NFL Preview: 2023 NFL Tiers

NFL kickoff is nearly upon us. We at Sporting Intelligence have taken the liberty of grouping every NFL roster into tiers to get you up to speed for Week 1 and on.

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The blue chips are proven commodities with a proven franchise quarterback, a high-quality roster to surround them with a track record of success over the trailing 2-3 seasons.

KC, PHI, BUF and SF ranked 1 through 4 in net yards per play in 2022. KC finished with the top offense by our efficiency rating in 2022 but 26th in defensive efficiency, in part due to issues defending the pass (24th in pass YPG) and in the red zone (31st in RZ %). Otherwise, the Bills (6th in OE, 2nd in DE), Bengals (2nd in OE, 7th in DE), Eagles (3rd on OE, 1st in DE) and 49ers (7th in OE, 5th in DE) were elite on both sides of the ball in 2022.

The Chiefs answered any questions from last preseason about their ability to replace Tyreek Hill’s big play ability. They finished 2022 ranked 1st in the league in net YPP and in the following offensive categories: offensive efficiency, EPA/play, series conversion rate, YPP, early down success rate, pass YPG, YPA, explosive passing plays and RZ trips per game. Chris Jones’ absence on the DL may cause some concern, but the Chiefs play a ridiculously easy schedule of passing defenses to start the season with the Lions, Jags, Bears, Jets and Vikings. Sans the Jets, those were 4 of the 10 worst secondaries against the pass in 2022.  

Cincy added OT Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency to help sure up their OL and protect Joe Burrow, who was sacked 13 times in the first two weeks of the season against the Steelers and Cowboys. They also lost both safeties via free agency in Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, which obviously causes some concern as they look to backfill the back end of their defense that finished 6th in defensive efficiency and 2nd in EPA/play in 2022. That said, after starting the season 0-2 SU and ATS, the Bengals righted the ship quickly and finished the season 12-1-1 ATS.

The Bills remain in 2023 a juggernaut in the AFC after losing 27-10 at home in the divisional round to the Bengals in last year’s postseason. On paper, their defense is excellent, but is highly dependent upon the health of Von Miller and their secondary – Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde missed 31 games in total last season. Buffalo generated a 38% pressure rate when Miller was on the field in 2022 and just 30% after he went out for the year – Miller will start the season on the PUP list and look to return in Week 5. The Bills face a gauntlet of a schedule from Week 11 on: NYJ, @PHI, @KC, DAL, @LAC, NE, @MIA.

The Eagles finished 2nd in the league in 2022 in net YPP and 1st in 1H point differential. They were able to impose their will on opponents early and rely on their elite running game to grind opponents down in the 2nd half. The Eagles lost starters in the middle of their defense in the offseason with the departures of DT Javon Hargrave, LBs TJ Edwards and Kyzir White and S Chauncey Gardner Johnson and Marcus Epps. They are replacing the holes at DT and LB with UGA standouts Jalen Carter and Nakobe Dean, while Reed Blankenship and rookie Sydney Brown are the likely duo to man the middle of the field. All that said, the Eagles are built inside out, starting in the trenches. They have the personnel to continue impose their will in the ground game and in the pass rush, and if Jalen Hurts continues to build from his 2022 campaign as a passer in the pocket, Philly will continue to set the pace in the NFC.

The 49ers similarly have a loaded roster on either side of the ball, with their biggest question mark being the health and efficiency of Brock Purdy. Purdy was one of the most intriguing storylines of the 2022 season after taking over at QB in Week 13. He was extremely efficient in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but questions linger about his staying power now that defensive coordinators have had an entire offseason to scheme against him.  SF finished 8-2 ATS finish the regular season in 2022.


The Ravens and Cowboys qualify as Tier II blue chips as they both enter the 2023 campaigns with complete rosters, demonstrated regular season success over an extended period of time in recent memory and questions to be answered at the quarterback position.

Despite missing Lamar Jackson for the final 6 games of 2022, the Baltimore Ravens finished 12th in the league in our offensive efficiency ratings with poor QB play in his absence to finish the season, while finishing 3rd in the league in defensive efficiency. Baltimore finished 7th in the league in point differential and 11th in Net YPP, and added O’Dell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers to the mix to stimulate their passing offense and give Lamar real weapons at WR for the first time in his career. Expect Baltimore to be a real contender in the AFC in 2023 in a loaded AFC North.

