You can smell it in the crisp autumn air. The season is right around the corner, and with the season approaching, so do our NFL Power Rankings. Not much has changed since the preseason got rolling, but injuries and information gathering have moved a few teams fairly significantly.
Pittsburgh Steelers Storm Up the NFL Power Rankings
32) Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are in legitimate contention of being the worst roster we’ve seen at the NFL level in quite some time. While that certainly doesn’t mean they’ll be unable to win a single game this season, the under on their 3.5-win total is a rather enticing proposition, especially as it sits at +120.
31) Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp is “day-to-day” after a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury. Unfortunately for the Rams (and Kupp fantasy managers), hamstring setbacks are notoriously not a day-to-day issue. The Rams roster isn’t much prettier than the Cardinals, so they could have a few hilariously ugly intra-divisional battles in 2023 in the “Collapse for Caleb” race.
Took a dive into the lab (searched Twitter) to study (look at) anytime a WR has suffered a "hamstring setback" over the last two seasons.
Injury | Return
Keenan Allen — Nov. 2 | Nov. 27
KJ Hamler — Dec. 2 | N/A
Devante Parker — Nov. 5 | Dec. 5
Julio Jones — Nov. 11 | Dec. 12 https://t.co/GXekERb0kS
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) August 31, 2023
30) Las Vegas Raiders
Maxx Crosby is one of the most exciting defensive players in the NFL, but no single player can carry an entire unit on their backs. Even if Tyree Wilson comes out of the gates already playing at his maximum potential, this defense remains one of the least talented units in the NFL.
Aidan O’Connell looked incredibly during the preseason, but the team would still be putting him in a less-than-ideal situation should Jimmy Garoppolo fall to an injury. If history is any indication, it may be more of an inevitability than a possibility.
29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a weird spot. Their roster is talented, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They have two great cornerbacks, an outstanding safety, two solid interior defenders, an elite linebacker, and a talented pass rusher.
They’re still looking at a 6.5-win total, with the favorite being the under. In the end, a lackluster situation at QB and a ton of unknowns on the offensive line project poorly for an offense that struggled in 2022.
28) Houston Texans
Only the Jaguars have a win total greater than 7.5 games in the AFC South. The Texans are starting a rookie quarterback behind an offensive line that’s already going through injury turmoil. The offensive weaponry is underwhelming among most units around the league.
Their young defense, with a few veterans sprinkled in, should be fun to keep an eye on, but we shouldn’t expect any significant improvements to their win-loss record in 2023. The Ravens will provide a good barometer for how competitive this roster can be after Week 1.
27) Tennessee Titans
Although Las Vegas favors the Titans to the Texans and Colts, we have the Colts holding the advantage before the season, even if by fractions.
The Titans’ offensive line has improved from the end of last season to the beginning of this one, but that’s like saying you were in $100,000 worth of credit card debt but you got it down to $90,000 now.
If that unit can somehow pull a 2021 Commanders and overperform, the rest of the roster is talented enough to compete. They need to remain healthy, which they’ve found impossible over the past two seasons..
26) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts also have a questionable offensive line and lack a legitimate No. 1 option at wide receiver, but Shane Steichen can assemble an offensive game plan to maximize the offensive talent they possess.
The option run game is what they’ll lean on. Although the Eagles boasted an elite OL and running QB, Anthony Richardson’s explosiveness creates an extra gap for defenses to defend, which could make even a struggling OL seem more productive.
25) Carolina Panthers
The Panthers first-team offense wasn’t exactly the easiest viewing experience during the preseason. Their fun-sized QB, although supremely talented, maintains his thirst for blood. By that, he has been teed up and swung on like a golf ball coming off the head of a long-drive champion’s driver.
If they can’t protect Bryce Young on simple RPO looks, they don’t have a chance in the traditional dropback game. The defensive side of the ball could once again be Carolina’s saving grace, but we need to see how the pieces fit in Ejiro Evero’s scheme, which provided wholesale changes this offseason.
24) Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is one of the greatest NFL mysteries heading into 2023. They made a ton of moves in the offseason and have an offensive mind with the weapons at his disposal to make their offense hum the way he did in Tennessee. The question is, can Desmond Ridder be his Ryan Tannehill?
