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AP/ Photo Jeffrey T. Barnes

2023 NFL Preview: Team Outlooks, Super Bowl LVIII Prediction, And Award Picks

We made it. The NFL is back. Our 2023 NFL season preview gives an overview of all 32 teams, and you can find playoff, Super Bowl, and award picks below as well. Throughout the year, check out Fantasy Consigliere and The Fantasy Consigliere Podcast for your fantasy football needs; and The Wolf Sports Show will hit on every team in the league each week. The NFL seems to get deeper and more unpredictable by the year, and let’s dive right in division by division.




AFC East


Buffalo Bills

Coming off an extremely disappointing Divisional Round performance at home in the snow, the Bills are dealing with some doubters that believe their championship window has somehow passed after they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Chiefs a couple of postseasons ago.


However, I believe a strong offseason—including the selection of Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid, who I felt was a top-five player in the 2023 draft, along with the addition of the underrated edge defender Leonard Floyd and the return of pass rusher Von Miller (ACL, out at least the first four games while on the PUP list) at some point in a stout defense—and the presence of one of the top quarterbacks in the league in Josh Allen behind what should be an improved offensive line keeps Buffalo among the NFL’s top teams and a legitimate Super Bowl favorite.


The big question: Can the Bills keep their stranglehold on the division with the three teams behind them making improvements?


Miami Dolphins

New Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was one of the most under-the-radar additions to any team this offseason, and Miami also acquired former All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a trade with the Rams. But Ramsey will be out until December after a summer knee injury, so the unit will have to weather the storm during his absence in a crowded division and conference. Keep an eye on competitive second-round rookie cornerback Cam Smith if he can emerge in a role while Ramsey is out.


Mike McDaniel’s offense can be even more explosive in Year 2, but the run game—Jeff Wilson Jr. will miss at least four games while on injured reserve, and the team explored a trade for Jonathan Taylor—will be key in opening more play-action shots to clear top targets Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.


The big question: Can Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, who are already banged up, stay healthy—and do they have the depth to stay afloat if injury strikes to more star talent? 


New England Patriots

The biggest coordinator move in the division might not be Fangio, as the Patriots brought back former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien as the offensive coordinator after a stint at Alabama—and it sounds like it’s been a breath of fresh air for New England players.


The concern for me is that—while we did not see much of the first-team offense during the preseason—the offensive line is said to have had a poor summer in pass protection. Perhaps running a more coherent attack which includes run-pass options Mac Jones can excel at will help things, but it’s hard to win at any level if the offensive line struggles. Additionally, while the Pats signed Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Gesicki, and JuJu Smith-Schuster (I especially like the Zeke and Gesicki signings, which can help in the red zone), we’ll have to see if it is a solution the potential problem of the team feeling quite slow at times in the past couple of years.


I am very optimistic about Bill Belichick’s defense, though, which is very versatile and drafted an exciting potential chess piece in rookie linebacker Marte Mapu.


The big question: Is the offensive line good enough to complement the other changes on offense—and does the roster have enough “juice” to compete for a championship?


New York Jets

Aside from the retirement of legendary seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, the biggest NFL story this offseason has been by far Aaron Rodgers’ move from Green Bay to New York to join the Jets. While access has been minimal, Hard Knocks has given a look at Rodgers practicing and interacting on the field with his new teammates—plus some of his old ones, with Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett joining him with the new squad. One thing we know for sure is that the Jets are going to be interesting no matter what happens.


The defense is expected to be among the NFL’s best in 2023, but head coach Robert Saleh has made it clear that they will only go as far as the offensive line takes them—so it’s potentially a similar predicament to what the Patriots are facing. I’d like to pinpoint pass rusher Bryce Huff, who I could see pushing double-digit sacks if he gets enough playing time as part of the edge rotation.


The thing that stands out for the Jets is the early-season schedule: vs. Buffalo, at Dallas, vs. New England, vs. Kansas City, at Denver, and vs. Philadelphia all coming before a Week 7 bye. While having Hackett as the OC will help, a slow start is certainly possible for a veteran quarterback adjusting to a new team.


The big question: How will the Jets play early? If a slow start does indeed occur, will things unravel—or can they build momentum and ultimately click at the right time late in the season?


AFC North


Baltimore Ravens

Let’s start with the Ravens defense, which added Jadeveon Clowney to give a needed boost off the edge. The unit was much better after All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith was acquired by the Bears before the trade deadline, allowing just 14.7 points per game when Smith was with the team.


