Football is back tonight and it feels like it’s been gone forever.
At the same time, it feels like the Eagles got called for holding to end Super Bowl 57 a week ago. Anyway, let’s make some safe assumptions and throw in some outrageous guesses so I can look way dumb in four months.
I’m making these predictions based on limited research, gut feelings, and the thrill of being loud wrong. I’m not going to defend any of them extensively because all that matters to my readers (all four of you) is that I’m wrong and you can make fun of me for it. Few things are as satisfying as telling someone on the Internet they were wrong. I get it. I’m glad to be this person for you.
- The AFC North is the best division in football and the Cincinnati Bengals will miss the playoffs. The Bengals didn’t do anything wrong, and Joe Burrow is still awesome, but a number of big players are due for big raises after this season and there just won’t be enough cash to go around next year. As losses pile up and season tension grows, I think that team could splinter. Plus, Burrow was injured most of camp and slow starts are poisonous for teams with unsettled futures. (I like the Ravens winning the division despite uncertainties about their defense. If I had any guts at all I’d pick the Steelers or Browns. I’m gutless.)
- The AFC South will be sneaky good. Don’t underestimate the Titans. Last season was a disastrous chain of injuries and quarterback incompetence. Ryan Tannehill isn’t a top ten quarterback, but he is an actual NFL quarterback capable of quarterbacking. Yes, injuries are a part of football but the Titans are a playoff team in 2022 if Tannehill doesn’t miss five games. Jacksonville will be in the mix too, obviously. In fact, don’t be surprised if it’s the AFC South that gets a Wildcard berth. The AFC North and East are stacked, but it’ll be a blood bath in both divisions so I wouldn’t be shocked to see both the Titans and Jaguars in January. While we’re here, don’t sleep on the Colts winning games they shouldn’t. Shane Steichen is going to be a great coach, something the Colts have lacked the last few years. He’ll find a way to keep the Colts competitive all season.
- I just said the AFC East is stacked. It’s also overrated. Actually, no, that’s too strong. It’s a very good division. Instead of overrated I should say it has too many uncertain variables. For example, Will Tua survive the season? Can the Jets protect Aaron Rodgers? Even if they can, is Rodgers the 2022 Rodgers or the 2021 version? Can the Patriots score points? How long until the wheels completely fall off in Buffalo and Sean McDermott is packing up his things? See? As easily as you can see the AFC East ruling football, it doesn’t require gigantic leaps for each team’s season becoming a complete disaster.
- I’m trying not to be a homer about this. I’ve looked up and down for reasons why the Eagles will collapse a la 2005 and miss the postseason. Super Bowl hangovers are real. I don’t see it with this team. Do they have questions? Sure. Will the back end of the secondary gel quickly, can the linebackers hold the fort, is Cam Jurgens good enough to keep the offensive line at elite status? While questions exist, there will be no hangover. Spend any amount of time reading about this Eagles team and you won’t find a shred of complacency or self-praise. They have hungry veterans on the verge of retirement, young stars eager to get back and a superstar quarterback dead set on writing the final chapter of his “Prove the whole world wrong” biography. Assuming they avoid the catastrophic injuries, the Eagles will be right there with Dallas and San Francisco come late January. In fact, I think they will meet the Chiefs again and win this time.
- I don’t think Frank Reich is a great coach. Carolina made a huge mistake when they let Steve Wilks walk out of the building. Regardless, I think the Panthers are going to surprise some people and win a hapless NFC South. Why? Defense and capable quarterback play. I know the Panthers have struggled to protect their young quarterback thus far, but Carolina traded up for Bryce Young because he was the most NFL-ready QB in the draft. He’s coming from the SEC, not the Mountain West or Sun Belt Conference. It’s going to take some time, but eventually Carolina will rise to the “top” of the division.
- The NFC Wildcards will go to the NFC East (2) and NFC North. Sorry, Seattle. I’m not entirely sure why everyone is writing off the Vikings. They overachieved last year by winning 11 one score games and they allowed two of their best players to walk. I get the skepticism. However, the Viking defense wasn’t any good last season either. And the offense never missed a step without Dalvin Cook over the past two seasons. Also, they upgraded an aging Adam Thielen with one of the best wide receivers in the draft. That offense should continue to thrive and win enough games to be back in the postseason in a top heavy NFC that is otherwise weak.
- The AFC Wildcard race will be the most exciting aspect of the 2023 season. Let’s just assume the Chiefs and Titans win their respective divisions. I’m going to pencil in the Ravens as North champions and the Bills to repeat in the East. That leaves the Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars, Chargers, Bengals, Steelers and Browns competing for three spots. Whoa. I have no clue what will happen, but I’m going to go Steelers, Browns and Chargers in some order. That already feels wrong.
- Andy Reid has his running back. Isiah Pacheco is the first workhorse back Reid and the Chiefs have had since Kareem Hunt kicked a woman in a hotel hallway back in 2018. Pacheco will be the first Kansas City running back to rack up 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns since Hunt in 2017.
Thursday Night Pick; Lions +5 (It just means more to the Lions.)