2023 NFL Season – 6 Teams to Watch
Training camp is done. There are no more dress rehearsals to be had. Fantasy Football drafts, at leastmost of them, have been completed. Teams are making their final preparations for the season. The wait is almost over. I know it’s cliché but I have to ask…
Are you ready for some football???
The 2023 NFL season kicks off this upcoming Thursday night when the Detroit Lions travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Both the Lions and Chiefs have plenty of storylines currently surrounding their respective clubs. Then again, that could be said for all 32 teams in the National Football League.
NFL fans are trying to get their football fix in any way that they can whether it’s from ESPN, the NFL Network, or social media. Which teams are expected to contend? Who will be a breakout star player (mostly for Fantasy purposes)? Are their teams supposed to be good according to “the experts” or will it four-plus months of misery?
I’m no football expert, but I know a little bit. Here are the six teams that I will be paying a close eye over the course of the 2023 NFL season – albeit for different reasons.
Detroit Lions - Last season: 9-8, missed the playoffs The Lions are a popular pick as a breakout team for 2023.
They just missed clinching a playoff berth last season despite a 1-6 start. Many believe Detroit could contend for the NFC North. Quarterback Jared Goff had his best season since 2018 and leads an offense that was 4 th best in the NFL last season. They could be even better in 2023. Third-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is poised for another big year. Detroit signed running back David Montgomery away from the Chicago Bears. He’s gained over 1,000 total yards in each of his first four seasons. The Lions also drafted the speedy Jahmyr Gibbs, brought back receiver Marvin Jones, Jr. after two seasons in Jacksonville, and signed QB Teddy Bridgewater as insurance to Goff.
There are still many questions about this Lions squad. They can score points, but can they stop anyone? Aiden Hutchinson and Alex Anzalone are standouts on defense but lead a young and unproven bunch that was finished 32 nd of 32 teams in total defense in 2022. The three tight ends on the roster have a combined two NFL seasons of experience. Second year wideout Jameson Williams will sit the first games due to a gambling suspension. Can Jones, Jr. fill the role of #2 receiver?
There’s no doubt that the Lions are a team on the rise. Will that rise continue in 2023 is the question.
Chicago Bears - Last season: 3-14, missed the playoffs Last season was painful for Bears fans to endure in a rebuilding year, but there were some positives. Quarterback Justin Fields emerged as one of the, if not the best running QB in the game. The Bears may have lost their last 10 games in a row but competed in most games under new head coach Matt Eberflus. He, along with second-Year GM Ryan Poles, are working hard to change the culture in Chicago.
Poles added talent to just about every position. He managed to flip the #1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers to acquire D.J. Moore, a true #1 receiver. Poles then added Nate Jones in free agency and drafted Darnell Wright to help protect Fields on the O-line. He added depth with running backs D’Onta Foreman and rookie Roschon Johnson. Veteran tight ends Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis will push Cole Kmet for snaps. That should help an offense that was 27 th in the NFL last season.
Ryan Poles may have done an even better job with the defense, a unit that was 28 th in the league last season. The Bears’ D-Line should be much better with the additions of vets DeMarcus Walker, Rasheem Green, and Yannick Ngakoue. Poles also added linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards. Rookies Gervon Dexter, Sr., Zacch Pickens, and Tyrique Stevenson should also see significant snaps.
Justin Fields now has weapons and needs the next step as a passer. The Bears should be much better in 2023, but I think they’re a year away from competing. New York Jets – Last season: 7-10, missed the playoffs The Jets had a record of 7-4 after a 31-10 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 12 last season. They didn’t win another game the rest of the season. It wasn’t the way first-year coach Robert Saleh wanted to end the year. Still, he put his stamp on New York and the Jets were an improved club in 2022. They could be better in 2023.
The Jets’ marquee acquisition was future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had a down season (for him) in 2022 and he turns 40 in December. Is this the beginning of the end for him or will he have a resurgent season in New York? The running back room is crowded with guys who are hungry for carries. Second year back Breece Hall and free-agent Dalvin Cook will battle for snaps.
Second-year receiver Garrett Wilson will be flanked by newcomers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, two of Rodgers’ most trusted receivers in Green Bay. The new Jets QB will have to trust a mostly veteran offensive line to protect him. The Jets defense, 4 th in the NFL a year ago, looks to have another great showing.
