The NFL schedule release is the last major event on the league’s offseason calendar. Sure, there are still workouts and minicamps, but now that the NFL has dropped its schedule for all 18 regular-season weeks, there’s not much left to do between now and training camp. And because teams have largely finalized their rosters through free agency and the draft, it’s a perfect time for our latest edition of NFL Power Rankings.
Every team is 0-0 on schedule release day, but the divide between the NFL’s elite squads and those at the tail end of our rankings will only widen as the season progresses. Here’s how the league stands as of mid-May.
Tier 5 | See You in 2024
Good news for the 49ers and Seahawks — the NFL’s two worst teams reside in the NFC West.
32) Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals don’t have much going for them at the moment. Kyler Murray will likely miss early season action as he recovers from a torn ACL, leaving backup Colt McCoy — also recovering from surgery — as the team’s starter. And Arizona has next-to-no building-block talent on the defensive side of the ball.
But things will get better. First-year general manager Monti Ossenfort was an excellent trader in his first draft and set the Cardinals up to dominate the 2024 NFL Draft. Owners of the Texans’ first-round pick, there’s a decent chance Arizona will have two top-five selections, and they’ll have a shot to end up with the first and second overall choices.
31) Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ defensive roster is nearly as suspect as the Cardinals’, but at least they have Aaron Donald. And while Arizona has more offensive weapons, Los Angeles claims Sean McVay, who is still one of the best offensive minds in the game.
Super Bowl trophies last forever, so it’s impossible to fault the Rams for the all-in strategy that helped them capture a Lombardi but has since left their roster devoid of impact players. L.A. has shifted to a rebuilding approach as quickly as they pushed all their chips in. Volume shooting in the draft resulted in a 14-man class, so youth will reign for the Rams.
Tier 4 | Not There Yet
We’ll probably find at least one surprise playoff team from this tier, but good luck identifying that club at this juncture.
30) Houston Texans
Now on their third head coach in three years, the Texans finally seem to be on the right path after landing franchise quarterback C.J. Stroud at No. 2 overall. If Will Anderson Jr. also hits, Houston might have found organizational stalwarts on both sides of the ball.
Still, the Texans probably have too many holes for them to take a step forward into playoff contention. If DeMeco Ryans can get the most out of Anderson, Derek Stingley Jr., Jalen Pitre, and the rest of Houston’s young defensive core, the Texans might surprise some people. But unless Stroud hits the ground running from Day 1, the club’s offense will likely hold them back.
29) Tennessee Titans
The Titans felt like a directionless franchise heading into the draft, but landing an immediate starter in offensive lineman Peter Skoronski and a lottery-ticket quarterback in Will Levis gives them a bit of hope. Although it’s become a fool’s errand to bet against Mike Vrabel, Tennessee needs help at too many positions to seriously contend, even if they end up holding onto Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, both of whom have been mentioned in trade rumors.
28) Indianapolis Colts
It feels like the Colts have one of the widest ranges of potential outcomes of any team in the NFL. If Anthony Richardson can immediately capitalize on his legendary athletic profile and deliver an Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign, Indianapolis has enough playmakers to compete for the AFC South title.
But given that Richardson has only 13 collegiate starts under his belt, it’s probably unfair to expect him to elevate the Colts’ roster into the playoffs. Instead, Shane Steichen will use this season to mold Richardson and develop Indianapolis’ offensive scheme. With a few defensive additions heading into 2024, the Colts could quickly rise in our power rankings.
27) Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow, and rookie tight end Michael Mayer represent an impressive set of offensive weaponry, but can Jimmy Garoppolo deliver outside of Kyle Shanahan’s scheme? Josh McDaniels is an excellent play-caller in his own right, but he’s not Shanahan.
The more pressing concerns are on Las Vegas’ depth chart. Most casual NFL fans would struggle to name a Raiders cornerback, which is problematic when they play in the same division as Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. A bounce-back season from Chandler Jones — giving Vegas a pass-rushing trifecta that also includes Maxx Crosby and first-round pick Tyree Wilson — could help, but it probably won’t be enough.
26) Green Bay Packers
Jordan Love’s one-year extension with the Packers — which replaced his fifth-year option — was one of the oddest deals in recent memory, as the former first-round quarterback essentially bet against himself to lock in some guaranteed money.
Love’s new deal, which allowed Green Bay to hedge its bets, is a perfect metaphor for Love the player — because no one, including the Packers, knows how he’ll fare as Aaron Rodgers’ replacement. There’s room for any of the teams in the NFC North to emerge as a division winner, but it’s hard to bet on a passer with 83 career attempts.
25) Atlanta Falcons
The roster-building wisdom of using top-eight picks on a running back and tight end in a three-year window aside, the Falcons are another team with a broad span of possibilities. The upshot is that Desmond Ridder is a third-round success story, and Atlanta’s free agent defensive additions all hit in Year 1 with the club. Given the state of the NFC South, that version of the Falcons could make the playoffs.
