NFL power rankings! We all love to read them and we all love to call the person writing them an idiot (awesome…), so let’s give you a chance to do both of those things with the Pickswise NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 1 of the 2023 season.
We’re reserving the right to make some hefty changes next week when we have, y’know, actually seen these teams on the field together for the first time, so there’s an element of reward for last season’s status, albeit with a few alterations for good or bad off-season moves.
We’re all about the odds here at Pickswise, of course, so I’ll also be highlighting any teams that are noticeably in a different area of our rankings than they are in the Super Bowl betting.
The first interesting thing to note from the initial rankings below is that we’re starting with only 4 NFC teams in the top 12 (including 12th place), but I’m comfortable with that reflecting the respective strengths of the two conferences — there are teams that would be strong contenders in the NFC that aren’t even likely to make the playoffs in the stacked AFC.
Pickswise NFL Power Rankings for Week 1
1 Kansas City Chiefs
To beat the champ you have to knock him out and no one has laid a glove on the Chiefs yet, so they start where they finished, on top of the pile. There’s no disagreement from the oddsmakers here, as both FanDuel and DraftKings have Andy Reid’s team as the +600 favorites for another Super Bowl win.
2 Philadelphia Eagles
They went oh so close to beating their former head coach to the Lombardi Trophy last year, and the Eagles start out as the default top dogs in the NFC again. DraftKings (+650 odds) has the Eagles much closer to KC in the betting than FanDuel, where Philly can be backed at +800.
3 Cincinnati Bengals
I’m going with another team who went close to denying the Chiefs last season with the Bengals at #3. They have made changes to their O-line and secondary this year, though, and I have the Bengals slightly higher in my list than the oddsmakers, who have the Bills in 3rd place.
4 Buffalo Bills
Bills Mafia shouldn’t be too upset with this ranking as their team is right here at #4, but I have a feeling that could be falling over the weeks to come and a suspicion that this Buffalo team may have missed its best chance at a Super Bowl win. There has been one huge victory already, though, with the return to the field of safety Damar Hamlin, who is -350 odds to win the Comeback Player of the Year award.
5 San Francisco 49ers
The zero-RB strategy is popular in fantasy football drafts, but the 49ers found out that a zero-QB strategy just isn’t going to work in an NFC Championship game. Everything has been boom or bust in the 49ers’ QB room, with Trey Lance (cost: 3 first-round picks) being shipped off to the Cowboys (cost: a 4th-round pick). The reason John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan still have jobs after that disaster is that last year’s Mr Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, gave us a sign that he might just turn into the next Tom Brady. If he does, the 49ers can be contenders again.
6 Jacksonville Jaguars
This spot is higher than the Jags’ Super Bowl odds would imply, as they rank only 12th in the outright betting, but they have a clear path to the playoffs again in a soft division and the shrewd pick-up of Calvin Ridley gives Trevor Lawrence another tremendous weapon.
7 New York Jets
I’m a believer! There’s no denying the Jets are at the very least going to be fun to watch this season. If Garrett Wilson can have a 1,000-yard rookie year catching passes from Zach Wilson, Mike White, Joe Flacco and Chris Streveler, he should put up 3,000 with the Lord of Darkness Aaron Rodgers at QB.
8 Miami Dolphins
Three AFC East teams in the top 8! SPOILER ALERT: It will be some time until we get to the other team. The Dolphins have the potential to be a proper team this year but so much hinges on them being able to keep Tua Tagovailoa healthy. Let’s hope they have a good year as that would mean more Mike McDaniel interviews.
9 Cleveland Browns
Every naysayer that has the Browns down in a low-teens ranking or worse seems to pin it on poor QB play and a shaky kicking situation. Yet everything we’ve heard this summer suggests Deshaun Watson can still sling it (and they’ve got a new kicker!). The new Browns DL has looked great, but they have 3 early division games so we’ll soon find out what they’re really made of.
10 Dallas Cowboys
America’s team might just be a little overrated in places, although Tony Pollard finally getting to start at RB has to be a positive move. They are 6th favorites for the Super Bowl but that has to be boosted by them playing in the weaker NFC.
11 Baltimore Ravens
One of the most interesting things to see in the early weeks of the season will be how the Ravens offense looks under new coordinator Todd Monken, who has the potential to breathe some life into a formerly moribund unit. While Lamar Jackson is on the field, the Ravens should have hopes of making the playoffs.
12 New York Giants
It wasn’t a deliberate move to placate those famously easy-going football fans in the Big Apple, but I also have the Giants, like the Jets, higher up my list than the sportsbooks — DraftKings has only 8 teams at bigger odds. Brian Daboll’s group got to the divisional round last season, though, so I’m giving them some credit to start the year.
