The Kansas City Chiefs will be out to defend their crown as the 2023 NFL season gets underway.
Who will be there in the pointy end of the playoffs and who might already be thinking about the 2024 Draft?
Here is EVERY division broken down in a bumper 2023 NFL PREVIEW!
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2022 record: 7-10
Key additions: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Allen Lazard, WR Randall Cobb, OLB Will McDonald, C Joe Tippmann, LT Carter Warren, RB Israel Abanikanda, S Adrian Amos, OT Billy Turner, WR Jason Brownlee, WR Xavier Gipson, WR Irvin Charles, P Thomas Morstead
Key departures: WR Corey Davis, QB Mike White, QB Joe Flacco, WR/KR Braxton Berrios, P Braden Mann
First-and-goal: Rodgers-to-Garrett Wilson will be fun. Rodgers and offensive co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett are one mind in two bodies. RB Breece Hall (ACL) will ease back with Dalvin Cook on board. RG Alijah Vera-Tucker is Pro Bowl-bound. DT Quinnen Williams is the anchor of an intimidating D-line with edge rusher Jermaine Johnson ready for a breakthrough. CBs Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed are the best tandem in the NFL. MLB C.J. Mosley is the brains of the operation. Saleh has the respect of Rodgers and the team.
Fourth-and-long: Will edge Carl Lawson’s back issues persist? Can RT Mekhi Becton stay on the field and be the dominant player he showed he could be as a rookie? Can second-year S Tony Adams continue to ascend? The early schedule is unforgiving. Can Saleh end the 12-year playoff drought in Year 3?
Coach: Sean McDermott
2022 record: 13-3
Key additions: OLB Leonard Floyd, TE Dalton Kincaid, G O’Cyrus Torrence, RB Damien Harris, RB Latavius Murray, G Connor McGovern, DT Poona Ford, QB Kyle Allen, G David Edwards, WR Trent Sherfield, WR Deonte Harty
Key departures: LB Tremaine Edmunds, RB Devin Singletary, QB Case Keenum, OLB Boogie Basham
First-and-goal: Dual threat QB Josh Allen is an annual MVP candidate and WR Stefon Diggs is elite. Rookie TE Kincaid has a chance to be Allen’s Travis Kelce someday. RB James Cook will be a passing-game weapon. DE Gregory Rousseau is an emerging double-digit sack threat. OLB Von Miller (PUP list) is 34, but if he can stay healthy, he knows how to rush the passer. So does Floyd. The secondary has continuity with seven-year safety tandem Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer and CB Tre’Davious White. Special teams are elite. Damar Hamlin can be an inspiration. Don’t forget the Bills Mafia.
Fourth-and-long: Former defensive co-ordinator Leslie Frazier opting to take the year off means more responsibility for McDermott. Diggs has appeared frustrated and Allen had better keep him fed. Allen, for his own preservation, needs to stop reckless runs. WR Gabe Davis can wreck a game when he’s on, but he isn’t on often enough. Will recent playoff disappointments cause self-doubt about why Buffalo can’t get over the hump?
Coach: Mike McDaniel
2022 record: 9-8
Key additions: CB Jalen Ramsey, ILB David Long, WR/KR Braxton Berrios, QB Mike White, S DeShon Elliott, P Jake Bailey, CB Cam Smith, RB De’Von Achane, OT Isaiah Wynn, OT Cedric Ogbuehi, CB Eli Apple, CB Kelvin Joseph
Key departures: LB Elandon Roberts, TE Mike Gesicki, QB Teddy Bridgewater, TE Adam Shaheen, P Thomas Morstead, WR Trent Sherfield, C Michael Deiter, S Eric Rowe, CB Noah Igbinoghene
First-and-goal: QB Tua Tagovailoa was 8-3 before his frightening concussion issues. Cheetah WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle form the league’s best tandem. Co-ordinator Vic Fangio is a defensive guru. OLB Jaelan Phillips has breakout pass rusher written all over him, which will make OLB Bradley Chubb more dangerous. DE Christian Wilkins (12 sacks) is a leader. Ramsey (knee surgery) and Xavien Howard will make life miserable for receivers whenever they’re on the field together. FS Jevon Holland is destined for stardom.
Fourth-and-long: If Tagovailoa can’t stay healthy, the Dolphins will be filleted. Apple and rookie Cam Smith fill in until Ramsey returns, possibly in December. The O-line is iffy. Can Miami run the ball effectively? Jason Sanders has made just 49 of 63 field-goal attempts the last two seasons. Second-hardest strength of schedule awaits.
New England Patriots
Coach: Bill Belichick
2022 record: 8-9
Key additions: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, CB Christian Gonzalez, DE Keion White, RB Ezekiel Elliott, TE Mike Gesicki, RT Riley Reiff, K Chad Ryland, P Bryce Baringer, LB Marte Mapu, LB Chris Board, OT Calvin Anderson, WR Demario Douglas, WR Kayshon Boutte
Key departures: WR Jakobi Meyers, RB Damien Harris, QB Brian Hoyer, TE Jonnu Smith, S Devin McCourty, P Jake Bailey, WR Nelson Agholor
First-and-goal: New offensive co-ordinator Bill O’Brien should be a godsend for Mac Jones. RB Rhamondre Stevenson is gifted enough to be a bell cow, but Elliott will be useful in the red zone and at the goal-line. Gesicki and TE Hunter Henry aren’t Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but few are. OLBs Matthew Judon (15.5 sacks) and Josh Uche (11.5 sacks) bring the heat. The interior O-line, anchored by C David Andrews, is a strength. Matthew Slater is a HOF special teamer. Baringer has a big leg. Ryland will boom touchbacks better than veteran Nick Folk. Belichick misses Tom Brady, but missing the playoffs last season won’t sit well with him.