Defensively, this could be a team to keep an eye on. They added talent at all three levels during the offseason. If Ryan Nielsen can teach the way Dennis Allen has in New Orleans, the unit could be scary.
23) Green Bay Packers
Aside from Aaron Jones, the Packers do not start a single player at a skill position who is outside of their initial rookie contract. At wide receiver and tight end, not a single player slotted to receive a bulk of the snaps was selected before 2022.
Much to the chagrin of Packers fans, Joe Barry still calls the shots on the defensive side of the ball.
22) Denver Broncos
The Broncos really can’t seem to catch a break. They lost Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler practically simultaneously at the start of the month. Jerry Jeudy pulled up during practice on Aug. 24 with a hamstring injury.
This again puts a ton of pressure on their defense to perform at a ridiculously high level, which won’t be easy considering they’ve welcomed in a new coordinator for the third consecutive season.
21) Chicago Bears
Fans in Chicago want to get the banner stitched up for a while, but those same fans should probably take a peek at that defense before getting too excited. Who, exactly, is going to put pressure on the passer with any consistency? Can their young secondary hold on for four seconds at a time?
20) Minnesota Vikings
On the opposite end of that spectrum, we have the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota’s pass rush boasts Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport, but the secondary is a massive question mark heading into the season.
The offense should be relatively productive with Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and continuity on the offensive line. But this is a team that won 13 games last year with a negative point differential.
Regression is barreling down on them like a train, and they’re duct taped to the tracks.
19) Washington Commanders
The Commanders’ defense got it together a season ago, and the offense should undoubtedly improve in 2023, as long as Sam Howell plays at a level similar to or better than Jacoby Brissett did in Cleveland a year ago.
However, Las Vegas appears to think differently. The Commanders’ win total is just 6.5, and the plus money comes in taking the over on that number.
18) New England Patriots
New England is another curiously handicapped team. They won eight games a season ago despite fielding a complete disaster on the offensive side of the ball. They have a real offensive coordinator in 2023, which means the unit should be better by default.
Their schedule certainly looks brutal, but they weren’t surviving a season ago on the league’s easiest schedule, either. Bill Belichick, for all of his idiosyncracies, wakes up with a top-10 defense in the morning no matter who is on the roster.
17) Cleveland Browns
The Browns are likely a more talented roster than at least one of their divisional opponents, but they’re still the Browns. Until we see Deshaun Watson on the field in a meaningful game playing… not like he did a season ago, it is impossible to trust this football team, even with loads of talent in tow.
16) Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are just the brightly-colored Browns, right? Every year it’s time to take the next step and break generational curses, but we’re eventually let down. The Falcons and Chargers have even become verbs, meaning to screw up a good situation.
At what point do we stop believing that Brandon Staley can make his defense work with the pieces he has in LA? A ridiculously high-powered offense can put the Chargers over the top, but do they have the speed to get the job done?
15) New York Giants
The Giants may not be as talented from top to bottom as some of the teams around them in the power rankings, but they have proven to be well coached. Additionally, they added some legitimate firepower that was lacking in 2022.
Still, they’ll be starting two rookies at cornerback in a Wink Martindale defense. That is a lot to ask of two very young players. Additionally, although this team is more talented than a season ago, their schedule is much more difficult. We can’t be surprised if they don’t repeat their nine-win season from a year ago.
14) Detroit Lions
The initial hype surrounding the Detroit Lions is gone. A surprising win against the Chiefs in Week 1 could have Detroit fans stitching up a divisional banner, but until then, it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
We still need to see Jared Goff show his play from a season ago is sustainable. We need to see that a group of receivers without a legitimate threat on the outside can be a threat through the air, and most importantly, we need to see this defense show marked improvement from a season ago.
13) New Orleans Saints
New Orleans could be scary if Michael Thomas can even be 70% of what he once was. Chris Olave is about to explode with Derek Carr, and once Alvin Kamara returns from his suspension the team will have a three-back stable of weapons to run the football. Their defense is old, but their defense is also talented and has continuity in place.
12) Pittsburgh Steelers
Last year was it. It was time to vow never to underestimate Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers ever again. They are perpetual overachievers. Their roster over the past half-decade has been mediocre, yet Tomlin still has not suffered a losing season.