Pair an underrated defense with a new offense, and the Ravens could be a scary team. That new offense was constructed by former NFL and Georgia Bulldogs offensive coordinator Todd Monken. It’s going to be a much more open attack, a style of play that Jackson showed he can excel with and won the Heisman Trophy while doing so at Louisville. They need to stay healthy, but I am high on the investment Baltimore made to making the receiving group one of the worst in the league to one of the best: Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, Zay Flowers, and Nelson Agholor lead the way.


Especially for those that have not paid much attention since last season, people might be shocked at how different the Ravens offense looks in 2023. I think it’ll be exciting.


The big question: How much does the prolific Lamar Jackson use his legs—still a massively dangerous weapon—in the new offense?


Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are a super rare team that will have the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator for the fifth consecutive season. They have built things the right way, and it’ll be a similar approach this season with a roster expected to compete for a Super Bowl after making the final four in each of the past two seasons.


Joe Burrow dealt with a calf injury that knocked out most of his summer, so hopefully there’s no rust there after he started last season slow following a missed summer due to an appendectomy. Burrow, like teammates Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, will need to be paid soon; so that’s something to note as they look to put up big numbers and win.


The left side of the offensive line can be monstrous with free agent signing Orlando Brown Jr. and Cordell Volson, so I’m anxious to see how much success Joe Mixon (who took a pay cut to remain in Cincy) has to keep balance on offense.


The big question: Will the Bengals defense keep performing at a high level in big games—and can they get a little more from the offense in January (and perhaps February) to match it?


Cleveland Browns

The Browns regime of general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski is entering a critical juncture in Year 2 of Deshaun Watson at quarterback (and the first full year with Watson under center). All the talk from Cleveland is that Watson feels more comfortable and has had the offense tailored more to him, which could be positive for their sake after he did not look good in his return to action in 2022. However, the team is at its best when Nick Chubb is rolling, so it’s a delicate balance that Stefanski must strike.


Za’Darius Smith is now opposite Myles Garrett off the edge in Cleveland, and the defense is now led by accomplished coordinator Jim Schwartz—a coach that can elevate that side of the ball. It’s a unit that’s had some good outings versus the Bengals, and the divisional matchups will of course be key this season.


The big question: Will the Browns become too pass happy and not feature Nick Chubb enough?


Pittsburgh Steelers

Second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett and the first team offense scored five touchdowns in five drives this preseason in an attack that showed its variety with plays from Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, George Pickens (one of the potential breakout stars of 2023), Allen Robinson II, and Pat Freiermuth­—all behind an improved offensive line that added former Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo during free agency. Pickett might not get enough respect because he might not look like a bonafide franchise quarterback, but he should prove to be a nice fit leading a Steelers team that is always competitive under Mike Tomlin.


Remember, Pittsburgh was 8-2 with T.J. Watt in the lineup last season, and he’s obviously a major game-changing force as a former record-tying 22.5-sack guy. Overall, the defense appears underrated, and it added Patrick Peterson (in a starting role) and Joey Porter Jr. (a rookie serving as superb depth to begin his career) at cornerback.


The big question: Can the Steelers offense build on a strong summer and take the next step under Kenny Pickett?


AFC South


Houston Texans

I was floored when the Texans took Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, as I thought for sure they would take Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson—but they then traded up to No. 3 to also get Anderson, trading away their 2024 first-round pick. So, Houston took on an incredible risk while hoping to immediately become more competitive this season under first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans. The former Texans great at linebacker is an exceptional leader, and I think the franchise just needs to show patience.


The mindset seems obvious for the Texans: They want to run the ball a ton with Dameon Pierce and hopefully play solid defense to compete—while also making things easier on Stroud. Safety Jimmy Ward, who comes with Ryans from San Francisco, is a lowkey addition that could boost the defense. But a huge Year 1 from Anderson might be necessary to elevate the team into more of a .500 team as opposed to giving away a top-five pick next spring.


The big question: How quickly can the accurate C.J. Stroud adjust to playing in an offense not as relatively talented as the one at OSU?


Indianapolis Colts

One of the most shocking developments from last season was the deterioration of the highly paid Colts offensive line, which went from springing Jonathan Taylor to a rushing title in 2021 to not giving Taylor any room to run when he was healthy in 2022. The line must be much better for rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, and I believe they will be with new head coach Shane Steichen. If you haven’t seen Richardson play, you should be pleasantly surprised by his quick release and phenomenal athletic ability.


