Max Teply’s 2022 Pre-Season NFL Power Rankings

With football season finally here, Max Teply ranks and breaks down each team entering the 2022 campaign.

Max Teplys 2022 Pre-Season NFL Power Rankings

Football season is right around the corner! This past offseason was a wild one. Many superstar players changed teams, including quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receivers Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. All this player movement has changed the landscape around the league and created many intriguing story lines. With that in mind, let’s rank and break down each team going into the season and take a guess as to how this season will play out.

Tier 6: cellar dwellers

Photo by Ryan Dickey

#32. Chicago Bears: The Bears enter this season with a focus towards the future. Over the offseason, the Bears offloaded many veterans who were important contributors to their moderate success in recent years, including superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack and defensive tackles Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman. They also lost Allen Robinson, their best wide receiver, to the Rams in free agency. Quarterback Justin Fields returns for his second season after struggling as a rookie, and new general manager Ryan Poles didn’t do much to make his job easier. Coming off a promising sophomore season, receiver Darnell Mooney enters this year as Fields’ top target in the passing game, and he is set for a big year. However, Poles failed to adequately replace Robinson, and the Bears receiving options behind Mooney are mediocre at best. Fields has all the traits necessary to develop into a franchise quarterback – a strong arm, good accuracy, and good mobility, but he needs good coaching, good playmakers, and a good offensive line to help him put it all together. Without these essential ingredients, it’s hard to see Fields meeting the expectations that come with being drafted in the first round by an iconic franchise like the Bears. If the public pressure mounts on Fields, and it will if he struggles, it could be a rough year in the Windy City.

#31. Houston Texans: At the end of the 2020 season, the Texans organization was a dumpster fire. Franchise icon J.J. Watt was released, superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson requested a trade, and they were without a head coach and general manager. However, they hired Nick Casereo, a former right-hand man to Bill Belichick as GM, and the team has slowly started to turn things around since. The Texans somehow got three first round picks from the Browns for Watson and all his trouble (more on that later) and are working on rebuilding both the culture and roster in Houston. While this year’s Texans aren’t all that good, they are definitely heading in the right direction with a plethora of young talent, plenty of future draft capital, and a respected coaching staff and front office.

#30. Jacksonville Jaguars: Although their organization is still a mess relative to most other teams in the NFL, the Jags are headed in the right direction simply because the disaster that was the Urban Meyer experiment is behind them. New head coach Doug Pederson doesn’t inspire much confidence either, but anyone would be an upgrade over Meyer. Pederson did win a Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2018, but offensive coordinator Frank Reich left immediately after the Super Bowl win to be the Indianapolis Colts head coach. After that, Pederson’s Eagles got worse and worse until they were forced to fire him following the 2020 season while Reich’s Colts have become consistent playoff contenders even with a revolving door at quarterback. For the Jags, quarterback Trevor Laurence, the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, returns for his sophomore season. He struggled last season, but having Meyer as your head coach in your rookie season, plus a lackluster receiving core, is a recipe for a tough year. The Jags upgraded their receiving core in free agency, signing Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram to join Marvin Jones Jr. in the starting lineup. Jacksonville also significantly upgraded the offensive line by signing star right guard Brandon Scherff. Running back Travis Etienne Jr. also returns after missing his entire rookie season with a foot injury. With all these additions, the Jags offense should be much more respectable, but Laurence and Pederson still have a lot to prove.

#29. Atlanta Falcons: After 14 seasons, the Matt Ryan era is over in Atlanta. After Ryan was traded to the Colts, the Falcons signed former second overall pick Marcus Mariota and drafted Desmond Ridder out of Cincinnati to compete for the starting job. As of now, Mariota seems to be the favorite to start, but it is more than likely that Ridder gets some playing time at some point this year. They also have electric second-year tight end Kyle Pitts, who is expected to develop into one of the NFL’s elite tight ends this year if he hasn’t done so already. Beyond that though, there isn’t much excitement surrounding the Falcons this seasons.

