It’s that time of the year, folks. With the upcoming NFL season drawing closer, it’s time for our 2023 rankings of all eight NFL divisions.
Which one’s the worst of the bunch? And which one will be the most chaotic? Here is how all eight divisions stack up against each other heading into 2023.
8. NFC South
Well, guess what? Brady is now retired. And a team that goes from The GOAT at QB to Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask is sure to regress by several wins. Don’t be shocked if the back-to-back NFC South champs are the division’s chumps this year.
The Atlanta Falcons somehow won seven games last year with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder as their QBs. Good on the front office for adding the likes of Jessie Bates, Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell to bolster an anemic defense, but it’s all gonna come down to how Ridder and/or Taylor Heinicke perform.
Well, adding Bijan Robinson to an offensive arsenal with Tyler Allgeier, Kyle Pitts and Drake London will certainly make life easier. Arthur Smith is a vastly underrated coach, too. We’re not calling Atlanta title contenders, but they should definitely at least push for a wild card berth — not to mention they have football’s easiest strength of schedule for 2023.
We don’t expect the Carolina Panthers to be much better — if at all — than the 2022 squad. This is a rebuilding year with a new QB in first overall pick Bryce Young, a new-look DJ Moore-less offense and a new head coach in Frank Reich. We’ll say this much: Carolina won’t be the yawn-fest of a team to watch unlike the last four years.
The New Orleans Saints are unquestionably the team to beat in this division. After winning seven games with the Jameis Winston/Andy Dalton tandem last year, they’re sure to push for double-digit wins with Derek Carr now taking over the offense.
New Orleans’ roster was decimated by injuries a year ago. Even the slightest bit of better injury luck will help immensely. They have a top-10 defense and have supplied Carr with a plethora of weapons. Throw in football’s second-easiest strength of schedule, and they truly have the makings to be a sneaky Super Bowl contender this year.
7. AFC South
How about this? The bottom-two divisions in our rankings are the NFC South and AFC South. So you might say that things will go…”south” for these two divisions.
Like the NFC South, the AFC South is going to be limited in terms of entertaining games and high quality play. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who won the division with a 9-and-8 record last year, look ready to contend for a Super Bowl in year two of the Trevor Lawrence-Doug Pederson pairing.
Having Calvin Ridley joining an offense that already has Christian Kirk, Travis Etienne, Zay Jones and Evan Engram should be a terrifying thought for the rest of the NFL. After Jacksonville, the depth in the division, if you will, starts to look a lot worse.
The Tennessee Titans are going to rely on three injury-prone and ageing veterans in Ryan Tannehill, DeAndre Hopkins and Derrick Henry to carry the offense. I mean, if they all stay healthy and play up to their usual standards, maybe the Titans squeeze out nine to 10 wins? But we’re not sure that’s enough to claim a playoff spot in the gauntlet that is the AFC.
The Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans are rebuilding with new head coaches and rookie quarterbacks. Anthony Richardson and CJ Stroud will be fun to watch, even if they struggle early, but you’re looking at two clubs who’d be lucky to reach five wins this year.
It’d be a shock if the Jaguars didn’t win the division. It’d be a bigger shock if two clubs in the division finished above .500.
6. NFC North
This is the toughest division to predict for 2023. You have four teams who could all surprise and reach double-digit wins. You also have four teams who could crumble big-time and find themselves picking in the top-10 next year.
The Minnesota Vikings are the reigning division champs, having won 13 games last year. But having won a record 11 one-score games last year, the law of averages state that they’ll get unluckier and regress in the one-score contest department.
Also, losing Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Patrick Peterson and Za’Darius Smith doesn’t inspire confidence that this club will threaten for 13 wins again. As great as Justin Jefferson is, this team’s ceiling feels like 10 wins for 2023.
The Green Bay Packers have a great mix of young and veteran talents. But it all comes down to Jordan Love. Is he the real deal and ready to succeed Aaron Rodgers? Does he need a year or two more to develop? Or is he simply not the guy at all? We can see Green Bay surprising with 10 to 12 wins in a wide-open division, but we can also see them going 5-and-12.
The Chicago Bears made some great moves this offseason. They added DJ Moore, D’Onta Foreman and promising o-line prospect Darnell Wright to the offense. The front seven was beefed up by the signings of Tremaine Edmunds, DeMarcus Walker, TJ Edwards and Yannick Ngakoue.
So, does Justin Fields break out with his new set of toys? Do the Bears make a giant leap on D after finishing last in scoring a year ago? Again, it could go either way.
The Detroit Lions shocked everyone by winning nine games a year ago. Hard not to be excited about the wealth of moves GM Brad Holmes made on defense — specifically Emmanuel Mosley, CJ Gardner-Johnson and Cam Sutton.
But not having Jameson Wililams for the first six games due to suspension is concerning. Was 2022 the sign that Jared Goff is back to his Pro Bowl form? Or was it a mirage? Also, it’s the Lions. They could easily choke and finish with another losing season despite the increased expectations for 2023.
The NFC North is going to be the division of chaos, and we are here for it.
5. NFC West
This division has it all: A true Super Bowl contender, a playoff contender and Super Bowl sleeper, a true wild card and great unknown and a team that may as well start scouting the top quarterbacks for the 2024 draft class.
Nothing more needs to be said about the San Francisco 49ers that hasn’t already been said. They’ve made three of the last four NFC Championship Games and were potentially a non-Brock Purdy away from playing in their second Super Bowl in four years.
