NFL Predictions 2023 - Can anyone stop the Chiefs?
As summer fades into autumn, football fans rejoice as we eagerly await kickoff of the 2023 NFL season. Ahead of tonight's opener, between the defending Super Bowl champions, Kansas City Chiefs, and the vastly improved, Detroit Lions, we take a look into our crystal ball and predict what the next 5 months has in store. A first time MVP? A hotly contested offensive player of the year race? and of course, the big question, can anybody stop the Chiefs?
AFC DIVISION WINNERS -
AFC NORTH - CINCINNATI BENGALS
In the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals secure top spot for the third year in a row, led by Joe Burrow and his trio of top receivers. The Ravens, with their new look offense, keep it close and push the Bengals all the way. Ultimately coming up short, but Baltimore do make the playoffs as one of the AFC's Wildcards. The Steelers and Browns both find themselves just outside of playoff contention but end with respectable records. Eyes will be on Kenny Pickett to see if he can make 'the leap' in his sophomore season, which may be enough to at least keep Mike Tomlins winning season streak alive.
AFC EAST - BUFFALO BILLS
Over in the AFC East, a Josh Allen led Buffalo Bills manage to hold off a hungry New York Jets team, with new starting Quarterback and 4 time MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Although just missing out on the division crown, Jets fans should be happy to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season, ending the longest playoff drought in the entire NFL. Down in Miami, Tua Tagovailoa stays healthy as the Dolphins squeeze into the playoffs. Even with Bill Belichick at the helm, a lacklustre New England Patriots bring up the rear in this tough division.
AFC SOUTH - JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
The AFC South is a division in the middle of big changes. Both the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans will likely be starting rookie Quarterbacks from Week one, which will make for interesting viewing. Both Anthony Richardson and CJ Stroud have shown flashes of talent in preseason and their teams will be hoping they are the faces of their franchises for years to come, but a playoff spot in year one might be a step too far for both. The Tennessee Titans also appear to be heading towards a rebuild, with uncertainty surrounding the majority of the team. This leaves the door wide open for the Jacksonville Jaguars to take a second consecutive division title. With the possibility of sweeping their division opponents, don't be surprised to see the Jaguars reach the 12 wins mark.
AFC WEST - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Finally, the AFC West where, undoubtedly, the Kansas City Chiefs continue their streak of winning the division. The Head Coach and Quarterback combination of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes is the gold standard, that all other teams look to achieve. In our predictions, the Chargers just miss out on the playoffs to the previously mentioned Miami Dolphins. Those two could really go either way. The Denver Broncos are much improved under Sean Payton but a tough schedule sees them miss out, while being no push overs, the Las Vegas Raiders round off this division.
NFC DIVISION WINNERS -
NFC NORTH - MINNESOTA VIKINGS
The NFC North could be a very interesting division which could go down to the wire. The Vikings offence should still be explosive with Justin Jefferson and, rookie, Jordan Addison but the defence ranked poorly in most categories last season. Expect another season of close games for the Vikings and although they likely won't reach the 13 wins they had last season, they should see out enough games to top the division. That being said, the Lions hype train is rolling on through and Detroit pose the biggest threat to Minnesota and the mantle of 'Kings of the North'. Dan Campbell has seemingly turned around the teams fortune and they look to build on an impressive end to last season, that saw them win 8 of the last 10. We have one win separating Minnesota and Detroit and even though the Lions miss out on top spot, they secure a first playoff birth since 2016. The Bears and Packers will rely on the play of their Quarterbacks and both are big unknowns going into the season. In Chicago, Justin Fields is being tipped to make the leap to a league Superstar but can he elevate the play of those around him? Over in Green Bay, Jordan Love is essentially a rookie, albeit a rookie who has learned behind a 4x league MVP for the last 3 years. His strong preseason showings offer hope for the cheesehead faithful's but that may not be enough to see the Packers into the playoffs.