The Indy defense will hopefully have a healthier Shaquille Leonard at linebacker after his 2022 was mostly wiped out due to injury. If he’s healthy, they certainly have the linebackers to fly around and make plays. And the Colts are higher on their secondary pieces and receivers than others might be (rookie Josh Downs is someone to watch in the slot on offense), so those are two positions to track early.


Former Rams and 49ers pass rusher Samson Ebukam was signed during free agency, and there might be some untapped potential there with the Colts looking to generate more of an outside pass rush.


As for the Taylor situation, it has been surprising that he’s taken such a hard stance. Most cannot envision him playing for Indianapolis again, but he’s the type of player you want on your team long term.


The big question: Can Anthony Richardson immediately carry an offense that’ll be without Jonathan Taylor?


Jacksonville Jaguars

I mentioned the Jaguars as a trendy Super Bowl type of pick last preseason, and they were able to sneak into the playoffs by winning the AFC South at 9-8 and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in league history by beating the Chargers in the Wild Card Round—and then gave the Chiefs a fight in Arrowhead. The Jags should certainly be in the Super Bowl discussion in Year 2 under Doug Pederson and Year 3 for Trevor Lawrence in the NFL.


It starts with the offense, which is adding star receiver Calvin Ridley (a former 1,374-yard receiver with Atlanta and one of the best route runners in football) to a dynamic skill group that includes the mind-blowingly fast Travis Etienne and impressive third-round rookie Tank Bigsby at running back. I could see the offense having a season like Pederson’s 2017 Eagles team that ultimately went on to win the Super Bowl.


The championship aspirations might come down to the defense. They stepped up to help win the de facto AFC South title game last January, and there’s upside all over the field to potentially take on top quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.


The big question: Can former No. 1 pick Travon Walker emerge and form a top pass rushing duo with Josh Allen? 


Tennessee Titans

Maybe new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will change things, but I expect the Titans offense and team to run through the great Derrick Henry, who is simply built different and should continue producing at a high level with age 30 approaching. That said, the addition of former All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins should help create lighter boxes for Henry—and it could help create a pick-your-poison approach along with second-year receiver Treylon Burks also on the outside.


Despite the disappointment of how last season ended, Mike Vrabel is the type of coach that has shown he will typically get the most out of his guys—and the defense still has pieces like Kevin Byard, Jeffery Simmons, and Harold Landry III (returning from a torn ACL) and a tenacious style of play to be a difficult bunch for opposing offenses to go up against.


The big question: Will veteran pieces like Ryan Tannehill and DeAndre Hopkins perform at a level that gets the Titans fully back on track?


AFC West


Denver Broncos

I felt at the time that expectations for the Broncos last season were a bit extreme. A year later, they could be in a spot to surprise people with Sean Payton back coaching after a year off with in a media role with FOX Sports—and he obviously kept the media hat on while criticizing last year’s regime, putting a target on his own back in his first year leading the franchise.


Denver has already been hit by injuries during training camp, with receiver Tim Patrick (Achilles) unfortunately to miss his second consecutive season and receiver Jerry Jeudy (hamstring) uncertain early in the year. Dating back to last year, I just haven’t been as optimistic about the Broncos skill group as others, but second-year tight end Greg Dulcich is someone I am very high on—and he’s been described as a versatile “joker” type of weapon by Payton.


You don’t want to put too much stock into the preseason, but I must admit—even with the bulk of starters not playing on either side—a 41-0 victory over the Rams in the final outing was somewhat alarming in a good way. The front four added Frank Clark and Zach Allen this offseason, and if Payton and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph—back in Denver after he was previously the team’s head coach—can get the defense to fly around, the Broncos could be a post-hype sleeper type of squad.


The big question: Will Russell Wilson round back to form under Sean Payton?


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are coming off their second Super Bowl title in four seasons, and Patrick Mahomes won a second NFL MVP while distributing the ball to a plethora of weapons surrounding the unstoppable Travis Kelce at tight end. Expect more of the same in 2023, with the receiving group likely having more upside with Justyn Ross and second-round rookie Rashee Rice carving out roles at some point—and with the hope of Kadarius Toney staying healthy in his first full season with the team. However, a recent knee injury suffered by Kelce in practice could be impactful if he’s forced to miss time.


