The next time we see two NFL teams take the field for a game, it will be when the Buffalo Bills travel to Los Angeles to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Rams in the 2022 regular season kickoff. While the past three weeks have been filled with NFL football, it’s only been the preseason. While the preseason isn’t meaningless, there are some things should be taken with a grain of salt. The Houston Texans and Chicago Bears each went undefeated in the preseason this year, despite being two teams with some of the worst odds to win the Super Bowl this season. That seems great at first, but the 2017 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 Detroit Lions both went undefeated in the preseason, and are the only two teams in NFL history to ever have an 0-16 season. Other things, however, can be taken more seriously. Kenny Pickett had a phenomenal preseason, throwing 29-36 (over 80% completions), 261 yards, and three touchdowns with no interceptions over the entire preseason. This was good enough to earn Pickett the nod to be the Steelers week one starter in 2022. This goes to show while records can be deceiving in the preseason, playing spectacular against players fighting for their careers is far from meaningless, and that’s what this weeks power rankings will reflect.
32. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are in trouble in every position group outside of the secondary. They may have Grady Jarrett on the defensive line and Drake London and Kyle Pitts in the receiving corps, but they are merely bright spots in an otherwise poor positional group. Cordarrelle Patterson may be a good fantasy option, but it remains to be seen if he can be more than a one-year-wonder as a starting running back going into his age 31 season. Neither Desmond Ridder or Marcus Mariota did anything during the preseason to stake their claim to starting, and that is the big reason why the Falcons find themselves at 32 going into the season.
31. Houston Texans
Davis Mills only threw 30 passes over the entire preseason, but he didn’t look bad. It speaks volumes that Mills is the unquestioned starter in Houston. While Mills will be fighting an uphill battle to win games in 2022, as it seems they spent the preseason desperately searching for a starting running back. While Dameon Pierce played well, averaging over 7 yards per carry and earning the starting role, he also only had 11 carries all preseason. The Texans have so many unproven players, and with a lack of veteran leadership both on the roster and the coaching staff, it is extremely difficult to put see the Texans spending much time outside of the 30s all season. Their offensive line saves them from being in the 32 spot in my eyes, but the Texans a skating on thin ice when it comes to being viewed as the easiest team on everyone’s schedule.
30. Chicago Bears
Justin Fields is the reason the Bears are not the unquestioned 32 team. In the final week of preseason, Fields went 14 for 16 and threw for over 150 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. While Fields is obviously talented, it will be tough for his talent to lead to wins with the state of the Bears roster. Their offensive line is poor, and the only receiving weapons worth noting are Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet, who are talented but unproven at best. On defense they have some decent players, such as Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, and talented rookies in the secondary Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon, but they aren’t enough to uplift the entire defensive unit.
29. New York Jets
Two things are holding the Jets back at this point. They need to wait for Zach Wilson to make a healthy return and they need their rookie to perform. Their premier play at wide receiver, running back, edge rusher, and cornerback are all rookies. Despite being undefeated in the preseason, it’s unlikely that both Mike White and C.J. Streveler both make the roster, let alone see playing time. Flacco being under center until Wilson is healthy makes the most sense. If Zach Wilson comes back and lights a fire under this young Jets team, they may be competitive despite a tough schedule. I expect the Jets to be better than their record shows for the first half of the season, but for now they are just unproven and without their starting quarterback indefinitely, but hopefully for less than a full month of the season.
28. Seattle Seahawks
The quarterback battle in Seattle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock went about as expected throughout the preseason. Neither quarterback was sustainably impressive and neither passer seemed to gain a clear advantage on the other. Seattle will likely be without rookie running back Kenneth Walker III for the first week or two. However when walker returns, their offense will feature Rashad Penny, Kenneth Walker III, D.K. Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett to help whoever holds the starting quarterback job. While Geno Smith has the week one nod to start, he will certainly be on a short leash as Drew Lock returns from illness that held him out a week in the preseason.