With Kenny Pickett and the Steelers offense mimicking the 2007 Patriots this preseason, it was time to acknowledge that: 1) Pickett may be very good and 2) this Steelers team may do a little bit of damage in 2023.
11) Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are primed for another double-digit-win season. Once Jaxon Smith-Njigba returns from his wrist injury, the team will boast arguably the best WR trio in the NFL. A season ago, Geno Smith was the most accurate quarterback in the league.
Devon Witherspoon brings an attitude to the secondary that they’ve missed in Jamal Adams’ absence, and Adams will eventually return from his injury. Dre’Mont Jones, Julian Love, and Jarran Reed should also be positive additions.
10) Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars feel like the Dollar Store version of the Kansas City Chiefs, minus having an elite interior rusher on the roster. They have an offense that could border on unstoppable if their offensive line can stay afloat. Trevor Lawrence looks poised to take the next step in Year 3, and adding Calvin Ridley to the receiving corps should help facilitate that leap.
9) Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore could be the second-best team in the AFC by season’s end, but we must ride out the season and see how their new pieces fit and how healthy they can remain.
Todd Monken knows how to feature an elite receiving TE. The additions of Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr. could prove the kind of moves to put this Baltimore offense in a state of efficiency through the air that they haven’t seen since… well… ever.
8) Miami Dolphins
Speaking of passing efficiency, having Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle is a cheat code for any offense. For a Shanahan-inspired passing attack, that gets them moving horizontally over the middle of the field, it’s almost impossible to stop.
Losing Jalen Ramsey for the foreseeable future is a tough pill to swallow. However, the addition of Vic Fangio should still create a net positive for this unit over last season.
7) New York Jets
Speaking of net positives, it must be nice to go out and snatch a Hall of Fame QB looking for new scenery after absolutely flopping on the second pick in the NFL Draft. Garrett Wilson is about to explode in production, and this defense should remain about as devastating as they were a season ago.
6) Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has won 12 games in consecutive seasons, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be as competitive as they have been over the previous two seasons. Their schedule is more difficult in 2023, and they may win a few fewer games, but they filled the holes in their roster from a season ago.
5) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are the most fascinating roster inside of the top 10. Their roster isn’t as appealing on paper as many of the teams surrounding them, but they have never been as appetizing as their play on the field has been in the past few runs through the playoffs.
Steve Wilks’ defense will be fascinating to keep an eye on. He’s historically been a back-to-front guy but is learning the ways of the 49ers. But if Nick Bosa doesn’t show up, it will throw a wrench in what they do best: rushing the passer.
4) Buffalo Bills
The Bills are seemingly being slept on because of the new shiny thing in New York and the offensive firepower in South Beach. However, Buffalo has consistently been one of the best teams in the AFC over the past four seasons, and very little has changed from last season to suggest a regression.
Josh Allen is still a playground bully. Stefon Diggs remains one of the best receivers in the NFL, and this passing attack has been impressive for years. Their defense may not be as dominant until Von Miller returns, but outside of LB2 and CB2, there aren’t any holes on the roster.
3) Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati ushered in a new era on the back end of their secondary, and it could be even better than their last iteration, especially in Lou Anarumo’s defense. Dax Hill’s ability to cover ground is eye-popping. They also have two impressive complementary pieces in Nick Scott and Jordan Battle.
Offensively, we know the drill. The Bengals have the most dangerous WR corps in the NFL and a quarterback who trusts them with his life. They’ve found ways to quell offensive line concerns, mainly by getting the ball out of Joe Burrow’s hand.
2) Philadelphia Eagles
Until we see the defensive regression with our own eyes we will not count on said defensive regression. This defensive front, particularly on the edges, is as dangerous as any we have seen in recent years.
The offensive side of the ball should be as good as we saw it a season ago, if not better. Although it won’t be easy to move on from Shane Steichen, Brian Johnson has a ton of experience and a unique relationship with Jalen Hurts.
1) Kansas City Chiefs
If Chris Jones decides to take the fines and not play for the Chiefs come Week 1 the Chiefs defense could legitimately be in trouble. Jones’s ability to create pressure from any alignment is an absolute cheat code for Steve Spagnuolo, and without him, the whole operation becomes unsustainable.
But Patrick Mahomes still exists in a stratosphere nobody else can obtain, and Andy Reid is still the greatest offensive mind in the sport.