The downside? Ridder fails or, perhaps even worse, is simply adequate, helping Atlanta to seven or eight wins but keeping them outside elite quarterback range in 2024. The Falcons’ rebuilt defense fails to launch, ignoring positional value on both sides of the ball eventually puts Atlanta back at square one, and Arthur Smith is out of a job.
24) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay’s 2023 campaign is almost entirely quarterback-dependent. The Buccaneers still have a roster full of talented veterans, with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tristan Wirfs, and Antoine Winfield Jr. among them. But it probably won’t matter unless Kyle Trask or Baker Mayfield can be at least a league-average quarterback.
23) Washington Commanders
The Commanders are in an identical position as the Buccaneers and might boast a better roster from top to bottom. A defense built around a strong defensive line got better through secondary additions in the draft, and Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel can create plays in the passing game.
Washington’s depth chart, with last year’s version of Jacoby Brissett or the most optimistic rendition of Sam Howell, would be good enough to win several divisions. But the NFC East, which sent three teams — all but the Commanders — to the playoffs in 2022, is a different beast.
Tier 3 | So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance
Several of these squads made the postseason in 2022 and could again in 2023. These aren’t surefire contenders, but they’ll be in the mix.
22) Carolina Panthers
After trading DJ Moore as part of the package to acquire the No. 1 overall pick, the Panthers have essentially built an all-new offense around Bryce Young. A group consisting of Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, Hayden Hurst, and Miles Sanders could allow Young to flourish in his rookie season, but their collective injury risk introduces an incredibly low floor.
The presence of new head coach Frank Reich should allow the Panthers to finish with eight or nine wins if everything breaks right. Carolina’s 2023 fulcrum might actually be its defense, which finished just 25th in DVOA last year. If Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Jaycee Horn, free agent addition Vonn Bell, and others can all click at once, the Panthers could have a shot at the NFC South crown.
21) Chicago Bears
Bears general manager Ryan Poles has put on a masterclass in rebuilding over the past two offseasons. He landed a haul from the Panthers in the trade for the first pick in the draft, revamped a struggling offensive line, and added depth at critical spots like cornerback and defensive tackle.
There are still holes on this roster, especially at edge rusher, where Matt Eberflus’ defense will likely need a true No. 1 defensive end at some point. But we all know the success or failure of Chicago’s season will likely come down to Justin Fields’ progression as a passer.
If Fields can improve from the pocket, the Bears could push for a playoff spot. If not, Chicago could be looking for a new quarterback in next year’s draft (where they hold two first-round picks).
20) Denver Broncos
What kind of magic can Sean Payton cook up to revitalize Russell Wilson’s career? Denver’s offseason moves point to a run-heavy offense that will take the ball out of Wilson’s hands. New offensive linemen Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey are both grinders in the run game, while the Broncos’ trade for tight end Adam Trautman — a Payton favorite with the Saints — will allow them to run more 12 personnel.
Maybe Wilson’s dramatic downward trend can be blamed on Nathaniel Hackett. If so, maybe there’s a chance he turns things around entering his age-34 season. But it’s hard to bank on Wilson improving enough to give Denver a chance to compete with the Chiefs and Chargers inside the AFC West.
19) New England Patriots
The Patriots’ most critical offseason addition? Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who will begin his second stint in New England by mercifully taking over for the Matt Patricia/Joe Judge brain trust.
The Patriots finished third in defensive DVOA in 2022, but it hardly mattered as Mac Jones devolved and briefly ceded his job to rookie Bailey Zappe. Bill Belichick can erase a lot of problems, but New England is easily the fourth-best team in the AFC East.
18) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers might be the favorites to finish fourth in the AFC North, but they’d probably have the best division odds if they played in the AFC or NFC South. Kenny Pickett is on the upswing after finishing his rookie year strongly, and we can’t count out a defense headlined by T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Heyward. Knocking it out of the park in the 2023 draft — and finding a franchise left tackle in Broderick Jones — didn’t hurt, either.
17) Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings look like the NFL’s most obvious candidate for regression after outperforming nearly all their underlying metrics and relying on unprecedented success in one-score games to manage 13 wins.
But Kirk Cousins might still be the best quarterback in the NFC North, and we know Justin Jefferson is the most talented receiver in the entire league. If players like free agent additions Marcus Davenport or Byron Murphy, or second-year pros like Andrew Booth Jr. or Lewis Cine, pop in 2023, Minnesota could fight what looks like an impending backslide.
