Welcome to my final power rankings post of the 2022 NFL Season! Wooooo, we made it! In celebration of this finale, I decided to give every NFL team a brief synopsis of their season, along with a preview into their future (or...at least what I think it will be). Since it is a bit of a large post, I decided to split it into chunks.
When rankings all 32 NFL teams for the final time this season, I tried to determine their positioning based on how they performed in the season and playoffs, as well as how prepared each team is for the offseason. For these bottom of the barrel teams, that means how prepared they are to utilize this offseason to improve the team.
Without further ado, let’s dig in:
This is certainly the team I feel least favorably about entering the offseason. Matt Ryan’s performance and the Ryan Kelly enigma put Indianapolis in a tough spot on offense early in the 2022 season, and it never got better. The season had a middling start, saved by suspect wins against Kansas City and Jacksonville, entered a death spiral instigated by Tennessee’s early sweep, and climaxed with a third in loss and Frank Reich’s ousting. Jeff Saturday’s infamous mid-season entrance into NFL coaching culminated in one victory for the rest of the season, and now the Colts enter the offseason 4-12-1 and with the third overall pick. Indy was one of the most surprising disasters of the 2022 season, with some analysts believing in Matt Ryan’s upside behind an all-star offensive line and pro-bowl running back Jonathan Taylor. By November, it was clear that the all-star line was cracking under pressure. Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly both had some of their worst years as starters, and rookie guard Will Fries didn’t become a reliable guard until the end of the season. This regression in the interior line spelled a quick disaster for Matt Ryan’s swan song, and down he went along with the season.
Fortunately for the Colts, all of the aforementioned linemen had improved PFF grades over the final four weeks of the season (@MIN, vs. LAC, @NYG, vs. HOU). With them, improved play across the offense followed. TE Mo Alie-Cox ended up being a disaster, but the WR group finally showed strength with Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell both performing alongside Michael Pittman. The defense, led by DT DeForest Buckner, CB Isiah Rodgers, and DE Kwity Paye, had plenty of bright spots in the first half of the season, but fell off a cliff to end the year. Losing Ngakoue, LB Bobby Okereke, LB E. J. Speed, and Parris Campbell will add to the pressing issues getting assumed by recently hired HC Shane Steichen. Paye’s and DE Dayo Odeyingbo’s improvement will help maintain a strong run defense, but Steichen and GM Chris Ballard’s decisions on whether or not to keep starting CBs Kenny Moore II, and Stephon Gilmore and/or resign one of the two departing LBs will make a direct impact on their offseason targets. It’s safe to assume that they’ll attempt to add depth to both in the coming months. But, regardless of how they decide to tackle the offseason, they will have a lot of work to do.
Key Offseason Targets: QB, DE, LB, CB
31. Denver Broncos
Denver, similar to Las Vegas, fell about as far away from fan expectations as you can. After the blockbuster trade that sent Russell Wilson from Seattle to Denver, Super Bowl aspirations became rampant. Finally, the Broncos had found a quality quarterback to pair with a good rushing-attack and great defense. Unfortunately, this dream of a balanced team will have to wait, because 2022 was the year both Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett crashed and burned. Wilson’s late-career regression couldn’t have been more poorly timed, and Hackett’s disastrous clock-management and playcalling spawned a season where low-scoring and great offense in spite of Wilson was required in order to win. This became even harder after injuries to Denver’s offensive line, sending Garrett Bolles to injured reserve and tackles and guards fliying all around the lineup. The defense, once again, hovered around the top 10 in the league all season long, despite the trading of Bradley Chubb to Miami. Patrick Surtain II might be the best cornerback in the NFL, he and S Justin Simmons creating a deadly pairing in zone coverage.
Sean Payton isn’t exactly entering the best situation with the most sacked, worst-graded quarterback in the NFL, but with a defense like this and players on offense like Quinn Meinerz, Jerry Jeudy, and a returning Javonte Williams, success can be had. Russell Wilson still likes doing most of his damage either in the middle of the field or to the deep right side, but he’ll have to adapt to a much more conservative approach under Payton. With his sack-rate, Payton will prioritize getting the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. On defense, Payton and GM George Paton will have to work together this offseason on keeping the middle of the defense intact, as LB Alex Singleton, DE Dre’Mont Jones, and DL DeShawn Williams all become free agents. I expect them to spend both cap space and what little draft capital they have left building depth at both of these defensive positions, likely trying to keep either Singleton or Jones. Offensive line will be another major target, where they’ll try to keep G Dalton Risner from leaving in free agency. Payton’s first year will be defined by how Russell Wilson improves, and if he doesn’t, major change is inevitable.
