2023 NFL Preview

Predicted records for each team included, followed by odds to win division and odds to win Super Bowl in parentheses. Odds courtesy of Caesars.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: 12-5 (+125, +900) — Have won this division three times in a row but disappointed in the playoffs all three times, including a 27-10 loss at home to the Bengals in the Elite Eight a year ago. Should make it four straight, but the objects in the rear-view mirror may be closer than they appear.

New York Jets: 11-6 (+250, +1600) — The Brett Favre Experiment failed in 2008, but they go to the well again by bringing Aaron Rodgers on board. Defense, head coach Robert Saleh's bailiwick, ranked fourth in the league a year ago, but RB Breece Hall suffered catastrophic knee injury that aborted his rookie season after just seven games. Closed out their '22 campaign with six straight losses — but if they forget to stop this time around, Saleh will be in the Coach of the Year conversation.

Miami Dolphins: 9-8 (+300, +2500) — Tua Tagovailoa could be one more concussion away from retirement, but Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle could be the NFL's deadliest WR duo since the two Marks — Duper and Clayton — called South Florida home four decades ago. But their pass defense is every bit as bad as their passing offense is good (27th in both total yards allowed and in completion percentage allowed in 2022) and incoming DC Vic Fangio is not noted for his pass defense. This "over" bettor's delight is a shaky playoff prospect at best.

New England Patriots: 6-11 (+800, +6000) — Just as Tom Landry was the only head coach the Dallas Cowboys ever had in the first 29 years of America's Team's existence, so Bill Belichick is the only head coach that this team has had in this millennium. But unless Ezekiel Elliott, who is coming off his worst season ever, can wake up the echoes (and he didn't go to Notre Dame), the 71-year-old Belichick's 24th season in Foxboro could be his last; outsider.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals: 12-5 (+160, +1000) — QB Joe Burrow is a large part of why the AFC is the vastly superior conference at the position, and power back Joe Mixon is one of the best of what has become an endangered species. But offensive line is still a work in progress, as is the defense, especially against the pass. Division is likely to come down to the results of the head-to-head meetings among them, the Steelers, and the Ravens — and if they can do better than split with both the way they did last year, it should add up to their first hat trick (three consecutive AFC North/Central titles) in franchise history.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-6 (+475, +6000) — Not getting much respect from the oddsmakers, and suddenly nobody's kvetchin' about Kenny Pickett's 8 5/8-inch hand size (WIP's Angelo Cataldi has 10 3/4-inch hands). Najee Harris vies with Derrick Henry for the title of best power back in the NFL, but their wide receivers, who caught only five TD passes a season ago, are not a strength. Defense is above average, and could be more than that with a healthy T.J. Watt. Haven't had a losing season in 20 years, and won't have one this year either; but can they get back into the playoffs after missing out on tie-breakers last year?

Baltimore Ravens: 10-7 (+220, +1800) — Second in the league in rushing in '22, 28th in passing — and that's not how you win in the NFL in the chuck-rule era; Gus Edwards makes the AFC North the "Power Back Division" and defense comes off season in which it ranked third in yards and tied for ninth in points allowed. But Lamar Jackson is 1-3 in the playoffs with 55.9% completions and a 68.3 passer rating — and he didn't even play in the postseason last year due to one of his constant injuries.

Cleveland Browns: 5-12 (+330, +3500) — Lacked a first- or second-round pick in both 2023 and 2022, and won't have a first-rounder in 2024 either. The 2021 Rams were a fluke.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars: 11-6 (-175, +2800) — Won "division championship game" in Week 18 (over the Titans) to get into the playoffs last season. The race will not be anywhere near that close this season.

Indianapolis Colts: 6-11 (+700, +12500) — They had better hope that Anthony Richardson is saving it for the regular season, as he completed 44.8% of his passes and had a 45.9 passer rating in the preseason. No 11-loss team has ever completed a division exacta — but there is always a first time.

Tennessee Titans: 5-12 (+340, +10000) — As awesome as it is to have a great power back, you need a lot more than that to be competitive — and when you can't pass (30th in the league in 2022) or play defense (23rd overall and last against the pass), you're behind the eight-ball big time.

