NFL power rankings entering the 2022 preseason (previous rankings in parentheses):
1. Rams (1): The defending champions have several key departures and newcomers, WR Odell Beckham Jr. currently somewhere in between. But bringing a guy like LB Bobby Wagner into the equation certainly won’t stop a team’s quest trying to become the first in 18 years to successfully defend a Super Bowl crown.
2. Invoices (3): The addition of OLB Von Miller and others could put the two-time defending champions AFC East on the final hurdle. But keep an eye out for WR Gabriel Davis, who won five TDs in the 2021 playoffs — four in the Division Round heartbreaker at Kansas City — as a potential player.
3. Bengals (2): QB Joe Burrow’s appendectomy and RT La’el Collins’ new back problems could hamper the early cohesion of an offense that is breaking into an almost entirely new line. Still, the biggest challenges for the 2021 AFC champions will likely come from a wild conference likely to include a resurgent Baltimore team challenging Cincinnati for the AFC North title.
4. Packers (5): QB Aaron Rodgers seems to think a village of receivers — look at rookie Romeo Doubs — can combine to come close to producing the late Davante Adams. Hmm. We think shortening the game with more global touches for RBs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon might actually be the Lombardi ticket.
5. Leaders (8): Despite the absence of WR Tyreek Hill, the assumption here is that the Andy Reid-Patrick Mahomes offense will ultimately be fine. The real issue could be a defense stripped of veteran leader Tyrann Mathieu and now relying heavily on first-round rookies Trent McDuffie at corner and George Karlaftis at edge.
2022 NFL RECORD PROJECTIONS: Which 14 teams look like the playoffs?
6. Crows (6): Baltimore still lists QB Lamar Jackson at 212 pounds, but he claims to be around 230 after putting on weight in the offseason. It remains to be seen what that means for arguably the league’s most electric athlete, who hasn’t reached the end of the late 2021 implosion.
7. Buccaneers (4): While the notion of WR Julio Jones versus man coverage on transmissions is tantalizing, a great bet QB Tom Brady would have rather hurt Pro Bowl C Ryan Jensen in the lineup on said transmissions…and all the other cliches .
8. Chargers (7): No reason to be anything but optimistic about QB Justin Herbert. But he can and should still improve — and could start by lowering his interception (25) and sack (63) totals over two seasons.
9. Eagles (12): Good luck finding a team with more talent and depth in the trenches, a big reason why Philly should excel no matter where QB Jalen Hurts is on his personal learning curve. Former Temple star Haason Reddick, who has 23½ sacks over the past two seasons, could be one of the stealers in free agency (again).
10. Foals (10): From weeks 6-16 last year, they were an elite team, going 8-2 and beating four eventual playoff teams. But former QB Carson Wentz’s COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent lost practice time coincided with Indy’s late-season spiral. Steady veteran replacement Matt Ryan should be a better fit that provides a smoother ride.
11. 49ers (14): Resolving the Jimmy Garoppolo situation would be nice, but it was more important to patch things up with “wide back” Deebo Samuel, who will no doubt be a key part of Trey Lance’s transition to the QB1 role.
12. Patriots (13): Despite all the speculation about offensive calls and good feelings surrounding QB Mac Jones’ development, perhaps the focus should be on a defense lacking top-tier talent. New England have been crushed for 150 points in their last five games of 2021.
13. Saints (9): Despite the exit of longtime coach Sean Payton, don’t be the least bit surprised if this team reclaims the NFC South throne given the weaponry they feature on both sides of the ball. RB Alvin Kamara’s unsolved battery case looms as a significant issue if an expected sanction is imposed at the end of the year.
14. Raiders (11): They have an exceptional group at top positions as quarterback, receiver, left tackle and passer. But the balance of the lineup is at least equally suspect. Valuable as new coach Josh McDaniels in game design, Vegas better hopes he learned something from Bill Belichick about masking weak spots.
15. Cowboys (19): Given how Micah Parsons is deployed by Dallas, it might be interesting to see if new LB Anthony Barr can chase quarterbacks like he did at UCLA but never did at Minnesota despite his four Pro Bowl nods.
