We are approaching the halfway point of the 2023 NFL regular season, which is hard to believe. Over the last seven weeks, we've witnessed surprises, disappointments, upsets and dominant performances. It's still relatively early, but who do you believe has the wherewithal to go all the way? And which teams will fade as the year goes on?
Below, we will sort out the contenders and pretenders in the NFL through seven weeks among teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, complete with as a guide. Let's start with the best teams in the league.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-1, 1st in AFC West)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 1
The reigning Super Bowl champions are obviously contenders. Through seven weeks, the Chiefs have the No. 2 offense in the league (396.7 yards per game) and are tied in having the No. 6 scoring offense (25.4 points per game). What is notable about Kansas City this year, however, is that the Chiefs have the No. 7 defense (294.6 yards per game allowed), and the No. 2 scoring defense (15 points per game allowed). The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL to not have allowed 22 or more points in a single game this season!
The defense has supported the Chiefs offense so far this season, which hasn't been as explosive as expected, but Patrick Mahomes and Co. got on track last week against the Los Angeles Chargers with 483 yards of total offense. They are the Super Bowl favorites for good reason.
San Francisco 49ers (5-2, 1st in NFC West)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 5
Brock Purdy just dropped consecutive games to P.J. Walker and prime-time Kirk Cousins. Yikes. Not only that, but rookie wideout Jordan Addison bullied San Francisco's secondary. Injuries have hurt this team over the last two weeks, and even if the 49ers aren't the juggernauts we thought they were early in the season, they are still contenders.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-1, 1st in NFC East)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 2
Jalen Hurts already has 10 turnovers in seven games this year after recording just eight all of last season, and he's dealing with a knee injury that's worth monitoring, but the reigning NFC champions are contenders.
Philly averages 26.6 points per game (No. 4 in the NFL) and averages 389.3 yards of total offense per game (No. 3 in the NFL). As for the defense, this front seven is outstanding, and leads the league in rushing yards allowed per game (62.9). Maybe the secondary hasn't been incredible up to this point, but the addition of two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard will help that.
Miami Dolphins (5-2, 1st in AFC East)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 7
Many are rethinking where the Dolphins should land in NFL power rankings after they dropped games to the Buffalo Bills and Eagles, but the Dolphins are still contenders. Remember, Miami was without its top two cornerbacks in that recent matchup vs. Philly.
The Dolphins have scored a league-leading 240 points through seven games, and have the No. 1 offense in yards of total offense per game (462.3), the top-ranked passing offense (300.0 yards per game) and the No. 1 rushing offense as well (162.3 yards per game). It comes down to remaining healthy and defense, but with Jalen Ramsey and Vic Fangio in charge, I have faith the Dolphins aren't some early-season flash in the pan.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2, 1st in AFC North)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 3
I told you it was time to buy stock in the Ravens. Baltimore shocked the NFL world with a 38-6 beatdown of the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Lamar Jackson and the offense scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, while the Lions didn't pick up a first down until there were under eight minutes left in the second quarter. Baltimore racked up 500 yards of total offense, and could have done a lot more damage if the game wasn't over by halftime.
If the Ravens offense has arrived, that's a scary thought for the rest of the NFL, because their defense is elite as well. This unit ranks top two in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense, 25+ yard plays allowed, sacks, opponent red-zone TD percentage and yards per play this season. The Ravens are for real.
Dallas Cowboys (4-2, 2nd in NFC East)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 6
The Cowboys found a way to win a tight one against the Chargers their last time out, so you have to tip your cap to them there. Mike McCarthy still makes some confusing decisions like waiting to call a timeout late in the second quarter to lay up for a field goal, but the Cowboys are a top 10 team that will likely have another chance in a couple months to change the narrative when it comes to their performance in the postseason.
Dak Prescott's wide receiving corps hasn't been as good as I expected it to be, Tony Pollard is averaging fewer rushing yards per game than he did last year and the defense lost a couple of playmakers including Trevon Diggs, but the Cowboys are a playoff team that will at least have a shot to make a run. Dallas is riding that fine line of contender vs. pretender.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2, 1st in AFC South)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 4
I'm flip-flopping on the Jaguars this week, moving them from the pretender category to contender. Now, we will see if Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson can stay here. Jacksonville is on a four-game winning streak, which is the second-longest active winning streak behind the Chiefs (6), and Travis Etienne is having a remarkable season with 700 total yards from scrimmage, which ranks No. 5 in the NFL.
