2022 Record: (13-3)
Even though the Bills finished second overall in yards per game, the offense could be even more explosive this season with the addition of Damien Harris from New England and Latavius Murray from Denver rounding out the backfield with second year back James Cook, who will likely replace Devin Singletary as the #1 RB.
QB Josh Allen enters his sixth season as the Bills' starter. At 27, Allen is in his prime and has no shortage of targets in the receiving corps, despite losing possession specialist, Cole Beasley, who was traded to the Giants. Buffalo picked up Trent Sherfield (Miami) and Deonte Harty (New Orleans), and drafted well, nabbing tight end Dalton Kincaid out of Utah in the first round and Gators' wideout Justin Shorter in the fifth. Both are likely to see playing time, though Kincaid will sit more, behind starter Dawson Knox. Gabe Davis and Stefan Diggs are mainstays at wideout.
Defensively, the Bills need to shore up its linebacking unit as middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds went to the Bears and Von Miller isn't getting any younger and may miss the start of the season rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury.
Terrel Bernard or Tyrel Dodson look like the most viable candidates for the starting role at ML, with newcomer Leonard Floyd a notable addition at outside LB. Buffalo's secondary, led by Micah Hyde, is one of the best in the league.
Even with the Jets and Dolphins improving, Buffalo should manage another AFC East title and easily make the playoffs.
Expected 2023 Record: (12-5)
2022 Record: (9-8)
With Tua Tagovailoa entering his third season, he should have NFL defenses figured out enough to make Miami a contender in the rough AFC East.
Too has an elite receiving corps in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, and Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. add punch from the backfield and both are capable receivers. Questions remain over how well a secondary led by corners Eli Apple and Xavien Howard will hold up over the long haul.
The Dolphins should be hot on Buffalo's heels throughout 2023. Last season, they topped the Bills at home, 21-19, lost a close one in December at Buffalo, 32-29, and were eliminated by the Bills in the wild card round, 34-31. Obviously, Miami knows their opposition well enough to at least split with the Bills in 2023 and they could sweep their games with the Jets and Patriots.
Miami's 9-8 record from 2022 may be a bit deceiving. They were 8-3 before losing five straight, then hung on for an 11-6 win over the Jets to secure a wild card. A better showing in December could put them in a better position before facing the Bills in Miami in week 18. Before that, though, they'll have to get through Washington, Tennessee, the Jets, Dallas and Baltimore. Tough call, but they can make the playoffs again, though passing Buffalo is probably not realistic.
2022 Record: (7-10)
New York is buzzing over Aaron Rodgers starting at QB for the Jets, but the preseason hype may fade once people come to the realization that even though Rodgers is an eventual Hall of Fame entry, he's still 39, his best years are behind him, and his team (Green Bay) finished a fading 8-9 last year.
Rodgers can still sling it well enough, but he's far from an elite QB any more and definitely not a long-term solution. The Jets have been searching for a quality quarterback since Joe Namath led them to a win in Super Bowl III, a long, long time ago.
Throwing to the likes of Garret Wilson, Allen Lazard, Corey Davis and a reunion with Randall Cobb may prove to be more than perfectionist Rodgers can handle and frustrations may appear earlier than most expect. Mecole Hardman Jr., from KC, may provide some spark. If healthy, RB Breece Hall could have a breakout season.
Defensively, the Jets are very solid and they may win more games by holding down opponents than outscoring them. Carl Lawson and Al Woods are beasts on the D-line, and Sauce Gardner may be a pro-bowler this season.
The Jets have high hopes, but, don't they always?
Expected 2023 Record: (8-9)
2022 Record: (8-9)
Since the departure of Tom Brady following the 2019 season, the Patriots are an even 25-25 over three season, going 7-9 in 2020, 10-7 in 2021, and 8-9 last year. Can they possibly put up a winning record in 2023 with Mac Jones at quarterback and a defense that relies on Bill Belichick principles of mixing and match players for situational circumstances?
Probably not, though the Patriots will still be competitive in most of their games. Last season, they faded badly down the stretch, losing five of their final seven games. That sting may carry over into 2023, as the Patriots start out the season at home versus Philadelphia, then Miami, before road games at the Jets and Dallas.
If the Patriots can avoid an 0-4 start to their 2023 campaign, they might remain viable until their bye week in Week 11, but that's asking a lot from a team which is obviously going in the wrong direction. This could easily turn out to be Belichick's worst season as a head coach.
