Many publications have already posted their post-draft power rankings. I decided to wait to see if any teams signed more notable free agents after they learned what holes they still needed to fill. Well…pretty much nothing came of that. Sorry. But we’re here now! I won’t have “previous rankings” listed because these are my first 2023 NFL power rankings. Last year’s record will be stated for reference though. Teams with more than 17 games have their playoff results included, and I also state how far they advanced in the postseason. Don’t be alarmed if your team is ranked very differently than you expect. Plenty will change as we move ahead!
32. Arizona Cardinals (4-13)
JJ Watt: retired. AJ Green: retired. Kyler Murray: injured. Byron Murphy: in Minnesota. Kliff Kingsbury: fired. Steve Keim: “resigned” (really fired). That sort of turnover should give you an indication of where this team is at the moment. I can’t identify anything that this team does particularly well right now. Perhaps that’s by design. Especially now that DeAndre Hopkins has been released, this team will be tanking for next year. Murray will have the second half of the year to prove himself because next year’s QBs are much better. Arizona might also have two top-10 picks in that superior draft class because…
31. Houston Texans (3-13-1)
…this team traded Arizona their 2024 1st-rounder! Granted, Will Anderson was likely worth it. This team simply had too many holes to fill in one offseason. They took a swing at CJ Stroud as their franchise QB, but this ranking lets you know that I’m not particularly optimistic. Houston has reason to be excited about their future though. If you like Stroud, you can easily sell yourself on a vision of him, Anderson, and new HC DeMeco Ryans forming a nucleus to build around. The offensive line is even well-crafted. The rest of the roster just needs some more time. Let this season be about growing for 2024 and you won’t be disappointed.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-10; L Wild Card Round)
Tom Brady isn’t coming out of retirement to save them this time. The legendary QB masked the Bucs’ many flaws. Their offensive line took a major step backward in 2022, and Baker Mayfield won’t deal with that nearly as well as Brady. Guys like Leonard Fournette couldn’t run the ball because of the poor blocking, and the receivers were uncharacteristically pedestrian. I have faith in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to bounce back; I don’t trust Todd Bowles and the coaching staff to make that matter. The secondary is in tatters, and even the strong front 7 can’t bail them out. It’s back to the abyss for Tampa.
29. Indianapolis Colts (4-12-1)
Like their AFC South brethren, Indianapolis is unlikely to be competitive just yet. QB Anthony Richardson has loads of upside, but he needs a deliberate development process. Owner Jim Irsay thought this was a team that was a QB away from winning. They were wrong. The offensive line outside of Quenton Nelson regressed, nobody really emerged in the WR room, Jonathan Taylor had no room to run and the defense disappointed. I anticipate the defense bouncing back, and Taylor is too talented to struggle again. The Colts are just a mediocre team that should focus on making Richardson a star. That would give fans reason to smile.
28. Green Bay Packers (8-9)
Honestly, Green Bay is only this high because they play in the NFC. Without Aaron Rodgers, I think things are about to crumble. An elite QB masks a lot of problems, and the Packers are filled with them. Special teams issues continue to plague them, the defense has been lackluster aside from Jaire Alexander, and the offense is poised to be horrendous. Robert Tonyan, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Rodgers are all gone. The team one again threw 2nd- and 3rd-day picks at the problem, but Jordan Love isn’t Rodgers. He and HC Matt LaFleur have shown me no reason to believe in this team without their hall of fame signal caller.
27. Chicago Bears (3-14)
This ranking will either look perfect or woefully low depending on where you come down on Justin Fields. I personally think he’s a star as a runner but not a franchise QB as a passer. The NFC North got easier this offseason, but Chicago can only be as good as their QB takes them. For once, they may make it out of the cellar as the Packers fell apart. Darnell Wright and DJ Moore will help the offense, and the team spent big money in free agency to help the defense. On paper, they SHOULD take a step forward. If Fields can’t grow as a passer though, the rest doesn’t matter.
26. Atlanta Falcons (7-10)
Atlanta ruined their chances of rising in these rankings when they selected Bijan Robinson at #8 overall. As great as he is, RB wasn’t a need, and he can’t elevate the rest of this moribund roster. Desmond Ridder looks like a backup to me, and despite the resources spent on defense, only the secondary looks truly formidable. The Falcons can probably squeeze out some intradivisional wins by running the ball, but if they ever get into a shootout, they’re in trouble. Maybe they also weren’t crazy about this year’s QB class and want to see what 2024 brings.
