We’re starting week 9, and since the NFL season now has 18 weeks, that means we’re at the approximate halfway point of the 2022 campaign. I also promised last time that I’d do this again at the trade deadline, and that has just passed, so here we are. Much change has taken place since week 1, and we’ve learned a great deal about the 32 teams. How have our perceptions shifted? Spoiler alert: a lot. For reference, I list each team’s week 1 ranking in parentheses. Enjoy my updated midseason 2022 NFL power rankings!
32. Houston Texans (1-5-1; Previous Ranking: 31)
Well, this one didn’t change much. We knew that the Texans lacked talent and that this year was about evaluating QB Davis Mills. So far, that’s gone rather poorly. It’s a shame, because the defense has made real strides under Lovie Smith, Brandin Cooks is still a good receiver, and rookie RB Dameon Pierce has been a nice find. If the season continues at this rate, the team will draft Mills’ replacement first overall in the 2023 draft.
31. Detroit Lions (1-6; Previous Ranking: 24)
I feel badly for putting Detroit this low. They have a periodically explosive offense and coach Dan Campbell’s grit. That said, when you’re one of only 2 teams with 1 win and you have the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL, I have no choice. QB Jared Goff is playing well enough (outside of 2 games), which has been true throughout his career: surround him with talent and keep him safe in the pocket, and he’ll be decent. The defense badly needs more talent. Rookie Aidan Hutchinson isn’t close to enough.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6; Previous Ranking: 27)
Another year, another disappointing Jaguars team. Things looked so promising after a 2-1 start, but they’ve lost 5 in a row as a result of countless self-inflicted errors. QB Trevor Lawrence needs to improve, the offensive line needs to protect him better, and the defense needs to make more plays in crunch time. Jacksonville is definitely more competitive than last year, but it’s not leading to results. Coach Doug Pederson needs time to turn this downtrodden franchise around (if he can).
29. Carolina Panthers (2-6; Previous Ranking: 25)
Firing Matt Rhule and benching Baker Mayfield have done wonders for Carolina. The team is still going nowhere, but they haven’t lost their fight. Since the changes, they have beaten Tampa Bay and lost an extremely tight game to Atlanta. They aren’t scoring 10 points a game anymore, but they’re still missing a franchise QB. RB Christian McCaffrey is replaceable. The right head coach and a proper quarterback could make this team relevant quickly given the talent on defense.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6; Previous Ranking: 19)
Coach Mike Tomlin will NEVER admit it, but he waved the white flag on this season when he benched QB Mitchell Trubisky at halftime against the Jets. Pittsburgh hopes that first-round rookie Kenny Pickett will be the long-term successor to Big Ben, but they’ll have to go through growing pains to get there. Despite 5 years of experience, Pickett looks somewhat lost at the NFL level. A porous offensive line and an injured defense aren’t helping. Expect some noncompetitive games the rest of the way, especially without Chase Claypool, who was traded to Chicago.
27. Chicago Bears (3-5; Previous Ranking: 32)
Our first team to improve their preseason rank! They had nowhere to go but up, but still. New coach Matt Eberflus is doing a fantastic job, as this might be the least talented team in the league. I’ve been telling people that if Chicago wins 5 games this year, Eberflus should be coach of the year. They shed most of what little talent they had in the offseason, they’ve traded their two best defenders, and they have perhaps the league’s worst starting QB. Justin Fields is a bust, and you wonder what this scrappy bunch could accomplish with even Trevor Siemian.
26. Cleveland Browns (3-5; Previous Ranking: 20)
Another team that’s used to the bottoms of Power Rankings, Cleveland’s worst-case scenario without Deshaun Watson is coming true. Jacoby Brissett seems to throw an INT whenever the team needs a game-winning or game-tying drive, and he’s wasting Amari Cooper and Nick Chubb, who have been excellent. The defense has produced some curious late-game collapses, most notably against the Jets. The defensive talent level is very high, so DC Joe Woods might be on the hot seat. A win over the Bengals and Joe Burrow, who is now 0-4 against the Browns, does not change things.
25. Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1; Previous Ranking: 8)
I concede that I missed on this one. The addition of Matt Ryan did not upgrade this team because the front office failed to upgrade the offensive line. He was a sitting duck with a declining arm, so what did the team think was going to happen? The defense is playing decently, especially with Shaquille Leonard back, but the offense isn’t carrying its weight. Last year’s leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor, can’t even run very well behind this line. The QB switch to Sam Ehlinger probably won’t help.
