Arguably no sport on the planet provides a more soap-opera sensation than the NFL, which leaves its viewers pondering the direction of myriad story lines and subplots each week.
Guessing the outcome of said story lines is half the fun.
We’re attempting to do that here, offering 10 projections for the 2023 season ahead of its formal kickoff. If and when any come to fruition, don’t forget who forecast them first.
10. Trey Lance lasts one season with the Cowboys
Any thoughts of Lance — the No. 3 overall pick in 2021 — stepping in at some point and supplanting Dak Prescott at quarterback are delusional. Prescott has too much leverage (a $62 million cap hit in 2024) for the Cowboys to unload him. We see Lance — acquired from the 49ers for a fourth-round pick — performing well as a backup, allowing Dallas to get trade value for him in 2024.
9. Mike Evans records another 1,000-yard season
While conventional wisdom suggests the retirement of Tom Brady imperils Evans’ streak of nine consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, we’re bucking convention. The greatest vertical threat in franchise lore, Evans’ route tree will diversify in 2023, allowing more targets. Evans himself said new coordinator Dave Canales’ system features patterns even he hasn’t seen.
8. AC/DC selected for Super Bowl halftime show
The globe’s premier sporting event hasn’t featured an actual vintage rock act since The Who played Super Bowl 44 in 2010. We see that drought ending at next February’s game in Las Vegas. Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo recently gave the idea momentum by lobbying for the Australian blues-rock icons. To which we say to Lombardo: We salute you.
7. Jets end September with losing record
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The Jets’ efforts to reinvent themselves with Aaron Rodgers (and other veterans) resembles the Bucs’ makeover with Tom Brady in 2020 with one glaring difference: The front end of New York’s schedule is far more formidable than Tampa Bay’s was three seasons ago. Rodgers and Co. get the Bills, Cowboys, Chiefs and Eagles over the season’s first six weeks. Things don’t get much easier from there.
6. Matthew Stafford retires
Better to walk away from a big contract (Stafford signed a four-year, $160 million extension in March 2022) than hobble away. Stafford is 35, the Rams are regressing badly, and his offensive line remains a liability. Moreover, his 2022 season was marred by concussions and spinal-cord contusions, and preceded by elbow surgery. At this point, retirement seems more likely than a resurgence.
5. Raiders’ Josh McDaniels is the first coach fired
We disagree with the oddsmakers who project the Bucs’ Todd Bowles to be the first coach canned in 2023. As history has shown, the Glazers simply don’t do in-season dismissals. We also don’t see new Commanders owner Josh Harris setting a rash tone for his regime by giving Ron Rivera a quick hook. That leaves McDaniels, who won six games last season and has no long-term answer at quarterback.
4. Anthony Richardson named Offensive Rookie of the Year
The seemingly consensus take on the former Gators quarterback: enormous potential, minimal polish. Bestowed with fleetness belying his frame, Richardson (6-foot-4, 244 pounds) very well could dazzle one week and disappoint the next. But we see him really finding a groove — and extra gear — at some point in November. By then, Colts fans and casual observers won’t be able to turn away.
3. Lions among NFC playoff teams
Yep, we project Detroit to build off the momentum of 2022 and end its seven-year postseason drought. Our other NFC playoff teams: The Saints, Eagles, 49ers, Vikings, Cowboys and Giants.
2. Bills not among AFC playoff teams
Josh Allen’s unmistakable talents notwithstanding, Buffalo’s world title window seems to have shut. The AFC East has evolved into arguably the most competitive in football, and the final one-third of Buffalo’s schedule is an absolute bear (at Eagles, Chiefs, Chargers, Dolphins; home versus Cowboys, Patriots). Those we project for the AFC playoffs: Chiefs, Dolphins, Ravens, Jaguars, Jets, Bengals, Chargers.
1. Brock Purdy, 49ers win Super Bowl 58
Purdy’s emergence last winter — from the final pick of the 2022 draft to 49ers folk hero — was no fluke. The dude won all five of his regular-season starts and posted a 107.3 passer rating. This year, the offensive ensemble around him — from Brandon Aiyuk to George Kittle to Christian McCaffrey — remains among the best in football. We see the Niners topping the Chiefs in a Super Bowl 54 rematch.
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