Houston Texans: 4-13 (+850, +20000) — Casting their lot with an Ohio State QB (C.J. Stroud). This should be fun.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs: 13-4 (-175, +600) — Why does Fat Boy have no trouble doing in Kansas City what he could never do in Philadelphia? And he even did it with mediocre talent at both RB and WR as neither such player had a thousand-yard season a year ago. They're still the team to beat in the AFC until proven otherwise.

Los Angeles Chargers: 11-6 (+280, +2200) — Blew a 30-14 lead and lost at Jacksonville in Justin Herbert's NFL playoff debut. The seedings say they would have to play at Cincinnati this January. Good luck to them. They'll need it.

Denver Broncos: 7-10 (+500, +4000) — Russell Wilson will turn 35 during this season, and offense was last in the NFL in points scored in 2022, when Wilson had far and away the worst season of his 11-year career. Why did Sean Payton take on this headache?

Las Vegas Raiders: 5-12 (+1500, +4500) — Not only is Jimmy Garoppolo 44-19 as a starter — but he's Italian, too! But the defense has all the endearing characteristics of a spaghetti strainer.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: 13-4 (+165, +1500) — Went into the 2022 season finale with a chance to win the division, so it's not as if they're that far off. And for a QB who is 63-40 as a starter and has a career passer rating of 97.5, Dak Prescott deserves much more respect than he has been getting, and he will have Brandin Cooks, a six-time thousand-yard receiver (!) to throw to this season. Is this their year?

Philadelphia Eagles: 11-6 (-125, +750) — It's been 19 long years since a champion of this division has repeated, and they must do it despite playing the toughest schedule in the league. Owners refused to do anything about the "tush push" over the spring, so it's still legal for at least one more year — but offensive line allowed 44 sacks last year, raising questions about whether it may be overrated, and they're undersized at RB and LB; Elite Eight appears to be their ceiling.

New York Giants: 9-8 (+850, +4000) — Daniel Jones finally silenced many if not most doubters with breakout campaign in 2022, and they managed to hold onto Saquon Barkley; but their 28 completions of 20 yards or more was last in the league and the 49 sacks their offensive line allowed was tied for 27th. Defense finished 27th (by themselves) against the run a year ago, but they're counting on free-agent ILB Bobby Okereke to improve that ranking. A tie game (vs. division rival Washington) enabled them to sneak into the playoffs in '22; on the cusp again.

Washington Commanders: 6-11 (+1800, +8000) — How far the mighty have fallen: Sam Howell, projected as the first QB to be selected in the 2022 draft by the prestigious Lindy's magazine, was instead a lowly fifth-round pick, 144th overall; but now he has claimed the starting job over the lovely and talented Jacoby Brissett — but where quite a few NFL teams don't even have one power back, they have two (Brian Robinson, Jr. and Antonio Gibson). Lots of speed and talent at WR, but not along the offensive line (48 sacks allowed in 2022). But unless Howell can rediscover the magic of his days at North Carolina, they're fourth best in their division at QB — everywhere a team doesn't want to be.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers: 11-6 (+360, +5000) — RB tandem of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon could be best Mutt-n-Jeff backfield the NFL has seen since Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, and Matt LaFleur might want to lean on them heavily in the year 1 A.R. (After Rodgers). Defense that ranked tied for 17th in points allowed and 17th outright in yards allowed (26th against the run) would appreciate that, as well. Only potential fly in the buttermilk is the kicking game with the release of Mason Crosby — but if rookie Anders Carlson's ability matches his height (6'5"), that will be no problem at all; tabbing for the upset.

Detroit Lions: 10-7 (+120, +2200) — The "now" team in this division, if not the entire NFL; Jared Goff is the new Jim Plunkett as "The Comeback Kid Who Was Never Away," and running game is coming off its best season since the Barry Sanders era. But defense is an absolute dumpster fire: only Chicago and Arizona allowed more points than they did in 2022, and no team allowed more yards. They have a good shot to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but they're a sucker bet as favorites to win their first division title since 1993.

Minnesota Vikings: 9-8 (+260, +4000) — 11-0 in one-score games during the 2022 regular season before, as if on cue, losing such a game in the playoffs. Maybe if their defense was better (31st in yards allowed and tied with Detroit in points allowed a year ago) they wouldn't get involved in all of these nail-biters; a team with their kind of talent at quarterback (Kirk Cousins), wide receiver (Justin Jefferson) and tight end (T.J. Hockenson) shouldn't have to scratch and claw just to make the playoffs — the situation that they're likely to find themselves in with this year's tougher schedule.

