The confetti has fallen. A champion has been crowned. The fans have gone home. Somebody fetched Rihanna off one of those suspended platforms.
The business of pro football is done for another season, which must mean there's only one thing left to do: It's time to reveal the final Power Rankings before the dawn of another league year in March.
Thanks to everyone who read along all season, even you adorable critters who regularly attempted to slander me on social media. Your weak barbs melt against my iron armor!
I'll be back soon enough to take a look at how teams are shaping up after the first wave of free agency. In the meantime, let's take one last look at where the league stands as the curtain drops on another season. Long live the pigskin.
Don't miss the 2022-23 finale of the NFL Power Rankings Podcast with Dan Hanzus and Colleen Wolfe, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Patrick Mahomes finally has his NFL Films Moment. We can only hope the Sabol Gang will bestow upon us the glorious slow-motion reveal of the biggest play of Super Bowl LVII: the camera pushed tight on Mahomes' focused visage as he gallops 26 yards on a bum ankle to set up the winning score in pro football's championship contest. Mahomes, named the league's MVP three days prior, was nearly flawless in the 38-35 win, but let's not forget the performance of an offensive line that didn't allow a single sack against a historically ferocious Eagles pass rush. The QB's renowned escapability plays a big role in that, as well; his mastery of the position in all phases -- at the still-young age of 27 -- virtually guarantees the Chiefs will remain a major player in the NFL for years to come. All hail the king.
The Eagles let their place in history slip away in Super Bowl LVII. Despite a historically great performance by quarterback Jalen Hurts and a significant advantage in time of possession, total yards and other key metrics, it was the Chiefs who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after the clock hit triple zeroes. It's a painful loss with plenty of blame to go around. The vaunted Eagles pass rush produced zero sacks, a Hurts fumble birthed a defensive score for Kansas City and special teams surrendered a long Kadarius Toney punt return that set up the Chiefs' final touchdown. The defensive holding call on James Bradberry will forever haunt Iggles Nation, but hanging the defeat on one ill-timed penalty ignores how thoroughly Nick Sirianni's team was outplayed in the crucible moments of football's biggest game.
After two straight years of getting close to the mountaintop without quite reaching the summit, Cincinnati's offseason is about finding out how to better position the team to finish the job. Signing franchise quarterback Joe Burrow to a contract extension likely sits atop the Cincy's to-do list, and difficult decisions are probably coming regarding key contributors to the team's recent run of success. The Bengals beat has speculated that wide receiver Ty Boyd, running back Joe Mixon and right tackle La'el Collins could all be cap casualties. If defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo lands the head-coach gig in Arizona (he recently had a second interview), the situation gets even stickier.
Another offseason with intrigue at the quarterback position in San Francisco. Brock Purdy was a revelation during his scorching run to the NFC title game, but a serious elbow injury puts his summer availability in doubt. Purdy's misfortune seems to have opened up a huge window of opportunity for Trey Lance, the former No. 3 overall pick currently in line to gobble up first-team reps throughout the offseason program. We could be headed toward a true training camp competition between the young passers after Jimmy Garoppolo finds a new home in free agency. Never a dull QB moment by the Bay.
The Bills were once again turned away in the playoffs, this time in a humbling loss to the Bengals, and the upcoming offseason feels much different than last year's, when the widely held belief was that Buffalo was "one player away" from the Lombardi. Part of the challenge is financial: The Bills will attempt to improve a roster without spending lavishly in free agency. "There's not gonna be a Von Miller signing or somebody of that [magnitude]," general manager Brandon Beane admitted before the Super Bowl. "We're gonna have to work to get under the cap so that we can operate next year." The pressure is on Beane and head coach Sean McDermott to improve the roster in smart and potentially creative ways.
Big changes in Big D. Kellen Moore is out as offensive coordinator, with the well-traveled Brian Schottenheimer promoted to replace him, while Mike McCarthy is set to take over play-calling duties. The team hopes this will enhance the attack, but CeeDee Lamb believes an infusion of talent is what the Cowboys really need to take the next step. "You gotta surround [the quarterback]," Lamb told me and the Around The NFL guys last week. "You go look at the Eagles, and they've got three receivers, a great tight end group, they run the ball well, the O-line is very phenomenal. You look at San Fran, they surrounded their quarterback and you get success ultimately. I mean, we've got just as many weapons, but that extra player, all it takes is one. You can be so close to the Super Bowl and it can be a deciding factor." We see no lies.
