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AFC dominates post-Super Bowl list



The NFL season is over, but the NFL Power Rankings never sleep, even in the absence of football. It’s essential to get a feel for the outlook of all 32 franchises before free agency and the NFL Draft. Which teams are in a good or bad position before we head into the meat of the NFL offseason?

Way Too Early NFL Power Rankings: Tier 5 | Rebuilding or floundering

The Tier 5 teams are either rebuilding or trying to convince themselves they don’t have to.

32) Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars are a raging dumpster fire. Shad Khan’s unwillingness to part ways with general manager Trent Baalke sparked a full-out fan revolt against the team’s owner. They even went as far as to dress like clowns for Jacksonville’s final home game. 

Doug Pederson should help with Trevor Lawrence’s progression as an NFL QB. However, there are several questions about the organization, and the roster needs a rebuild to be competitive again. They have over $55 million in salary cap space to spend, should they choose to.

31) Houston Texans

The Texans might be even more dysfunctional than the Jaguars. David Culley miraculously won four games with a roster that we thought might struggle to win one. But after just one season with a subpar roster, the organization cut Culley. We won’t get into the ridiculousness of their head coaching search. 

Despite being generally terrible, the Texans still don’t have a ton of room to operate with in terms of cap space. They rank just 15th in the league with slightly less than $20 million available. They have questions at nearly every spot on the roster, and we’ve yet to see any specific direction from this team since Bill O’Brien left.  

30) New York Jets

The Jets are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. It wouldn’t hurt for the front office to go outside of the organization in free agency to fill a few leadership roles. They have $44 million to work with and a lot of holes to fill on the roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. 

The problem is they must also do everything in their power to protect their second-year quarterback. That means not only adding help on the offensive line but also revamping their weapons. They’ll find themselves low in the NFL Power Rankings until they can do that. 

29) Detroit Lions

The Lions appear to be one of the basement-dwelling teams from 2021 that could be on the upswing moving forward. Dan Campbell somehow propelled a hilariously underwhelming group of offensive weapons to a three-win season. But the victories themselves weren’t the most impressive part.

Detroit played in a ton of close games throughout the season. Six of the Lions’ 13 losses were one-score contests. Detroit also won three of its last seven games. Although they only have about $21 million in salary cap space, they have five picks in the top 100 and 10 total selections.

28) New Orleans Saints

The Saints are a complete unknown heading into the 2022 campaign. They’re currently $60 million in salary cap debt, and their head coach of 15 years just up and walked away from the game. They don’t have a quarterback at the moment, and they’ll probably lose multiple vital contributors on defense.

Their offensive line is struggling to stay healthy, and there doesn’t seem to be money in the budget to retain Terron Armstead. Michael Thomas is a complete wild card moving forward, and the rest of the receiving corps is underwhelming at best.

27) Carolina Panthers

Matt Rhule and the Panthers’ front office have made their fair share of mistakes thus far in his tenure. Trading assets for Sam Darnold was a big mistake, especially given the 2021 QB draft class. The second mistake was making ex-offensive coordinator Joe Brady the fall guy, especially when one of the biggest reasons for his firing was that the Panthers weren’t running the ball enough. Third, Rhule admitted they didn’t draft Rashawn Slater because of his arm length.

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Drafting Jaycee Horn wasn’t a mistake, but admitting to an antiquated arm length threshold was a bad look. No quarterback or running back will prosper behind the current iteration of the Panthers’ OL. And with only $18 million in spending money this March, I struggle to see how they’ll improve there or in the NFL Power Rankings. 

26) New York Giants

As of mid-February, nobody has had a better offseason than the New York Football Giants. If there wasn’t an incredible retirement party thrown for former general manager Dave Gettleman, there should have been. They also did the right thing by relieving Joe Judge of his duties.

Why? Well, forcing a general manager into a head coach that ownership wants is a bad start to a professional relationship. After defensive coordinator Patrick Graham decided to move on, New York hired Joe Schoen, Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, and Wink Martindale. That’s an incredible staff, and it came together incredibly fast. For the first time in a long time, the Giants look to be headed in the right direction.

25) Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were an outlier in 2021. They were legitimately terrible on both sides of the ball, yet somehow snuck their way into a seven-win season. For reference, they had a worse point differential than the three-win Detroit Lions. They finished with the 30th-ranked DVOA (Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric).

Kyle Pitts appears headed for superstardom, but the rest of the roster needs work. Aside from A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett, the defense struggles. Losing Calvin Ridley was a blow to the offense, and the offensive line is below-average in spite of the significant draft resources Atlanta’s front office has expended on the unit.