NFC EAST - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Eagles may have come up short in the Super Bowl but they mightily impressed everyone last season with their multi dimension offence and stern, playmaking defence. They had another strong draft which means they should be right in the mix for the Lombardi trophy again this season. The Dallas Cowboys are another team that seem to have only got stronger this offseason. Acquiring Stephon Gilmore brings some experience to a relatively young defence and Brandin Cooks is another weapon for Dak Prescott on offence. These two teams will likely be close all season and when they face off it could have big playoff implications. We've got Philadelphia just pipping Dallas to retain the NFC East title. The New York Giants should be in the mix for a wildcard but we have them falling just short and Washington will be a tough opponent but a tough schedule might hamper them making the postseason.
NFC SOUTH - NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Last season, this division was extremely close, with no team posting a winning record. We expect a similarly poor display this year but there are a few things to get excited about. No.1 overall pick Bryce Young will likely be the starter in Carolina and will look to get up to speed as quickly as possible. The Falcons have a very exciting, youthful offence but a lot will rely on second year QB, Desmond Ridder. Rookie running back, Bijan Robinson should help ease some of the pressure on his quarterbacks shoulders. Despite this, we predict the New Orleans Saints to edge both the Panthers and Falcons to take the division title. Derek Carr is the most experienced quarterback in the division and in his new setting of New Orleans, he should be able to do enough to lead the team into the playoffs. The less said about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the better but Mike Evans will be hoping to continue his 1000 yard seasons streak at the very least.
NFC WEST - SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Mr Irrelevant himself is officially QB1 in the Bay Area. After a sensational start to life in the NFL, Brock Purdy has been given the reigns to the Niners offence and he will be looking to get right back on track after the injury suffered in the NFC Championship game at the start of 2023. Plenty of offensive help should allow Purdy to thrive and see the 49ers challenge on all fronts this season. An NFC West title should be the absolute minimum for this team and they will certainly have their eyes on a trip back to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks arguably won the 2022 draft and followed that up with another stellar draft night this year. They should have enough to steal a wildcard spot. The Los Angeles Rams will look for a steadier season with less injuries but we see them missing out on late January football. As for the Arizona Cardinals, their eyes will solely be on next seasons draft, where they will likely own the No.1 pick.
END OF SEASON AWARDS -
COACH OF THE YEAR - DAN CAMPBELL
This award will likely be a flip of a coin between Dan Campbell and Robert Saleh but give us the guy without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Lions fans have been waiting since 1991 for a postseason win and this may be the year that changes. They should at least make the playoffs, which should be enough to Crown Campbell Coach of the Year. He won over fans instantly with his manner during last season Hard Knocks and then following that up with a great first year that saw them rattle off win after win the end the year. Growing from that, the Lions should have double digit wins and could look to capitalise on a weaker NFC, if they can avoid the 49ers and Eagles in the playoffs. A dark horse in this race could be Doug Pederson of the Jacksonville Jaguars. They can take advantage of their inferior divisional opponents to sweeten their win column and post a really good record. Good enough to take the No.1 seed in the AFC? Only time will tell but that would be an incredible job for a team suffering under Urban Meyer just two years ago.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - BIJAN ROBINSON
Three quarterbacks were taken within the first four picks this year and the first round saw a number of top receivers off the board but we are rolling with the running back from Texas. Bijan Robinson rushed for 1580 yards in his last season at Texas while also adding 314 yards through the air. As part of this youthful Atlanta Falcons offense, he should be able to get close to replicating his college numbers in the NFL. Robinson has every chance to lead the league in rushing as a rookie, last achieved by Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. He will also provide a safety valve for Desmond Ridder as the second year QB looks to find his feet in his first full season as starter. Zay Flowers has his fans around the league already and if his connection with Lamar Jackson is as good as to be believed, he won't go quietly when it comes to awards season but for now we are sticking with Robinson.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - WILL ANDERSON JR