27. New York Giants
The Giants were able to score 23 points or more in all three preseason games. Not a bad Summer for first year head coach Brian Daboll. The Giants feel a little more talented than the teams below them. Their defensive line is loaded with Kayvon Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, and Azeez Ojulari. They have two top ten picks in Evan Neal and Andrew Thomas at each offensive tackle spot. Saquon Barkley is one of the best running backs in the league when healthy. If Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and the rest of their talented receivers play up to their potential and help Daniel Jones they may win some games. Unfortunately for big blue, despite making steps in the right direction this offseason, they still seem like they will be incredibly limited as long as Daniel Jones remains their quarterback, and Tyrod Taylor won’t answer their prayers either.
26. Washington Commanders
The Commanders went an unimpressive 0-3 in the preseason. Carson Wentz played in two games and threw a total of 22 passes and failed to throw over 100 yards or even a touchdown in both games. The reason they find themselves here is defensive line and the receiving corps. Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, And Daron Payne is one of the best front four in the league. Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson is quietly one of the better one-two punches at receiver. Carson Wentz could have a career revival in his last chance as a starter. However, Washington’s offensive line remains as poor as the teams morale, and the Commanders will be remaining outside of the top 25 until they can figure out a way to turn their talent into wins.
25. Carolina Panthers
Baker Mayfield is certainly an upgrade over Sam Darnold, and the Panthers were able to get him for almost nothing. Starting quarterbacks seldom come that cheap, and if Baker can be the answer for the Panthers Scott Fitterer will look like a genius. Until then the Panthers are unproven, and most of their offensive success depends on if Christian McCaffryy can stay healthy and if Ikem Ekwonu can play great from day one. Without those two their offense will likely become very one dimensional, even with the addition of Leviska Shenault. No matter how good their defense may be with players such as Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Shaq Thompson, Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horne, Jeremy Chinn, and C.J. Henderson, they will be limited in games if their offense comes out stale.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence is the thing that elevates the Jaguars this high. It feels as if Lawrence is already a better professional quarterback than the starter of every team below the Jaguars on this list. The Jaguars could upset a lot of people by sneaking into the playoffs this year, and have potential to win a playoff game or two. Urban Myer games seem wrong to hold against this roster, as last year essentially set the franchise back a season, as they even hired a coach who also took the year off in Doug Pederson. It feels as if Pederson is surrounding Lawrence with solid talent to challenge him to uplift those around him, instead of mortgaging Jacksonville’s future on superstars that Lawrence will only learn to rely on. I really love what the Jaguars are doing and between the solid talent on offense around the generation talent Lawrence. On defense it feels as if every positional group has at least one young stud to lead it. Overall this Jaguars teem is built for the future but they could start proving doubters wrong as early as week one when they visit the Commanders in Washington.
23. Detroit Lions
Call it Hard Knocks fever if you want but the Detroit Lions feel like a better team than every other team below them. They have a great rushing attack featuring D”Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. They have a solid receiving core in T.J. Hockenson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and D.J. Chark. Their offensive line features a talented trio of Penei Sewell, Frank Ragnow, and Taylor Decker. The Lions also have two top three picks in Aidan Hutchinson and Jeff Okudah on defense. While their big name starters didn’t see much action in the preseason, the Lions play two games against teams ranked worse on this list in the first four weeks, and I would be shocked if the Lions didn’t win both of them.
22. Cleveland Browns
The Browns with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback are extremely limited. Brissett is not the talented football player that Baker Mayfield is, and Brissett is even further from Deshaun Watson. While Watson probably should not step on a football field again, he will be back against the Texans in week 13 following an 11-game absence due to suspension. Until then, even if the Browns have players like Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett, and Amari Cooper, all behind a good offensive line, but they will not blossom into the playoff team they hope to be until Watson returns. Until then the Browns will remain below the teams that have a quarterback that is head and shoulders above Brissett on the field, and Watson off the field.
21. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have a roster full of fun players. Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Christian Wilkins, Jevon Holland, Jerome Baker, and Xavien Howard are all some of the most fun players to watch at their positions. Mike McDaniel also is a coach who likes to think outside of the box and get players in spots to succeed based on their strengths and weaknesses by any means necessary. This all sounds great on paper but until Tua and the rest of the fins prove that they can sustainably win games behind the arm of Tua and the coaching of McDaniel, the Dolphins will hover around 20 in the power rankings.
20. Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins is painfully average. He has a career record of 59-59-2 and in his worst seasons he will still manage seven or eight wins, but in his best seasons he only wins nine or ten games. Kirk Cousins is the captain of being a bubble playoff team. Even though the Vikings were able to add Za’Darius Smith, Lewis Cine, and Andrew Booth Jr. to help reload an already solid defensive unit, their offense heavily relies on the production of Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson, and any games without both of those two on the field will likely be games lost. It will be interesting to see if rookie head coach Kevin O’Connell and rookie general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have put together a roster good enough to close out games, after this squad lost eight games that were within eight points in 2021.
19. New Orleans Saints
The success of the Saints in 2022 depends on two things. Can Jameis Wintson pick up where he left off in 2021 and can Dennis Allen be a successful coach? Sean Payton was a huge part of New Orleans being a perennial playoff contender in the last 15 years, and losing Payton and Drew Brees in back to back offseasons could begin to take it’s toll on the Saints. For now I see the Saints as a bubble playoff team, they play the Falcons and Panthers twice a each, but they also must face the Buccaneers twice, the AFC North and the NFC West. Two of the toughest divisions in football.
18. New England Patriots
The media has not been the Patriots friend this offseason. Everything out of New England has made it sound like their offense will be a mess all season, but it’s impossible to know for sure what you’re getting with Bill Belichick. The Patriots defense remains solid, and it’s important to remember that not much has changed for the Patriots roster since last year, where they were able to have a seven game winning-streak and make the playoffs. So why the slide from 13th in my July power rankings? While the Patriots are still very much a bubble playoff team, other teams that are also bubble playoff teams in the AFC have been able to put together a more solid training camp and preseason behind their new talent. This may be just what Belichick wants, but for now I’ll bite and leave New England at 18.
17. Arizona Cardinals
It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals fare without DeAndre Hopkins for six weeks, but for now it would be surprising to not see them struggle with receivers. Marquise Brown probably wasn’t worth giving up a first round pick for, and this was only reinforced when he was speeding so fast that he got arrested. Zach Ertz will be 32 in November. Andy Isabella has under 50 targets and under 500 yards in his three years in the league. A.J. Green is 34. Those receivers coupled with a shaky offensive line, James Connor being the only running back worth noting, and a poor defensive front outside of an aging J.J. Watt is not a recipe for success. Kyler Murray may have gotten his extension, but the Cardinals are set up to start off 2022 very slowly.
16. Las Vegas Raiders
Unlike the Cardinals, the Raiders will be starting 2022 with their star receiver, one that the Raiders didn’t have in 2021 when the reached the playoffs. Davante Adams will completely open up the Raiders offense for 2022, and just Adams being on the field will create opportunities for Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfroe, and most importantly Derek Carr. Their defense has a solid pass rush tandem of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, but outside of that their defense will be asking in house talent to step up. Josh McDaniels is also getting a new head coaching job, and he must be competitive in year one.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kenny Pickett is my favorite quarterback from the 2021 draft, and he did not disappoint in preseason. Despite T.J. Watt and Dionte Johnson both suffering injuries, Pickett gave Steelers nation something to cheer about throughout August, and was able to steal the starting job away from Mitchell Trubisky. The Steelers offense is more talented than meets the eye, with loaded ground game and a talented receiving core. The Steelers defense remains elite and Mike Tomlin still has never finished a season with eight wins or less, which earns the Steelers their spot
14. Denver Broncos
The Browns sliding from 17 to 22 is my biggest slider in these rankings, and the Broncos also find themselves moving five spots on this list, only they’re moving up. Russell Wilson has had the Broncos offense humming throughout training camp, and it will be interesting to see how well the Broncos and Russell Wilson are in the first year of their marriage. The Broncos also have talent for Wilson all over the offense, and the defense is where the team shows flaws. The Broncos are in desperate need of extra talent both on the interior of the defensive line and the interior of their linebacking core. If the Broncos find themselves unable to stop the run at all, they may end up like the 2021 Chargers with a great offense and a top 10 quarterback, but no playoffs.