My concern for Kansas City is the status of holdout All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was a finalist for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season and appears totally dug in for a lengthy hold out. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can get the most out of his group, but there’s no doubt they are at a disadvantage without Jones on the field—and it could end up being the difference between playing postseason games at Arrowhead compared to someplace like Buffalo or Cincinnati.


The big question: How many games will Chris Jones miss, and will it be costly for playoff seeding?


Las Vegas Raiders

With 2022 NFL leading rusher Josh Jacobs back with the team on a revised one-year deal, and after a good preseason that reportedly included the Raiders showing dominant ability in the trenches in joint practices, I think there are quietly some good vibes with this team. New starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is 40-17 in his career as a starter, and he can play at a very high level if he’s protected and can work off the run game while distributing to weapons like Davante Adams.


Clearly, Vegas is expecting to be competitive after adding veteran cornerback Marcus Peters to bring more turnover potential to the defense. Pass rusher Maxx Crosby is a game wrecker off the edge, and the Raiders could be in a decent spot defensively if first-round pick Tyree Wilson can make an immediate impact—or if Chandler Jones can turn back the clock a bit.


If the Raiders can get top-notch play from the trenches, they could be a surprise team this year. But there’s definite downside if the buy-in under Josh McDaniels doesn’t occur.


The big question: Can Jimmy Garoppolo stay healthy and keep winning games with his new team?


Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers should be one of the most determined teams in the league this season, and I’m sure the playoff collapse at Jacksonville has left a sour taste in their mouths all offseason leading up to kickoff. A bounce back campaign from high-priced 2022 free agent signing J.C. Jackson at cornerback would be enormous in helping a talented Brandon Staley defense—which added veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks—play closer to their talent level (they allowed the fifth-most points in the conference in 2022, though there was progress compared to the previous season).


The Los Angeles offense sounds really excited about new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who comes over from Dallas and will implement a more aggressive attack that throws the ball down the field more—likely unleashing the ultra-talented Justin Herbert, who has put up record numbers through three NFL seasons despite playing in a more conservative attack. I think we’ll see a lot of big plays to Mike Williams and company, and the Chargers can be a difficult offense to contain with their weaponry and offensive line.


The big question: Does the Chargers defense take a step into becoming closer to an elite unit in Year 3 under Brandon Staley?




NFC East


Dallas Cowboys

Some Cowboys fans had been upset in previous years about their perceived hesitancy of the team going all-in for a Super Bowl, but there can be no complaints in 2023 after Jerry Jones’ franchise brought in former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore at cornerback and veteran Brandin Cooks to join CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup at receiver. Lost were longtime running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Dalton Schultz, but the Dak Prescott-led attack can be exceptional—and Super Bowl winning head coach Mike McCarthy is now calling the plays.


The defense is again coordinated by Dan Quinn, who returns for his third season in Dallas and has plenty of pieces to work with including Gilmore, Trevon Diggs, DeMarcus Lawrence, an underrated safety group, and perhaps the league’s best defensive player in Micah Parsons. Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith was a bit of a surprising first-round pick for the Cowboys, but it was clearly made in an effort to help stop the run and field a more well-rounded defense.


The big question: Will Dak Prescott get back to form and cut down on the interceptions after throwing 15 in 12 games last season?


New York Giants

After they were one of the surprise teams in the league last season, the Giants hit an area of weakness and added more talent and explosiveness to the pass-catching group this offseason, headlined by former Raiders tight end Darren Waller. Quarterback Daniel Jones and Waller formed an excellent connection during training camp, and the freakish target should help everyone else on offense—including star runner Saquon Barkley, playing on a revised one-year deal. Third-round rookie Jalin Hyatt at receiver is an insanely fast field-stretcher that will also help.


The defense added a corner (Maryland’s Deonte Banks) they loved as a fit in Wink Martindale’s defense in the first round, and they signed linebacker Bobby Okereke during free agency and pulled off a potential heist in acquiring former first-rounder Isaiah Simmons at the end of the summer. But New York is relying on Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari to help form a feared front with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Right tackle Evan Neal, entering his second NFL season, is another player to watch that could take a leap forward.


The big question: Will the offensive additions make a well-coached Brian Daboll offense one of the NFL’s best to help avoid falling off?


