The moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here. The Lions and Chiefs kick off the 2023 season on Thursday in a much-anticipated matchup, but first, I thought I’d look at where the various teams stand on opening week. After all, we’ve now seen these teams in the preseason Please don’t be mad if your favorite team is lower than you think they should be. Surprises happen every year, and nobody knows exactly what will occur. That’s what makes this all so fun! With that in mind, here are my kickoff week power rankings. You can find my post-draft 2023 NFL power rankings here, but I’ll also list teams’ prior rankings below.
32. Arizona Cardinals (Previous Ranking: 32)
I declared the Cardinals my frontrunners for the #1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, and if anything, my conviction has actually gotten stronger. Colt McCoy was supposed to start until Kyler Murray returned, but the Cardinals cut him and traded for Joshua Dobbs! Dobbs or rookie Clayton Tune is going to really start games for this team. They also traded a lineman and former #8 pick Isaiah Simmons. If front offices ever actually tank in the NFL, I think we’re witnessing it firsthand.
31. Indianapolis Colts (Previous Ranking: 29)
I warned you that my projections for this team would sink if the Colts named raw rookie Anthony Richardson the starting QB. That’s exactly what they’ve done, and so I keep my promise. None of this is a commentary on how I feel Richardson will eventually turn out. It’s all about the here and now, and he is currently his woefully inaccurate college self. This roster isn’t good enough to carry him, even in the AFC South. Rookie HC Shane Steichen has his work cut out for him.
30. Houston Texans (Previous Ranking: 31)
Houston probably knows where it stands. Mismanagement and failure to address the QB position have left the team in an awful position, even in the AFC South. They’ve tried to fix things, but this roster simply isn’t built to be competitive this year; it’ll take time to return to relevance. Add a first-year head coach and a rookie QB to the equation and you’ve got a recipe for earning a high pick (that will be promptly delivered to Arizona as part of the Will Anderson trade on draft day).
29. Carolina Panthers (Previous Ranking: 23)
I promise I’m not just picking on the rookie QBs. Though that did play a role in my Houston and Indy rankings, with Carolina, I’m more concerned about what’s around #1 overall pick Bryce Young. Specifically, I was terrified for Young after watching the starting offensive line play. The Jets have great defensive line depth, but their backups still MANHANDLED Carolina’s starting 5. Even if Young is a star and RB Miles Sanders is an upgrade, neither will mean much if they spend all their time on their backs.
28. New England Patriots (Previous Ranking: 24)
It feels weird to rank this team that was once a dynasty so low. Nothing we saw in the preseason counters this ranking though. The offense, though not a jumbled mess now that a real OC is around, still looks poor. Defensively, the Patriots aren’t quite as deep as we’re used to. Bill Belichick continues to make odd roster decisions, such as cutting every single member of his backfield except QB Mac Jones and RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson. Belichick is a legendary genius, but is he too infallible to question at this point?
27. Chicago Bears (Previous Ranking: 27)
No movement here for the Bears, but that does mean that I have them as the worst team in the NFC North once again. Analysts seem to be fawning over the connection between QB Justin Fields and WR DJ Moore, but are we going to let two bubble screens that went for long gains in the preseason cloud or judgment? This team still has problems on defense, and Fields has yet to show me he can complete passes routinely past the line of scrimmage.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Previous Ranking: 30)
Maybe QB Baker Mayfield won’t be a complete train wreck. He looked efficient and controlled in his limited preseason action, winning what really wasn’t a true QB competition. I have no confidence in the offensive line, especially with C Ryan Jensen’s career now likely over. The defense, due to injuries and cap woes, is not the same as the 2020 version that won a Super Bowl. Without Brady to carry them, the Bucs will flounder even in the weakest division in football.
25. Denver Broncos (Previous Ranking: 17)
Based on what I saw from Russell Wilson this preseason, it looks like I was too optimistic once again. He wasn’t putrid like he was last season, but there definitely wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about. Is it wrong that the offense looked significantly better with Jarrett Stidham under center? The biggest problem with this team is their division (and by extension their conference). Getting past the Chiefs and Chargers is going to be a tall task, and anything less than greatness from Wilson threatens to sink this ship. They won’t have WR Jerry Jeudy for a few weeks either. Sean Payton might see some growing pains.
