We're less than a week from the NFL's opening day, and now that the preseason has concluded, I figured it's an excellent time for my first official power rankings for the 2022 season. The first rankings list is always the toughest, as you're required to do a lot of speculation as to how you think teams will perform once the pads are on and the games matter. But regardless, I'll do my best to deliver the most accurate and informative power ranking prediction on the internet.
The rankings lists I make are a representation of how good I think each team is in relation to the rest of the league at this current moment. I'll track the progression of my rankings throughout the season by updating this list every four weeks, so that we get a reasonable amount of action to watch and assess in between each list.
I compiled a season guidebook for each of the 32 teams in the league where I laid out everything you need to know about each team in one article. You can find those in the "NFL" section of the website, and while some of my predictions given in those have changed slightly over the last few weeks, those guidebooks will serve as a general guide for how I've ranked the following teams.
Let's go ahead and dive into the breakdown of the league as we enter Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season.
1. Los Angeles Rams (12-5 last season)
It's easy, and sometimes foolish, to expect the defending champions to continue their success into the next season given how tough it is to win in the NFL. But I still think the Rams are the best team in the league from top to bottom. They re-signed just about everyone who mattered from their Super Bowl run and Matthew Stafford has thrived in Sean McVay's offense. They're the team I'd pick if my life depended on one of them winning a game against any of the other 31 teams in Week 1.
2. Buffalo Bills (11-6)
I love Josh Allen and this Bills team and I was very close to slotting them at #1, but I just have a little more trust in L.A.'s offense than Buffalo. I think the Bills have a solid defense, and maybe my perception of them is skewed from their Divisional round loss against the Chiefs last season, but their defensive performance is likely what will make or break their season. Allen has proven himself as a true top 5 QB, and Bills Mafia is eager to see if their team will make it to Glendale, AZ for Super Bowl LVII in February.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
No matter what the Chiefs do in the offseason, they're a no-brainer top 5 team going into any season with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes at the helm. It's certainly possible we see a reduction in offensive efficiency with Tyreek Hill not in the lineup to stretch the defense, but Kansas City's offense is always so fluid that I don't think it will be that big of a difference. The Chiefs are certainly not short on weapons, and we would all love to see a rematch of that Chiefs-Bills game this postseason too. Though this time, it could very well be in the AFC Championship.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
It appeared Tampa Bay was going to be forced to reset and take a step back after Tom Brady announced his retirement in February. But soon after, he had a change of heart and decided he'll be back in 2022. This decision sets the tone for the Bucs to be strong contenders for the Super Bowl again this season. They've unfortunately suffered some early injuries to the offensive line, and Brady will be without his long-time tight end Rob Gronkowski this year, but Tampa is one of the strongest teams overall going into Week 1.
5. Green Bay Packers (13-4)
Green Bay tied Tampa Bay for the best regular season record a year ago, but suffered another untimely exit from the postseason at the hands of San Francisco. They're going to be really good again as long as defending league MVP Aaron Rodgers is able to play at a high level, though they'll likely suffer a slight regression offensively without Davante Adams in the lineup. The potential weakness at receiver is the main reason I have them slotted at #5 here, as I would consider them maybe top 3 otherwise.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (9-8)
It feels like the Chargers have been so close to putting together a good season, but they just haven't been able to win close games consistently over the last couple years. But with Justin Herbert entering his third season and insane talent around him, it feels like this could be L.A.'s year. Their biggest impediment will be the toughness of the rest of the teams in the AFC West, but I really like where they are roster wise as we enter regular season play.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
Cincinnati shocked the league when they knocked off the Chiefs to make it to their third ever Super Bowl in 2021. They fell just short in the title game but showed tremendous potential with their extremely young offensive core. The Bengals have one of the best receiver and running back groups in the league and Joe Burrow is destined to be a superstar who will accumulate multiple Super Bowl appearances over the years. They've improved their offensive line enough to hopefully keep Burrow healthy and to convince me they're for real.
8. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
The Cowboys have trotted out a high-powered offense the past couple seasons with Dak Prescott healthy, but while they've forced lots of turnovers, they haven't been great at preventing points on defense. They've added some guys to the defense who should help in that aspect, though they also traded star receiver Amari Cooper to Cleveland in the offseason. Regardless, I don't expect the offense to regress at all in 2022 and I think Dallas has a great shot at winning the NFC East again.
9. Denver Broncos (7-10)
Denver made the biggest improvement to the quarterback position of any team in the league by trading for Russell Wilson in the offseason. The Broncos have had a stout defense for years now, but haven't been able to get anything going on offense. I'm hoping that they can stay healthy and I'm excited to see how guys like Javonte Williams and Jerry Jeudy will perform with a top tier QB in the backfield.
