Good day, and, or evening or twilight or dusk or dawn or whatever time the earth’s rotation has you in. Welcome to my NFL power rankings. I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for these. And I am nothing if not a people pleaser.
I enjoy perusing NFL power rankings, but never felt the need to get into the weeds in making my own. That is until I started working on the strength of schedule for the 2023 season. We know the past year’s record for your opponents is pretty much useless going into the next season, so we pivot to win totals, which are better at forecasting how tough a team’s season will be. But, win totals aren’t based solely on how good a team is. You can see teams like the Saints and Falcons have higher win totals than you would expect due to bottom of the barrel schedules and the same could be true for teams like the Chiefs with much tougher schedules. We also see those win totals bunched up, giving no real distance between teams. So, this exercise is to help myself make a strength of schedule chart that I feel good about using in my own calculations, which I will add a link here when it is ready.
But, this post is also for fun, especially with almost four months left before we kickoff the season in earnest. The NFL is all about prognosticating and these rankings are another exercise in prognosticating the 2023 NFL season.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Last season proved once again that when it’s time to pick between Patrick Mahomes and any other team, you go with the Mahomes led team. Mahomes played with a high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl and still beat truly stacked Bengals and Eagles teams. They are the champs and for good reason.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals would be the Chiefs if the Chiefs weren’t around, but they are. You can make a case for the Bengals to be neck-and-neck with the Chiefs in these rankings, as Joe Burrow does have a winning record against the Mahomes-led Chiefs, but I have to side with Mahomes and Reid after three Super Bowl appearances in the last four seasons. Burrow and company have what it takes to beat the Chiefs on any given Sunday, so they are my No. 2 team going into this season.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles had a great draft and appear to have recharged their defense enough that I’m not too worried about their off-season losses. Jalen Hurts is great, but he’s not Mahomes, which puts these few teams vying for second overall close together in my mind. The Eagles, 49ers, Bills and Bengals are all grouped together and I could see moving them around fairly interchangeably. But, the Eagles have a consistent roster throughout and will be hard to take down in a weak NFC.
4. Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen and the Bills didn’t quite live up to their billing last season despite a 13-3 record. Allen did deal with an elbow injury last season that hampered the offense and facing the AFC in the playoffs is going to be tougher than the NFC once again. But as far as ability goes, the Bills are still elite.
5. San Francisco 49ers
I don’t know how the 49ers can even be considered a Top 5 team with Brock Purdy as their starter, but here we are. I give Kyle Shanahan most of the credit, but Purdy was amazing in the second half of last season. He’ll be coming off an injury this year and might not be able to start Week 1, but they seem win no matter who is at quarterback (unless it’s Christian McCaffrey). Not having a star quarterback does make things tougher and their margins for winning are a bit thinner, but they remain stacked at offensive skill positions and along the defensive line, which is all Shanahan needs to put together a winning team every year.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have yet to get over the hump, but they are close, very close. Justin Herbert has the skills to be a Top 3 quarterback in this league and with some injury luck both for himself, his offensive line, and his receivers, he should be able to make that move this season. The addition of WR Quentin Johnson was much needed, but the return of OT Rashawn Slater will be huge for the offensive line. Another season with Austin Ekeler, and cross your fingers, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, would be enough to keep the offense as one of the tops in the league, especially with Kellen Moore coming in as offensive coordinator.
7. Baltimore Ravens
It is tough ranking the Ravens after once again dealing with a Lamar Jackson injury last season, but he should be 100 percent and have a better cast of receivers around him along with a more pass-oriented OC this season. The Ravens also have a strong offensive line to go with Jackson and a host of running backs who will come into this season healthy, unlike last year. Adding WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers, while getting Rashod Bateman back to go with the always consistent TE Mark Andrews should be a boon to their chances this year.
8. Miami Dolphins
Yes, I am worried about Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion history just like you. It’s impossible not to be, but, it’s also impossible to overlook just how good this team is. When things were clicking in the Mike McDaniel offense, the Dolphins were putting up yards and points with the best of them. Their biggest weakness appears to be their offensive line, but they are still working on shoring that unit up, adding OT Isaiah Wynn recently. They also added Jalen Ramsey to the secondary, which makes them one of the best units in the league. A healthy Tagovaloa should mean the Dolphins are in the hunt.
