Published July 15, 2023
Predicting the 2023-24 NFL Division Winners
Written by Alex C.
As we anxiously await the return of football season, we’ve reached the point of the year where discussions are drawn to predict which teams will make any noise. It all starts at the core structure of team formations, commonly known as divisions. A single division is made up of four teams in one section, each of which spend every year fighting to be the leader of their division. With eight total divisions in the NFL – four per conference – we took a look at results gathered from last year and made the effort to try and predict who would be the winners of each division in the upcoming season.
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
It should come with no surprise that the recent Super Bowl winners will take the crown for their division with ease. On paper, the AFC West looks to be a stacked division with a selection of QB’s that are notorious for wielding quality win percentages; but if we got anything from last season, it’s the rest of the AFC West teams have a lot to figure out before they could take a shot at the division title. The Chargers are coming off of the most embarrassing playoff defeat of the last decade, the Raiders are still running the Josh McDaniels crash course with no signs of consistent success and the Broncos have a lot to recover from after the disastrous season they had last year.
Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have built a solid foundation for one of the league’s most dedicated fanbases, taking over the league with a threatening offensive force and a well rounded defensive scheme. Every year, the same narratives spiral around the league concerning the Chiefs’ lack of notable names on both sides of the ball – Travis Kelce and Chris Jones excluded – but if this recent Super Bowl win taught us anything, it’s that Mahomes and Reid will the get job done no matter who is on the roster. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are here to stay and their presence in the division will be felt until their competitors finally scheme up a solution.
AFC East: New York Jets
This is a pretty bold prediction given the strong stature of the AFC East, but with a competent starting QB finally under center, the Jets have all the tools at their disposal to make a run for the division title. Many question the ability of a now 40-year old Aaron Rodgers, who is coming off of his worst season as a starter, but there’s no doubt Rodgers still has some gas left in the tank.
The Jets made a valiant effort last season, peaking at a 7-4 record with mediocre QB play, but by then it was still clear that Zach Wilson was not the answer the in Gotham. With a star-studded defense and a solid offensive unit, Rodgers finally has the weapons needed to thrive again.
The only problem that remains is how strong the AFC East has gotten over the past year. With Buffalo emerging as the favorites for the past few years, its going to be hard to knock down an established Bills squad. In addition, the Dolphins and Patriots have both beefed up their rosters on both ends of the ball, making for a difficult contest between all four squads.
Regardless, the Jets now have the potential to take the East by storm and make a solid playoff run.
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
The Cincinnati Bengals have recently emerged as the favorites to win the North with Joe Burrow putting on back-to-back AFC Championship runs for the team. Meanwhile, the Ravens are finally taking the initiative to try and get over the hump, starting with the deserved Lamar Jackson contract. In addition, Ravens GM, Eric DeCosta, and coach, John Harbaugh, finally made the effort to beef up the receiving core with the signing of Super Bowl winning wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. and drafting Boston wideout, Zay Flowers in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. With an already-exceptional defense and phenomenal offensive line, it seems like Baltimore finally has all the pieces to put on a dominant run.
The AFC North isn’t going to be an easy ride, however, as the Bengals are still the top dogs in the division. The Steelers are looking to be the underdogs, piecing together an exceptional defense and solid additions on offense to help Kenny Pickett take the next step. The Browns will always be seen as the anchor of the division, but if Deshaun Watson returns to prime form, things could get very scary in the North.
Regardless, the Ravens have a great chance to take the title this year if the offense can finally keep healthy for an entire season. Having O.B.J. healthy for a full seventeen games is a long shot but if possible, the Ravens could go deep this year.
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars’ Cinderella run towards a playoff victory last season was the most exhilarating narrative to watch. Doug Pederson’s first-year as the Jaguars head coach led to the combined effort of him and 2021 first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence rallying the team from a 2-6 start to a division title. While the Jags do have the potential to run it back in the AFC South, a lot of their success from last year could be pointed towards the sheer mediocrity that struck the entire division in which the Titans lost 7 of their last 8 games to fall down the rankings, and the combined disappointment of Indianapolis and Houston who failed to stay above .500 throughout the season. Still, the Jaguars were able to prevail and pour out the potential we saw wasted during the Urban Meyer-era.
Trevor Lawrence was able to show why he was worth going first-overall by shaking the pressure and leading a comeback from a 27-point blowout in his playoff debut against the Los Angeles Chargers. Though the roster has some kinks to work out on both ends of the field, the Jags wield the potential to maintain their position as the new kings of the South. With the Titans spending the offseason in a soft-rebuild phase and the latter half of the group focusing on developing the quarterbacks they both took in the first-round of this year’s draft, the door for a consecutive Jag’s division title is wide open.
NFC West: San Francisco 49ers
The NFC West suffered a terrible fall from grace as half of the division failed to win over 5 games this season. The Rams had a terrible Super Bowl hangover as the entire championship winning roster was gutted due to free agency. The Cardinals season completely derailed as veteran wideout, DeAndre Hopkins, found himself suspended for a few games due to violating the league’s PED policy and star QB Kyler Murray suffered an ACL tear midway through the season.