Did the Jaguars get it right with Travon Walker? The sample size (17 games, including the playoffs) is obviously minute, but things aren't looking hot at the moment. Walker, picked first overall in last April's draft, posted pedestrian numbers as a rookie, while Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner -- picked at Nos. 2 and 4, respectively, behind Walker -- announced themselves as immediate difference-makers and potential superstars. "It was a growing year," Walker said. "This year was basically just getting a feel for things. ... I will definitely still be rushing the passer, for sure, just at a different level." That will be the expectation for Walker in Year 2.
This could be a painful next month or so for the Chargers, who are currently projected to sit well over the cap as we approach a new league year in March. One player who might have already played his last down with the team? Franchise stalwart Keenan Allen, who remained productive in 2022 but continued to be bogged down by injuries in his 10th season. Even if Allen stays, it would be wise for the Bolts to invest in a pass-catcher in the upcoming draft. Everything in Los Angeles should be about putting Justin Herbert in the best position to soar.
The Lions have our attention and their opponents' respect. Now what? The biggest decision could be at quarterback: Jared Goff has been everything the team could have asked for since coming over from the Rams in 2021, but the Lions also hold two first-round picks, including the sixth overall selection, in the 2023 NFL Draft. Goff is the logical choice to remain under center after leading one of the NFL's top offenses in 2022, but will Detroit be able to resist the temptation to bring in a top college passer if opportunity knocks? The most prudent move might be spending premium draft capital on a defense that could use help at linebacker and in the secondary.
The Vikings won 13 games in 2022, but their one-and-done cameo in the postseason hammered home the reality that this remains a team not quite on par with the NFC's big boys. Minnesota can start closing the gap by getting younger: Six starters in 2022 will be 31 or older by opening day next September. One of those veterans is Kirk Cousins, who turns 35 in August and could be entering his last season as Minnesota's unquestioned QB1. Adding a young playmaker to the offense would be helpful, though the team has obvious needs on defense in both the front and back end.
Will he or won't he? The entire organization continues to revolve around the highly uncertain future of Lamar Jackson. If you're a Ravens fan, the latest reporting qualifies as ... ominous. NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport, Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reported the team plans to use the franchise tag on Jackson, and that there is a "possibility" Baltimore could be tempted by a trade offer that involves multiple high draft picks. That's a long way off from John Harbaugh's January contention that Baltimore was "200 percent" committed to its quarterback. A Jackson trade would be the biggest blockbuster of the offseason -- and it doesn't feel preposterous to think it might happen.
The Packers, like Aaron Rodgers himself, are in the dark right now. The franchise quarterback was set to begin a four-day stay in isolation on Monday, a period of self-reflection designed to bring clarity to his decision-making process regarding his playing future. It all sounds like something that would be exhausting to Green Bay officials who are attempting to set up an offseason plan of attack after a disappointing 8-9 finish. If the Packers were to move on, it would likely mean a starting shot for Jordan Love, who has sat behind an indecisive future Hall of Famer for three years. Sound familiar, Packers fans?
The Steelers closed strong in 2022. Could a successful offseason make them contenders in the AFC North? The clearest path to a true Pittsburgh resurgence is building around Kenny Pickett, who won six of his final eight starts as a rookie. The most obvious area of need is the offensive line, leaking for several years dating back to Ben Roethlisberger's final seasons with the team. Better protection could mean big things, not just for the quarterback, but also running back Najee Harris and wide receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens.
The Giants' unlikely run to the second round of the playoffs netted Brian Daboll the coveted NFL Coach of the Year award. With higher expectations ahead, New York will begin its offseason by making big decisions on the two drivers of the offense: quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley. Jones' contract situation is a particularly fascinating source of intrigue. The 25-year-old showed clear signs of growth in his first year with Daboll, but does he warrant a payday that could be in the range of $35 million per year? It would be a significant gamble, given the still very limited track record of inspired play from the former first-round pick.
Tua Tagovailoa has cleared the NFL's concussion protocol, and the Dolphins are confident he will not be at additional risk for head injuries moving forward. The Fins remain high on their starter for good reason: Concussions cost Tua the better part of five regular-season games in 2022, but he still set career highs in attempts, passing yards and touchdowns. Tagovailoa is a player. Now Miami just needs to see if his body will allow him to be the franchise guy. A smart hedge by the Dolphins might entail bringing in a more durable backup than Teddy Bridgewater.
