2023 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 2023 NFL power rankings!

32. Carolina Panthers (2-15; Previous Ranking: 32)

You hoped to see growth out these Panthers as the season went on. Somehow, they actually got worse, closing out the year with two consecutive shutout losses. QB Bryce Young had one good game against Green Bay but has otherwise struggled mightily. That trade to get him has been a disaster, as their #1 pick now belongs to the Bears. No wonder GM Scott Fitterer got fired. The truth is, this team is likely to flounder for as long as owner David Tepper continues down this path. I know that’s not comforting to Panthers fans, but I’m sorry. How much good do you think I can say about a 2-15 team with so much dysfunction?

31. Washington Commanders (4-13; Previous Ranking: 23)

Some teams are good on offense, and some teams are good on defense. Other teams, such as those at the top of these rankings, are good at both. Washington is good at nothing, which is why HC Ron Rivera was just fired. An 8-game losing streak to end a season doesn’t usually come with many positives, and I have none here. A poor offensive line and bad coaching sabotaged QB Sam Howell, who regressed midseason and threw 21 INTs. I don’t know if he’s still salvageable. The defense is awful, and outside of WR Terry McLaurin, there are no blue-chip players on the roster. New owner Josh Harris has his work cut out for him.

30. New England Patriots (4-13; Previous Ranking: 28)

Our first 3 teams are fully in draft order, which doesn’t always happen. They are the worst in the league this time though, and it’s crazy to include a Bill Belichick-coached team in that bunch. True to form, Belichick produced a defense that exceeded the sum of its parts. The offense once again was the problem, and QB Mac Jones seems to be a sunk cost. Bailey Zappe remains a backup-caliber player, so it’s probably time to reset that position altogether. Will Belichick be the one doing it? It’s hard to tell, but the fact that it’s even a question tells you all you need to know. The dynasty in Foxborough seems like ancient history.

29. Los Angeles Chargers (5-12; Previous Ranking: 15)

The common link among many of these teams at the bottom is that they underachieved so badly, someone had to get fired. HC Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco were those people, which means I can’t call Staley the worst HC in the NFL anymore! He left quite the mess though, and QB Justin Herbert getting hurt showed us how much he was masking with his talent. The roster isn’t what everyone thought it was, and cap constraints may lead to some departures. The team still can’t stop the run, and they have to upgrade Easton Stick at backup QB. What appeared to be an attractive job may not be so wonderful in the end.

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

No team except maybe Carolina had a more disappointing end to their season. Unlike the Panthers, Atlanta had plenty to play for. With two games left, the Falcons had a legitimate chance at the NFC South title. As in all of Atlanta’s losses this year, poor QB play trashed their chances. Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke competed to see who could be worse, while newly fired HC Arthur Smith seemed to forget that he possessed talented skill players. All of this overshadowed the genuine improvement by the defense, which has become a genuine strength. Some teams simply say they’re “a QB away”; for Atlanta, that could be true.

27. Arizona Cardinals (4-13; Previous Ranking: 31)

Our first riser of the rankings, Arizona became much more competitive once QB Kyler Murray settled in after returning from injury. This team battled all year and even beat Dallas, but they definitely lacked juice on offense. Upon Murray’s comeback, TE Trey McBride, WR Greg Dortsch, and even established RB James Conner played their best football of the season. Rookie HC Jonathan Gannon did well with what he had, which wasn’t much. There are pieces to build around but PLENTY of roster holes. Armed with 2 first-round picks, GM Monti Ossenfort needs to hit big to jump-start this rebuild.

26. New York Jets (7-10; Previous Ranking: 14)

If only Aaron Rodgers hadn’t gotten hurt. That’s the refrain that many Jets fans have fallen back on, but is that an accurate depiction of reality? The Jets I saw this season aren’t merely a QB away from competing, as there are several weaknesses on this time. First, I don’t care who is under center with this offensive line. It might be malpractice to put Rodgers back there behind this blocking, and the receivers other than Garrett Wilson leave much to be desired. Even the defense showed cracks late in the season, but that may be a sign of their deflated emotions. How many seasons can they carry this squad only to continue losing?

25. Tennessee Titans (6-11; Previous Ranking: 21)

I’m glad I hadn’t finished writing this yet when I saw the news that HC Mike Vrabel was fired. I slotted the Titans at 20 due to their mini surge late in the year. This team stormed back against Miami and knocked Jacksonville completely out of the playoffs. Hearing the rumors about Vrabel’s possible departure, I implored the team to keep him. QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry are likely departing, and this team had a talent deficit before that. We have no clue if rookie Will Levis is “the guy”, but his chances are lower now without Vrabel. That brainless move alone cost the Titans 5 spots in these rankings.

