Jarrod Thurman @JarrodChiefsFCS Chiefs Focus @Chiefsfocus
Free agency has settled down a little bit, pro days are in the past, and the draft is around the corner. A lot has happened since our Chiefs hoisted up the Lombardi Trophy across the NFL. I’m going to use what has happened to predict the 2023-2024 playoffs, including who will hoist up the Lombardi Trophy in Las Vegas. I will not predict records as this will be hard to do accurately without the schedule.
The AFC West is probably the easiest division to pick for 2023. For the 8th consecutive season, the Chiefs will the AFC West. The Chargers have cap issues and haven’t done anything impressive this offseason and Justin Herbert has yet to take the next step in his development as a quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo is not the answer for the Raiders at quarterback and will cause them to regress. I don’t expect much out of the Broncos in Sean Payton’s first season but they won’t be terrible either, I would say maybe 7 or 8 wins. I don’t expect any wildcard teams out of the AFC West.
The Bengals have won back-to-back AFC North titles for the first time in franchise history. With Lamar Jackson apparently on his way out of the division, the Steelers having a young unproven quarterback, and the Browns, well, being the Browns, I don’t see any reason to think the Bengals won’t win their 3rd straight. They are the best team in the division. I honestly don’t expect any wild card teams either as I don’t expect much out of the division as a whole outside of the Bengals.
The Bills have won a franchise record 3 consecutive AFC East titles. This offseason has been a struggle for the Bills as they tried to deal with salary cap issues which led to losing some players. Winning their 4th straight is going to be difficult as the Dolphins should take a step forward with their offense. The Jets, especially if they do get Aaron Rodgers, should make a huge step forward. The Patriots are gonna take another step back from their dynasty though. Who wins it? Now that the NBA’s Sacramento Kings have clinched a playoff berth, the Jets have the longest playoff drought in the 4 major American Pro Sports leagues. This ends in 2023 as they win the division, contingent on trading for Aaron Rodgers. The Bills and Dolphins both will be the wild card teams.
The AFC South is the worst division in the NFL. The Texans have too many still unfilled holes, the Colts are likely going to rely on a rookie quarterback, and the Titans seem to be regressing as a franchise. The only team that seems to be moving forward is the Jaguars. It’s pretty easy to see who I’m picking as the division champion. The Jaguars will win back-to-back division titles for the first time in 23 years. The Titans will sneak into a wild card spot but I feel like this will be one of those strange scenarios where in week 18 they have to win and 2 or 3 teams need to lose and it actually happens, similar to the Chiefs in 2006.
The NFC West will be another repeat champion. The 49ers will repeat. The Cardinals will have a new coach and will likely lose their top receiver and the Rams Super Bowl window seems to have closed as quickly as it opened. The only other team that has a shot is the Seahawks. The Seahawks I think will be a wildcard team.
The NFC North appears to be wide open with Aaron Rodgers likely out of the division. The Lions had their best year in several years in 2022 and the Bears have the recipe with a lot of cap room to make a huge step forward. On the opposing end of that, the Vikings haven’t done anything notable and the Packers are likely to have a rough season. I really cannot believe I’m about to type this. The Lions will win their first division title in 30 years. I think the Bears will be a wildcard team.
The NFC East was the league’s best division last year. The 2023 season could be a repeat of this. I think the Cowboys repeat as division champs. The Giants will likely finish 2nd in the division and get a wildcard spot. You will hear it here from me first, the Eagles will miss the playoffs. The Super Bowl hangover is real and they’ve lost too much. The Commanders will be the last-place team. There’s too much hype behind the Eagles coming into the season and I do not think they’ll live up to it.
The NFC South is the league’s second-worst division. When Derek Carr is your conference’s best quarterback and Baker Mayfield is the 2nd best, that’s a huge problem. I’ve made it clear in the past Carr is the most overrated quarterback in the NFL. A lot of analysts have crowned the Saints the division champs since they signed Carr but I don’t see it. It for sure won’t be the Falcons and Panthers. I think the Bucs will win the division. I do think the Saints will be a wildcard team but the last wildcard team.
How are the seeds going to play out? The 1 seeds will be the Chiefs and 49ers, 2 seeds will be the Bengals and Cowboys, 3 seeds will be Jaguars and Lions, 4 seeds will be the Jets and Buccaneers, 5 seeds will be the Bills and Seahawks, 6 seeds will be the Dolphins and Giants, 7 seeds will be the Titans and Bears. This will have the “Super” Wildcard matchups being Bengals vs Titans, Cowboys vs Bears, Jaguars vs Dolphins, Lions vs Giants, Jets vs Bills, and Bucs vs Seahawks. From there I think the winners will be the Bengals, Cowboys, Dolphins, Giants, Bills, and Seahawks.
Your Divisional round matchups will be Chiefs vs Dolphins, Bengals vs Bills, 49ers vs Giants, and Cowboys vs Seahawks. The AFC Championship will be (for the 3rd straight year) Chiefs vs Bengals in Arrowhead and for the NFC Championship, the Cowboys finally get past their divisional round curse and will play the 49ers in San Fransisco.
Super Bowl LVIII is going to be played in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on February 11, 2024. The teams will be (drum roll!) a rematch of Super Bowl LIV, the Chiefs vs 49ers. This time, instead of the Chiefs trailing at some point, they maintain a 2-score lead throughout the majority of the game until Patrick Mahomes hits Travis Kelce for a late game-clinching score to win 38-17 and be the first team to repeat as Super Bowl Champions since the Patriots. Here’s a surprise though, Travis Kelce becomes the first tight end to win Super Bowl MVP after putting up 150 yards and 2 touchdowns.
These are my predictions for now. A lot can change over the next 5 months before the Chiefs kick off the season against a yet-to-be-named opponent. I do plan to do this again after the schedule is released and the draft is finished, possibly in late spring or early summer.