Fourth-and-long: LT Trent Brown nursed a minor injury in training camp and won’t be in football shape early. Reiff (knee) is on IR. Opting not to sign WR DeAndre Hopkins leaves Jones without a No. 1 WR. Can Jalen Mills make the transition from cornerback to replace McCourty?
2022 record: 14-3
Key additions: RT Jawaan Taylor, EDGE Charles Omenihu, LB Drue Tranquill, S Mike Edwards, LT Donovan Smith, EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
Key departures: LT Orlando Brown Jr., DE Frank Clark, RT Andrew Wylie, WR Mecole Hardman, WR Juju Smith-Schuster, S Juan Thornhill, DT Khalen Saunders, QB Chad Henne
First-and-goal: As long as Reid is calling plays for QB Patrick Mahomes to throw to TE Travis Kelce, the Chiefs should be Super Bowl contenders. For the second time in three seasons, the Chiefs simultaneously changed both of their offensive tackles, and the success of the plan this year will be tied to how much the 2022 Pro Bowler Smith has left in the tank. The Chiefs have one of the NFL’s best interior-blocking trios. There’s reason to expect improvement from the six defensive players who played significant snaps as rookies, especially in the secondary.
Fourth-and-long: For the second straight off-season, the cumulative sum of the departures outweighs the additions. How long can Mahomes make up for deficiencies around the roster? We should finally find out the value of non-playing offensive co-ordinator Eric Bieniemy — now in Washington — to the Chiefs’ fireworks. A lot is riding on unproven WRs such as Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore, who made big plays in the Super Bowl because they were schemed open. DT Chris Jones is threatening to hold out until Week 9 after five of his peers topped his $20 million per year average on new contracts this off-season.
Los Angeles Chargers
Coach: Brandon Staley
2022 record: 10-7
Key additions: LB Eric Kendricks, WR Quentin Johnston
Key departures: LB Drue Tranquill, S Nasir Adderley, G Matt Feiler
First-and-goal: With one of the NFL’s most talented rosters, the Chargers should be knocking on the Super Bowl door after returning 11 offensive and nine defensive starters. To do so, they have to end a forever curse of losing games that they shouldn’t have lost, due to unforced errors. Offensive co-ordinator Kellen Moore’s arrival will be important for QB Justin Herbert — but no more so than a healthy WR duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Do-it-all RB Austin Ekeler is a touchdown machine. The Chargers were one of the most injured teams in the league last season, especially on both lines.
Fourth-and-long: Whether you see him as an innovator or a careless risk-taker for his fourth-down decision-making, let’s agree Staley is on the hot seat. This is a now-or-never season for the veteran nucleus around Herbert given that the Chargers are projected to be about $64 million over the salary cap in 2024. A lot of resources are invested in a secondary — headlined by Derwin James, J.C. Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr. — that hasn’t yet lived up to expectations. Too many home games are invaded by road fans (the Cowboys visit this year) and become a home-field disadvantage.
2022 record: 5-12
Key additions: RT Mike McGlinchey, DE Zach Allen, G Ben Powers, EDGE Frank Clark, QB Jarrett Stidham, LB Drew Sanders, TE Chris Manhertz
Key departures: EDGE Dre’Mont Jones, OT Calvin Anderson, TE Andrew Beck, G Graham Glasgow, CB Ronald Darby, K Brandon McManus
First-and-goal: QB Russell Wilson can’t possibly be as bad as he was last season, when his Hall of Fame trajectory fell off a cliff. Payton, offensive co-ordinator Joe Lombardi and first-time quarterbacks coach Davis Webb form the brain trust tasked with a reclamation project. The Broncos were big spenders in free agency, which has been an immediate ticket back to the playoffs for others in recent off-seasons. CB Patrick Surtain II — a rising star — will be helped by the improved pass rush. The offensive line was remodelled after Wilson took a career-high 55 sacks.
Fourth-and-long: What if Wilson’s overnight deterioration just happened at an earlier age (34) than it did for others, so he won’t get any better? A fast start is a must because the Broncos face a murderers’ row of quarterbacks in Weeks 5-10 and then play road games in Weeks 13-15. Vance Joseph is back with the franchise that fired him as head coach (2017-2018) as Payton’s defensive co-ordinator. Edge rusher Randy Gregory was a free-agent bust last season. Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick (season over) are hurt — as always seems to be the case for this team’s WRs.
Las Vegas Raiders
Coach: Josh McDaniels
2022 record: 6-11
Key additions: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, WR Jakobi Meyers, S Marcus Epps, LB Robert Spillane, CB Brandon Facyson, QB Brian Hoyer, EDGE Tyree Wilson
Key departures: QB Derek Carr, TE Darren Waller, QB Jarrett Stidham, CB Rock Ya-Sin, TE Foster Moreau
First-and-goal: If McDaniels couldn’t convince Tom Brady to sign with the Raiders instead of retiring and buying a minority ownership stake in the franchise, then signing another quarterback that he moulded over four years in New England makes sense. WR Davante Adams will offer Garoppolo a chance to prove he is more than a game manager. The Raiders were 1-5 in games they led by at least a touchdown at the half, so here is a much-needed do-over on those coin-flip losses. Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby are one of the league’s best pass-rushing duos.