24. Denver Broncos (8-9; Previous Ranking: 25)

The air was completely let out of this team’s sails once QB Russell Wilson was benched. Winning 6 out of 7 games midway through the season didn’t permanently change the culture, as HC Sean Payton is still very unhappy with the state of the franchise. If Wilson is released as expected, he’ll go down as one of the worst trades ever. In the here and now, a 7-8 team benching its QB for financial protection sends a message: we’re not playing to win anymore. A win against the lowly Chargers proved nothing, and they looked awful a week later against the Raiders. This feels like a pivotal offseason for Denver’s future.

23. Las Vegas Raiders (8-9; Previous Ranking: 27)

Let’s give a tip of the cap to Antonio Pierce, who did a great job as the interim HC after Josh McDaniels was fired. I’m still not convinced that Aidan O’Connell is a better option than Jimmy Garoppolo (who is almost certainly gone), but Pierce coaxed inspired play out of the defense and offensive line. I doubt he did enough to earn the full-time gig though given that owner Mark Davis refused to hire Rich Bisaccia when he did an even better job as the interim a couple of years ago. Davis needs to get this next hire right, as the players are tired of constant change. I can imagine that their fans feel the same way.

22. New York Giants (6-11; Previous Ranking: 29)

When they’re at full strength, do we think the Giants are closer to their surprise playoff team of 2022 or this year’s disappointment? I felt all along that last year’s team was a mirage, but the 2023 edition probably isn’t as bad as it seemed. The contract given to QB Daniel Jones was crazy, and he’s coming off a torn ACL now. The Giants looked great the last 2 weeks with Tyrod Taylor, but like many other teams at the bottom of the rankings, the offensive line is NYG’s weak link. I believe in HC Brian Daboll, but GM Joe Schoen‘s roster decisions have been suspect. Let’s see this team healthy before any rash decisions are made.

21. Chicago Bears (7-10; Previous Ranking: 30)

The Bears surprised me by moving up this much, and I admittedly left them for dead early in the season. However, they morphed into one of the most improved teams down the stretch. One major catalyst was the trade deadline addition of DE Montez Sweat, who led the team in sacks. That in turn fixed Chicago’s porous run defense, while the offense found life. Unfortunately, their limitations were laid bare versus GB. The team must decide on the future of QB Justin Fields, as they’re armed with the #1 pick from Carolina. He still seems lackluster to me, but WR DJ Moore is his only semblance of a supporting cast. Talent is still needed.

20. Seattle Seahawks (9-8; Previous Ranking: 6)

Another team that fired their coach and forced me to rearrange the rankings. We knew this team wasn’t quite at the level of last year’s squad. Their midseason record turned out to be a mirage. A seemingly improved defense lost all ability to stop the run, and the offense couldn’t produce the explosive plays we’re used to seeing. But does anyone really expect someone to come in and do better than Pete Carroll? It feels like this team is trending toward a rebuild rather than a retooling, which is something fans haven’t experienced since before 2012. I wonder if GM John Schneider is on thin ice as well.

19. Minnesota Vikings (7-10; Previous Ranking: 18)

If Vikings fans are experiencing vertigo, I know the cause. HC Kevin O’Connell has spun the QB roulette wheel countless times this year, and after a couple of good games from Joshua Dobbs, every other move has come up empty. New DC Brian Flores actually did a spectacular job with the defense, and he even improved the league-worst secondary. With Kirk Cousins at QB, that was fine, but now the signal caller is coming off a torn Achilles. Re-signing Cousins should be Minnesota’s #1 priority, because the other ingredients are all there, including a healthy Justin Jefferson. This team can be hopeful about 2024 if Cousins returns.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8; Previous Ranking: 22)

The Bucs are NFC South champions, but it’s hard to argue they’re the best team in the division. Their last two games in particular have been filled with offensive struggles. A no-show against the Saints was bad enough, but mustering just 3 FGs against Carolina isn’t reassuring. Fortunately they get the Eagles, who are also struggling, in the first round of the playoffs. QB Baker Mayfield is injured, but the offensive line is blocking better than it did for Tom Brady. Defensively, the secondary is very raw aside from S Antoine Winfield Jr, but the front seven can hold its own. The offense just needs to fulfill its end of the bargain.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8; Previous Ranking: 9)

In one of the worst collapses I can remember, Jacksonville missed the postseason entirely after an 8-3 start. That necessitates a full re-evaluation of this team, which starts at QB. Is Trevor Lawrence the guy? He has shown flashes of brilliance, teasing his generational talent. At other times, particularly when dealing with any injury (no matter how minor), he struggles; he went 0-5 in his last 5 starts this year. I’m not close to giving up on him, but it’s food for thought. The defense and offensive line are definitely worthy of judgment, and the situations with both aren’t good. The Jaguars’ dominance of the AFC South may be over after 1 year.

