NFL power rankings: Are Bears, QB Caleb Williams ready to make their move?

The Bears are rising, but they aren’t the only ones. There are still plenty of hurdles in their path to contending.

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USC quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates after being chosen by the Chicago Bears with the first overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft.

Caleb Williams stepped onto a Bears roster that was already built to compete for a playoff spot in 2024.

Paul Sancya/AP

The Bears aren’t the best team in the NFL, but they’re the most fascinating.

They’re conducting a seemingly unprecedented experiment as No. 1 pick Caleb Williams joins a roster that already was trending toward a playoff berth, and general manager Ryan Poles has supplied everything he needs to chase his goal of having the best rookie season ever.

Not only is Williams considered a once-every-few-years talent, but rarely does a quarterback picked high in the draft end up in such a readymade situation. Usually they’re walking into total mess, as Justin Fields and Mitch Trubisky did when the Bears drafted them in the first round.

Poles has compared some of Williams’ abilities to those of Patrick Mahomes, who also encountered a favorable situation when the Chiefs drafted him 10th in 2017. By giving him a viable offensive line, an excellent crew of skill players and potentially a top-10 defense, expectations are enormous.

No wonder “Hard Knocks” wanted the Bears this summer. Everyone’s going to be watching them all season.

Here’s where they stand on the league’s landscape after an offseason filled with stunning trades and free-agent signings, plus a draft that saw six teams take quarterbacks in the top 12 picks:

1. 49ers
The 49ers went 35-16 over the last three seasons, reaching the NFC title game twice and losing to the Chiefs in overtime in the Super Bowl. Their roster remains loaded, and it’s finally their time.

2. Chiefs
They’re a dynasty, and they always will be with Patrick Mahomes, but the Chiefs are teetering as they vie for a three-peat. It’s incredibly tough to keep winning championships when they have to offload key players like cornerback L’Jarius Sneed.

3. Ravens
The window is still very much open for the Ravens and reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. They were No. 1 in points allowed and No. 4 in points scored last season.

4. Lions
They had a 14-point lead over the 49ers in the second half of the NFC title game last season. What if that’s the peak of this run?

5. Texans
Everyone was afraid of facing C.J. Stroud and the Texans — then they swung big by trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs and signing pass rusher Danielle Hunter. Watch out.

6. Packers
Quarterback Jordan Love quietly put up a 112.7 passer rating over the final eight games and finished second in the NFL with 32 touchdown passes, then won a playoff game.

7. Eagles
Saquon Barkley was a huge free-agent pickup for the Eagles. He totaled 2,892 yards of offense and 20 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

8. Bengals
Quarterback Joe Burrow was an MVP contender in 2021 and ’22, but can he get back to that level after a season ruined by injuries?

9. Cowboys
The Cowboys looked unstoppable at 10-3 last season, then faltered late and got blown out at home by the Packers in the playoffs. They’re never as good as they think.

10. Bills
The Bills’ window looked like it was starting to close last season. Now, they’re putting more responsibility than ever on quarterback Josh Allen to carry the offense.

11. Falcons
Already an ascending team, the Falcons upgraded with quarterback Kirk Cousins and boosted their skill talent by signing former Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney. They also have the NFL’s lightest schedule based on 2023 records.

12. Dolphins
The biggest concern for the Dolphins is that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa might have plateaued. He was good the last two seasons, but they need him to be great to beat out heavyweights like the Chiefs.

13. Browns
They’ve stayed competitive despite Deshaun Watson playing just 12 games in two seasons since they traded for him, but there’s no sound evidence he’ll return to being a difference maker.

14. Steelers
Here’s another compelling storyline: How soon will Justin Fields take over for Russell Wilson at quarterback? Wilson is 35, making just $1 million and probably doesn’t have a long-term future in Pittsburgh.

15. Bears

Here’s the target for Williams, set by Stroud last season: a 100.8 passer rating, 23 touchdown passes, five interceptions, 273.9 yards per game, a Pro Bowl selection and — most importantly, by far — a playoff win.

16. Buccaneers
The Bucs beat just one playoff team in the regular season and went 9-8. Teams on the rise will overtake them this season.

17. Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence matched Burrow for the highest salary in the NFL — $55 million per year — on his new contract extension. The Jaguars have gone 20-30 in his starts.

18. Rams
The trade for Matt Stafford was brilliant and led to a title, but his huge contract is hurting the Rams now.

19. Jets
This all hinges on Aaron Rodgers, who turns 41 during the season. There’s only one Tom Brady. Most quarterbacks are in decline at this age.

20. Seahawks
The Seahawks have been hanging out in no man’s land lately — not good enough to contend, not bad enough to get a high draft pick.

21. Colts
Quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 pick last year, basically gets a redo of his rookie season after playing just four games.

22. Chargers
The Chargers, now in somewhat of a rebuild under coach Jim Harbaugh, went 36-47 over the last five seasons.

23. Broncos
This is a tricky team to figure out. The Broncos started 1-5 last season, then finished 7-4. They’ll likely go into the season with Jarrett Stidham (four career starts) as their starting quarterback until No. 12 pick Bo Nix is ready.

24. Saints
The Saints face the Cowboys, Eagles, Falcons and Chiefs in the first month of the season.

25. Vikings
The Vikings managed to go 7-10 without a quarterback last season and reset the position by taking J.J. McCarthy at No. 10. But it’s a tough climb in the NFC North right now.

26. Titans
The Titans acted like they’re close to contending by signing wide receiver Calvin Ridley and trading for Sneed, but that’s wishful thinking for a six-win team.

27. Cardinals
The Cardinals looked much better and even pulled off some nice wins once Kyler Murray got healthy last season, but they’re still near the bottom of the league.

28. Raiders
There’s no quarterback, Luke Getsy is the new offensive coordinator and the Raiders have one of the strongest schedules in the NFL. How’s this going to go?

29. Giants
This is a really bad team that really needs a reset at quarterback, and it faces the sixth-toughest schedule.

30. Commanders
New quarterback Jayden Daniels, the No. 2 pick, looks like a future star, but unlike Williams, he’s on a team still trying to overhaul its roster.

31. Patriots
Two late-season wins dropped the Patriots from possibly getting the No. 1 pick to drafting third and getting quarterback Drake Maye.

32. Panthers
There is no evidence whatsoever that owner David Tepper knows what he’s doing, and the Panthers continue to be a joke under his direction. The team made the playoffs four times in five seasons before he bought it, but is 31-68 since.

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