Philadelphia Eagles

The talk early this offseason was that Philadelphia was set to take a step back, but I always thought that was an odd thought—this team should be set to compete for a championship again, particularly in what looks like the weaker conference. Javon Hargrave and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson walked in free agency, but the Eagles were able to retain both James Bradberry and Darius Slay at cornerback as well as Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle. And that side of the ball added more Georgia Bulldogs in Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Kelee Ringo. Look for linebacker Nakobe Dean to emerge as a difference-maker while taking on a starting role in Year 2.


Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was the breakout star of the 2022 NFL season, finishing second in MVP voting and then putting up an epic Super Bowl performance in a shootout loss to the Chiefs. Names like Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant have been thrown around in comparing Hurts’ mindset, and his relentlessly focused approach could lead to even more improvement. A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are the best receiving duo in the league in my opinion, and Hurts’ lowkey pinpoint accuracy makes Philly an immense challenge to stop when paired with the top offensive line and run game. (The low-cost running back group can be very effective, but I would consider trading for Jonathan Taylor.)


The big question: Can the Eagles be the first repeat NFC East champion since 2004 and again push for home playoff games at the tough-to-play Lincoln Financial Field?


Washington Commanders

The big story for the Commanders this offseason has been that team owner Daniel Snyder is out, replaced by a deep ownership group led by Josh Harris, Mitchell Rales, and Magic Johnson. Washington sold out their Week 1 home opener, and the vibes are good from a fan perspective right now. A lot is riding on second-year quarterback Sam Howell, who was handed the reins to the starting job and is in a good spot with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson at receiver. Former Chiefs assistant Eric Bieniemy’s handling the offensive coordinator gig—he’s been given a lot of control on offense—is something to watch closely.


Ron Rivera added to his defense early in the draft with playmaking cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (an NCAA record six pick-sixes in his career at Mississippi State) and defensive back Jartavius Martin—but it starts with a defensive front that’s poured heavy resources into it with Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat. Rivera has made some odd comments leading up to this season, and this regime is on the hot seat under new ownership.


The big question: Will the Washington defense become a shutdown unit?


NFC North


Chicago Bears

The Bears have been vigorous in their drive to add more talent this offseason, and it was started with a trade back from the No. 1 overall selection to acquire picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore from the Panthers. The feeling from many is that Moore will boost third-year quarterback Justin Fields similar to what Stefon Diggs and A.J. Brown did for Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts—but quite honestly, I’m not sure the situations are comparable, and expectations are arguably too high for a team that finished with the worst record in the league last year. That said, Fields has shown tremendous leadership qualities, and he’s a gamebreaker as a runner that can frustrate defenses.


The Chicago defense added five rookies in the draft and signed veterans headlined by linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards and edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, so it’s a stronger and deeper group in defensive head coach Matt Eberflus’ second year at the helm. Both sides of the ball must step up to push for an NFC North crown or a wild card spot.


The big question: Will an elevated supporting cast help Justin Fields take the next step as a passer?


Detroit Lions

The Rams did win a Super Bowl, but the Lions have used the Matthew Stafford-Jared Goff trade to find a young franchise quarterback and the pieces to be in a contending position—general manager Brad Holmes has done an outstanding job of building the roster with and for head coach Dan Campbell. The defense made a bunch of additions, remaking the unit with veterans Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, and second-round rookie Brian Branch in the defensive backfield—as well as first-round pick Jack Campbell at linebacker.


Improvements by the defense in the second half, along with a stellar offensive attack led by Goff and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson (a likely head coach in 2024), led to the Lions looking like a legit contender if they can carry the 8-2 finish over to 2023. I don’t think people realize the Lions scored the third most touchdowns on offense last year (behind only Super Bowl participants Kansas City and Philadelphia), and they think they’ll be better with the sensational first-round rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs and free agent signing David Montgomery.


The big question: Can the Lions shoulder the high expectations, both internally and externally?


Green Bay Packers

With the Aaron Rodgers era over in Green Bay, a lot is on the right arm of quarterback Jordan Love after sitting behind the future Hall of Famer for three seasons. It would be something if Love is a major hit and the Packers go from Brett Favre to Rodgers to him. He has good support to have success in Matt LaFleur’s scheme, which helped Rodgers win back-to-back MVPs in 2020 and 2021—and I like the receiving group of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and rookie Jayden Reed going along with the ability to play through running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Also, rookie tight end Luke Musgrave has received a ton of hype during training camp.