16. Indianapolis Colts (9-8; Previous Ranking: 24)

The Colts could’ve won AFC South, and we’d be looking at them totally differently, but the roster let them down. If one play can epitomize a season, then the Colts’ failed 4th and 1 last week against Houston is that play. RB Jonathan Taylor, who looks all the way back from his ankle injury and should be stellar once again next year, wasn’t even on the field for that play. QB Gardner Minshew did an admirable job, but this will be Anthony Richardson‘s team going forward. That may mean a step backward in the short team, but the team hopes they have a superstar in the making. I’d personally focus on boosting the defense.

15. New Orleans Saints (9-8; Previous Ranking: 16)

Keeping the Saints almost exactly where they were before feels appropriate. This consistency reflects their defining trait: their inconsistency. What you don’t see here is that since the last rankings, New Orleans fell sharply before a strong rise at the end. It’s a shame that they didn’t make the playoff field, as they’re playing their best football of the season. In a strong sign for 2024, QB Derek Carr has looked great, the offensive line is jelling, and the defense remembered how to stop the run. Maybe I declared their ascent a bit too soon, but they continue to have the best roster in the NFC South. Some more cohesiveness would do them well.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7; Previous Ranking: 13)

Mike Tomlin did it again. I’m not sure how, but the coach managed to keep his nonlosing season streak alive with his worst roster yet. This defense had to play the Steel Curtain of old at times to carry the offense, and that started with NFL sack leader TJ Watt. Now nursing an MCL sprain, Watt won’t be available for at least one game in the playoffs. Even with him though, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers being anything but one and done. I don’ trust offense, even though Mason Rudolph has looked far better than Kenny Pickett. That alone is an indictment of the QB room, and it makes you wonder about the 2022 1st-round pick’s future.

13. Green Bay Packers (9-8; Previous Ranking: 26)

When approaching the playoffs, the goal is to be playing your best football of the season. Few teams can claim to be at their peak quite like Green Bay. The question is whether that peak is truly good enough to compete for a title. Having RB Aaron Jones finally healthy certainly helps, and the team’s young playmakers, especially WR Jayden Reed, are growing before our eyes. Can the defense stop a rushing offense besides Chicago’s? At the end of the day, it’s still about QB Jordan Love. Though much improved during the second half of the season, it’s hard for me to truly trust him. It always seems like he’s an inch away from disaster.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (9-8; Previous Ranking: 11)

That this ranking hasn’t dropped more than 1 spot since Joe Burrow got injured is a testament to how well backup QB Jake Browning has performed. Unfortunately, his one weakness was that he played terribly in 2 games against the Steelers. All the QB drama masked how much the defense regressed, particularly in the secondary. Safeties Von Bell and Jessie Bates III weren’t adequately replaced, and that hurt against the pass and the run. On the plus side, the offensive line finally found continuity. Will RT Jonah Williams, WRs Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, DT DJ Reader, and RB Joe Mixon be back? Tough decisions are ahead.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (11-6; Previous Ranking: 2)

Philadelphia’s ranking is mostly due to their talent and pedigree. If we judged them based on their last 6 games, where they’re 1-5, they’d be in the bottom 10 for sure. Nothing is working, with injuries and ineffectiveness really hurting. WR AJ Brown was injured against the Giants, while QB Jalen Hurts has been nothing like his 2022 self. Teams have learned that keeping him in the pocket mitigates him, and that’s going to be hard to fix. The defense is the bigger shock though, failing to stop the pass or the run with any consistency. At their peak, the Eagles can win it all, but no amount of brotherly shoves can overcome their current play.

10. Miami Dolphins (11-6; Previous Ranking: 4)

INJURIES. That one word encapsulates the entire rough stretch that Miami has endured, and the hits keep on coming. I don’t expect an edge rush from a team that has now lost Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Cameron Goode to season-ending injuries. RB Raheem Mostert, WR Jaylen Waddle, and CB Xavien Howard are banged up. That is a LOT of production to make up, and the Dolphins are going to have a hard time doing it. After losing the AFC East in brutal fashion, also due to injuries, it may be time to say “better luck next year”. Miami is still going to be a force upon their return to health.

9. Houston Texans (10-7; Previous Ranking: 20)

We’ll start off by stating the obvious: what amazing work by rookie HC DeMeco Ryans and rookie QB CJ Stroud. The former has a chance at winning coach of the year, while the latter is a lock for OROY. The two of them have changed the direction of the entire franchise. However, they’re still a cut below the elites. You can’t expect them to revamp the entire roster in one year, and plenty of holes remain, particularly on defense. I love that they’re building this the right way though: establishing an offensive line before acquiring their rookie QB. I guess they learned something from the David Carr experience after all!