25. Tennessee Titans (7-10)
A promising start last season gave way to an epic collapse and major change. GM Jon Robinson was fired, and the team gutted their offensive line. Mike Vrabel has proven to be a stellar coach, but even he’ll have a problem winning with this group. Some have Tennessee as low as 31st. I seem to have more faith in Ryan Tannehill; when healthy, him remaining slightly above average is much better than what Malik Willis and Josh Dobbs provided. The Titans appear to be half-heartedly rebuilding, and that process should take full effect next season as the contracts of Tannehill and Derrick Henry expire.
24. New England Patriots (8-9)
Once again, I bumped a team up a few spots, but this time it’s out of deference to a legend. Bill Belichick is a mastermind, but that appears to manifest itself mostly on defense. The offense might be too broken for new OC Bill O’Brien to fix. Mac Jones looked dreadful last season, and we could end up seeing more Bailey Zappe. WR still hasn’t been properly addressed, nor has the offensive line. With 3 other juggernauts in the AFC East, New England is staring at their first last-place finish since before divisional realignment took place. Based on their recent drafting, they might be stuck there for a bit too.
23. Carolina Panthers (7-10)
Spending the #1 overall draft pick doesn’t instantly get you out of the depths of these rankings. Bryce Young has plenty of work to do just to show me that he’s a significant upgrade over Sam Darnold, let alone a franchise savior. This team returns a strong defense that kept them competitive last season, but they inexplicably let D’Onta Foreman walk after he carried their rushing offense. Trading DJ Moore (along with a pile of picks) in the move to #1 also hurts badly. I can’t even tell you that Frank Reich is an upgrade over Steve Wilks. The Panthers’ floor looks decent, but their 2023 ceiling doesn’t inspire me, even in the NFC South.
22. Las Vegas Raiders (6-11)
The Raiders are unfortunately stuck in a brutal division that happens to possess the reigning Super Bowl champs. Their own mediocrity merely adds to the frustration. I like Jimmy Garoppolo, but this feels like a lateral move from Derek Carr. Darren Waller got traded, but the skill positions seem fine. Despite drafting a nice edge rusher in Tyree Wilson, that wasn’t their position of need. Is the secondary ANY better than last year’s train wreck? How about the coaching? Josh McDaniels looks to be building another failed Patriot Outpost after the team made the playoffs under interim HC Rich Bisaccia. The talent saves LV from a lower ranking.
21. Washington Commanders (8-8-1)
Another team hurt by the division in which they play, Washington finished last in the NFC East despite a .500 record. They might face the same fate in 2023. I actually like Sam Howell, and he was my top-ranked QB in the 2022 draft. His offensive line is poor though, the team doesn’t have a TE, and RB room is a bunch of plodding power backs. On defensive, things look better. The defensive line should be among the league’s best, and 1st-round rookie Emmanuel Forbes can’t help but improve the secondary. I’m still worried about the back end (thus the 21 ranking), but this team will be competitive in most games and maybe even win some.
20. New York Giants (10-8; L Divisional Round)
I don’t think there’s much at all separating the Commanders and Giants. Both teams have underrated defenses, but New York has more stability on offense with Brian Daboll in charge. I hesitate to believe that Daniel Jones will be as good as he was last year despite the upgraded pass catching group. Saquon Barkley is always an injury risk as well. So why are the G-Men higher? There’s more to trust here. Washington is mostly unproven, whereas the Giants are coming off a playoff berth. This team won’t stay at #20; they’ll either ascend to new heights or come crashing down to Earth. Only time will tell which path they take.
19. Los Angeles Rams (5-12)
Some might not understand why the Rams made it to 19 after their awful depth was exposed last year. I’d argue that it would be nearly impossible for LA to have such poor injury luck for a second straight season. This team was always designed to be top-heavy; it would struggle with a few injuries, much less IR stints from half the roster. With their star players though, they’re dangerous. Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald alone make this team better for 2023 after injury-plagued 2022 campaigns. They won’t return to 2021 form with all the talent lost for salary cap reasons, but they’re much better than a bottom-5 team.
18. Cleveland Browns (7-10)
I’d much rather be caught ranking the Browns too low than too high. Trusting in this team has historically led to nothing but disappointment. Last year’s roster should have been great, but they underperformed. I’m not talking about Deshaun Watson; we knew he’d be rusty after his long layoff. The defense’s propensity to blow leads and hemorrhage passing yards was disturbing for a team with Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome at CB. Watson will be the one who determines where this team goes though; if he’s back to 2019-2020 form, the Browns are scary. Otherwise they’re the worst team in the AFC North.
17. Denver Broncos (5-12)
Until I see just how much Sean Payton’s hiring impacts Russell Wilson, it would be irresponsible to rank Denver any higher than this. I learned my lesson from last season. That said, I love what Denver did this offseason. They added several offensive linemen, upgraded from Dre’Mont Jones to Zach Allen, and as mentioned, really upgraded the coaching staff. Wilson is out of excuses; if he doesn’t perform this year, his trade will go down as one of the worst ever. I anticipate him being better this season almost by default. If you asked me whether he’ll bounce back to his previous Pro Bowl level, I’d tentatively guess no.
