The 2022-2023 NFL season is officially underway! After an exciting Week One, fans finally know how their team is looking this season. Is this a rebuilding year? Should you tank for CJ Stroud or Bryce Young? Can you fight your way to a winning record? Is a Super Bowl realistic?
All NFL fans hoped to begin Week One with a victory. Only half of them, however, got their wish. From tight divisional battles to lopsided blowouts to quarterbacks facing their old teams, Week One had it all. Because of the way Week One played out, here’s my recap and playoff predictions for 2022-2023.
Thursday Night’s battle between the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills was a welcomed performance. Buffalo looked every bit of the way-too-early Super Bowl favorite role. A year after defeating Cincinnati in the big game, the Rams did not look ready to go back. Jalen Ramsey got burnt worse than the turkey in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Aging quarterback Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions and averaged a paltry 5.9 yards per attempt. Cam Akers also carried three times for zero yards. Meanwhile, Josh Allen stiff-armed this safety into next week. Although Allen tossed a pair of interceptions, one was not his fault. Besides these, Allen was stellar, having a hand in all of Buffalo’s touchdowns. Receiving guru Stefon Diggs surpassed 100 yards and the Bills looked ready to play for their chance at a Lombardi this season.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
The seven games played in the early afternoon slot on Sunday were a sight for sore eyes who have gone without football for…three whole days (how did we ever survive the offseason?!). Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota clashed as the Saints beat the Falcons 27-26 at the last minute. Trey Lance and his 49ers struggled in the rain against the Chicago Bears losing 19-10. Most CBS viewers watched the fight between divisional rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati with Pittsburgh pulling off the last-second overtime upset 23-20. Baker Mayfield faced off against his former team the Cleveland Browns, but the Panthers fell 26-24. In other AFC North action, Baltimore defeated the lowly Jets 24-9. Dan Campbell and company hosted the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Lions lost 38-35. The AFC South watched the Colts and Texans do battle, a game that ended in a 20-20 stalemate. I even enjoyed the Commanders 28-22 win over the Jaguars because, man, have I missed football.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Fans drowned in a sea of red when the Chiefs and Cardinals squared off. Patrick Mahomes threw 5 touchdowns and ensured a 44-21 Chiefs victory. Maybe Aaron Rodgers’ back-to-back MVP seasons were powered by his man bun. A short-haired Rodgers and his rusty Packers offense only mustered a touchdown in a 23-7 loss to their rival Vikings. Brian Daboll secured his first head coaching win as his Giants went into the Music City and overthrew the Titans 21-20 after a courageous 2-point-conversion call. In AFC West news, Raiders receiver Davante Adams gained almost 150 yards but his new team lost to the rival Chargers 24-19.
Sunday, 8 p.m.
Tampa Bay and Dallas. Sounds exciting, right? This matchup was a lot more exciting when it was the NFL kickoff game last year. This year, neither team found the end zone until the fourth quarter. Touchdowns were replaced with field goals while the receivers the Cowboys lost this offseason were replaced by nobody. Dak Prescott left the game early with an injury (fortunately, he will NOT have to revert to injured reserve). Even so, the game was a lost cause by that point. The Cowboys had no traction on offense which led to a painful 19-3 loss.
Russell Wilson in Seattle has been a standard sight for the last decade. He entered Seattle once again Monday night, this time as the quarterback for the visiting Broncos. Wilson developed a necessary connection with Jerry Jeudy, giving him 25.5 yards per catch and a touchdown. The Broncos’ new playcaller dumped the ball off to Javonte Williams 11 times. New head coach Nathaniel Hackett, however, was unable to properly manage the clock and elected to kick a 64-yard field goal at the end of the game instead of letting Wilson and the offense play. The kick failed, allowing Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (two touchdown passes) to bask in his first victory of the year.
The Current Playoff Picture
Yes, the p-word. Even though the playoffs don’t start until next year, every dedicated fan imagines their team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next February. The good news for these fans is that we now have a preliminary playoff picture. The bad news is that this picture will change 17 more times before it bears any postseason meaning.
The Chargers are in the lead of the AFC West and would take the #1 AFC seed. The Dolphins control the AFC East and the #2 seed. Pittsburgh takes the AFC North and the third-best AFC playoff spot. Even the winless Colts find themselves leading an awful AFC South. The 1-0 Ravens, Bills, and Chiefs would be slotted for the 5, 6, and 7 seeds, respectively.
On the NFC side, the Vikings are in possession of the #1 seed. The Saints lead the NFC South and are in control of the #2 seed. #3 belongs to the high-scoring Eagles while the Seahawks would take the fourth NFC playoff spot. The Buccaneers would be a wild card team, one spot in front of Chicago. Currently, the final NFC playoff spot belongs to the Washington Commanders, who have held a playoff spot in 100% of the weeks they’ve existed. It would be more impressive if this wasn’t their first week playing in the NFL, but stats are stats. Now, let’s get into how I think everything will shake out.