My main worry with the Jaguars heading into 2023 wasn't the offense, but the defense. This unit ranks seventh-worst in the league in yards allowed per game (354.4), and has the second-worst pass defense through seven weeks. Still, this unit forces game-changing turnovers.
Cleveland Browns (4-2, 3rd in AFC North)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 9
I'm not ready to promote the Browns to contenders yet despite their two-game win streak. I was shocked to see Cleveland's defense give up 38 points to the Gardner Minshew offense that got crushed by the Jaguars just a week earlier. But the Browns got the win, which is all that really matters. This defense is going to keep the Browns in every game, but questions remain about the offense.
I want to know if Deshaun Watson will fully recover from his rotator cuff injury. Why was he even playing on Sunday? Now he has residual swelling that is affecting his throwing. Watson was previously considered day to day while battling what was reported to be a strain of the subscapularis within the rotator cuff -- and continues to have both pain and weakness with movement in the shoulder, according to ESPN.
It will be exciting to see how the AFC North shakes out and the Browns absolutely could make the playoffs. But I have more faith in the Ravens at this point, and then we don't know what will happen with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns belong in the "TBD" category.
Detroit Lions (5-2, 1st in NFC North)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 8
Oh no. The Lions were supposed to be the hottest team in the league, but they went to Baltimore and got down 28-0 before anyone could even blink. It tied the largest halftime deficit in NFL history by a team with the best record in the league this late in a season.
The reason I was questioning this squad initially was because of the injuries on defense (Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley). Issues in the secondary popped up this past week, as the Ravens had nine plays of 20+ yards in just the first half! That's tied for the most 20-yard plays allowed by any team in the first half since 2000. Yeah, it's one game, but I have an eye on the Lions defense moving forward.
Buffalo Bills (4-3, 2nd AFC East)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 13
My belief in the Bills was very shaky to begin with, and then Sunday happened. The offense has gotten off to slow starts in consecutive weeks, but I'm not too worried about that side of the ball.
Losing Tre'Davious White, DaQuan Jones and Matt Milano for what could be the entire season are very serious hits to this defense. Mac Jones looked like he was on his way out of the league until he faced the Bills. Against Buffalo's D, he orchestrated several long drives -- including the game-winning possession -- and threw two touchdowns compared to five incompletions. The Bills don't look like a contender at all right now.
Seattle Seahawks (4-2, 2nd in NFC West)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 10
If you were to ask me about a team you should buy stock in right now, I would name the Seahawks. Geno Smith averaged a season-high 9.1 yards per attempt against the Arizona Cardinals last week, Kenneth Walker is playing well and Jaxon Smith-Njigba had his breakout performance. Week 7 wasn't all perfect, however, as Seattle lost the turnover battle 3-0.
It's the Seahawks defense that has really impressed me. Seattle hasn't allowed more than 17 points in three weeks, Bobby Wagner is still a stud, Jamal Adams' return has been felt and then there's rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon, who allows a 43.8 completion percentage rate when targeted, and a 48.4 passer rating. I like the Seahawks, but I still don't think they are Super Bowl contenders right now. Still, they should be a fun team to watch moving forward.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2, 2nd in AFC North)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 11
I was high on the Steelers entering this season, but as everyone knows, the offense has sputtered out of the gate. I agree with the general consensus that offensive coordinator Matt Canada has played a large part in these struggles, because the Steelers possess talent on that side of the ball. Pittsburgh averages 273.5 total yards per game, which ranks second-worst in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons (4-3, 1st in NFC South)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 12
The Falcons are now in first place in the NFC South after a gross win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which Desmond Ridder turned the ball over three times in the red zone. It's a miracle Atlanta won. Ridder leads the NFL in turnovers, and has given the ball away a whopping nine times in just the last four games. Still, the Falcons offense isn't terrible with Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson running the ball.
The Falcons have an underrated defense, as they rank No. 3 in yards allowed per game (285.4). David Onyemata leads the team in sacks, tackles for loss and QB hits, Calais Campbell is the oldest player to register a sack in back-to-back games since 2018, Kaden Elliss leads the team in tackles and Jessie Bates III has been one of the best free agency signings. The Falcons are solid, but they aren't a Super Bowl contender. Maybe Taylor Heinicke could change that. I'm kidding. Kind of.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3, 2nd in NFC South)
Prisco's Week 8 power ranking: 20
The Bucs are slipping, and are 1-3 since starting the season 2-0. With the Bills up next, they could be 3-4 and ineligible for this column next week.