16. Dolphins (21): Owner Stephen Ross’ illegal return to Brady and Payton cost Miami their 2023 first-round pick, among other things. Ironically, he might have eased the pressure on QB Tua Tagovailoa and boosted his job security considering it’s likely going to be a lot harder to draft a QB in 2023…if that’s a direction the Finns want to take.
Jarret Bell: NFL let Stephen Ross off easy with Dolphins punishment
17. Vikings (17): Justin Jefferson is the only player in the league with at least 3,000 receiving yards since 2020. Could he push 5,000 yards over three campaigns as the centerpiece of new coach Kevin O’Connell’s passing-focused offense ?
18. Broncos (18): The loss of WR Tim Patrick (ACL) isn’t sugar coated, but it could create an opportunity for KJ Hamler to show off his speed – and few quarterbacks are more capable of exploiting it than the depth sniper Russell Wilson.
19. Steelers (20): They’ll face five 2021 playoff teams plus Miami before their Week 9 bye. Not an ideal opening streak for QB Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement … but one that suggests first-rounder Kenny Pickett could be in the saddle by now week 10.
20. Titans (16): RB Derrick Henry averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2021, the second-lowest number of his career. What happens to that number without WRs AJ Brown and Julio Jones to keep defenses honest?
21. Leos (24): The return of C Frank Ragnow from a foot injury in 2021 means Detroit may well emerge with the league’s best offensive line in 2022.
22. Cardinals (22): It remains to be seen if $230.5 million can buy you happiness, leadership, maturity or even a playoff victory. Either way, QB Kyler Murray, who boasts a 22-24-1 NFL record, will still be 43-0 in high school…a data point he says remains relevant.
23. Commanders (26): Captain Terry McLaurin has been paid off while fellow WR Jahan Dotson continues to show signs he could become the club’s next star. Doubly good news as Wentz tries to stabilize this organization and his career, even though he has already had a rocky start to camp.
24. Panthers (28): Now halfway through for 2018 first-round QBs, Carolina could still be playoff-bound given their defensive potential and quality offensive playmakers … assuming RB Christian McCaffrey stays on the field.
25. Browns (15): No team is harder to find given the uncertainty surrounding QB Deshaun Watson, who was suspended for six games on Aug. 1, a verdict the NFL appealed two days later. The move makes it much more likely that Watson won’t take a regular season shot until 2023.
26. Jets (23): Their years of disarray mirrored the airline industry as a whole. But this offseason’s infusion of talent suggests the NYJ could be nearing lift-off speed … though it will fall to second-year QB Zach Wilson to stick to the schedule while taking better care of the baggage.
27.Jaguar (27): With a legit coach like Doug Pederson now guiding 2021 No. his NFL debut – Jacksonville could be primed for a major leap.
28. Seahawks (25): So is WR DK Metcalf, who Seattle only extended for three years, now the face of this franchise? If not, then who is it? Maybe a college quarterback who is nine months away from joining the 12?
29. Giants (29): While much attention is understandably given to how effectively first-year coach Brian Daboll recalibrates QB Daniel Jones, new coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s influence on defense can define just how far these giants are going.
30. Bear (31): The teardown may not be over amid speculation that 32-year-old DE Robert Quinn (team record 18½ sacks in 2021) could be the next veteran on the move and whispers that Chicago is already on the verge of drop out 2021 second round Teven Jenkins.
31. Texas (30): If we spotted you QB Davis Mills and WR Brandin Cooks, could you name three other starters for Houston? Good teams are often born out of anonymity, but it usually takes a while.
32. Hawks (32): If we spotted you QB Marcus Mariota and TE Kyle Pitts, could you name three more starters for Atlanta…even if that should be an easier bar to clear than Houston’s? Good teams are often born out of anonymity, but that usually takes a while…and it may take the Falcons longer than the Texans.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Power Rankings: 2022 Preseason Finds Rams, Bills at Top