8. Buffalo Bills (11-6; Previous Ranking: 10)

I see plenty of rankings placing the Bills in the top 5. However, I think they’re very overrated based on their recent win streak. QB Josh Allen remains a turnover machine; if not for Miami injuries, his 3 turnovers would’ve cost the Bills the AFC East. Their defense has faced some attrition, but it’s still good. RB James Cook has been the true revelation, but where has WR Stefon Diggs been? When I see him play, he looks the same, by which I mean a top-tier receiver. Buffalo continues to possess a strong roster, which should be more than enough to get by Pittsburgh. Whether they can win a Super Bowl with Allen is a cause for debate.

7. Los Angeles Rams (10-7; Previous Ranking: 19)

The Rams just had to stay healthy. Years of trading away picks produced a top-heavy roster. That roster then had to shed contracts for cap reasons. LA was left with a few stars and a bunch of young or otherwise cheap players. If anyone got hurt, the Rams were in trouble. WR Cooper Kupp missed time, but rookie Puka Nacua was an incredible find. RB Kyren Williams became the RB the team thought it had in Cam Akers, and after a poor start, LA went on a torrid stretch to end the season. QB Matthew Stafford and DT Aaron Donald continue to be the engines, but for goodness sake, can someone find this team a kicker???

6. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6; Previous Ranking: 1)

It’s time to admit that this offense just isn’t going to suddenly come alive. We all thought that with QB Patrick Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce, and RB Isiah Pacheco, they had to turn it around at some point. But let’s face it: this is the worst WR corps in the NFL, and the offensive line can’t pass protect. Conversely, the defense has been excellent. Whereas the offense used to carry KC, it’s DT Chris Jones and the other group doing the heavy lifting this year. This team seems to have a lower ceiling than in years past, but relying on defense and a ground game is a proven way to win in the postseason. And #15 is indeed still there.

5. Detroit Lions (12-5; Previous Ranking: 8)

I can’t believe HC Dan Campbell let TE Sam LaPorta get hurt in a practically meaningless game. That malpractice aside, the Lions proved that they’re real…but not without some hiccups. The Ravens blew them out, and somehow the Bears did as well. Detroit’s tendency to let lesser teams hang around is concerning, but at their best, the Lions are true contenders. A shaky but improving defense notwithstanding, Pro Bowl snub Amon-Ra St. Brown, the two-headed RB monster of Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery, reborn QB Jared Goff, and the best offensive line in football can score with anyone. Disregard them at your peril.

4. Dallas Cowboys (12-5; Previous Ranking: 7)

There’s a strong argument to be made that Dallas is the 2nd-best team in the NFC. As you can see, that’s exactly how I view them. However, I can’t rank a team that’s so different on road any higher than this. Some sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde mischief is going on here, as the Cowboys are generally dominant at home but vulnerable on the road. They’ll be home for at least 2 playoff games (if they win), but the Super Bowl isn’t in Dallas. Dan Quinn‘s defense has attracted head coaching interviews, and I don’t believe HC Mike McCarthy is coaching for his job. QB Dak Prescott has had too good a turnaround; the team is in a good place.

3. Baltimore Ravens (13-4; Previous Ranking: 3)

Before anyone calls me a heretic for putting Baltimore in any slot but #1, hear me out. Yes, I’m aware that QB Lamar Jackson is likely to win MVP, and I know how good the roster is. Remember this though: Jackson has just 1 playoff win in his career, and he lost the last time the Ravens had the #1 seed as well. With that caveat in mind, the Ravens did manage to finish with the best record in the league (despite not bothering to try to win in week 18). They demolished teams like San Francisco and Detroit, so their best is pretty special. I just can’t forget losses to the Steelers, Browns and Colts so easily.

2. Cleveland Browns (11-6; Previous Ranking: 12)

It’s stunning to me that the Browns could possibly fall at #2 after their QBs alternated between struggling and injured. My eyes are telling me this is real though, and I’m all-in on Joe Flacco‘s resurgence. The guy looks 28, not 38, and his presence has lifted WR Amari Cooper to new heights. The defense, led by perennial DPOY candidate Myles Garrett, is among the league’s best. I’m not seeing any glaring weaknesses on this team unless K Dustin Hopkins can’t return. They already beat the Ravens once without Flacco; I’d love to see the Super Bowl MVP return to Baltimore. Cleveland is certainly the most dangerous AFC team.

1. San Francisco 49ers (12-5; Previous Ranking: 5)

I hedged my bets on the Niners after their midseason 3-game losing streak. Had I done another set of rankings a week later, I likely would’ve vaulted them to #1. This time, I’m not buying their loss to Baltimore as the real San Francisco, and I’m sticking with them. They rebounded after their losing streak, and they seem to be doing so again. At full power, no team in the NFL can stick with Kyle Shanahan’s bunch. QB Brock Purdy and RB Christian McCaffrey are both MVP candidates, and there’s talent everywhere on the field. These are your Super Bowl favorites, and anyone who wants the Lombardi trophy must get through them.

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