16. Seattle Seahawks (9-9; L Wild Card Round)
Seattle showed us a small glimpse of them regressing to the mean toward the end of last season. That shocking run by Geno Smith to start the year faded a bit, and the struggling defense couldn’t keep up. I still think this is a good team but perhaps more average than a great one. Kenneth Walker should be great, as should the receivers. I think Smith will settle at an above-average level, which is good enough to make a postseason chase. Seattle still can’t defend the run though, and that issue might keep them from reaching loftier heights. I believe that they’re still significantly behind SF in the NFC West.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8)
Placing Pittsburgh near the middle seems fair. No matter what this team looks like on paper, Mike Tomlin will undoubtedly extract a 9-8 record and a playoff berth or near miss from his team. I’m not as high on Kenny Pickett as people in Pittsburgh are, but he’s clearly better than Mitch Trubisky and at least has a solid floor. Broderick Jones, the team’s rookie 1st-rounder, will be key to this team. I trust the defense, particularly when TJ Watt is healthy. I also love Najee Harris. But if the line is as bad as it was last year, the Steelers will be sitting home during the playoffs. Jones can make or break this squad.
14. New Orleans Saints (7-10)
The best of the worst in the dreadful NFC South, the Saints made a strong jump by acquiring Derek Carr. He’s a major upgrade over Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton despite what some Raiders fans want you to think. An aging defense may regress slightly, but I still like the players at all 3 levels. Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, and Marshon Lattimore are all studs. Alvin Kamara’s legal troubles worry me, but rookie Kendre Miller alleviates that concern. QB play is what held NO back last year. I think they can cruise to an NFC South title, but asking this group to go a whole lot further may be pushing it.
13. Minnesota Vikings (13-5; L Wild Card Round)
Minnesota is the top example of expected regression to the mean in 2023. The Vikings were unfathomably good in 1-score games, losing just one all year: their lone playoff matchup. As usual, the culprit is on defense; specifically, the secondary is garbage. Byron Murphy helps, but he’s just one guy. Trading Za’Darius Smith also hurts the pass rush. Dalvin Cook could be traded too, but I’m not worried about the offense. I’m a fan of Kirk Cousins, who is a quality QB with an increasingly reasonable contract. The Vikings simply aren’t likely to win as many of their coin-toss shootouts, which will lead to a worse record despite similar play.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (10-8; L Wild Card Round)
I’m duty-bound to rank the Bolts lower than their talent suggests they belong. As long as Brandon Staley is the coach and this team is still the Chargers, something will go wrong to prevent them from making a deep playoff run. I don’t believe LAC upgraded their starting lineup except in 3 WR sets, where Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Quentin Johnston will form one of the most fearsome trios in the league. The secondary is still vulnerable, as is the right tackle position. Justin Herbert will keep this team afloat, but there’s pressure here to go further than a blown 27-0 lead in the wild card round.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-9; L Divisional Round)
As Trevor Lawrence goes, so do the Jaguars. Jacksonville is highly likely to win another AFC South title because the rest of the division is so bad. A lot of this ranking is about the QB, because the rest of the lineup is about the same or slightly worse than it was last season. Calvin Ridley should help the offense be more explosive, but I see no reason to believe that the secondary will be any less of a sieve. Lawrence might be able to win some shootouts, but I don’t think this is a Super Bowl contender.
10. Baltimore Ravens (10-8; L Wild Card Round)
Here we have a team that is on the rebound, but Baltimore remains a cut below the AFC heavyweights. They play Cincy well because of their familiarity as divisional foes, but their easy schedule was primarily responsible for last year’s playoff berth. Trusting Lamar Jackson to stay healthy at this point is a dangerous proposition, but the offense should be wildly improved with Odell Beckham Jr and Zay Flowers catching passes. I’m fond of the defense, which should be even better with better injury luck. The Ravens are certainly playoff-worthy, but again, I don’t see a bona fide contender.
9. Detroit Lions (9-8)
Analysts have taken notice of Detroit, but I may be ranking the Lions even higher than most. Dan Campbell’s grit squad went on a torrid streak close out 2022, losing just 2 of their final 10 games after a 1-6 start. I criticized their draft because of value, not the players they chose; Jack Campbell and Jahymr Gibbs should contribute right away in big roles. The offense was spectacular when Jared Goff was afforded protection, which should be often with Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell around. For the first time in ages, the Lions are your favorites to win the NFC North. Expectations have officially arrived in the Motor City.