The organization needs to be patient with Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot because there is still a lot of work to do on this roster. 

24) Chicago Bears

Matt Eberflus is an excellent defensive coordinator, but it was a bit surprising to see the Bears hire him as their next head coach. Ryan Poles takes over as general manager, and he has his work cut out for him. The Bears’ offensive line struggled in 2021, and the defense has lost some talent over the past few years.

Justin Fields flashed some special traits as a passer and runner. However, the offense is set to lose Allen Robinson, leaving only Darnell Mooney as a legitimate receiving threat. With no first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, it’ll be difficult to address the line and receiver positions in the offseason.

23) Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers’ 2021 season doesn’t make sense. They somehow made the playoffs despite posting inefficient numbers in all three phases. Their weighted DVOA ranked 26th in the NFL. Yet, Mike Tomlin somehow led this team to its 16th straight season of .500 or better.

Their immediate future looks bleak. They don’t have a viable option at quarterback. Their offensive line is a trainwreck, and the defense is held together only by their incredible pass rush. Even Minkah Fitzpatrick had his struggles in 2021.

If the Steelers attack the offensive line in free agency and hit on a QB in the draft, they’ll pick up right where they left off. But for now, 2022 looks like it could be the one to break Tomlin’s streak.

Way Too Early NFL Power Rankings: Tier 4 | Not far away

The three teams in Tier 4 aren’t that far away. With a few adjustments, they could all be playoff teams in 2022.

22) Washington Commanders

We were all guilty of overestimating the Washington defense in 2021. With names like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen, it should have been a dominant unit. They even improved at cornerback on paper with the addition of William Jackson III. Kamren Curl was a great hit in the draft.

But things turned sour for Washington, leading to a physical altercation between Allen and Da’Ron Payne, who were college teammates at Alabama. They finished 29th in expected points added (EPA) per play allowed on defense. The Washington defense couldn’t get to the passer, and they couldn’t defend the ball in the air.

21) Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are in a precarious position heading into 2022. The Lions and Bears aren’t competitors yet, and the Packers’ future is on hold awaiting a decision from Aaron Rodgers.

Meanwhile, the Vikings are under new management. They hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as general manager and Kevin O’Connell as their next head coach. The team isn’t talented enough to truly compete for a championship, but if Rodgers walks, there isn’t much keeping Minnesota from the playoffs.

They’re also dangerously over the cap, which could be managed through a Kirk Cousins restructure. But the staff would need to want him around past 2022 for that to make sense. Until there’s more clarity, it’s difficult to have Minnesota any higher in the NFL Power Rankings. 

20) Miami Dolphins

It’s been a tumultuous 20+ years for the Miami Dolphins. But the past few months have been a real doozy. They fired a successful head coach in Brian Flores, who then decided to sue the NFL. He accused them of trying to pay him to tank in 2019. They’ve watched Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert run laps on Tua Tagovailoa.

But they also made a head coaching hire that was almost universally loved in Mike McDaniel. The hope is for McDaniel to cultivate an offensive environment that suits Tua and the talent around him. I’d expect Jaylen Waddle to become an even bigger focal point in the offense, which is a great thing.

Way Too Early NFL Power Rankings: Tier 3 | No man’s land

These teams have good rosters that could compete for the playoffs. However, there are some unknowns with a few clubs in this group, and a lot hinges on the quarterbacks of each franchise.

19) Denver Broncos

The Broncos are so close. They have control of four solid playmakers at receiver, another two at tight end, and one great running back. They have a star in Patrick Surtain II and one of the best free safeties in the NFL. Denver simply can’t figure out the quarterback position. They gave up on Drew Lock and rolled with Teddy Bridgewater for most of the season.

Now, if they make a move and somehow acquire Rodgers, we’re looking at a Super Bowl-caliber roster, even in a tough AFC West. Denver doesn’t deserve to see a great roster foiled by subpar quarterback play. If they can figure that out, they pose a serious threat in the AFC.

18) Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders overachieved in the face of turmoil for the entire 2021 NFL season. Derek Carr is good enough to keep the Raiders competitive, and Josh McDaniels could be the right fit to find some offensive consistency. 

But their defensive makeup needs reimagining. Maxx Crosby and Trevon Moehrig are foundational pieces, and Nate Hobbs looks good in the slot. Aside from those three, there aren’t any building blocks. Las Vegas also needs to replace Henry Ruggs’ speed on the outside. They sorely missed that vertical threat. 

17) Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks will most likely rise as the season creeps closer. However, it’s difficult to properly place Seattle until we know for sure the fate of franchise QB Russell Wilson. Reports indicate that he’s staying, but until the rumor dies completely, there will be at least some mystery. 

The Seahawks need a difference-making pass rusher. There are a few in the free agency market they could look at. They also have nearly $35 million in salary cap space to work with.

16) Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles need another outside receiving threat. I’d expect prospects like Treylon Burks and Drake London to be in consideration midway through Round 1, where the Eagles have three draft picks. The Eagles don’t have a mass of salary cap space to work with, but they have a golden opportunity to acquire multiple building blocks in the draft. That also gives them an excellent chance to rise in the NFL Power Rankings. 

What anybody outside of the organization thinks of Jalen Hurts is irrelevant. He’s inexpensive and he can find ways to win football games. His rushing ability is an added layer, and a second good receiver will only help in his development. Philadelphia’s offensive line is great, and they have some solid veterans on the defensive front. If they can find better linebacker play, this defense could surprise people in 2022. 

15) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers should probably be lower at this point, but I’m curious to see what they’re able to do at quarterback. The roster is still rock solid, even if they’re unable to retain Chris Godwin. The absence of a quarterback is significant, but Tampa Bay has great players up and down their roster. 

Tom Brady retired still playing at an incredible level, so this won’t be as “easy” as trying to replace a heavily washed Peyton Manning. Heck, many believed that Brady deserved the MVP over Rodgers. However, because of their team success, the Bucs don’t have great draft capital, and they’re just barely in the black in terms of the cap. So it’ll be nearly impossible to improve in 2021. 

14) Green Bay Packers

If Rodgers returns, the Packers are a top-seven team. If he retires or is traded, they’re a bottom-tier team in the worst division in football. That’s how much Rodgers means to Green Bay. Being $50 million over the cap isn’t ideal, either. 

There are many questions to be answered by the Packers this offseason. Until they are, it’s easier to keep them toward the middle of the pack. It won’t be easy to become cap compliant, but they can do it with a few anticipated moves. Retaining Davante Adams will be key. 

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How Was Their Roster Built?




The Miami Dolphins were one of the most entertaining teams in the league in 2022, thanks to their offensive explosion. In 2023, Miami looks to take the next step as Super Bowl contenders. We’re diving into how the Dolphins’ roster was built, including how they’ve used the draft, free agency, and trades.

How the Miami Dolphins Were Built Through the Draft

The Dolphins entered a rebuilding process after the 2018 season, hoping to revamp a roster that had relied primarily on free agent stars and draft busts. With only one season with 10+ wins from 2009 until 2020, the Dolphins had to change their ways. General manager Chris Grier, who has been with the franchise for more than 20 years, admitted in 2016 the team had “to build through the draft.”

Miami’s rebuild was hastened after hiring Brian Flores as the head coach, as Flores helped build a quality defense that allowed the Dolphins to be surprisingly competitive. But the roster wasn’t quite as good as its 10-6 record in 2020 or 9-8 record in 2021 due to its immense flaws along the offensive line and coaching issues on that side of the ball.

The Dolphins’ draft results have varied over the years, with the vast majority of their hits coming on defense.

Of their 11 starters and top backups at running back and wide receiver, only quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle are stars.

Left guard Liam Eichenberg, right tackle Austin Jackson, right guard Robert Hunt, and tight end Durham Smythe are each average to below-average starters. Tagovailoa, Waddle, and Jackson were first-round picks, while Hunt and Eichenberg were second-rounders. Third-string running back Devon Achane was a third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

MORE: Best NFL Offenses | Best NFL Defenses

The defense has been built through the draft with more success. Star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, cornerback Xavien Howard, safeties Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones, linebacker Jerome Baker, and edge rusher Jaelan Phillips headline an extremely talented unit. DT Raekwon Davis and EDGE Andrew Van Ginkel have proven to be useful role players as well.

Miami has almost exclusively found their contributors in the first two rounds of the draft. Waddle and Phillips were first-round picks in 2021 after Grier made several trades and proclaimed, “We’re not afraid to use our picks.” Wilkins was the team’s 2019 first-rounder.