24. Denver Broncos (3-5; Previous Ranking: 11)
You’ll notice a lot of teams ranked in this range that are major disappointments. This is one of the more shocking ones. A big trade for Russell Wilson was supposed to make this team instant contenders but with a few question marks on defense. Instead, the defense has been spectacular while being failed by the abysmal offense. Wilson is producing the worst numbers of his career in many major categories. The rookie head coach in over his head only adds to the offensive issues.
23. Las Vegas Raiders (2-5; Previous Ranking: 12)
It’s safe to say that new head coach Josh McDaniels, new GM Dave Ziegler, trade acquisition Davante Adams, and free agent signing Chandler Jones aren’t having the immediate impact that owner Mark Davis was hoping for. This team is better than its record would indicate, and they’ve been highly competitive against superior opponents. However, games like Sunday’s 24-0 shutout by New Orleans show that something is missing here. The defense needed work from the beginning, but the offense is off as well. RB Josh Jacobs is rolling, but Carr and the receivers don’t seem quite in sync.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5; Previous Ranking: 5)
What a way to end a career. With his divorce finalized and father time starting to possibly catch up with him, Tom Brady is likely to hang it up after this season. He has stated that he wanted to end on a Super Bowl, but the playoffs aren’t even a lock at this point. The offensive line issues I mentioned in the initial rankings are ravaging this team. They can’t run the ball at all, forming a one-dimensional passing offense that teams see coming. Tampa can’t convert TDs in the red zone either. The defense is starting to get tired, too. There’s no easy fix for this time, so it might be time to see them for what they are: flawed.
21. Green Bay Packers (3-5; Previous Ranking: 2)
I struggled with how to order TB and GB, and I put the Packers slightly ahead because they’re the team with more promise at this point in the season. Consecutive losses to the Jets and Commanders can’t be spun into anything positive, but you see glimpses here and there. Aaron Rodgers can still sling it, and he isn’t really playing worse than in previous years. His young WRs are his biggest problem, as he doesn’t trust them yet. They’ve dropped passes and aren’t in tune with the offense, leading to scoring droughts. Plus, the defense still can’t stop the run. Haven’t we be saying this about GB since 2013?
20. Washington Commanders (4-4; Previous Ranking: 22)
Washington has 4 wins, but they’ve come exclusively against teams ranked lower than them here. Carson Wentz didn’t fix their QB woes before he got injured, but it’s not like he had a chance. The receivers are great, but the offensive line is below average in terms of both run blocking and pass blocking. The secondary has struggled with communication lapses and generally poor play. Washington’s defensive front 4 and wide receivers have powered them to a .500 record.
19. Arizona Cardinals (3-5; Previous Ranking: 21)
This team is on the rise due to the return of DeAndre Hopkins last week, but they’re still not particularly good. They don’t rush the passer well, and Kyler Murray is still not a high-end QB. He can make some plays here and there, but when the game is on the line, he tends to fall short. The secondary, led by Budda Baker, is very strong, but the front 7 is vulnerable, especially against good tight ends. If they have a second-half collapse like they did the last few years, things could get ugly.
18. New England Patriots (4-4; Previous Ranking: 23)
New England was really tough to rank. They had to be somewhere in the middle, as they have mostly beaten up on their inferior opponents while playing noncompetitive football against better teams. The loss to the Bears dropped them a bit because that was pathetic. The defense is greater than the sum of its parts, which is business as usual for Bill Belichick. The offense is mostly bad, and that’s because of Mac Jones. The 2nd-year QB has alternated between being injured and awful. Despite good tight ends and running backs, he is struggling. I think I can still hear the Bailey Zappe chants…
17. Atlanta Falcons (4-4; Previous Ranking: 29)
You have to hand it to the Falcons. Mired in salary cap hell from the record dead money caused by the trade of Matt Ryan and all-around poor management, this relatively talent-poor team couldn’t go out and supplement itself much in free agency. Against all odds, they’re in first in the NFC South. QB Marcus Mariota has been decent (mostly on the ground), doing just enough to keep the team competitive each week. The defense has overachieved, and Younghoe Koo has become one of the league’s best kickers. I don’t think they’ll be in the chase at season’s end, but they’ve earned our respect.
16. Los Angeles Rams (3-4; Previous Ranking: 1)
This is the last of our teams that have severely underachieved. Super Bowl hangovers are real, and the Rams are having one. Their problems are reminiscent of those in Tampa Bay: the offensive line is a mess. Andrew Whitworth retired, Joe Noteboom got injured, and no high draft picks have taken their place (what do you want to do with “them picks” again Les Snead?). Matthew Stafford can’t hold the ball and dial up deep shots on play action, and they can’t run AT ALL. Unlike Tampa though, they don’t even have a good RB. Please re-sign Odell Beckham.