24. Green Bay Packers (Previous Ranking: 28)
Maybe QB Jordan Love won’t be a complete train wreck. The new QB1 looked better than expected during the preseason. He still had some misfires and stalled drives, but we already know he’s not Aaron Rodgers 2.0. Jordan Love just needs to be the best version of Jordan Love. Complemented by a strong running game, the offense might not hold this team back on its own. I have no proof that Green Bay has learned to stop the run, so that still worries me. I’m still not sold on this as a playoff team, but average is no longer out of the question.
23. Tennessee Titans (Previous Ranking: 25)
On paper, Tennessee doesn’t look terrible. They also play in the AFC’s one weak division (the South). My trepidation is that it’s going to take so much going right for the Titans to maximize their (limited) potential. QB Ryan Tannehill must be healthy and effective. RB Derrick Henry needs to be himself, and not a worn-down version feeling the pain of hundreds of touches per season. WR Treylon Burks needs to adequately replaced AJ Brown. The defense must be as stingy as ever. Of course that can all happen, but would you bet on it? Just one of those things going awry would be problematic.
22. Atlanta Falcons (Previous Ranking: 26)
Nothing Atlanta showed me on offense changed my opinion. That’s mostly because the starters barely played. The defense, however, impressed me quite a bit. Few starters on that unit played either, but its depth is better than it has been in years. The Falcons backup defenders shut down Miami and Cincinnati (sans Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow, respectively), and it seems like there are finally playmakers on this team. Rookie S DeMarcco Hellams looks like a hidden gem, and DL Calais Campbell is a great mentor for all the young talent. QB Desmond Ridder stands between the Falcons and a winning record.
21. Los Angeles Rams (Previous Ranking: 19)
Much like Tennessee, this team can be decent if we take their starting lineup at face value. In reality, this is the thinnest roster in the NFL, a legacy of the “F*** them picks” attitude of their GM. Injuries sank the Rams last season, and we’re already on the wrong track. All-Pro WR Cooper Kupp aggravated his hamstring injury, and his availability is in question. DT Aaron Donald and QB Matthew Stafford can do a lot, but the offensive line and the rest of the receiving corps limit their explosive potential.
20. Cleveland Browns (Previous Ranking: 18)
The Browns have a lot of talent, but putting it together has always been their problem. QB Deshaun Watson is still not in peak form, and you don’t have time to knock off any rust with the margin for error in the AFC being so small. RB Nick Chubb and the offensive line will be great, CB Denzel Ward is a star, and DE Myles Garrett needs no introduction. Even the kicking position has been upgraded with Dustin Hopkins coming in via trade. With HC Kevin Stefanski likely coaching for his job, can his team simply get out of its own way? Cleveland has a high ceiling but a dangerously low floor.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (Previous Ranking: 22)
This team had an excellent preseason, despite a loss in Dallas last week. Backup QB Aidan O’Connell seems competent, which is necessary behind an injury-prone Jimmy Garoppolo. A team with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones can always rush the passer, but the linebackers and secondary are still major liabilities. Garoppolo, WR Davante Adams, and RB Josh Jacobs (now under contract) should be able to put up points. The Raiders just can’t have every contest be a shootout.
18. Washington Commanders (Previous Ranking: 21)
QB Sam Howell. That’s where it starts and ends for this team. From what I saw in the preseason, his development looks right on schedule. He was accurate and made good decisions with the football. My lingering concern is that everything on this offense feels labored. It takes too much work to move the ball down the field, and one error sets the Commanders back greatly. Maybe OC Eric Bieniemy can do something creative once the games count. The defensive front is stout, and the secondary should be better with 1st-round CB Emmanuel Forbes. There’s upside to this Washington squad, and HC Ron Rivera needs it badly.
17. Seattle Seahawks (Previous Ranking: 16)
I feel badly for dropping the Seahawks a spot. They didn’t do anything to deserve it. Other teams simply made leaps forward. The Seahawks’ fade at the end of last season might be a bad omen, but this team is good enough to reverse that trend. QB Geno Smith seems to really be in the right spot, RB Kenneth Walker should run great now that he’s healthy, and the WR group (DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba) is scary. A new Legion of Boom is forming in the secondary with CB Tariq Woolen and S Quandre Diggs. More consistency would return this team to the postseason.