The Seahawks clinched an unexpected playoff berth as Geno Smith delivered a stellar comeback performance, writing off his haters in the process – still, the Seahawks were unable to advance past the wild card round with their roster containing multiple holes in the offensive and defensive lines. With the grand majority of the division underperforming, the San Francisco 49ers have firmly maintained their position as a powerhouse in the NFC and wield the opportunity to takeover the west yet again.
However, the main X-Factor that San Francisco has to figure out is who will take on the role as QB1. Last season’s NFC Championship game against the Eagles resulted in a tragic ending as the fan-favorite Niners had all quarterbacks injured by the third quarter. Now, the Niners’ QB room looks to be a three-way competition between last year’s Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy, 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance and 2018 first-rounder, Sam Darnold. No matter who wins the starting role, they’re destined to succeed in the Shanahan’s QB-friendly scheme with a surplus of weapons on offense and a scary defensive unit.
On paper, there’s no way San Francisco doesn’t reclaim the West this season but there’s a lot for the team to figure out before September.
NFC East: Philadephia Eagles
Coming just up short of winning in the big game, the Eagles are not only projected to win their division, but they’re seen as sure-fire candidates to land a consecutive Super Bowl appearance this upcoming season. The NFC East is historically one of the better-looking divisions out of the bunch, but there doesn’t seem like too much for the Eagles to worry about aside from the Cowboys.
Dallas fans try to make it clear that every year is their year, but the outspoken claims aren’t too far-fetched this season. Dallas wields one of the better defenses in the league with a surplus of talent across all positions – they just need to work on the offense. If Dak doesn’t limit his costly turnovers, Dallas will definitely suffer the same fate as last year – except this time Zeke won’t find himself playing center. Seriously, who made that call?
New York made a giant leap from the sheer mediocrity they’ve put on display for the past five years after the team unexpectedly won their first playoff game with Daniel Jones as their QB. Still, one can’t help but think the Giants hit their ceiling with that win, but maybe Brian Daboll could work another miracle. Washington exists in a grey area with no clear direction of where to go after the team barely missed the playoffs – but hey, the culture is different, right?
The East looks like a clean-slated disaster aside from the Eagles who’ve quickly rose up the ranks as a powerhouse in the league. Though the defense was gutted due to free agency, Eagles GM, Howie Roseman drafted up a masterclass. Even though they came up short, it’s like everything is going the Eagles’ way this season.
Wielding one of the hardest schedules in the NFL, Philly’s resilience will be tested, but they can easily run it back as winners of the NFC East.
NFC North: Detroit Lions
If someone were to read this at the beginning of last season, they’d erupt in laughter and completely disregard the claim as a whole. With Aaron Rodgers finally out of the NFC North, the Packers have officially been dethroned, leaving the top spot in the division available.
Among the four competitors, the Detroit Lions have risen as favorites to win the division after the team rallied from a 2-6 record and climbed their way to a 9-8 finish, narrowly missing the playoffs at the last minute. Dan Campbell’s second-year as a head coach was a miraculous turnaround but now the question is how could Detroit build off this success. Its no secret that the team had very questionable drafting, but general manager, Brad Holmes, has worked wonders for the organization, gradually gluing together what could be a lethal squad.
With the Packers out of serious competitive talks and the Bears spending the season trying to build around Justin Fields, the only team that possesses any threat would be the Vikings – but even then, Minnesota has many flaws of their own. Similar to the Giants – who ironically knocked them out of the playoffs – it seems like the Vikings hit their ceiling as well with Kirk Cousins under center.
Detroit has the perfect chance to turn heads and make history to claim their first NFC North title.
NFC South: New Orleans Saints
It is no secret that the NFC South is the weakest division by a quarter mile. After Tom Brady retired after playing his last season with the Buccaneers, it’s almost as if there are no redeeming qualities that meet the eye in this particular section. The Panthers walked away with the number one overall pick in the 2023 draft with Bryce Young, but they’re still going to need time to develop the young star before he can make an impact.
Among the mess, the Saints are by far the most established team in the division. The signing of Derek Carr helps provide some well-needed stability at the position – something they’ve lacked since the retirement of Saints legend Drew Brees. New Orleans still has their red flags throughout the roster from Michael Thomas’ sporadic injury history to Alvin Kamara’s legal situation in Las Vegas; but the team wields enough talent to see success in the NFL’s weakest division.
Tampa Bay is coming off a legendary run with Tom Brady, filling his position with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask – and unless they can shock the world, Tampa’s going to continue to plummet down the standings. Panthers obviously need time to develop their quarterback, Bryce Young, and the Falcons are in a weird position, placing all their bets on Desmond Ridder.
It seems the only team with any experience would be New Orleans, hence why they’re chosen as the favorites to take the division title.