NFL Power Rankings: A first-time Super Bowl winner? Bills lead the list of candidates
There are 12 teams that have never won a Super Bowl. Some of them have virtually no chance of taking themselves off that list this season. Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons, we're talking about you.
However, it seems like this could be a season in which we get a first-time winner. Buffalo hopes so.
The Buffalo Bills are the Super Bowl favorite and in a month when you see preseason picks rolling in, you'll see the Bills as the most popular pick to win the championship this season. But the Bills aren't the only team with a shot.
The Los Angeles Chargers are loaded and perhaps this is finally the season in which their talent leads to a deep postseason run. Nobody would be surprised. The Cincinnati Bengals are looking for their first title and while it seems they'll regress a bit from last season's magical run to the Super Bowl, they have plenty of exciting pieces.
And yes, the Cleveland Browns are a possible first-time winner too.
It never feels right to talk about Deshaun Watson and the Browns in football terms, but there will still be a football season and as of right now, Watson will be playing most of it. His six-game suspension seemed light and make no mistake, it was a huge win for the Browns from a football standpoint. Then came news that the NFL appealed the decision, which means anything is possible.
If it sticks at six games, the Browns have a pretty favorable schedule with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Here's the slate Brissett will face: at Carolina, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, at Atlanta, L.A. Chargers, New England. If the Browns just beat the Panthers, Jets and Falcons, they would come out the first six games of the season at 3-3. But we don't know how long Watson will be out.
Whatever can be said about Watson, the last time we saw him he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Browns' roster could be ready to take a big leap with some improved quarterback play. We just don't know when their QB1 will be on the field until the NFL rules on it. It's possible whenever Watson returns he doesn't simply pick up where he left off after not playing a game for almost two years on the sideline, but if he's near his old level by the end of the season the Browns will be dangerous in the playoffs ... if they make it. Let's assume the NFL isn't exactly rooting for Watson to be the focus of Super Bowl week. But it could happen.
While other franchises who have never won have a chance too — the Titans are usually better than expected, the Cardinals have an untapped potential with Kyler Murray at quarterback — the season will begin with an intense focus on the Bills.
Buffalo is primarily known for its fun offense around quarterback Josh Allen, which means the defense is overlooked. The Bills led the NFL in many defensive statistics last season including points allowed and yards allowed. There's a real chance Buffalo ends this season with the best offense and best defense in the NFL. Josh Allen is the betting favorite to win MVP. There's even some positive regression coming after the Bills finished 0-6 last season, including playoffs, in games decided by seven points or less. The Bills are a rightful preseason favorite.
Of course, nobody walks to a Super Bowl title. There are a few franchises who have never experienced a championship that are hoping this is the season that changes.
Here are the pre-preseason power rankings for the 2022 NFL season. They are unchanged since our team-by-team preview countdown over the summer, though we'll see a few teams moving by the next power rankings before Week 1 of the regular season (click on any of the team names below for an in-depth season preview on that team):
32. Houston Texans
The Texans got terrible news when rookie receiver John Metchie III was diagnosed with leukemia. He'll likely miss the season. In a football sense it's tough to lose the No. 44 overall pick in this year's draft. Hopefully Metchie can fully recover for reasons beyond football.
31. Atlanta Falcons
One player who can move up the depth chart with a big preseason could be rookie running back Tyler Allgeier. He is already getting good reviews in camp. The Falcons don't have much at running back. He's a big back who can take some pressure off the rest of the offense if he pans out.
30. New York Giants
Rookie receiver Wan'Dale Robinson got off to a good start in camp. He was a controversial second-round pick because he is just 5-8, 175 pounds and was picked over other highly-touted prospects. But it seems his quickness and versatility could be a good fit for Brian Daboll's offense.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
There has been a steady drumbeat of positive news regarding running back Travis Etienne out of Jaguars camp. James Robinson is back from an Achilles tear, but it has been historically tough for running backs to bounce back from that injury. Etienne, a first-round pick last year who missed his rookie season due to a foot injury, has a chance to shine.
28. Chicago Bears
Bears offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, a second-round pick last year, has been missing from training camp practice with an unspecified injury and plenty of skepticism over what's really happening. The Bears are reportedly fielding trade offers. The Bears offensive line isn't good and won't get better with their 2021 second-round pick looking like he won't work out.
27. New York Jets
Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson isn't off to a great start in training camp. That might mean nothing considering it's just a few practices and the New York media can overblow things, but it's certainly not the best news after Wilson's struggles as a rookie.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith has been working with the starters ahead of Drew Lock in the Seahawks' quarterback competition. But it doesn't seem either one has been too impressive.
25. Detroit Lions
It's good to hear the positive camp reports on second-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. He was great down the stretch last season, and it's rare for a player to perform to that level and have it be a fluke.
24. Carolina Panthers
There's a quarterback competition and I'm not sure why. The Panthers know what they have with Sam Darnold. Unless Baker Mayfield can't pick up the offense at all in a short time, why pick Darnold over him? At least Mayfield might have some potential going forward.
23. Washington Commanders
Receiver Curtis Samuel, who played in just five games last season, has been missing time in camp. Coach Ron Rivera said the team has concerns about Samuel's “overall football conditioning and shape.” Samuel was an exciting addition from the Panthers before last season, but it has not gone well at all.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kenny Pickett will have to work his way up the depth chart. He started third behind Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph because Mike Tomlin still has old-school values and doesn't want to hand anything to a first-round pick. That's also a good reason to believe Pickett won't win the job by opening day, but we'll see.
