• Justin Fields continues on an upward trajectory: Expect a 20-point jump in passing grade from his subpar 54.4 mark in 2022.
• The Lions claim the NFC North: The Lions were a dark-horse candidate a season ago, but now they're the real deal.
• Jordan Addison makes his case for OROY: Expect Addison to produce right away with Justin Jefferson taking the bulk of defenses' attention.
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
We’ve had time to digest the moves of the offseason, so now it’s time to lose all perspective and offer some bold predictions for the 2023 NFL season.
This will move beyond simple win-loss predictions and focus on specific things for each team, some relevant to PFF grades and some more big-picture in nature.
Remember, these are bold predictions. They won't be the most accurate predictions in the world, but the takes will be rooted in data or tape evidence and are things that have a realistic chance of taking place, not just craziness summoned from ChatGPT.
Other Bold Prediction Articles
1. Linebacker T.J. Edwards earns a better PFF grade than Tremaine Edmunds
The Chicago Bears spent last season clearing salary cap space and stripping the roster, including a high-end off-ball linebacker (Roquan Smith), only to make that spot their top spending priority this offseason. Tremaine Edmunds was signed coming off a career year in Buffalo, but so was T.J. Edwards to a much more modest contract. Edwards has none of the physical gifts that Edmunds possesses and has had to succeed in the NFL the hard way, but he has consistently done so. Don’t be shocked if Edwards looks very good next to his highly paid teammate and posts a better PFF grade.
2. Justin Fields improves his PFF passing grade by 20-plus points
Fields had to do everything by himself in 2022. He wasn’t able to drag the Bears to many wins, but he was the only reason the offense moved the ball most of the time. It relied largely on his rushing ability, with some big passing plays sprinkled in. This offseason, the Bears got him some serious help, and we should see it pay immediate dividends in his passing production and efficiency. Fields posted just a 54.4 PFF passing grade last season. A 20-point jump would have placed him just inside the top 15.
3. Chicago still fields the worst defensive line in the league
The Bears recorded the lowest pressure rate in the league last season by a considerable margin, and their defensive line was simply bereft of viable talent. They attacked the unit in the draft and later signed Yannick Ngakoue to try and address that, but it still looks like a glaring weakness unless those rookies are able to outperform expectations right away. Ngakoue is the team’s only proven pass rusher, and his PFF pass-rushing grade has been declining for three straight seasons across four different teams.
1. Jahmyr Gibbs sees 70-plus targets as a rookie
Eight running backs saw 70 or more targets in 2022. Gibbs raised eyebrows when he was drafted as high as he was, given how the league currently treats the running back position, but from the outset, the Lions have been talking about him more as a playmaker without portfolio than a running back. In training camp, Gibbs has been split wide and in the slot regularly. He could feature as a major outlet in the passing game.
2. The Lions win the NFC North
It’s time to embrace the change in narrative and enjoy being seen as favorites. The Lions were everybody’s dark horse for a playoff spot a year ago, and while they came agonizingly close, they fell short. This time, they’re the division favorites for real, and with good reason. They retained key pieces and added potential immediate improvements in the draft and free agency. Now is the time to prove to people the hype is justified.
3. Detroit's offensive line rivals Philadelphia’s for the best in the league
A year ago, I predicted that the Lions would have a top-five offensive line in the NFL. They hit that level at times — four separate times in PFF’s weekly offensive line rankings — but injuries hampered the group and kept them from their true potential. The interior was a permanent revolving door that will hopefully be an entirely different story this season. If the group stays healthy, they have the potential to be hard on Philadelphia’s heels as the best line in football.
Green Bay Packers
1. Romeo Doubs breaks out
The Romeo Doubs hype from this time last year wasn’t a mirage; it just came a year too early. Doubs has been tearing up training camp and joint scrimmages, as well as playing solid in preseason games. He is a good receiver, but the expectations last preseason spiraled out of control and he couldn’t meet them — particularly not after suffering injury. This season, Doubs will break out as an excellent receiver and a reliable target for Jordan Love.
2. Luke Musgrave threatens 1,000 yards as a rookie
Rookie tight ends don’t tend to get 1,000 receiving yards, even in this era of 17 games and expansive passing games. It’s happened twice,, and one of them was Mike Ditka in 1961. Musgrave likely won’t surpass 1,000 yards, but he might push it very close, judging by how the team has been deploying him in training camp and his receiving skill set. He has all of the physical tools, and the Packers have been using him on things like jet sweeps that typically aren’t drawn up for tight ends. Musgrave averaged 3.4 yards per route run across just two games last season at Oregon State before injury shut him down, but he looked primed for a monster year.
3. Green Bay’s defense improves into the top ten
A season ago, expectations were that it would be the best Packers defense that Aaron Rodgers had ever played with. Instead, the team finished 21st in expected points added per play allowed and 26th in yards per play. The underlying reasons for optimism are still there, however, and there’s every chance that the unit dramatically outperforms the results from a season ago. The Packers have multiple capable edge rushers, cornerbacks and linebackers and can make impacts against the run and the pass. This is a unit that has top-10 potential.
1. Christian Darrisaw makes All-Pro at left tackle
Christian Darrisaw broke out a season ago and may have had a solid All-Pro case if concussions hadn’t kept him out of three games. He posted a 90.3 overall PFF grade, trailing only Trent Williams, and was dominant as a run blocker. He didn’t allow a sack until he ran into Micah Parsons in Week 11, and he looks to be still improving. With another small step, Darrisaw will be one of the best linemen in the game.
2. Jordan Addison makes a strong Offensive Rookie of the Year case
Each year, there are players the draft community overthinks because of measurables. Jordan Addison has stood out as the best receiver on the field at two different schools during his college career, but he posted pedestrian measurables and average timed speed. He slipped deep into the first round yet has been consistently proving that elite play translates well throughout training camp and preseason. Addison averaged at least 2.9 yards per route run in each of his last two years in college. Expect him to produce right away with Justin Jefferson taking the bulk of defenses' attention.
3. The defense remains a bottom-third unit
Changing schemes will likely help the Vikings' defense, regardless of what it is changing to. Such was the rut the unit got into in 2022. It won’t, however, completely paper over the significant cracks in personnel that have emerged. The Vikings' cornerback room looks like one of the weakest in the league on paper, and they will need a huge bounce-back year from Danielle Hunter or a true breakout from Marcus Davenport for the defensive line not to be a weakness. They may improve, but it’s tough to see how it can take a huge leap.