• Bills remain in the top spot from preseason: Quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs form a dominant connection, and the team's defensive line is an elite unit.
• Dolphins come in at No. 4: Miami ranked No. 11 in PFF's preseason roster rankings but has put together a roster that can contend for a Super Bowl.
• Seahawks soar to No. 16: Seattle, behind quarterback Geno Smith and a stellar wide receiver tandem, is up from a No. 29 ranking in the preseason.
JUMP TO A TEAM:
1. BUFFALO BILLS — Preseason Rank (1)
Biggest strength: Quarterback Josh Allen and superstar wide receiver Stefon Diggs are the obvious answers, but the addition of edge defender Von Miller and a breakout for second-year edge defender Gregory Rousseau have turned the Bills' defensive line into one of the most formidable units in the NFL. Buffalo has a 63.2% team-wide pass rush win rate on non-blitzing plays, second-best in the NFL.
Biggest weakness: The right side of Buffalo's offensive line has earned a 57.0 pass-blocking grade and a 60.8 run-blocking grade, both of which rank 25th in the NFL. They were identified as a potential weak spot coming into the season, and while they haven’t been a total liability thus far, they haven’t been a strength, either.
X factor for second half: The X factor very well may not be on the team yet, with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. apparently a very real option for the Bills. Buffalo’s loss to the Jets in Week 9 exposed a lack of depth at wide receiver, after losing Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley from 2021. Gabriel Davis can break off a big play at any moment but has yet to haul in five receptions in a game and has less than 40 receiving yards in half of Buffalo’s contests so far this season.
2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — Preseason Rank (5)
Biggest strength: Offensive line. The unit has allowed a pressure on just 21.4% of dropbacks, a top-10 mark in the NFL, and their 71.5 run-blocking grade ranks seventh. While Philadelphia is loaded with receiving talent, and quarterback Jalen Hurts looks to have taken the third-year leap, everything starts up front with this dynamic offense.
Biggest weakness: Run defense. It’s hard to find a weakness for this Eagles team, but if there is one, it’s defending the run … especially when standout rookie Jordan Davis isn’t in the lineup, as was the case in Week 9 when Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 27 rushing attempts. On average, Philadelphia is tackling rushers 5.07 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, 30th in the NFL, with their 27 tackles for loss the sixth-fewest in the NFL and their .129 expected points added allowed per rush coming in at dead last.
X factor for second half: Rookie interior defender Jordan Davis has been as advertised so far, with a 77.7 run-defense grade through Week 8, but he landed on injured reserve before Week 9 with an ankle injury. His ability to anchor the middle in Philadelphia’s five-man fronts and be responsible for a gap and a half or two gaps changes the entire complexion of the defense up front and in coverage.
3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — Preseason Rank (8)
Biggest strength: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Losing Tyreek Hill is no small feat to overcome, which is all the more apparent with every week that Hill stays on pace to become the first wide receiver to ever top 2,000 receiving yards. Mahomes has spread the ball very effectively, completing passes to 13 different players.
Biggest weakness: Edge defenders. Chiefs edge rushers have generated a quarterback pressure on 15.5% of opposing dropbacks this season, 25th in the NFL, and have just 26 defensive stops on rushes behind or outside the tackles. That means have run the ball very effectively when the point of attack is at Chiefs edge defenders.
X factor for second half: First-round rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie. Kansas City traded cornerback Rashad Fenton to the Atlanta Falcons at the trade deadline and simultaneously activated McDuffie off injured reserve. He’ll need to step up as a difference-maker in coverage over the second half of the season, perhaps in a rematch with the Buffalo Bills come playoff time.
4. MIAMI DOLPHINS — Preseason Rank (11)
Biggest strength: Wide receiver. Tyreek Hill might break the single-season receiving yards record without needing the additional 17th game. That’s how uber-productive he’s been through nine games despite catching passes from Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson for an extended period of time. Jaylen Waddle and Hill have a legitimate case as the best wide receiver duo in the NFL, currently ranking first and third, respectively, in yards per route run on the season.
