The fields have been meticulously prepared, the playbooks are finalised, the players are primed for action and American football fans around the world cannot wait. NFL training camps are about to open across the United States and as I prepare for a visit to 10 teams in 11 days, it's time to unveil the first Power Rankings offering of the new season. Hope springs eternal at this time of the year so even if your team is too far down these rankings for your liking, they have plenty of opportunities to prove me wrong.
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Kicking off a new season with the defending champs top of the rankings only seems fair. But it's an earned position for the Chiefs, who have played in three Super Bowls in four seasons with Patrick Mahomes at the helm; winning two. As long as he is under center, Kansas City will remain annual contenders even after an offseason that saw the departures of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
There was the expected raid on the Eagles that resulted in some key losses such as defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. But general manager Howie Roseman kept a talented roster intact by re-signing veterans in Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, James Bradberry and Darius Slay. The addition of Rashaad Penny is intriguing and Jalen Hurts is established as an elite NFL quarterback.
3. CINCINNATI BENGALS
In the past two seasons, Joe Burrow has taken the Bengals to within five minutes of Super Bowl glory against the Los Angeles Rams and pushed the Kansas City Chiefs all the way in the AFC Championship Game before falling just short. The quarterback sensation is ably supported by an outstanding cast of skill position players and a tough and often under-rated defense.
4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers are going to be in a salty mood after being forced to run out the clock on their Super Bowl dreams while trailing Philadelphia in the NFC title game. San Francisco were left quarterback-less on that frustrating afternoon in January. Will Brock Purdy make it back for opening weekend or are we looking at Sam Darnold or Trey Lance? Quarterback remains the one question mark on this Super Bowl-calibre team.
5. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Miami have the tools to once again field one of the NFL's most explosive attacks with Tua Tagovailoa throwing strikes to game-breaking receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The additions of veteran defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey could turn Miami into Super Bowl contenders. But Tua – who had concussion issues in 2022 – must stay on the field for that to happen
6. BUFFALO BILLS
Buffalo were the class of the NFL for much of 2022. But they ran out of gas as they fell to Cincinnati in the Divisional Round. And now all the talk is about Buffalo's closing Super Bowl window. Have we forgotten how good this team was? They also have an elite quarterback in Josh Allen and that makes them serious contenders. But is his friendship/partnership with receiver Stefon Diggs broken beyond repair?
7. BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Ravens finally settled their long-running drama with quarterback Lamar Jackson and he is rightly excited about a change of offensive direction in 2023. Lamar may not throw for his predicted 7,000 yards, but his connections with Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews are going to be key. It's highly unlikely the Ravens field the league's 28th passing attack again, as was the case in 2022.
8. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
The Jaguars were a lot quieter in this offseason compared to last, but they haven't lost ground on the rest of the AFC and remain one of those next-tier contenders beyond the likes of Kansas City, Cincinnati and Buffalo. The Jags have answered the bell at arguably the two most important positions in the NFL and could be guided to even greater heights by head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
9. DALLAS COWBOYS
The Cowboys have been knocked out of the NFC playoffs by San Francisco in each of the last two seasons, but those premature exits have hardly lowered expectations. Owner Jerry Jones has not enjoyed championship success since the 1995 season but will demand exactly that in 2023. That places pressure on head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Dak Prescott, who blew too hot and cold in 2022.
10. NEW YORK JETS
There is a buzz in the Big Apple and rightly so. If you were to glance back at the 2022 New York Jets, the biggest problem was at quarterback where Zach Wilson stalled in terms of development and production. Enter one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history in Aaron Rodgers, who is starting afresh after 18 seasons in Green Bay. The Jets are a promising outfit on both sides of the ball and appear ready to contend.
11. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
It has been hard for the Chargers to wash off the stench of blowing a 27-point lead against Jacksonville in the playoffs. That placed a little more pressure on head coach Brandon Staley, particularly as that game was played without key receiver Mike Williams who injured his back in a meaningless contest at the end of the regular season. But L.A. still have cannon-armed Justin Herbert at QB and he is an elite talent.
12. DETROIT LIONS
The Lions were one of the feel-good teams of 2022 and they finished strong by winning eight of their last 10 regular season games. There is a widely-held belief that they can kick on in 2023. It's been a while since Detroit were considered favourites of the NFC North but that's how they're seen right now. The Jared Goff-led offense is in good shape and the NFL's worst defense from a year ago should be improved.
13. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Seahawks were a pleasant surprise last season, winning nine games and making a quicker-than-expected return to the playoffs. Geno Smith returns at quarterback and his weapons are enticing with Jaxon Smith-Njigba added at receiver alongside D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. There is much excitement around second-year rusher Kenneth Walker. Can returning linebacker Bobby Wagner boost an ailing D?
14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
The Vikings went a perfect 11-0 in one-score games during the 2022 regular season but, frustratingly, lost by one score to the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs. The offseason did little to lift the mood as veterans Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Patrick Peterson and Za'Darius Smith were cast aside. There is pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins, but he does have the NFL's best receiver in Justin Jefferson.
15. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Kenny Pickett came along nicely in his rookie season and produced some encouraging late-game moments. He will get the chance to grow with wide receiver George Pickens over the next decade. If edge rusher T.J. Watt can wreak havoc for an entire season, they have a legitimate shot at returning to the AFC playoffs. The Steelers have still never had a losing season during head coach Mike Tomlin's 16 years in charge.
16. NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants were another team like Seattle and Detroit who fell into the "well, that was a pleasant surprise" category. New York won nine regular season games and reached the second round of the playoffs under NFL Coach of the Year Brian Daboll. Repeating the trick will require buy-in from Saquon Barkley – who was not given a long-term deal – and more than 15 regular season TD passes from Daniel Jones.