The 49ers had football’s No. 1 D a year ago and added ex-Eagles star defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey and Trent Williams will make life easy for Purdy, Trey Lance or Sam Darnold….whoever starts at QB there in 2023. They’re one of the two main teams to beat in the NFC, along with Philadelphia.
The Seattle Seahawks surprised with nine wins last season. They added Bobby Wagner, Dre’Mont Jones and rookies Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba to an already loaded roster. As long as Geno Smith shows that last year was no fluke, the Seahawks are a true title contender.
Can this top-heavy roster rebound after a forgettable Super Bowl defense season? We hate to bet against a Sean McVay team, but this roster is very limited with talent and game-changers. The Rams could win five games or 11 games. Or something in between. Take your guess.
With JJ Watt, AJ Green, Byron Murphy, Zach Allen and DeAndre Hopkins gone, a hapless Arizona team is the favorite to finish with football’s worst record next year. Kyler Murray will miss time recovering from surgery on his torn ACL.
Bottom line, Arizona should be happy if they somehow top four wins this year.
4. AFC West
Having won the division every year since 2016, the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs remain the class of the NFL. Five straight AFC championship appearances, three conference banners and two Lombardi Trophies. Need we say more about the Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid-led tandem?
The Los Angeles Chargers will be a playoff contender again with superstar QB Justin Herbert. We just refuse to trust them in big games, as evidenced by the blowing of a 27-0 lead against Jacksonville in the wild card round. They can make noise in the AFC, but you just know the Chargers will somehow “Charger” it up. So buy them at your own risk.
The Denver Broncos were arguably football’s biggest disappointment a year ago. But surely, Russell Wilson can only improve with Sean Payon taking over as head coach…right? Two future Hall of Famers oughta do something right in Mile High City? But even if they do, is that enough to contend for a playoff berth in the AFC? A lot will have to go right.
The Las Vegas Raiders won six games last year, and they’d be lucky to top that number in 2023. Jimmy Garoppolo can’t stay healthy and, even when on the field, is quite the downgrade from Derek Carr. The defense has been a disaster for years, and rookie Tyree Wilson isn’t gonna fix that on his own.
3. NFC East
The NFC East featured three playoff teams a year ago. The fourth-place finisher, the Washington Commanders, still went 8-8-1. With that, it’s time to say goodbye to the “NFC Least” jokes.
So the reigning NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles are as deep as last year’s squad and are the co-NFC team to beat, along with San Fran. A top-five QB, arguably the league’s top receiving duo, the league’s best o-line and a top-five defense. Watch your backs again, NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys can’t be trusted to go on a Super Bowl run, but back-to-back 12-win seasons is no joke.
The arrivals of Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks definitely make this club scarier. The talent is always there, but will they actually rise to the occasion in the big moments for once? Like the Chargers, Dallas is always tough to trust in crunch time.
The New York Giants ended a six-year playoff drought and stunned Minnesota in the Wild Card Round. Daniel Jones has three new pass-catching weapons in Darren Waller, Parris Campbell and Jalin Hyatt. If he can take another step forward, and if Saquon Barkley stays healthy again, the Brian Daboll-led Giants could very well go on a deep run.
Ron Rivera deserves credit for squeezing out 22 wins over three seasons without a steady quarterback in Washington. Not sure what Sam Howell is capable of, but the Commanders boast a top-10 defense and some nice weapons in Terry McLaurin, Brian Robinson and Jahan Dotson. They will flirt with a winning record and could sneak back into the postseason.
2. AFC North
The Cincinnati Bengals have a top-three QB in Joe Burrow plus the NFL’s best receiving corps. Throw in a top-10 defense and the fact they’ve reached back-to-back AFC title games, and we have no doubt they’ll be a bonafide Super Bowl contender in 2023 — and for many years to come.
The Baltimore Ravens snuck into the playoffs despite missing Lamar Jackson for five games. His 45-16-0 record as a starter speaks for itself. They’ll push for a championship if he’s healthy. Key word: IF.
The Pittsburgh Steelers won nine games despite uneven play from Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky at QB. If Pickett can take a step forward, these guys will be a darkhorse championship contender. George Pickens, Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth headline a scary offensive arsenal, and that defense will be a top five-10 group again.
Love or hate Deshaun Watson, he can only improve after a sluggish six-game performance after serving an 11-game suspension. The Browns are loaded with playmakers — young and veterans — on both sides of the ball. They could totally make some noise in January.
1. AFC East
This is the most excited we’ve been about one division in a single season since…the AFC West a year ago! We know the division wasn’t as thrilling as many expected, but the AFC East will not disappoint this year.
As usual, Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills are in the upper echelon of Super Bowl contenders. They have a top-five D every year, and the annual MVP contender will once again have his team in the running for football’s ultimate prize.
The Miami Dolphins would have likely upset Buffalo in the wild card round if Tua Tagovailoa was healthy. It’s a shame that three head-related injuries cut his 2022 season short. Tua had the NFL’s best QB rating and the most yards per completion.
If — HOPEFULLY — Tua can stay healthy all year long, his Dolphins are a contender. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are only football’s best receiving duo, after all.
The New England Patriots will always have a chance with Bill Belichick. They’re going to field a top-five defense as usual, and Mac Jones stands to improve with new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and his new-look offense which added JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Gesicki and Ezekiel Elliott.
All four of these teams could realistically win the Super Bowl in 2023. Are you not entertained? This division is going to be full of fireworks in 2023. Let the games begin!
How would you rank all eight NFL divisions heading into the 2023 season?
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