Biggest weakness: Right side of the offensive line. Miami has gotten great play out of free agent additions in tackle Terron Armstead and center Connor Williams, but injuries and poor performance have kept the right side of the offensive line a problem. The right side, which is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside, has a 56.3 pass-blocking grade that ranks 26th in the NFL.
X factor for second half: The Dolphins acquired edge defender Bradley Chubb with a first-round pick at the deadline and promptly signed him to a five-year, $110 million extension. Miami once again struggled to generate a consistent pass rush against the Chicago Bears in Week 9, which is why the team went out and got Chubb. So as he gets acclimated to the defense, he needs to help push the unit to the point where it can get home with just four rushers.
5. BALTIMORE RAVENS — Preseason Rank (9)
Biggest strength: Offensive line. Over the past month, the unit has been excellent in pass protection, with left tackle Ronnie Stanley working his way back into a full workload. Since Week 5 (prior to Monday Night Football in Week 9):
- LT Ronnie Stanley – 90.5 pass-blocking grade (2nd among tackles)
- T Patrick Mekari – 79.9 (14th)
- RT Morgan Moses – 77.6 (18th)
- RG Kevin Zeitler – 87.3 (1st among guards)
- LG Ben Powers – 85.8 (2nd)
Biggest weakness: Wide receiver. This was the answer even when Rashod Bateman was in the lineup, and now that he’s out for the year, Baltimore has an argument for the worst wide receiver group in the league. The unit has a 65.8 receiving grade, which ranks 25th, with the second-fewest receptions (61) and explosive receptions (17) on the year.
X factor for second half: Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely may need to become a focal point of the offense on a week-to-week basis, not just when Mark Andrews is injured. With the loss of Rashod Bateman, Baltimore needs any and all pass-catchers to step up. Likely had six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown in Week 8 against Tampa Bay.
6. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — Preseason Rank (10)
Biggest strength: Receiving weapons. It’s well documented the 49ers have one of the best and deepest defensive lines in the NFL, but with Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw missing most of the season so far, we went a different direction here. New running back Christian McCaffrey has the best receiving grade among running backs since he entered the league (95.3), and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has continued to blossom, with his 81.6 grade ranking eighth among wide receivers this season and his 5.6 yards after the catch per reception ranking 19th. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle — when the offense wants to get him involved as a pass-catcher — are obviously among the top talents at their positions, as well.
Biggest weakness: Special teams. San Francisco’s 49.0 special teams grade ranks dead last in the NFL, with their average starting field position of the 21.5-yard line placing 31st.
X factor for second half: Cornerback Jason Verrett. The stud cornerback is once again working his way back from a major injury, but no one has more experience in that regard than him. With Emmanuel Moseley lost for the season with an injury of his own, Verrett returning to form would be a huge boost on the backend.
7. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS — Preseason Rank (3)
Biggest strength: Running back Austin Ekeler. After a slow start to the season, Ekeler has eight touchdowns since Week 4, and his 60 receptions with 462 yards after the catch are pacing all running backs by a wide margin. With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams missing time, Ekeler has become all the more important.
Biggest weakness: Staying healthy. The injury bug has once again ravaged the Chargers in 2022, with wide receiver Keenan Allen not contributing since Week 1, wide receiver Mike Williams now out for an extended period, edge defender Joey Bosa out since Week 3 and cornerback JC Jackson lost for the season.
X factor for second half: Edge defender Joey Bosa. The sooner he can return, the better. Khalil Mack has held down the fort relatively well in his absence, including causing a key forced fumble against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9 when he ripped the ball away from wide receiver Drake London.