#28. Seattle Seahawks: Similar to the Falcons, the Seahawks are entering a new ear after the trade of superstar quarterback Russell Wilson to the Broncos. Although they still have some great playmakers on offense including DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, their quarterback situation is probably the worst in the league. Geno Smith, a journeymen who was Wilson’s backup for the last two years, is now the starter. Drew Locke, a former top draft pick who flamed out after three years in Denver, is an alternative option if Smith stinks up the joint, but it’s safe to say that neither Smith nor Locke inspires much confidence. The Seahawks have some great playmakers, but it won’t matter if their quarterback can’t get them the ball. The defense is average at best, so it’s going to be a long year if the offense struggles.

Tier 5: slightly more competitive but still not playoff caliber teams

#27. New York Jets: Ok, finally some excitement. The Jets had a great offseason, and especially a great draft. They selected three potential stars in the first round in cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, wideout Garrett Wilson, and defensive lineman Jermaine Johnson. They also took running back Breece Hall in the second round for good measure. Quarterback Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, showed promise at the end of last season, and the Jets hope he will take a big step forward this year. If he does, the Jets could easily exceed this ranking, but I need to see it before I rank them any higher.

#26. New York Giants: The excitement for the other team that plays in New Jersey but who is named after New York is largely centered around new head coach Brian Daboll. Daboll has been the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator for the past few years, and is well-known for developing a raw, inaccurate, turnover-prone rookie quarterback named Josh Allen into one of the NFL’s best. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones doesn’t have the same physical upside as Allen, so he’s probably not going to have a huge breakout season, but it is nonetheless interesting to see what the G-Men’s offense will look like with an offensive guru in charge. With Jones in the final year of his rookie contract, the Giants may just play out this season and find a new quarterback in the 2023 draft, but it should be an interesting season nonetheless.

#25. Detroit Lions: The Lions are one of the fastest rising teams in the NFL. Just two years aga, the Lions were stuck in purgatory with an aging roster and a poor coaching staff and front office. However, things almost immediately started to turn in a positive direction once Dan Campbell and Brad Homes took over as head coach and general manager respectively. Campbell is a great, energetic leader that you can’t help liking, and Holmes has done a great job overhauling the roster and bringing in some great young talent. They still have some definite holes, most notably on defense and at quarterback, but the Lions are only a few moves away from being contenders.

#24. Washington Commanders: The Commanders are the definition of a team in purgatory. They aren’t terrible, but they aren’t good either. They acquired Carson Wentz from the Colts back in March to be their new starting quarterback after trying and failing to trade for Russell Wilson. Wentz was once one of the best young quarterbacks in football, but a host of injuries and Doug Pederson’s terrible coaching have turned him into a ghost of his former self. Frank Reich, Wentz’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when he was good, tried to fix him last season but had little success, and the Colts decided to move in a different direction. Wentz now lands in Washington, where his outlook isn’t any better. Offensive play caller Scott Turner is no Reich, and outside of superstar receiver Terry McLaurin, the offense around Wentz is largely young and unproven. Washington is really stuck in the middle. They theoretically could exceed expectations if their defense returns to its elite 2020 form, but they have no real upside unless Wentz and the offense shock the world.

#23. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are a boom or bust team this year. On one hand, new quarterback Baker Mayfield could return to his 2020 form, running back Christian McCaffrey could stay healthy for the entire season, and a young defense could continue making strides following a promising 2021 campaign, helping the Panthers contend for a playoff spot. On the other hand, Mayfield could pick up where he left off last season with the Browns and continue to struggle, McCaffrey could get hurt for the third year in a row, and the defense could regress to the mean, causing the Panthers to plummet and finish as one of the worst teams in the league. The coaching staff is another question mark. Matt Rule had a promising first season as head coach in 2020, but drastically underwhelmed last season. His ability to command the locker room will also be a determining factor in the Panthers’ success or lack there of. Either way, it will be a fascinating season in Carolina.

Tier 4: potential playoff contenders

#22. Cleveland Browns: The Browns are the very definition of drama in the NFL. For one, they traded a whopping three first round picks for quarterback DeShaun Watson, who requested a trade out of Houston following the 2020 season, didn’t play the entire 2021 season, and is now suspended for the first 11 games of this season due to off field issues. In the mean time, journeyman Jacoby Brissett will lead the Cleveland offense. The Browns have plenty of talent, so there’s a chance that they could be in the playoff hunt when they get Watson back if Brissett can hold his own. Cleveland’s running game, led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, is one of the NFL’s best, and Amari Cooper was acquired from the Cowboys to be their top target in the passing game, not to mention superstar pass rusher Miles Garrett and corner back Denzel Ward who headline the defense. However, it remains to be seen how the off-field drama will impact the on-field product.