13 Los Angeles Chargers
Who hasn’t been hurt by the Chargers before? I sure have, which is why my ranking is a little more muted than their SB odds, which have the LA club just about making the top 1o. You have to love Justin Herbert, but I’m not yet sold on their defense or their coach.
14 Detroit Lions
Again, my Lions ranking is a little more chilled than their odds, which see them as the 4th favorites in the NFC. They were a fun team to watch last season, no doubt, but they allowed more than 25 points per game, which needs to improve.
15 Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins’ popularity has soared this summer after his appearance in the Netflix series Quarterback and there’s still enough talent around him to expect another run at the playoffs. You like that, Vikes fans?
16 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are a real wild card this year, with some observers really hyped up after their preseason games, but their total wins line of 8.5 suggests Mike Tomlin’s first losing season is still in play. They rallied impressively to avoid that last year. I have them 4th in the AFC North, true – but I also have them 4 places higher than anyone in the NFC South! That’s just how the NFL rolls these days.
17 Green Bay Packers
It’s a new era in Green Bay as Jordan Love gets his chance to come out of Aaron Rodgers’ shadow. We certainly saw some potential from the QB in limited action last year, but it may take a year or two for Love and his young receiving corps to grow together.
18 Denver Broncos
Will Sean Payton’s ban on Gilligan hats on the sideline be the crucial move that turns this franchise around? Probably not, but the Broncos are prime candidates for positive regression in the former Super Bowl winner’s first season.
19 Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith defied his critics with a huge first season as starting QB for the Seahawks and they are being talked up in a number of places but it’s hard to see them getting much beyond the fringes of playoff contention.
20 Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are stockpiling young talent with Bijan Robinson now added to Drake London and Kyle Pitts, but I would want to see some evidence that this group is not going to be held back by QB Desmond Ridder before putting them in the top half of the league.
21 New Orleans Saints
You wait 20 places for an NFC South team and then two turn up at once. New QB Derek Carr has to be a huge upgrade on Andy Dalton and Chris Olave looks to have a huge future, but it may take a year or two for the Saints to be serious contenders again.
22 Washington Commanders
Like the Falcons, there’s potential for the under-new-ownership Commanders to take a big leap in the rankings if their quarterback turns out to be legit. Sam Howell has a talented group of receivers if he’s up to the task and it would be a shame if the former Football Team’s defensive strength is wasted again.
23 Tennessee Titans
This region of the rankings seems the right place for a team with a QB who is past his best and two young pretenders who are a long way from being ready. Derrick Henry is still there, but he’s been there on more talented teams before.
24 Chicago Bears
The Bears seem to be slowly getting better, but they’re still last in the NFC North odds (and in these rankings). It would be fantastic to see Justin Fields taking a step forward with the assistance of DJ Moore and we may just see that.
25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have a strange roster. Half of it is still reminiscent of their latest Super Bowl winning team, but there are a bunch of undrafted rookies now added to the mix and new QB Baker Mayfield will be starting for his fourth team since January 2022. I don’t think they’ll be terrible but they need a couple of years to reload.
26 Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders provided one of the best moments of last season with Chandler Jones’ walkoff interception return against the Patriots, but they’re another team who appear to be doing no more than treading water at the moment.
27 New England Patriots
Talking of the Patriots, here they are. It seems crazy to someone who lived through the whole Brady-Belichick era to have the Pats starting out this low, but other than trading on their name, there’s not a lot going for them these days. The sportsbooks have New England in the bottom 10 too and 4th place in the division looks a likely outcome this year.
28 Carolina Panthers
Overall #1 draft pick Bryce Young had the unusual benefit of not having to play for the team which had the worst record last year, but the team who did, the Bears, are actually higher on this list than the Panthers. The Carolina O-line looked awful in preseason, so we could soon get a good look at how good Young’s mobility in the pocket is.
29 Houston Texans
There’s fight in this Houston team, for sure. Enough that they cost themselves the first pick in the draft with late rally to win in Week 18 last year. Winning 2 of their last 3 games was a dumb move in that sense, but Will Anderson and CJ Stroud add to the team’s talent level and DeMeco Ryans’ group could just be climbing up these rankings as the weeks roll on.
30 Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ Super Bowl win seems a very long time ago doesn’t it? Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald are still around but otherwise the cupboard is pretty bare now and there’s a lot of work to be done.
31 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts can expect growing pains from young QB Anthony Richardson this season, and also pain from shooting themselves in the foot with Jonathan Taylor’s contract dispute.
32 Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals seem to have set their heart on dominating the early picks in next season’s draft. It may be prudent for them to keep Kyler Murray out of action depending on which moves they decide to make at quarterback but the sportsbooks agree that they’re starting the year at the bottom of the list.