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 2023 campaign. That means it’s also trade deadline time! That has just passed, so as in 2022, it’s time to re-evaluate where everyone stands. 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 2023 NFL power rankings!
32. Carolina Panthers (1-6; Previous Ranking: 29)
Sorry Carolina, but winning your first game of the season doesn’t get you out of last place. This week’s games showed me what I already knew: the Panthers have a decent defense, a horrific offensive line, and a rookie QB who needs time. Bryce Young, despite being touted as an NFL-ready QB, clearly has work to do. If there’s reason for hope, it’s that Young has looked a bit better each week. I still question his long-term prospects, but Carolina is in deep now. They won’t have a first-round pick in 2024, and it likely would’ve been a great one. This needs to work, or else the people who brought Young in won’t be around to choose someone else.
31. Arizona Cardinals (1-7; Previous Ranking: 29)
The team with the worst record and heading in the wrong direction moves up a spot. How does that happen? QB Kyler Murray is returning soon, that’s what. I don’t think Murray is great, but he is clearly better than the limited and turnover-prone Joshua Dobbs and probably rookie Clayton Tune as well, who is apparently starting this week. Murray is supposedly “fully healthy”, so holding him out would just confirm to me that this team is tanking. So far, their shocking upset of Dallas hasn’t cost them in that regard, but the Cardinals are taking great care not to win too much!
30. Chicago Bears (2-6; Previous Ranking: 27)
After a couple weeks of hope, the Bears have shown us that they are mostly as bad as we expected. The defense has been fair at times (that’s all about CB Jaylon Johnson), but Justin Fields still can’t throw the ball and is now injured, half the RB room is hurt, and I’m not very confident in the team’s decision makers. No matter how weak their division looks (aside from Detroit), Chicago still seems primed to finish last. UDFA QB Tyson Bagent is a nice story, but he got exposed against the Chargers. Ironically, he might still be a better passer than Fields.
29. New York Giants (2-6; Previous Ranking: 16)
I took some criticism for leaving NYG at 16 in my last rankings despite the G-Men being a playoff team last year. As it turns out, apparently I didn’t drop them nearly far enough. This offense is horrendous, and it doesn’t matter who is at QB. OT Andrew Thomas has been out with injury, and he was the one guy playing well on the unit. Both Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor have been knocked out with injuries, and RB Saquon Barkley has no room to run. The defense is actually playing well now, but things are bad when allowing 13 points equals a loss, as it did against the Jets. Last season’s playoffs seem so far away.
28. New England Patriots (2-6; Previous Ranking: 28)
New England has managed to defeat two division rivals, the Aaron Rodgers-less Jets and the Bills, but is winless otherwise. In their first two losses, they were competitive. In the other 4, they’ve been bad. QB Mac Jones takes the brunt of the blame because of his penchant for back-breaking turnovers. Coach Bill Belichick isn’t blameless here either though. Actually, Coach Belichick is doing fine. GM Belichick is the issue. His drafting has been subpar, especially at receiver and on the offensive line. Those issues are as crippling as Jones, who Belichick also drafted. This team feels due for a true rebuild, and Belichick is expected to lead it.
27. Las Vegas Raiders (3-5; Previous Ranking: 19)
One could argue that the Raiders look worse than New England right now. Alas, I cannot ignore their head-to-head victory in which LV’s defense shut down the Patriot offense. That only gives them a 1-spot edge because this team has been pretty bad. Their wins have all been against poor teams (Patriots, Broncos, Packers), and the offense has not hit 20 points in a game. LV had one 21-point showing, and that was because DE Maxx Crosby (who is great) sacked Mac Jones for a safety. The offense looks broken, and it’s not involving WR Davante Adams at all. HC Josh McDaniels seems lost, as much as he did in Denver.
26. Green Bay Packers (2-5; Previous Ranking: 24)
When GB moved to 2-1, with a close loss to Atlanta as their only blemish, everyone was singing the praises of Jordan Love. “The post-Rodgers era will be fine”, they declared. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Packers have dropped 4 in a row. Their only wins look worse, as they came against Chicago and a Saints team whose QB got hurt mid-game. Love has been putrid, still completing a low percentage of his passes and turning the ball over often. Even teams like LV and Denver have beaten the Packers. Love can still improve given his lack of prior experience, but this situation is looking bleak.
25. Denver Broncos (3-5; Previous Ranking: 25)
Suddenly on a 2-game winning streak, you might have thought that Denver would be ranked higher than before. Remember that these rankings are multiple weeks apart. Had I done this around, say, week 3, Denver would’ve been #32 given that they had given up 70 points in a game and looked horrid offensively. Their recent turnaround has returned them from there to their original spot. Beating the Chiefs is surely cause for celebration in Denver, especially with Russell Wilson looking competent. The defense has also tightened up a lot. This is still a serious rebuild, but as far as laying the groundwork, this is morphing into a great start.