8. Dallas Cowboys (13-6; L Divisional Round)
Dak Prescott is a very good quarterback. He’s a great leader, and he makes several stellar throws a game. Can he cut back on the picks though? His giveaways single-handedly sunk Dallas in last year’s playoffs after they merely made games uncomfortable during the regular season. He led the league in INTs, which was puzzling given his prior ball security. Dan Quinn’s defense should be a force once again, and now they’ve got a strong run stuffer in Mazi Smith. Tony Pollard should be better than the current version of Ezekiel Elliott, meaning that the fate of the Cowboys once again rests on Prescott’s shoulders.
7. New York Jets (7-10)
Have you heard that the Jets got Aaron Rodgers? That’s really all you need to know here. His thumb injury was likely his issue last year, and he should be back to his normal self in 2023. If you want a bit more, the defense almost single-handedly carried NYJ to the playoffs last season. Even a mediocre QB might have earned a wild card spot. Rodgers is well above that standard and should make the team instant contenders. Breece Hall returning is nice too. But I’m sorry, nothing matters but Rodgers. If he’s back, the Jets are back. New York can’t wait to find out.
6. Buffalo Bills (14-4; L Divisional Round)
Ranking the Bills as the 2nd-best AFC East team may raise some eyebrows, but hear me out. This team faded down the stretch last year in spite of their emotional drive due to Damar Hamlin’s situation. Side note: he’s actually back practicing, and I can’t be happier for him. Buffalo put too much on Josh Allen’s shoulders, and his former inaccuracy crept back in. Losing Tremaine Edmunds hurts the defense, but adding Dalton Kincaid helps Allen. The Bills seem to be treading water right now. That makes them a really good team and a legitimate threat to win it all, but they risk seeing their rivals pass them by.
5. Miami Dolphins (9-9; L Wild Card Round)
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a Tua believer. When healthy last season, he was arguably the league’s best QB and certainly the most accurate one. Health is the big question mark though, and the team didn’t beef up its offensive line. I’m going to say here in May that maybe Tagovailoa’s concussion issues were fluky last year. On defense, Jalen Ramsey and, even more importantly, new DC Vic Fangio will massively upgrade the defense. Ramsey upgrades the oft-injured Byron Jones and reshapes the secondary. Fangio’s schemes will make the unit more consistent and unleash Bradley Chubb. The Dolphins are for real, and it’s Tua Time.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (16-4; L Super Bowl)
Yes; I’m aware that this was the NFC’s Super Bowl representative. I also continue to be impressed by Howie Roseman. His drafting and trading are envied by his peers, and he somehow kept the majority of his free agents around. However, Jalen Hurts’ new contract cost the Eagles Isaac Seumalo, Javon Hargrave, Miles Sanders and CJ Gardner-Johnson. Those first two in particular aren’t easily replace. I still consider Philly a threat, and they’re the favorites to win the NFC East again. However, Dallas isn’t as far behind them as people might think.
3. San Francisco 49ers (14-5; L Conference Championship)
It’s amazing to think that a year ago, Trey Lance was the unquestioned starter who had been acquired with 3 first-round picks. Now, the starting QB job is Brock Purdy’s to lose. I feel as though the only way he can lose it is if his reconstructed elbow isn’t ready. He has shown us so much more than Trey Lance in their respective careers. I wouldn’t have essentially swapped Mike McGlinchey for Javon Hargrave in free agency, but adding the latter hurt Philly, which is a bonus. Kyle Shanahan’s schemes and the smothering SF defense assure this team a high floor, but at their best, they’re the team to beat in the NFC.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (14-5; L Conference Championship)
Did Orlando Brown’s signing just put the Bengals over the top? It’s fair to argue that the Bengals would have beaten the Chiefs with a healthy La’el Collins and a competent LT. Brown certainly qualifies as a good LT, and former starter Jonah Williams can provide depth for Collins on the right side (he has requested a trade though). Chidobe Awuzie (ACL) was sorely missed down the stretch as well, as this team’s other weakness is CB whenever Eli Apple plays. Beyond that, I don’t see any real holes on this roster, and Joe Burrow can carry the Bengals far. Maybe even the Super Bowl.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (17-3; W Super Bowl)
I typically rank the defending Super Bowl champs in the #1 slot when I do the following season’s first list. That burned me pretty badly last year with the Rams, but I luckily stipulated that they were #1 “if Stafford’s elbow injury was truly nothing”. Clearly, his elbow was very much something. But I digress. KC lost some key talent. Most notably, Orlando Brown Jr and Andrew Wylie won’t be protecting Patrick Mahomes anymore, and I don’t think Jawaan Taylor is an equivalent player. What they DO have is Mahomes and Andy Reid. That keeps the Chiefs as favorites for now, as those two almost surely equal a guaranteed playoff spot.