NFL Power Rankings: Post-draft Super Bowl favorites? Rams, Bills fight for No. 1 – Jahanagahi

NFL Power Rankings: Post-draft Super Bowl favorites? Rams, Bills fight for No. 1

The puzzle that is the NFL offseason is nearly complete, with teams reshuffling, reshaping or completely overhauling their rosters through free agency, trades and the draft. Sure, a few more big moves might come later this spring or summer (we’re looking at you, Deebo Samuel), but for now, it’s time to look forward to where each team stands.

Welcome to the first NFL Power Rankings of the 2022 season.

The Athletic’s NFL writers and editors were asked to rank every team from 1 (best) to 32 (worst) on its chances of winning the Super Bowl based on what’s true about the roster right now, not how it might look later this summer, or, presumably, in February. For this exercise, that means Samuel is playing for the 49ers and new Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is clear to start Week 1.

A few notes from voting:

• The race for No. 1 was very close, with the Bills narrowly edging the Rams. Buffalo had just one more first-place vote than the defending Super Bowl champions.
• We’re buying into the AFC West hype. All four teams in that division were among the top 13. The Broncos made the biggest jump of the bunch, from No. 23 at the end of last season to No. 9, and the Chiefs received two first-place votes.
• The hardest team to rank? The Dolphins, who ranged from No. 7 to No. 25.

Josh Allen and the Bills are Super Bowl favorites in 2022. (Denny Medley / USA Today)

1. Buffalo Bills

2021 record: 11-6
Previous rank: 4

We’re still playing the “what if” game with the Bills and wondering what could have been in last year’s postseason. But in 2022, there’s no reason to believe Buffalo won’t be a top contender in the AFC — if not the Super Bowl favorite. Quarterback Josh Allen lost play-caller Brian Daboll to the Giants, but the Buffalo offense got better with the addition of pass-catching running back James Cook in the draft and tight end O.J. Howard in free agency.

2. Los Angeles Rams

2021 record: 12-5
Previous rank: 1

It’s been a relatively quiet offseason for the defending Super Bowl champions, with no blockbuster trades or draft picks in the top 100. Among the notable changes: left tackle Andrew Whitworth retired and veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner signed on. The Rams also reshaped the receiver room, adding Allen Robinson in free agency (Odell Beckham Jr. remains a free agent as he recovers from ACL surgery).

3. Kansas City Chiefs

2021 record: 12-5
Previous rank: 3

Life comes at you fast. Offseason changes mean just three offensive players from 2019’s Super Bowl-winning roster remain with the Chiefs: quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Mecole Hardman. We are so curious to see what coaches Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy are scheming up for version 2.0 of the Mahomes offense now that Tyreek Hill is gone.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2021 record: 13-4
Previous rank: 7

When our staff last ranked teams, Tom Brady was retired and Bruce Arians was not. And with the reverse now true, we like the Bucs’ chances in the NFC. Tampa Bay wasn’t able to bring everyone back this season like it did last year — guard Ali Marpet retired; tight end Rob Gronkowski has yet to decide if he’ll return. But Brady is back, and that gives the Bucs and new head coach Todd Bowles top-tier quarterback play and stability at the most important position.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

2021 record: 10-7
Previous rank: 2

We appreciate that the Bengals knew what had to be fixed this offseason. That was upgrading the offensive line with veteran free-agent additions and building depth on defense, particularly in the secondary. If offensive line additions like tackle La’el Collins and guard Alex Cappa can help better protect quarterback Joe Burrow, Cincinnati should be among the AFC favorites.

6. Green Bay Packers

2021 record: 13-4
Previous rank: 5

Last time we were here, it seemed like a sure thing receiver Davante Adams would still be in Green Bay 2022. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ status was more unclear. Now? Adams is with the Raiders and Rodgers will be throwing to a receiver group that includes 2022 second-round pick Christian Watson. Our panel clearly considers the Packers NFC contenders, but it will be interesting to see how this new-look offense comes together.

7. Los Angeles Chargers

2021 record: 9-8
Previous rank: 13

The offseason Chargers hype train is moving full steam ahead, thanks to the additions of edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson in free agency to fill two glaring needs. Combine that with quarterback Justin Herbert’s rapid upward trajectory, and our voters see the Chargers as an AFC playoff favorite.

The 49ers have not been eager to trade receiver Deebo Samuel. (Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

8. San Francisco 49ers

2021 record: 10-7
Previous rank: 6

This was supposed to be the offseason the 49ers moved forward with their plan to build their offense around second-year quarterback Trey Lance and do-everything receiver Deebo Samuel. That might still be the desired plan, but it’s been, well, complicated. The 49ers haven’t found a trading partner for 2021 starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Samuel wants out. With all that drama, it’s easy to forget just how close the 49ers were to winning the NFC last season.

9. Denver Broncos

2021 record: 7-10
Previous rank: 23

Does the arrival of Russell Wilson as starting quarterback make the Broncos legitimate Super Bowl contenders? We’re not there yet. But the upgrade from the Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock combo of 2021 should make Denver a factor in the stacked AFC West, and the teams that emerge from that division certainly deserve championship consideration. The Broncos climbed 14 spots since our last rankings, which were voted on a month before the Wilson deal.

