Before the start of the 2023 NFL season, I went through the schedules of all 32 NFL teams and predicted winners and losers. These predictions were based on a combination of how each team finished in 2022, what player and coaching additions and subtractions that had taken place, and strength of schedule from both 2021 and 2022. Needless to say, there was a lot of time, effort and calculations (along with a lot of football intellect and a little bit of “gut feeling”) that went into each game of each week in deciding who was most favorable to come out on top in 2023.
So how accurate have I been with projecting records through nine weeks? I’m glad that you asked. Out of 32 teams, I have been perfect with (drum roll, please) six teams. Here’s a big shout out to the Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Philadelphia Eagles for having the exact record that I thought you would through the halfway point of the season. Apparently my expertise lies in the AFC, and more specifically in the AFC West. Who would have thought?
I have been off by only one game (either better or worse record by one game) with 12 other teams (37.5%). I’m not going to list them all off, but I’m hopeful that each team will help me out in the second half of the season by either dropping a game that they “should have” won or getting an upset win. There are 12 more NFL teams that I have incorrectly projected by two games, some of which we will dig into a little further. The remaining two teams we will definitely dissect starting now.
Biggest Disappointment: New York Jets (4-4)
At the midway point of this season, I had the Jets sitting atop of the AFC East at 7-1, with the Buffalo Bills right behind them at 6-3. New York seemed to have all the hype coming into the season, and the pieces were seemingly all in place…until their fourth offensive snap into the season. Not only did they lose their four-time NFL MVP QB Aaron Rodges, but they currently have three offensive linemen on IR along with more than a half a dozen defensive players. Their first-round draft pick Defensive End Will McDonald IV has also been non-existent, while their second-round pick, Center, Joe Tippmann has had to take over for their injured starter. This is the team that is most grossly underperforming, HOWEVER, you just can’t predict injuries. The Jets will not win the division this year, they will not finish even close to the 12-5 record that I thought they would have, and they will not make the playoffs. This is the biggest disappointment thus far.
Biggest Surprise: Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
With all the positive hype that the Jets had coming into this year, I think the Colts were on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Gardner Minshew was signed in the offseason as QB1, but then Indy drafted quarterback Anthony Richardson, who many analysts (including myself) had reservations about. Why? Because his style of play, and body frame is likely to get him injured…which it has. Richardson has only played in only four games and is currently on the IR for a Grade 3 AC joint sprain that happened when he was tackled after taking off on a run.
The bigger drama in the offseason was with star Running Back, Jonathan Taylor being injured (but was he?), and wanting a new contract or being traded, etc. There was a lot of negativity and not a lot of “star power” on the roster. However, RB Zack Moss has been a beast for Indy already tallying 615 yards on the ground in 2023 when he only rushed for 456 yards in the previous two years COMBINED. Indy has won some sneaky games in the beginning of the season against the Ravens (in OT), and the Texans, but have also dropped three of their last four. I think they continue to come back down to reality, although they will obviously finish better than the 3-14 record that I projected in the beginning of the season. Kudos, Colts!
Next Biggest Disappointments: New England Patriots (2-7), and New York Giants (2-7)
While I had the Patriots at 4-5 right now and finishing last in the AFC East, it was still with a record of 8-9. This is a terrible start for New England and the worst of Bill Belichick’s tenure with the organization. The worst part is that Bill has nobody to blame but himself. He basically gets to hand-select this team every year, and they have been terrible in all three fascets of the game. They have the second worst scoring differential in the NFL behind…the New York Giants, and the fourth worst turnover differential. It would be easy to point to Mac Jones (who likely will not be with the team next year), but the Pats need to think about a complete overhaul, starting with the coaching staff.
The New York Giants are supposed to be a playoff team! They went to Minnesota last year in the playoffs and beat them convincingly! That should have been momentum enough to get a fast start this year and compete in a tough NFC East group that includes the Dallas Cowboys and NFC Champs, Philadelphia Eagles. Instead, the Giants (who I had at 4-5 at this point) gave Daniel Jones a huge contract (ridiculously overpaid) and played the same stupid game with Saquon Barkley that the Colts were playing with Jonathan Taylor. Now Jones is out for the year with a torn ACL, backup QB Tyrod Taylor is on the IR along with their big off-season Tight End signing, Darren Waller, and they never addressed their Wide Receiver issues. This is another team that will go through a lot of changes in the next offseason, and if Brian Daboll wasn’t only in his second year, he might have been a casualty too.
Next Biggest Surprises: Miami Dolphins (6-3), and the Minnesota Vikings (5-4)
Miami finished 2022 with a 9-8 record and had a big question mark about their franchise QB, Tua Tagovailoa. On top of that, they didn’t seem to have much of a running game. Well, Tua has been lights out (not HIS lights being knocked out…he’s been good), and in the talks of Mid-Season MVP, and their running game has been one of the best with Raheem Mostert finding his legs at 31-years-old, and rookie RB De’Von Achane, who’s averaging twelve yards per carry. It’s just too bad he can’t stay healthy (currently on the IR…again). I had Miami at 4-5 at this point, and finishing the year at 10-7. If they can learn how to beat teams with winning records (currently 0-3), they might finish better than that and find themselves in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Vikings won A LOT of close games last season, which is why I felt that they 2022 record was a bit inflated, and exactly why the Giants stomped them in the playoffs. The Vikes lost a big offensive weapon in the offseason (Dalvin Cook) and replaced with him…not much. I thought Minnesota would be 3-6 at this point, so they are surprising me a little but with their ability to win ugly games (by six over the Bears, by five over the 49ers, by three over the Falcons, etc.). However, they’ve lost Kirk Cousins (who was top five in just about every passer category), and Justin Jefferson over the last couple of weeks, and the second half of their schedule doesn’t look easy: Detroit twice, at Cincinnati, New Orleans… The Vikings finishing at 7-10 is still a very real possibility, but congrats on making it work so far with a little glue and duct tape.
Honorable Mention Disappointments:
Carolina Panthers (1-7): Giving up all of those draft picks and DJ Moore for Bryce Young is not looking like a good move so far. I had you at only 3-5 right now, but this is still disappointing.
Chicago Bears (2-7): I’ll admit that I fell into the Justin Fields hype a bit too much. I thought you would be better, and at 4-5 right now, but maybe Justin just isn’t the guy.
New Orleans Saints (5-4): Yes, you’re still technically in first place in the NFL South, but c’mon! The division is weak, and with Derek Carr and Micheal Thomas, you should be 7-2!
Honorable Mention Surprises:
Houston Texans (4-4): I’ve been saying since before the draft that CJ Stroud is the best QB in this rookie class, and he’s been better than advertised. 470 passing yards last week?! WOW! Houston is probably going to bury my thoughts of a 5-12 season.
Washington Commanders (4-5): I had Washington at 2-7 at this point but they’ve been gritty enough to win three of four by four or less points. 2-5 in their last seven games is not a good sign though, especially with the hardest part of their season coming up.
Tennessee Titans (3-5): Congrats on not being the 1-7 dumpster fire I thought you would have been. This week rookie Will Levis has been named QB1 going forward though, which should put you right on pace to finish at the 6-11 that I thought you would. Levis has looked decent in the last two games, so going 3-6 against Jacksonville (twice), Miami, Seattle, Houston (twice) isn’t that bad.
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