The long wait is almost over and the 2023 NFL season is about to kick off. The smell of hope is in the air and why not? While there are powerhouses who stay competitive year in and year out, there is also enough evidence to suggest that literally anyone could contend in the coming months. The past 10 seasons have seen seven different teams crowned Super Bowl champions. Will it be your team this year? Here is where I have the league's 32 clubs ranked as we head into Week 1.
The Chiefs have played in three of the last four Super Bowls, winning twice, and have reached the AFC Championship Game in each of the five seasons in which quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been the full-time starter. They remain fiercely motivated and are aiming to be the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. It won’t be easy.
All I needed was one day at Philadelphia’s training camp this summer to realise how much last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs hurt the Eagles. They will most certainly use that defeat as motivation in 2023, although level-headed quarterback Jalen Hurts seems to have taken that setback in his stride and is ready to move forward with another stellar campaign. This team will be in the mix once again.
I have the Chiefs top of the Power Rankings pile heading into the new campaign, but the Bengals are actually going to be my pick to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas in February. Of course, much will depend on the long-term health of quarterback Joe Burrow as he comes back from a training camp calf injury. Cincinnati fans will be watching nervously in the early weeks of the new season.
The 49ers have come close to Super Bowl glory in recent years, losing in the title game to the Chiefs in the 2019 season and falling at the NFC Championship Game stage in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. With the tricky Trey Lance situation behind them following his trade to the Dallas Cowboys, this is now firmly Brock Purdy’s team. The young quarterback has played very well, but now he must deliver Super Bowl success.
Miami haven’t enjoyed the ideal preseason. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey was lost until at least December with a knee injury on the day I visited their training camp. And the offense has appeared sluggish in the preseason. That won’t matter when the games start for real and Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle become the club’s key men at wide receiver. Much will depend on the long-term health of Tua Tagovailoa at QB.
There has been much talk about the Bills’ Super Bowl window closing, but this is still a team that won 13 regular season games a year ago. As quarterback Josh Allen told me this summer, there was so much off-the-field tragedy surrounding this team that it caught up to them in the end. Allen remains elite and as long as he is leading the charge, Buffalo’s window to win it all remains firmly open.
The Jaguars certainly made a statement about how they plan to attack the 2023 season when they kept seven wide receivers on their 53-man roster. Load up the passing game targets and let Trevor Lawrence do his thing. It is an impressive group, for sure, and witnessing Calvin Ridley work during training camp was an absolute treat. He can be a true number one receiver and the leader of Jacksonville’s pack.
There is such a feel-good vibe around the Jets that Aaron Rodgers even played in his first preseason game in six years, throwing a touchdown pass against the New York Giants. Rodgers should help the Jets rank much higher than 29th on offense this season, but they don’t need to set the world on fire on that side of the ball. They just need to improve enough to support a top-five defense and then the playoffs will beckon.
The Cowboys will have the usual Super Bowl expectations placed on them by team owner Jerry Jones, even though 27 seasons have passed since America’s Team last lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And that puts head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Dak Prescott firmly on the hot seat. That pair has to deliver in 2023 and at least put the Cowboys in that Super Bowl conversation once again.
After being powered by the run for all of Lamar Jackson’s time in the NFL, the winds of change are blowing through Baltimore. Jackson – an NFL MVP in 2019 – will be throwing passes to Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman and Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. There will also be firm backbone to this team as always and they will be contenders in what is shaping up to be a tough AFC North.
The Chargers will be delighted to kick off their game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday because it means attention will finally turn to the 2023 season. The last time we saw the Chargers in action, they were blowing a 27-point lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC playoffs. That is a stink that can only be washed off by a successful season that features a playoff win or two in January.
The Lions finished strong by winning eight of their last 10 regular season games in 2022. And now the NFC North favourites will be tested early as they face the Kansas City Chiefs and then the Seattle Seahawks in the first two weeks of the season. Jared Goff is back at quarterback to lead an offense that ranked among the top five in the league in scoring and total yards and committed an NFL-low 15 turnovers.
The Seahawks surprised by winning nine games last season and returning to the playoffs, but they won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2023 – this team is expected to be a contender in the NFC. Geno Smith returns at quarterback with more passing game weapons to play with following the addition of Jaxon Smith-Njigba alongside D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The concern is focused on a 26th-ranked defense from 2022.
The Vikings have not made a long-term commitment to quarterback Kirk Cousins, the man who enjoyed a career year and led the NFL with eight fourth quarter comeback wins in 2022. If Cousins wants to secure many more seasons in Minneapolis, he would be best served throwing up many passes in the direction of Justin Jefferson who, in my opinion, is now firmly established as the best wide receiver in the game.
The Steelers have the highest floor of any team in the NFL having never experienced a losing season in 16 seasons under the leadership of head coach Mike Tomlin. Even last season, when breaking in a rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett and playing seven games without star pass rusher T.J. Watt, the Steelers still won nine games and only narrowly missed the AFC playoffs. Pickett’s growth will be key in 2023.
The Giants are another team like Seattle who won’t be able to surprise anyone in 2023. A nine-win regular season and a playoff win over the Vikings has changed the landscape in terms of expectations in the Big Apple. Saquon Barkley remains the driving force even if the team has not invested in him long term and this must be a season in which Daniel Jones throws more than 15 regular season touchdown passes.