8. DALLAS COWBOYS — Preseason Rank (16)
Biggest strength: Edge defenders. Since Week 5, two Cowboys edge defenders rank in the top 10 in quarterback pressure percentage, and neither is Micah Parsons or Demarcus Lawrence. Free agent addition Dante Fowler Jr. (20.4%) and second-round rookie Sam Williams (21.4%) have been better as the season has gone on, creating a stable of good players who can all win in different ways and terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Michael Gallup. Gallup is recovering from a torn ACL suffered during last season. And now with five games under his belt this season, he has yet to eclipse 50 receiving yards. Dallas needs Gallup to provide those explosive downfield catches along the sideline as CeeDee Lamb racks up yardage over the middle.
9. CINCINNATI BENGALS — Preseason Rank (7)
Biggest strength: Wide receiver. The loss of Ja’Marr Chase for about a month could have been devastating, but Cincinnati moved the ball efficiently in a Week 9 blowout of the Carolina Panthers. The unit has earned a 76.5 receiving grade thus far in 2022, which ranks sixth, and has dropped just 4.0% of targets, also sixth-best.
Biggest weakness: Outside cornerbacks following the loss of Chidobe Awuzie. Eli Apple has already been benched this season with a dreadful 39.5 coverage grade, and rookie Cam Taylor-Britt has struggled since being thrust into full-time action, as well. While Cincinnati’s front is a good unit, it’s not a great one — especially without interior defender D.J. Reader — so they can’t afford to be this weak in coverage on the outside.
X factor for second half: Rookie second-round cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt will need to step up following the loss of Awuzie, as will first-rounder Daxton Hill, who has begun transitioning from safety to cornerback in practice.
10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS — Preseason Rank (2)
Biggest strength: Offensive tackles. The Buccaneers' tackles have allowed a league-low 6.0% pressure rate on the season and unsurprisingly lead the league in pass-blocking grade as a unit (81.0).
Biggest weakness: Interior offensive line. Not only has quarterback Tom Brady struggled with interior pressure on a weekly basis, but the loss of center Ryan Jensen is the first thing you should point to if trying to figure out why Tampa Bay ranks dead last in expected points added per rush and yards per carry. The team also ranks 30th with just 0.9 yards before contact per attempt.
X factor for second half: Edge defender Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. With Shaquil Barrett lost for the season, the second-year edge rusher out of Washington will have to step up and win his one-on-one matchups with regularity. So far this season, his pressure rate is below 10%. He needs to take the next step and close games out if Tampa Bay can build a lead.
11. GREEN BAY PACKERS — Preseason Rank (6)
Biggest strength: Offensive line depth. With David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins missing time this season as they continue to recover from major knee injuries, depth pieces such as tackle Yosh Nijman stepping up to earn a 76.6 pass-blocking grade on over 200 such snaps and rookie Zach Tom earning a 66.1 grade at left tackle in Week 7 followed by a 73.0 grade in Week 8 at left guard has been huge.
Biggest weakness: Wide receiver. This was extremely foreseeable, and yet, here we are. Injuries to Randall Cobb, rookie Christian Watson and others throughout the season have certainly made matters all the more complicated, but Green Bay just did not do enough to address the position this offseason. The group’s 10 drops through Week 9 are the fourth-most of any team, and upshot rookie Romeo Doubs is the latest wide receiver to get injured, leaving early from the team’s Week 9 loss to the Detroit Lions.
X factor for second half: Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson needs to create explosive plays downfield, even if he operates with a limited route tree as he learns the NFL game following his quantum leap from FCS North Dakota State to the pros.
12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS — Preseason Rank (17)
Biggest strength: Wide receivers. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen continue to make up one of the better receiving tandems in the league, with Jefferson squarely in the conversation for the top receiver in the NFL. Since 2020, Jefferson’s 91.9 receiving grade trails only Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp, with his 3,883 receiving yards and 101 explosive receptions topping the charts.
Biggest weakness: Slot cornerback. Vikings slot cornerbacks have combined to earn a 43.5 coverage grade this season, which ranks 29th, with zero forced incompletions and 13.3 yards per reception allowed, also 29th.
X factor for second half: Tight end T.J. Hockenson showed up via a trade deadline acquisition and was heavily involved in the offense immediately, with nine receptions for 70 yards, including two contested catches, in Week 9. Hockenson stepping up as a consistent third option in the passing game for Minnesota could be huge against the better competition in the NFC that won’t just let Justin Jefferson dominate.
