NFL Power Rankings: Injuries and absence cloud Buccaneers stock while other top teams remain healthy

With the return of the NFL upon us and the preseason in full swing, let's dive into our latest NFL Power Rankings to see how the 32 teams stack up.

NFL Power Rankings: Injuries and absence cloud Buccaneers stock while other top teams remain healthy

Football is officially back, and with it comes the NFL Power Rankings! The games don’t matter in the win-loss columns yet, but they matter to the hundreds of players trying to make the 53-man roster come cutdown day. Although outcomes on the field won’t hold much weight in the power rankings, injuries can make a huge impact on teams vying for superiority in their division and conference.

We’ve already seen Ryan Jensen go down for the season. News surrounding Matthew Stafford’s elbow is worrisome. But how does this shake up the power rankings?

NFL Power Rankings: Tier 4 | Rebuilding teams

Don’t expect playoff pushes from any of the teams in Tier 4. However, some of them are improving, while others are stuck in a rut of mediocrity.

32) Chicago Bears

It is with great sadness that Chicago lands at the very end of the NFL Power Rankings. Justin Fields is a talented passer who’s improving his craft, but the pieces around him will make finding consistent success a near impossibility.

New GM Ryan Poles tried helping the young QB out by adding Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Velus Jones to the receiving corps this offseason. However, none of it matters if the Bears cannot protect Fields long enough to let him sling it to the intermediate levels of the field, where he thrives as a passer.

Add in Roquan Smith’s trade request, and we’re looking at a defense that has a lack of talent as great as their offense if he’s moved.

31) Atlanta Falcons

It will be fascinating to see what kind of resurrection we see from Marcus Mariota with Arthur Smith calling the shots on offense. Smith was a massive proponent of Ryan Tannehill’s career resurgence, and he now has the weapons to attack through a creative repertoire of play-action passes that stress defenders and open up the middle of the field for his QB.

But overall, this is still arguably the worst roster in the league, thanks to some severe mismanagement of the last regime. Nevertheless, the hope has to be that A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward Jr. can elevate the passing defense in the Falcons’ zone-heavy coverage scheme.

30) Houston Texans

It’s tough to see the potential upside with the Houston Texans and their very young defense, but there’s a chance they struck some gold with their 2022 NFL Draft class.

Dameon Pierce has been one of the bigger storylines of training camp throughout the league as a fourth-round pick. Derek Stingley Jr. was one of the best players in the class and has CB1 (in the whole league) potential. Safety Jalen Pitre was a steal in Round 2 with his ability to wear multiple hats in the secondary, and Christian Harris is the modern athletic mold of a linebacker.

If they get a little more development from Davis Mills as a playmaker down the field, the Texans could surprise some teams throughout the season, just as they did a year ago.

29) New York Giants

In Brian Daboll, we trust. In Brian Daboll, we MUST trust. It’s impossible to know what kind of development we’ll see from Daniel Jones in his final contractual year with the Giants. But Joe Schoen did his best in free agency and the NFL draft to make sure Jones is more comfortable than ever behind his offensive line — which Dave Gettleman consistently fumbled as Giants general manager.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants’ defense performs going from Patrick Graham to Wink Martindale. Martindale is as aggressive as they come, but he doesn’t have the secondary he had in Baltimore. Aaron Robinson had a rough outing in his first preseason contest. There must be a steep improvement, or this Giants defense could give up a ton of splash plays in the passing attack, a la the Ravens vs. Bengals from 2021.

28) Detroit Lions

“Hard Knocks” is in Detroit, and we are all more entertained because of it. The Lions are a fun, intense football team that simply lacks the foundation to win a bunch of games, so they remain low in the NFL Power Rankings.

That said, we know we’ll see them absolutely battle their tails off for their second-year head coach. They lost five one-score games last season and kept more contests closer than they should have with the worst roster in football.

Now they’ve paired some weapons with an already strong offensive line. They get some health back in the secondary to pair with a talented defensive line and are just a franchise quarterback away from being relevant again.

27) New York Jets

The New York Jets are a bit of a wild card. They lost Mekhi Becton for the season, but George Fant and Duane Brown probably make for a better duo immediately. They have an above-average group of offensive weapons in Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Garrett Wilson, and they signed C.J. Uzomah in free agency to give them a tight end threat. They also have a dynamic duo in the backfield of Michael Carter and Breece Hall.

The offensive question comes down to their second-year QB, who struggled mightily as a rookie and is out for a few weeks after needlessly trying to gain extra yards on the ground in a preseason game.

The Jets were atrocious against the pass last season, but they’ve added D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner to the mix at cornerback and Jordan Whitehead at safety. They also boast Jermaine Johnson and Carl Lawson as pass rushers, which should help facilitate success in the passing game as well.

26) Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars were big spenders during free agency. But their most significant addition was swapping out Urban Meyer for Doug Pederson, particularly as it pertains to locker room culture and the development of their young QB, Trevor Lawrence.

Jacksonville is still firmly in a rebuilding phase, but their stock is rising. They added receiving help, revamped the offensive line on the interior, and added a slew of talented defenders through free agency and the draft.

25) Seattle Seahawks

The quarterback battle between Drew Lock and Geno Smith is officially on. Smith started the first preseason game against Pittsburgh, while Lock drew second-half duties. Aside from the two touchdowns Lock threw, their individual stat lines looked like the spiderman meme.

Neither quarterback is a world-beater, and that will reflect in the Seahawks’ record at the end of the season. However, their only massive weakness on the roster outside of quarterback is at cornerback.

NFL Power Rankings: Tier 3 | Fringe playoff rosters

It’s not impossible for any of the four teams in Tier 3 to make the playoffs. Yet, a lot has to go right for each franchise to get there.

24) Washington Commanders

The Commanders are full of potential. They have talent in the secondary and boast one of the best defensive fronts in the league based on pure talent. The offensive line outperformed expectations in 2021 and should be solid again in 2022. Terry McLaurin is one of the most underrated receivers in the game, and Washington added Jahan Dotson to the mix in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

However, there is a slew of off-field distractions associated with the franchise and its owner, Dan Snyder. Their defensive coordinator had to delete his Twitter account after statements made during the summer, and they just fired their defensive line coach during training camp.

There’s never a dull moment with this franchise, and that’s a motto taken to heart by their QB as well. He’s a heart attack waiting to happen for fans. The coaching staff will hope to find 2017 Carson Wentz in there somewhere, but Frank Reich wasn’t able to with a better Colts roster.

23) Carolina Panthers

If Baker Mayfield is healthy with everything to prove and improved mechanics, this could be a sneakily-dangerous football team. The Panthers’ defense is young and incredibly talented from top to bottom. Despite their youth in 2021, they boasted a top-10 defense in EPA per play, even after losing first-round pick Jaycee Horn.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see them skyrocket in the first few weeks of the NFL Power Rankings if they can surprise us with three or four wins in their first five games.

22) Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers should probably be lower on the list, but Mike Tomlin is still their head coach, and the man has a 16-year track record of not having losing seasons. So, this is as low as they’ll drop until they start losing games hand over fist.

The quarterback position is a mystery right now. Reports from camp are that Mason Rudolph has been impressive, while Mitch Trubisky has been less so. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh product Kenny Pickett is out here in preseason duty, excelling against reserves. The offensive line is still a question mark, as is their secondary.

21) New England Patriots

When Jalen Mills and Terrance Mitchell are the two veteran outside cornerbacks on the roster, it’s difficult to feel good about the passing defense. As with the Steelers, the Patriots’ ranking has more to do with respect for Bill Belichick and less to do with his … questionable … roster-building.

But that’s not the only concerning thing Belichick has done this offseason. Matt Patricia, yes, that Matt Patricia, will be the team’s offensive coordinator in 2022. That is a minor departure from Josh McDaniel. However, Mac Jones looked good as a rookie, the offensive line should remain solid, and this is still the New England Patriots. They never march to the beat of the drum.

NFL Power Rankings: Tier 2 | Playoff contenders

Three teams were added to the mix here in Tier 2, specifically because by the definition of “contender” in Merriam-Webster, each probably fits into the battle for their respective Wild Card berths.

20) Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings drop below the Saints for now because the Saints have higher upside with Jameis Winston healthy for an entire season, and the temporary hit to Tampa Bay breeds a bit of doubt into their playoff contention, let alone the Super Bowl.

Justin Jefferson is amazing, and Adam Thielen is still a very solid second option in an offense. The problem with Minnesota remains their offensive line. Christian Darrisaw should provide relief at left tackle, but their interior is still a question, simply because they aren’t an incredibly powerful run-blocking group.

But the hope is Kevin O’Connell and Wes Phillips can reinvent the rushing attack and get it back to 2020 efficiency numbers.

19) New Orleans Saints

New Orleans’ roster is still very good. The issue is that their quarterback can’t seem to stay healthy. Winston is coming off another ACL tear and has already injured his foot during training camp. He avoided major injury for now, but the “hurt guys stay hurt” mantra is a terrifying prospect for Saints fans.

Their defense should once again battle for top-five supremacy. If Winston could prove his health, this team would be multiple spots higher in the NFL Power Rankings. The defense added two intelligent and versatile safeties to the mix and still boasts one of the most physical defensive fronts in the league.

18) Cleveland Browns

Deshaun Watson will miss at least the first six games of the season in Cleveland, and it’s likely to be more with the NFL pushing for a season-long ban from judge Peter C. Harvey. Cleveland’s roster is still a contender with Jacoby Brissett or possibly Jimmy Garoppolo, but the upside they would have with Watson is lost without him.