Chicago Bears: 4-13 (+440, +5000) — Remember when baseball's Washington Senators were said to be first in war, first in peace and last in the American League? Well, this team was first in rushing, last in passing, and last in the entire NFL in 2022 — and will be lucky not to do all three again in 2023.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: 10-7 (+105, +3500) — They have a key angle in their favor, in that they are taking the biggest drop in strength of schedule in the entire NFL from what every team played last year, based on last year's records — and in this millennium, that has produced an improvement of three games and change, which should be enough for them to win this post-Tom Brady division.

Atlanta Falcons: 8-9 (+190, +7000) — They were next-to-last in the league in passing last season, so Desmond Ridder will have to show more, and it's somewhat puzzling that they drafted Bijan Robinson in the first round when running game ranked third in the league and Tyler Allgeier got 1,035 yards a year ago and Cordarelle Patterson added 695 and scored eight touchdowns. TE Kyle Pitts is a fantasy favorite, but it's unlikely that any of their WRs start on anybody's fantasy rosters and defense was twenty-something across the board in '22 (27th overall, 23rd against the run and 25th against the pass) and was last in the league in sacks in both 2022 and 2021; on the periphery in hollowed-out, QB-starved NFC.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7-10 (+1000, +8000) — Seems like a long time since Baker Mayfield appeared on those Progressive commercials, putting WR Mike Evans' 9-for-9 streak of thousand-yard seasons in jeopardy; running game ranked dead last in the NFL last season, yet no RBs were drafted and two minor free agents were signed, but with just 22 sacks allowed in '22, offensive line is the defending champion in that department. If defense, which tied for ninth with the Ravens in yards allowed, can keep them in games, their chances in this division are more realistic than people think.

Carolina Panthers: 6-11 (+425, +7000) — Reeled in RB Miles Sanders in free agency and then traded up to draft talented if diminutive Alabama QB Bryce Young, so you can't say they're not proactive; D.J. Chark, another free agent, injects speed into the WR room, but defense switches to 3-4 two years after switching their home surface to artificial turf — not a good sign; and their having "won" the three-way second-place tie in the division last season saddles them with a tougher schedule than the Saints and Falcons; looking elsewhere.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks: 12-5 (+220, +3500) — Had four picks in the first two rounds of the 2023 draft (two in the first round and two in the second round) — which is four more than the 49ers had in those two rounds combined. That's the kind of thing that can turn things around fast.

San Francisco 49ers: 11-6 (-200, +900) — In addition to their lack of top draft picks, they're making the biggest jump in the league in strength of schedule - and the Rams, who faced the same situation last year (and also didn't have a first- or second-round pick either) went from the Super Bowl to the toilet bowl. And not ready to anoint Brock Purdy as the long-term answer at QB.

Los Angeles Rams: 4-13 (+850, +7000) — Actually had a second-round pick in the 2023 draft — TCU center Steve Avila, who might be moved to guard. Their first-round drought will finally end next year after seven consecutive drafts without such a pick.

Arizona Cardinals: 3-14 (+2700, +20000) — Kyler Murray's injury struggles could be a warning as to what might be in store for Bryce Young. But they have a total of 11 picks in 2024, including two in the first round (one of them could be first overall), one in the second round, and three in the third round.

Playoffs (Home teams in CAPS)

AFC Wild Card — CINCINNATI over L.A. Chargers
...............................BUFFALO over N.Y. Jets
...............................Pittsburgh over JACKSONVILLE

NFC Wild Card — SEATTLE over Detroit
...............................GREEN BAY over Philadelphia
...............................San Francisco over NEW ORLEANS

AFC Divisional — KANSAS CITY over Pittsburgh
...............................CINCINNATI over Buffalo

NFC Divisional — DALLAS over San Francisco
...............................Green Bay over SEATTLE

AFC Championship — KANSAS CITY over Cincinnati

NFC Championship — DALLAS over Green Bay

Super Bowl LVIII — Dallas over Kansas City

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