NFL Power Rankings Entering the 2022 Preseason (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Rams (1): The defending champions have had several major departures and newcomers, WR Odell Beckham Jr. currently somewhere in between. But adding someone like LB Bobby Wagner into the equation certainly won’t hinder a team’s quest to become the first team in 18 years to successfully defend a Super Bowl crown.
2. Bill (3): The two-time defending AFC East champs, in addition to OLB von Miller and others, could be placed above the final hurdle. But keep an eye on WR Gabriel Davis, who had five TD grabs in the 2021 postseason – four in the divisional-round heartbreaker at Kansas City – as a potential breakout player.
3. Bengals (2): Past issues of QB Joe Burrow’s appendectomy and new RT L’El Collins may hinder the initial reconciliation of an almost entirely new line-breaking offense. Still, the biggest challenges for the 2021 AFC champs will probably come from a brutal conference, which is likely to include a resurgent Baltimore squad challenging Cincinnati for the AFC North title.
4. Packers (5): QB Aaron Rodgers thinks a village of receivers – see rookie Romeo Dobbs – could almost combine to produce the late Davante Adams. Hmm. We’re thinking that shortening the game with a more holistic touch for RB Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon could really be the Lombardi ticket.
5. Head (8): Despite the absence of WR Tyrek Hill, here’s the guess that the Andy Reid-Patrick Mahomes offense will eventually recover. The real question could be a defense snatched away from veteran leader Tyron Matthews and now a heavy count on first-round rookies Trent McDuffie in the corner and George Karloftis from the sidelines.
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6. Ravens (6): Baltimore still lists QB Lamar Jackson at 212 pounds, but he claims to be around 230 after bulking up during the offseason. It remains to be seen what this means for the league’s most electric athlete, who doesn’t make it until the end of the 2021 end-stage.
7. Buccaneers (4): While the notion of WR Julio Jones against the man coverage on Passing Down is tantalizing, Very Good Bet QB Tom Brady told Pro Bowl C Ryan Jensen in the lineup that Passing Down… and all the other snaps would have injured him.
8. Chargers (7): There’s no reason to be anything other than bullish about QB Justin Herbert. But he can and should be even better – and wants to start by reducing the sum of his intercepts (25) and sacks (63) through two sessions.
9. Eagles (12): Good luck finding a team with more talent and depth in the trenches, a major reason Philly should excel, even when QB Jalen Hurts is on his personal learning curve. Former Temple star Haasan Reddick, who has had 23½ sacks over the past two seasons, may be one of the steals (again) of free agency.
10. Colts (10): From weeks 6-16 last year, they were an elite outfit, leading 8-2 and beating four final playoff teams. But former QB Carson Wentz’s COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent lost practice time coincided with Indy’s season-ending spiral. Stable veteran replacement Matt Ryan should be a better fit that provides a smoother ride.
11. 49ers (14): Jimmy Garoppolo’s solution to the situation would have been nice, but it was more important to patch things up with “wide back” Deebo Samuel, who will undoubtedly be a key component of Trey Lance’s transition into the QB1 role.
12. Patriots (13): Despite all the speculation about aggressive playcalling and good feelings surrounding QB Mack Jones’ development, perhaps the focus should be on a defense devoid of top-tier talent. New England were steamrolled for 150 points in their final five matches of 2021.
13. Saint (9): With longtime coach Sean Peyton out, in the least don’t be surprised if this team reclaims the NFC South throne, judging by the weapons on both sides of the ball. RB Alvin Kamara’s unsolved battery case comes to the fore as an important issue if the expected sentence is delivered at the end of the year.
14. Raiders (11): He’s got an exceptional group in key positions like quarterback, receiver, left tackle and pass rusher. But the balance of the lineup is at least equally questionable. With new coach Josh McDaniels valuable in designing plays, Vegas better hopes he learned something from Bill Belichick about hiding weak points.