Still, there is a lot to be excited about. Myles Garrett is a top-five player in the NFL, and the Browns have a slew of incredibly talented members in the secondary. If Greg Newsome and Denzel Ward can remain healthy together, they could be the best cornerback duo in the NFL.

17) Miami Dolphins

Thinking about a passing attack that brings Tua Tagovailoa back to his time in Alabama with horizontal concepts that allow his receivers to make plays after the catch is a drool-inducing prospect. While it could have been miscommunications on the side of Tampa Bay, McDaniel’s offense sure had a bunch of receivers running naked against coverage on Saturday.

Miami already had a decent defense in 2021. If the offense comes around in 2022, they should have no problem securing second place in the AFC East while competing in an incredibly talented conference for a playoff berth.

16) Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals outperformed a middling roster in 2021, but the roster hasn’t necessarily improved, and they’re a bit unserious as a franchise overall. The Kyler Murray contract debacle comes to mind. Then, on Friday night, Murray called plays in the fourth quarter of the preseason game. That in and of itself is kind of cool.

But it happened because of his attitude toward Kliff Kingsbury’s play-calling at times. Kingsbury wanted to show him that, “hey, this s— ain’t easy.”

The Cardinals have improved in every season under Kingsbury, but they have a disjointed roster that could implode at a moment’s notice.

15) Tennessee Titans

Treylon Burks’ struggles with the Titans’ offense are concerning, given Tennessee already lacked high-end receiving weapons after trading A.J. Brown. Fifth-round pick Kyle Philips has thoroughly outplayed the first-round rookie, according to reports from camp.

But if there is any team in the NFL who won’t be relying on the abilities of their receiving corps first and foremost, it’s the Titans. They play an old-school, run-first style, and if their defense can get pressure the way they did last season while seeing good play in the secondary, they should still grind their way to enough wins to compete in the AFC South.

14) Indianapolis Colts

The Colts fumbled the bag late in the season, missing the playoffs after having a 97% chance to play extra games with just two weeks left. Matt Ryan is an upgrade at quarterback over Carson Wentz, and Jonathan Taylor is still the best running back in the NFL.

If Stephon Gilmore remains healthy, the Colts should be in good shape to improve on what was a below-average passing defense in 2021. They have the playmakers and cornerbacks to make Gus Bradley’s middle-of-field-closed scheme work.

13) Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia will go as far as Jalen Hurts can take them in the passing game. They have one of the most well-rounded rosters in the NFL, boasting a fearsome offensive line with multiple solid receiving options.

Defensively, they added the Georgia duo of Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, and James Bradberry and Jaquiski Tartt should both provide value to the secondary. They still have Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave to terrorize the defensive interior, and Milton Williams is an athletic phenom at defensive tackle as well.

12) San Francisco 49ers

Maybe it’s an overreaction, but the reports of Trey Lance’s struggles are a bit concerning, even for his biggest supporters. The 49ers’ ceiling is Super Bowl contention if he can bring more than Jimmy Garoppolo. But that is far from guaranteed for the young quarterback who has played in 19 games since his senior year of high school.

The pass rush is unbelievable, and their secondary should be improved this season. We know Kyle Shanahan can coach offensive football. But in a quarterback-driven league, they need theirs to perform.

11) Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas hired a new head coach and a defensive coordinator that will run a defense derived from this century. They threw resources at massive names like Chandler Jones and Davante Adams. And the trade for Rock Ya-Sin was an underrated and necessary move to try and bring life to a lifeless secondary.

In 2022, the AFC West is the most anticipated divisional battle in recent memory, with all four teams vying for not just the playoffs but a division title. The Raiders’ offensive line will have to be sufficient, but Josh McDaniels knows how to get the ball out of his quarterback’s hand quickly.

10) Denver Broncos

How good is Russell Wilson still, and can the Broncos’ offensive line live up to expectations? Patrick Surtain will cement himself as a top-five cornerback this season, and the addition of K’Waun Williams and the subtraction of Kyle Fuller should help with the passing defense’s consistency.

But just like with the Raiders, we should head into the season with a bit of caution when it comes to the Broncos with a first-time head coach. And while Vic Fangio may not have been head coaching material, he’s one of the best defensive minds in the NFL. Losing him is a lot to overcome for this defense.

9) Dallas Cowboys

Dallas didn’t get off to a good start in the preseason with 17 penalties after leading the league in penalties last season. However, most of their starters didn’t play, so it’s tough to destroy them for their lack of discipline.

Additionally, they’ll begin their season without Michael Gallup and James Washington, which will put a heavy burden on CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz in the meantime. But the most worrying thing about the Cowboys is their offensive line. They drafted Tyler Smith to play left guard, but Connor McGovern ran with the first team in Week 1 of the preseason. Also, Tyron Smith has already been banged up in training camp, and the Cowboys no longer have the luxury of a competent swing tackle.