We like to imagine Robert Saleh sliding a note under Aaron Rodgers' door during the quarterback's darkness retreat: "Hey bud: ICYMI the Jets swept both Rookie of the Year categories at NFL Honors this year. Seems promising? -- Bob S."
Adding Rodgers to a talented young roster would instantly make the Jets one of the most intriguing teams in football entering the 2023 season. This is surely not lost on owner Woody Johnson, who has shown in the past he is willing to make a splash in an attempt to finally end the franchise's half-century-and-counting Super Bowl drought. Could Rodgers be a disaster in New York? Most definitely. But he could also be the best thing that ever happened to the Jets.
Bill Belichick might not say it publicly, but he swerved the wrong direction on the offensive side of the ball last season. The decision not to name an official offensive coordinator seemingly brought instability to that side of the ball, and Matt Patricia's obvious communication issues with Mac Jones appeared to stunt the development of a young quarterback who showed promise as a rookie. Patricia won't come near the play sheet in 2023. Enter Bill O'Brien, an old Belichick lieutenant who should bring some structure back to the attack. Does Jones get a pass for the struggles in 2022, or will the former first-round pick enter the season on a short leash? Stay tuned.
Geno Smith balled out for the Seahawks in 2022 and was recognized for his efforts with Comeback Player of the Year honors. Did he do enough to prove to Seattle brass he should be the long-term answer at QB? Speaking at the Pro Bowl, Smith sounded confident a deal will get done. "We've had talks and we're in the process of getting all that settled right now," Smith said. "It's looking very good." The Seahawks own the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Could they extend Smith on a team-friendly deal, then take a quarterback with that premium selection? It's possible.
Is this the year the Panthers exit the quarterback wilderness? It's been a rough road since the 2010s heyday of Cam Newton (hell, it got bad enough that they brought a clearly compromised Cam back for five forgettable starts in 2021). This offseason offers compelling options on the free-agent and trade market, with veterans like Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Tannehill potentially available. All three of those vets profile as an upgrade over incumbent Sam Darnold, but Carolina feels like a team ready to make a move in the draft. In his first mock draft, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah had the Panthers using their first-round pick (ninth overall) on Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Reset. That's how the Rams get to look at the first week of operations after Super Bowl LVII. Los Angeles' title defense was unsuccessful to a historic degree, and now team decision-makers must mull whether the machine needs to be re-tooled ... or blown up. Expect the former approach now that Sean McVay has decided to return for another year on the sideline. Shell-shocked Rams fans can look ahead to a new season with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald back at full health. That's a nice (re)start.
Deshaun Watson did not play well in limited action following his long suspension. The quarterback finished 26th in passer rating from Weeks 13 through 18, and the Cleveland offense regressed after Watson replaced Jacoby Brissett in the starting lineup. Playing on a massive, fully guaranteed contract, Watson will get limitless time to right himself in his first full season of action in Cleveland. The future of head coach Kevin Stefanski and the entire front office rides on Watson rediscovering his form. You wonder if the Browns fully understood the gamble they were taking when they made the trade that changed the franchise.
Who are the Titans going forward? Derrick Henry will likely remain the center of the universe, but recent results suggest he might no longer be the force of nature he was during his 2018-2020 heyday. Ryan Tannehill's future with the team remains very much up in the air, while Malik Willis -- a third-round pick last year -- scuffled in a late-season audition before being benched in favor of journeyman Josh Dobbs. The offensive line could see significant changes, and the wide receiver room is still in shambles after the short-sighted decision to trade A.J. Brown away last offseason. There is reason for trepidation here.
Tom Brady has retired once more, and if he comes back again, it's extremely unlikely it will be with the Buccaneers. The three-year run with the G.O.A.T. was a huge success on balance, producing three playoff appearances and a Super Bowl LV title. "You can't get another Tom Brady anywhere," outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. "No matter how hard you try. No matter how many years, I don't think anybody will ever do what Tom did." Now what? Tampa Bay has a talented but aging core, making it an obvious team to target one of the veteran quarterbacks on the market. With the Bucs playing in the soggy NFC South, there remains a clear path back to the playoffs, provided they can get a competent signal-caller at the controls.
