Admittedly, it is way too early to be making predictions about how the 2023 NFL season will play out, but that isn’t stopping Pro Football Network.
And bless them for that because it gives us something to discuss.
And, oh, what a something it is.
Their AFC predictions are fairly predictable:
- Kansas City is the No. 1 seed
- The other division winners are the same as last season (Buffalo, Cincinnati, Jacksonville), but the order is different. Last year it was Bills at 2, Bengals at 3, Jaguars at 4; in 2023, the Bills drop to No. 4 and the Bengals and Jaguars each move up one spot.
- Aaron Rodgers gives the Jets enough to take the No. 5 seed from the Chargers (and L.A. watches the playoffs from home).
- The Ravens and Dolphins retain the 6th and 7th seeds, respectively.
Fortunately, PFN is a lot more daring with their predictions for the NFC.
Except at the very top.
The Philadelphia Eagles were the top seed last year and PFN doesn’t think anyone will knock them from their lofty perch.
From there though . . .
Boy, oh boy.
Here is what the rest of the NFC field looked like last year:
- No. 2: San Francisco 49ers
- No. 3: Minnesota Vikings
- No. 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- No. 5: Dallas Cowboys
- No. 6: New York Giants
- No. 7: Seattle Seahawks
And here’s what PFN is predicting for the 2023 playoff field:
- No. 2: Detroit Lions
- No. 3: Seattle Seahawks
- No. 4: Carolina Panthers
- No. 5: San Francisco 49ers
- No. 6: Dallas Cowboys
- No. 7: Chicago Bears
That’s three new division winners (Lions, Seahawks, Panthers).
Then Niners fall to No. 5.
The other two division winners from last season miss out on the playoffs altogether, and so do the New York Giants.
The biggest surprise though is the NFL’s worst team in 2022 somehow captures the NFC’s final playoff spot.
That’s not a misprint.
This is a Seahawks site though, so let’s move on from the Bears and look at why PFN is predicting that Seattle will overtake Santa Clara for the NFC West crown.
Let’s start with what PFN thinks about the Niners:
With Brock Purdy potentially sidelined until mid-September as he recovers from the UCL injury he suffered in the NFC title game, the 49ers may have to turn to Trey Lance or Sam Darnold to begin the season.
We’ve all learned never to doubt Kyle Shanahan’s offensive wizardry, but the idea of San Francisco relying on Lance or Darnold does give pause. The 49ers have so many offensive weapons that it might not even matter who’s under center. However, some of those weapons — including Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel — have had trouble staying healthy in recent seasons.
The fact that the Niners had arguably the league’s worst draft should also be a factor. After all, the only starter they probably got from the draft is Kicker Jake Moody, and are Kickers really considered “starters”?
And, now, the Seahawks . . .
After entering the playoffs as a Wild Card team a season ago, we think the Seahawks can overtake the 49ers for the NFC West crown in 2022.
Seattle is pinning its hopes on Geno Smith matching or exceeding his performance from last season, but he will have help. Jaxon Smith-Njigba gives the Seahawks three legitimate wideouts, while Zach Charbonnet will form a solid running back duo with Kenneth Walker III. Seattle’s offensive line, which could feature second-year leaps from offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, should give Smith enough time in the pocket and create rushing lanes for the club’s young backs.
The Seahawks’ secondary — comprised of Tariq Woolen, rookie Devon Witherspoon, and safeties Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, and Julian Love — has the potential to be among the best units in the NFL. Depending on how much free agent addition Dre’Mont Jones improves the front seven, Seattle’s defense should show massive improvement after ranking 25th in scoring last year.
No arguments here.
Well, except for the Lions apparently edging us out for the No. 2 seed on a tiebreaker (because there’s no way they finish a full game ahead of us).