2022 Record: (12-4)
Joe Burrow may not be 100% for the start of the regular season, but he will still be Joe Burrow, one of the best QBs in the league, with sights set on a Super Bowl in 2023. The prospects for Burrow and his Cincinnati teammates are extremely positive after a 2022 season that saw the Bengals knock off the Ravens and Bills in the wild card and divisional rounds of the playoffs, only to lose to their main nemesis, Kansas City, 23-20.
Returning to the offense is what is probably the best trio of receivers in the league. JaMarr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd can shred defenses, knowing that their quarterback will usually find them for sizable gains. Joe Mixon returns as the lead back, joined by Chase Brown, the rookie RB out of Illinois, taken in the fifth round, who adds toughness, durability, and pass-catching ability in special situations.
If anything, Cincinnati's defense will be improved if Cam Taylor-Hill and Chidobe Awuzie continue to develop. Sam Hubbard and DJ Reader on the left side of the defensive line are capable of causing backfield havoc, which may clear the way for an improved turnover ratio for the Bengals via more interceptions.
Possibly in possession of the best long-range weapon in the league, kicker Evan McPherson hit on all five of his 50+ yard attempts in 2023. Entering his third full season, McPherson's accuracy from shorter distances is likely to improve as well.
2022 Record: (10-7)
Keeping Lamar Jackson healthy should be a priority for the Ravens in 2023. Last season, the Ravens were 7-4 when Jackson started and just 3-4 when he didn't, including their first round, 24-17, loss to Cincinnati in the playoffs. He makes all the difference for Baltimore, either by rushing (764 yards) or passing (2,242), and those numbers were in just 12 2022 games.
Another player that would add mightily to Baltimore's season success would be running back J.K. Dobbins. The Ohio State product has played in just 23 games over the past three seasons, but he's produced, rushing for an average gains of 5.9 yards per carry. His presence would take a lot of the weight off Jackson's shoulders.
Wideouts Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham Junior, plus tight end Mark Andrews are great options in the throwing game. The Ravens could be a top five offensive juggernaut if everyone contributes.
On defense, the Bengals like to rough teams up, funneling much of the punishment to linebackers Odafe Oweh, Roquan Smith, and Patrick Queen.
The schedule should also work in Baltimore's favor as they play only two teams that made the playoffs last season in their first 10 games (Bengals, Seahawks). They could easily be 8-2 or 9-1 by that time.
2022 Record: (9-8)
Pittsburgh made a wise choice in drafting Pitt's Kenny Pickett in the first round of the 2022 draft as he made an immediate impact and has secured the starting job entering 2023. Pickett completed 63% of his passes last season without much help, being sacked 27 times in 13 games. The Steelers' experienced offensive line much improve and the offense needs more balance. RB Najee Harris has rushed for over 1000 years in each of his two pro seasons, but needs to get secondary blocks to break loose. Jaylen Warren (77 carries, 379 yards) needs to add valuable minutes subbing.
Pittsburgh's defense is led by the trio of DE Cameron Hayward, LB T.J. Watt, and CB Patrick Peterson, but there's not a lot of depth overall. Joey Porter Jr. will have his hands full in the secondary opposite Peterson, but the Pittsburgh defense should be a solid unit.
Overall, if the offense can stay on the field and avoid costly turnovers, the Steelers will be back in the hunt in their division. A 2-6 start in 2022 ruined their season, but the team never quit, winning seven of their last nine to just miss the playoffs with a 9-8 record. Any improvement puts them firmly in a wild card slot, though the AFC is full of rising stars and improving teams.
Expected 2023 Record: (10-7)
2022 Record: (7-10)
The Browns have gone from contenders to cellar dwellers over the course of the past three seasons. The wheels came off completely by week 11, a 31-23 loss to Buffalo sending them to a 3-7 record and rebuilding mode mid-season.
Deshaun Watson took over at QB in week 13, but was only marginally effective, as the Browns went 3-3 with him behind center. With time in the system, the hope is that Watson can put his checkered past behind him and operate as he did early in his career. He's got plaenty of help with Nick Chubb in the backfield and the trio of Ameeri Cooper, Elijah Moore, and Donovan Peoples-Jones as downfield targets. Chubb rushed for 1,525 yards last season and has proven quality. It's make-or-break for Jackson to perform.
The Browns' defense is OK, but not dominant. They were on the field too much in 2022, but that should change with a better offense. The problem is that Cleveland is in one of the toughest divisions in the league. It's possible that they could finish last again, but with a winning record.
