NFL Power Rankings, Week 1: Some surprises to start the season
The 2023 NFL Preseason is in the books! Up next: games that actually count. That’s not to discount the things we’ve learned throughout the last month as teams came together for training camps and exhibition matchups. Young players stepping up into major roles, sleeper teams waking up the country to their potential, and unfortunately injuries to significant players all helped to make the picture a little clearer for football fans across the globe.
As the NFL World prepares for Lions at Chiefs to begin the regular season next Thursday Night, let’s take a look at where all 32 teams stack up heading into Kickoff Weekend in the inaugural Fans First Sports NFL Power Rankings.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Reason for Optimism: The Chiefs have the biggest cheat code in football in QB Patrick Mahomes. Despite a lack of elite skill position talent outside of Travis Kelce, Mahomes makes them the team to beat in the AFC.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Reason for Optimism: Seemingly impossibly, the defensive front seven might be better in 2023 with elite young talents like DTs Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter and LBs Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith ready for massive roles.
3. Buffalo Bills
Reason for Optimism: This roster is somehow getting overlooked heading into this season, but it is stacked on both sides of the ball again. If Josh Allen gets a little more help in the Red Zone this year, this could easily be the best team in football.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Reason for Optimism: I see the Cowboys as a potential NFL juggernaut with elite playmakers on both sides of the ball. Bold prediction: the ‘Boys will boast a top 5 defense AND offense in 2023.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Reason for Optimism: Joe Burrow is one of maybe 4 NFL QBs that can hide potentially fatal weaknesses for other teams with lesser passers. There are questions at OL, TE, and in the secondary, but Burrow gives you a chance every week against any opponent.
6. New York Jets
Reason for Optimism: The Jets are flying high with a jovial Aaron Rodgers lifting the morale and spirits of a team ready to go from laughingstock to legendary overnight. They look the part.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Reason for Optimism: I have the Steelers way higher than most, but they might have the most complete roster in the AFC North with TJ Watt healthy and Kenny Pickett about to explode onto the elite QB scene.
8. Miami Dolphins
Reason for Optimism: The offense has a chance to be the league’s most explosive unit if Tua stays healthy and harnesses the elite efficiency he displayed for portions of 2022.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Reason for Optimism: Kyle Shanahan is the best offensive mind in football and this team is deep and talented at every level. A lot hinges on Brock Purdy, but the ‘9ers just moved on from the 3rd overall pick they sold the farm for just two years ago in Trey Lance. If that’s not a sign of their confidence in Purdy I don’t know what is.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Reason for Optimism: This season is about the continued rise of Trevor Lawrence to join the Justin Herberts and Joe Burrows of the world atop the QB echelon behind Patrick Mahomes. Now with a true WR1 in Calvin Ridley to toss the rock to, this offense is poised to be one of the league’s best.
11. Los Angeles Chargers
Reason for Optimism: Another great offense on paper should be boosted by a finally 100% healthy Justin Herbert and the Defense is deep and talented. Can the Chargers get out of their own way this year?
12. Cleveland Browns
Reason for Optimism: Hopes are high in Cleveland, and for good reason. If QB Deshaun Watson returns to 2020 form, this roster is a deep and talented as any in the AFC on paper.
13. Baltimore Ravens
Reason for Optimism: It’s a risky bet, but the Ravens have their money on this Todd Monken-led offense unleashing an MVP-caliber Lamar Jackson on the rest of the AFC. Oh, and he finally has an NFL-caliber pass-catching group around him.
14. Detroit Lions
Reason for Optimism: If the defense can even get to league average after a horrendous 2022, the Lions will be dangerous in the NFC with one of the most efficient offensive schemes in football leading the way.
15. Seattle Seahawks
Reason for Optimism: The cast of weapons around Geno Smith is quietly one of the league’s best, the OL should be solid, and I believe that Geno can double-down on his breakout 2022 campaign. The defense looks good too. Watch out San Francisco.
