Now We Go: I Made an NFL Tier List
The NFL regular season kicks off this week and I couldn’t be more excited.
This season marks my fourth doing NFL previews on TSN.ca and I thought we’d spice things up in 2023.
So far this summer I’ve written about the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons. But I wanted a way to zoom out and evaluate the entire league.
Enter the Tier List.
I’ve broken the NFL down into nine categories, and I’ve separated those nine into three different articles.
Each article will feature three new categories.
Today, we have the bottom three groups. Groups that include teams already in tank mode, franchises entering new eras, and several teams stuck in limbo.
Let’s get to our first category, featuring my three worst teams in the league.
“And That’s The Game”
Bucs, Raiders, Cardinals
When the 2023 season kicks off, while most teams will be looking to win as many games as possible and climb the standings, these three teams should be worried about who they are going to draft in the off-season when one of them is holding the top pick in the NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay won the division last year despite a losing record (8-9) and they now lead the league in dead cap with over $70 million of salary cap tied up in dead money.
In Vegas, it’s the Josh McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo experience. I wonder how many times these two told themselves they would be this generation’s version of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Now’s their chance. I doubt it ends well.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals might not have enough players on their active roster after all the tanking they’re doing for USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
I’ll be stunned if any of these teams even sniff a playoff spot this year.
Panthers, Texans, Colts
These three teams are all in very fun and exciting situations.
Unfortunately, I don’t see much winning for these three this season.
Anthony Richardson takes the lead in Indianapolis. With no Jonathan Taylor and a lack of depth at wide receiver, it could be a tough transition for the No. 4 pick.
The AFC South-rival Houston Texans will trot out C.J. Stroud to open the year. I like what they’re building in Houston. New head coach DeMeco Ryans coming over from San Francisco and bringing Bobby Slowik as his offensive coordinator injects some 49er winning culture into a franchise in dire need of a reset.
Finally the Panthers. Carolina not only used the first overall pick in the draft on their starting quarterback, but they added new weapons in the passing game for Bryce Young.
Expect it to look rough at first. New head coach Frank Reich has often worked with older quarterbacks and I worry about Young being a bit overwhelmed from the jump.
But of these three teams, I expect Carolina to be the best of the bunch come year’s end.
What Even Are We?
Commanders, Giants, Patriots, Packers, Rams
What a spooky question, what even are we?
For these five teams the answer is probably ‘Not very good.’
Like all couples that are surely going to break up, I’m sure these five teams will have a few good moments this year. But as the season kicks off I’m left with a lot more questions about this group than answers.
I have Washington at the top of this list because their defence is solid, and the offence intrigues me. What does a marriage between Sam Howell, Ron Rivera and Eric Bieniemy look like? It could be great, but it could also be another miscue from an organization that hasn’t got it right in a very long time.
Darren Waller was the splash acquisition for the New York Giants this summer after they made the playoffs in 2022. But I’m left questioning if they have another trip to the postseason in them this year.
New York started the season 6-1 last year, and limped down the stretch, finishing 9-7-1.
If you include the two playoff games they played, just three of their 10 wins came against playoff teams, and they went 2-7 against teams finishing with a winning record. That was the worst of any playoff team.
We see teams fall in and out of the playoffs every season – the Giants seem like one of those teams.
New England just feels stuck in the mud. Ever since Tom Brady left, the “What even are we” question has loomed large.
It seems like Mac Jones is the guy for this franchise, but in a conference loaded with quarterback talent, they will be outgunned most weeks. And a tough schedule will make it incredibly difficult to make it into the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers are in transition for just the third time in 25 years. Have they done it again? Can they go Favre-Rodgers-Love? That remains to be seen. The question I have for Green Bay this year surrounds Matt LaFleur. He has a chance to show the NFL he doesn’t need Aaron Rodgers to find success. It’s a tall task, I don’t think this is year the Pack are Back.
And finally, the Rams. What’s going on here?
It feels like this team won a Super Bowl and then just hit the eject button.
Two years ago this offence was one of the best in the league, and now Matt Stafford doesn’t know how to speak to his teammates?
It feels like the end of an era in Los Angeles… What even are we? Sir, we are cooked.
At least the Rams got a Super Bowl ring before it went south.