However, if the Packers are going to get back to the postseason, the defense might have to carry a heavy load. That would mean improvement from the run defense, which seems to struggle every year. However, it is a passing league and Green Bay’s group led by star cornerback Jaire Alexander can be difficult to move the ball through the air on. The defense might have a chip on their shoulder while looking to show the team can still be competitive. It’s worth noting that the Packers have the youngest roster in the league.


The big question: Will Jordan Love continue a stretch of top quarterback play for the Packers?


Minnesota Vikings

I want to start with the Vikings being able to keep pass rusher Danielle Hunter on a revised contract; it was a huge move that indicates, despite some retooling, that this team expects to contend and push to repeat as NFC North champions. Linebacker Jordan Hicks is entering his first season as the lead linebacker without Eric Kendricks, and cornerback Byron Murphy was an under-the-radar signing for Minnesota on defense, a group led by new defensive coordinator Brian Flores.


The driving force for the Vikings is the offense featuring megastar receiver Justin Jefferson, who has broken numerous NFL records through three seasons in the league. Kirk Cousins won supporters while being shown on Netflix’s docuseries Quarterback, but we’ll see how the offense fares in terms of working off play-action after parting ways with Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook and going with Alexander Mattison as the starter. Rookie first-round pick Jordan Addison is a receiver that can make an instant impact as Kevin O’Connell’s roster looks to build on a strong first season.


The big question: Will the retooled roster have younger players step up at key positions?


NFC South


Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ words followed their actions, as they fully committed to 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder as their starter during the offseason while continuing to boost the skill positions on offense with yet another top-ten pick in running back Bijan Robinson, who joins tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Drake London. They are playing behind an offensive line that can at times impose its will on teams while running the ball, so Ridder is in position to have success in Arthur Smith’s offense.


On the other side of the ball, Atlanta went after experienced talent including former Bengals safety Jessie Bates, defensive lineman Calais Campbell, and pass rusher Bud Dupree. Also, they added former third overall pick Jeff Okudah at cornerback in a trade with the Lions, and Utah corner Clark Phillips III was one of my favorite selections in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.


The big question: Is Desmond Ridder the franchise quarterback for the Falcons?


Carolina Panthers

Carolina hired former Colts head coach Frank Reich and went up the draft board to get the top overall pick in the 2023 draft and the opportunity to select Alabama Heisman Trophy quarterback Bryce Young, a magician-like player that should elevate the franchise if he’s supported. I like the moves the Panthers made in surrounding Young with talent: veterans Adam Thielen and DJ Chark Jr. along with second-round rookie Jonathan Mingo at receiver, Hayden Hurst at tight end, and Miles Sanders at running back. However, while the offensive line was hopefully going to be an area of strength—and still might be—it’s concerning that they struggled during the preseason after Reich was the head coach during Indy’s collapse at that spot last season.


The Panthers are another NFC South team that brought in some veterans on defense, with Justin Houston now opposite star pass rusher Brian Burns; and former Bengals safety Vonn Bell is also joining the NFC South with Carolina. The secondary has had heavy resources invested in recent years, and it would be big if Jaycee Horn, Donte Jackson, and Jeremy Chinn can help create a top pass defense.


The big question: Will the offensive line protect No. 1 pick Bryce Young?


New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans defense was solid overall under Dennis Allen last season, but their Achilles heel was an inability to force turnovers—with just 14 takeaways, which was the lowest mark in franchise history. So, there should be more luck in that department, and there’s been talk that former All-Pro cornerback Marshon Lattimore looks as good as ever as one of the headliners in a stingy veteran group.


The addition of nine-year Raiders starter Derek Carr at quarterback has the Saints thinking Super Bowl, and—again, while you do not want to put too much stock in the preseason—Carr operated extremely efficiently in the lone preseason drive for the starting offense. Running back Alvin Kamara is out the first three games but should be fresh while joining the team in Week 4, and Michael Thomas is healthy to this point. The Saints also have potential breakout stars in receiver Chris Olave and tight end Juwan Johnson, and overall, the offense is discreetly one of the deepest in football.


The big question: Can Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas play closer to the level they did a few seasons ago?


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As we saw in New England, losing Tom Brady is not easy to move past considering how much he (obviously) means to a team. And on top of no G.O.A.T., the Buccaneers will sadly be without center Ryan Jensen (knee), and the offensive line struggled mightily without him last season. The number one point of emphasis must be to establish a run game after it was dreadful for most of last year, and new offensive coordinator Dave Canales will be tasked with getting the group on track with former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback.