13. CLEVELAND BROWNS — Preseason Rank (13)
Biggest strength: Offensive line. Since 2020, Cleveland’s offensive line has the best run-blocking grade in the NFL (91.8) and ranks third in pass protection (80.6). The Browns continue to clear massive holes for running back Nick Chubb and the rest of the running back room week in and week out.
Biggest weakness: Interior defensive line. The exact opposite of its offensive strength, Cleveland failed to address the interior of its defensive line this offseason. The Browns brought edge defender Jadeveon Clowney back on another one-year deal but rank dead last with a 36.2 grade for their interior defender unit. Cleveland is allowing 0.2 expected points added per rush on carries between the tackles, dead last in the NFL.
X factor for second half: Quarterback Deshaun Watson is the obvious choice here. Jacoby Brissett has been solid if unspectacular thus far, but a major upgrade could perhaps keep the AFC North within reach.
14. LOS ANGELES RAMS — Preseason Rank (4)
Biggest strength: Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey — all three superstars rank in the top five in PFF grade at their positions so far this season. However, we’re seeing the ugly side of the stars and scrubs approach thus far for the Rams in 2022, with issues along the offensive line and at edge rusher, as well as their injury luck of years past running out and exposing a lack of depth.
Biggest weakness: Offensive line. Among all the things that broke the Rams’ way in 2021, one that doesn’t get discussed enough is the fact future Hall of Fame left tackle Andrew Whitworth avoided a season-ending injury to his patella tendon and was able to play at an elite level at 40 years old despite requiring surgery after the season. His replacement in tackle Joseph Noteboom was lost for the season to injury, and the interior of the offensive line has experienced several important injuries throughout the season.
X factor for second half: Allen Robinson II. After a very slow start to the season, Robinson did get going with back-to-back five-catch, 50-plus yard outings in Weeks 6 and 8. He needs to bring that level of productivity every game so the Rams can have someone besides Cooper Kupp to target on a consistent basis.
15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — Preseason Rank (12)
Biggest strength: Off-ball linebacker. Demario Davis is currently PFF’s highest-graded linebacker, with an 86.5 mark, and Pete Werner ranks 19th with a 70.4 grade. New Orleans' defense ranks eighth in expected points added allowed per play and fourth in success rate allowed, despite ranking 26th in pass-rush win rate and 31st in quarterback pressure percentage amid several key injuries in the secondary over the course of the season. Davis and Werner patrolling the middle is a big reason why, with both playing well against the run and in coverage. The offensive line was also an option here.
Biggest weakness: Health at wide receiver. Michael Thomas will miss the remainder of the 2022 season after appearing in just three games. He will now have played in just 10 out of a possible 50 regular season games since 2020. He earned a 77.3 receiving grade with three touchdowns in his action this season, still looking somewhat like the Michael Thomas of old, but will again have to focus more on recovery than football for another offseason.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Jarvis Landry. With Thomas out, rookie Chris Olave needs a counterpart for the second half of the season, and quarterback Andy Dalton could use a short-area weapon over the middle with Olave serving as the deep threat.
16. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS — Preseason Rank (29)
Both are top-20 receivers in PFF's wins above replacement metric since Metcalf entered the league in 2019, and that success has continued into 2022. The duo each ranks top 25 in receiving grade, receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns and yards per route run.
Biggest weakness: Edge rush outside of Uchenna Nwosu. Young players in Darrell Taylor and Boye Mafe are coming along but have just 18 combined quarterback pressures to Nwosu’s 33. The team brought back veteran Bruce Irvin another stint in Seattle for a reason, but adding more juice off the edge this upcoming offseason should be a top priority.
X factor for second half: Third wide receiver. Seattle has been fortunate to have Metcalf and Lockett each week as both deal with injuries, but a third option could be crucial come playoff time. Tight ends Will Dissly and Noah Fant are both solid, with Fant putting together by far his best performance as a Seahawk in Week 9 (five receptions for 96 yards).
17. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — Preseason Rank (20)
Biggest strength: Secondary. Despite very legitimate concerns about this New England cornerback group before the season, rookie Jack Jones leads the NFL with a 90.4 coverage grade, and Jonathan Jones ranks eighth with an 82.1 mark after moving from the slot to the outside. New England also has one of the deeper safety groups across the league, with varying skill sets that can be deployed based on the matchup.
Biggest weakness: Interior defensive line with Christian Barmore hurt. The unit has earned a 40.9 grade, which ranks 30th, with a 10.8% pressure rate that ranks 25th.
X factor for second half: Quarterback Mac Jones. Jones’ 49.4 passing grade leads only Sam Ehlinger, Brett Rypien, Taylor Heinicke and Malik Willis. He has to play better if New England wants to keep pace in an AFC East division that contains four teams with winning records.
18. NEW YORK JETS — Preseason Rank (26)
Biggest strength: Defensive line/outside cornerback. The Jets’ 80.6 pass-rush grade ranks third, and depth pieces such as Sheldon Rankins, Nathan Shepherd and Bryce Huff are major reasons why, serving as a part of a top defensive line rotation. Outside cornerback could have been the pick here, as well, with the team’s 88.7 coverage grade leading the NFL, as does their 18.6% forced incompletion rate and 1.27 yards per coverage snap.
Biggest weakness: Quarterback. This is certainly still subject to change, but Zach Wilson’s 5.3% turnover-worthy play rate is a bottom-five mark among quarterbacks. A cleaner performance against the vaunted Buffalo Bills defense in Week 9 is a big step in the right direction.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Elijah Moore. Moore saw zero targets once again in the team’s Week 9 win over the Buffalo Bills, certainly not the usage he was looking for and why he requested a trade.
19. TENNESSEE TITANS — Preseason Rank (19)
Biggest strength: Interior defensive line. And not just superstar Jeffery Simmons, but also former undrafted free agent discovery Teair Tart, whose 78.8 grade ranks 13th among interior defenders. The unit leads the NFL with an 84.2 overall grade and 86.9 pass-rush grade, with their 40 quarterback hurries the fifth-most.
Biggest weakness: Wide receiver/offensive line. The Titans replaced A.J. Brown and Julio Jones at wide receiver with Robert Woods and Treylon Burks this offseason. Brown currently has more receiving yards than the entire corps combined in Tennessee, which had zero receptions against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Treylon Burks. Burks got off to a fast start this season after reports all offseason were that he wasn’t a projected starter, but a stint on injured reserve put a halt to his ascent. When he ultimately returns, he could easily slot right in as the top receiving option in the offense.
20. DENVER BRONCOS — Preseason Rank (14)
Biggest strength: Defense. After pulling off a blockbuster trade for quarterback Russell Wilson, the expectation in Denver probably wasn’t that the defense would rank second in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play and the offense would rank second-to-last in EPA per play. Denver is getting top-end performances from players along the defensive line, at off-ball linebacker and in the secondary. Even with Bradley Chubb traded to the Miami Dolphins, Denver still has Randy Gregory and Baron Browning among depth options. They did well to add a first-round pick to address other needs going forward.
Biggest weakness: Russell Wilson. Wilson got the bye week to rest his banged-up shoulder and quadriceps, which will hopefully get him back on track. Wilson’s 58.8% completion percentage ranks 38th out of 46 qualifying quarterbacks, and he continues to struggle to take the easy completion in favor of big-game hunting downfield.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy has been inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, with the occasional focus drop stalling out a drive when the offense can’t afford any self-inflicted wounds amid the unit's overall struggles.
21. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS — Preseason Rank (21)
Biggest strength: Davante Adams. Adams’ 82.0 receiving grade ranks seventh among wide receivers, with his seven touchdowns tied with Stefon Diggs for the league lead. He’s maybe the lone bright spot in a train wreck of a season thus far for Las Vegas.