Fourth-and-long: Coach-quarterback symmetry is important … but is it important enough to downgrade the Raiders? It’s hard to argue Garoppolo is a better player than the four-time Pro Bowler Carr, even if he knew McDaniels’ system and came cheaper. He’s certainly not more durable — most recently because of left foot surgery. Wilson, the No. 7 pick in the draft, also is coming off foot surgery. The NFL’s defending rushing champion, Josh Jacobs, missed all of camp with a now-settled contract dispute. The defence ranked No. 26 in points allowed because the secondary lacks enough playmakers.
2022 record: 12-4
Key additions: LT Orlando Brown Jr., LB Germaine Pratt, S Nick Scott, QB Trevor Siemian, DE Myles Murphy
Key departures: S Jessie Bates, S Vonn Bell, CB Eli Apple, TE Hayden Hurst
First-and-goal: Super Bowl-or-bust. Once again, high expectations rest on Joe Burrow’s connection with WRs Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd in perhaps the final year together for that trio of receivers. After making slight upgrades to a woeful offensive line last off-season, the Bengals made a big splash by signing Brown away from the rival Chiefs. The defensive front seven, led by Trey Hendrickson’s 22 sacks in his last 31 games and tackle machine Logan Wilson, doesn’t get enough credit. The Bengals ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency last season.
Fourth-and-long: Burrow missed 15 of 17 training camp practices with a calf strain that could linger. A team that should be protecting late leads needs to average better than 3.9 yards per carry (ranked No. 29 in the league last season). Joe Mixon took a pay cut to remain the starter, but he will be pushed by younger backups. RT Jonah Williams — the one offensive line holdover from the 2021 Super Bowl appearance — requested a trade after he was forced to switch positions. The secondary already features two new starting safeties and is reliant on cornerback Chidobe Awuzie returning to pre-ACL form.
Coach: John Harbaugh
2022 record: 10-7
Key additions: WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Nelson Agholor, WR Zay Flowers, CB Rock Ya-Sin, EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
Key departures: G Ben Powers, TE Josh Oliver, S Chuck Clark, CB Marcus Peters, DT Calais Campbell, EDGE Justin Houston
First-and-goal: A two-year dark cloud hanging over the franchise was lifted when QB Lamar Jackson signed a $260 million extension. Not only did the Ravens give Jackson a boatload of money, they also gave him the best collection of receivers in his six-year career. The idea is that new offensive co-ordinator Todd Monken’s playbook will create big plays down the field rather than rely on Jackson’s legs for chunk gains that simultaneously leave him susceptible to late-season injury. Re-signing Roquan Smith — after an in-season trade — continued the Ravens’ rich linebacker tradition.
Fourth-and-long: Is Beckham’s game still as strong as his name after he missed all last season with the second ACL tear of his career? If Jackson is going to run less frequently, that means more carries for the running backs — after starter J.K. Dobbins held-in for a new contract during camp. Like Beckham, Dobbins has an injury history. The Ravens’ pass rush is reliant on the development of two recent draft projects — David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh. Choosing not to replace Powers with a veteran or a high draft pick was a risk.
2022 record: 7-10
Key additions: OLB Za’Darius Smith, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, S Juan Thornhill, EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, WR Elijah Moore, S Rodney McLeod, DT Shelby Harris
Key departures: QB Jacoby Brissett, DT Taven Bryan, S John Johnson, EDGE Jadeveon Clowney, RB Kareem Hunt
First-and-goal: For the first time since 2020 — before his trade demand out of Houston and before he faced sexual misconduct allegations that led to an 11-game suspension — QB Deshaun Watson is a Week 1 starter. The Browns will play four of their first five games at home and have an early bye week mixed in, so a fast start is there for the taking. That five-game stretch features all three division opponents, too. Word around the NFL is that hiring blitz-crazed veteran defensive co-ordinator Jim Schwartz was the perfect move to spark an underachieving unit.
Fourth-and-long: Watson leading the Texans to back-to-back playoff berths in 2018-19 was a long time ago. He looked pedestrian in six games last season after his long lay-off, which raises a question: Does he just need more time to reacclimate himself to the NFL or has he lost his fastball? Denzel Ward is elite, but will fellow CBs Martin Emerson Jr. and Greg Newsome II hold up under Schwartz’s man-to-man coverage? Special teams has long been an issue for the Browns, leading to the hiring of former player Bubba Ventrone as co-ordinator.
Coach: Mike Tomlin
2022 record: 9-8
Key additions: WR Allen Robinson, G Isaac Seumalo, LB Cole Holcomb, CB Patrick Peterson, OLB Markus Golden, S Keanu Neal, LB Elandon Roberts, OT Broderick Jones
Key departures: CB William Jackson, LB Myles Jack, CB Cameron Sutton, LB Devin Bush, S Terrell Edmunds, LB Robert Spillane
First-and-goal: There is star power on defence with DE Cameron Heyward, OLB T.J. Watt and S Minkah Fitzpatrick. QB Kenny Pickett showed marked improvement over his last eight games as a rookie (84 QB rating), when he threw five touchdowns and only one interception and carried it over to a terrific pre-season. The Steelers are trying to recreate the explosive offence that Ben Roethlisberger had in his prime with recent draft picks George Pickens, Calvin Austin and Pat Freiermuth. Seumalo is the kind of nasty run-blocker that between-the-tackles RB Najee Harris has been missing.
