to rookie QB Desmond Ridder, and the team fell apart. Marcus Mariota was playing poorly though, so the rebuild needed to be started. The Falcons showed signs of life by winning their last 2 games (one against TB backups), but Ridder is probably a backup at best. Now that the team has shed all their dead salary, they should be able to attack free agency to fill the numerous holes on their roster. There’s some good young pieces to build around, like AJ Terrell, Tyler Allgeier, and Drake London, but they’re going nowhere without a franchise QB and more talent on defense.

25. Tennessee Titans (7-10; Previous Ranking: 8)

No team fell more in these rankings, and injuries are almost exclusively to blame. Owner Amy Adams Strunk fired GM Jon Robinson during the season in a curious move, but she at least knew to leave coach Mike Vrabel alone. Despite the 7-game losing streak to finish the year, he did an excellent job extracting the most he could out of a badly damaged roster. Losing QB Ryan Tannehill hurt the most, as the Titans were forced to rely on rookie Malik Williams and street pickup Joshua Dobbs. Whoever is hired as the new GM will need to decide whether to keep Tannehill or commit to a full rebuild.

24. Cleveland Browns (7-10; Previous Ranking: 26)

Browns fans do not care one bit about their ranking here. This season was always about 2023, and that’s where they expect to see improvement. Deshaun Watson has honestly looked poor since his return from suspension, but no one can really say how long it’s supposed to take for someone to shake off nearly 2 years of rust. His performance determines the outlook of this team. If he’s great, they’re contenders; if not, they have a bad contract on their hands, wasted a ton of picks, and took on an awful PR situation for nothing. Other than that, a new DC is needed to take advantage of the good defensive talent that has underperformed.

23. Las Vegas Raiders (6-11; Previous Ranking: 23)
The Raiders appear to be at a crossroads. Coach Josh McDaniels seems to have moved on from QB Derek Carr, and that can’t make Davante Adams happy. Carr has never been elite, but he’s been pretty consistent, so the team should be aware that he’s an above-average starter. That’s difficult to exceed in the draft or free agency. Jarrett Stidham isn’t the guy, and they have other issues. The secondary and LB corps need complete overhauls, and Josh Jacobs could bolt in free agency. It should also be noted that McDaniels took last year’s playoff team and made it worse. That can’t be a good sign if you’re owner Mark Davis.

22. New York Jets (7-10; Previous Ranking: 15)
Losing 6 straight games to end the season, Jets fans can only look at one spot: the QB position. OC Mike LaFleur has taken a ton of heat, but I’m not sure there’s much he could do. Zach Wilson is a complete bust (at least in NY), and Mike White always throws in a clunker or gets hurt whenever he shows flashes of promise. The defense remained good the entire way, there’s talent at the skill positions (especially when Breece Hall returns from injury), and the special teams are solid. Adding some offensive linemen would help, but Robert Saleh’s tenure depends on how they address their QB problem.

21. New Orleans Saints (7-10; Previous Ranking: 13)
Something is wrong with the Saints, because they’re not playing as badly as the stats they’re putting up might indicate. QB Andy Dalton has been fine if not inspiring, while RB Alvin Kamara has rebounded from a sluggish start to the season. The defense has been MUCH better as of late, showing that coach Dennis Allen has started to balance his HC responsibilities with his defensive prowess. I’m not sure either Dalton or Jameis Winston will be back next year. It definitely feels like this team needs a dynamic player to give them a spark, and that type of player is most likely a QB.

20. Carolina Panthers (7-10; Previous Ranking: 29)
You’ll notice that when I talk about these lower-ranking teams, I discuss QBs a lot. That’s not a coincidence. A franchise QB can cover many issues, and these teams at the bottom don’t have such players. Carolina has improved quite a bit since the last rankings, as interim coach Steve Wilks has done a great job. He should definitely be considered for the full-time position after going 6-6 in his 12 games without Christian McCaffrey. Sam Darnold has looked mostly functional (week 18 notwithstanding), but he hasn’t proven he’s more than a low-end QB1. The roster is pretty solid, so like the teams above, finding a good QB will determine which way this franchise trends in the coming season.

