Every yr, 14 of the NFL’s 32 groups make the playoffs. And on common, solely about half of them return the next yr. The different half are changed, with one thing like six new contenders on an annual foundation. It’s a real testomony to the league’s parity, and maybe the best argument for the present wage cap, which requires all franchises to restock and rebuild.
As we stay up for the 2023 season, which groups are primed to return to the dance after lacking the postseason a yr in the past? Here’s our early rundown of the six greatest candidates:
2022 end: 5-12 (fourth in AFC West)
Picking a crew apart from the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs or Justin Herbert-led Chargers to make the playoffs out of the AFC West might qualify as a stretch. But Los Angeles remains to be making an attempt to flee its personal rut of self-inflicted wounds, and Kellen Moore as Herbert’s new offensive coordinator is a wild card. The Raiders, in the meantime, are banking on Jimmy Garoppolo — or a rookie successor — staying wholesome behind an iffy line. In Denver, Russell Wilson merely cannot be a lot worse than he was in 2022, and new coach Sean Payton appears to be signaling a return to run-heavier scripts after a spendy offseason prioritizing the trenches. The protection nonetheless has shutdown potential, but it surely’s Payton’s no-nonsense management that ought to catapult them right into a wild card.
2022 end: 7-10 (fourth in AFC North)
The Browns embraced controversy and criticism with their blockbuster Deshaun Watson commerce final offseason, solely to endure by probably the most disappointing season of Kevin Stefanski’s three-year tenure as coach. While Watson was rusty and erratic coming off suspension, he’ll enter 2023 with a full offseason of prep in Stefanski’s system, to not point out an improved receiving corps that includes Elijah Moore reverse Amari Cooper. The “D” also needs to be higher with Dalvin Tomlinson and Ogbo Okoronkwo becoming a member of the entrance 4, and Juan Thornhill changing John Johnson on the again finish. Their division can also be pretty open: apart from the title-contending Bengals, the Steelers have main offensive questions, and the Ravens might or might not have Lamar Jackson.
2022 end: 7-10 (fourth in AFC East)
Aaron Rodgers. Need we are saying extra? Assuming the Jets and Packers finalize the commerce they’ve publicly forecast, New York actually ought to have deep-playoff aspirations. Look, Rodgers might not have one other MVP run in him occurring 40, however his transfer to the Jets is not solely dissimilar to the Tom Brady-Buccaneers team-up of 2020. Many puzzled if Brady nonetheless had it when he left New England, and he proceeded to relish the brand new surroundings. Put it this manner: if the Jets might go 7-10, sniffing a wild card whereas deploying Zach Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco underneath heart in 2022, they need to be the clear front-runners to problem Buffalo within the AFC East with Rodgers leaning on Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson and a younger, ascending protection.
2022 end: 9-8 (second in NFC North)
You’d suppose the Lions had been contemporary off an precise playoff run, the way in which they’ve drawn league-wide respect this offseason. Remember, they weren’t removed from incomes simply that, with their Week 18 upset of the Rodgers-led Packers. Jared Goff nonetheless has his limitations, however Dan Campbell and Co. have actually constructed a well-rounded lineup right here, surrounding the veteran QB with dependable, workmanlike starters up entrance and on the talent spots. Best of all, the much-derided secondary now appears to be like fully totally different, with Cameron Sutton and C.J. Gardner-Johnson bringing added physicality to their “D.” Are we optimistic the Vikings, who went 13-4 in 2022, are presently a category above them within the NFC North?
2022 end: 8-9 (third in NFC North)
Green Bay will not be with out some main query marks, chief amongst them: how will Jordan Love deal with the full-time QB1 position as soon as Rodgers packs his luggage for the Jets? Better but, does the younger gunslinger have sufficient assist out huge, the place the Packers as soon as once more might stand to pursue a number of upgrades? Still, they went 8-9 and almost went to the playoffs in 2022 regardless of Rodgers’ lack of chemistry with a makeshift supporting solid, and Love’s arm has underrated juice. They’ll probably have an additional draft choose or two from the inevitable Rodgers deal, which might web a starter. And their high younger play-makers — Aaron Jones, Christian Watson, Jaire Alexander — are among the most explosive at their respective positions.
2022 end: 7-10 (second in NFC South)
It’s not typically you’ll be able to undertaking the crew with the No. 1 draft choose to additionally make a direct playoff run, however the Panthers entered this offseason with a roster in comparatively good condition. Truthfully, they had been solely lacking one important ingredient: QB, which must be solved atop the draft with both Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Alabama’s Bryce Young. Both prospects will inevitably have rising pains, however they’re constructed with NFL-ready pocket poise. New coach Frank Reich is the right even-keeled chief for a rookie underneath heart, and their veteran additions — Miles Sanders, Adam Thielen, Hayden Hurst — are dependable plug-and-play shops. Couple that with a feisty younger “D,” and a wide-open NFC South, and it isn’t arduous to check Reich overseeing a fast turnaround.
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