If someone told you one of their bold NFL predictions for the NFL in 2022 was that Geno Smith would lead all quarterbacks in completion percentage you’d have given them a funny look. The Jaguars winning the AFC South would have been on of the more bold NFL predictions last season too. Now is the time for this seasons slightly less implausible, yet bold NFL predictions.
Texans win the AFC South
A front office with unrealistic expectations have been the Texans bugaboo for the last two seasons. In 2023 they have not only found a coach who can meet those seemingly preposterous expectations. But they’ve also backed themselves into a corner.
New Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans is a legend in Houston , if they treat him as shoddily as Lovie Smith and David Culley, they risk a fan revolt. Ryans played 88 games as a linebacker for the Texans, making 636 tackles in the process. More recently he was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco. Ryans 49ers defense were first for fewest points conceded, second in the league for turnovers and third for quarterback knockdowns.
So unsurprisingly this Texans’ defense is the exciting part, particularly the young talent they’ve amassed over the last two seasons. In 2022 six of their defensive unit were 23 or younger. They drafted four more defensive players in April, including two from Ryans’ alma mater Alabama. They have also signed two defensive undrafted free agents, so there’s plenty of competition going into preseason.
The most exciting part of this Texans defense is the pass rush. Last year Jerry Hughes led the team with nine sacks. They added Byron Cowart, Hassan Ridgeway, Chase Winovich and Sheldon Rankins in free agency to help him out. They weren’t the only star signings though. The Texans moved up in the draft to secure an elite pass rusher in Will Anderson Jr.. At Alabama he recorded 204 tackles and 34.5 sacks in his three seasons. A fifth-round pick brought Henry To’o To’o to Houston too. To’o To’o made 205 tackles and 6.5 sacks at Alabama, but he was only there for two years.
It’s not just the off-season acquisitions on defense that make the 2023 Texans potential champions. They drafted the best quarterback in the 2023 draft class too. And also traded for Shaq Mason from the Patriots. Mason alongside Laremy Tunsil and another newcomer Dalton Schultz should lockdown one side of the Texans offensive line. With another newbie Devin Singletary and Dameon Pierce (who averaged 4.3 yards per carry in his rookie season) that should provide the Texans with a solid run game. They will also protect C.J Stroud who can run the ball if he has to. The roster they’ve constructed in Houston will create turnovers on defense and keep the ball on the ball on offence. The Texans just need the front office to find some patience if they don’t beat dominate immediately.
Falcons win the NFC South
Talking of teams constructing exciting young rosters, Arthur Smith added Bijan Robinson to an offence that already had Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Desmond Ridder (not to mention Tyler Allgeier). It’s not just the Falcons offence that has an ample share of talented young players though. The Falcons defense started seven players who were 25 or younger last season.
The addition of Robinson not only takes some pressure off 31-year-old Cordarrelle Patterson (who accounted for 15% of the Falcons yards on offence last season) but gives them another running back who can lineup as a receiver too. Patterson has caught 73 passes in two seasons in Atlanta as well as returning kicks. That leaves defensive coordinators unsure of the personnel they need on the field against such a versatile lineup.
Olamide Zaccheaus left in free agency, but the arrival of Scottie Miller provides a some burst provided Miller can avoid the injuries that have plagued his career so far.
There’s a lot of moving parts in the NFC South and at least two uninspiring head coaches trying to win it. Last season it only took eight wins to win the title, so it really is a crap shoot.
Tyreek Hill will break the 2,000 receiving yards mark
Hill never looked 100% confident in his own body during the 2022 season. He repeatedly stepped out of bounds to avoid contact instead of challenging defenders. Despite this he rattled up 1,710 yards )so this isn’t the boldest of bold NFL predictions), scored seven touchdowns and went over 100 yards in seven different games. Impressive statistics for someone in their first season at a new team. Even more impressive considering the Dolphins had to start three different quarterbacks in 2022. Hill had 1,104 receiving yards after nine weeks in 2022, but he wasn’t as prolific in the second half of the season. Particularly in the last three games of the season when Hill was only targeted 18 times, in week 6 alone he was targeted 15 times.
Provided the Dolphins don’t have to dive too deep into their quarterback depth chart this time out and his ankle injury doesn’t linger, 2023 should be a record-breaking season for Hill.
Jordan Love will score 40 total TD’s
Aaron Rodgers managed 27 total touchdowns in 2022. That was despite playing with a broken thumb and only eight Packers pass catchers stepping up to catch touchdown passes.
A Green Bay offence with a quarterback who has just one NFL start, and that lost Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Robert Tonyan doesn’t look setup to pass first. And in college at Utah State Love excelled at running the RPO offence around the goal line so he’ll scored his fair share of rushing touchdowns in 2023. Love scored nine rushing touchdowns in college even though he averaged just 2.4 yards per rush attempt. With the potent dual threat Aaron Jones and A.J Dillon pose at the goal line, Love should benefit from edge defenders crashing down.
The Packers will have to pass the ball sometime though. Love has some receiving options that Rodgers didn’t have at his disposal last season.
Luke Musgrave was the first offensive player they drafted this year, and his size will be awkward for defenders (still seems a bit of a reach though).
Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks look like they’ll bring something different to the offence though. Reed looks like a bit of a body catcher but he’s fast enough to stretch defenses and create space for others. Wicks has an uncanny ability to get open.
If Adam Stenavich works with Love and doesn’t simply impose 2022’s playbook on him the Packers and Love will score points in 2023. Rodgers and Love aren’t all the different (Love is two inches taller though) but with a 15 ear age group they’re practically from different generations.
Patriots win the AFC East
The Patriots won eight games last season. That was despite the fact they had to start three different quarterbacks. Oh and their odd decision that a defensive coordinator would be able to call plays for the offence. So, it’s not difficult to imagine they’ll improve on that number this season with an actual offensive coordinator running the offence. They might have actually drafted a wide receiver who can beat defenders in the shape of Kayshon Boutte too. After the Patriots drafted three cornerbacks Bill O’Brien should be able to take advantage of Marcus Jones’ skills too. Jones caught all four of his targets in 2022 despite being listed as a defensive back. He racked up 78 yards at 19.5 yards per reception too.
The most exciting part of the Patriots offseason came when they traded up to draft Christian Gonzalez with the 17th pick. Gonzalez looks the most NFL ready defensive back in the 2023 class. He has the closing speed Brian Branch shows and the hands you’d expect from a high school receiver. He’s landed in a great spot for a young defensive back to learn too. The Patriots first three draft picks were defenders and Matt Judon will be delighted to see Keion White at training camp. White recorded 7.5 sacks in 12 during his senior year at Georgia Tech. Marte-Myles Mapu also recorded a sack and 6.5 tackles for a loss in his senior year at Sacramento State so he could be used as a pass rusher too.
Christian Gonzalez for Defensive Rookie Of They Year
Continuing the theme of bold NFL predictions regarding how dynamic the Patriots defense will be in 2023. He’s just that good. But quarterbacks won’t want to throw to Jonathan Jones’ side of the field. Or anywhere near Kyle Duggar or Jalen Mills. And with Keion White and Matt Judon quarterbacks will have to get rid of the ball quickly.