The NFL offseason is manufactured, packaged hope.
As soon as one Super Bowl ends, all 32 fan bases start talking themselves into the notion that next year will be their year, or in the case of one fanbase, that next year will again be their year. If their favorite team just drafts the right players and/or adds the right free agents, then the Lombardi Trophy awaits.
However, while all 32 teams believe they have a shot at glory, the reality is something different. Some teams have a better shot than others. Some teams will see those Super Bowl dreams fade in the fall, others might have to wait until the winter to see those hopes dashed, and in the end, just one team will savor that ultimate glory, leaving 31 other teams hoping anew.
Here are the 32 teams, ranked by their Super Bowl chances before the season begins.
32. Arizona Cardinals
Are the Arizona Cardinals tanking?
Because it certainly feels like the Arizona Cardinals are tanking.
The team recently traded away former first-round selection Isaiah Simmons (getting a seventh-round pick in return) as well as tackle Josh Jones. Jones was not projected to be in the starting lineup, and Simmons never quite materialized into the do-it-all defensive weapon many thought he would be in the NFL.
Still, these moves, along with some of their draft-time trades, have observers believing the Cardinals are getting set to control the 2024 NFL Draft.
Which does not bode well for their thoughts about the 2023 season itself.
31. Los Angeles Rams
Look on the bright side: USC QB Caleb Williams won’t have to travel far for his next home.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Congratulations, Baker Mayfield is your quarterback.
I’m so, so sorry that Baker Mayfield is your quarterback.
The Buccaneers limped into the playoffs with Tom Brady and I don’t know how we can expect them to bounce back with Baker leading them. There’s so much talent on this roster that can win right now, but they’re lacking pop at the most important position in football. This year is about throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what will stick, but time will tell if holding on the present and delaying a rebuild will be a long-term mistake for Tampa Bay.
29. Houston Texans
The Texans and the Colts find themselves in nearly the same spot. Both bring in first year head coaches who squared off in the NFC title game (Shane Steichen for the Colts, Demeco Ryans for the Texans), have rookie QBs starting (CJ Stroud for Houston, Anthony Richardson for the Colts) and have the bones to be competitive in a few years. Houston already has a good tackle duo in Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard, and adding Shaq Mason on the interior should help insulate Stroud early. Dameon Pierce is a fun RB who will keep that offense humming, and the team loves Nico Collins, John Metchie and rookie WR Tank Dell. Robert Woods being the OG in the room should be a benefit.
Defensively, they’re very talented. Safety Jalen Pitre is a budding star who should thrive in Ryans’ defense, and pairing him with Jimmie Ward gives them a fun safety duo. Derek Stingley Jr. was lost amongst all the Sauce Gardner hype, but if he stays healthy he should be good. Oh yeah, and the Texans traded up to draft Will Anderson, the best player in the 2023 NFL Draft class. He’s a building block for the Texans’ defense, and has already made plays this preseason. They’re not going to make the playoffs year one, but they should be competitive, with 2024 being the beginning of the run.
The Panthers aren’t interested in being told this year is about incremental improvement and a slow rebuild. Instead they’ve made it clear they’re going for it right now.
It’s easy to forget that Carolina were a 7-10 team fighting for a playoff spot until the final weeks of the season, even after trading away Christian McCaffrey and relying on Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold at QB. It’s this team’s belief that they can contend in the conference right now with Bryce Young under center.
Huge questions remain when it comes to the Panthers’ weapons. Outside of a dearth of talent at receiver, there’s a lot to like about this team. Miles Sanders was an excellent stop-gap pickup at RB, and while they’ll absolutely miss the top-end talent of D.J. Moore on the outside, they did a decent job in free agency by adding Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark and Hayden Hurst to give Young someone to throw to.
As a result Carolina feels like a team that could win 11 games and runaway with the NFC South, or be a sub-.500 team full of hubris for believing they could win so quickly. It doesn’t feel like there’s much in between for the Panthers.
27. Chicago Bears
The Bears have nowhere to go but up after finishing with the worst record in the NFL last season. Chicago’s future hinges on quarterback Justin Fields, who proved to be one of the most dynamic running QBs ever in his first year as a starter, but still needs to prove he can be an NFL-quality passer. Chicago made big moves to upgrade the receiving corps by swinging trades for both D.J. Moore and Chase Claypool, but the offensive line remains a major question mark with several key starters facing injuries with Week 1 on the horizon. The Bears’ defense should be improved after an offseason splurge to improve the linebackers by signing Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, but the defensive line could struggle both rushing the passer and stopping the run. No one is expecting the Bears to win the Super Bowl this year coming off a three-win season, but competing around .500 would be a welcomed step forward. Assuming the line can keep him upright, Fields finally has the weapons to show he’s more than just the best running QB alive.
26. Atlanta Falcons
This is the put up or shut up year for the Falcons’ recent draft strategy. It really all comes down to what Desmond Ridder is able to do (if anything). The NFC South is wide open in 2023, and literally anyone could win the division with every team in some phase of rebuilding.
Ridder is the wild card here. Deciding to pass on Justin Fields to take Kyle Pitts in 2021 will be an iconic draft decision, but one that’s washed away if Ridder plays well. The same can be said for taking Bijan Robinson at No. 8 this year, and leaving Will Levis to plummet to the second round.
There’s nothing functionally wrong with either player. In fact, both Pitts and Robinson could define the NFL at their position over the next 5-7 years. That said, there’s been a stunning lack of organizational awareness when it comes to quarterback, and the Falcons have won games in spite of their QB play, not because of it. Winning cures all, but it’s really shaky to have too much confidence in Atlanta this year because of who’s under center.
25. Tennessee Titans
The Titans are a weird team. On the bright side, they’re coached hard by Mike Vrabel, will always play tough, and have one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the NFL, led by Jeffrey Simmons and Denico Autry. Offensively, Derrick Henry is still Derrick Henry, and now you add Deandre Hopkins to the mix and there’s something there.
However, the offensive line is still a massive work in progress. First round pick Peter Skoronski takes over at guard, but Andre Dillard is hoping be a reclamation project at left tackle, and their right tackle was suspended for the first four games of the season as a part of the NFL’s probe into gambling. Not a great mix, especially considering QB Ryan Tannehill is 36 years old coming off ankle surgery, knocking his mobility down a bit. This team could push the Jaguars in the division, or it could be one of the worst teams in the league. We’re just not too sure.
Dan Snyder is out as the owner in Washington.
Which you could argue improves their Super Bowl odds almost overnight.
This is a pivotal year for head coach Ron Rivera, who has put the offense in the hands of second-year quarterback Sam Howell. But with Eric Bieniemy calling the shots, the offense could show more creativity and explosiveness than it did a year ago. The NFC East looks to be one of the tougher divisions in football, but with the Commanders having just missed out on the playoffs last season, a run to the postseason is not out of the question.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers
There seems to be some buzz building around the Pittsburgh Steelers.
We know what this team can be on the defensive side of the football. Pittsburgh is stout up front, led by T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Alex Highsmith, fresh off signing a new contract. But their offense is intriguing and might be at the forefront of a scheme shift in the NFL.
Consider this: The Steelers added Allen Robinson via free agency, and drafted Darnell Washington out of Georgia. While rookie tight ends are often difficult to rely upon, Pittsburgh has laid the foundation for an offense that will lean heavily into 12 personnel, two tight end looks. That package, consisting of Robinson and George Pickens on the outside, Pat Freiermuth and Washington at the tight end spots, and Najee Harris in the backfield, could pose problems for defenses.
Add into that Kenny Pickett taking a step forward in year two, and you might have something here.
22. Las Vegas Raiders
As preseason games wind down, a healthy percentage of Las Vegas Raiders fans are clamoring for rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell to get significant playing time this season.
Ok our work is done here.
21. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are in the process of rebuilding their team after last year’s debacle, and it all centers around one man: QB Anthony Richardson. The Colts’ first round draft pick will need reps and patience (only played 13 games at the University of Florida), but he’s already showing his tantalizing potential and talent. Around Richardson is a nice collection of talent, along with first year head coach Shane Steichen, who comes from the Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce are two good, young wideouts, and if Jonathan Taylor actually wants to be there, then this offense can be very fun.
Defensively, they’re going to be very young at critical spots. The positives are that DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart and Shaquille Leonard still roam the front seven, with Zaire Franklin on his way to becoming a star. They’ll need more from EDGE Kwity Paye, but they still have talent up front. The secondary will be playing a lot of young guys, especially on the outside, but that’s expected. The Colts just need to show proof of concept this year, then in 2024 get ready to compete.
20. Denver Broncos
As part of our extensive NFL Preview this season, our writers are tackling a variety of topics. James Dator is diving into the “State of the NFL,” Mark Schofield is taking a look at Lamar Jackson in the new Ravens offense, and our own Joseph Acosta is tackling this question:
Is Russell Wilson cooked?
Now, maybe Wilson’s best days are not behind him. Maybe Sean Payton can guide Wilson to a rebound after a disastrous 2022 season. Maybe the new head coach is right, in that Wilson and the Broncos endured a brutal coaching job a season ago and that with the right stewardship, everything will be fixed in Denver this season.
Maybe he is wrong.
Maybe Wilson is cooked.
19. New England Patriots
Bill Belichick looks to be putting together one of the more talented defenses in the NFL this season. The Patriots reached a new deal with Matthew Judon, keeping the pass rusher in town for a few more years, they added Christian Gonzalez, who looks like he was built in a lab to play cornerback for Belichick, and they have versatility at all three levels of their defense.
This is a unit built to keep the Patriots in games.
The bigger question, however, is whether the offense will be good enough under third-year quarterback Mac Jones to win those games.
18. New Orleans Saints
Is Derek Carr enough to take a 7-10 Saints team and win the NFC South? Yes, yes he is. That’s the state of the division right now.
New Orleans did a lot of work beyond Carr to construct the best win-now team they could considering the circumstances. They lost some valuable free agents, signed some others, and the end result is that they feel a lot like the Saints of past. The difference is that Carr might be able to extract more production out of Chris Olave (who was phenomenal his rookie season) and potentially get Michael Thomas back in the mix.
If either (or both) of those things happens because of Carr this team is a safe lock to be eliminated in their first playoff game.
17. Green Bay Packers
The rumors of the Packers’ demise might’ve been greatly exaggerated. Green Bay traded away franchise QB Aaron Rodgers this offseason, turning over the keys to the offense to Jordan Love, a QB who we’ve seen very little of. However, in the limited time that he’s played, he showed growth that makes the Packers confident in what they have in number 10. Outside of QB, this offense is young at the skill positions, with Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed all being rookies or second-year players. The Packers drafted two tight ends back to back in Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft, and when you combine that with how effective that RB pairing of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon is, you have the formula for an offense that can win the division. They need the offensive line to stay healthy, but there’s reason for optimism.
Defensively, this team is extremely talented. Six first round picks litter the starting lineup on that side of the ball, not including 2023 rookie Lukas Van Ness and CB Eric Stokes, who is on the PUP list. However, last year was a struggle for them, finishing 27th in the NFL in Success Rate. However, there’s more optimism that with a team this talented, they can get back to being a formidable group in the NFL.
Maybe Love is the guy for Green Bay. Maybe GM Brian Gutekunst was right all along. We’ll see.
16. New York Giants
The Giants might actually be kinda good? Finishing 9-7-1 didn’t inspire a ton of confidence a year ago, but there’s a lot to like about this team. Brian Daboll is the real deal at coach, and while the decision to pony up big money for Daniel Jones could be a long-term mistake (Read: It’s a long-term mistake), they also made some really smart moves in the offseason.
Deonte Banks is going to be a big addition to the secondary this season for the G-Men and Jalin Hyatt adds another weapon for Jones. The signing of Bobby Okereke is one that flies under the radar, but he gives the team an organizational force in the middle they’ve been sorely lacking.
It’s too early to have much postseason confidence in the Giants just yet, but there’s something about this team that really could surprise considering the Cowboys elected to spin their tires a little this offseason.
15. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings pulled off a seemingly impossible task last season: they finished 13-4 while being out-scored by their opponents. The Vikings’ thrilling regular season defined by last second victories gave way to a predictable playoff outcome — an opening playoff loss to the New York Giants that saw QB Kirk Cousins unfathomably check down on a 4th-and-8 to end their season. Even Vikings’ front office wasn’t fooled by the regular season record, apparently, because the offseason saw the team let go several long-time veterans, including edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Adam Thielen, and LB Eric Kendricks. The Vikings should still have a puncher’s chance playing in a totally uninspiring NFC North, but this mostly feels like a team in transition. The offense could be really good with Cousins throwing passes to Justin Jefferson, who just might be the best receiver in the game today, as well as TJ Hockenson and first round rookie Jordan Addison. The defense is a big question mark, particularly in the backfield, but it’s not like they have to face established QBs in the division. The Vikings badly need a plan for finding their QB of the future, but it’s hard to expect them to be bad enough to get a high draft pick. Instead, this is a classic Kirk Cousins team: winning and losing on a razor’s margin week-by-week, more likely than not to be stuck in the middle.
14. Seattle Seahawks
Last summer, every media outlet believed that the Seattle Seahawks were in the middle of a rebuild.
The Seahawks, however, spent last summer trying to convince anyone who would listen that they were a much, much better team than believed.
They were right, as Seattle put together a rather unexpected run to the playoffs. Led by Geno Smith, the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, the Seahawks crashed the postseason party.
Seattle will not sneak up on anyone this year, but they might be ready to make an even deeper run than they did a season ago. Armed with the draft capital from the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks added a pair of talented players in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft: Jaxon Smith-Njigba on offense and Devon Witherspoon on defense.
Make no mistake, the Seahawks are for real.
13. Detroit Lions
All hail the Detroit Lions, winners of the NFL offseason and laying stake to the claim of being the true, “America’s Team”. Yes, the entire world is behind this year being the year of the Lions finally winning the division and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and it all starts on the offensive line. The group led by burgeoning superstar RT Penei Sewell is dominant in every aspect of the game, but they can get after teams in the run game. Add first round RB Jahmyr Gibbs and star WR Amon-Ra St. Brown on top of that and you have an offense that could crack the top ten in the NFL. Defensively, they’re young and have room for growth, but if pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson can become a true force against the pass then there’s room for optimism. New safety Brian Branch is already making waves in minicamp, and CJ Gardner-Johnson brings an edge to the DB room that they haven’t had in a while.
Ultimately, how far this team goes lies on the right arm of Jared Goff. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson did a good job of coaxing him into attacking the middle of the field more, to great success, but for this offense to take off he has to be better in true dropback situations. Can Goff do that? It’s yet to be seen, but Lions fans are optimistic, for the first time in what feels like ages.
12. Los Angeles Chargers
If Kellen Moore, the new Chargers’ Offensive Coordinator, can unlock the vast potential of Justin Herbert through an explosive, downfield passing game, the Chargers might finally live up to the annual expectations heaped on them by those of us in the media space.
If not, then Moore along with head coach Brandon Staley might be looking for new jobs come wintertime.
In that scenario, however, those two coaches can take heart in knowing that Boltman will likely be there to pay his respects to their careers.
11. Cleveland Browns
The Browns might be the NFL’s biggest question mark of a team. Are they talented? Absolutely. Amari Cooper is still one of the best wide receivers in the sport, and Nick Chubb is, for my money, the best running back in the game. Add in a talented defense led by superstar EDGE Myles Garrett and this team should be good.
Should, however, doesn’t win games. And this Browns team will be taken as far as their QB will take them. QB Deshaun Watson played poorly in his first six games following his suspension for alleged sexual harassment, but the offense will be schemed around his strengths as a passer and a runner, so the hope is the offense gets up to speed.
Well, it better, or else that’s $230 million fully guaranteed going towards another lost Browns season.
10. Dallas Cowboys
It’s Dallas. We’ve done this dance before. The Cowboys are forever locked in a cycle where they perpetually look better on paper than they show when the chips are down. This is a regular season monster who turns into a kitten in the playoffs, and it’s difficult to see where anything changed from last season to this one.
Brandin Cooks is a decent pickup to add to the offense. Outside of that it’s really been about circling the wagons for future financial solvency (aka, cutting Ezekiel Elliot). Is this team better than a year ago? I don’t think so. Are they better coached than a year ago? Well, they lost Kellen Moore, so not really.
I don’t really get what the plan is to get this team over the hump, which makes it difficult to be bullish on them.
9. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are consistently one of the best teams in the AFC, and this year shouldn’t change that. All eyes are on QB Lamar Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who comes from the University of Georgia to run the Ravens offense. Early returns have been good, but the next step for Jackson and the Ravens is unlocking the receiving core. By adding rookie wideout Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr, the offense should get back to the electrifying one we know with Jackson at the helm.
Defensively, the Ravens quietly put together a very good season. They’re versatile in the secondary, and first year DC Mike MacDonald put together a tough and fast unit. LB Roquan Smith is one of the best in the game, and his presence unlocked most of the other defenders on the team. What’ll help the Ravens go from good to great is how much they can get out of their pass rush. We’re still waiting on the Odafe Oweh breakout, and David Ojabo is coming back from a serious Achilles injury suffered during the draft process last year.
If all the pieces come together, the Ravens will be not only contenders in the division, but the AFC as well.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are the talk of the town after winning the AFC South and upsetting the Los Angeles Chargers in one of the best comebacks in NFL history last season, then adding former Pro Bowl WR Calvin Ridley to the mix this offseason. QB Trevor Lawrence began his ascent into the top ten QB club, with Doug Pederson pulling the strings behind an offense that extremely efficient. With the deepest skill position group in franchise history, the offense will be high powered for the first time since Jimmy Smith, Mark Brunell and Keenan McCardell donned the teal and black.
However, there are causes for concern. The offensive line depth has taken major hits in the offseason, as well as starting LT Cam Robinson being suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the NFL’s PED rules. What was once a strength now has become a massive issue, and could be a long term problem if not addressed correctly. The defense still has growing to do, but in an AFC South without much true competition, the Jaguars should continue their ascent into the NFL’s elite.
7. Miami Dolphins
This was a playoff team a year ago, and with a healthy Tua Tagovailoa for the entire season, the Dolphins could be more than just a playoff team.
They could be a team that makes a deep run into the postseason.
Tagovailoa’s health will be a huge story for the Dolphins this season, but if they have him running point in their offense for the entire season, this Miami team is going to score points in bunches.
And make life difficult for opposing defenses.
That is a recipe for wins in today’s NFL.
6. New York Jets
While it is almost impossible to get NFL fans to agree on anything, I think the vast majority of observers can agree on this regarding the New York Jets:
The Aaron Rodgers experiment is either a wild success, or a spectacular failure. It is hard to see some sort of middle ground.
Early returns have many thinking the former will come true. But with a brutal schedule out of the gate — the Jets face six playoff teams over their first eight games, with the other two coming against New England and at Denver — things could change in a hurry.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals should once again be one of the top dogs in the AFC, but this year comes with a bit more questions, especially on the offensive side of the ball. With Joe Burrow potentially missing the first few games of the season due to a calf strain, that’ll obviously have a massive effect on the Bengals offense. In addition, the offensive line went through retooling, adding Orlando Brown Jr to play left tackle. However, when Burrow comes back, the offense should be fine because, well…it’s Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Arguably the best trio of QB and WRs in the entire NFL. Stack that on top of a defense that is very good at taking away opponents’ best options (even though they did lose Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell to free agency), and the Bengals are once again primed for a deep playoff run. But in a more competitive AFC North, how long can they go without Burrow?
4. Buffalo Bills
For a few different reasons, people seem willing to write off the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. Yes the addition of Aaron Rodgers is one such reason, as is year two of the Mike McDaniel experience. Then there is the ever-present Bill Belichick, as the Hoodie looms over the division yet again. Add in the fact the Bills are coming off a disappointing loss in the Divisional Round to the Cincinnati Bengals a year ago, and some believe their window is closing.
However, that ignores some context. The Bills had a number of hurdles in their way a season ago, including the lack of a true running game yet again, their star quarterback dealing with a UCL injury, and the aftermath of the terrifying Damar Hamlin medical emergency near the end of the regular season. That … is a lot.
Sure, the division may have caught up to the Bills. But it seems premature to count them out just yet.
3. San Francisco 49ers
If you remove quarterback from the equation, the San Francisco 49ers might have the most talented roster in the NFL.
However, the NFL is a QB-driven league.
San Francisco might be doing their best to prove that adage wrong, as their QB-agnostic roster made a run to the NFC Championship game a season ago, with Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy at the helm.
Purdy is back, having recovered from the UCL injury he suffered in that game, and if the team can capture a bit of the magic he delivered in his surprising rookie season a year ago, they can make yet another deep run. Consider the talent around him on offense, and the ability Kyle Shanahan has to play matchups to his strengths. You might see Deebo Samuel in the backfield on one play with Christian McCaffrey outside, and on the very next snap their alignments could be flipped.
That is tough on a defense.
And it makes life easy for the quarterback.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
It’s the Eagles. This teams has been running circles around the rest of the league when it comes to the draft for several years in a row, and their investment in young talent has really paid off.
Philadelphia won’t have the shock and awe factor in 2023 that they benefited from a year ago. It also remains to be seen how they’ll rebound from losing both their offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching jobs. However, Nick Siriani has a system and a type that really promotes “next man up” in his coaching ranks, and there’s a lot to like about this team.
It’s unclear if they can get past the big dogs of the AFC, but the Eagles absolutely figure into being a favorite in the NFC in 2023.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
They have Patrick Mahomes.
The other 31 teams do not.
Frankly, in today’s NFL that might just be enough.
This content was originally published here.