The Raiders will eventually get their fresh start without Derek Carr ... even though it hasn't gone exactly as planned. The veteran quarterback met with the Saints last week but later informed the Raiders he won't accept a trade to New Orleans or any other team, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. That means the Raiders will likely be forced to release Carr ahead of this week's deadline, when $40.4 million in future earnings becomes guaranteed. As for who becomes the next starting QB in Vegas? That remains a beautiful mystery -- even if Davante Adams has strong opinions as to who it should be.
The Commanders exist in a state of unrest as a new league year nears. A change at ownership could be coming, and the team once again finds itself trying to identify an answer at quarterback. Carson Wentz is unlikely to return after an uninspired one-year cameo, while Taylor Heinicke is set to become a free agent. Will that clear the way for Sam Howell? Ron Rivera told NFL Network last week that the fifth-round pick will "more than likely" be the Commanders' QB1 entering the offseason. Was that a vote of confidence or merely a literal interpretation of the current depth chart? We'll find out soon enough.
The Saints' flirtation and visit with Derek Carr didn't produce a trade, but that doesn't necessarily rule out the veteran passer signing with New Orleans when he hits free agency, as is now expected. Carr would represent an upgrade over the likes of 2022 QBs Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, but we're not convinced Carr provides enough of a lift to move the needle in a substantial way for Dennis Allen's team. Speaking of Allen, there is a connection between the coach and quarterback. Allen was head coach of the Raiders when Carr was drafted by the team in 2014.
Is this Desmond Ridder's team in 2023? It certainly seems like Falcons owner Arthur Blank would be comfortable with that being the case, based on recent comments he made on the second-year passer. "We're committed to the position obviously, and we know we need a good leader there, and I think we have it in Ridder," Blank said. Falcons coach Arthur Smith left the QB situation more open-ended in his own comments to the media at the East-West Shrine Bowl, but the team seems to see Ridder as an intriguing option after a late-season audition that featured 115 pass attempts without an interception. We'll chalk this one up to offseason bluster for the time being.
Sean Payton is the new Boss of the Broncos. For one season, it felt like that title belonged to Russell Wilson, but the QB's poor play and the ensuing implosion of the 2022 Broncos prompted major changes in the company's unofficial org chart. The likely hope among the team's new ownership is that Payton can help Wilson rediscover the talents that made him a star in Seattle. If not, you can safely assume Payton will get the opportunity to pick his own quarterback with Wilson potentially starting over elsewhere in 2024. Change comes at you fast in the NFL.
The next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals has yet to reveal himself. NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday that the team continues to have conversations with Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon for the job vacated in January by Kliff Kingsbury. Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is also in the mix for the position. Whoever the head coach is, the offseason will be a tricky one as the team navigates an uncertain timeline for Kyler Murray. The quarterback underwent reconstructive knee surgery last month and might not be ready to return to action until midway through the 2023 season.
EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Cardinals have hired Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to be their next head coach, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.
The rebuilding of the Texans is taking shape. With DeMeco Ryans now occupying the big chair, the first-time head coach has spent the past two weeks building out his staff. On Sunday, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported that Ryans was hiring Bobby Slowik, who had previously served as the 49ers' pass-game coordinator. Ryans and Slowik will be tasked with rebooting an offense that was among the league's worst in 2022. The Texans are picking at No. 2 overall, and it will be a huge surprise if they don't target a quarterback. Daniel Jeremiah has Houston taking Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with the team's first pick. That would work.
The Bears own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Will they use it? With a potential franchise quarterback already on the roster in Justin Fields, Chicago could flip the first choice for a bevy of premium draft picks. It has to be an enticing option for Bears general manager Ryan Poles -- unless he and the organization have fallen in love with an incoming college QB. That would present a fascinating conundrum for team brass: Trade the first pick ... or trade Fields? Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus were not responsible for drafting Fields, but they did see how electric he could be during the 2022 season. Oh, the intrigue!
The Colts have finally found their man at head coach. Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen -- fresh off a 35-point, 417-yard performance by the Philly attack in Super Bowl LVII -- is getting the reins in Indianapolis. Steichen takes over an offense that has questions at the quarterback position and is coming off a season in which it averaged just 17.0 points per game (tied for 30th in the NFL). With an offensive-minded coach at the helm and Indy holding the fourth overall pick, it is highly probable the Colts draft a quarterback in the first round.