Key Offseason Targets: OT, LB, EDGE, S
30. Houston Texans
I don’t think this season lived up to any expectations, but now that I get to view this season in hindsight, I can’t say it was all bad. Davis Mills was a disaster, yes, but rookie RB Dameon Pierce was so fantastic, even in spite of poor run-blocking. DE Jonathan Greenard’s injury prevented us from ever really getting a good look at his ability as a starter, but Jerry Hughes’ resurgent season as a pass-rusher provided some solace. LB Christian Kirksey never really aided the defense, but rookie LB Christian Harris and S Jalen Pitre sure did! Rookie CB Derek Stingley, Jr. and OG Kenyon Green didn’t have the most remarkable first years, but both showed flashes of what they’re capable of, which is really all you can ask for on a crappy team. The offense started to pick up steam after HC Lovie Smith adopted a “QB by committee” approach, but it ultimately may have cost the Texans, as they lost the first overall pick to the Bears in the final week of the regular season. Lovie Smith lost this head coaching position shortly after that season-ending victory/loss, becoming the second HC in a row to be one-and-done in Houston. A pretty terrible look for a team trying to rebuild, but with new coach DeMeco Ryans in the building, it really does feel like we’re exiting the doldrums of the tank era.
With nearly $40 million in cap space and seven of the top 150 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, DeMeco Ryans and GM Nick Caserio will have all the offseason ammunition they need to get a competent team on the field by September 2023. TE Jordan Akins, RB Rex Burkhead, QB Jeff Driskell, WR Chris Moore, DE Rasheem Green, C Scott Quessenberry, LB, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, CB Tremon Smith, and CB Tavierre Thomas are all entering free agency. Seeing as many of these are mediocre players that got snaps on a bad team, they most likely won’t be kept past their first contract. Akins, Green, and Okoronkwo could be worth keeping on two or three-year deals, but most of Houston’s cap space should be used on external free agents, not internal ones. But, the big show of the offseason is the NFL Draft, where the Texans are expected to take a franchise quarterback with their second overall pick. Will it be Bryce Young, or C.J. Stroud? Or, will Houston do something absolutely ridiculous and draft a WR or trade down? Regardless of what they do, there’ll be a lot of holes on the roster to fill by April, which means Caserio will be trying to get real value out of all 12 picks the Texans have. I wouldn’t be surprised in further investment on the interior offensive line or defensive line with either the later first or second round pick, followed by a focus on either pass-catchers or defenders that fit DeMeco Ryans’ scheme in the third and fourth rounds.
Key Offseason Targets: QB, EDGE, OG, WR
29. Chicago Bears
From the onset, the Bears were clear in their goal for this season: to see what they had, and to rebuild. What they do have is a better than expected offensive line, two very good running backs, and a quarterback so fast and so sudden of a runner that he was able to rack up 1,143 yards at 7.1 Y/A. Justin Fields’ rushing ability, paired with his improving accuracy and decision making, has turned him into one of the most dynamic elements of an offense I have ever seen. They also have…not a lot of much else. None of their receivers broke over 600 receiving yards (with TE Cole Kmet being their leading receiver), their defense gave up nearly 5.0 Y/A, had the least sacks of any team in the NFL, and allowed more points per game (27.2) than any other team. After trading away LB Roquan Smith, it wouldn’t be wild to say Justin Fields was the only productive player on the team. The Bears had a nonexistent pass-rush and were wildly poor against the run once Smith was gone.
The good news, however, lies in the wealth of reps rookies got in this terrible Bears defense. They may have been part of a terrible squad in 2022, but LBs Nicholas Morrow and Jack Sanborn stand to become next year’s starters with some improvement. Rookie DBs Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon showed flashes during the season, but better pass coverage will be required from both. Chicago is expected to have over $90 million in cap space this year, giving them plenty of room to address their issues at WR and EDGE while also giving extensions to RB David Montgomery and LB Nicholas Morrow. And, crucially, the Bears are in possession of the first overall pick, giving them a world of opportunities in the upcoming draft. They can thank Houston for that!
Key Offseason Targets: OT, OG, EDGE, WR
Arizona hit rock bottom in 2022, digging their heels into the veteran-heavy approach they took last year to the point that future success will take a serious rebuild. The offensive line cratered this year, and without DeAndre Hopkins for half of the year, Kyler Murray was hanging in games primarily through off-script throws to TE Zach Ertz and rookie WR Greg Dortch. With a quarterback this good, it shouldn’t be this hard scoring points and gaining yards. Arizona’s defense wasn’t exactly helping, either, giving up the highest completion rate (69.8%) to opponents and the second most passing touchdowns (29). GM Steve Keim, HC Kliff Kingsbury, and QB Kyler Murray all underperformed in their duties directly following massive contract extensions for all during the 2022 offseason. Kyler Murray had his least accurate season and lowest passer rating of his career, Kingsbury’s air raid offense failed to break the top half of the league in yards, and Keim’s draft investment in the trenches the past three years has only turned up one starter: OT Josh Jones.
Jones played admirably filling in the LT spot for an injured D.J. Humphries, and rookie TE Trey McBride was a reliable pass blocker. S Budda Baker and LB Isaiah Simmons were multi-use players that kept the defense afloat for much of the season, but new HC Jonathan Gannon is entering a locker room that will have a lot of empty seats. DE Zach Allen, LB Ben Neimann, CB Byron Murphy, and CB Antonio Hamilton will all be free agents, meaning a rebuild at least on the defensive side of the ball is likely. Losing OT Kelvin Beachum and OG Will Hernandez isn’t going to help, either. Right off the bat, Gannon and GM Monti Ossenfort will be making key decisions on who to keep and who to let go, likely setting the tone for the kind of draft Cardinals fans should expect.