Day 2 has brought a swarm of solid defenders. Howard is the longest-tenured Dolphin after joining the team as a second-rounder in 2016. Davis and Holland were also second-rounders, while Baker and Jones were third-round picks in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

How the Dolphins Were Built Through Free Agency/Waivers

The Dolphins are certainly no stranger to being aggressive in free agency. Their willingness to swing big under owner Stephen Ross began in 2013. Between then and 2020, Miami earned the title of free agent winners after signing big-ticket stars like wide receiver Mike Wallace, tackle Branden Albert, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and cornerback Byron Jones.

Each of those deals had varying levels of results, and the Dolphins have largely learned to steer clear of aging, expensive free agents. Miami’s been a hot spot for players to target due to their willingness to meet contract demands, the beautiful location, and the state’s lack of income tax. But this Dolphins’ roster hasn’t heavily relied on free agency.

The biggest free agent to join the Dolphins is left tackle Terron Armstead, who the team inked to a five-year, $75 million deal. They’ve also added center Connor Williams, slot receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr., edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, running back Raheem Mostert, and linebacker David Long Jr. from free agency. Slot CB Kader Kohou was an undrafted free agent, so he qualifies into being a free agent as well.

How the Miami Dolphins Were Built Through Trades

Grier has built a unique résumé that has become more trade-centric in recent years. As teams now look to trade their stars before they depart for nothing in free agency, Grier has shown no fear in moving premium draft equity for proven veterans. Like with free agents, it’s helped Miami that Tyreek Hill and Jalen Ramsey both wanted to join the franchise.

MORE: Dolphins 2023 Schedule | Dolphins 2023 Draft Picks

In 2022, Hill was acquired for five draft picks and a four-year, $120 million extension. Ramsey cost the Dolphins a third-round pick in 2023 and tight end Hunter Long, and Miami guaranteed two years on his three-year contract. Miami also traded its 2023 first-round pick and RB Chase Edmonds for EDGE Bradley Chubb, then signed him to a five-year, $110 million deal.

Grier was also quick to acquire backup RB Jeff Wilson Jr. from the San Francisco 49ers after the 49ers acquired Christian McCaffrey. We could potentially see another deal later this year, as Grier admitted the team has taken calls on Cedrick Wilson after he failed to make an impact in his first year with the team.

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Aaron Rodgers Explains What Led To Him Being Traded From Green Bay




New York Jets QB Aaron Rodgers delved into a lot of intimate, previously undiscussed details of his sometimes-messy split from the Green Bay Packers during a recent interview with The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman.

There’s a lot to unpack (pun unintended, but appreciated after the fact) in Schneidman’s fantastic effort, but the headline is probably just how long this breakup had been brewing for.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Brian Gutekunst: A 3-Year Long Staring Contest

Rodgers was traded to the Jets on April 24. Almost three years to the day (April 23, 2020) that Green Bay drafted — and traded up for — his successor, Jordan Love. That move signified the beginning of the end for Rodgers in Titletown.

Rodgers being miffed by the Love selection is understandable. He was coming off a career-best, MVP-winning 2020 season. In fact, he set career highs in passing touchdowns (48) and completion percentage (70.7%).

His Packers came up just short of the Super Bowl in a 31-26 NFC Conference Championship loss to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rodgers doubtlessly thought that a first-round draft pick could be better spent elsewhere.

Team brass, anticipating their quarterback’s disappointment, told him the Love selection was all on general manager Brian Gutekunst in an effort to salvage his relationship with head coach Matt LaFleur.

MORE: Tom Brady, Travis Scott, and Michael Rubin Mentoring Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Others

Nonetheless, when Rodgers speaks on it now he sounds disenchanted with every member of Green Bay’s decision-makers that had a hand in the Love selection.

“I had friends who said, ‘Hey, Matt looked super excited when they made the draft pick,’” Rodgers said. “And I said, ‘I don’t care, honestly.’ Like, they made the pick. They all signed off on it.”

Rodgers stewed on the Love pick for quite a while. Reportedly, he even had his agent, David Dunn, deliver an ultimatum to the Packers: trade Rodgers or fire Gutekunst.

But when the team reconvened for training camp in 2021, he had a Festivus in July, extrapolating on some of his numerous grievances with Green Bay brass (per another Schneidman piece).

Rodgers Wanted More of a Say in Green Bay’s Personnel Decisions

Rodgers wanted team brass to consider his input on personnel matters. He specifically lamented their decision to cut a receiver (Jake Kumerow), who he’d taken a liking to. Rodgers also spoke of numerous instances where he felt the team had maybe disrespected a prominent outgoing veteran, mentioning beloved Packers like Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, and Jordy Nelson by name.

Rodgers expressed an unmet request to be more involved in personnel matters, specifically as it pertained to incoming free agents.