The Jets went 9-7 and missed the playoffs the last time that they acquired a soon to be 40-year-old quarterback from Green Bay back in 2008. Their front office is hoping that history is better to them this time around. Miami Dolphins – Last season: 9-8, lost to Buffalo in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs The Dolphins started the 2022 season with an 8-3 record and were threatening to take the AFC East division crown from the Buffalo Bills. They had added Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill in a trade to pair with another 1,000-yard receiver in Jaylen Waddle. New coach Mike McDaniel had Miami rolling, until they weren’t.
Miami finished the season 1-5, including five losses in a row. They barely clinched a spot in the playoffs and had to squeak by the Jets in an ugly Week 18 game to do so. Tua Tagovailoa was under center for four of those five losses before suffering another concussion in Week 16. Backup Teddy Bridgewater was also later injured. That left the Dolphins to take on the Bills in the Wild-Card round with Skylar Thompson under center – and they still almost pulled off the upset!
This Dolphins team is a talented bunch, primarily on offense. Their defense is middle-of-the pack, at best. The main question in Miami will be the health of their quarterback. Tagovailoa suffered two, maybe three concussions last season and even thought about retiring. If his O-line can keep him upright, the Dolphins could make noise in this year’s playoffs – and Tua could be headed to the Pro Bowl.
That’s a HUGE if. One more devastating blow to the head of Tagovailoa could lead Miami to search for a new QB. San Francisco 49ers – Last Season: 13-4, lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game Jimmy Garoppolo is now with the Raiders. Former #3 overall pick Trey Lance was just traded to the Cowboys. The keys to the San Francisco 49ers are now in the hands of the 2022 NFL Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy.
Purdy was anything but irrelevant for the 49ers last season. In fact, he unexpectedly led San Francisco to eight straight wins after taking over for the injured Lance and Garoppolo. That included TWO playoff wins. If he wasn’t knocked out early in last year’s NFC Championship game, we’re talking about Purdy leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers second-year signal caller won’t be surprising teams this season. Can Purdy play as well as he did again in 2023? If not, San Francisco will need to rely on either Sam Darnold or Brandon Allen at QB. That’s not exactly reassuring. Neither is losing tackle Mike McGlinchy to the Broncos in free agency. Still, San Francisco returns just about everyone else on offense.
The 49ers had the league’s best statistical defense in 2022. Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans in now the head coach of the Houston Texans. Pro Bowl D-lineman Joey Bosa is currently holding out for a new contract. They added Javon Hargrave from the Eagles but lost Jimmie Ward, Samson Ebukam, and Charles Omenihu in free agency.
Can Purdy do it again and be the 49ers long-term answer at QB? Can the 49ers successfully plug and play on the defensive side of the ball under new coordinator Steve Wilks? I think it depends on Bosa’s situation. He and Purdy will be the keys to the 49ers success in 2023. Kansas City Chiefs – Last Season: 14-3, defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII
The champs are here! Kansas City won the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons. They reached their fifth consecutive AFC Championship game. The Chiefs are once again among the favorites to represent the AFC in next season’s Super Bowl. That won’t change while Patrick Mahomes is their quarterback, and he has a healthy Travis Kelce to throw to.
Even the defending champs have question marks. There are questions on who the #2 receiving option will be. Of all the options, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the most proven commodity. Second-round pick Rahsee Rice and third year wideout Kadarius Toney will be looked upon to take a larger role in the offense. Then again, the Chiefs has the guts to trade Tyreek Hill and they still won the Super Bowl.
The bigger concern of late in Kansas City is the status of Chris Jones. The All-Pro D-lineman has been holding out for a new contract since training camp. It doesn’t sound like Jones is ready to return to practice, nor are the Chiefs ready to give him a new deal. Losing Jones for any amount of time is a huge blow to the Kansas City defense.
The defending champs may get off to a slow start. If Mahomes can throw his even younger receiving core open and Jones returns sooner rather than later the Chiefs will be just fine. Those are two big IFs. I think Mahomes will be fine with his young targets. The Jones holdout could have a bigger impact.
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