10. Baltimore Ravens

2021 record: 8-9
Previous rank: 17

The Ravens missed the playoffs last year after a string of terrible injuries, but we’re optimistic Lamar Jackson and company will get back on track in 2022. The Ravens climbed eight spots since our last round of voting, thanks to free agency additions like safety Marcus Williams and defensive tackle Michael Pierce, and draft picks like safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum.

11. Dallas Cowboys

2021 record: 12-5
Previous rank: 9

The Cowboys, who lost in the wild card-round to the 49ers, will look different the next time we see them. Receiver Amari Cooper was traded to Cleveland), and offensive tackle La’el Collins (Bengals) and edge rusher Randy Gregory (Broncos) both left in free agency. With the Eagles’ aggressive offseason, are the Cowboys even still the NFC East favorites? Despite dropping the Cowboys two spots since the end of last season, our panel still has Dallas first in the division.

12. Indianapolis Colts

2021 record: 9-8
Previous rank: 16

We would not have been shocked to learn in February that the Colts were moving on from Carson Wentz. But to acquire a veteran like Matt Ryan for only a third-round pick? That was surprising. Only a disaster in Week 18 kept the Colts out of the playoffs last year, and our panel seems to like Indianapolis’ chances to be in the AFC wild-card mix — at least right now.

Derek Carr’s extension shows the Raiders are in win-now mode. (Katie Stratman / USA Today)

13. Las Vegas Raiders

2021 record: 10-7
Previous rank: 12

The big trade for Davante Adams and signing of quarterback Derek Carr to an extension are indications the new regime believes the Raiders are ready to be serious competitors right away. Our panel clearly still has questions, picking the Raiders fourth among the AFC West teams.

14. Cleveland Browns

2021 record: 8-9
Previous rank: 21

Now here’s a team with a dramatic offensive overhaul. In: Deshaun Watson, on a guaranteed $230 million contract. Out: Baker Mayfield …. at least if and when the Browns can find a trade partner. Still, Cleveland is a tricky team to rank given the uncertainty about Watson’s availability. A lengthy suspension for the 2022 season would dramatically impact the Browns’ on-field fortunes.

15. Tennessee Titans

2021 record: 12-5
Previous rank: 8

Quick, name the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs from last season. We don’t blame you if you’ve forgotten it was the Titans, and our panel clearly doesn’t see Tennessee as an AFC favorite heading into next season. The biggest move the Titans have made since losing to the Bengals in the divisional round was trading receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles and drafting quarterback Malik Willis in the third round. Brown’s replacement, Treylon Burks, might end up being great, but it’s hard to believe the Titans are a better team now than they were in January.

16. Philadelphia Eagles

2021 record: 9-8
Previous rank: 14

Our takeaway from the Eagles’ offseason is that this is a make-or-break season for quarterback Jalen Hurts. There should be no questions about the receiving weapons — hello, A.J. Brown — and the defense should be better equipped to play complementary football, which always helps a young quarterback. The Eagles snuck into the playoffs last season. Now the expectation should be to get back and be competitive.

17. New England Patriots

2021 record: 10-7
Previous rank: T-10

Bill Belichick always finds a way to surprise us, and this year’s “Only in New England” move came when he drafted guard Cole Strange in the first round. Other key offseason moves include trades for linebacker Mack Wilson (from the Browns, in exchange for Chase Winovich) and receiver DeVante Parker (from the Dolphins). Useful additions, sure, but did New England do enough in the rest of the offseason to close the gap on the Bills?

DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension is a huge hit to the Cardinals. (Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

18. Arizona Cardinals

2021 record: 11-6
Previous rank: T-10

Whew, where do we start? Between the ALL CAPS letter from Kyler Murray’s agent and the six-game suspension for receiver DeAndre Hopkins, it has been a rough spring for the Cardinals. Arizona has work to do this summer to make Murray happy and get the offense humming without Hopkins.

19. Miami Dolphins

2021 record: 9-8
Previous rank: 19

If we know nothing else about the 2022 Dolphins, we know they’ll be fast. That’s what adding receiver Tyreek Hill does to an offense that already featured speedy 2021 first-round pick Jaylen Waddle. We also like the addition of left tackle Terron Armstead to fill an obvious need, but we’re keeping Miami here in the middle of the NFL pack until we see how this group comes together with Tua Tagovailoa.

20. Minnesota Vikings

2021 record: 8-9
Previous rank: 20

The biggest change in the Vikings’ building came immediately after the season, with the hiring of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell. The roster returns largely unchanged, save for the addition of free-agent pass rusher Za’Darius Smith (who comes from rival Green Bay) and draft picks led by safety Lewis Cine. That means the outlook for 2022 depends on the same thing it has the last four years: How well will Kirk Cousins play?