The AFC Prediction
Even though they lost to their AFC North rivals this week, I have the Bengals winning the North. They are both talented and experienced, a difficult combination to bet against. I have the Steelers taking second place because I believe they will figure out their offenses issues as the season progresses. With TJ Watt set to return in October, the defense will be just fine. Greg Roman’s play-calling leaves much to be desired, as I have the Ravens finishing third and missing the playoffs.
The Bills easily finish first in the AFC East. They look to be a lethal team on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins take second place and make it back to the playoffs, and Mike McDaniel cements himself as the best head-coaching hire this year. The Patriots finish slightly above the Jets but both miss the playoffs in 2022.
No AFC South team has a win yet, but I see the Titans winning the division. A young, exciting Davis Mills leads the Texans to second in the south, but they miss the playoffs this year. The Jaguars will prove to be a force next year, but will take third in the south this year. I think Matt Ryan has seen the best playing days of his career and the Colts finish last.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will win the AFC West. The loss of Tyreek Hill will be offset by excellent quarterback play from Mahomes. Justin Herbert will take the Chargers to a wildcard berth and a second place finish. Even with Russell Wilson, I think the Broncos have too much to overcome to make the playoffs. The Raiders will finish last.
The NFC Prediction
In a twist, I have the Vikings winning the NFC North this season. They proved to be a competent team. I think Aaron Rodgers will play well overall but struggle in the absence of Davante Adams. The Packers will make the playoffs as a wildcard. The Lions will overtake the Bears for third place in the AFC North. While Justin Fields will be a good quarterback in the NFL, he has no weapons to catapult this offense.
The Eagles will win the NFC East for the first time since their Super Bowl run. I see the Commanders turning some heads and finishing second this year, as long as Wentz can continue to play halfway decent. The Giants have what it takes to pull out a third place finish the season, but the Cowboys’ putrid offense lands them in last.
With only one touchdown, I don’t see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a powerhouse team like they were the last two seasons. However, they are my default to win the NFC South behind the experienced Tom Brady. The Panthers, with the addition of Baker Mayfield, will take second place and a wildcard spot. I believe in Jameis Winston more than I believe in Marcus Mariota, which is ironically how the game between them played out Sunday. They will remain steadfast, with the Saints finishing in third just ahead of the Falcons.
Young quarterback Trey Lance will lead his squad to the NFC West title this year. The Rams showed a plethora of deficiencies on Thursday night, which is why I see them as the second-place finisher this year. With Matt Stafford’s elbow problems, I predict he will be a similar player to 2020 Ben Roethlisberger. The Cardinals will gain some steam and make a push for the NFC West crown, but will ultimately finish third. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks will return to the basement of the NFC West due to other talent around them.
Race to the Lombardi
Make fun of my guesses, laugh at me, but remember; this “prediction” is based off of one week of play. That, combined with roster analysis and guessing what is a trend versus a mistake, makes playoff prediction in September nearly impossible! That being said, let’s have some fun with the scenario I created above…
Justin Herbert finally gets a playoff win as the Chargers beat the Titans in the Wild Card round. The Dolphins fail to stop the Bengals’ offense. Pittsburgh will have Mahomes end their season for the second year in a row (the only question; will it be Mahomes vs. Trubisky or Mahomes vs. Pickett?) The Rams take out Tom Brady and he finally retires. Up-and-coming Carolina defeats the Vikings. Trey Lance advances past an aging, weaponless Aaron Rodgers.
In the divisional round, Josh Allen wins a close shootout against Justin Herbert and the Bills advance. The Chiefs and Bengals rematch from last year’s epic playoff game, but this time Andy Reid exploits Cincinnati’s weaknesses. Philadelphia and their strong offensive line run all over the Rams and Matthew Stafford cannot keep pace. Despite excellent efforts, the Panthers come to an end at the hands of the 49ers.
Championship weekend sees the Bills and Chiefs collide. I mean, after last year’s playoff debacle between them, who wouldn’t want to see this? Despite an excellent offensive effort, the Chiefs are denied an opportunity to win a second ring in the Mahomes era. Meanwhile, the Eagles take care of business in a surprisingly lopsided victory over San Francisco (note; Philly and San Fran will only be in the position to be in this game if Jalen Hurts continues to be a mobile threat and Trey Lance develops as many expect him to).
Finally, the long-awaited Super Bowl arrives. The Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, and Chargers are all legitimate Super Bowl threats out of the AFC this year and I would not be surprised to see any of them in the big game. On the NFC side, I don’t see a strong contender without notable deficiencies. The NFC is weak this year, especially after turning Russell Wilson into the Geno Smith/Drew Lock combo in Seattle. This bodes well for the Bills, who defeat the surging Eagles 27-17. Buffalo wins their first Super Bowl. Bills Mafia destroys the town. All is well that ends well.
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Wow, thats quite a prediction, lets see how close this turns out!