19. Washington Commanders (8-8-1; Previous Ranking: 20)
Surprise! Another season sunk by poor QB play. Ron Rivera is likely keeping his job if he has any dirt on the Snyders, so OC Scott Turner has been scapegoated. That’s hilarious, because I don’t recall Turner deciding on the starting QB or letting Brandon Scherff walk in free agency. The Carson Wentz trade was flawed from the start, and Taylor Heinicke isn’t a starter. Rivera should have gone to Sam Howell much sooner. The team would at least know what they had, and they might have snuck into the playoffs. At three offensive linemen and two corners should also be obtained while Washington cycles through another 10 QBs.

18. Green Bay Packers (8-9; Previous Ranking: 21)
It looked like Green Bay had finally figured things out. At 4-8 and left for dead, the team relaxed and won 4 straight games. Rookie WR Christian Watson became a TD machine. Aaron Rodgers seemed to be moving past his thumb injury. Help from around the league left them with a win-and-in scenario for week 18. Then, just like that, they reverted to the old Packers. The offense became stagnant, the defense couldn’t stop the Lions’ run game, and special teams blunders cost them points. Those breakdowns cost the team a playoff spot and have Rodgers contemplating his future once again. Change feels inevitable at Lambeau.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8 Previous Ranking: 28)
You have to give Mike Tomlin a ton of respect for squeezing a winning record out of this team. The defense instantly returned to elite form once TJ Watt came back from injury, and that side of the ball was mostly responsible for the team’s 7-2 finish. The Jets’ ineptitude kept them out of the playoffs, but they can take solace in the improvement showed by rookie QB Kenny Pickett. The offensive line is still poor and Pickett is nowhere near a franchise QB yet, but he has minimized his mistakes and come up big in the clutch several time. That’s enough for this team to compete regularly while hoping he takes a big leap in year 2.

16. New England Patriots (8-9; Previous Ranking: 18)
Rex Ryan recently said that this has been Bill Belichick’s finest head coaching job. Perhaps his personal coaching has been spectacular, but his decisions regarding what to do with other coaches certainly weren’t. Selecting Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to replace Josh McDaniels was widely panned and for good reason. Neither came with an offensive background. The result: Mac Jones took a major step back in year 2, and the offense ruined a great effort by the defense. Aside from week 18, the special teams were also good. This team will also be competitive, but a true OC would make them more threatening.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9; Previous Ranking: 22)
A spot right near the middle of the rankings feels right for Tampa Bay. They showed against Carolina that if they can recapture lightning in a bottle, they’re dangerous. They’ve also shown us countless times that their offensive operation is simply mediocre, with the loss of Bruce Arians and numerous offensive line injuries profiling as the likely culprits. Tom Brady hasn’t declined like people have suggested, but his offense does look labored. Tampa’s defense has been better recently, so it would only take a small streak of inspired play to make noise in the playoffs. Their own track record tells us not to expect such a scenario.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8; Previous Ranking: 30)
Can a head coach truly make THAT big of an impact? Those who watched the Jaguars this year might say yes. Doug Pederson has been the perfect replacement for Urban Meyer, steadily guiding Trevor Lawrence to new heights. Though he wasn’t great in week 18, Lawrence has been one of the best QBs in the NFL during the second half the season. That enabled Jacksonville to swipe the AFC South from the Titans and host a playoff game against the Chargers, a team they demolished early in the season. The Jags need talent, especially on defense, but they have to be pleased with how their fortunes seemingly changed overnight.