21. New Orleans Saints

2021 record: 9-8
Previous rank: 18

Are you ready for Year 2 of Jameis Winston in New Orleans? The Saints surveyed the quarterback market and, after missing out on Deshaun Watson, landed back on Winston. He threw 14 touchdowns and three interceptions for the Saints before suffering a torn ACL last October. Our panel picked the Saints as the second-best team in the NFC South. Will that be good enough for a playoff spot come January?

22. Pittsburgh Steelers

2021 record: 9-7-1
Previous rank: 15

This has been an offseason of tremendous change for one of the NFL’s most stable franchises. Ben Roethlisberger retired, so the Steelers begin on-field practices this month with two new quarterbacks, free agent Mitch Trubisky and first-round pick Kenny Pickett. The Steelers like to think the rest of their roster is strong enough to remain competitive during the quarterback change. Our voters aren’t as sure, dropping Pittsburgh seven spots from where it finished last season.

23. Washington Commanders

2021 record: 7-10
Previous rank: 24

Washington has officially changed its nickname and its quarterback since our panel last voted. But the switch from Taylor Heinicke to Carson Wentz hasn’t convinced our voters that Washington is in a better position now than it was at the end of last season. The aggressive move to trade for Wentz, before so many other quarterback dominoes fell, is still confounding, and will alter the course of the Commanders’ 2022 season.

24. New York Jets

2021 record: 4-13
Previous rank: 28

If last season was about beginning a rebuild under new head coach Robert Saleh, 2022 must be about taking a major step forward with second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. We all seemed to really like the Jets’ draft and believe general manager Joe Douglas found several Week 1 starters, but with a roster as thin as it was last year, upgrades were needed at many positions. Still, our panel picked the Jets as the fourth team in the AFC East.

25. Seattle Seahawks

2021 record: 7-10
Previous rank: 22

Things have certainly changed in Seattle since February. Russell Wilson is gone, and the Seahawks are prepared to move ahead in 2022 with either Drew Lock or Geno Smith as the starting quarterback. (Seattle did not draft a quarterback, nor does it appear to have significantly pursued trading for Baker Mayfield.) So, where does this leave the Seahawks this season? A lot further from a Super Bowl than they ever were with Wilson.

Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson should be a Day 1 starter for the Lions. (Doug Benc / Associated Press)

26. Detroit Lions

2021 record: 3-13-1
Previous rank: 30

We shouldn’t have huge expectations for the 2022 Lions, because this is a team in Year 2 of a rebuild. They drafted a building block in defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and a No. 1 receiver (when he gets healthy) in Jameson Williams. Next year, the Lions can focus on the quarterback and major progress.

27. (tie) Carolina Panthers

2021 record: 5-12
Previous rank: 27

Carolina entered this offseason seemingly desperate to make yet another change at quarterback. But after missing out on Deshaun Watson and waiting until the third round to draft Matt Corral, it appears the Panthers will start next season with Sam Darnold. Best case-scenario, then, is that Darnold will play better than he did last season thanks to a healthy Christian McCaffrey and the addition of first-round tackle Ikem Ekwonu. But even then, our panel isn’t high on the Panthers’ chances.

27. (tie) New York Giants

2021 record: 4-13
Previous rank: 29

The Giants are sending mixed messages: They didn’t draft a quarterback this spring, but they also declined to pick up the fifth-year option for starter Daniel Jones. That means Jones is at a critical point this season. Either he proves to the Giants he’s worthy of an extension, or they can easily move on. Will the team around Jones help his chances of earning a new contract? The addition of right tackle Evan Neal, especially, should help.

29. (tie) Atlanta Falcons

2021 record: 7-10
Previous rank: 25

We predicted in February that the Falcons would make some sort of quarterback move this offseason, but trying (and failing) to trade for Deshaun Watson, actually trading Matt Ryan, signing Marcus Mariota and drafting Desmond Ridder is an even wilder outcome than anyone could have predicted. We think the Falcons were probably worse last year than their record indicated, and our voters think 2022 could be even more challenging.

The Bears needed to do more for Justin Fields this offseason. (Quinn Harris / USA Today)

29. (tie) Chicago Bears

2021 record: 6-11
Previous rank: 26

What exactly have the Bears done this offseason to make things better and easier for their most important asset, quarterback Justin Fields? A change in coaching staff and scheme should help Fields’ development in Year 2, but a scan through the Bears’ roster after the draft and free agency doesn’t reveal a team that looks much better suited to win with Fields now than it did last year.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

2021 record: 3-14
Previous rank: 32

The best thing we can say about the Jaguars’ offseason as they try to recover from the disastrous but short-lived Urban Meyer era is that Jacksonville was aggressive. Aggressive with its free-agent money (we’re still not over that Christian Kirk deal) and aggressive in the draft, taking edge rusher Travon Walker at No. 1 based on physical traits and potential production.

32. Houston Texans

2021 record: 4-13
Previous rank: 31

The Texans are finally free of Deshaun Watson, and the rebuild is underway, with Davis Mills expected to be Houston’s starting quarterback again in 2022. The Texans have a long way to go to even just be competitive in the AFC South, but it starts with getting significant impact from their rookies. That includes first-round picks Derek Stingley Jr. at cornerback and Kenyon Green at guard.

(Top photo: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)


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