#21. New England Patriots: The Patriots had a weird offseason. They did upgrade their receiving core by trading for DeVante Parker from the Dolphins, but they also downgraded their offensive line when they traded star right guard Shaq Mason to the Buccs for a measly fifth-round pick. Bill Belichick is still a great coach, but he might be on the decline as a general manager. The Patriots were throttled in their playoff loss to the Bills last season, giving up six consecutive touchdown drives to begin the game on route to a 47-10 loss. Belichick has made some interesting decision to say the least regarding his offensive coaching staff. Former speical teams coach Joe Judge has been coaching the quarterbacks in training camp, and former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has been calling the plays during games. Both do have head coaching experience, but neither have ever coached offense. This could really be a mess, but maybe Belichick will surprise us all again. For now, I can’t rank the Pats any higher than this.

#20. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles were one of the NFL’s biggest surprises last season, finishing 9-8 and making a brief playoff appearance. However, they had a very easy schedule, and all their wins came against opponents with losing records. For comparison, they lost every single game against teams with winning records, and were crushed in their one playoff game 31-15 by the Buccaneers. They did make some major improvements this offseason, most notably acquiring star receiver A.J. Brown from the Titans to be quarterback Jalen Hurts’ top target, but with a much tougher schedule this year, Philly will need Hurts to take a big step forward if they hope to repeat last year’s modest success.

#19. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have a very talented team and one of the most experienced head coaches in the league in Mike Tomlin. However, similar to Miami, the quarterback position is a big question mark for Pittsburgh following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. They drafted hometown hero Kenny Pickett, a 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist, and signed former Bear Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky will start in week 1, but Pickett had a solid pre-season and has the backing of the fans, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pickett get some playing time this season. If they get quality quarterback play, the Steelers could be right in the playoff hunt, but that is a big if.

#18. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins were one of the busiest teams over this past offseason. They acquired megastar receiver Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs, signed Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead to anchor a much improved offensive line, and signed running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert, to overhaul their running game. The Dolphins also sport one of the better defenses in the NFL, and they return most of their starting unit from last season. The only major question mark for Miami is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He has not impressed in his first two NFL seasons, and Miami’s success this season will largely depend on him. With such a great offense around him, Tua has no excuses this year. If he continues to struggle, the Phins could turn to Teddy Bridgewater, who played well for the Broncos last year but was forced to take a backup job in Miami in free agency.

#17. Arizona Cardinals: At this time last year, the Cardinals were one of the most hyped teams in the league. They are now one of the most boring, at least for me. They of course have electric dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray, but there isn’t much to get excited about beyond him. For one, superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins will miss the first six games of the season after being suspended for taking performance enhancing substances, leaving Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is Arizona’s top receiver for the time being. Although Murray and Brown had a great rapport during their college days at Oklahoma, Brown has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t had a great deal of success since entering the NFL. He is certainly a breakout candidate, but that’s not something I’m counting on. Moreover, the Cardinals struggled late last season and were embarrassed in their playoff loss to the Rams. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has a lot to prove if he wants to keep his job beyond this season.

#16. Minnesota Vikings: For the first time in nearly a decade, the Vikings have a new head coach and general manager. Kevin O’Connell was hired away from the Rams to be the head coach, and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired from the Browns organization to be the general manager. Other than that, the Vikings had a rather uneventful offseason. The offense should remain solid with Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and Justin Jefferson leading the way, while the defense should be average unless something unforeseen happens. The Vikings, just like the other teams in this tier, have a chance to make the playoffs if things go their way.

#15. Tennessee Titans: The Titans have been one of the most consistent regular season teams over the past few years and have made it as far as the AFC championship game in the playoffs. However, Tennessee was eliminated by the Bengals in the divisional round of the 2022 playoffs after earning a buy through the wildcard round. Superstar running back Derrick Henry has carried the Titans’ offense for three seasons now, but he missed the second half of last season with a foot injury and struggled in the playoff loss to Cincinnati. It is worth wondering whether his best days are behind him. Moreover, the Titans traded A.J. Brown, their best receiver, to the Eagles on draft night. The offense is unlikely to be as potent as they were last season without Brown and with Henry potentially on the decline. The defense, however, is one of the best in the league, so Tennessee should remain in contention even if the offense takes a step back.

