The dawn of a new NFL season has arrived.
After the Kansas City Chiefs raise their Super Bowl banner on opening night, the quest begins anew for 32 teams to add a Lombardi Trophy of their own.
Culminating an offseason's worth of predictions and projections, it is time to go on record with this year's predictions for each division winner, the AFC and NFC conference championship matchups, who will make it to Las Vegas, and which team will stand on the podium with the Lombardi held aloft.
Here are our official predictions.
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has built one of the deepest rosters across the entire league, and Philadelphia is quarterbacked by one of the ascending stars at the position: Jalen Hurts. The Eagles have the benefit of experience on the heels of last season's run to the Super Bowl, along with the league's premier offensive line and a defense that has game-altering playmakers at all three levels. The NFC East race will be tighter than in years past, but the Eagles have a championship window so long as Hurts is the quarterback. Full NFC East Breakdown
NFC North: Detroit Lions
In Detroit, optimism has reached heights perhaps previously never before seen in Motown. That's thanks in large part to the culture crafted by head coach Dan Campbell, a strong finish to the 2022 campaign and a ferocious young defense headlined by the likes of Aidan Hutchinson and premium draft picks who have developed into franchise cornerstones. Offensively, the addition of versatile first-round running back Jahmyr Gibbs gives quarterback Jared Goff a weapon equally dangerous as a slasher as he is catching passes out of the backfield. Given Aaron Rodgers' departure from Green Bay, the NFC North is wide open, and the Lions have the talent to seize the opportunity. Full NFC North Breakdown
NFC South: Carolina Panthers
By all accounts, Bryce Young has looked the part of a young franchise quarterback throughout the offseason, but the time has come to show he's capable of leading an experienced roster when the game speed ratchets up and outcomes begin for real. Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has done an outstanding job of surrounding Young both with reliable veteran playmakers: running back Miles Sanders, wide receiver Adam Thielen and tight end Hayden Hurst, along with an explosive rookie field-stretcher such as Jonathan Mingo. Coach Frank Reich's steady leadership, plus a disruptive front seven, buttress Young's potential and just might be enough to take home the division crown. Full NFC South Breakdown
NFC West: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers boast one of the most explosive rosters in the league, but they face one of the biggest questions of all: Can quarterback Brock Purdy prove he wasn't a one-hit wonder after going from Mr. Irrelevant to leading San Francisco to the doorstep of the Super Bowl last fall? General manager John Lynch might have constructed the most disruptive defensive line in the league — complementing an offense that boasts elite playmakers such as Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel — all ensuring the 49ers are one of the NFL's toughest outs each week. This team's ceiling hinges on Purdy's strong play in 2022 being sustained in 2023. Full NFC West Breakdown
AFC East: Miami Dolphins
Miami has a lofty ceiling this season, primarily because of the speed and explosiveness on the perimeter that Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle provide. As long as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can stay healthy, this has the potential to be one of the most lethal offenses in the sport. Defensively, the addition of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has the potential to elevate the games of disruptive edge rushers Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb, which should create opportunities for Xavian Howard and Jevon Holland to thrive in the secondary. Full AFC East Breakdown
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals
Quarterback Joe Burrow enters the 2023 campaign with another year of continuity both with head coach Zac Taylor and his primary weapons — Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon — all while operating behind an improved offensive line thanks to Orlando Brown's arrival. While other top AFC contenders have made some dramatic shifts at the offensive skill positions in recent years, Burrow has had the luxury of continuing to build chemistry with his primary pass-catchers, which gives the 2023 season the potential to be Cincinnati's best chance to date at hoisting its first Lombardi. That starts with winning the sneakily competitive AFC North. Full AFC North Breakdown
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars
As the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans trot out rookie starting quarterbacks — and the Tennessee Titans straddle the fence between rebuilding and making one last run with their core led by Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry — this division feels as if it's Doug Pederson, Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars' to lose.
Lawrence was a popular choice as a sleeper MVP candidate among current players and executives in our recent survey of those inside the league, and for good reason. An ascending talent, Lawrence benefited from Pederson's influence in 2022, passing for 4,113 yards with 25 touchdowns to eight interceptions. In 2023, thanks to the arrival of Calvin Ridley and another year of familiarity with the weapons around him, Lawrence has the potential to play his way into the echelon of the game's elite quarterbacks. Pairing an exciting offense with a youthful and dynamic defense could be a formula that yields a lengthy postseason for Jacksonville. Full AFC South Preview
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
The AFC West is potentially the most competitive division in football. But until someone proves capable of actually beating Patrick Mahomes or proving that another round of changes to the reigning MVP's supporting cast will actually impact Kansas City's win-loss record, this division remains the Chiefs' to lose. Still, that test might come this season after offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy's departure to Washington and the Chiefs turning over at receiver — again — following Juju Smith-Schuster landing with the New England Patriots. As long as coach Andy Reid and Mahomes are together, the Chiefs will be in the Super Bowl conversation and one of the toughest teams to beat on a consistent basis. Full AFC West Preview
AFC Championship Game: Cincinnati Bengals over Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes versus Burrow has become this generation's Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady, and this January could set the stage for the next act in his burgeoning epic rivalry. Burrow's aforementioned improved chemistry with his weapons will give him and the Bengals the edge, as these two AFC juggernauts deliver another epic showdown with a trip to Super Bowl Sunday on the line.
NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles over Detroit Lions
It has been eight years since a Super Bowl loser made a return trip back to the big game, but the Eagles' depth across the roster combined with Hurts' upward trajectory make Philadelphia the team to beat in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Eagles' defense is sneakily one of the stingiest and most talented in the league, and it will only get better with youngsters such as DeAndre Carter, Nolan Smith, Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis primed to play expanded roles in 2023. The Lions have the pieces in place to be one of this season's surprises, especially if the receiving corps makes strides and provides some explosiveness offensively. In the end, the combination of the Eagles' talent and experience will be too much for any team on this side of the bracket to overcome.
Super Bowl: Philadelphia Eagles over Cincinnati Bengals
These were two of the best teams in 2022, and they each have the quarterback and young weapons to be even better in 2023. Hurts having another season with A.J. Brown on the receiving end of passes, and DeVonta Smith reaching his pivotal third NFL season, are reasons to think the Eagles might be even more explosive this season than last. Meanwhile, Burrow remains an assassin from the pocket, with a defense that has a reputation for timely turnovers and big stops. Cincinnati's improved offensive line gets them back to a second Super Bowl in three seasons, but the breadth, depth and star power of the Eagles' offense will be, in the end, too much to overcome.
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