For the first time in 31 seasons, the Packers have some uncertainty at quarterback. As Aaron Rodgers followed Brett Favre, the mantel now passes to Jordan Love and the young passer has Hall of Fame-sized shoes to fill. Packers fans have made him feel welcomed in the preseason but Love’s popularity will depend on delivering wins. Head coach Matt LaFleur said: “We all have to temper our expectations for him.”
While others are writing off the Titans, I think this is a team that can still be competitive in 2023. Mike Vrabel always turns out physical teams that don’t back down and I think that will be the case this season. The defense is tough and talented and the running game should still be in good shape with Derrick Henry at the helm. The question is this… can 35-year-old Ryan Tannehill have one last hurrah at quarterback?
The Falcons are going to be an intriguing team to watch in 2023, especially when they run the ball with Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson. Robinson is going to be the ideal positionless player who is going to make plays in multiple ways this season. The development of other young players such as quarterback Desmond Ridder and tight end Kyle Pitts are also going to be key.
The Browns are being overlooked and that is understandable given they finished fourth in their division last season and have missed the playoffs in 19 of the past 20 seasons. But I don’t think we should sleep on a team that has talent such as running back Nick Chubb, receiver Amari Cooper and edge rusher Myles Garrett at its disposal. Ultimately, the form of quarterback Deshaun Watson will be the deciding factor.
If you were to ask people inside the Saints building, they would feel good about ending a two-year absence from the playoffs. Check around the NFL and others would suggest this is a middle-of-the-pack team that might struggle to make an impact. The Saints are banking on Derek Carr being a better version of what we saw towards the end of his tenure with the Raiders. New Orleans’ defense should remain stout in 2023.
For the first time in forever, there are growing whispers about Bill Belichick running out of time and chances in New England. The legendary coach will make this team competitive due to his football brain and the toughness of the defense, but there are not enough offensive weapons for the Patriots to keep pace in the electrifying AFC. If a poor season is in the books come early January, what happens next?
The Broncos are hoping quarterback whisperer Sean Payton can fix the ailing Russell Wilson. Payton began that ‘work’ this summer by burying former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, shifting the blame on the now-offensive coordinator of the New York Jets. That was easier for Payton than facing up to the likely truth which is that the quarterback Denver are tied to for quite some time is now in a permanent freefall.
Baker Mayfield – the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft – is drinking in the NFL’s Last Chance Saloon as he prepares to play for his fourth NFL team in six years. It’s not a terrible situation in terms of the passing game, although Mike Evans seems to want out of town if a long-term contract cannot be agreed. Bucs fans have enjoyed life in the Florida sun with Tom Brady at the helm. Tougher times may now lie ahead.
There is talent and reason for optimism in Washington with Josh Harris taking over as the new owner. The Commanders fielded the league’s third-best defense in 2022 and the passing game targets of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel are juicy. But is Sam Howell going to be the answer at quarterback? To believe that right now is a stretch, to say the least. Only time will tell at that key position.
The Panthers added some key veterans in a bid to upgrade the league’s 29th-ranked attack from a year ago in running back Miles Sanders, receiver Adam Thielen and tight end Hayden Hurst. But the success of this team will depend on how quickly rookie quarterback Bryce Young – the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft – succeeds at the game’s highest level. His talent is unquestioned, but worries about his size are legitimate.
The Justin Fields Show will roll on in 2023. The young quarterback rushed for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns last season and found the end zone from 67, 61 and 55 yards. But the Bears still finished dead last in passing and that is the biggest area that must be improved. The arrival of wide receiver D.J. Moore – coupled with a stronger offensive line – should help. Then Fields will take further steps to NFL stardom.
While the running back position appears to be disrespected across the NFL, the Colts seem to have taken it to new levels in their summer dealings with Jonathan Taylor. He has been the driving force of this team in recent years, but that burden is about to fall on the young shoulders of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. I think he is going to be exciting to watch, but does he have enough weapons around him?
The Raiders won just six games last season and are in danger of becoming irrelevant in terms of NFL headlines. That is shocking to write given how well-supported this team has been during stops in Los Angeles, Oakland and now Las Vegas. But one of the most notable things to come out of Sin City this summer was Jimmy Garoppolo’s suggestion that weird stuff happens with quarterbacks in San Francisco.
Like their Los Angeles neighbours in the Chargers, the Rams will be keen to get the 2023 season underway. That would draw a line under a 2022 campaign which saw the Rams post the worst defence of a Super Bowl title in NFL history. Matthew Stafford is back at QB but for how long? Is Aaron Donald on the trade block? How much will Cooper Kupp be affected by his hamstring injury? Depressing questions indeed.
It took a while, but rookie C.J. Stroud has been named Houston’s starting quarterback. While it will take time to settle and then grow, Stroud should ensure that Houston field an offense that ranks higher than 31st in the NFL, which is where they ended up a year ago. Stroud’s targets are not that inspiring, but the hope is that the positive vibes coming from head coach DeMeco Ryans ripple through the entire team.
There is not much positive news to report from the Arizona desert, where the new season will begin without Kyler Murray at quarterback. As he recovers from a torn ACL, Murray will miss at least the first month of the new campaign. When he does return to the field, Murray will have many doubters to silence. Like this entire team, Murray has not been the subject of too many positive headlines in recent times.