16. New York Giants (Previous Ranking: 20)
As I commented in my preseason week 2 article, New York’s offense looks to be in really good shape. TE Darren Waller has instant chemistry with QB Daniel Jones, and the team produced even without RB Saquon Barkley playing. Once we get to the games that count, can this offense keep it up? They might need to, because the defense isn’t incredibly talented except up front. Wink Martindale’s unit was greater than the sum of its parts last year, and they’ll need to do it again given the strength of the NFC East.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (Previous Ranking: 12)
I’m hedging my bets with the Bolts. From a pure talent perspective, this team should be able to compete with anyone. Newly paid QB Justin Herbert has the best WR group of his career, with rookies Quentin Johnston and Derius Davis joining Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Defensively, Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack will wreak havoc, but can they stop the run yet? Running up the middle against this team still seems like the way to expose them. Most importantly, I’m never trusting a Brandon Staley-coached team to live up to expectations—or the Chargers in general. I’ve learned my lesson.
14. New Orleans Saints (Previous Ranking: 14)
Still the favorites to win the NFC South, New Orleans should expect most of their challenges outside of divisional play. Their defense, while getting older, is still really good. QB Derek Carr is a massive upgrade over Jameis Winston. WR Michael Thomas is reportedly finally all the way back from his string of injuries, forming a lethal duo with Chris Olave. The offensive lines is strong, though they did downgrade to Blake Grupe at kicker. Anything less than a home playoff game would be a disappointment.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (Previous Ranking: 11)
After an awful start to the 2022 season, Jacksonville went on a tear to close out the year. Doug Pederson has proven to be a major upgrade over Urban Meyer, and Trevor Lawrence looks like the generational prospect we all expected. We’ll soon find out if the Jags had a real breakthrough or if they were a flash in the pan. As it stands, the defense still feels like the Jags’ weak point. The suspension of OT Cam Robinson also portends offensive line issues for several weeks. If Lawrence continues on his trajectory, he’ll be good enough to mask these flaws, but I’m not ready to label the Jaguars Super Bowl contenders just yet.
12. Baltimore Ravens (Previous Ranking: 10)
Some consider the Ravens true contenders. I’m not there yet. Lamar Jackson has not shown me that he can consistently win in the playoffs. He’ll have his best group of WRs ever, but throwing outside the numbers has never been his strength. The overall roster is really good, but the secondary is facing injuries just like last year. CB Marlon Humphrey is already hurt (foot injury) and will miss at least a couple of games. That’s an issue against the Bengals in week 2, but not versus Houston in week 1. John Harbaugh usually provides a competitive team, and this year will be no different.
11. Minnesota Vikings (Previous Ranking: 13)
We have learned absolutely nothing about the Vikings from the preseason aside from their depth (or lack thereof). QB Kirk Cousins and WR Justin Jefferson never played a snap; the only starter who did was K Greg Joseph. RB Alexander Mattison will officially be RB1 now that Dalvin Cook has signed with the Jets. I think he’ll do fine in the role, and I really don’t have concerns about the offense. The pass rush will be weaker without Za’Darius Smith, and the secondary is likely to remain a mess. Shootouts and one-score games for Minnesota once more!
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (Previous Ranking: 15)
I switched which AFC North team gets this #10 slot. This team had the most impressive preseason of anyone, and not just because they went 3-0. QB Kenny Pickett looks completely different going into his second season. His deep ball has been superb, his confidence is through the roof, and he is displaying the accuracy and decision-making he showed at Pitt. The revamped offensive line should be better (it can’t be worst), enabling the offense to better match the defense. That unit, with a healthy TJ Watt, is what makes this team a contender.
9. Buffalo Bills (Previous Ranking: 6)
Something just feels off with this team. Even though WR Stefon Diggs seems to be on his best behavior, Buffalo hasn’t quite looked right since Damar Hamlin went down against Cincy. Hamlin is back (and he made the team!), but QB Josh Allen seems to have a lot of weight on his shoulders. He looked a bit inaccurate during the preseason and still tried to do too much. The way Allen plays will dictate how far the Bills go. He’ll need to show his 2020 form for Buffalo to be a serious threat.