Tier 3: serious playoff contenders

#14. Las Vegas Raiders: This is where things get interesting. The Raiders come in last in these power rankings out of the loaded AFC West. Vegas made some huge improvements this past offseason, most notably acquiring Davante Adams to lead a stacked group of receiving options for Derek Carr and hiring long-time Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s as head coach. However, the Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos also made major improvements, so the Raiders have an extremely difficult path to the postseason even though they have a very talented roster.

#13. Dallas Cowboys: This ranking may surprise some people, but the Cowboys are one of the most overrated teams in the NFL in my opinion. They were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the 49ers last year because of some horrible coaching decisions and then lost some key contributors to last year’s team during the offseason. For one, Dallas was forced to trade Amari Cooper to the Browns for cap relief and Cedrick Wilson signed with the Dolphins in free agency, downgrading Dallas’ receiving core. They also lost Randy Gregory, one of their best pass rushers, via free agency. Moreover, starting offensive guard Connor Williams signed with the Dolphins in free agency, leaving a whole on an offensive line that has already suffered injuries to many key players in recent seasons. Finally, head coach Mike McCarthy is a fraud. At the end of his tenure as the Packers head coach, Aaron Rodgers looked like he was washed. Rodgers has since won back-to-back MVP awards and is arguably the best quarterback in the league once again. McCarthy is a liability whose lack of coaching skills could cost his team at any given time (last year’s playoff loss is a great example). If it wasn’t for great offensive and defensive coordinators and a plethora of star players on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys would rank much lower.

#12. New Orleans Saints: After the retirement of long time head coach Sean Payton, many assumed that the Saints would take a step back, but new head coach Dennis Allen is perfectly equip to keep things rolling in the Big Easy. Allen, the Saints defensive coordinator for the past few years, was promoted internally, so he knows what it takes to run a great team after working under Payton. His defense is also one of the best in the league. Jameis Winston returns at quarterback after tearing his ACL a month into a promising 2021 campaign. He is expected to get superstar receiver Michael Thomas back from injury, and New Orleans also drafted Chris Olave out of Ohio St. in the first round to add to the receiving core. If Winston can pick up where he left off last season, the Saints should be well on their way to returning to the playoffs.

#11. Indianapolis Colts: For the fifth year in a row, the Colts have a new quarterback. This time it’s former Falcon Matt Ryan. Ryan is probably best known for blowing a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI against the Patriots, but that one terrible collapse diminishes the perception of Ryan’s actual talent. In fact, he won the MVP award the year Atlanta made it to the Super Bowl. He is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in football and also is one of the best at reading defenses, helping to limit turnovers. He is limited, however, because he doesn’t have an especially strong arm and his mobility in the pocket is below average. However, he is an upgrade over Carson Wentz, the Colts 2021 quarterback. Indi was a week 18 collapse against the Jaguars away from making the playoffs last season, so coupled with the Titans taking a step back, the Colts are the favorites to win the AFC South this year.

Tier 2: Superbowl contenders

#10. San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco’s success this year hinges on the play of quarterback Trey Lance. Lance was drafted third overall in the 2021 draft to be the Niners franchise quarterback. After taking a year to acclimate and learn behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance has now been given the keys to the San Francisco offense, and his potential is through the roof. He has all the physical traits you could ever want in a quarterback, and the Niners have one of the best offensive minds in football in Kyle Shanahan as head coach. Lance didn’t have a ton of playing time in college, so he was a raw prospect coming into the draft. However, after a year of learning from Garoppolo and Shanahan, the Niners believe Lance is ready to take the starting job. If he reaches his potential, the Niners could very well win the Super Bowl this year. I just need to see it before I rank them any higher.

#9. Denver Broncos: The Broncos have had a talented roster for a couple years now, but they have been held back by subpar quarterback play. To solve this problem, the Broncos acquired Russell Wilson from the Seahawks in a blockbuster trade. Wilson struggled after returning from a thumb injury late last season, but if he is fully healthy and at the top of his game, the Broncos should finally make the jump from mediocre to contender.