Fourth-and-long: Offensive co-ordinator Matt Canada is on the hot seat after the Steelers managed a league-worst 12 touchdown passes last season. Pickett needs to be more than a game manager to take the pressure off. Harris hasn’t averaged four yards per carry in either of his first two seasons, and that must change to achieve offensive balance. The draft-and-develop Steelers spent more than usual on outsiders in the off-season, but took a lot of gambles on older players coming off down years, such as Robinson, Peterson and Golden. In this division, cornerback is the wrong spot to be weak.
2022 record: 9-8
Key additions: K Brandon McManus, OT Josh Wells, OT Anton Harrison
Key departures: RT Jawaan Taylor, EDGE Arden Key, WR Marvin Jones, TE Chris Manhertz, CB Shaq Griffin
First-and-goal: Count the Jaguars as wanting to believe that momentum carries over from one season to the next after an unexpected six-game winning streak led them to the AFC divisional playoffs. QB Trevor Lawrence is about to enter the crowded conversation of great young signal-callers. Pro Bowl WR Calvin Ridley technically was acquired at the trade deadline last year while suspended for gambling, but will be making his Jaguars debut. Pederson tapped into the tantalising talent of WR Christian Kirk and TE Evan Engram in their first years together. No AFC contender has an easier route to the playoffs.
Fourth-and-long: LT Cam Robinson’s season-opening four-game suspension, coupled with Taylor’s departure, causes a major disruption to an offensive line that was key to the Jaguars’ rise from the NFL wasteland. If the Jaguars are going to beat a top quarterback in the playoffs, their pass rush can’t just be the Josh Allen solo act. Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, and fellow former first-rounder K’Lavon Chaisson need to live up to their draft billing. One year after spending nearly $300 million in free agency, the Jaguars were quiet this past March.
Coach: DeMeco Ryans
2022 record: 3-13-1
Key additions: QB C.J. Stroud, G Shaq Mason, WR Robert Woods, DE Will Anderson, S Jimmie Ward, DT Sheldon Rankins, TE Dalton Schultz, RB Devin Singletary, CB Shaq Griffin, OT George Fant
Key departures: WR Brandin Cooks, EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, C Justin Britt, G A.J. Cann, EDGE Mario Addison
First-and-goal: Ryans’ availability was too good to be true because he is a former Texans star, an in-demand coaching candidate and a defensive mind who can fix the Texans’ weakness. RB Dameon Pierce (72.2 rushing yards per game) was a 2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Drafting Stroud and Anderson (No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively) laid a long-term foundation to complement some immediate-impact additions like Rankins. Stroud has better weapons — a tight end like Schultz is a young quarterback’s best friend — and a better line than predecessor QB Davis Mills ever had.
Fourth-and-long: Ryans isn’t a miracle-worker. It will take longer than one year to turn around the No. 30 total defence, No. 27 scoring defence and a historically bad No. 32 rushing defence. CB Derek Stingley Jr. — drafted ahead of Sauce Gardner in 2022 — has a lot of ground to make up in that race. Even with the addition of Mason, Stroud could face pressure in his face because the interior offensive line trio is underwhelming. Woods and fellow WRs Nico Collins, John Metchie and Tank Dell offer speed. But who will be the No. 1 target?
2022 record: 7-10
Key additions: WR DeAndre Hopkins, OT Andre Dillard, EDGE Arden Key, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, OT Peter Skoronski, G Daniel Brunskill
Key departures: OT Taylor Lewan, G Nate Davis, WR Robert Woods, DT DeMarcus Walker, C Ben Jones, LB David Long, EDGE Bud Dupree
First-and-goal: Not ready to admit that their championship window likely closed when they didn’t win a playoff game after 23 regular-season wins in 2020-21, the Titans added Hopkins and stuck with QB Ryan Tannehill despite his $36.6 million salary-cap hit (second-biggest to Patrick Mahomes in the NFL this season). RB Derrick Henry has led the NFL in carries in three of the last four seasons and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down — yet — at 29 years old. The Titans boasted the top-ranked rushing defence (76.9 yards per game) — no surprise with stud DT Jeffery Simmons — last season.
Fourth-and-long: About that defence … it also ranked last in the league against the pass (274. 8 yards per game). And yet the Titans directed all six of their draft picks to the offensive side. The Week 1 offensive line features four new faces after Tennessee parted ways with longtime starters Jones and Lewan, and while RT Nicholas Petit-Frere serves a six-game suspension. OLB Harold Landry is coming off a missed season after he signed an $87.5 million extension. WR Treylon Burks — drafted with the return pick in the unpopular A.J. Brown trade — disappointed as a rookie.
