NFL Rankings: Where Teams Started vs. Where They Are Now

NFL Rankings: Where Teams Started vs. Where They Are Now

The NFL rankings are constantly changing – not just every year, but every week. One loss can be the difference between sitting at the top of the league and dropping to the middle of the pack. It’s part of what makes the NFL season so interesting to watch and follow every single year. 

At the beginning of each season, analysts and journalists across the country do their best to predict how the season will turn out. They go through week-by-week and guess the outcomes of each game, eventually arriving at a prediction for each team’s record by the end of the season.

A lot of thought goes into these pre-season NFL rankings, but it’s very rare that these analysts are right. No matter how hard they try, it’s extremely difficult to predict injuries, trades, releases, performance, off-the-field issues, and all the other drama that unfolds during the regular season.

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2021-222 NFL Rankings vs. 2020-21 NFL Rankings

NFL Rankings: Where Teams Started vs. Where They Are Now
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Let’s be honest, a lot can happen in one offseason. Teams that dominated the year before might find themselves near the bottom of the NFL rankings the following season. Likewise, teams that struggled on the field last year can make the necessary adjustments to improve this season.

That’s why it’s always interesting to see which teams improved, which teams deteriorated, and which teams maintained status quo by the end of the season. Some of them are surprising, while others aren’t. Either way, it’s what most analysts are talking about by the end of the year. 

With the 2021-22 regular season over and the 2022 playoffs in full effect, let’s take a look at how each team has fared when compared to last season’s NFL rankings. We’ll start with the only team that remained in the same exact spot between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 NFL rankings. 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14-0)

2020-21 Record: 1-15-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 32

The Jacksonville Jaguars were the worst team in the league last season and they somehow managed to do it again this season – though they did improve by two wins. The Jaguars have been the laughing stock of the league for quite some time now and if they can’t find the right coach this offseason, it could continue in 2022 and beyond. 

31. Detroit Lions (3-13-1)

2020-21 Record: 5-11-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 26

The Detroit Lions took a small step backward compared to last season, which isn’t good considering they were the 26th worst team last year. Of course, not much was expected from the team, considering they were rolling with a new head coach and a new quarterback. We’ll see if they can improve in time for next season, but that’s unlikely. 

30. New York Jets (4-13-0)

2020-21 Record: 2-14-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 31

The New York Jets were the second-worst team in the league last season, but moved up one spot this season. Much like the Lions, they had a new head coach and new quarterback, which made it difficult to win in a tough league. Their future looks good, especially with their young quarterback, but it might take a few years for it to show itself. 

29. New York Giants (4-13-0)

2020-21 Record: 6-10-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 22

Analysts are always high on the New York Giants before each season, but it never amounts to anything. They had a decent year in 2020, but took a step backward in 2021. Now, many people in the league are wondering whether or not they have the right quarterback. After firing their head coach at season’s end, it could be a while before they trend upward. 

28. Houston Texans (4-13-0)

2020-21 Record: 4-12-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 30

The Houston Texans might’ve moved up two spots in the NFL rankings, but don’t let that fool you – the dysfunction in this franchise is real. They still have Deshaun Watson on their roster, despite trying to find a trade partner for well over a year now. To make matters worse, they recently fired their head coach, despite him being the best guy for the job. 

27. Carolina Panthers (5-12-0)

2020-21 Record: 5-11-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 24

The Carolina Panthers are in a difficult position right now. They’re in a rebuild, but there’s not much building going on. Their head coach is struggling, they don’t have a proven quarterback for the future (or present), and they don’t have a lot of resources to improve this offseason. Barring several blockbuster trades, expect this team to be near the bottom again next season.

26. Chicago Bears (6-11-0)

2020-21 Record: 8-8-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 15

The Chicago Bears moved on from Mitchell Trubisky and tried to roll with Andy Dalton and rookie quarterback Justin Fields this season. It didn’t quite go as planned and it’s clear they needed to make some changes this offseason. They did so in firing their head coach and GM, which signals the mark of a true rebuild moving forward. 

25. Washington Football Team (7-10-0)

2020-21 Record: 7-9-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 20

The Washington Football Team is currently in a rebuild and while many analysts thought they would fare better this season, they seem to be one quarterback away from seeing real progress. Whether they find that quarterback or not is the real question, but they certainly have a ton of pieces to build around and the right head coach for the job – Ron Rivera

24. Seattle Seahawks (7-10-0)

2020-21 Record: 12-4-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 6

Of all the teams that took a step back this season, the Seattle Seahawks took the biggest. They were the sixth-best team a year ago, but were the ninth-worst this season. If Russell Wilson decides to leave this offseason, they’ll likely enter a long rebuild that could keep them on this side of the NFL rankings for several years. 