Expected 2023 Record: (8-9)
2022 Record: (9-8)
Trevor Lawrence found his stride just in time last season, getting Jacksonville into the playoffs by winning the division as Tennessee folded like a cheap suit. After a week 11 bye, the Jaguars won six of their last seven, including five straight to close out the regular season and take the division handily with a 9-8 record.
Yes, they were 3-7 before that, the remarkable turnaround courtesy of inspired QB Lawrence, some timely defense, a healthy share of good fortune and an advantageous schedule. Oh, and they beat Tennessee twice in the final five weeks, including a 20-16 clincher at home in week 18.
That jolt of confidence carried over to a wild card win over the Chargers, 31-30, but they were no match for Kansas City in the next round, falling 27-20. Still, they fought hard and were not embarrassed by the eventual Super Bowl champions.
Receivers Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, and Zay Jones were special down the stretch, making plays when they were most needed. Lawrence's teammate from Clemson, RB Travis Etienne Jr. carried the load in the rushing department, racking up first downs with determined runs.
Should the success of 2022 carry over into the upcoming season, Jacksonville may run away with the division.
2022 Record: (7-10)
The Titans finished their 2022 campaign with a string of seven straight losses and all of those were not because QB Ryan Tannehill was injured. In weeks 13 and 14, the Titans dropped consecutive losses, 35-10 at Philadelphia, and 36-22, to division rival Jacksonville. The offense failed to click, but the defense was downright awful. Tannehill would eventually bow out for the season the following week, in a 17-14 road loss to the Chargers. The last three games were just a matter of survival as the team produced only 43 points total.
IN what was easily his worst season as a pro, Tannehill threw for 13 TDs and six interceptions, but had a completely depleted receiving corps. He was also sacked 33 times in just 12 games, so the offensive line needs improvement and the defense might need a complete overhaul.
Enter DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, and hopefully, Reggie Roberson Jr. (rookie, SMU), Kearis Jackson (rookie Georgia) and other unknown quantities.
Outside of Jeffrey Simmons and Harold Landry on defense, there isn't much, especially in the secondary.
The Titans need to find more offense after Derrick Henry. Their smashing style of play is all too predictable. However, in what appears to be the weakest division in the league, they may manage to make the playoffs with a losing record.
Expected 2023 Record: (8-9)
2022 Record: (3-13)
With the worse 2022 record in the AFC, things can only get better for the Texans, right?
Houston's hopes rest with either the #2 pick in the 2023 draft, Ohio State QB, C.J. Stroud, who put up big numbers in the Big Ten, or Davis Mills, in his third go-round with the Texans. He's compiled a record of 5-19-1 as the Houston starter.
It would appear Stroud has an inside track, but he's unproven at this level and may not be quite ready. No matter which QB suits up for game 1 of the 2023 season, it's probable that the other one will still get plenty of time on the field as the season progresses because Houston hasn't made great strides with off-field acquisitions to fix glaring problems on both sides of the ball.
The Texans got Devin Singletary from Buffalo, but he's likely to back up Dameon Pierce, who nearly cracked the 1,000-yard barrier in his rookie season, rushing for 939 yards on 220 touches. Still, Pierce can't do it alone. Most of the offense rests on the quarterback's arm, whoever's that is.
On defense, a complete overhaul is needed. Teams put up 21 or more points on the Texans 12 times in 2023. There are too many holes and mistakes.
The good news is that the Texans play in what may be the weakest division in the league. The bad news is they're part of the reason it's that way.
Expected 2023 Record: (6-11)
2022 Record: (4-12)
Real issues emerged for the Colts right from the start of the season. Matt Ryan, obviously past his prime, wasn't able to mesh with the offense as well as needed, leaving the defensive unit on the field for too many minutes. Even though RB Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver, Michael Pittman Jr., were establishing themselves as legitimate stars, the offense was spotty and inconsistent.
By week 9, the wheels had come off. Ryan was injured and rookie Sam Ehlinger was obviously not ready for prime time. Back-to-back losses to Washington and New England left the Colts at 3-5-1. They managed to defeat Las Vegas in week 10, 25-20, but it would prove to be their last win of the season, closing out with seven straight losses.
Indy's answer to last season's woes is supposedly Gordon Minshew as the starting QB. Sorry, but the team hasn't made the requisite trades or draft picks to fix what's rotten in Indiana. The Colts are headed for another rough year. Fans deserve better than what this organization is putting on the field.