24. Indianapolis Colts (3-5; Previous Ranking: 31)
A promising start to the season quickly got derailed when rookie QB Anthony Richardson sprained his AC joint badly, ending his season. Richardson was coming along as the team hoped, but that is delayed for now. Backup Gardner Minshew led the team to a couple of nice upsets against the Ravens and Titans, but he has become a turnover machine. In the Colts’ last 3 games (all losses), Minshew has 9 turnovers. The offense is coring though, and the defense is the bigger issue here. Nobody on the team can cover, and they’ve forgotten how to tackle. It’s hard to win football games with that combination.
23. Washington Commanders (3-5; Previous Ranking: 18)
The only question about the Commanders going into the season was “How will QB Sam Howell do?” because without a franchise QB, nothing else matters. Maybe we should’ve looked at a couple other areas because I think Howell is doing just fine, especially this past week against the Eagles. The offensive line is horrendous (no QB has been sacked more than Howell), and so is the secondary. The team fought Philadelphia tough twice but got blown out by the Bears and lost to the Giants. Now, both DEs Chase Young and Montez Sweat have been traded away. Does new owner Josh Harris know that you don’t tear down like in the NBA?
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4; Previous Ranking: 26)
You almost fooled me Tampa. Your start to the season made it look like the defense was fixed, Baker Mayfield was a competent starter at QB, and the offensive line could make miracles. During their 3-game losing streak, the Buccaneers have fallen back to Earth, especially on offense. TB hasn’t scored more than 18 points in those games, and even that required garbage time production against Buffalo. The defense has actually hung tough with teams, but the line can’t block in the run game and Mayfield is making mistakes again. The Bucs can’t finish games, and though the schedule is soft, that issue must be fixed.
21. Tennessee Titans (3-4; Previous Ranking: 23)
Will Levis certainly came out of nowhere, didn’t he? He was a 2nd-round pick just this April, sure, but the reports were that his preseason injury had cost him valuable learning time. Levis looked sensational against Atlanta, but I’m not bumping the Titans up too much over one potentially fluky game. Tennessee is well-coached by Mike Vrabel, but a lack of talent is becoming hard to overcome. The offensive line needs work, and now the front office traded great S Kevin Byard. The Titans still seem to be trying to thread the needle between competing now and rebuilding. It appears as though the latter is finally starting to take hold.
20. Houston Texans (3-4; Previous Ranking: 30)
The fact that the Texans have risen 10 spots given the prior state of the team is impressive, and two men deserve the lion’s share of the credit. First is HC DeMeco Ryans, whose new culture has instantly taken hold and overcome the stench of losing surrounding the franchise. The other is rookie QB CJ Stroud, who has easily been the best in his class so far, potentially stabilizing the position for the future. Houston has already won as many games as they did all of last year despite their still poor overall roster. One complaint: losing an ugly game to Carolina automatically bars you from advancing beyond rank 20 for now.
19. Los Angeles Rams (3-5; Previous Ranking: 21)
Just when I thought the Rams were on their way back, they lost 3 of 4 games, only beating the lowly Cardinals. There’s no shame in losing to Philadelphia in a hard-fought battle. Falling to the Steelers wasn’t great, especially given how the Rams blew a lead. This week was an unmitigated disaster. The Cowboys blew LA out, and QB Matthew Stafford hurt his thumb. That should serve as a reminder: this remains a very thin team that can be derailed by one injury. Rookie WR Puka Nacua is a gem, but the offensive line, secondary, and LB corps are all weak groups. We’re still a bit away from the Rams contending again.
18. Minnesota Vikings (4-4; Previous Ranking: 11)
This team was shooting back up the rankings after a poor start to the season. On Sunday, everything came crashing down, as QB Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles. It’s a brutal blow to a surging team, who will now be forced to start 5th-round rookie Jaren Hall or trade acquisition Joshua Dobbs. Cousins was covering a lot of holes for Minnesota, including Justin Jefferson‘s absence due to injury, an eternally leaky secondary, and a lack of a ground game. Maybe now Vikings fans will appreciate him for what he is: a top-10 QB who may not be elite but is a plenty good starter in this league.
17. Atlanta Falcons (4-4; Previous Ranking: 22)
Atlanta finds themselves at 4-4, and that is fitting. This is a decidedly average team. On one side of the scale, the roster is in its best shape since 2016, the Falcons finally have a decent defense, the offensive line is sturdy, and there’s a generational talent on offense in RB Bijan Robinson. On the other, balancing all those other things out, is Desmond Ridder. The overmatched QB1 was finally pulled this week in favor of Taylor Heinicke, who himself is just a high-end QB2. The Falcons need to find an answer at QB fast, as this roster is going to waste in the meantime, even in the NFC South.