23. Denver Broncos (7-10-0)

2020-21 Record: 5-11-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 25

The Denver Broncos put their trust in a new quarterback this season – Teddy Bridgewater – and while he was better than Drew Lock was a year ago, it wasn’t good enough. It’s still unclear if Bridgewater is the answer moving forward, but the Broncos made headlines when they fired their head coach. They seem intent on hiring Dan Quinn, but we’ll see if it’s the right move.

22. Atlanta Falcons (7-10-0)

2020-21 Record: 4-12-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 29

The Atlanta Falcons took a step forward this season, but it’s clear they’re not the same team they were a couple years ago when they made it to the Super Bowl. They have a lot to answer this offseason and one of the biggest questions is what to do with Matt Ryan. With that said, they have a lot of good pieces and can surprise a lot of people next season.

21. Minnesota Vikings (8-9-0)

2020-21 Record: 7-9-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 18

The Minnesota Vikings had some good moments this season, but they also had some terrible moments. The up-and-down season led to the team’s GM and head coach being fired, which means a lot of changes are looming. That can either be really good for this team or really bad. Only time will tell, but they have several star players to build around. 

20. Cleveland Browns (8-9-0)

2020-21 Record: 11-5-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 8

The Cleveland Browns were supposed to have a ‘dream team,’ but that didn’t last long. After a good season last year, they took a step back and struggled to assert themselves as a dominant team. They have a great run game and Baker Mayfield has some good moments, but he hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being a No. 1 overall pick.

19. Baltimore Ravens (8-9-0)

2020-21 Record: 11-5-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 7

The Baltimore Ravens are in a similar position as the Browns. They had a great 2020-21 season and many people thought they’d be even better this season. Unfortunately, it didn’t go that way and now we have no idea what to think of them. Without a lot of cap space this offseason, they’ll need to make some tough decisions if they want to improve next year.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8-0)

2020-21 Record: 4-11-1

2020-21 Ranking: No. 28

The Philadelphia Eagles had a rough season a year ago, but decided to stick with their quarterback Jalen Hurts. The team certainly improved and even made it to the playoffs, but they still have a long way to go if they want to be respected in this league. That starts with giving Hurts some skill players on offense, but their defense is the real problem here. 

17. New Orleans Saints (9-8-0)

2020-21 Record: 12-4-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 4

The New Orleans Saints went from being a top-four team to being a middle-of-the-pack team. What was different this time around? Well, they didn’t have their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees under center. He retired at the end of last season, but they seem to like what they have in Jameis Winston. He’s nowhere near the same player, but he can work for now. 

16. Miami Dolphins (9-8-0)

2020-21 Record: 10-6-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 13

The Miami Dolphins are still trying to figure out if Tua Tagovailoa is their quarterback of the future. What was even more surprising was the fact that they let their head coach go at the end of the 2021-22 season. It’ll certainly complicate things for the young quarterback, but who knows – it could be the right move if they find a quality coach moving forward.

15. Los Angeles Chargers (9-8-0)

2020-21 Record: 7-9-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 17

The Los Angeles Chargers are certainly a team to watch in the future. They’ve done what very few teams have done in the past few years and found themselves a young quarterback they can trust on a weekly basis. Now they just need to continue finding the right pieces to build around Justin Herbert. If they can do that, this team will continue moving up the NFL rankings.

14. Indianapolis Colts (9-8-0)

2020-21 Record: 11-5-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 9

The Indianapolis Colts fell out of the top-ten this season, despite having a ton of optimism about adding Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback. Now, they’re starting to question whether or not he’s the answer moving forward. They have some very talented skill players on both offense and defense, so a consistent quarterback would go a long way in securing their future. 

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)

2020-21 Record: 12-4-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 5

The Pittsburgh Steelers went from a top-five team to falling out of the top-ten in what is likely Ben Roethlisberger’s final season in Black and Yellow. A lot of their future now leans on their ability to find a replacement quarterback. If they roll with Mason Rudolph, expect them to take another step back next season because he’s not the answer. 

12. San Francisco 49ers (10-7-0)

2020-21 Record: 6-10-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 23

The San Francisco 49ers are both built for the present and the future. They rolled with Jimmy Garoppolo most of the season and while he has yet to live up to expectations, it was enough to win 10 games and earn a spot in the playoffs. With that said, his future with the team is unclear with Trey Lance looking for a starting role next season. 