16) New York Giants
Is the Giants’ 2022 performance repeatable, or will they turn back into a pumpkin next season? Brian Daboll and OC Mike Kafka got the most out of Daniel Jones last year, and the team committed to him with a four-year extension this offseason. If Jones still has untapped potential, he can take New York to new heights, but he may have already reached his ceiling.
Plus, Big Blue will face the NFL’s most difficult schedule in 2023, according to Pro Football Network’s SOS projections. Having to play the Eagles and Cowboys twice will always hurt, while games against the 49ers, Bills, and Dolphins are far from cakewalks.
Tier 2 | Playoff Contenders
These are the teams that should vie for the postseason in 2023. There will be disappointments among this group, but most of them should stay in the race until the regular season concludes.
15) New Orleans Saints
The transition from Andy Dalton to Derek Carr signifies a tremendous upgrade for the Saints, whose offense should look better after having the seventh-most adjusted games lost to injury in 2022. Alvin Kamara will likely face a suspension next year, but a healthy return from Michael Thomas could help cancel out Kamara’s pending absence.
New Orleans’ defense is still the strength of its roster, but they profiled as the NFL’s second-oldest unit last season. Adding defensive line prospects like Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey will help them get younger, but the time is now for the Saints, especially given the state of the NFC South.
14) Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars almost appear ready to win the AFC South by default. Every other team in the division drafted a quarterback inside the top 33 picks, signaling where they are in their organizational processes. Trevor Lawrence, meanwhile, could theoretically emerge as a dark-horse MVP candidate in his third NFL campaign.
With new addition Calvin Ridley stretching the field and Christian Kirk working in the short-to-intermediate game, Doug Pederson can further craft Jacksoville’s offense around Lawrence’s strengths. And there’s enough upside on defense — where last year’s No. 1 pick, Travon Walker, resides — to think that the Jags can squint and see an AFC title game appearance.
13) Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were among the quietest teams in free agency — they re-signed right tackle Trey Pipkins to a three-year deal, but their only external addition was former Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. Los Angeles’ defense is something of a stars-and-scrubs unit, which could put pressure on head coach/defensive play-caller Brandon Staley to out-scheme his opponents.
A return to form from Justin Herbert, who dealt with a fracture to his rib cartilage throughout the season, should be expected, especially now that former Cowboys OC Kellen Moore is in town. Herbert still ranked 11th in QBR last year, but he has the physical talent to be a top-five quarterback every season. First-round pick Quentin Johnston can help the Chargers overcome any injury issues to Keenan Allen or Mike Williams, both of whom missed time in 2022.
12) Cleveland Browns
After returning from suspension, Deshaun Watson was the NFL’s least-efficient quarterback from Weeks 13-18. His dismal performance was even more jarring, given how successful Jacoby Brissett had been in the same Browns offense over the first 12 weeks of the season.
Cleveland is bringing back its elite offensive line and added a few more pass catchers in trade acquisition Elijah Moore and draft pick Cedric Tillman. With a defense that no longer has any holes, the Browns have all the pieces in place to compete with the Ravens and Bengals in the AFC North.
11) Detroit Lions
Rookies often make far less of a Year 1 impact than many expect, so it’s difficult to downgrade the Lions too far down our power rankings after they used their first-round picks on running back Jahmyr Gibbs and off-ball linebacker Jack Campbell. But if Detroit had added a receiver, edge rusher, or cornerback with one or both of those selections, they’d undoubtedly be a few spots higher here.
The NFL clearly has high hopes for the Lions, as Detroit will be Kansas City’s opponent in 2023’s season-opening game. The Lions managed to hang onto offensive coordinator Ben Johnson (a candidate for several head coaching jobs) and shouldn’t have any problem putting up points. If their defense can move into league-average territory, Detroit could win its first division title in 30 years.
10) Miami Dolphins
We can almost imagine how the Dolphins’ season will play out. If Tua Tagovailoa can stay healthy, there’s no reason Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle-heavy offense can’t be a top-five unit. Mike McDaniel proved himself as one of the most efficient play-callers in the NFL in his first season with the Dolphins, and Tua’s potential injury risk is the only thing that could hold them back.
Meanwhile, Miami’s defense will have the opportunity to take a major step forward under new coordinator Vic Fangio. Less blitzing is likely on the agenda, as Fangio will rely on Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips to get home and Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard to cover in the back end. Throw in other contributors like Jevon Holland, Christian Wilkins, and free agent addition David Long Jr., and the Dolphins’ defense begins to look outright scary.
9) Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks won’t be able to sneak up on anyone like they did last season, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Seattle made smart signings in free agency (Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, Julian Love), then had a home-run draft by landing Devon Witherspoon, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Derick Hall with their first three selections.
The 49ers are a better team than the Seahawks, but Seattle has closed the gap. Given the state of the NFC, it’s not crazy to think the Seahawks could end up in the Super Bowl if everything breaks right. That scenario puts a lot of faith in Geno Smith’s ability to repeat his 2022 numbers, but he has enough weapons at his disposal to stave off regression.
