NFL power rankings: Where do Broncos, Browns stand with new quarterbacks?
The Bears have a lot of work to do if they want to crack the top half of the NFL. Meanwhile, the 2022 contenders are a mix of perennial powers and upstarts.
It seems ludicrous to say any team is “just a quarterback away” from contending when that’s by far the most important position in sports. If a team doesn’t have a quarterback, it doesn’t have anything.
But there are always teams that seem to have the other pieces in place, and if they hit the moonshot of landing a top quarterback, they instantly shoot to the top of the NFL. The last two champions pulled that off as the Rams ponied up for Matt Stafford last year and the Bucs recruited Tom Brady the year before.
A dozen teams hoped to make a similar leap by prying Aaron Rodgers from the Packers, though he signed a massive contract to stay in Green Bay. But the Broncos believe they did almost as well by swinging a trade for Russell Wilson, and the Browns are hoping they have a game-changer in Deshaun Watson.
As the first wave of free agency settles, here’s how everyone stacks up:
The Bills check every box to be a champion-in-waiting: They’ve got an MVP-caliber quarterback in Josh Allen, their defense was the NFL’s best last season and they’ve paid their dues in hard-fought playoff losses. This is their time.
The Rams were dominant throughout last season, have the NFL’s top coach in Sean McVay and have every reason to think they can do it again. They also signed ex-Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson, who finally gets to play in a real offense.
They always have a chance if they have Rodgers, the four-time MVP. They did everything they could to keep him because they knew it was worth it.
It’s been a while since the Broncos were relevant—they’re 39-58 since winning Super Bowl 50—but they had the No. 3 scoring defense last season and put themselves in the mix by acquiring Wilson.
Something’s been off about the Chiefs since losing to Brady in the Super Bowl. They’re still fearsome if Patrick Mahomes is healthy, but their defense can’t be trusted.
Where would they be on this list if Brady hadn’t unretired this week? Certainly the bottom half of it. But even as he approaches 45, Brady gives them a chance.
They aren’t the best team in the league, but they might be the most intriguing after trading for Khalil Mack and signing Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson.
The Browns still have an excellent defense and traded for Amari Cooper, so Watson walks into a ready-to-contend situation. Even if he is suspended for part of the season, he gives them a chance to beat anybody.
The Cowboys always seem to be good, but never great. They feast on a weak division and they haven’t done anything in the playoffs since their mid-1990s glory days.
As impressive as their Super Bowl run was last season, the Bengals were a 10-7 team that caught some significant breaks.
People seem to be sleeping on the Patriots despite two decades of great defense regardless of players coming and going. Their plus-159 point differential was third in the NFL last season, and quarterback Mac Jones will only get better.
No one knows exactly what the 49ers have at quarterback. They’re more than ready to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo, but Trey Lance played just six games last season and wasn’t convincing.
The Ravens made a nice pickup in free agency with safety Marcus Williams, but their hope hinges on quarterback Lamar Jackson. He needs to play better, and they need him to stay healthy.
This was one of the most perplexing teams in the NFL: The Cardinals plunged from 10-2 to 11-6 and a blowout loss in the first round of the playoffs. There’s a lot on the line for them this season.
The Titans are a better version of the Vikings. They went 23-10 over the last two regular seasons, but no one’s going to take them seriously unless they upgrade at quarterback.
This is a team to watch, and the potential breakthrough will depend on whether new coach Mike McDaniel brings out the best in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins were one game out of the playoff field the last two seasons.
The Colts are one of those everything-but-a-quarterback teams, but picking up Garoppolo or Jameis Winston won’t put them over the top.
The Raiders have hung on to quarterback Derek Carr too long. He’s fine, but every team in their division has someone better.
It’s tough to escape mediocrity without a strong quarterback, so if the Eagles don’t get a big jump from Jalen Hurts this season, they’ll probably look for someone else in 2023.
After losing out on Watson, the Saints are now looking at someone more like Baker Mayfield or Garoppolo, and neither can provide the boost their offense needs.
The Vikings just can’t seem to fully enact a rebuild. After going 33-31-1 over the last four seasons, they handed out another big payday to quarterback Kirk Cousins.
They’re lucky to be this high. Mitch Trubisky is their quarterback.
Also lucky to be this high. Carson Wentz is their quarterback.
The Bears aren’t conceding this season, but it’ll take a monumental step forward by quarterback Justin Fields to get them in the playoffs. New general manager Ryan Poles seems to be prioritizing a big push in 2023.
Can they spend their way out of the basement? They’re trying to. The Jaguars signed seven players in the opening days of free agency for a total of $259.5 million.
It’s hard for the Panthers to find a reason to believe they’ll be good this season with Sam Darnold. They need to start fresh and draft a new quarterback.
It’ll be a tough season for the Seahawks, but they knew that was coming when they traded Wilson. They’re betting that the haul of draft picks Denver sent them will turn into pillars of their future.
The Jets had the NFL’s worst defense last season and at one point allowed 175 points over a four-game stretch. They were also one of just five teams that scored fewer points than the Bears.
It’s the perfect time for the Falcons to start over. They’ve already planted the idea of leaving in Matt Ryan’s head, star wide receiver Calvin Ridley is suspended for the entire season and their defense is one of the NFL’s worst.
The Giants still have a lot of deficiencies, including at quarterback, but they have the Nos. 5 and 7 draft picks thanks to their trade with the Bears last year.
One of these seasons, the Lions will finally get it right. But not this season. Throw them a parade if they win five games.
If the Texans have a plan, no one else can tell what it is. But at least now that they’ve moved on from Watson and loaded up on draft capital, they can begin the rebuild.