“People come here to play with me, to play with our team and know they can win a championship here,” Rodgers said. “The fact I haven’t been used in those discussions is something I wanted to change moving forward.”

(Sidebar: The Jets have definitely catered to Rodgers in free agency, landing two of his favorite former targets in Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard.)

As it pertained to his relationship with the aforementioned Gutekunst, Rodgers called it “professional.” An assessment the GM would later echo.

MORE: How the Packers’ Offensive Revamp Will Help Jordan Love

This song and dance continued until football season rolled around and, predictably, Rodgers went scorched Earth. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer locked up another MVP award for the 2021 season, his fourth overall, while leading Green Bay to a 13-3 finish.

Rodgers was rewarded for his efforts with a three-year, $150 million extension. That’s the headline anyway.

Packers Trade Davante Adams

Aaron Rodgers

A $50 million/per year headline is eye-catching no matter who you are. But the reality is it was essentially a one-year extension with maneuverability in Years 2 and 3.

The Packers soon traded Rodgers’ favorite target away — Davante Adams. And then Rodgers no-showed (voluntary) OTAs in 2022, something the team reportedly took exception to. And we’re back to square one.

“I won MVP without doing offseason workouts,” Rodgers said. “Like, was my commitment any less then? I’d say not at all.”

And yet, through all this thinly veiled animosity, both sides said everything was right as rain. Gutekunst said he expected Rodgers under center in Green Bay through the life of his contract. Rodgers envisioned himself retiring as a Packer.

Rodgers and Gutekunst Were Ready To Part Ways

The offseason was relatively quiet. So too, was 2022 for the Packers. After three consecutive 13-win seasons, Green Bay fell off and finished under .500 in 2022. The team reportedly encouraged Rodgers, then contemplating retirement, to take whatever time he needed to mull over his future in the offseason.

Rodgers and Gutekunst had supposedly planned on a meetup while the latter was out west on a scouting expedition. It’d never come to fruition. Call it a missed connection, if you will, but the introverts among us can read through Rodgers’ explanation.

“It was like, ‘Hey, I’m coming out west. I’m driving, whatever, you wanna get together?,’ Rodgers explained. “I said, ‘Yeah, I got a busy schedule. I’m working out, I got things going on, I got appearances, but I’d like to make it work, too.’”

Not much later, Rodgers was traded to the Jets. At his request. Gutekunst told reporters at the NFL’s annual league meetings that, despite his efforts to smooth things over with his QB, Rodgers was a difficult man to reach. Rodgers found his version of events inauthentic.

“Just tell the truth, you wanted to move on,” Rodgers said. “You didn’t like the fact that we didn’t communicate all the time. Like, listen, I talk to the people that I like.”

MORE: Troy Aikman Suggests Tom Brady Could Suit Up for Las Vegas Raiders in 2023

If it’s not readily apparent by now, both sides of this melodrama were ready to break up. Rodgers had his fill of (perceived) disrespect. Gutekunst was tired of catering to his malcontent (not to mention handsomely compensated) quarterback.

And there’s no shame in that. Most relationships don’t make it the 18 years that this one did. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing to emerge from this whole saga is how life has come full circle for Rodgers.

Rodgers was once the highly touted first-rounder looking to succeed a beloved and accomplished (albeit mercurial) veteran in Brett Favre. Much, of course, has been made of their dynamic over the years.

Now Rodgers will quarterback the same team his Green Bay predecessor wound up getting shipped off to. Time will tell how that unfolds, but to Rodgers’s credit, he expressed unabashed support and even a kind of kinship for his successor.

“(Love) gets a chance to blaze his own trails, be his own man and lead in the way he best sees fit,” Rodgers said. “Take the good things he learned from me; things he would do differently, do ’em differently. That’s what I did when I took over.”

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Ranking the Saints’ Best and Worst-Case 2023 NFL Season Scenarios




The New Orleans Saints wasted little time in addressing the major weakness of a team that finished 7-10 in 2022. After signing quarterback Derek Carr this offseason, the Saints are hoping they can get back to the playoffs after a two-year drought. Let’s dive into the best and worst-case scenarios for the Saints’ 2023 season.

Predicting the Best-Case Scenario for the Saints’ 2023 NFL Season

The Saints hope to be this year’s version of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints, like the Eagles a year ago, have an elite defense and a strong surrounding cast around their quarterback but face questions about their coaching staff and QB. The Eagles responded resoundingly last year, reaching the Super Bowl after a dominant regular season.

