GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Kansas City Chiefs have been crowned 2022 NFL champions after winning Super Bowl 57. As such, they also finish atop this season’s final power rankings … though we allowed for some leeway to look ahead while also assessing the past few months (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Chiefs (2): Scary times for the league’s 31 other clubs as it’s perfectly legitimate to suggest that a dynastic window is just now opening for QB Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champs, who weren’t even overly reliant on their talented youngsters this season – though several delivered in a big way on Sunday.
2. Bengals (1): Yeah, sorry (not sorry?), Philly fans, but these guys also lost their final game to Kansas City by three points and are only a year removed from showing they can also almost win a Super Bowl. Cincinnati has several free agents in its secondary, but also a lot of cap room to backfill and upgrade.
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3. Eagles (5): They missed a golden opportunity to win that sterling silver Lombardi Trophy. But just days removed from their Super Bowl shortfall, they’re down two coordinators, have numerous internal free agency decisions looming and work to do to stay atop a conference unlikely to remain this weak in 2023.
4. Bills (4): They faced more than their share of adversity late in the season, namely S Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. And the defense never truly recovered from OLB Von Miller’s season-ending knee injury. Bigger picture, three-decade old questions about a team that can’t win the big one may be resurfacing, too.
5. 49ers (3): Is there any way to Frankenstein QB Brock Purdy’s confidence, starting experience and healthy ankle with Trey Lance’s healthy arm and general upside? If Silicon Valley can’t solve those minor issues, it will be interesting to see if otherwise loaded Niners stand pat at QB or explore additional options.
6. Jaguars (6): They’re (finally) trending in the direction most assumed they’d be headed two years ago after drafting QB Trevor Lawrence. Continued growth and stability indicate Jacksonville should rule AFC South for foreseeable future.
7. Cowboys (7): If you’re Mike McCarthy, and you potentially need to take this team to its first NFC title game since 1995 to keep your job, may as well insert yourself as the play caller … and hopefully free agent RB Tony Pollard will be back on the receiving end of many of them.
8. Chargers (8): They surmounted their signature poor fortune for a change to reach postseason. Imagine what a fully healthy Justin Herbert, paired with new OC Kellen Clemens, can do if OLB Joey Bosa, LT Rashawn Slater, WR Mike Williams and CB J.C. Jackson also stay on the field – especially if Lady Luck is designated to return from injured reserve.
9. Rams (25): The record suggests they’re the worst defending Super Bowl champions in league history. Healthy returns by QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp and DL Aaron Donald, among others, suggest a quick rebound in a conference that still seems largely devoid of contenders.
10. Lions (10): Look who owns multiple first-round picks (including No. 6) and has free agency bucks to burn coming off a surprisingly strong 2022 campaign fueled in great part by a stellar rookie class. No dark horse label in 2023, but things are looking up.
11. Seahawks (19): Look who owns multiple first-round picks (including No. 5) and has free agency bucks to burn – even after they presumably re-sign QB Geno Smith – coming off a surprisingly strong 2022 campaign fueled in great part by a stellar rookie class. No dark horse label in 2023, but things are looking up.
12. Jets (21): Seven wins seems awfully impressive given their offense played with 10 functional players most of the season. Aaron Rodgers is clearly the dream scenario, but even a mid-tier QB like Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr should elevate New York to playoff caliber.
13. Ravens (12): An organization run this well will almost inevitably contend. And yet a cloud of mystery hovers, one unlikely to be burned away by assigning the franchise tag to enigmatic QB Lamar Jackson.
14. Giants (11): While it looks like they’ll have in the neighborhood of $50 million for free agents, a good chunk will likely be earmarked for QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley. That may not leave much left over for a team that has plenty of other holes to fill.
15. Vikings (9): While it’s usually hard to quibble with a 13-win season, it’s nearly indisputable that almost everything broke in Minnesota’s favor in 2022 … until postseason arrived.
16. Dolphins (20): As well as things generally went under rookie HC Mike McDaniel, had QB Tua Tagovailoa remained healthy, easy to wonder if this team might have had a better outcome. Also, hard not to wonder if Tua can actually remain healthy for 17+ games.
17. Patriots (15): They’re positioned for a spending spree that might approach what they did in 2021. That aside, hiring OC Bill O’Brien from Alabama to pair with former Tide QB Mac Jones might already be one of this offseason’s most effective maneuvers.
18. Steelers (16): They finished with a flourish, sparing HC Mike Tomlin his first losing season. But should Pittsburgh be in the veteran QB market under new GM Omar Khan? Tomlin is high on Kenny Pickett, but even if he develops into a Pro Powler, his window seems misaligned with this veteran defense’s.
19. Browns (22): You have to think Year 2 with Deshaun Watson will go significantly better with the rust off and (hopefully) positive progression in his personal life following mandatory counseling.
20. Broncos (28): You have to think Year 2 with Russell Wilson will go significantly better – particularly under an established coach like Sean Payton, who knows how to design an offense around a vertically challenged quarterback.
21. Panthers (17): Aside from a gaping hole at quarterback, this roster is sneakily solid. If new coach Frank Reich can get even average passing production, Carolina should probably win the NFC South … at least as it looks at the moment.
22. Falcons (26): The point can’t be underscored enough – it’s remarkable HC Arthur Smith has coaxed 14 wins out of this talent-deficient roster over the past two seasons. Can’t wait to see what he can do with a potential $50 million influx of talent and (maybe?) an enhancement under center.
23. Packers (13): Good luck finding a more difficult team to slot. But truth is, even with Rodgers in the fold, they weren’t very good in 2022 – reason enough to think hard about initiating the Jordan Love era.
24. Raiders (27): Do they potentially enter the Rodgers sweepstakes with Carr officially hitting the road? Las Vegas added a lot of chips to its cap space with Carr’s release … though the defensive vacancy is only a slightly less important issue than the quarterback vacancy.
25. Bears (29): No team is projected to have more money to throw at free agents than Chicago – though even if GM Ryan Poles maxes out his cap, he’ll probably still have several roster deficiencies.
26. Commanders (23): So QB Carson Wentz is still on the roster … but HC Ron Rivera says Sam Howell has the inside track to be the guy moving forward. TBD if any of that rings true in a few weeks.
27. Saints (18): They recouped a (low) first-round pick by letting Payton go. But running up that cap credit card once again could make it hard to find a quarterback without completely crippling the roster.
28. Titans (24): Riding a league-worst seven-game losing streak into 2023 and needing to shed about $22 million in salary to become cap compliant, they appear perfectly positioned for a teardown. Derrick Henry, anyone?
29. Cardinals (30): So they’ve (finally) hired a new coach, defensively oriented as it turns out, to turn around a team where the paid but injured superstar quarterback has seemingly gone off the rails. Makes sense.
30. Buccaneers (14): Despite their NFC South crown, the 2022 season fell well short of expectations … and that was before QB Tom Brady retired, a bunch of veterans’ contracts expired and whatever adjustments are going to be made to a roster that’s currently about $55 million over budget.
31. Colts (32): Not to worry … they’ve hired an accomplished coordinator, play in one of the league’s most forgiving divisions, have better talent than their record indicates and are virtually guaranteed to draft a highly regarded quarterback with a top-five pick in a few months.
32. Texans (31): Not to worry … they’ve hired an accomplished coordinator, play in one of the league’s most forgiving divisions, have better talent – maybe – than their record indicates and are virtually guaranteed to draft a highly regarded quarterback with a top-five pick in a few months.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
Story Credit: usatoday.com