Coach: Shane Steichen
2022 record: 4-12
Key additions: QB Anthony Richardson, QB Gardner Minshew, EDGE Samson Ebukam, K Matt Gay, DT Taven Bryan
Key departures: QB Matt Ryan, LB Bobby Okereke, EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, WR Parris Campbell, CB Stephon Gilmore, S Rodney McLeod
First-and-goal: The high-ceiling, high-floor freakishly athletic Richardson will be the Colts’ sixth different Week 1 starting quarterback in the last six seasons. Visions of Steichen developing Richardson as he did Eagles QB Jalen Hurts are tantalising. Bounce-back seasons are needed from C Ryan Kelly and LG Quenton Nelson if the offensive line is going to be as good as it was from 2018-21, rather than as bad as it was during former QB Andrew Luck’s career and again last season. The Colts drafted four defensive backs in an attempt to build a secondary that can grow together.
Fourth-and-long: Uncertainty surrounds the best playmaker on both sides of the ball. RB Jonathan Taylor, who will miss at least the first four games, is seeking a trade amid an ugly contract dispute that kept him out of practice. The 2021 rushing champion was injured most of last season. For the third straight season, LB Shaq Leonard entered training camp with uncertainty about his health after he was limited to three games last season by recurring nerve issues in his back and lower leg and suffered a concussion in training camp. After playing too many prime-time games last season, the Colts are not scheduled for one in 2023.
2022 record: 14-3
Key additions: QB Marcus Mariota, RB D’Andre Swift, RB Rashaad Penny, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, TE Dan Arnold, QB Tanner McKee
Key departures: RB Miles Sanders, QB Gardner Minshew, WR Zach Pascal
First-and-goal: The Eagles remain not only the favourites to win the NFC East again, but also to return to the Super Bowl with star QB Jalen Hurts, who gets better every year. He improved his completion percentage to 66.5 in 2022 from 61.3 in 2021, his yards to 3,701 from 3,144 and his TD passes to 22 from 16. He, too, rushed for 760 yards and 13 TDs, five more than any other NFL QB. Hurts, in his third year as the starter, has most of his key weapons returning, including WRs DeVonta Smith (95 catches for 1,196 yards and seven TDs in 2022) and A.J. Brown (88/1,496/11).
Fourth-and-long: The Eagles must make up for lost running back production. Sanders, now in Carolina, accounted for career highs in carries (259), rushing yards (1,269) and total touchdowns (11) in 2022. Swift averaged just 560 yards and six TDs in three seasons in Detroit and Penny has had a history of injuries.
New York Giants
2022 record: 9-7-1
Key additions: TE Darren Waller, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Parris Campbell, WR Jalin Hyatt, C John Michael Schmitz, CB Deonte Banks
Key departures: WR Kenny Golladay, WR Marcus Johnson, TE Nick Vannett
First-and-goal: The Giants spent much of the off-season rewarding their own top players with new contracts, beginning with QB Daniel Jones and including LT Andrew Thomas and DT Dexter Lawrence, all cornerstones of the team’s core. They, too, brought RB Saquon Barkley back on a one-year deal. How much better Jones is in Year 2 under Daboll will determine how far the team progresses on its playoff season of 2022. Jones did a great job reducing his turnovers last season from the year before, with only five INTs, the fewest among quarterbacks with more than 10 starts. Barkley had 295 carries for 1,312 rushing yards and 10 TDs in 2022 to go along with 57 catches, tied for the team lead.
Fourth-and-long: As good as Jones was last season, the Giants will need more than the 15 TD passes he threw, and he needs to improve on his 6.8 yards per attempt, which ranked 24th in the league. For safety purposes, the coaches would like him to rely on his arms more than his legs (he rushed for 708 yards and seven TDs last season). With a deeper and better receiving corps, that should happen in 2023. But the Giants don’t have a clear-cut WR1 yet. Maybe Campbell, who had a career-high 63 catches for the Colts last season, will grow into that role. The Giants’ schedule, particularly early in the season, is potentially problematic. They play seven of the first 11 games on the road, and they play three games in the first 11 days of the season.
Key additions: WR Brandin Cooks, RB Ronald Jones, TE Luke Schoonmaker
Key departures: RB Ezekiel Elliott, TE Dalton Schultz, WR T.Y. Hilton
First-and-goal: There is offensive continuity with QB Dak Prescott back, and now Cooks has been added to his receiving arsenal, which includes the return of CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. The thing to look for on offence is how it operates with McCarthy calling plays, rather than former offensive co-ordinator Kellen Moore.
Fourth-and-long: Injuries have cost Prescott significant time in two of the last three years, and he’s coming off a season in which he had a career-high 15 INTs. Another question is how returning RB Tony Pollard will handle the load with Elliott gone. Pollard, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry last year, had 200 touches for the first time in his career last season. Elliott averaged more than 300 touches in his seven years as the Cowboys’ lead back. On the offensive line, outside of guard Zack Martin, none of the Dallas linemen is ranked in the top 20 at his position according to Pro Football Focus.
Coach: Ron Rivera
2022 record: 8-8-1
Key additions: OT Andrew Wylie, C Nick Gates, WR Byron Pringle, QB Jacoby Brissett, LB Cody Barton, CB Emmanuel Forbes, S Jartavius Martin
Key departures: QB Carson Wentz, QB Taylor Heinicke, WR Cam Sims
First-and-goal: Washington is banking on newly hired offensive co-ordinator Eric Bieniemy and second-year QB Sam Howell to improve an offence that ranked 20th or worse in both points and yards in each of the past five years. The Commanders return skill-position players such as WRs Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson and RBs Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson and hope Bieniemy can bring his magic touch from Kansas City despite not having Patrick Mahomes at QB. Defensively, the Commanders were seventh in points allowed and third in yards allowed last season due, in part, to a strong front with Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Chase Young leading the way.