21. Minnesota Vikings
Tight end Irv Smith Jr. had thumb surgery, though it's minor and the team said he might be back by Week 1. It's a step back for a popular breakout pick. Smith, who was out due to injury all of last season, is going to miss a lot of valuable time on the field this month.
20. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins lost a couple picks, including a 2023 first-round pick, for tampering with Tom Brady. Owner Stephen Ross was suspended. There are a lot of crummy owners in the NFL so Ross flies under the radar in that category, but he's not a positive asset to the Dolphins.
19. New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara was supposed to be in court this month on a battery charge from an incident in Las Vegas, but the court date was pushed back 60 days. There has been no word of NFL suspension yet. Is it possible Kamara avoids suspension all season?
18. Las Vegas Raiders
This piece by Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson on Josh McDaniels was a great read. Will McDaniels revert to his old ways once the pressure is on? We can't know. But he does sound like a man who learned from a lot of mistakes in his first head-coaching stint.
17. Arizona Cardinals
A lot was said of the Kyler Murray homework clause, and it's funny the Cardinals thought it could be stricken from the record and we'd never talk about it again just because they took it out of their contract. Maybe it's nothing, but now there will be an ongoing scrutiny on Murray and his study habits that puts added pressure on the franchise quarterback. Arizona really screwed that up.
16. Tennessee Titans
Through the offseason a lot of negative headlines followed rookie first-round pick Treylon Burks, particularly in regards to his conditioning. But he has had several highlights in camp and it looks like the offseason noise was probably overblown.
"He's done some good things. He's making plays for me," Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said, according to the Tennessean. "It started off early in training camp, and he's just continued to show up, so I'm excited about the progress he's made."
15. Cleveland Browns
Well, the Browns were stuck near the middle of the rankings because of the unsettled Deshaun Watson situation. Lo and behold, we're still stuck without a final answer after the NFL appealed the decision of a six-game suspension.
14. Indianapolis Colts
All of the news from Colts camp on Matt Ryan is that he looks sharp and the offense looks much better. Ryan doesn't need to be great for the Colts to have a fine season. He just needs to be an upgrade from Carson Wentz.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
A.J. Brown got most of the attention, but don't underestimate what rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis, the team's first-round pick, can do for the defense. The 336-pound Davis has been impressing onlookers at Eagles camp.
"He's huge. I ain't never seen a guy like that," linebacker Kyzir White said, according the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Definitely I'm glad he's on our side. He's going to make things easier for us."
12. San Francisco 49ers
It's fine that the team said Trey Lance would be the starting quarterback, but that's no surprise. It still doesn't address the endgame for Jimmy Garoppolo, which as confusing as ever.
11. Denver Broncos
The Broncos lost receiver Tim Patrick to a torn ACL in camp. They still have plenty for Russell Wilson to work with, but Patrick is an underrated player and his injury is not the best news for the Broncos offense.
10. Cincinnati Bengals
Quarterback Joe Burrow had appendix surgery, and all indications are he won't miss Week 1. The timing was good for the Bengals in that regard. But we'll have to keep an eye on Burrow as this month goes on, to see if he is suffering any aftereffects.
9. New England Patriots
One regret I had since the countdown of team previews was not having the Patriots behind the Bengals and Broncos. But the same reasoning I had for initially putting the Patriots here does stand: They were much better for a majority of last season than people give them credit for now, and it's still Bill Belichick. They're going to be better than we think.
8. Los Angeles Chargers
One name that keeps coming up in Chargers camp is rookie running back Isaiah Spiller. The Chargers have been looking for a back to take some pressure off Austin Ekeler, and it seems like they might have found him. Spiller could be yet another weapon in an explosive offense.
7. Baltimore Ravens
Let's check in on Lamar Jackson, shall we?
“He’s throwing it better than I’ve ever seen him throw it,” Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said, via the Baltimore Sun. “He’s really worked hard in the offseason, and it's showing.”
Jackson looks to be in great shape, too. It's a reminder: Jackson is just 25 years old and theoretically still ascending.
6. Green Bay Packers
Rookie receiver Christian Watson is falling behind. The second-round pick had minor knee surgery and hasn't been practicing. Watson could have helped right away at receiver but it will be tougher as he misses critical practice time with Aaron Rodgers.
5. Dallas Cowboys
One thing stood out from unveiling the team-by-team previews: People are angry the Cowboys are this high. Yikes. There is a lot of negativity surrounding Dallas. Yes, they did not have a great offseason, but everyone is forgetting how good they were last regular season. Let's not bury them quite yet.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. signed his franchise tag tender and reported to camp despite not having a long-term extension locked up. He's still hopeful something will get done.
“I want to be here,” Brown said, via Arrowhead Pride. “I want to finish my career here in Kansas City. I’m sure [there are] questions out there. But to me, with the contract situation, there just weren’t enough guarantees — and I want to be here for the rest of my career in Kansas City. That’s really important to me.”
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The loss of center Ryan Jensen is huge. The Buccaneers haven't ruled him out for the season but he'll miss multiple months after a serious knee injury. Considering Tom Brady is bothered most by pressure up the middle, the questions on the interior of the Bucs' offensive line are significant.
2. Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford had an injection in his throwing elbow this offseason and early in training camp the Rams cut back on his workload due to "a little bit of pain," according to coach Sean McVay. It's probably not a big deal yet, but it will become one if it's still an issue in a few weeks.
1. Buffalo Bills
The star of training camp seems to be slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie. McKenzie had a huge game against the Patriots late last season and was a reason the team moved on from Cole Beasley. If McKenzie becomes a legitimate factor out of the slot, the Bills offense gets even better.