9. Cleveland Browns
The Browns are primed for a strong 2023 after their new QB missed all of 2021 and most of 2022. Some pundits are down on the Browns after QB DeShaun Watson didn’t play great in his return to NFL games, but that was predictable after so much time off, while also playing with a new team and offense. I’m not too worried about Watson getting back into form, which really is the missing piece to a Browns team that has a strong overall roster. The AFC North is stacked this season.
10. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys will be a different team in 2023 with Mike McCarthy taking over the offensive play calling after letting Kellen Moore go. Moore helped the Cowboys to one of the best offenses in the league the last few years, but McCarthy doesn’t like scoring too many points and would rather his defense get time to rest by not scoring points? Something like that. Dallas has a strong roster and should be contenders even with McCarthy slowing them down, but they will need a better year out of Dak Prescott to take down the Eagles.
11. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings got lucky last year and that luck may not hold, but the team still has a lot of talent to fall back on. A strong offensive line and an improved pass rush along with a good Adam Thielen replacement in Jordan Addison should keep them right in the mix, especially in a weaker NFC North.
12. New York Jets
The Jets have one of the top defenses in the league along with a strong set of young skill position players like WR Garrett Wilson and RB Breece Hall. And now they have 4-time MVP Aaron Rodgers behind center. It’s tough to ask for more than that, but a lot of things need to come together for Rodgers and company this year. The offensive line for one, needs to take a step forward, while Rodgers will need to stay healthy and get everyone on the same page sooner than later. We saw Tom Brady go into Tampa and turn their fortunes around, but Rodgers will need to prove to me that he has what it takes to push this team into the playoffs.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars won the AFC South with a 9-8 record and are poised to do so again this year, but hopefully with a better record considering how easy their division is. Overall, their roster still remains average and Trevor Lawrence will need to be the deciding factor in winning close games. I believe he has that ability, but it’s tough seeing them taking a big step forward this season.
14. Detroit Lions
The Lions almost snuck into the playoffs last season with a 9-8 record and look poised for another run this season. They have stuck with Jared Goff as their quarterback and he has performed admirably, but he still has flaws that will make it tough for the Lions to beat the big dogs. But in the end it’s their defense that will likely keep them from a deep run in the playoffs. The good news is that their secondary should be improved and the arrow is pointing up.
15. Seattle Seahawks
Pete Carroll got the most out of Geno Smith last season, as the team squeaked into the playoffs with a 9-8 record. The team hopes to win with a balanced attack, but they continue to put out a below-average offensive line. They have one of the best receiving units in the league and a good young set of running backs, but the lack of strong units in the trenches will be a burden throughout the season.
16. New York Giants
Brian Daboll got the most of Daniel Jones and the Giants in his rookie year as a head coach. He helped them gain a wild card spot with a 9-7-1 record, only good enough for third in the NFC East. The ascension of the East as a whole doesn’t help, but Daboll has them on the right track at least. They did allow the fourth-highest percentage of pressures per dropback and need their offensive line to come together this season.
17. New Orleans Saints
I don’t see Derek Carr leading the Saints deep into the playoffs, but he should be an upgrade and in the NFC South, that could mean winning the division. But we’re looking at overall team ability and winning the NFC South isn’t exactly something that will scare other teams. But, they have talent on defense and offense that if it can come together, could give them some juice to contend for more than the NFC South this year.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers under Mike Tomlin managed yet another winning record in 2023 as they went 9-8, but it sure wasn’t a pretty 9-8. The good news is that they have talent across the roster which they boosted well in the draft. Still, they have a question mark at quarterback with Kenny Pickett, but he did show signs of competence in his rookie season. Tomlin will keep this team competitive though and their defense should be a tick better than last year.
19. New England Patriots
The Patriots managed to go 8-9 despite a dysfunctional offense last season. With a clear OC in Bill O’Brien, we should expect a better put together offense, but the team will still need to rely on Mac Jones elevating a lackluster receiving core. Bill Belichick can put together a competitive team every year, but this team’s upside is just making the playoffs.
20. Denver Broncos
Last season was truly an awful start to the Russell Wilson era in Denver. The team went 5-12 and looked even worse than that most of the time. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett had a lot to do with that, but how much exactly? Will Sean Payton be able to turn things back around in a season? It’s possible, but we can’t wipe the slate completely clean for Wilson and company this year.