Fourth-and-long: Washington is asking a lot of Howell, a 2022 fifth-round pick who played in only one game last season, Week 18. The backup plan is Brissett, a journeyman who never has been able to solidify himself as a regular starter in Indianapolis, Miami or Cleveland. As good as the defence was in 2022, the Commanders created only 18 takeaways, 26th in the NFL. This century, Washington has qualified for the playoffs just five times, with only one win (in 2005). The franchise has failed to win more than 10 games in a season since 1991, the longest drought in the NFL by 17 years.
2022 record: 13-4
Key additions: DT Javon Hargrave, QB Sam Darnold, DE Clelin Ferrell, CB Isaiah Oliver, C Jon Feliciano, K Jake Moody, S Ji’Ayir Brown
Key departures: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RT Mike McGlinchey, CB Emmanuel Moseley, S Jimmie Ward, EDGE Samson Ebukam, K Robbie Gould, QB Trey Lance
First-and-goal: Shanahan is an elite play-caller and he calls plays for arguably the best arsenal of weapons in the league: dual-threat RB Christian McCaffrey, WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and TE George Kittle. The arrival of ex-Eagle Hargrave (11 sacks last season) alongside DE Nick Bosa (summer holdout) and DT Arik Armstead gives new defensive co-ordinator Steve Wilks the most fearsome front four in the game. MLB Fred Warner has been a 100-plus tackle machine in each of his five NFL seasons and OLB Dre Greenlaw (127 tackles) emerged last season. LT Trent Williams is in a league of his own. Safety Talanoa Hufanga is a football magnet who earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2022.
Fourth-and-long: All eyes on QB Brock Purdy and the surgically repaired elbow that rendered him irrelevant in the NFC Championship game in Philadelphia. Plan B is Jets and Panthers cast-off Darnold, who has opened Shanahan’s eyes. McGlinchey took the free agent money and ran to Denver, and Colton McKivitz has to replace him at right tackle. Wilks has the pelts, but must follow DeMeco Ryans, who followed Robert Saleh. Rookie Moody has the leg, but he’s a rookie.
Coach: Pete Carroll
2022 record: 9-8
Key additions: LB Bobby Wagner, DT Dre’Mont Jones, S Julian Love, DE Jarran Reed, C Evan Brown, LB Devin Bush, CB Devon Witherspoon, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, RB Zach Charbonnet, OLB Derick Hall
Key departures: RB Rashaad Penny, C Austin Blythe, DT Quinton Jefferson, LB Cody Barton, RB Travis Homer, DE L.J. Collier, S Johnathan Abram, C Kyle Fuller, S Ryan Neal, WR Marquise Goodwin, NT Al Woods, DT Shelby Harris
First-and-goal: They wrote Geno Smith off but he ain’t write back. Old Reliable Tyler Lockett and Old Muscle Beach Body DK Metcalf remain his top weapons, and first-round WR Smith-Njigba could wreak havoc in the slot. RB Kenneth Walker III was a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie and second-rounder Charbonnet is talented enough to form a formidable 1-2 committee. The defence is markedly improved with the additions of Wagner, Love, Jones and Reed, while Witherspoon and rookie sensation Tariq Woolen make a modern-day Legion of Boom at corner. They’re expecting a second-year leap from offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas. Carroll has no idea he’ll be turning 72 on Sept. 15.
Fourth-and-long: The interior O-line could be problematic, and Cross and Lucas need to step up. Reed is the key to improving the 30th-ranked run defence. They lost three times last season to the 49ers, still the class of the division. Maybe the 12s can make more noise.
Los Angeles Rams
2022 record: 5-12
Key additions: WR Demarcus Robinson, QB Stetson Bennett, G Steve Avila, DE/OLB Byron Young, WR Puka Nacua, CB Ahkello Witherspoon
Key departures: CB Jalen Ramsey, OLB Leonard Floyd, LB Bobby Wagner, S Taylor Rapp, S Nick Scott, DT A’Shawn Robinson, RB Sony Michel, QB Baker Mayfield, CB Troy Hill, S David Long, WR Allen Robinson, DT Greg Gaines, K Matt Gay, P Riley Dixon, LS Aaron Brewer
First-and-goal: QB Matthew Stafford played only nine games last season, so Cooper Kupp needs him to stay on the field. DT Aaron Donald is 32, so maybe he’ll be somewhat mortal. RB Cam Akers rebounded from his torn ACL and could make noise. TE Tyler Higbee (133 catches, eight TDs) was productive in 2021 and 2022. McVay is an elite play-caller and motivator and defensive co-ordinator Raheem Morris is no slouch.
Fourth-and-long: The future that was mortgaged to win Super Bowl LVI is now. The O-line still misses retired LT Andrew Whitworth. The secondary will miss Ramsey. Donald still misses Von Miller rushing the passer. The Rams will face four 2022 playoff teams over the first five weeks.