The Cowboys return in 2023 with an elite defense that finished 4th in defensive efficiency, 6th in EPA / play allowed, 3rd in early down success rate and 1st in turnovers forced per game. Micah Parsons anchors an elite pass rush that finished 3rd in sacks / game in 2022, and they added Stephon Gilmore to bolster their secondary. The biggest question mark for the Cowboys is on the offensive side of the ball, as Mike McCarthy will be calling plays for the first time since 2018 and has voiced a commitment to running the football. The Cowboys will go as far as Dak and McCarthy will take them in 2023. Quick reminder that Ezekiel Elliot’s final snap as a Dallas Cowboy was at the center position.

We’re entering the controversial section of our tiers. If you completely agree or think we’re out of control with our preseason analysis, let us know over on Twitter.

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You could make the argument that the Dolphins and Chargers belong in different tier than the Steelers and the Browns and you have every right to make your own tiered system of NFL rosters – the Browns are also on the cusp of dropping down to NFL purgatory.

The Chargers brought in Kellen Moore at OC to improve their offensive scheme and unleash Justin Herbert’s potential. If Mike Williams and Keenan Allen can stay healthy, this offense has the feel of one of the most electric offenses in the league. The Chargers’ defense is loaded with talent and finished 10th in the league in defensive efficiency. They struggled to stop the run, finishing 28th in rushing YPG allowed per game and YPC allowed, primarily due to a rash of injuries to the DT position over the course of the season. If the Chargers stay healthy and Moore can maximize Herbert’s potential, they have the talent everywhere on both sides of the ball to challenge the Chiefs in the AFC West.

Miami’s success in 2023 is completely contingent on their ability to keep Tua upright and healthy. Their offense was electric in the early part of 2023 with Tua under center. Despite their issues at the quarterback position, they still finished 3rd in the league in YPP, 11th in offensive efficiency and 7th in EPA/play, a testament to Mike McDaniels’ offensive prowess. Miami struggled on the defensive side of the ball, finishing 29th in defensive efficiency and 28th in passing YPG. They brought in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, a legendary defensive mind, to stabilize this side of the ball and will have a full season with Bradley Chubb. The Dolphins will be dangerous if Tua stays upright and their secondary stabilizes under Fangio’s tutelage.

Trevor Lawrence turned a corner as a professional quarterback after the Jags’ trip to London in Week 8 of the 2022 season. From Week 9 on, he completed 70% of his passes, averaged 263 passing yds/gm and threw 15 TD’s with just 2 INT’s. He ranked 2nd in EPA / play behind only Patrick Mahomes. Jacksonville will add Calvin Ridley to the mix with Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram. Their defense is their most significant question mark after finishing 27th in passing YPG allowed and explosive passing plays allowed and struggled to generate a consistent pass rush, finishing just 25th in sacks. In a very weak division, the Jags should find themselves in the playoff picture if Lawrence continues his ascent.

Aaron Rodgers went on a darkness retreat in the offseason and decided he wanted to be traded to the NY Jets. His departure from the Packers was the most well-documented storyline of the offseason, so there’s no need to beat a dead horse. Rodgers is the most talented passer of his generation and joins a team with a young, elite defense that finished 7-10 in spite of Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco and Mike White. Rodgers is surrounded with talent at RB and WR; the only question mark is the Jets’ OL. Rodgers gets the ball out quickly and brought Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard with him, while Garrett Wilson could generate significant target share similar to Davante Adams in his tenure with Rodgers. He’ll be tested early with matchups against Buffalo, Dallas, New England, Kansas City, Denver and Philly in the first six weeks of his Jets career.

The Lions are one of the most intriguing teams in the NFC after finishing 2022 ranked 4th in offensive efficiency, 6th in EPA / play, 4th in series conversation rate, 6th in YPP, 5th in explosive passing plays and 2nd in sacks allowed. They have an elite offensive line protecting Jared Goff, who has had a resurgence in Detroit under Dan Campbell. The Lions’ success in 2023 will be predicated on their defense’s ability to get stops, as their defense was as terrible as their offense was efficient. They brought in CJ Gardner-Johnson, Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley in an effort to sure up their secondary after finishing 2022 ranked 30th in defensive efficiency, passing YPG allowed, 31st in explosive passing plays allowed and 29th in rushing yards allowed per game. The revamped secondary will be tested early on national TV in the season opener at Arrowhead. The Lions finished 3-6 SU against teams with a winning record; time will tell if they are a real contender.