15. Cowboys (19): Given how Micah Parsons is positioned by Dallas, it could be interesting to see if newly signed LB Anthony Barr gets to hunt quarterback at UCLA, despite his four Pro Bowl nods at Minnesota never done.
16. Dolphins (21): Owner Stephen Ross’ illegal repatriation of Brady and Peyton cost Miami a 2023 first-round pick, among other things. Ironically, he would have eased the pressure on QB Tua Tagovailoa and strengthened his job security, probably now that it would be much harder to draft QBs in 2023…
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17. Vikings (17): Justin Jefferson is the only player in the league with at least 3,000 receiving yards since 2020. Can he push 5,000 over three campaigns as center in new coach Kevin O’Connell’s near-oriented attack?
18. Broncos (18): WR Tim Patrick (ACL) is not lost, but it could create an opportunity for KJ Hamler to show his pace – and few quarterbacks are more able to take advantage of it than deep ball sniper Russell Wilson.
19. Steelers (20): They will face five 9 playoff teams and Miami before their Week 2021 goodbye. There isn’t a perfect opening section for QB Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement… but one who suggests first-rounder Kenny Pickett could be in the saddle by week 10.
20. Titans (16): RB Derrick Henry averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2021, the second lowest figure of his career. What would that number be without WRs AJ Brown and Julio Jones to keep the defense honest?
21. Lion (24): C Frank Ragno’s 2021 return from a foot injury means Detroit could emerge with the league’s top offensive line in 2022.
22. Cardinals (22): It remains to be seen whether $230.5 million can buy you happiness, leadership, maturity or even a playoff win. Regardless, QB Kyler Murray, who owns a 22-24-1 record in the NFL, will always be 43-0 in high school… a data point he believes the German remains.
23. Commander (26): Captain Terry McLaurin has been paid off, while fellow WR Jahan Dotson continues to show signs that he may emerge as the club’s next star. Undoubtedly good news as Wentz tries to stabilize this organization and his career, though he’s already off to a bang in the camp.
24. Panthers (28): Now a half home to a 2018 first-round QB, Carolina may yet be playoff-bound, given its defensive ability and quality offensive playmates… assuming RB Christian McCaffrey remains on the field .
25. Brown (15): It’s hard not to slot either team given the uncertainty surrounding QB Deshaun Watson, who was suspended six games on August 1, a decision the NFL appealed two days later. That decision makes it highly likely that Watson won’t take a regular-season snap before 2023.
26. Jet (23): His years of disarray have reflected the airline industry at large. But this off-season’s talent infusion suggests NYJ could be approaching takeoff pace… though it will be up to second-year QB Zach Wilson to keep things on schedule while taking better care of the stuff.
27. Jaguar (27): With a legitimate coach like Doug Pedersen now guiding 2021 No. 1 Trevor Lawrence — and the offense about to get another kickstart — with 2021 first-rounder Travis Etienne champing down a bit to make his NFL debut. For – Jacksonville could be primed for a significant leap.
28. Seahawks (25): So is WR DK Metcalf, whom Seattle extended only three years, now the face of this franchise? If not, who is it? Maybe a college quarterback who’s nine months after joining 12?
29. Giants (29): While considerable attention will be paid to how effectively first-year coach Brian Dabol recounts QB Daniel Jones, new coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s influence on the defense could define how far these veterans go. .
30. Bear (31): The teardown may not really be over amid speculation 32-year-old DE Robert Quinn (team-record 18½ sacks in 2021) may be the next veteran on the move and whispers Chicago is already planning to drop Teven, a 2021 second-rounder. Jenkins is close.
31. Texans (30): If we saw you QB Davis Mills and WR Brandin Cooks, could you get three more starts for Houston? Good teams often emerge from oblivion, but it usually takes some time.
32. Falcon (32): If we looked at you QB Marcus Mariota and TE Kyle Pitts, could you make three more starts for Atlanta… though it should be an easier bar to clear than Houston? Good teams often emerge from oblivion, but this usually takes some time… and the Falcons can take longer than the Texans.
Follow USA Today Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis,