Everyone loves power rankings, right? I mean except for the people who actually have to produce them on a regular basis (thanks for that contribution to society, Pete Prisco).
Thank goodness I don’t have to come up with them very often. But I do like to delve in occasionally, particularly this time of year. I love me a good divisional power rankings. Seems to set people off, create a stir and get folks after me in my mentions. Always strikes me as odd (do Titans fans, for instance, truly feel a call to defend the almost-always-crappy AFC South, and if so, why?). There aren’t really divisional allegiances and alliances for the most part, and these teams are generally heated rivals, but I do find it enjoyable when those fanbases that normally would be attacking one another decide to turn their collective ire at me for disrespecting the particular quartet of teams they happen to share the standings with.
But, as with all power rankings – someone has to be at the top of the list and someone has to be at the bottom. That’s just how it goes (again, thank Prisco, the inventor of them). And who am I to stand between, say, Panthers fans and Falcons fans binding together for anything at all, even if it’s to let a writer know what a jackass he is for believing their team’s inability to compete will thus hold down the overall quality of football being played in the NFC South this season? Heck, I give them credit for still having a pulse about those franchises at all. Give me anger and angst over apathy any day.
So, in the spirit of bringing people together, here are my 2022 divisional power rankings. I’m sure you will hate them.
1. AFC West
Do I really need to belabor this point? Did you pay attention to the offseason? And yeah, the Chiefs still reside here. And they have been good for at least the AFC title game since Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes started hanging out on a regular basis. Any of the other three teams may be able to make a case for the most improved, and I don’t think anyone would blink if at least three of these four are in the expanded postseason. I’m gonna go ahead and crown ’em here.
2. AFC North
We all know that the balance of power in this league has swung to this conference in a big way. It’s reflected in these rankings and projections. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are annual playoff contenders. Big Ben hadn’t been giving the Steelers much these last few years and Mike Tomlin still doesn’t have a losing season. That ‘D’ is legit. The Ravens can’t have a redux of their 2021 injury situation. The Bengals are looking like a model franchise with all of their young talent still on the cheap and the Browns will probably still Brown it up, but have the makings of a better defense and if Deshaun Watson plays most of the season and does so at the level he performed for the Texans, then all four of these teams have a legit postseason shot.
3. NFC West
I don’t know what to make of this group, but someone had to be third. The Rams may have the moxie to repeat and we know they will keep adding veterans to the roster ahead of the trade deadline to fortify for that pursuit. San Francisco has a Super Bowl team if Trey Lance is ready, but that’s a big if. Kyler and Kliff drama ain’t good for the Kardinals, and their issues on the offensive and defensive line will keep them from being more than wild-card fodder again. Seattle lacks talent and will need time to re-establish as a contender without Russell Wilson. Still, I figure the West is good for a few playoff teams in the watered down NFC, which gives it the nudge here, without great conviction.
4. AFC East
The Bills may have the best roster in football. That’s gotta count for something. And there is no shortage of Lombardi lust after another tough playoff exit. Miami really intrigues me and I could see them pushing for a wild-card spot. But the Patriots are gonna regress, I believe, and possibly substantially. The Jets are inching towards eventually crawling out of the abyss, I think, but man that is a deep hole to climb out of and I figure six wins at best. Which ain’t a lot in the grand scheme of things. If the Pats really free-fall then this is gonna look too high for this division.
5. NFC South
The Bucs might send Tom Brady out a champion for good this time. Or maybe send him to Miami with another ring for his ridiculous collection. Either way, they are a legit threat even without Bruce Arians as head coach. But it’s an older team in many respects. After them it really gets murky. I am buying the Saints as a playoff team, but that means a healthy Jameis Winston for all of the season and a different Dennis Allen then the one the Raiders got as head guy. Losing Sean Payton will leave a mark, either way. And, as previously mentioned, the Falcons and Panthers have a ton of holes and are afterthoughts for me this season. But the Brady bump lands them at 5 and not lower.
6. NFC North
I don’t believe the Packers are winning another Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers, I don’t believe they will win as many games as they have become accustomed to in recent years, and I’m not sure they are even the best team in this division. That might be the Vikings… but the Vikings ain’t winning a Super Bowl, either, and that’s what it’s all about. If Green Bay is regressing, this feels like the right spot to slot this group. The Lions are still years from competing, but heading in the right direction, and the Bears seem intent on breaking Justin Fields this year and their extended wait before finally hiring a new coach and GM will continue to set the team back in the present and future. .
7. AFC South
Man, they really make it hard not just to slot them in the 8-hole every year and forget about it. They want to hold that spot down with a vengeance. But this year it’s addition by subtraction. Just by Shad Khan finally waking up and tossing Urban Meyer out of the league they get a bump. The mere fact we don’t have him to mock anymore gets them out of the cellar. That is tremendous progress alone. And must be applauded. The Colts have a chance to be a factor, too, and swapping out Carson Wentz (to the NFC East no less!) For Matt Ryan is another upgrade. The Jags can’t be a football atrocity with Urban gone, though the Titans’ window to win big with Derrick Henry / Ryan Tannehill is closing and the Texans aren’t even pretending they care about 2022 as part of their three-year teardown.
8. NFC East
It’s still the NFC Least for me. None of these teams has displayed a recent pedigree to be anything other than horrible-to-mediocre at best with any consistency in recent years. There is not a legit Super Bowl threat in the bunch, although I think the Eagles are gonna be better than some would think. Still, I bet only one team from this bunch reaches the postseason, despite them getting to feast on one another. The Cowboys are in decline, the Commanders always stink and the Giants are mired in a rebuild (though I believe Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen will finally lead them out of it eventually). Be careful what you wish for Woodbridge, Virginia. And who you do business with.