But their defense is talented, and their schedule shouldn’t be too difficult, so the defensive production should stay similar to last season.

8) Los Angeles Rams

Until we see Matthew Stafford on the field slinging the pill around like nothing is wrong, the Rams’ entire season should have a caution sign on it. Stafford’s game revolves around his top-five NFL arm and the ability to attack throwing windows aggressively.

Elbow pain is terrifying for a quarterback. Even though Stafford is participating in training camp and downplaying the severity of his irritated throwing elbow, there’s a chance it could only take one throw to change everything, depending on what the injury actually is.

7) Baltimore Ravens

A healthy Baltimore Ravens team is one of the most dangerous in the NFL, but they have to get their first. Some of their most talented players are still unable to play, including Ronnie Stanley, Gus Edwards, and Marcus Peters.

The defensive side of the ball is incredibly intriguing. There will be a cultural shift from Wink Martindale to Mike Macdonald. They signed Marcus Williams, who will see the line of scrimmage from his pre-snap alignment for the first time in his career. But while there are questions about how the puzzle fits, the pieces are sharp.

6) Green Bay Packers

Wide receiver problems aside, this team has an abundance of talent. Green Bay has two good runners, the back-to-back league MVP, a strong offensive line that’s finally healthy, and a defense with elite talent at all three levels.

But like the Ravens, the Packers need to get healthy first. David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Christian Watson, Mason Crosby, and Robert Tonyan are still all unable to perform. Green Bay has been blessed a bit by other teams’ misfortunes, however. That is how they rose in the NFL Power Rankings.

5) Los Angeles Chargers

On paper, there might not be a more exciting roster in the NFL. But at the end of the day, this is still the Chargers, and we’ve been consistently duped by them over the past 20 years into blindly believing in them.

Justin Herbert might arguably be the best young quarterback in the NFL, and the Chargers’ front office made significant investments into improving the roster on defense. But it all has to come together in the regular season for Los Angeles.

NFL Power Rankings: Tier 1 | Super Bowl contenders

There is at least some concern about Tom Brady returning to the Buccaneers at all, but head coach Todd Bowles didn’t seem overly concerned when questioned about the future Hall of Famer’s absence.

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady is still part of the Buccaneers organization, so Tampa Bay is still the favorite in the NFC. They lost Ryan Jensen early for the season, but they’re still a roster with very few holes overall.

They have a solid secondary with one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL in Carlton Davis, and one of the best young safeties in the league in Antoine Winfield Jr. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin form a dynamic receiving duo, and they also added Russell Gage and Julio Jones to the mix just recently.

That, along with an impressive front seven on defense, is why they remain high in the NFL Power Rankings … for now.

3) Kansas City Chiefs

Until the Chiefs are no longer the best team in the AFC West, they will continue to be the best team in the AFC West. They need to prove they’ve fallen off a bit, but there is no current evidence of that being the case.

Losing Tyreek Hill is a massive loss, but Skyy Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mecole Hardman should be more than enough with the help of the most talented quarterback most of us have ever laid eyes on. Add in Travis Kelce, a really good offensive line, and Andy Reid, and it’ll take a monumental effort from the rest of the division to supplant them.

2) Cincinnati Bengals

While the Bengals’ Super Bowel run was a bit flukey last season, the expectations surrounding the team in 2022 are through the roof. They’ve improved their weaknesses on the offensive line and added high-end weapons to what was already a talented secondary.

Joe Burrow leads a receiving corps that from WR1-3 is the most dangerous trio in football, and he gets to turn around and hand the ball off to Joe Mixon, who is one of the most talented backs in the league.

The sky is the limit for this Bengals team in 2022.

1) Buffalo Bills

However, the sky might have a limit. And that limit is the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo had the best defense in the NFL last season without Tre’Davious White on the field. Then, they went out and added Von Miller to that defense. There’s a world where Buffalo is rushing Gregory Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, Boogie Basham, and Miller all at once. And that’s only if they want to take Ed Oliver off the field in that situation.

They also have two talented linebackers and the best safety tandem in the NFL. It’s one of the most loaded defenses in recent history.

Then there’s the offense with Josh Allen and a slew of weapons that includes Stefon Diggs. The only weakness is the rushing attack, but Allen can handle that himself if the Bills want to use him that way. Although, the addition of James Cook could help as well.

Anything can happen in the NFL, especially when one conference is as loaded as the AFC appears to be in 2022. But the Bills have one of the most impressive rosters in recent memory, and Allen is only getting better.

Dalton Miller is Pro Football Network’s Lead NFL Analyst. You can read all of Dalton’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @daltonbmiller.