15. New York Jets (5-3; Previous Ranking: 28)
Here we have the first team that significantly boosted their ranking. Following the theme of the 2021 QB class, the Jets are being hamstrung by their QB. Coach Robert Saleh has done a great job installing a winning mindset, and as a former DC, it’s no surprise that he’s turned around the defense. Quinnen Williams is fulfilling his immense promise, and Joe Douglass is mostly drafting well. The outlier is Zach Wilson, who continues to be reckless with the football. These are better Jets than you’re used to, but they’ve mostly beaten bad teams and backups. They’re still not a threat.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (4-4; Previous Ranking: 4)
This ranking was higher before Monday Night Football. I thought the Bengals had finally turned the corner after their early-season malaise, but everything came crashing back down to earth. The running game was still ineffective, and Joe Burrow committed two more turnovers. The defense, which had not surrendered a second-half TD all season, gave up 3 in 3 drives to the Browns. Now, CB Chidobe Awuzie is out for the year with a torn ACL. I didn’t drop Cincy further because Burrow cannot play against the Browns for some weird reason, and he didn’t have Ja’Marr Chase due to his hip injury. That excuse won’t be good enough next week against Carolina.
13. New Orleans Saints (3-5; Previous Ranking: 14)
Even though they’re the only team to move zero spots since the initial rankings, the Saints are a team that might be on the ascent. Now that they’ve settled on Andy Dalton as their starting QB, the offense is much more consistent in its scoring. The defense has also showed signs of life after an uncharacteristically poor start to the season, most notably in their shutout of Las Vegas on Sunday. Alvin Kamara scored his first 3 touchdowns of the season this week, and as the offense’s biggest weapon, getting him involved would be huge. The NFC South is still there for the taking.
12. San Francisco 49ers (4-4; Previous Ranking: 16)
I hate that it had to happen this way, but Trey Lance’s injury has improved the Niners’ outlook for 2022. At this stage, Jimmy Garoppolo can do more for this team. Injuries have ravaged SF, as they seemingly do on a yearly basis, but the team has clawed back to .500 regardless. They still own the Rams, and the division is softer than expected. Christian McCaffrey seems right at home in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and DeMeco Ryans is leading an opportunistic defense that runs through Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. If their health improves, the Niners can make a deep run.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (4-3; Previous Ranking: 7)
Every year, something seems to hold these Chargers back from taking the next step. As usual, injuries are mounting, with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joey Bosa, Rashawn Slater, and even Dustin Hopkins missing multiple weeks. Yes, this cursed team finally finds a kicker to be happy about, and he gets hurt. QB Justin Herbert has not played at the level we’ve become accustomed to over the past two years. He seems hesitant to push the ball downfield, which is abnormal for him. Part of the blame can be pinned on Brandon Staley, one of the league’s worst head coaches. The talent is here; the Bolts just need to put it together.
10. New York Giants (6-2; Previous Ranking: 26)
The Giants made a massive jump in these rankings, and it’s all because of new coach Brian Daboll. The early favorite for coach of the year, Daboll has transformed the Giants from a team that can’t win a close game to a team that wins almost all of them. That will change with regression to the mean though. NYG is extremely overrated, as their only wins were lucky (Tennessee missed a game-winning FG in week 1, and Lamar Jackson threw an awful pick against them in week 6). The defense is legit, but I don’t trust Daniel Jones, his poor receiving corps, or any of this offense really.
9. Seattle Seahawks (5-3; Previous Ranking: 30)
Pete Carroll told us that this wasn’t a rebuilding year. We should have believed him. With a league-high 20-slot Power Rankings jump, the Seahawks might be the most pleasant surprise of the season. The most revelatory aspect of the team is definitely the play of QB Geno Smith. Somehow, in his 10th season, Smith has become the league leader in completion percentage. He is taking shots down the field to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, so these aren’t just easy throws. The defense is rounding into shape, with rookie CB Tariq Woolen looking like a classic Seahawks draft steal. This team looks better WITHOUT Russell Wilson. Imagine that.
8. Tennessee Titans (5-2; Previous Ranking: 17)
The Titans have beaten up on a bunch of bad teams and got crushed by Buffalo, but they’re taking care of business by handling the opponents put in front of them. Derrick Henry is fully back from his injury, and I am not basing that on his biannual drubbing of the Texans. The loss of Harold Landry hurts on defense, but they’re much improved from a season ago. Rookie WR Treylon should return from injury soon, which should open up the passing attack. Though they’ve won five straight, it’s clear that this team can’t survive an injury to Ryan Tannehill.