13. Baltimore Ravens (10-7; Previous Ranking: 7)
Baltimore’s offense is a disaster. Let me just get that out of the way. Lamar Jackson is still hurt, but it’s not like they were good even when he was in the lineup. There are no #2-quality or better WRs, and TE Mark Andrews is really the only threat. Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown can’t do anything better, leaving the defense to carry the team. That defense, which was awful for weeks to start the year, has been infinitely better since the Ravens traded for Roquan Smith. Baltimore is heading toward a likely first-round exit, and Jackson still needs a contract (or a replacement), but the defense looks set for years to come.

12. New York Giants (9-7-1; Previous Ranking: 10)
New York remains overrated, but likely coach of the year Brian Daboll has injected life into this team. An offense powered by Daniel Jones, an injury-prone Saquon Barkley, and no-name WRs should not be playoff-bound, but here we are. This squad is not a contender, but it’s also not the laughing stock that it’s been in recent years. That’s major progress, and I like how Daboll is tempering expectations and stressing that this is not a 1-year turnaround. He’s taking the correct approach for building a sustainable team, and though they have a long way to go, they’re undoubtedly on the right track.

11. Los Angeles Chargers (10-7; Previous Ranking: 11)
The Chargers haven’t moved in the rankings because my perception of them hasn’t shifted either. I still consider Brandon Staley the worst coach in the NFL (good job getting Mike Williams and Joey Bosa hurt in a meaningless game!), which will always cap the Bolts’ ceiling. Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, and Austin Ekeler are stars on offense, but injuries and weird lulls always seem to haunt them. The run defense is poor as usual, though they’ve finally fixed their kicking woes. I just can’t be confident in this team because every time I start to feel that way, they pull the rug out from under me.

10. Seattle Seahawks (9-8; Previous Ranking: 9)
The fact that the Seahawks are still this high tells you two things. 1. There simply aren’t many high-end teams this year. 2. I don’t trust anyone in the 15-10 range. It’s also a nice reminder of the great job Pete Carroll and Geno Smith have done. Nobody gave them a chance to compete, and while they likely don’t have a chance to do so against the Niners this weekend, they made it to the playoffs. Smith turned in a Pro Bowl season and set franchise record. Rookies like Charles Cross and Tariq Woolen look like key pieces to build around. A talent infusion is still in order, but saying the word “reload” instead of “rebuild” feels like more than just rhetoric and semantics. It’s a team culture.

9. Miami Dolphins (9-8; Previous Ranking: 5)
I’m putting Miami here with the idea that Tua Tagovailoa returns. Place them 10 spots lower if he doesn’t. Teddy Bridgewater is a fine backup, but he’s often injured and can’t elevate a team. Skylar Thompson doesn’t look ready. With Tua, this team can battle with anyone, including their opponents this week (the Bills). The defense has underperformed overall but showed up when it counted, such as in a must-win week 18 contest. Mike McDaniel seems to have been a good coaching hire, and Tyreek Hill instantly clicked with his new team. If Tua can learn to take a hit without slamming his head, the Dolphins are built to win.

8. Detroit Lions (9-8; Previous Ranking: 31)
Poor Detroit is my highest-ranked team to miss the playoffs. Their tiebreaker situation really hurt them, but they still played hard even once they were eliminated. Dan Campbell’s team rebounded from a putrid 1-6 start to finish with a winning record for the first time in several years. Jared Goff likely earned himself the starting QB job going forward with his performance this year. He’s fine if you can protect him, and the league’s best offensive line did just that. The defense needs a ton of help, but the young players like Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston improved as the campaign went on. Their LAR pick is #6 overall, and since they don’t need a QB, they can grab a defensive star. For the first time in a while, the future is bright in the Motor City.

7. Minnesota Vikings (13-4; Previous Ranking: 6)
Few people fully trust Minnesota at the moment. After all, it’s not very often that a 13-win team finishes with a -3 point differential. One-score magic can only take you so far, but there’s a certain skill and art to winning close contests. The Vikings are likely not quite as good as their record, but underestimating them would be foolish as well. Justin Jefferson can take over any game, and Kirk Cousins doesn’t get nearly enough respect. I will continue to doubt the defense until they prove they can cover literally anyone but Chicago, but beating NYG and moving on in the playoffs is not too much to ask.