The Tampa Bay defense will likely now be the focal point of the team, still with star-level players like Devin White, Lavonte Davis, Shaquil Barrett, Vita Vea, Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, and Antoine Winfield Jr. I believe there’s underrated upside with the unit, especially if the run game on the other side of the ball can take pressure off them and Mayfield can distribute to Mike Evans and a healthy Chris Godwin.


The big question: Can the proud championship group—sans Tom Brady—fly around and become a top-five defense under Todd Bowles?


NFC West


Arizona Cardinals

On paper, the Cardinals look like the clear worst roster in the league. Quarterback Kyler Murray will miss the start of the season (and an undetermined period that could go very deep into the year) with his torn ACL, but it sounds like new head coach Jonathan Gannon has a clear plan of riding James Conner with the hope of keeping games close and competitive—but there’s no question it’s going to be a challenge personnel wise to be able to see that through, and we don’t even know who the starting quarterback for Arizona will be in Week 1.


Gannon is a defensive guy, so we’ll see if he can get the most out of an undermanned unit. I’ve been going back and forth on Arizona, at first believing they’d be the worst team in football somewhat easily, then thinking they might compete more than expected. I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the moves the Cardinals made this offseason, but I love the decision to accumulate 2024 draft capital (a potential high pick from the Texans) to have premium flexibility after the season.


The big question: Are the Cardinals talented enough to avoid falling in big holes and play the style they want to?


Los Angeles Rams

Rams head coach Sean McVay has had the retirement option—and a potential big-time broadcasting role—in his back pocket the past two offseasons, but he’s back even for a team that is in a bit of a rebuilding (at the very least, retooling) stage. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are still one of the top quarterback-receiver duos in the league, but Stafford’s health is a question as a 35-year-old that’s played through many injuries throughout his career—and now Kupp is looking doubtful for the season opener due to a hamstring issue that’s lingered since August 1. Second-year running back Kyren Williams might be someone that can step up for LA.


The defense had to make major salary concessions, so it’s now somewhat of a “no-name” unit around star defensive lineman Aaron Donald—but we’ve seen feisty no-name units overperform expectations in the past. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has a challenge ahead.


The big question: Can the Rams win shootouts if Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are on the field?


San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have continuously come close to being in position for a world championship, and last season ended in heartbreaking fashion with no healthy quarterbacks left in the NFC Championship Game. The feeling in San Francisco is that they would have won with a healthy Brock Purdy, who has supreme confidence from his teammates and was the clear starter for a team that traded away former third overall pick Trey Lance to the Cowboys. Purdy is in position to succeed in Kyle Shanahan’s stacked offense, and the style of play feels like a perfect fit—he’s just very comfortable in the attack.


On the defensive side of the ball, the Niners lost defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans (replaced by Steve Wilks), and they are waiting for Nick Bosa—holding out due to his contract situation—to report to the team. San Francisco undoubtedly needs him to be the NFL’s top defense like they believe they can be, with former Eagle Javon Hargrave joining a vaunted defensive line.


The big question: Can Brock Purdy continue to mesh with an electric offense with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle and keep up his magical run?


Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks had a sensational 2022 draft class that looks like it’s a franchise-altering type of group moving forward, and I think 2023 could bring similar success. But the first order of business is getting fifth overall pick Devon Witherspoon healthy at cornerback, as he’s dealt with injury all summer and is set to miss the start of the season due to his hamstring injury. The Seattle defense has had young players step up, but they also added more veteran pieces in bringing back Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed as well as adding defensive linemen Dre’Mont Jones—and safety Jamal Adams will return at some point too.


On offense, first-round receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back selections Zach Charbonnet (second round) and Kenny McIntosh (seventh round) are integral reasons why I’m high on the rookie class. They should fit right in with accurate distributor Geno Smith at quarterback, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at receiver, and bookend second-year tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas. If Smith keeps up his level of play from last year, the Seahawks can make major noise.


The big question: Will the run defense hold up against top opponents in the NFC?


. . .


Playoff Picks



1. Buffalo Bills

2. Kansas City Chiefs

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

5. Cincinnati Bengals

6. Baltimore Ravens

7. Los Angeles Chargers



1. Philadelphia Eagles

2. Detroit Lions

3. San Francisco 49ers

4. New Orleans Saints

5. Dallas Cowboys

6. Seattle Seahawks

7. New York Giants


AFC Notes

Leaving teams out of the AFC was a major challenge. It might be foolish, but I actually have only the Bills making it from the AFC East and instead picked three AFC North teams to make the postseason.