16. New Orleans Saints
Reason for Optimism: I love the Derek Carr/Chris Olave connection that’s brewing in the Bayou, and I mostly trust the veteran defense to keep it together for one more season and help boost the Saints to a significant number of wins in the lowly NFC South.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Reason for Optimism: If the Falcons plan to just overpower defenses with a mauling run game and easy play-action passing attack works like they think it will, you’re looking at the 2023 NFC South champions.
18. New England Patriots
Reason for Optimism: The Pats should field one of the league’s best defensive units and a much improved offense with an actual offensive coordinator calling plays. The AFC is brutal, but counting out a Bill Belichick squad is a poor strategy.
19. Green Bay Packers
Reason for Optimism: The Jordan Love train is picking up steam across league circles, the defense still looks good on paper, and the NFC is wide open. Why can’t the Packers take it?
20. Minnesota Vikings
Reason for Optimism: The Vikes return every key piece from the league’s 6th best passing offense while adding a dynamic first round receiver in Jordan Addison to the mix. If new DC Brian Flores can work his magic on defense, this team could be better than last years’ paper tiger unit.
21. New York Giants
Reason for Optimism: Daniel Jones enters year 2 in Brian Daboll’s offensive system, and now he has a legit number 1 target in TE Darren Waller. With plenty of complimentary pieces at WR and a motivated Saquon Barkley back, there’s no reason to believe they’ll be anything but better on offense.
22. Denver Broncos
Reason for Optimism: Super Bowl winning head coach and offensive designer Sean Payton joins a Russell Wilson-led offense and a loaded defense. Worst to first is in the realm of possibilities in the AFC West.
23. Washington Commanders
Reason for Optimism: A new age in Washington begins with a promising 2nd year passer in Sam Howell leading a tantalizing young cast of weapons supported by an elite front seven on defense. Things are looking up in the Nation’s capitol.
24. Tennessee Titans
Reason for Optimism: Mike Vrabel and Derrick Henry are still here, as is a defensive unit built to bully teams into submission. They also play in the weakest division in the AFC.
25. Indianapolis Colts
Reason for Optimism: This season is all about the growth and development of Anthony Richardson in Shane Steichen’s offense. If Richardson shows his potential in year 1, it’s been a successful campaign.
26. Chicago Bears
Reason for Optimism: Justin Fields is the most dynamic dual threat QB in football west of Lamar Jackson. If he proves to be a better passer than Jackson (which I believe is true) the Bears could get really good really quick.
27. Carolina Panthers
Reason for Optimism: Much like the Colts and Anthony Richardson, this season is a success if Bryce Young proves to be worthy of the 1st overall pick the Panthers used on him. The jury’s out on the supporting cast, but it could all come together fast if Young is good.
28. Las Vegas Raiders
Reason for Optimism: Many in Vegas feel that Jimmy G is an upgrade on Derek Carr. If that’s true, the offense still has a lot of special pieces to work with and could be better than advertised this offseason.
29. Los Angeles Rams
Reason for Optimism: Matthew Stafford is healthy and Sean McVay is invested mentally and physically once again after a roller coaster two years for Rams fans. Also, you still have Aaron Donald, arguably the greatest defender of his generation.
30. Houston Texans
Reason for Optimism: CJ Stroud might have the best supporting cast of any of the Rookie passers, and his game translates well to the NFL. Despite a slow start in Preseason, Stroud projects to grow quickly for a team with few expectations.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reason for Optimism: There are a lot of savvy, experienced veteran players on this roster on both sides of the ball. If you’re a Bucs fan, you’re hoping that is enough to stay competitive in a fairly underwhelming NFC South.
32. Arizona Cardinals
Reason for Optimism: The highest rated QB prospect in a decade will be available to you in April. In the meantime, any number of wins above zero will exceed the expectations of a consensus of the football watchers worldwide. That’s a start!
Who’s too high and who’s too low? Let the discussion commence in the comment section below! And don’t forget to stay tuned to Fans First Sports Network for the biggest stories and analysis from around the NFL this season.