Biggest weakness: Cornerback. Las Vegas is expected to sign former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Sidney Jones, and that makes all the sense in the world. Las Vegas has now blown three leads of at least 17-0 through eight games played, becoming just the third team in NFL history to do so in a single season.
X factor for second half: Edge defender Chandler Jones. The obvious answer here is Darren Waller getting his hamstring right, but Jones is looking like one of the worst value free agent deals of the offseason. He has a 58.8 pass-rush grade and a 7.4% pressure percentage, which ranks 79th out of 91 qualifying edge defenders.
22. NEW YORK GIANTS — Preseason Rank (27)
Biggest strength: Interior defensive line. Leonard Williams got his big-money extension, and Dexter Lawrence may very well be next in line, with his 90.1 grade the sixth-best mark among interior defenders. Lawrence’s 90.5 pass-rush grade is a career high and second-best among interior defenders so far this season. His 16.2% pass-rush win rate ranks seventh.
Biggest weakness: Wide receiver. New York signed Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal over the 2021 offseason and then used a first-round pick on wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Neither scored a touchdown for the Giants since, with Toney now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson has become more involved each week and has the speed to take the top off opposing defenses and the short-area quickness to get open early for quarterback Daniel Jones.
X factor for second half: Edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux. He’s had some pursuit tackles that make the pre-draft concerns about his lack of effort seem ridiculous in hindsight, but he hasn’t quite become a difference-maker as a pass rusher … yet. However, it looks like he very well could end up as the best edge defender of the trio taken in the top five of the 2022 NFL Draft.
23. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — Preseason Rank (28)
Biggest strength: Pass blocking. The Jaguars' roster is unique in that it is average to above average in a lot of areas but not especially good or bad at any position group. The Jaguars have been solid in pass protection, earning a 72.9 grade that ranks seventh and allowing pressure on just 19.2% of dropbacks, which ranks fifth. They also have solid depth, including young tackle Walker Little.
Biggest weakness: Outside wide receiver. Big-ticket free agent wide receiver Christian Kirk has been a great addition and quite productive out of the slot, but Jacksonville still needs an infusion of talent out wide. Trading for Calvin Ridley at the trade deadline will go a long way in addressing the weakness once he’s eligible to return in 2023. Jaguars outside wide receivers have earned a 65.6 receiving grade this season, which ranks 23rd,
X factor for second half: First overall pick edge defender Travon Walker is still a work in progress, as his selection was more about betting on traits than adding a polished edge defender. If Walker can continue to improve and start winning more of his one-on-one matchups, he and Josh Allen could become a tough edge duo to handle.
24. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS — Preseason Rank (18)
Biggest strength: Defensive line. This unit remains by far the best part of the roster, with Montez Sweat taking a leap in his fourth NFL season and earning an 89.6 overall grade that ranks sixth among edge defenders. He joins Nick Bosa and Maxx Crosby as the only edge defenders with 80.0-plus marks in run defense and as a pass-rusher.
Biggest weakness: Interior offensive line. Quarterback is an acceptable answer here, as well, with the full rollercoaster of the Taylor Heinicke experience on display with his back-breaking interception against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9. The interior of the offensive line has a 46.4 pass-block grade that ranks 28th, allowing pressure on 19.0% of dropbacks, which is 29th.
X factor for second half: Edge defender Chase Young. Young has begun practicing, and his highly anticipated return appears imminent. He’s the final piece of four straight draft picks used on defensive linemen, and all four finally playing together when healthy could take over games.
25. ARIZONA CARDINALS — Preseason Rank (23)
Biggest strength: Wide receiver. DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore are a fun trio of receivers with completely different skill sets. Defenses will be stretched very thin defending Hopkins and Brown together, with Moore working underneath and Robbie Anderson stretching the field deep.