17. GREEN BAY PACKERS
After 31 seasons of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Jordan Love has gigantic shoes to fill. In a quarterback-driven league, much of Green Bay's success will depend on the success of the 2020 first-rounder. The inexperienced Love will need help from young targets in receivers Christian Watson (2nd round in 2022), Romeo Doubs (4th round in 2022), Jayden Reed (2nd round in 2023) and tight end Luke Musgrave (2nd round in 2023).
18. TENNESSEE TITANS
It feels like the entire football world has been keen to write off the Titans. I would be tempted to slow that particular line of thought. Sure, the Titans have their share of concerns, but have we forgotten how head coach Mike Vrabel consistently turns out a tough contender? Derrick Henry can still hurt defenses and the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins will boost the passing game if he has gas left in his All-Pro tank.
19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints have a middle-of-the pack look to them as training camp approaches, but that could be enough to win the NFC South. Quarterback Derek Carr takes control of the offense with a point to prove after running out of chances in Las Vegas. Chris Olave is a promising talent at receiver, but can veterans Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara return to superstar status? The jury is very much out on that expensive pairing.
20. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England's offense ranked 26th in the NFL last season and quarterback Mac Jones lost confidence in a system that was being run by long-time defensive minds in Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick. The hope is that the arrival of Bill O'Brien will spark the unit and the quarterback into life. But the Pats missed on DeAndre Hopkins and will now need to lean heavily on new receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Will it be enough?
21. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Whether you want to root for him or not, the Cleveland Browns' season will rest on the shoulders of Deshaun Watson. The controversial quarterback was among the worst at his position in 2022 as he returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines and an NFL ban following 24 sexual assault claims. With Nick Chubb in the backfield, the Browns could make some noise but it's tough to be heard in today's AFC.
22. ATLANTA FALCONS
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith likes to run the football and he has the horses for such an approach after adding first-rounder Bijan Robinson to last year's 1,000-yard rusher, Tyler Allgeier and veteran Cordarrelle Patterson. But second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder must continue to progress and tight end Kyle Pitts needs to contribute much more. If that happens, the Falcons are NFC South contenders.
23. DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos are tied to Russell Wilson for the foreseeable future so there was no way of fixing the quarterback's contract situation. Instead, the team brought in a proven head coach in Sean Payton in the hope that he can fix the game of the ailing passer. Wilson certainly appears to be on a downward slide and his play divided a troubled team in 2022. There is much work for Payton to get done in Denver.
24. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS
Powered by one of the best defenses in the NFL, the Commanders went 8-8-1 in 2022 and I believe they will fall somewhere in that range yet again. They are competitive under Ron Rivera, but continued uncertainty at quarterback has held this team back for years. After a brief cameo in Week 18 last season, Sam Howell is being handed the reins and many in the football world will need to be won over.
25. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
He was only there for three seasons, but Tom Brady leaves a huge void in Tampa Bay as he settles into retirement. Brady set the standard for the Bucs, who made the playoffs in each of his campaigns in Florida and won a Super Bowl in the 2020 season. The thought of Baker Mayfield now being the man to maintain those standards is comical. The former first overall pick in 2018 is already on his fourth NFL team.
26. CAROLINA PANTHERS
There is a fresh feel to Carolina as new boss Frank Reich will be tasked with developing the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, quarterback Bryce Young. While receiver D.J. Moore was sacrificed in order to make a run at Young, veterans have been brought on board to upgrade the league's 29th-ranked attack. Can running back Miles Sanders, receiver Adam Thielen and tight end Hayden Hurst make enough of an impact?
27. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
The Colts have rolled through seven different starting quarterbacks since Andrew Luck retired on the eve of the 2019 season. After a frustrating 2022 campaign in which they won just four games, Indianapolis are now banking on Florida QB Anthony Richardson becoming the long-term answer. Despite just 13 starts in college, there is much excitement around the arrival of this defensive end-sized dual threat quarterback.
28. CHICAGO BEARS
There was a period last season where quarterback Justin Fields was shining as one of the brightest stars in the NFL galaxy. Injury prematurely ended his campaign, but Fields showed tremendous dynamism as a runner. Now, he must grow as a passer. This offseason was about helping Fields. Chicago added offensive linemen Nate Davis and Darnell Wright, receiver D.J. Moore and tight end Robert Tonyan.
29. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
It's not quite been a summer of discontent in Las Vegas, but you do have to ask if all is well with a Raiders team that won just six games last term? Derek Carr is gone and his replacement at quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, has quite a few worried about the state of the foot injury that ended his 2022 season. Davante Adams has expressed discontent, Josh Jacobs has no long-term deal and the defense remains a concern.
30. LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams are likely still reeling from what was statistically the worst Super Bowl defence in NFL history. Head coach Sean McVay flirted with swapping the sideline for a television booth, but he is back to lead a team looking to take on a cheaper and more youthful approach. That said, LA's hopes will rest heavily on how veterans such as Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald return from 2022 injuries.
31. HOUSTON TEXANS
There has not been much to get excited about for Texans fans in recent years, but brighter days could be just around the corner. I don't anticipate Houston being a playoff team in 2023, but I also don't think they will stay number 31 in these Power Rankings as the season unfolds. Head coach DeMeco Ryans will light a fire under this team and much will be expected of rookie first-round quarterback C.J. Stroud.
32. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Spirits could not be lower in the Arizona desert as the new season draws ever closer. Kyler Murray is battling to return from his torn ACL but even when he does, he will have much to prove and doubters to silence. His own offensive lineman, Kelvin Beachum, said this offseason that Murray "needs to grow up a little bit." New head coach Jonathan Gannon has inherited quite a messy situation.