16. New Orleans Saints (4-4; Previous Ranking: 14)
Right in the middle seems appropriate for these 4-4 Saints. New QB Derek Carr‘s arrival was supposed to bring renewed offensive prosperity. The exact opposite occurred, at least to start the season. Whether it was a shoulder injury or a lack of chemistry with his new teammates, Carr wasn’t firing on all cylinders, particularly in the red zone. That led to a few upset losses. In the second half against Jacksonville, something clicked, and New Orleans has been on the rise ever since. A competent offense would pair with a strong defense (though the previously elite run defense is showing holes) and make NO prohibitive NFC South favorites.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (3-4; Previous Ranking: 15)
I trust these Bolts no more than I did week 1, so I’m leaving their ranking unchanged. A decidedly average team, LA has lost to every decent team they’ve played except Minnesota (who was still in its turnover-happy phase). Wins against the Raiders and Bears don’t impress me, but I still have to rank the Chargers highly because of their QB/WR combo: Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen. The defense, awful HC Brandon Staley‘s brainchild, can’t get off the field. There’s no running game to speak of, even with a healthy Austin Ekeler. As long as Staley is in charge, this team will be an also-ran, but they’re certainly talented.
14. New York Jets (4-3; Previous Ranking: 5)
You know why this ranking has fallen so far: Aaron Rodgers. The star QB tore his Achilles just 4 snaps into the season, and the team has been riding the Zach Wilson roller coaster ever since. The Jets counted on one other thing though: their defense. Elite as advertised, the defense has been truly spectacular, keeping the team in every game and even stealing a few. Beating the Broncos and Giants isn’t super encouraging, but a win over the Eagles without their top 2 CBs? That’s special. New York will need more from its offense against better teams in most cases. Maybe a Rodgers return could be in the cards?
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3; Previous Ranking: 10)
Like the Jets above, Pittsburgh is being carried by their elite defense. OLBs TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith have been terrific, but this team still has a -34 point differential. That tells you what ails this team: the offense. Much of the ire is directed toward OC Matt Canada for his uninventive schemes with little motion. However, the offensive line still isn’t good, RB Najee Harris is struggling, and 2nd-year QB Kenny Pickett does not look improved. There’s a bit of potential on offense here because these young players can definitely develop, and they occasionally show signs of life. Consistency is an issue, but this team is fixable.
12. Cleveland Browns (4-3; Previous Ranking: 20)
Our 3rd team in a row with its defense carrying its offense, the Browns actually have the #1-ranked defense in the NFL. Much of that is DE Myles Garrett, an early favorite for DPOY. There’s talent at all 3 levels, and it is keeping opponents at bay. It even handed SF their first loss. The problem, like the 2 teams above, is that the offense has been worse than anyone could imagine. Deshaun Watson‘s first full season with the team was supposed to be great. Instead, he has alternated between injured and ineffective. Backup PJ Walker is mediocre, and RB Nick Chubb shredded his knee. At least Dustin Hopkins is kicking great!
11. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3; Previous Ranking: 3)
Another bad start for these Bengals, and we now have a trend. Each of the past 3 seasons, the Bengals dug themselves an early hole due to something being wrong with QB Joe Burrow. Either he was coming off knee surgery or had a strained calf (as in 2023), and that led the offense to flounder. The two prior years, Cincy bounced back to reach the AFC Championship game or better. Burrow seems to be back once again, and Cincinnati has won 3 in a row. I’m holding off on putting the Bengals back in the top 10 just yet, but a win over Buffalo this upcoming Sunday would confirm that the cardiac cats have rebounded once more.
10. Buffalo Bills (5-3; Previous Ranking: 9)
In the entire NFL, I don’t think you’ll find a more mercurial team than Buffalo. They have dominant wins over Washington, Las Vegas, and even Miami, but they have lost to the Jets and Patriots while barely beating the Giants and Buccaneers. Talent is not a question, except maybe a bit on defense due to injuries. Josh Allen‘s turnover problem reminds me of his rookie year, and that is certainly playing a role. The locked in version of Allen can compete with anyone, and he leads the league in completion % and has 17 TD passes. His other self, the one with inexplicable decisions and costly mistakes, can ruin the Bills’ Super Bowl hopes.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2; Previous Ranking: 13)
A 1-2 start, with a poor offensive showing against the Chiefs and a blowout loss to the Texans, looked to be a bad sign. Then, I remembered that Houston always beats Jacksonville on the road for some reason. It’s just one of those things that no one can explain. The Jaguars have since rattled off 5 straight wins, but encouragingly, they’ve done so without playing their best. Jacksonville is still figuring some things out, such as their red zone turnover issue and lack of a pass rush. Nonetheless, they seem to be in the upper echelon of the AFC, and they could cement their place by fine-tuning their operation.