7. Baltimore Ravens (5-3; Previous Ranking: 13)
If only this team could close games; they’d be much more dangerous. Alas, they have collapsed several times in the 4th quarter, with the worst offense against Miami in week 2. Their deadline acquisition of Roquan Smith will undoubtedly help with that. Off-ball linebackers have lost some of their luster, but they’re still very valuable in my opinion, especially for a team like Baltimore where Patrick Queen has underperformed. I still don’t trust the secondary, but the talent suggests that it should be fixed at some point. Injuries are this team’s biggest enemy. That and Lamar Jackson throwing the ball when his team is behind.
6. Minnesota Vikings (6-1; Previous Ranking: 15)
The Vikings aren’t getting much respect, and I’m aware of the irony regarding the fact that I’m placing a 6-1 team at number six. The fact of the matter is that this is a very good team, but since their victories have mostly come against bad teams, we don’t know HOW good. Minnesota has beaten Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans (without Kamara), and Miami (without Tua Tagovailoa) by one score each, and they got crushed by Philadelphia. What we do know is that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, Dalvin Cook is a fierce runner, Justin Jefferson is an elite WR, and Za’Darius Smith makes their defense better. Doubt them at your peril.
5. Miami Dolphins (5-3; Previous Ranking: 10)
If you’re wondering why I put Miami ahead of Minnesota despite the head-to-head win, it’s because the Dolphins badly outplayed the Vikings. They win that game if Tua Tagovailoa is healthy. Speaking of Tua, I see a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon I constructed. Mike McDaniel has changed his prospects. Without Brian Flores sabotaging the offense, Miami is downright explosive. The additions of Terron Armstead and Tyreek Hill have also been excellent. I have questions about the pass defense, particularly the rush and the injured secondary, but Byron Jones should come back soon. They mostly limit points well anyway, and they’ll be even better with Bradley Chubb.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (7-0; Previous Ranking: 18)
I’m not the only one to place the 7-0 Eagles below #1, but this is probably the lowest ranking you’ll see them. QB Jalen Hurts has improved greatly in his second full season as the starter, but I still don’t fully trust him throwing the ball when the team eventually needs to climb back from a deficit. The Eagles have not yet trailed in the second half of a game, which is good because they’ve been downright awful in the third and fourth quarters. The roster is really strong, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. AJ Brown has been the best trade acquisition this year other than Tyreek Hill. Darius Slay and James Bradberry form one of the best CB duos in the league. If Hurts can learn to carry the team with his arm, THEN they become extremely deadly.
3. Dallas Cowboys (6-2; Previous Ranking: 9)
Before Stephen A. Smith rages at me, let me say this: it’s hard to find a more balanced team in the NFL than the Dallas Cowboys. If coach of the year ever went to an assistant, Dan Quinn would be winning. He has completely transformed this defense over just 2 years. Micah Parsons has become a DPOY candidate, Trevon Diggs has turned into a more consistent corner, and the unit has carried the team while awaiting Dak Prescott’s return. The offensive line is getting better, the skill position talent is strong, and the offense overall got more explosive once Dak came back. This team can definitely make some noise.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2; Previous Ranking: 6)
If you have Patrick Mahomes on your team, you have a chance. Though less explosive without Tyreek Hill, the KC offense is doing just fine. They’re scoring points mostly at will, and TE Travis Kelce is their biggest weapon. He’s been the best tight end in the league. The offensive line, completely overhauled in 2021, has been excellent. Defensively, I think the team misses Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward. You can tell that there’s just a little bit of a talent gap, particularly on that side of the ball, between Kansas City and Buffalo (perhaps a Von Miller-sized gap).
1. Buffalo Bills (6-1; Previous Ranking: 3)
Your current Super Bowl favorites are uncoincidentally also the NFL’s most complete team. Can you identify a real hole on the Bills’ roster? The secondary has been fine, and Tre’Davious White isn’t even back from injury yet. The pass rush has gotten a large boost from Von Miller, Buffalo’s star free agent signing. QB Josh Allen is the current MVP favorite, and his favorite target Stefon Diggs is PFF’s #1 WR. Matt Milano anchors a good LB unit, and Devin Singletary is running the ball well. Ken Dorsey has even adequately replaced Brian Daboll as the OC…well, except for that one little meltdown in Miami.