13. Tennessee Titans
I have loosened up on the defending one seed from the AFC. The Titans know how to play good football, its why they were the one seed, even after they lost Derrick Henry to injury. For 2022 the Titans will be on a bit thinner ice, as they are entering the season with a few more holes on the roster and age being a bigger issue, both on the young and old spectrum. Right now the Titans will be looking to defend their AFC South title, but they are a Derrick Henry injury and a bad Ryan Tannehill showing away from sitting starkly outside the playoffs, and the Titans confirmed their Tannehill fears by drafting Malik Willis.
12. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts should have made the playoffs in 2021. They come into 2022 with an easier schedule and Matt Ryan. Jonathan Taylor shows no signs of slowing down and Matt Ryan is a much safer quarterback than Carson Wentz was, and it’s what the Colts need. Pat McAfee can rest easy knowing that the Colts are currently the betting favorite to win the AFC South on FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM. Adding Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue to their defensive unit that was 16th in 2021. The Colts knew what they needed to do and will likely be rewarded with postseason football, but for now waiting to see how their new pieces perform is what keeps them out of the top ten.
11. Dallas Cowboys
As I was writing this list I had the Cowboys at 10 and the Eagles at 11. The two teams seem very close in potential and the Cowboys being the defending NFC champions and having Dak Prescott is what elevated them to the tenth spot. Then the news broke that the Eagles traded for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. That move was enough to tip the scales in the Eagles favor, but the margin is still microscopic. The Cowboys have some bright spots on offense and defense, but also major holes. Mike McCarthy also coached the Cowboys straight to a first round exit in 2021, and it will be interesting to see if their mistakes were addressed or if it was business as usual in Dallas all Summer.
10. Philadelphia Eagles
I firmly believe the Eagles have the best roster in their division, and a top ten roster in the NFL. They have a unique blend of veterans, youth, depth, and have filled their hole at safety by trading for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on Tuesday. The thing that holds the Eagles back on these power rankings is Jalen Hurts, and to a smaller degree Miles Sanders. Hurts did not play good in 2021. He couldn’t throw the deep ball and struggled to sense pressure. Hurts has seemed to improve drastically over the course of training camp and preseason, and the Eagles only need him to be average or above average, while minimizing negative plays and turnovers to be able to achieve 10 or 11 wins. Miles Sanders also needs to stay healthy and be able to get 20 or more carries every week so his 5.5 yards per carry over his career and big play ability can shine through.
9. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are in a very interesting spot, and it shows why having a top quarterback can still be stressful. Lamar Jackson is a potentially generational talent who needs to be paid. He also needs wide receivers to throw passes to. The problem is the Ravens have already have to pay and have invested draft capital in getting an offensive line, tight ends, and a defense for Lamar Jackson. It will be interesting to see how Lamar’s contract negotiations play out, but for now between wanting a historic contract and being fueled by missing the playoffs in 2021, I expect Lamar Jackson to be playing with motivation in 2022.