8. Detroit Lions (6-2; Previous Ranking: 8)
It was unclear how Detroit would react after being declared NFC North favorites. All the Lions have done is deliver on that hype. Offensively, we expected Detroit to excel. QB Jared Goff is comfortable behind an elite line, but the contributors have been surprising. RB David Montgomery and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, though playing well, have dealt with injuries. In their place, WR Josh Reynolds and rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs have starred. defense better than expected. The defense has been better than anticipated as well. The Ravens game remains a head-scratcher, but I suppose every team is entitled to 1 clunker.
7. Dallas Cowboys (5-2; Previous Ranking: 6)
We’ve learned that Dallas still cannot compete with Arizona (another one of those weird unexplainable things) or San Francisco (that makes more sense), but they can beat anyone else. In fact, other than the Chargers, every opponent Dallas has defeated was blown out. The Micah Parsons-led defense is excellent, but a season-ending injury to CB Trevon Diggs really stings. DaRon Bland has done his best Diggs impression with 3 pick sixes. QB Dak Prescott still concerns me sometimes with his errant passes, and the running game has struggled. However, this is still a team with a very high floor…but perhaps not the highest ceiling.
6. Seattle Seahawks (5-2; Previous Ranking: 17)
The drop I expected from Seattle never came. The defense, with a new Legion of Boom led by CBs Tariq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon and safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, took a major leap, especially against the run. Run defense was the Achilles heel of this team last season. Now, it’s the offense that isn’t quite as good as it was last year. QB Geno Smith has been a bit less careful with the football, and it cost him against Cincinnati before almost doing so again against Cleveland. The offense can afford to be slightly less effective when the defense is excelling: it’s the Seahawks who lead the NFC West after 8 weeks.
5. San Francisco 49ers (5-3; Previous Ranking: 2)
What happened to San Francisco’s 5-0 start? That’s what coach Kyle Shanahan is probably wondering as well now that his team has shockingly lost 3 straight games. For starters, injuries are mounting. Both WR Deebo Samuel and LT Trent Williams have missed time. As a result, QB Brock Purdy is struggling mightily. The player who hadn’t thrown an INT for 5 weeks has now thrown 5 in the last 3 games. To make matters worse, the secondary has held the defense back, especially when the pass rush falters. I still believe in the 49ers, even more so with the arrival of DE Chase Young. They’ll figure this out; they’re too good not to.
4. Miami Dolphins (6-2; Previous Ranking: 7)
When you have the #1 offense in the league, you’re probably going to be ranked in the top 5 in spite of other blemishes. Newly bulked QB Tua Tagovailoa has stayed healthy, and his play is as good as it was during last year’s great start. He has great weapons; beyond the epic Tyreek Hill, WR Jaylen Waddle and RBs Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane have broken out. The defense making progress, but it started off surprisingly bad under new DC Vic Fangio. They’re getting healthier with CB Jalen Ramsey back and LT Terron Armstead returning soon. Can they now beat the top teams? We’ll learn a lot in this week’s KC game.
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2; Previous Ranking: 12)
I didn’t plan to move Baltimore all the way up to #3. However, the Detroit game was an eye-opener. The Ravens dominated a fellow contender in all 3 phases of the game, making it clear how much the team has progressed this season. New OC Todd Monken is having a great effect, as QB Lamar Jackson is having his best season ever as a passer. Rookie WR Zay Flowers is as shifty as we thought, and he’s been a welcome target. With slightly better injury luck, the defense is back to its normal strong self. Of course, K Justin Tucker is a legend. This is a complete team that should be playoff-bound…but can they win once they get there?
2. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1; Previous Ranking: 4)
I have no choice but to move the Eagles up if the officials are going to let them play 12 vs. 11 every week. Although they have the best record in the NFL, that doesn’t make them the best team. QB Jalen Hurts has an alarming number of turnovers, and the defense has underperformed. Philly finds different ways to win with their stellar defensive and offensive lines. Some tactics involve RB D’Andre Swift, a great trade addition this year, while others rely on WR AJ Brown, an incredible trade acquisition from 2022. All of these methods involve the tush push. And until that play is banned, the Eagles may be the class of the NFC.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2; Previous Ranking: 1)
Had I done these rankings a few weeks ago, I likely wouldn’t have kept KC at #1. The offense was surprisingly average, coming well short of the juggernaut we’ve known since Patrick Mahomes became the starting QB. That was especially true this week in Denver, but I’m not penalizing KC for that game. Mahomes had the flu, and it CLEARLY affected him. I trust the offense to figure things out (they had started to before the flu). Surprisingly, it’s the defense that has me excited. This is the most balanced Chiefs team Andy Reid has ever possessed. If you give Mahomes a larger margin for error, the Chiefs will be truly dangerous.