Kenny Pickett won preseason MVP and looks to take a big step in Yr 2 alongside an elite defense as long as TJ Watt is healthy and behind an improving OL. No one will be surprised to see the Steelers pop and contend for a Wild Card spot in 2023; they finished 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games with Pickett last season.

The Browns are on the borderline of NFL purgatory but have upside in 2023 with Deshaun Watson prepping to take the reigns for a full season. He looked lost in 2022 when he returned to action after a significant amount of time away from the game, but reportedly has built a good connection with Amari Cooper in training camp. The Browns struggled to defend the run in 2023 and didn’t do much to address their roster in the offseason via free agency. Deshaun Watson’s cap hit jumps to $64 million in 2024, so it’s do or die this season for this current iteration of the Browns.


You could make the argument that each of these NFC rosters significantly outperformed expectations in 2022.

The Vikings finished 13-4 despite finishing with a -19 point differential. Minnesota finished 10th in the league in offensive efficiency, 9th in early down success rate and 2nd in both passing yards / game and explosive passing plays. They let Adam Thielen walk in free agency but added Jordan Addison via the draft to pair with Justin Jefferson – there are no question marks on the offensive side of the ball. Their secondary was their Achilles heel, finishing 30th in YPP allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed / game and 32nd in explosive passing plays. They let Patrick Peterson walk and added Byron Murphy to an extremely suspect secondary – expect the Vikings to be an exciting watch and competing in high-scoring shootouts in 2023.

The NY Giants took a major step forward under Brian Daboll in 2022 – he coached this roster to the postseason and a 13-4 record ATS. They finished 8-4-1 in one-score games and finished the season with an even 0 point differential. Daniel Jones threw 15 TD’s in 2022 and landed a $160M contract thereafter. The Giants have an extremely suspect OL that ranked 27th in sacks allowed and QB hits allowed. On the defensive side of the ball, they finished 27th in EPA / play, 24th in YPP allowed, 27th in explosive passing plays, 27th in rushing YPG allowed and 31st in explosive passing plays allowed. The fun stopped in the divisional round when they trailed 28-0 at halftime in Philly.

Justin Fields figured out how to use his legs to his advantage on the latter half of 2022, but he’ll need to establish himself as a competent passer in 2023 to take the next step in his career. The Bears finished with one of the worst defenses in the league, ranking 32nd in defensive efficiency, EPA/play, YPP allowed, 3rd down conversion rate, YPA allowed, sacks and QB hits. Fields will be fun to watch with DJ Moore in the field, but the Bears are going to be hamstrung by an extremely poor front 7 that struggles to generate a pass rush and leaves their secondary out to dry.

Geno Smith had a renaissance in Seattle in 2022 that was fun to watch, but the Seahawks played an extremely easy schedule of opposing defenses that fueled that resurgence. Against top defenses, the Seahawks struggled to score points: 7 points and 13 points vs SF, 16 points vs TB, 17 points vs DEN and 23 points vs NYJ. They finished just 2-4 against playoff teams. Seattle invested in DT Dre’Mont Jones to sure up a defense that struggled to defend the run (30th in rush YPG allowed, 24th in explosive run plays allowed). They’ll be an exciting team to watch with a trio of Metcalf, Lockett and Smith-Njigba at WR, but they on paper look to be in a middling tier heading into 2023.


The Saints have the good fortune of playing in the weak NFC South while also drawing the AFC South on the schedule, and will enjoy by many accounts one of the easiest schedules in the league in 2023. They improved the quarterback position with the acquisition of Derek Carr, who was a steady figure among chaos during his tenure with the Raiders. They have a veteran laden roster with a top 10 defense that ranked 9th in EPA / play, 3rd in YPP allowed, 1st in passing YPG allowed, 3rd in explosive passing plays and 2nd in RZ trips allowed. If Carr can bring stability to the quarterback position and Mike Thomas can stay healthy, the Saints should position themselves to take the NFC South and contend in the postseason.

The Packers are entering the Jordan Love era after moving on from Aaron Rodgers in the offseason. They return all 5 offensive starters after finishing in the top 10 in both pass rush win rate and run block win rate, but are young at both QB and WR with Love, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs leading the charge on the offensive side of the ball. Love will start the season with an extremely easy schedule of opposing secondaries in the first five weeks, facing CHI, ATL, NO, DET and CLE. Only New Orleans finished above 22nd in pass defense efficiency in 2022.