Coach: Jonathan Gannon
2022 record: 4-13
Key additions: OT Paris Johnson, OLB BJ Ojulari, CB Rashad Fenton, CB Kris Boyd, DT Carlos Watkins, DT L.J. Collier, LB Josh Woods, WR Zach Pascal, LB Kyzir White, OL Hjalte Froholdt, OT Dennis Daley, WR Michael Wilson, CB Garrett Williams, QB Clayton Tune
Key departures: WR DeAndre Hopkins, DE J.J. Watt, QB Colt McCoy, WR A.J. Green, CB Byron Murphy, DE Zach Allen, WR Robbie Chosen (Anderson), G Justin Pugh, OL Cody Ford, OLB Markus Golden, LB Isaiah Simmons
First-and-goal: Safety Budda Baker is a five-time Pro Bowler alongside Jalen Thompson. RB James Conner is a workhorse as long as the injury bug doesn’t bite him again. WR Hollywood Brown is a deep threat, but can anyone get the ball to him? They own the Texans’ first-round pick, which would be USC QB Caleb Williams if all goes as planned (wink, wink).
Fourth-and-long: QB Kyler Murray (ACL) is on the PUP list and faces a murky future. Backup QBs Joshua Dobbs and Tune have started a combined two NFL games. Who will start opposite CB Marco Wilson? TE Zach Ertz (knee) has seen his best days, while fellow TE Trey McBride didn’t flash as a second-round rookie in 2022. The O-line is long in the tooth and the head coach and co-ordinators are rookies.
2022 record: 9-8
Key additions: WR Marvin Jones, RB David Montgomery, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, TE Sam LaPorta, CB Cameron Sutton, CB Emmanuel Moseley, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
Key departures: WR DJ Chark, WR Quintez Cephus, RB D’Andre Swift, RB Jamaal Williams
First-and-goal: Jared Goff, an outcast from the Rams, has proven to be a good leader for the Lions. He finished sixth among all NFL QBs last season in pass attempts (587) and seventh in yards per attempt (7.6). Goff threw for 4,438 yards and 29 TDs last season. “He’s really a perfect fit for what we do and what we ask,” Campbell said. Defensively, the Lions got 20.5 sacks from rookies last season, led by Aidan Hutchinson (9.5).
Fourth-and-long: There are questions on the offensive line. Tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell are solid, but the interior isn’t settled at right guard and centre Frank Ragnow has been dealing with a difficult turf toe problem. The Lions, the only team in the league that has never won its current division, must deal with high expectations for a change. How will they deal with those?
Coach: Kevin O’Connell
2022 record: 13-4
Key additions: WR Jordan Addison, WR Brandon Powell, TE Josh Oliver, CB Byron Murphy, DE Marcus Davenport
Key departures: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Adam Thielen, TE Irv Smith, TE Ben Ellefson, CB Patrick Peterson, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Eric Kendricks
First-and-goal: The Vikings didn’t have a productive off-season, losing some key players, but they do still have QB Kirk Cousins and WR Justin Jefferson, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Cousins led the NFL with eight fourth-quarter comebacks and eight game-winning drives. Minnesota’s Achilles’ heel was the defence, which ranked near the bottom of the league in key categories and failed to stop the Giants in the playoffs. Perhaps new defensive co-ordinator Brian Flores will fix some of those issues.
Fourth-and-long: The Vikings 2022 season represented a mirage of sorts as they posted a remarkable 11-0 record in regular-season games decided by eight points or fewer and, for the season, were outscored by three points. Can RB Alexander Mattison fill the productive role Cook left behind? That will be something to watch. Minnesota faces a difficult schedule to start the season, playing the Eagles, Chargers, Chiefs and 49ers within its first seven games.
Coach: Matt Eberflus
2022 record: 3-14
Key additions: RB D’Onta Foreman, RB Travis Homer, WR DJ Moore, TE Robert Tonyan, CB Kyler Gordon, S Jaquan Brisker, OT Braxton Jones, LB Tremaine Edmunds, LB T.J. Edwards, G Nate Davis
Key departures: RB David Montgomery, QB Trevor Siemian, QB Tim Boyle, WR N’Keal Harry, WR Byron Pringle
First-and-goal: Justin Fields has a chance to be dynamic, having rushed for 1,143 yards last year, which was the second most ever for a quarterback — and only the fourth time a QB reached 1,000 yards on the ground. He threw for 2,242 yards and 17 TDs, numbers that should improve with the acquisition of Moore and with a full season of WR Chase Claypool.
Fourth-and-long: As well as Fields runs, he needs to be better through the air. He has 25 career starts and hasn’t reached 300 yards in any of them, and he passed for more than 190 yards in a game just twice last season. On defence last season, the Bears finished last in the NFL in points allowed, points per drive allowed, yards per passing play allowed and sacks. The pass rush didn’t seem to be improved in the off-season.
Green Bay Packers
Coach: Matt LaFleur
2022 record: 8-9
Key additions: WR Jaylen Reed, WR Dontayvion Wicks, TE Luke Musgrave, TE Tucker Kraft
Key departures: QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Allen Lazard, WR Randall Cobb, TE Robert Tonyan, TE Marcedes Lewis
First-and-goal: Without Rodgers, at least the rest of the backfield remains intact with RBs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon returning. Jones rushed for a career-best 1,121 yards on 5.3 yards per carry last season and he added 59 catches. Dillon had a strong finish with six TDs in his final six games last season. In the final eight games last season, then rookie Christian Watson produced 523 yards and 7 TDs on 31 catches.
Fourth-and-long: Life will be difficult without Rodgers. Regardless of how well his protégé, Jordan Love, plays, it’s not likely to be at the MVP standard Rodgers brought. Love has made just one NFL start and has thrown only 83 passes as a pro. There were some eyebrows raised when defensive co-ordinator Joe Barry returned after a disappointing performance in 2022. Green Bay was 17th in yards allowed and points allowed and 20th in Football Outsiders DVOA.
2022 record: 7-10
Key additions: QB Derek Carr, QB Jake Haener, RB Jamaal Williams, RB Kendre Miller, WR Bryan Edwards, TE Foster Moreau, TE Jimmy Graham, DT Bryan Bresee
Key departures: QB Andy Dalton, RB Mark Ingram, RB David Johnson, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Marquez Callaway, TE Adam Trautman, DT David Onyemata, DT Shy Tuttle, DE Marcus Davenport, LB Kaden Elliss
First-and-goal: It’s all about Carr and whether he can become the Saints’ next Drew Brees, meaning a long-term answer at QB who can lead the team to the playoffs. Carr was wildly productive for the Raiders, but not enough for postseason success. The Saints return some key skill position players: WRs Michael Thomas and Chris Olave and RB Alvin Kamara (who will miss the first three games on suspension). Williams rushed for 1,066 yards and an NFL-high 17 TDs for Detroit last season.
Fourth-and-long: The Saints had 48 sacks in 2022, but struggled to stop the run. That is an issue to monitor. So, too, is how quickly Kamara can become a factor after the three-game suspension.
Coach: Frank Reich
2022 record: 7-10
Key additions: QB Bryce Young, QB Andy Dalton, RB Miles Sanders, WR Adam Thielen, WR DJ Chark, WR Jonathan Mingo, TE Hayden Hurst, S Vonn Bell, DT Shy Tuttle
Key departures: QB Sam Darnold, RB D’Onta Foreman, WR DJ Moore
First-and-goal: Can Young, the No. 1-overall pick, end the Carolina QB drought of Teddy Bridgewater, Darnold, Baker Mayfield, etc.? He looks dynamic and it’s his team. Mentorship from Dalton and the QBs coach, former NFL veteran Josh McCown, should help. Sanders is coming off his best year — 1,269 rushing yards and 11 TDs for the Eagles.
Fourth-and-long: The Panthers’ defence was a letdown last season, ranked 25th, including 27th against the pass. The pass rush was poor, with 35 sacks, and the Panthers made just 10 INTs. New defensive co-ordinator Ejiro Evero was hired from Denver to change those numbers. Reich comes to Carolina with a modest 37-28-1 record as a head coach in Indianapolis. But he never had a franchise QB. He hopes he has found one in Young.
2022 record: 7-10
Key additions: QB Taylor Heinicke, RB Bijan Robinson, WR Mack Hollins, WR Scotty Miller, TE Jonnu Smith, S Jesse Bates, DL Calais Campbell, DL David Onyemata, DL, G Matthew Bergeron
Key departures: QB Marcus Mariota, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, WR Damiere Byrd, TE MyCole Pritt
First-and-goal: The Falcons have one of the best O-lines in the league and that will combine with strong young skill-position players like TE Kyle Pitts, WR Drake London and newcomer Robinson. The Atlanta defence was ranked in the bottom five last season, but added several veterans to the mix this season. How much improvement can those players mean for the unit?
Fourth-and-long: This is QB Desmond Ridder’s team, backed up by journeyman Heinicke, which is not an inspiring tandem. Ridder completed 73 of 115 passes for 708 yards and two TDs while the team went 2-2 under his command last year. Ridder’s sample size isn’t great. He passed for just more than 700 yards in his four starts, less than 200 yards per game. That kind of production isn’t sustainable in this passing league. Pitts went from averaging 60.4 receiving yards per game in 2021 to 35.6 last season before he injured his knee. His targets were down. He needs more targets, because he’s one of the most talented skill-position players on the roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach: Todd Bowles
2022 record: 8-9
Key additions: QB Baker Mayfield, RB Chase Edmonds
Key departures: QB Tom Brady, RB Leonard Fournette, RB Giovani Bernard, WR Scotty Miller, WR Julio Jones, WR Breshad Perriman, TE Cameron Brate, TE Kyle Rudolph
First-and-goal: Despite Brady’s retirement, there is a good group of skill position talent returning, including WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and TE Cade Otton, who led all rookies at his position in receptions in 2022 with 42. If the Buccaneers get average to slightly above-average QB play, there is enough remaining talent to make a run at the division title again in what is the weakest division in the league.
Fourth-and-long: Replacing Brady is not an enviable task. Mayfield and possibly Kyle Trask will attempt to do so, and it’s not likely to be pretty. The running game, which was poor last season — Tampa Bay’s 1,308 yards was last in the NFL and produced only five TDs — doesn’t look much better this year. The Bucs sold their souls when they went all-in with Brady in pursuit of a Super Bowl title and now they’re paying for it, with some $74 million in dead salary cap space this year, which is why they’ve been forced to settle on Mayfield and had to stay quiet in free agency during the off-season.
This story appeared on the New York Post and has been reposted with permission
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