In case you haven’t noticed, things are a little quiet in the NFL right now.
That’s right, we’ve reached the dreaded Dead Zone of the calendar in which most of the big free agents have been snapped up, trades are on hold as GMs lounge in $300 Yeti beach chairs in Maui, the draft is well in the rear view mirror and training camp is still a month away.
But it’s also a good time to take stock in where things stand. After all the transactions, how do things stack up in the NFC? Here is my mid-summer power ranking of the National Football Conference, going worst-to-first.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Jonathan Gannon is an NFL head coach. That’s so wild! He might be a one-and-done coach, but at least he got that $10 million mansion purchase in under the wire! DeAndre Hopkins is probably on the way out and, if he stays, he won’t be happy. Kyler Murray can play a little, but the rest of this team is a dumpster fire, and Gannon is going to crater.
15. Tampa Bay Bucs
I’m sorry, but Baker Mayfield flat out stinks, and that’s the guy who’s going to try to keep a crumbling roster afloat? Nope.
14. Washington Commanders
This is a weird team. With Eric Bienemy, the offense could be much improved, but it all comes down to Sam Howell. He’s an intriguing prospect, but far from a sure thing, but then again, so was Hurts two years ago! I think there’s a little less certainty with him, as well as the rest of the roster, than the teams I have ahead of them.
13. Green Bay Packers
Jordan Love, in the very very little time we saw him against the Eagles, looked pretty good, but this is a team poised to take a step back without Aaron Rodgers. It could be just a one-year thing, but from the looks of it, they’re the last place team in the NFC North.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Can Geno Smith do it again? I say no, but good for him having his career year and getting that big money deal!
11. Atlanta Falcons
Anyone can win the NFC South, and there’s no doubt Atlanta had a productive off-season, signing free agent safety Jessie Bates III, linebacker Kaden Elliss, defensive tackle David Onyemata and defensive end Calais Campbell. But at the moment, I like the QB situations in Carolina and New Orleans a bit better. Desmond Ridder has shown flashes, and they got a capable backup in Taylor Heinicke who can take over if Ridder struggles. Atlanta could be a surprise team this year but, at the moment, I have them further down the pecking order.
10. Chicago Bears
Count me in on the Justin Fields Takes A Big Leap Club. He’s going to improve as a thrower and he’s already the best running QB in the league. I’m thinking he puts up a Jalen Hurts 2021-ish season for Chicago this year and potentially gets them into the playoffs.
9. New Orleans Saints
I’ve never been the biggest Derek Carr fan. I think he’s slightly above mid, but in the NFC, that might be enough to sneak into the postseason, especially in a weak division. New Orleans played better than their record and proved to be a tough opponent, as the Birds saw in the penultimate game of the 2022 season.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Everyone has always wanted a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what makes Kirk Cousins tick, so I know we’re all looking forward to this new NFL Films documentary, right? Minnesota won with smoke and mirrors during the ‘22 regular season then got beat at home by the Giants in the wild card round. Cousins could see some slippage in this, his age 34 season, and I think they barely miss out on the playoffs.
7. Carolina Panthers
Bryce Young is going to be very good in his first season. Look for a very solid rookie campaign and possible NFL Rookie of the Year honors for a team that is on the way up. And it would be nice to see Miles Sanders have a nice run there, too.
6. Los Angeles Rams
I’m here for the Matthew Stafford bounce-back season. Sean McVay is still overrated.
5. New York Giants
There will always be a limit on how good this team will be with Daniel Jones at QB, but they really had no choice but to keep him. They’ve gotten a little better at wide receiver, a little speedier, and Darren Waller is good, but they’re not elite at anything they do, and they play in the brutally tough NFC East.
4. Detroit Lions
We’ve seen teams that miss the playoffs but make a late charge and just fall short then jump into the postseason mix the following year. Jared Goff is for real throwing behind one of the best offensive lines in football to a group of dynamic receivers, backed by an ever-improving defense. The Lions will take the North.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Dak needs to stop throwing picks. If he does, Dallas will challenge the Eagles for the top spot in the East. They’re still very, very good, and if the Birds slip, can very easily win the division.
2. San Francisco 49ers
It all comes down to the QB. Will Brock Purdy be back, if so, when? And can he repeat his magical performance from last year? It seems as though everyone is just assuming Purdy will pick up where he left off, but I’m not there. If he doesn’t, can Trey Lance stay healthy and do the job? And can the entire team stop whining long enough to focus on the rest of their schedule and forget about the Eagles? Will there be an NFC Championship Game loss hangover?
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Most experts agree that, if the Eagles don’t have the best overall roster in the conference, it’s at least second-best. There are still some holes at linebacker and safety, and I don’t love the punter situation, but all in all, this is a team that is still teaming with talent with Jalen Hurts at the helm, the unquestioned best QB in the NFC. And the smart money says they’re not done adding.