#8. Cincinnati Bengals: Yes, the Bengals made it all the way to the Super Bowl last year and made some notable improvements during the offseason, especially on the offensive line, but they were a surprise team last year, and it just feels like they are due for some regression. Even though he led his team to the Super Bowl and is a great leader, head coach Zac Taylor’s play calling and in-game decisions did not impress me. The Bengals should still be good, but they won’t have as easy of a path to the Super Bowl this season.

#7. Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers, like the rest of the teams in their division, had a great offseason. They addressed some of their biggest needs, especially on the offensive and defensive lines and in the secondary. After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, the Chargers have a great chance to take a leap forward this year, although it won’t be easy given how good their division and the AFC as a whole are. Quarterback Justin Herbert is expected to rise into the elite tier of quarterbacks this season after showing constant development in his first two NFL seasons, and he has some great playmakers at his disposal. If the defense improves, the Chargers have a chance to be special.

#6. Los Angeles Rams: The Rams return many of the key contributors that won them the Super Bowl a season ago, but they did have some major losses. Long time left tackle Andrew Whitworth retired after last season, edge rusher Von Miller signed with the Bills in free agency, and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was not brought back (although he is still a free agent so that could change), just to name a few. Moreover, wide receiver Cooper Kupp is a clear candidate for some regression to the mean after a career year last season. With all that in mind, I expect LA to take a small step back this year. They should still be good, but they probably won’t repeat as champs.

#5. Green Bay Packers: The Packers are notorious for having a lackluster receiving core. This year, after Davante Adams refused to sign an extension which forced Green Bay to trade him, their receivers are even worse than usual. However, they still have the back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. There running game, led by Aaron Jones and AJ Dylan is also great. Moreover, the Packers have one of the most talented defenses in the league. They should still be really good even if their receivers aren’t up to scratch.

#4. Baltimore Ravens: I am really excited for the Ravens this season. They had an incredible offseason, led by a potentially elite draft class. They are also getting some star players back from injury, including corner backs Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. On the offensive side of the ball, the Birds are leaning into quarterback Lamar Jackson’s strengths. Jackson is an elite playmaker in the running game, and while he is fine as a passer, he does his best work with his legs. Coupled with a fortified offensive line and the returns of running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards from injuries, the Ravens running game will be elite this year. Tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Rashod Bateman headline the passing game for Baltimore, but the running game will be the focal point of this offense. On defense, the returns of Humphrey and Peters, the drafting of safety Kyle Hamilton in the first round, and some other smaller moves should help fortify Baltimore’s defense and return it to top-tier status. I am really excited to watch the Ravens this season.

Tier 1: Super Bowl favorites —  (All-Pro Reels Photography) (Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels)

#3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: In the middle of February, things looked bleak for the Buccs. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski had retired, plus many key players were set to hit free agency and Tampa Bay didn’t have much cap flexibility. A month later, Brady was back and the front office worked some magic to get most of their free agents re-signed. Brady, now 45, came back because he and the Buccs had “un-finished business” after losing to the Rams in the divisional playoff last year, so he is hungry to win another title. Watch out for Tampa Bay.

#2. Kansas City Chiefs: Yes, the Chiefs probably got worse on paper over the offseason with the losses of receiver Tyreek Hill and safety Tyrann Mathieu. However, they replaced Mathieu with another great safety in Justin Reed, and I actually think that the loss of Hill could serve as addition by subtraction for KC. Patrick Mahomes won’t feel the need to force-feed Hill the ball, so there’s a good chance the offense runs more smoothly with less mouths to feed. The defense remains largely in tact as well after being a solid unit last year. KC has a great chance to win the title this season.

#1. Buffalo Bills: We’ve made it to #1 at last. The Bills were eliminated from last year’s playoffs because they lost the coin toss in overtime to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, and their offense never touched the ball in the extra period. Quarterback Josh Allen dominated in that game, and many believe he is poised for an MVP season. I think that is definitely possible, but I do think people generally over-hype him because of his incredible playoff performance. However, I still have the Bills at #1 because they are the most well-rounded team in the NFL. Their offense is elite and their defense is really good as well. My instincts tell me that Buffalo probably won’t finish the season at #1, but no other team has given me reason to put them ahead of the Bills as of this moment.