8) Baltimore Ravens
Exactly one month passed between the day Lamar Jackson requested a trade out of Baltimore and the day he signed an extension with the Ravens to become the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback. Those 30 days must have felt like a lifetime to fans of the purple and black.
Jackson will finally get to work with a forward-thinking offensive coordinator (Todd Monken) and be surrounded by actual NFL wide receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers. We’re bullish on Mike Macdonald’s defense, too, especially after the unit gave up an average of just 16 points per game over the final eight weeks of the regular season.
7) New York Jets
With the Aaron Rodgers trade finally complete, the Jets can compete for the AFC East title and a Super Bowl as soon as 2023. Upgrading from Zach Wilson et al. to Rodgers represents an enormous leap forward, even if the future Hall of Famer can’t get back to his back-to-back MVP levels of production.
There are questions about whether Gang Green’s defense can keep up their dominant performance from last season, as defensive performance isn’t typically repeatable from year to year. Still, it’s hard to argue with a team that boasts the reigning Offensive and Defnesive Rookies of the Year and just landed one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the sport.
6) Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys made two of the most astute trades of the offseason, adding wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore for pennies on the dollar and fortifying two positions of need.
While we have trepidations about Mike McCarthy taking over as Dallas’ offensive play-caller, given how he performed in the same role at the end of his Packers’ tenure, there’s too much talent on the Cowboys’ depth chart to downgrade them too far. Dan Quinn should keep Dallas’ defense as a top-five unit, especially now that Micah Parsons is becoming a full-time edge rusher.
Tier 1 | Elite Teams
There’s a clear tier break between the teams that can compete for playoff spots and those who are true upper-echelon contenders.
5) Buffalo Bills
The Bills had a relatively quiet offseason, but they’re still among the most electric teams in the AFC. There’s room for Buffalo to grow on offense after adding tight end Dalton Kincaid — who profiles more as a big slot receiver — and revamping their interior offensive line, and Josh Allen is a perennial MVP candidate.
But there are admittedly concerns on defense. Sean McDermott could get stretched as a hybrid head coach/coordinator, and the Bills are relying on a bevy of players who could either be past their prime or affected by injuries like Von Miller, Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, and Jordan Poyer. Still, Buffalo has as deep of a roster as you’ll find and enough impact players to overcome any concerns that crop up throughout the season.
4) San Francisco 49ers
There’s a cloud over the 49ers thanks to their uncertain quarterback situation, but Kyle Shanahan’s declaration that Brock Purdy will return from elbow surgery by training camp is certainly a positive. Shanahan’s prowess as an offensive mastermind is such that San Francisco could remain in the elite tier even if Trey Lance or Sam Darnold were under center.
The 49ers have withstood brain drain before, but it remains to be seen how the club’s defense responds now that Steve Wilks has replaced DeMeco Ryans. Wilks was well-loved as the Panthers’ interim head coach, but San Francisco had typically opted for internal coaching staff promotions before tabbing Wilks as their new defensive coordinator.
3) Cincinnati Bengals
Preparing for a Joe Burrow mega-extension, the Bengals wisely kept filling out their defense with affordable players on rookie deals. Cincinnati used its top three draft picks on defensive prospects for the second consecutive year, adding Myles Murphy, DJ Turner, and Jordan Battle to Lou Anarumo’s versatile unit.
But the fireworks are on the offensive side of the ball, where Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins form the NFL’s most explosive aerial attack. After taking a big swing on left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., the Bengals will field the best offensive line they’ve had in years. If Cincinnati’s run game — led by Joe Mixon or not — can keep up, this could be the top offense in the league.
2) Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles were a few plays away from winning the Super Bowl, and they’ll bring back almost all of their key contributors on offense. Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, and DeVonta Smith proved to be a lethal trifecta, and Philadelphia’s running game could get even better in 2023, as D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny are more dynamic producers than Miles Sanders was.
Howie Roseman is the NFL’s best general manager, but any executive could have employed his “draft Georgia defenders” strategy. Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Kelee Ringo will support an already excellent defense that surprisingly managed to bring back Darius Slay and James Bradberry. The Eagles are the NFC’s best team, and it isn’t particularly close.
1) Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is inevitable, and so are the Chiefs. Winners of seven straight AFC West titles and two of the last four Super Bowls, Kansas City put up the league’s best scoring offense in 2022 even after trading Tyreek Hill, a testament to both Mahomes and Andy Reid.
A young, ascending defense and a revamped offensive line that arguably has more upside with Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor will contribute to the Chiefs’ cause, but it all comes down to Mahomes. If he puts up another MVP campaign, the sky is the limit in Kansas City.