6. Dallas Cowboys (12-5; Previous Ranking: 3)
Jerry Jones is certainly sweating right now. No team has such great highs while also displaying such horrible lows. It all starts with Dak Prescott, who has suddenly turned into a pick 6 machine. If he can’t stop his turnover spree (he’s tied for the league lead in INTs despite missing 5 games), the Cowboys won’t even get past Tampa. Should he revert to his prior form, Dallas can contend for a Super Bowl. The defense, while a bit leaky, is still a good unit. The offensive playmakers are stellar. Mistakes defeat Dallas. Other teams don’t beat them; they outplay themselves. It’s up to them how far they can go, because the talent is very much there.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (14-3; Previous Ranking: 4)
I didn’t have the Eagles at #1 when they were a 1-loss team, so you shouldn’t expect me to push them up after a poor 3-game stretch. Gardner Minshew was adequate in relief; in fact, he looked better than Jalen Hurts did in week 18. This roster is supremely talented, but for some reason I still don’t trust Hurts to throw his way to a win. His shoulder is still hurting badly according to coach Nick Sirianni, so if his running is in any way compromised, this team could face a surprise exit. The bye week is super important for them, and they’ll hope Dallas doesn’t come to town.

4. Buffalo Bills (13-3; Previous Ranking: 1)
Buffalo has shown signs of cracking in the second half of the season. Josh Allen has been turnover prone, Von Miller is done for the season, and you can score on this team. We also don’t know how they’ll ride the energy from the Damar Hamlin situation. Thankfully, he’s improving a lot each day, and that’s what matters most. On the field, will the team be inspired to play their best, or will they have heavy hearts? You can’t score 2 KR TDs every week. Due to the NFL’s resolution, the Bills won’t play a road game (a neutral-site game at worst). They’re still good enough to go all the way, but the AFC is tough.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4; Previous Ranking: 14)
Since I last complained about the Bengals’ inconsistency, they’ve mostly cleaned that up. Their half-to-half performance aside, Cincy has morphed into a major AFC threat. They seemingly own KC (don’t bet on that holding forever though), and the offense has started clicking. Trey Hendrickson and the defense have quietly been very good, so this might be as balanced a team as you’ll see. Joe Burrow certainly isn’t lacking confidence, and he has plenty of playmakers to back him up. Can the improved offensive line hold up against the likes of Buffalo? We’re likely to find out soon enough.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3; Previous Ranking: 2)
As hesitant as I am to trust the KC defense, a Patrick Mahomes-led offense cures many ills. He led the NFL in passing yards and TDs after the Tyreek Hill trade. The likely MVP is in a groove, and you’ll likely have to win a shootout to stop him. DT Chris Jones has made the defense respectable lately, albeit against meager opponents. The road to the Super Bowl goes through Arrowhead, which makes things even tougher for the other AFC contenders. Without a chance to slip up during their bye week and the fact that they’ll draw a lesser team in the divisional round, KC is a good bet to reach the AFC Championship game yet again.

1. San Francisco 49ers (13-4; Previous Ranking: 12)

To those concerned about having Brock Purdy replace Jimmy Garoppolo, your fears should be quelled. Purdy has not only been an adequate substitute; in some ways he’s been better. He hasn’t produced many turnover-worthy plays, so the consistency has been laudable. In Kyle Shanahan’s system, all you have to do is protect the ball and distribute it to playmakers like Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel (who just came back). Then, the running game and #1 defense can do the rest. At this moment, no team is playing better than SF, who comes into the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak. Purdy has a chance to be the first rookie QB to ever win the Super Bowl. This team is that good and complete.

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