11. New England Patriots (10-7-0)

2020-21 Record: 7-9-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 19

The New England Patriots looked like they might win the AFC East for the first time since Tom Brady left. Unfortunately, they had a mediocre end of the season and finished one game behind the Buffalo Bills. Still, they made the playoffs with their rookie quarterback Mac Jones and the future looks bright under one of the greatest head coaches of all-time, Bill Belichick

10. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7-0)

2020-21 Record: 8-8-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 16

The Las Vegas Raiders had a bit of a rocky season, despite winning 10 games. Their head coach resigned halfway through the season, their star receiver was charged with DUI after killing a Vegas resident in a car crash, and their cornerback was let go after a video surfaced online of him making threats with a gun. It was a weird season for the team, to say the least. 

9. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7-0)

2020-21 Record: 4-11-1

2020-21 Ranking: No. 27

The Cincinnati Bengals took the biggest leap forward of any team this season. A big reason for that was the health of their quarterback, Joe Burrow. After missing most of last season, Burrow returned and put on a show with rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase. It looks like the team will only get better in the coming years, so they’re worth keeping an eye on. 

8. Buffalo Bills (11-6-0)

2020-21 Record: 13-3-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 2

The Buffalo Bills didn’t have the 13-win season they had last season, but they did have the No. 1 overall defense in both yardage and scoring. Of course, that’s not even mentioning their high-powered offense that can make any defense look silly. This team will be in the top-ten for many years to come, so get used to seeing them near the top. 

7. Arizona Cardinals (11-7-0)

2020-21 Record: 8-8-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 14

The Arizona Cardinals were the best team at the beginning of the season, starting the year 7-0 and even improving to 10-2 by Week 13. Unfortunately, they lost four of their last five games to finish 11-7. It’s a step forward compared to last season, but it’s clear this team has more in the tank and it’s going to be interesting to see what they put together next year. 

6. Tennessee Titans (12-5-0)

2020-21 Record: 11-5-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 11

The Tennessee Titans started the season 2-2, but won their next six games to improve to 8-2. After two straight losses, they won four of their final five games to become the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. Once they get a healthy Derrick Henry back from injury, the sky’s the limit for this team – especially if they can find themselves a quarterback for the future. 

5. Los Angeles Rams (12-5-0)

2020-21 Record: 10-6-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 12

The Los Angeles Rams took a gamble this past offseason when they traded their starting quarterback away for a new one. It turned out to be the right move as Matthew Stafford looked like his old self. They have a lot of weapons, both on offense and defense, so expect them to continue getting better with one of the best head coaches on the sidelines. 

4. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5-0)

2020-21 Record: 14-2-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 1

The Kansas City Chiefs were the No. 1 team last season, but started the 2021-22 campaign on the wrong foot. After a 3-4 start to the year, the Chiefs started to figure things out and won nine of their final 10 games. With one of the more stacked rosters in the entire league, this team isn’t going anywhere and will be in the top-five for many years to come. 

3. Dallas Cowboys (12-5-0)

2020-21 Record: 6-10-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 21

The Dallas Cowboys had a disappointing year last season, but a lot of that had to do with the injury to Dak Prescott. He returned this season and led his team to the third-best record in the league. They still have a long way to go if they want to remain a contender every year, but the addition of Micah Parsons has made all the difference on the defensive end. 

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4-0)

2020-21 Record: 11-5-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 10

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the oldest quarterback in the league playing under center every week, but he often looks like one of the youngest. Tom Brady hasn’t missed a step and won two more games in 2021 than he did in his first year with Tampa. The team is stacked and can make you look silly in a variety of ways. As long as Brady’s there, they’ll keep winning. 

1. Green Bay Packers (13-4-0)

2020-21 Record: 13-3-0

2020-21 Ranking: No. 3

The Green Bay Packers won 13 games last season and they did it again this season. Aaron Rodgers had yet another MVP-caliber year, despite many people doubting his commitment to the Packers. They’re heavy favorites to win the Super Bowl, but Rodgers’ future with the team is still in question. If he remains, this team will be back better than ever next year. 

Are Any Teams Trending Upwards in the NFL Rankings?

The NFL rankings look a lot different at the end of this season compared to the end of last season and we can expect the same thing to happen again next season. There’s sure to be a lot of trades and new faces with new teams ahead of the 2022-23 season, so be prepared!

With that said, there are several teams that seem to be trending upwards – regardless of how they fared in the past two seasons. A lot of that has to do with the quarterback position, as it’s one of the hardest positions to fill in the NFL. Several teams have found their guy for the future. 

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Expect big things from teams like the Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, and New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Arizona Cardinals aren’t going anywhere either. And who knows, maybe the Jaguars won’t three-peat as the worst team.

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