Biggest weakness: Cornerback. Arizona’s cornerbacks rank 30th with a 48.3 overall grade, and the team has allowed a successful play on 53.2% of dropbacks, the third-worst rate in the NFL.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Marquise Brown. The sooner he can return from injury, the better. We were robbed of seeing Brown and DeAndre Hopkins play together, but when that day comes, the Cardinals will be tough to stop through the air. Brown ranked fourth in targets and fifth in receptions from Week 1-6, and now Hopkins has been third in targets and tied-for-first in receptions since Week 6.
26. ATLANTA FALCONS — Preseason Rank (30)
Biggest strength: Run blocking. Atlanta’s 74.3 run-blocking grade is third-best in the NFL, and whether it's Cordarrelle Patterson, rookie Tyler Allgeier or anyone else, the Falcons are creating a major push up front to pave the way. Atlanta’s 1.8 yards before contact per attempt ranks sixth, and rushers have been stuffed on only 6.0% of carries, the sixth-lowest rate on the year.
Biggest weakness: Edge defenders. Atlanta’s 51.6 pass-rush grade from its edge defenders is dead last, and that was the case in 2021, as well. Their 16.2% pass-rush win rate and 11.8% pressure rate are both 31st.
X factor for second half: Arnold Ebiketie. With the lack of edge talent highlighted above, Ebiketie’s continued emergence might be the key to Atlanta making the playoffs. Over the past five weeks, Ebiketie’s 11 quarterback pressures are more than the rest of the group combined, as are his five quarterback hits, with no one else even at two.
27. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS — Preseason Rank (15)
Biggest strength: Interior defensive line. Grover Stewart has blossomed into a very good player, with his 75.0 run-defense grade ranking 11th among interior defenders, his 12 tackles for loss or no gain the most and his 20 defensive stops tied for the most with Jonathan Allen. DeForest Buckner’s 79.0 overall grade is 10th among interior defenders.
Biggest weakness: Quarterback. With Matt Ryan benched to avoid having to pay him more money in 2023, Sam Ehlinger has made two starts that have been somewhat disastrous. Ehlinger’s 46.8 grade is fourth-worst, with his 5.8 yards per attempt ranking 40th out of 46 qualifying passers.
X factor for second half: Quarterback Sam Ehlinger. This is the only answer here, even if it’s entirely possible Indianapolis ownership isn’t prioritizing wins in 2022 with the decision to replace Ryan with Ehlinger. See what you have in the former Texas product and inform your draft decision process — perhaps finally using a high pick on a quarterback after all.
28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS — Preseason Rank (22)
Biggest strength: Defensive line. There aren’t many better tandems along the defensive front than T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward, with both players ranking in the top three in PFF wins above replacement over the past three seasons. Alex Highsmith has also emerged on the edge, while free agent addition Larry Ogunjobi is playing solid football on the interior. Once Watt returns to full health, the Steelers will need to take over games with their front if they want to win a few games to close out the year.
Biggest weakness: Offensive line. Signing James Daniels in free agency appears to have been a sharp move, with his 70.2 grade ranking 14th among guards. Beyond Daniels, it’s been tough sledding for the Steelers up front, ranking 24th in yards before contact per rushing attempt at just 1.1 yards. Their tackles have combined to earn a 62.7 pass-blocking grade, which ranks 25th.
X factor for second half: Quarterback Kenny Pickett. The second half of the Steelers season is all about seeing what they have in the rookie Pickett.
29. CHICAGO BEARS — Preseason Rank (32)
Biggest strength: Safety. The unit ranks seventh with a 73.2 grade on the year, with Eddie Jackson back to playing closer to his All-Pro level, intercepting four of the 14 targets thrown into his coverage this season, the third-best interception per coverage target rate among safeties. Rookie Jaquan Brisker has been a plus starter since Day 1, with a top-20 coverage grade and three sacks on the season while looking like he’s shot out of a cannon when the Bears bring him on the occasional pressure look.