Key Offseason Targets: EDGE, CB, OG, DT
The Raiders seemed to lose more squeakers in dramatic fashion than any other team in the NFL in 2022. seven of their 11 losses were decided by five points or less, and many of these losses were earned in the final second of regulation (or in overtime). The offense, under first year HC Josh McDaniels, was largely a success. Derek Carr’s production and accuracy had declined - a very questionable development considering Davante Adams being on the roster - but RB Josh Jacobs finished the season first in yards (1,653) among all backs in the NFL. Overall, the offense did its job, but the defense was just barely poor enough to end those season-changing games with a loss. Being 29th in yards and 31st in interceptions is a strong indicator as to what the defense’s major weaknesses are, but it was similarly prone to giving up big plays on the ground. If you’re gonna give up yards, you gotta force turnovers, and the Raiders couldn’t buy an interception.
Entering the 2023 offseason, the Raiders have more elements of their roster up in the air than most other teams. QB (Carr, Stidham), RB (Jacobs), OT (Eluemunor), TE (Moreau), WR (Hollins, Cole), S (Harmon), and CB (Averett, Ya-Sin) all have at least one starter exiting into free agency, and Josh Jacobs stands to demand quite the contract. Basically, both sides of the ball are going to need major investment this offseason, and if the Raiders don’t want to be even worse in 2023, they’re going to have to nail some contracts and draft picks.
Key Offseason Targets: QB, CB, DT, OT
26. Washington Commanders
Washington, once again, had one of the weirder seasons in the league, practically bailing on QB Carson Wentz a month into the season for another whirl with Taylor Heinicke, who actually better than Wentz. Then, after a late-season losing streak, Wentz was launched to the starting position again, only to suck so bad in his return they got eliminated from playoff contention by the Cleveland Browns. Rookie RB Brian Robinson, Jr. was the engine behind the offense during their win streak, and rookie WR Jahan Dotson became a perfect paring to WR Terry McLaurin. But, the real star of the show was Washington’s defensive line, anchored by DE Montez Sweat (86.4 PFF grade) and DL Jonathan Allen (80.1 PFF grade).
Now in the offseason, the Commanders have already named QB Sam Howell their 2023 starter. Whether or not this actually means anything is yet to be seen, but this is news I’ll happily accept since I was a massive Sam Howell fan while he was at UNC in college. Howell has the arm, downfield accuracy, and speed to catch slow defenses off guard, but whether or not that will translate to the NFL has yet to be seen. But, with QBs on the market like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garrappolo, Washington might believe salvation lies in a veteran. DT Daron Payne, LB Cole Holcomb, and QB Taylor Heinicke will all be free agents, but Washington will have enough cap space to afford any/all of them if they choose. Keeping a great defensive line together for as long as possible is likely one of their primary goals, but targetingHolcomb or even G Trai Turner first wouldn’t be poor decisions.
Key Offseason Targets: QB, CB, LB, OG
25. Cleveland Browns
The Browns kicked off the 2022 season with a spectacularly bad decision when they traded for Deshaun Watson, and the hits just kept coming from there. Press conferences, suspensions, Jacoby Brissett playing the best football of his career, and absolutely putrid tackling earmarked a disappointing 7-10 season from Cleveland. Deshaun Watson’s return to the NFL after an 11-game suspension didn’t spark any sort of offensive revival, and in fact, probably got worse with him taking snaps. Although, behind Nick Chubb’s 1,525 yards, the offense was never overly reliant on passing. The defense, however, is where the season fell apart for Cleveland. especially against the run. Tackling became a major issue for Cleveland for most of the season, and caused some crucial losses in the very beginning of the season.
Entering the offseason, Cleveland will likely invest most of their resources into retooling the defense for new DC Jim Schwartz. Defensive tackle will be a major position of focus, but with LBs Deion Jones, Sione Takitaki, and Anthony Walker all soon-to-be free agents, that position will also likely see new starters in 2023. With Cleveland giving up their first round pick to Houston in the Deshaun Watson trade, they’ll only have two picks in the top 100.
Key Offseason Targets: DT, LB, EDGE, S
There’s the bottom 8! Personally, I think teams like the Cardinals and Bears have a higher likelihood of soaring up the power rankings throughout the offseason, since they both already have a franchise quarterback. Both have already found their answer at the most important position in football, and sculpting a team around them is much easier of an offseason task than building a team without a quarterback. But, both the Cardinals and Bears are miles away from a roster that matches their QB’s abilities, so much so that the Texans’ draft capital could launch them into a similar level of competency before Bryce Young/C.J. Stroud even take a snap.
Next up, we’ll tackle rankings 24-17. At minimum, the Texans should be occupying this tranche of the league by this time next year. Maybe, if we’re lucky, the rookie QB will hit the ground running and the offense will get to scoring early. But, only time will tell!