10. Indianapolis Colts (9-8)
In my opinion, the Colts were the best team to not make the playoffs last season, losing a "win and you're in" game in Jacksonville in the season's final week. They were a quarterback away from a real shot at a deep postseason run in 2021, and now that they have a proven veteran who can sling the ball but also protect it, I have high expectations for Indianapolis this year.
11. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)
It's crazy to me that I have four AFC West teams in my top 11, but that's just how good I view this division. Unfortunately for the Raiders, I like them the least of the four teams, but I still think it's pretty much anyone's division as the season gets underway. Davante Adams will be a massive addition to the offense and Derek Carr is set up to have the best season of his career in 2022.
12. San Francisco 49ers (10-7)
The Niners seem to find ways to win when it matters most, and they'll be attempting to continue that trend with Trey Lance under center this season. Like always, they have a really solid defense and run game to rely on, but they'll take the next step when they can figure out the passing game. Some people have compared Lance to Patrick Mahomes, and while I'm skeptical about that, I do like the 49ers as the second best team in the NFC West to start the year.
13. Baltimore Ravens (8-9)
The Ravens had a down year in 2021 as Lamar Jackson battled an ankle injury for much of the latter part of the season. They've regrouped heading into 2022, but they'll be without WR1 Marquise Brown, who they traded to Arizona on draft night. With Rashod Bateman as their best wideout on the roster, it's hard to be excited about Baltimore's passing offense at the start of the season, but with a run-focused scheme and a stout defense, they should bounce back in 2022.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)
The Eagles snuck their way into the playoffs a season ago despite being one of the worst teams early on in the year. This is probably Jalen Hurts' "prove it" year, but it'll be a little easier with receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith to throw to. I'm not super confident in Philly at this point, but I do like them just enough to put them in the top half of the league.
15. Arizona Cardinals (11-6)
While Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals are known for starting seasons strong, that's going to be much tougher with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined for the first six games. The truth of the matter is that last year, Arizona was simply an average team when Hopkins wasn't in the lineup. That's why as of right now, I don't have the rated very highly going into Week 1. There's a good chance that'll change as the season progresses, but I'm comfortable with the Cards at #15 now.
16. Tennessee Titans (12-5)
It's been a rough offseason for the Titans after finishing last regular season first in the AFC. After falling to the Bengals in their first playoff game, they decided to keep Ryan Tannehill but traded away star receiver A.J. Brown. And just a few days ago, they lost 2021 team sack leader Harold Landry to an ACL tear. Derrick Henry will be back in the lineup and they'll probably need him to carry a very heavy load. Tennessee is one of those teams who could surprise everyone by either being very good or very bad by the end of the year.
17. Miami Dolphins (9-8)
I'd love to put the Dolphins much higher than this given how explosive they could potentially be on offense with the receiver combo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. I know they got hot in the second half of 2021 so they could have some momentum riding into Week 1, but I'm still just a little skeptical of Tua Tagovailoa's ability to stay healthy and consistent over the course of a full season. This is one of the teams that I could see moving up significantly in the rankings over the course of the season.
18. New England Patriots (10-7)
I feel like I'm always going back and forth on who I think will be better between New England and Miami, and this might be the first time ever that I've had the Dolphins ranked ahead of the Pats going into the season. It's so hard to bet against Bill Belichick, but I look at the depth chart and wonder how the Patriots are going to score points consistently. I do like Mac Jones in New England's system, but they don't much talent that's going to wow you on paper. Their defense will definitely be what keeps them in most games.
19. Minnesota Vikings (8-9)
The Vikings seem to always have a solid roster but just doesn't produce like you would expect. I think that's often due to the offensive line or the defense suffering let downs in late game situations more than it is a reflection on Kirk Cousins and his top trio of playmakers. With that said, I just can't trust Minnesota to be very high in this list.
20. Cleveland Browns (8-9)
Cleveland would certainly be higher if Deshaun Watson weren't suspended for their first 11 games, but I do think the Browns will still be decent without him. Jacoby Brissett will be the Week 1 starter, and he has a good run game and defense to support him. This team is actually pretty similar to Brissett's Colts team he led in 2019 which finished about middle of the pack, which is where I think the Browns will ultimately finish in 2022.
21. New Orleans Saints (9-8)
The Saints will kick off the regular season without Sean Payton leading the team and with Jameis Winston under center, and I don't expect either of those facts to indicate significant success in 2022. New Orleans should have a pretty good defense again this season, but there's no way I can believe in their offense even with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas back in the mix.
