Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Who said parity exists in the NFL? Through five weeks, the NFL basically looks exactly like it did last year. The 49ers, Eagles and Chiefs are all still kicking butt, and the Bears, Broncos and Cardinals are all still lousy. Oh, and both New York teams are below .500 – right where they belong.
But even though the tippy top and bitter bottom of the NFL standings are eerily similar to last year’s, there’s an enormous middle-class in the NFL. It can be hard to differentiate between some of these teams. Are they true contenders? Or are they forgettable pretenders?
Fortunately for all of you, I’m here to help. I’ve broken up the 32 NFL teams into separate tiers to make sense of another bewildering season. I’m here to divide stinky chaff from the delicious wheat – and it’s not as easy as it sounds. I mean, what the hell do we make of the Dallas Cowboys? They decimated the New England Patriots by 35 a week ago, then got boat-raced by the 49ers by 32 this past Sunday – see, not easy.
Still, in the name of content, we soldier on. We must know if the Indianapolis Colts are superior to the Atlanta Falcons! These questions must be answered! I’ll stop stalling now – let’s get into the 2023 NFL Tiers.
Capitulating for Caleb
These are the three least talented teams in the NFL and all three have their sights set on the ultimate offseason prize: the #1 pick. Right now, the odds-on favorite is USC’s Caleb Williams, and it isn’t hard to see why. He’s big, strong, mobile, and has a cannon for an arm. He’s been compared favorably to Patrick Mahomes for his ability to make plays on the move and out of structure. Even though all three have (ostensibly) “franchise” quarterbacks on their roster, none will hesitate to punt said “franchise” QB into the nearest large body of water in favor of this kid.
Pride Before the Fall
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick and Sean Payton are two of the most successful and decorated head coaches in NFL history…and both of their teams suck. And they really suck.
We all knew it would be hard for New England to continue winning at the same level post-Tom Brady, but for things to get this bad? Nobody saw this coming. And after being enticed out of retirement by being named their heir to the Walmart fortune in Denver, Sean Payton has the Broncos looking like one of the biggest jokes in recent memory. His team gave up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins! 70! I know he’s an offensive guy, but still – that’s pathetic.
To Sell, or Not To Sell
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders got a much-needed win against the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, but this already has the makings of an extremely uncomfortable season for the Black & Silver. Chandler Jones has already been released from the team after being arrested recently, while star receiver Davante Adams is unhappy with the few targets he’s getting. Whispers about Adams’ availability on the trade market are already making their way around NFL circles.
The Vikings too, are in the middle of a season from hell. Justin Jefferson, arguably the best receiver on the planet and inarguably the best player on the team, will miss at least the next four games after being placed on injured reserve. Now, this 1 - 4 squad will try to dig out of their early-season hole without their superstar. With hope dwindling for the Norsemen, it’s not surprising to hear free-agent-to-be Kirk Cousins’ name being thrown around in trade rumors.
Back Where They Belong
New York Giants
New York Jets
Remember when the New York teams were good last year? What a laugh! Daniel Jones a playoff QB…bwahahahaha!
Seriously though, I speak for 99% of Americans when I say I’m sick of hearing about the New York teams. It’s not enough that we have to hear about the stupid Yankees and Mets and Knicks all the time, but we also have to hear about, “oh, the Giants might be decent” and “watch out for the Jets” and “New York football is back.” Shut up. No, it isn’t. Both teams suck again, and that’s where they belong.
Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints
These teams are all the exact same. Seriously. You can line them all up next to one another and you can’t tell the difference. Mediocre quarterback play, mediocre weapons, mediocre defenses…just plain mediocre.
Long Live Gardner Minshew
When Gardner Minshew was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 2021, it felt like the end of an era. Minshew Mania was officially over. The legend-to-be never had a real chance. All we had was memories of jean-shorts and porn staches…
…that is, until Minshew subbed in for the injured Anthony Richardson in Week Two and Minshew Mania was reignited like it never left. He’s back, and the Colts are…decent? Maybe slightly above decent? But honestly, it feels like even if the Colts fall back to Earth and lose their next twelve games in a row, we as a football society have already won. We got our boy Minshew back, baby!
Just Keep Repeating “Potentially” Over and Over
Los Angeles Chargers
Each of these teams came into the season with mighty expectations, but so far they've bumbled, stumbled, and fumbled out of the gates. The Bengals had their early-season Bungle-reversion, the Browns are still the Browns, the Chargers are actively being sabotaged by their own head coach, the Cowboys are actively being sabotaged by their quarterback, and the Jaguars can’t figure out if they just want to outright move to London in the middle of the season.
We Feel Good About Them…Right?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is a…peculiar group. The Steelers are somehow leading the AFC North despite fielding an offense with zero punch. The Buccaneers are somehow leading the NFC South despite losing the greatest player in NFL history in the offseason. The Seahawks and Ravens both have impressive wins and downright befuddling losses. And the Bills in theory should be Super Bowl favorites, but they lost to Zach Wilson and the Jets so I don’t know what the hell to think.
QBs That Found Their Home
The fact that the Detroit Lions are having a good season through five weeks is one of the most incredible storylines coming out of the NFL in the last decade. A down-on-its-luck team with a discarded QB has rallied behind their outrageous head coach and have become one of the premier teams in the NFC. Jared Goff won’t win many popularity contests, but he’s a damn good QB and he makes the Lions' high-flying offense roar.
Miami, meanwhile, appears intent on obliterating any and all offensive records this year. Their offense leads the league in passing yards, rushing yards, points, yards per play, and first downs. Tua Tagovailoa appears completely healthy, confident, and as accurate as ever. Right now, he and Goff are on the short list for MVP candidates, and that’s incredible when you think about it for more than two seconds.
Parity? What’s That?
Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers
If these teams seem familiar, it’s because all three reached their conference’s championship game last year – and once again, all three appear primed for another playoff run.
The Chiefs haven’t hit their stride yet, but Patrick Mahomes remains incredible, and once Travis Kelce is fully healthy and the offense works out the kinks, they’ll be as brutal a challenge as ever to knock out once the playoffs roll around.
The Eagles, meanwhile, continue to grind their opponents into a fine powder, utilizing Jalen Hurts’ smarts, passing ability, and tree-trunk-sized quads to pummel opponents into submission.
Finally, the 49ers might be the class of the NFL. With an outstanding defense, an offense absolutely filled to the brim with weapons, and a quarterback who’s doing a pretty darn good Tom Brady impression, the Niners have apparently transformed into the Patriots 2.0 before our eyes.
If you’re looking for a pretty good candidate to win it all, you should start with these three.