The NFC is the kinder, gentler assemblage of teams for a certain purple-clad squad that hasn't won a conference title since Dec. 26, 1976.

The G.O.A.T. (Tom Brady) is gone in Tampa Bay. Aaron Rodgers is, slooowly but certainly, on his way out in Green Bay. And, by gosh, love him or hate him, Kirk Cousins just might be the NFC's best quarterback, or at least the best one not named Jalen.

So, yes, there are reasons for Vikings fans to breathe deeply, move beyond their beloved team's latest playoff pratfall and dream of the possibility of a 2023 season that doesn't include a salary cap-induced swoon or the doomed banana-peel ending that typically ambushes this franchise in good times.

That being said, how should one rank the Purple among NFC hierarchy now that the first wave of free agency has come and gone?

Well …

The bad news is the Vikings haven't gotten better since landing the NFC's No. 3 seed in 2022. At least not on paper. The good news is the NFL doesn't play its games on paper, nor does it play official games of any sort until September.

It also helps that reigning NFC champion Philadelphia isn't getting better either. And that the Vikings' road to the Super Bowl doesn't traverse the AFC Autobahn with the likes of QBs named Mahomes, Burrow, Allen, Lawrence, Herbert, Tagovailoa, Jackson if he stays in Baltimore and presumably the four-time MVP Rodgers in the Big Apple.

Here's a waaay-too-early look at the NFC Power Rankings:

1. 49ers (13-4 last year): Last year's NFC runner-up and most well-balanced team beefed up its top-ranked defense with prized free-agent tackle Javon Hargrave, the catalyst at the core of Philly's vaunted pass rush. But the 49ers join the Rams as the only NFC teams without a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.

2. Eagles (14-3): Philly's depth will be tested after five of nine key defenders — all with more than 700 snaps a year ago — left via free agency. Offensively, All-Pro center Jason Kelce putting off retirement a year is a big plus. Philly also has the 10th and 30th overall picks this year.

3. Lions (9-8): Oh, what the heck. Let's go kinda all-in on a confident Dan Campbell-led outfit that finished fast last year, improved its defense considerably with defensive backs Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, has a pass-rushing star in the making (Aidan Hutchinson) and possesses a legit, high-scoring offense that's forcing people to take Jared Goff more seriously. The Lions also have the sixth and 18th picks in the draft, meaning they could add two more highly impactful players, including defensive tackle Jalen Carter, the best player in the draft, if he falls out of the top five. (Then again, Detroit could just be, well, Detroit.)

4. Cowboys (12-5)

5. Giants (9-7-1)

6. Seahawks (9-8)

7. Vikings (13-4): There are a lot of ifs for a team that's no doubt good but did have 11 one-score wins and a disappointing one-and-done home playoff loss last season, and has now experienced the transitional pains of being well over the salary cap when a window of opportunity closes. Ditching Ed Donatell and his woefully passive defense for Brian Flores' aggressiveness was commendable. But it's a difference-maker only if Flores has the players to pull it off, especially at cornerback, where the team lost Patrick Peterson and Duke Shelley and must bank on Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans and Byron Murphy Jr. staying healthy.

8. Panthers (7-10)

9. Bears (3-14): If Justin Fields makes a Jalen Hurts-sized Year 3 leap, Chicago could upend the NFC North sooner than later. Trading the No. 1 overall pick while getting the ninth pick, three more picks AND receiver D.J. Moore was a nice haul. So was using the team's league-high cap space to add three key defensive starters in Tremaine Edmunds, DeMarcus Walker and T.J. Edwards.

10. Saints (7-10)

11. Rams (5-12)

12. Buccaneers (8-9)

13. Commanders (8-8-1)

14. Packers (8-9): Shoot, this ranking might be too high considering the Packers have added virtually nothing in free agency, lost some key players and are moving on from Rodgers. The time is right to unload Rodgers. And if Green Bay gets the Jets' 13th overall pick for a 39-year-old player, that's a better-than-good deal. But as for 2023, let's just say the odds are against Jordan Love picking up where Brett Favre and Rodgers left off over the past 31 seasons.

15. Falcons (7-10)

16. Cardinals (4-13)