I was firmly planning to put the Patriots in the postseason this year, but the offensive line gives me pause and I ultimately went with the Chargers—a more talented roster—grabbing the final wild card spot. If the New England offensive line plays well, I certainly believe Bill Belichick’s team would get into the playoffs.


My concern for the Jets is the scary early-season schedule leading to a slow start that they don’t recover from. And the Dolphins have phenomenal upside but I’m not sure they make the leap forward in a stacked conference.


The Titans are another team I want to note just missing, as I think Mike Vrabel does a great job with his team. I just feel the Jaguars can step into that next tier, and Tennessee might just miss out of a crowded wild card race.


NFC Notes

I kept going back and forth on the NFC East winner, as I could see Dallas being excellent and taking the crown from Philly and perhaps pushing for the top seed in the conference. Ultimately, I went with the Eagles because of how much I trust Jalen Hurts.


The final two wild card spots were the challenge for me in the NFC, as obvious cases could be made for a few teams—most notably, in my opinion, the Vikings and the Packers. For most of the offseason I was expecting to pick the Giants to take a step back, but I am starting to believe that Brian Daboll might just be a mad genius type and it’ll be exciting to see what he does with Darren Waller and the other additions on offense.


It feels unlikely we get just one new playoff team in the AFC and just two in the NFC, but I simply feel most confident in these teams in a parity-filled league.


Super Bowl LVIII Pick

Bills over Eagles


I was extremely close to picking the Cowboys to represent the NFC, but I’m going with Jalen Hurts leading the Eagles back to the Big Game. However, while I might be entering Chris Berman territory picking Buffalo for the second consecutive season, I think this might finally be the year Josh Allen, Sean McDermott, and the Bills get over the hump and win the Super Bowl—with rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid and the pass rush duo of Von Miller and Leonard Floyd (after helping the Rams to a title two seasons ago) being the difference for the team.


Award Picks


MVP: Eagles QB Jalen Hurts

You can’t go wrong with Patrick Mahomes—set to spread the ball around and record huge numbers in Andy Reid’s offense—or any of the dynamic quarterbacks in the league. But I believe the Eagles are going to throw the ball more with Hurts, who will show (again) that he’s also one of the game’s top passers in addition to being an exceptional runner/dual threat at quarterback.


Offensive Player of the Year: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

The past four seasons, the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year honor has gone to a non-quarterback. I had some thought to having this be Hurts, too, or maybe another quarterback like Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen. Justin Jefferson is the pick, though, as someone that could become the first player in league history to record 2,000 receiving yards in a season.


Defensive Player of the Year: Cowboys LB Micah Parsons

This came down to Micah Parsons and T.J. Watt, but I’m going with the 24-year-old Cowboys defender playing in a defense that added Stephon Gilmore at cornerback—which could help him get home for more sacks after recording 13.0 and 13.5 through two NFL seasons.


Offensive Rookie of the Year: Falcons RB Bijan Robinson

Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs is going to be awesome for Detroit, but I feel like Bijan Robinson should be a safer bet for a heavy workload with more carries and rushing yards to push closer to a 1,200-1,500-yard back—something that would garner attention from voters. In limited preseason action, the Texas product looked electric with the ball in his hands.


Defensive Rookie of the Year: Eagles DT Jalen Carter

Carrying the most hype as any rookie defender, thanks in part to where he landed and many people saying he was the best player in the draft aside from character concerns, Eagles defensive lineman Jalen Carter might have a leg up in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation. Philadelphia has an insanely deep group on the defensive line, but if Carter gets enough playing time and pushes for double-digit sacks, he’ll be a good bet for DROY.


Comeback Player of the Year: Bills S Damar Hamlin

Bills safety Damar Hamlin was revived after collapsing on the field last January, so for him to even come back and play football again is an amazing story. Like Alex Smith in 2020, looking back we could see this as a total lock from the start.


Coach of the Year: Lions HC Dan Campbell

I had some real thought to putting the Lions as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but even having them at No. 2 would probably mean Dan Campbell wins Coach of the Year. As stated above, Campbell and Brad Holmes have done a great job in Detroit, and it could lead to a true breakout as a team in the next year or two.