Biggest weakness: Defensive line. Chicago’s edge defender unit ranks last in overall PFF grade (50.2), and the team's interior defender unit ranks 31st (37.5). An already porous defense was a seller at the deadline, with edge defender Robert Quinn off to Philadelphia and former top-10 pick linebacker Roquan Smith off to Baltimore. Chicago unsurprisingly ranks dead last in pass-rush win rate, at 31.9%. Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson very well may outperform their respective draft status, but edge is a position where the best players are taken as early as possible, and Chicago also needs to add significant talent on the interior.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Chase Claypool. Claypool changes everything for this Bears offense and the outlook for the rest of their season, with losses like the 35-32 thriller against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9 exactly the type of game that can still generate positive buzz. Claypool showed what he can provide for quarterback Justin Fields: a big-bodied jump ball receiver who can box out at the catch point and command defenses' attention because of his big play threat.
30. CAROLINA PANTHERS — Preseason Rank (24)
Biggest strength: Defensive line. Carolina reportedly turned down a trade offer of a 2023 second-, 2024 first- and 2025 first-round pick for edge defender Brian Burns — which seems crazy — but also illustrates how much the team values him. Derrick Brown also appears to be making the third-year leap right before our eyes, with a career-best 89.7 grade that ranks sixth among interior defenders and an 84.2 run-defense grade that’s currently the top mark at the position — buoyed by 16 defensive stops, which ranks sixth.
Biggest weakness: Quarterback. Carolina’s quarterback situation presents new challenges each and every week, with Baker Mayfield finishing the game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 9 after an ugly first half for P.J. Walker. Realistically, the 2023 starter is probably not currently on the roster, and that includes 2022 third-round pick Matt Corral.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. It remains something of a mystery why Marshall rarely ever saw the field under head coach Matt Rhule. While he does have some inconsistent hands, he’s been productive when inserted into the lineup. Since Week 7, Marshall’s 73.6 receiving grade ranks 23rd among wide receivers, his six explosive receptions are tied for sixth and his 6.9 yards after the catch per reception ranks seventh.
31. DETROIT LIONS — Preseason Rank (25)
Biggest strength: Run blocking. Detroit’s 2.0 yards before contact per attempt is the third-best mark in the NFL — a big reason why they’ve found success even with D’Andre Swift missing extended time.
Biggest weakness: Cornerbacks. 2020 first-round cornerback Jeff Okudah has shown some flashes of the talent that made him the third overall pick, but outside of him, the cornerback position is a giant question mark. Lions cornerbacks have earned a 46.4 grade, which ranks 31st, with the defense’s .203 expected points added per dropback allowed also the second-worst mark in the league. The lack of a pass rush is a factor here as well, but recent investments up front should create more optimism than a secondary in need of a lot of work.
X factor for second half: First-round rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams. Especially with tight end T.J. Hockenson now a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit desperately needs a legitimate No. 2 receiving option in the passing game beyond Amon-Ra St. Brown. While every player has their own individual circumstances, there’s reason for optimism about Williams given how good the rest of the 2022 NFL Draft wide receivers have been thus far.
32. HOUSTON TEXANS — Preseason Rank (31)
Biggest strength: Secondary. Houston re-signed cornerback Desmond King II, added Steven Nelson and used its first- and second-round picks on Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre all in one offseason. While there have been growing pains, you can see flashes of a talented young secondary starting to come together. The tackle tandem of Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard is an honorable mention here, with their combined 77.9 pass-blocking grade ranking fourth-best in the NFL. And rookie running back Dameon Pierce is a strength in himself, with his 90.4 rushing grade placing sixth-best.
Biggest weakness: Everything else. If Brandin Cooks has played his last game in Houston, the team's wide receiver group will be one of the worst in the NFL. The interior of the offensive line and defensive line are very exploitable, as well.
X factor for second half: Wide receiver Nico Collins. Collins needs to show he has the ability to operate as the top receiving option if Brandin Cooks is out the door soon — or at the least look like a legitimate No. 2 option. Second-round rookie wide receiver John Metchie III will hopefully be playing football soon after working his way through a cancer diagnosis.