New Orleans’ win total at DraftKings Sportsbook is 9.5, and they’re -180 to make the playoffs. It should help that the Saints have the easiest schedule in the league. The question is, how far can they go? There’s not that same optimism around the upside of the Saints despite this being a team adding a quality veteran quarterback in Derek Carr.

Carr is coming off a down season where the Las Vegas Raiders inexplicably lost nine one-score games. His completion rate, yards per game, and interception rate were either the worst or second-worst marks of his career. However, it’s possible that Josh McDaniels simply misused Carr and is a bad head coach in general.

Carr ranked fifth in deep-ball attempts and second in air yards per attempt last year despite the Raiders dealing with injuries to Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller throughout the season.

MORE: New Orleans Saints 2023 Season Preview

Despite having a strong arm, Carr is at his best as a short and intermediate passer who takes care of the ball. Here is where Carr ranks among the 55 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts since his 2014 rookie year (playoffs included):

  • 64.4% pass completions (24th)
  • 7.1 yards per pass attempt (32nd)
  • 4.3% touchdown pass rate (31st)
  • 2.0% interception rate (17th lowest)
  • 91.5 passer rating (27th)
  • 5.06% sack rate (13th lowest)
  • 6.39 adjusted net yards per pass attempt (23rd)

Carr has been durable with a minimal injury history. He has above-average accuracy and ball security, and he can get the ball out on time better than most. But finishing drives in the end zone and with more touchdown passes has often been an issue, so his overall stats are close to average in this sample of quarterbacks.

In many ways, Carr has been atop the “average” range of quarterback rankings for the better part of his career despite impressive physical tools. Sure enough, Carr finished 2022 ranked No. 14 in ESPN’s QBR metric for the second year in a row. Even getting that production from Carr is a big jump from what Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton gave the Saints last year.

MORE: Best NFL Offenses | Best NFL Defenses

New Orleans also brought in Jon Gruden to help get the most out of Carr this season. At best, Carr will lead a more dynamic offense that has a healthy Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Juwan Johnson, and Alvin Kamara. Role players like Rashid Shaheed, Kendre Miller, and Jamaal Williams can help the offense survive any time missed by their stars.

Kamara may be suspended for six games if the NFL’s history proves predictive, but the Saints have enough weapons to endure his absence. Thomas has played in only 10 games since 2019 but was electric in the three contests he played in 2022. Few teams have the high-end talent around their quarterback as the Saints do.

They also have a very good offensive line, and their defense ranked ninth in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed despite their offense’s inability to help them throughout the year. New Orleans can be a deep playoff contender in the NFC, with only Dallas, San Francisco, and Philadelphia sitting as teams clearly ahead of their upside right now.

Carolina Panthers safety Xavier Woods (25) tackles New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) during the first half at Caesars Superdome.

Predicting the Worst-Case Scenario for the Saints’ 2023 NFL Season

The Saints have been banking on some high-risk, high-reward players with varying levels of success. Thomas and Kamara are at the forefront of that discussion entering this year, and even Carr isn’t a lock to be anything more than a younger version of Dalton.

Thomas was “still going through some of the rehab process” in mid-May, per head coach Dennis Allen. Another setback could easily knock Thomas out for the season, considering how his last three years have quickly become irrelevant. And with Kamara all but certain to be suspended, the Saints could go from a feared offense to one overly reliant on Olave and Carr to produce if others can’t fill the gaps.

Carr’s own performance will be under the microscope. If his decline was more of a result of physical decay than the Raiders’ issues, then the Saints’ upside is similar to their 2022 season. Like Dalton last year, Carr’s numbers can be more of an empty-calorie situation than any bit substantive. The Saints’ defense can’t afford a slide back either.

It’s a physical and fast unit that wisely added help along the front four with first-round defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and edge rusher Isaiah Foskey. The unit ranked dead last in pass-rush win rate last year, so both players and 2021 first-rounder Payton Turner can’t be no-shows in 2023. Internal growth from those three players and from linebacker Pete Werner and cornerbacks Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor will be huge storylines for what this defense can become.

MORE: New Orleans Saints 2023 Schedule

They have scary potential with their speed and athleticism, but their youth was detrimental throughout 2022 as they gained experience. Allen has to get the defense to create more havoc more often. This team’s worst-case scenario includes suffering through another season of a benign offense and stepping back from the defense we saw in 2022.

While the youth movement was needed, it was a risky transition. New Orleans could again fail to make the playoffs and would then face an offseason with major changes likely coming throughout the organization.

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