8. San Fransisco 49ers
Jimmy Garappolo returning to the 49ers for 2022 doesn’t mean a whole lot. Trey Lance will still be the starter and Jimmy Garappolo most likely realized that for now it would be best for him to be a back in San Fransisco in 2022 and test the market next Spring, rather than being thrown into a messy situation elsewhere and hurting his stock. The 49ers also have a Super Bowl caliber defense, coupled with an offense loaded with fun and talented players. The NFC West seems like a two horse race, and the 49ers seem ready to give the Rams all they can handle.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow and Jamar Chase will still be a lethal connection in 2022. Cincinnati got a remodeled offensive line to match their new swagger, and not enough people are paying attention to Joe Mixon, who will get to run behind a good offensive line, after already having three 1,000 yard seasons behind poor offensive lines. The Jessie Bates situation still needs to be settled but at the moment it appears Bates will return. The Bengals still have week outside cornerbacks and will be a fun team again in 2022, and look for the Bengals to get into some shootouts with other top ten teams on their schedule.
6. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers publicly saying that he is frustrated and unimpressed with his young receivers is worrisome and cheeseheads should know to not take the words of Rodgers lightly. Rodgers chose to stay in Green Bay before Devante Adams chose to leave, and the Packers could have, and still could, improve the receiving core more for Rodgers. If Rodgers fails to find his footing without Adams, he could retire at the end of the season. For now Watson, Dubbs, or Lazard steps up to the plate. The Packers will also rely on rookies Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt to help generate pressure in the wake of losing Za’Darious Smith. The Packers quietly have assembled a good defense filled with youth, but questions about the offensive line and receiving core may loom large all season no matter how well Rodgers plays.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
The only thing that may hold the Chargers back from a Super Bowl is the Chiefs. The Chiefs have always seemed to have the Chargers number over the past decade, and the few the times the Chargers have bested the Chiefs, it has been extremely close. The Chiefs are the one team I don’t think the Chargers can have an edge on, although Kahlil Mack and J.C. Jackson give the Chargers defense potential to mark the Chargers a team capable of 11-13 wins.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As long as Tom Brady can play like a top three quarterback the Buccaneers will be a Super Bowl contender, and I will not doubt Tom Brady until Brady gives me good reason to. The Buccaneers will also be seeing if they can get all that’s left in the tank of Julio Jones while Chris Godwin starts 2022 banged up. Russell Gage and Shaq Mason were solid additions for Tampa’s offense, although Gage is also banged up. The Buccaneers remain a quality Super Bowl contender, but are firmly outside of the top three, at least for now.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes alone is good enough to make the Chiefs top three. While losing Tyreek Hill is part of what gives the Buffalo Bills the edge over the Chiefs going into 2022, the Chiefs still have solid receivers. Casting off Tyrann Mathieu only to bring in Justin Reid for the same price is odd, and the Chiefs may be paranoid about their salary situation after promising Mahomes half of a billion dollars. For the moment, the Chiefs are a great team with a generational talent at quarterback, and seem like the safe bet for the AFC’s one seed.
2. Buffalo Bills
Sometimes you don’t want to go with the safe bet, you want to go with hype. The Bills are certainly a team with hype for this season. They are the betting favorite to win the AFC, and Josh Allen is the betting MVP favorite. The Bills had potentially the closest loss in NFL history to the Chiefs in January, and that was when the Chiefs had Tyreek Hill. Tre’Davious White also missed that game for Buffalo, leaving the Bills secondary significantly weaker. The Bills now also have Von Miller, and rookie running back James Cook could also emerge as Buffalo’s lead back before season’s end. For now, the Bills sit at second, but their week one matchup could change that quickly.
1.Los Angeles Rams
The Rams will host the Bills to open the NFL season and begin their Super Bowl defense. For now, the Super Bowl champion that added Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner will remain on top despite losing Odell Beckham Jr and Von Miller. Sean McVay and Matt Stafford will likely only strengthen their connection over 2022, and the NFL may be crowing its first repeat champion in almost 20 years if the rest of the league can’t rise to the challenge.