8. Detroit Lions (Previous Ranking: 9)
The hype train is firmly attached to these Lions. Favored to win their first ever NFC North crown, coach Dan Campbell didn’t exactly quiet the frenzy when he agreed with that assessment. There are plenty of reasons for these expectations. Green Bay lost Aaron Rodgers, the Vikings can’t possibly be as good in 1-score games this year, and the Bears are…well…the Bears. Detroit went on a tear to finish the season, going 9-8 and nearly making the playoffs. With a better start and some reinforcements, these Lions could be one of the NFC’s most dangerous teams.
7. Miami Dolphins (Previous Ranking: 5)
I had to drop Miami a couple of spots due to two recent events. First, the offensive line has not looked promising, and I trust no lineman whose name isn’t Terron Armstead. Additionally, the team’s secondary depth being tested is already being tested, with Jalen Ramsey likely out for half the season and Keion Crossen done for the whole season. Those weaknesses could be exposed in the AFC East, but I love this offense. Tua Tagovailoa, Jaylen Waddle, and Tyreek Hill form an elite trio that can score with anyone. If DC Vic Fangio can get the best out of the defense, this team can win a ring.
6. Dallas Cowboys (Previous Ranking: 8)
I’m buying into the idea of a bounce-back year for QB Dak Prescott and the offense. We already know about the defense. Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs steal the show, but the Cowboys boosted their run defense with their first-round selection of DT Mazi Smith. That was likely done with the Eagles in mind. Back to Prescott, he’s been too good of a player to lead the league in INTs again. Just cutting those down by half would increase the efficiency of the offense immensely. HC Mike McCarthy is now calling the players, and he’ll use his GB experience to make sure things run smoothly.
5. New York Jets (Previous Ranking: 7)
This 2-slot rise can be called the “Aaron Rodgers effect”. Tom Brady explained that after being in one place for so long, it can be slow to jell with a new team and offense. Rodgers seems ready to roll right away. Other than a couple of overthrows that we can likely attribute to nerves, he was lights out in his brief preseason appearance. Around him, WR Garrett Wilson is a budding star, RB Breece Hall will be back from injury, and RB Dalvin Cook is now a Jet. The defense finally won’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (Previous Ranking: 4)
It’s possible that I have the Eagles and Cowboys closer together than any other power rankings writer. Simple regression to the mean suggests that Dallas’s offense will improve, whereas the Eagles will come back to the pack a bit. Now that other teams have had a full offseason to study the Eagles’ run game, they might key in on QB Jalen Hurts a bit. I’m still unsure if he can win as effectively from the pocket if the running lanes close. GM Howie Roseman’s drafting has been terrific, so the totality of this roster is the best in the league. You just wonder if he paid his QB a little too early.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (Previous Ranking: 2)
The Super Bowl is a realistic goal for Cincinnati. However, a couple of things could stand in their way. Like last season, QB Joe Burrow isn’t getting much practice before week 1. This time, it’s a calf injury keeping him out. In 2022, he needed a few weeks before really clicking. Around him, we need to see how the (again) revamped o-line looks. La’el Collins is starting the season on the PUP list, but Orlando Brown has (mercifully) replaced Jonah Williams at LT. Last, the secondary has been completely remade, with 2 new safeties and CB Chidobe Awuzie returning from an ACL tear. If all goes right though, the sky is the limit for Cincy.
2. San Francisco 49ers (Previous Ranking: 3)
We’re splitting hairs between the top teams at this point. DE Nick Bosa’s holdout is concerning, but the defense is so talented around him that they can probably survive their stud rusher missing a few games. I’m bullish on QB Brock Purdy’s second season. He won every game as a rookie until the NFC Championship, when he tore his UCL on the first possession. His weapons are still exceptional, and his chemistry with TE George Kittle, RB Christian McCaffrey, and WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk should be better in year 2. These are your favorites to win the NFC right now.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (Previous Ranking: 1)
I’ve still got no reason to remove KC from the #1 spot as long as Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are running the show. However, they aren’t the runaway #1 team anymore for a couple of reasons. First, I still have questions about their offensive line after losing Orlando Brown Jr and Andrew Wylie while only replacing them with Jawaan Taylor. Second and more importantly, when is DT Chris Jones going to return? He wants a new contract and is holding out, probably because he knows KC doesn’t beat the Bengals without him. As the heartbeat of Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, this team’s Super Bowl hopes might rely on Jones’ return.