The Houston Texans and a human steam roller as an edge rusher, we've seen this script before. Does the name JJ Watt mean anything to you? He went on to win just the three Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Okay, okay, maybe we are getting a little ahead of ourselves but there is a lot to like about Will Anderson Jr. He finished his Alabama career with the second most sacks in school history and now finds himself on a Texans roster coached by none other than Crimson Tide alumni, DeMeco Ryans. In preseason, we saw Anderson flatten a running back on his way to sacking the quarterback and after that play, we knew he would be just fine in the NFL. Other edge rusher, Tyree Wilson could put up good numbers opposite Maxx Crosby on the Raiders but Anderson has a chance to become a real cornerstone of Houston's defence. A little honourable mention for new Eagles DT Jalen Carter who could be a menace for opponents in his rookie season but on a stacked Eagles defence, he may not make as many highlight plays as we expect Anderson to make.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY
With the extra game in the schedule, added a couple of seasons ago, and an abundance of talent on NFL offences, there could easily be more than one person to break 2000 yards from scrimmage this season. Both Tyreek Hill and Justin Jefferson are primed to try and become the first person to ever break 2000 yards receiving which would be an incredible, history making achievement but what if somebody goes one better and breaks the entire scrimmage yard record. Currently set by Chris Johnson in 2009, with 2509 yards, it is not going to be an easy feat but McCaffrey is in the perfect system to do so. The 49ers offence should run through McCaffrey, on the ground and through the air. He will be Brock Purdy's best friend this season and he is a big reason a lot of people think the Niners can go all the way. So with a potential record breaking season ahead, another 1000/1000 season awaits for McCaffrey on a team that is tooled to win games, certainly more than the Dolphins and Vikings, the running back is our pick.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - MICAH PARSONS
The man who has finished second in voting in both of his NFL seasons so far, finally scoops the award for the best defensive player in the league. It is crazy to think Micah Parsons is only entering his third year in the league and this will be his first season where he is primarily a pass rusher. Having become an incredible linebacker/pass rusher hybrid, Parsons only job now, under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, is to get to the QB. Having recorded 13 and 13.5 sack seasons respectively, don't be surprised to see this number jump to the high teens, possibly even break the 20 barrier, this season. The Cowboys also have an improved secondary which may delay quarterbacks releasing the ball as quick as they would like, giving Parsons an extra second to hit his mark. Micah's desire to be the best defensive player in the league is well documented and who are we to say he won't achieve that this season. Obviously, there are going to be a number of people who could get in the way, TJ Watt, Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett won't let Parsons run away with this award and let's not forget a certain #99 for the Los Angeles Rams.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR - DAMAR HAMLIN
As soon as Damar Hamlin steps on an NFL field, this award is pretty much wrapped up. His return to football is nothing short of a miracle but don't takeaway the fact that Hamlin had begun to make himself a very useful player for the Bills last season. A return to the field is enough for Hamlin to win this award but if he can return to form and maybe even surpass how he was playing early last season then that would be the icing on the cake.
MVP - JOE BURROW
For us, this really came down to Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow. Mahomes is inventible and Hurts brings a more dynamic run game that the other two don't posses but there is just something about 'Joe Shiesty'. A proven winner from his days at LSU, he continues to put in impressive seasons one after another. After a huge injury setback in his rookie year, Burrow would go on and lead the Bengals to a Super Bowl in year two. Another AFC Championship appearance last year means the Joe Burrow hype shows no signs of slowing down and his rivalry with Patrick Mahomes only gets bigger every time these two teams meet. They will face off once again this year in week 17, which could be a battle for the No.1 seed and the MVP. Burrow and the Bengals also face the Bills, 49ers and Jaguars as well as being in an incredibly tough division. If they win as many games as we think they will, then 'Joe Cool' can add an NFL MVP award to a shelf already containing his Heisman.
SUPER BOWL LVIII - BENGALS OVER EAGLES
Everything we've just said about Joe Burrow can be repeated here. The AFC is stacked but Burrow has seemed to have all the answers when facing off against opponents like the Chiefs and Bills before and getting to play them both during the regular season means they will all have extra tape on each other come January when we will no doubt see repeat fixtures. Over in the NFC, it really does feel like a two horse race between the Eagles and 49ers again. Hopefully we can see an NFC Championship game where the 49ers actually have a healthy quarterback but the Eagles might have just enough to squeeze by and into a second consecutive Super Bowl. And what a matchup this would be! Bengals vs Eagles in Super Bowl LVIII. It would likely be incredibly close between these two teams but having found a way through the AFC gauntlet, the Bengals should have enough knowhow to lift their first ever Lombardi trophy.