Kansas City Chiefs
2022 Record: (14-3)
What can anyone say about the Chiefs that hasn't already been said? Over the past five seasons, they've been the most exciting, most consistent, winningest team in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes is an automatic MVP candidate every season (he's won it twice: 2018, 2022).
Since Mahomes became the full-time starter in 2018, the Chiefs' cumulative record is 64-18, they've reached the conference championship every year won two Super Bowls and lost one. Not too shabby.
Andy Reid, who has been the Chiefs' head coach since 2013, is becoming legendary. He's 247-138-1 (.641) as a head coach since 1999 and has a playoff record of 22-16 (12-7 with KC).
While the Chiefs are clearly the front-runner to win not only their division, they're also the likely favorite to win the Super Bowl, again.
The revolving door of Kansas City receivers seems to have come up big again. Led by Marquez Valdez-Scantlng and Ladarius Toney, look for second-year player Skyy Moore to get more targets and rookie Rashee Rice (SMU) to add to the mix. Of course, Mahome's favorite target, TE Travis Kelce, returns.
The defense, if it is, as usual, above average, will be fine and the Chiefs will cruise. The Chiefs are a dynasty in the making.
Expected 2023 Record: (13-4)
2022 Record: (10-7)
As long as Justin Herbert remains healthy, the Chargers can challenge the Chiefs for supremacy in the AFC West. Herbert enters his fourth season in Los Angeles with a contract extension (currently the highest paid player in the league) and a solid resume. He threw for 4,739 yards in 2022, with 25 TDs and 10 picks. Leading the Chargers to four straight wins down the stretch, the Chargers finished a respectable 10-7, only to lose a heart-breaker to the Jaguars, 31-30, in the wild card.
Herbert has a slew of capable receivers, including Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quentin Johnson and Joshua Palmer. There's no shortage of downfield yardage as the Chargers prepare for the 2023 season.
Coming out of North Colorado, rookie RB Elijah Dotson could be an asset for the Chargers as a backup to Austn Ekeler. At 5'9", 202 lbs., Dotson is built in the Eric Bieniemy mold, a short, squatty runner with a powerful lower body.
What the Chargers need in 2023 is more consistency on defense. They have the makings of a top 10 unit, with Joey Bosa anchoring the line, Khalil wreaking havoc at linebacker and Asante Samuel Jr. making plays in the secondary. The Chargers allowed 30 or more points in four of their six losses and need to improve in the red zone.
LA lost both meetings with the Chiefs last season. If they intend to overtake KC, they'll have to at least split those games this year.
Expected 2023 Record: (11-6)
2022 Record: (6-11)
Losing six games by three points of less or in overtime, the Raiders failed to live up to expectations in 2022, especially after a 1-4 start. Vegas did rally to get to 5-7 by December, but lost four of their last five and were far from making the playoffs.
Giving up on Derek Carr, the Raiders will pin their hopes on Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired in the off-season from the 49ers. This will be Jimmy G's tenth season, so, at 31, he has to deliver. That's a tall order, even with Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers at his disposal. He'll get plenty of help from Josh Jacobs, the league's leading rusher from last season (1,653 yards on 330 carries).
The Raiders have bigger problems on defense, allowing too many big plays and scores early in games and the offense wasn't particularly adept at coming from behind. If the Raiders can get some secondary support, they'll be OK, as defensive ends, Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones are adept at applying pressure.
Making it to .500 would be a good result. Anything beyond that would be a welcome surprise for long-suffering Raiders fans.
Expected 2023 Record: (9-8)
2022 Record: (5-12)
Denver's defense kept them in most of the games they managed to win (just five), but as long as the team is content with Russell Wilson at QB, the defense is going to wear down eventually.
Wilson was a complete bust in his first season with the Broncos. In 15 games he tallied 19 TDs, but was sacked a league-high 55 times. At 34, Wilson can't run like he used to, and his overall mobility is limited. He does have experience, but will have to adapt to Sean Peyton's offense, predicated on possession and a mid-range passing attack. That's no easy task, considering the shortage of quality receivers and backs on their roster.
The defense will have to be even better than they were in 2022 for the Broncos to make any progress. Injuries could send this squad back to the basement for another season.
There hasn't been a winning season in Denver since 2016, when they finished 9-7 and still didn't make the playoffs. 2023 looks like another year of misery.
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