22. Carolina Panthers (5-12)
Carolina and traded for Baker Mayfield late in the offseason, and it's good that they did now that Sam Darnold has been placed on the IR with a high ankle sprain. Mayfield will come into the season having something to prove, and he does have some nice weapons around him in guys like Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. They'll need a bit more production from the defense and for their key players to stay healthy, but I think the offense will certainly be better in 2022.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)
The Steelers are tough to place because Mike Tomlin always has decent success with whatever team he has and Pittsburgh's defense should be good as per usual. But the quarterback position is a giant question mark. Mitch Trubisky is listed as QB1 at this point, but it feels like all three guys on the roster are pretty evenly below average. I think the Steelers will be competing with Cleveland for third place in the AFC North, but on the bright side, there should be less off-the-field drama with JuJu Smith-Schuster in Kansas City this year.
24. Washington Commanders (7-10)
The Commanders slide down this list a bit with Chase Young sidelined for likely the first four weeks as he continues to battle back from last season's ACL tear. However, the team's real success will come down to which Carson Wentz shows up week in and week out. If, and it's a big if, he's able to get back to his prior MVP form, this squad could actually be pretty good in their first season as the Commanders. But it's more likely that he'll continue being boom or bust guy who struggles to take care of the football, leading to Washington's lower ranking to start the year.
25. Chicago Bears (6-11)
I have to be honest, I'm not a big believer in Justin Fields. I'm even less of a believer in Chicago's offense as a whole, especially without Allen Robinson in the lineup. Unless Fields comes out and lights it up in his second season, the Bears will simply be as good as their defense carries them, which has to be a familiar feeling for Bears fans over the last several years.
26. Detroit Lions (3-13-1)
It may be because of their appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks, but I actually love this Lions team. Now, that doesn't mean I think they'll win 8 or 9 games and compete for a postseason spot, but I think we will see an improvement in Dan Campbell's second year as head coach. They were on the wrong end of some unfortunate endings in 2021, but they hung around in a lot of the games they played. D'Andre Swift is a beast and Jared Goff has the ability to spread the ball around a little bit, but they'll definitely need better play from the defense in 2022.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14)
Another team that has been a doormat of the league for several years, I also think the Jags are heading in the right direction now that the Urban Meyer era is over and the Doug Pederson era begins. I think Trevor Lawrence will benefit from Pederson's leadership and the offense should be better as Lawrence gains experience. The additions of Christian Kirk and Travis Etienne to the lineup will be big helps as well. Unfortunately, Jacksonville can't play at home against the Colts every week, or they'd be Super Bowl contenders.
28. Seattle Seahawks (7-10)
The Seahawks should suffer the biggest drop off from 2021 after trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos for Drew Lock among other players and picks. While they still some really talented offensive weapons, it almost appears that Seattle is eyeing some sort of rebuild in the near future. If the Seahawks only managed to pick up 7 wins with Wilson under center, I find it very hard to believe they'll get near that in 2022 with Lock. This year's team could actually resemble a slightly worse version of last season's Broncos team.
29. New York Giants (4-13)
We've gotten to the point of the rankings list where I start to run out of positive things to say about teams. These are the squads that are almost surely going to finish toward the bottom of the league. The Giants at least have some nice weapons around Daniel Jones going into 2022, though it's uncertain if they'll actually be able to deliver significant production or, more importantly, stay healthy. New York will have to vastly improve their blocking for any of those skill players to matter.
30. New York Jets (4-13)
The Jets actually do have some talent on both sides of the ball this year, but they'll probably be without Zach Wilson for the first few games of the season after he suffered a bone bruise in his knee in the preseason. I think there's potential for New York to surprise a few teams the season, but overall, I don't expect the Jets to win very many games in 2022.
31. Atlanta Falcons (7-10)
The Falcons are in true rebuild mode after trading Matt Ryan to the Colts and bringing in Marcus Mariota to start at QB and mentor rookie Desmond Ridder. Outside of Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta's offensive weapons are almost nonexistent. And the same can be said of their defense.
32. Houston Texans (4-13)
The Texans earn my preseason award for worst team in the NFL. I can say that Davis Mills looked good at times last season, and they did win a game or two that they probably shouldn't have. But there's not really anything else positive to say about this Houston team other than they did the right thing by disposing Deshaun Watson to Cleveland.
Let me know how I offended you or your favorite team and what changes you'd make to my rankings in the comments below. Stay tuned for my updated ranking after every four weeks of the season to see how the power rankings shake out throughout the year.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.