21. Chicago Bears
We saw Justin Fields run all over the NFL last season, but he paid a toll with injuries. The team did add DJ Moore to help out a bottom of the barrel wide receiver room, but there are still quite a few steps that Fields and the Bears are going to need to go through before being a contender. One of the first steps is shoring up the offensive line, which the Bears have made strides toward this off-season. Their upside is higher than most of the teams in this tier, but bringing it all together this season feels like a tall order.
22. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are the toughest team to predict this season, as they have an unproven QB in Jordan Love taking over for the 4-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers didn’t play that well last season on the way to an 8-9 record, which can be attributed to age, injury, laziness or luck. Love won’t have to be perfect out of the gate and we shouldn’t expect him to, but he does have a good roster around him. Putting up another near .500 season wouldn’t be out of the question.
23. Los Angeles Rams
We know that Matthew Stafford + Cooper Kupp equals instant offense, but is that enough to jumpstart the dead in the water Rams? Both Kupp and Stafford dealt with injuries last season, but will be back this year. That’s good news for their offense, but after those two there isn’t much left. The current roster has rookies taking up almost half of the spots. There just isn’t going to be enough talent overall to stay in games this season.
24. Tennessee Titans
The Titans experiment that the running game with Derrick Henry could elevate them into an upper echelon team almost worked for a few seasons, but in the end it was doomed. And trading AJ Brown away was the death knell. This season could see backup Will Levis take over for Ryan Tannehill at some point, while trading Derrick Henry is going to remain on the table. This team is rebuilding, but still has enough holdovers from winning teams to feel like they have a chance to compete.
25. Las Vegas Raiders
Dumping Derek Carr for Jimmy Garoppolo is one way to do things I guess. That was a money move, while Garoppolo will be a bridge quarterback for whoever they can snag in the 2024 draft. We are now firmly in the tier that should tank their season if they don’t have a longterm quarterback in place. The Raiders have some talented players to be sure, and they should be competitive at times, but they’ll be at the bottom of the barrel in the AFC West and likely looking for a good 2024 draft pick.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Desmond Ridder won’t need to be great with the Falcons strong running game and offensive line in place, but he will need to be competent. The team added a lot of defensive players this off-season to bulk up the defensive line and improve the secondary. And of course drafting Bijan Robinson provides instant offense and should allow Ridder plenty of time to focus on Kyle Pitts and Drake London in the passing game. Add to that their easy schedule and we could see a surprising record from the Falcons. Unfortunately, they still need their third-round pick to become an above average starter at quarterback for them to truly do any damage.
27. Washington Commanders
The Commanders are a team that should tank, but they have enough talent to be competitive if Jacoby Brissett has a similar impact that he had in Cleveland last season. Unfortunately, he’ll be heading to a team with a much worse offensive line on paper. The new owners will probably want to start with a clean slate unless Ron Rivera and company can go on an improbable run this season.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Baker Mayfield has shown glimpses of positive QB play in his career, but he’s also shown that he needs a lot of pieces around him to scrape out wins. The Buccaneers still have some good players, but they are an older team that is in the need of a rebuild following the win-now Tom Brady era. Going with Mayfield as the starter is a clear sign they are ready to tank for Caleb Williams.
29. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have put together one of the better coaching staffs in the league with Frank Reich at the top, defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero who deserves a head coaching job himself, and senior offensive assistant Jim Caldwell, and newcomer Thomas Brown who has learned under Sean McVay at offensive coordinator. Add in QB Bryce Young and you have a recipe for success.
30. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have talent on offense with Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman and now the insanely athletic Anthony Richardson at QB. I could see new head coach Shane Steichen working some offensive magic, but the odds are against Richardson being ready to win too many games his rookie year.
31. Houston Texans
New head coach DeMeco Ryans was a strong choice for Houston and I believe he’ll get them on track sooner than later, but there’s a lot of work to do. The offense, which will be lead by the No. 2 overall pick CJ Stroud, will need offensive line and receiver help, while the defense is young and still has plenty of holes to fill on the defensive line.
32. Arizona Cardinals
If Kyler Murray wasn’t as dynamic as he is, the Cardinals would be buried beneath all the tiers, but he is and it looks like he could still have DeAndre Hopkins to throw to. Otherwise, the Cardinals have possibly the worst overall roster in the league. We’re still unsure when Murray will return from his ACL injury and the team will likely be extremely cautious in a year where sportsbooks have them winning the fewest games in the NFL. They also are stacked with draft picks in 2024 and would get a king’s ransom for the No. 1 pick as long as they are sticking with Murray. All signs point toward them checking this season off as lost.