Atlanta has a stable of young offensive weapons and an excellent offensive line to surround Desmond Ridder in 2023. They won or lost by one score in 15 of 17 games in 2022 in a season where they were expected to finish 4-13. Similar to the Saints, they have one of the easiest schedules in the league and will look to impose their will in the run game after finishing 2022 ranked 3rd in rushing yards / game and 6th in both YPC and explosive rushing plays. They spent a significant amount of capital to improve the defensive side of the ball after finishing the 2022 campaign ranked 31st in EPA/play, 29th in YPA and 31st in sacks. They’ll be a darkhorse contender in the NFC this season if Ridder can be even competent at QB.

NFL Purgatory: TEN, WAS, LV, DEN, NE, TB, LAR

Mike Vrabel is a top-10 coach in the league and has the Titans playing an extremely physical brand of football in his tenure, but the Titans just aren’t constructed to compete in an NFL that favors the pass. They have three quarterbacks, which effectively means they have no quarterback entering the season. Their offensive scheme is predicated on running the football, but they lack continuity on the offensive line after losing Taylor Lewan and Nate Davis on the offseason. The Titans finished 0-9 against playoff teams in 2022 and have 60% of their offensive salary cap committed to Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry.

Ron Rivera said recently he didn’t realize how good Sam Howell was until Week 17 of 2022, which is very concerning given that he is the head coach of the Commanders and Howell was at practice all season. The Commanders have some intriguing weapons at WR, but does anyone have any real conviction that Sam Howell can be a top-12 QB in the league behind an OL that ranked 26th in sacks allowed and 29th in QB hits allowed in 2022?

The best version of Jimmy G was probably with Kyle Shanahan. The Raiders’ defense was bottom 5 in nearly every defensive category in 2022. It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the Raiders are competitive in 2023 in a loaded AFC West.

Russell Wilson has the appearance of someone who is closer to cooked than cooking. The Broncos have a suspect offensive line and are suddenly thin at WR with he injury to Jerry Jeudy. They have an elite defense that finished 9th in defensive efficiency, 7th in EPA / play, 3rd in RZ trips allowed and 7th in RZ TD % in 2022. If Sean Payton can transform Russ from the abomination he was in 2022, maybe the Broncos compete for a Wild Card spot, but they have the misfortune of being in the AFC in a time where arguably 7 of the best 8 QB’s in the league are also on AFC rosters.

Similar to the Broncos, the Patriots have the misfortune of existing in the AFC in 2023. The Patriots’ defense finished 3rd in EPA/play, 5th in YPP allowed 6th in rushing YPG and 3rd in sacks – this side of the ball is not the issue. Mac Jones’ ability to expel memories of his time with Matt Patricia in 2022 will be the key to any success NE will have with Bill O’Brien back in the mix. The Patriots lack speed on the offensive side of the ball with an extremely difficult slate of defenses to start the season with Philly, Miami, NY Jets, Dallas and New Orleans on the schedule Weeks 1-5.

The Bucs went from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield. Brady masked a below average OL with his tendency to get the ball out extremely quickly. Baker Mayfield is not going to get the ball out as quickly as Tom Brady. Baker is on his way out of the league and the Bucs are on their way to a top-10 pick and rebuild.

The Rams’ aggressiveness in roster building in 2020 and 2021 is finally catching up to them. They spent just $6.8M in free agency this offseason, and will return an offensive line that was among the worst in the league in 2022. The Rams finished 0-8 against teams that finished with a winning record in 2022. Their secondary no longer has Jalen Ramsey, Taylor Rapp or Troy Hill. Cooper Kupp just aggravated a hamstring and is day-to-day with kickoff just nine days away. The Rams are going to have a very difficult time winning games in 2023.

New QB Tear Down / Rebuild: HOU, CAR, IND

CJ Stroud, Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson will be interesting to watch in 2023, but don’t expect any of these teams to be competitive.

Tanking for Caleb Williams: ARI

No need to spend time on Arizona – they are a complete dumpster fire. Kyler Murray has to be 1,000th prestige in Call of Duty given that he is still recovering from a torn ACL back in December. Modern Warfare 3 is set to release on November 10, 2023.

NFL Football is Back – I Can Feel it Down in my Plums