Predicting the NFC Division Winners for The 2022-23 NFL Season
As the summer comes to a fruitful close, many Carnegie Mellon students return with a twinge of sadness from the start of classes and upcoming Pittsburgh winter, among other things. But for NFL fans, the happiest time of the year is only now just getting started, with this year’s season on the brink after the Super Bowl way back in February. Of course, part of what makes the NFL America’s biggest sports league is its uncertainty: seemingly every year, an unsung late-round pick rises to stardom, a rookie coach outclasses his peers, and a wild card underdog makes a deep playoff run. For this reason, predicting the way even a single team’s journey is going to unfold, much less the league as a whole, is a near-impossible task. But it wouldn’t be a true NFL season without wild attempts to look back on and laugh at when the season comes to its faithful close. So with that, here's my attempt at forecasting half of the league, specifically each division winner in the NFC for the 2022-23 NFL season:
Predicted Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
For virtually every year in the past decade, the NFC East seems to be mired in a swamp of mediocrity, typically sending just one team to the postseason. This year feels no different, but it's the high-flying team out in Philly that jumps out to me as the favorite for the upcoming season. Led by up-and-coming offensive studs in Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith, the Eagles made a slew of strong offseason moves that has them poised to improve on their playoff season from last year.
Predicted Winner: Los Angeles Rams
When you’re the previous season’s Super Bowl winner, there is always going to be ample pressure on you to succeed again the following season. Fortunately for the Rams, they return with a squad that is primed to not only win their division but also make another deep playoff run. Matthew Stafford seems to have found a comfortable home in Los Angeles, finally having the roster pieces to make his elite play meaningful, especially when he’s got Cooper Kupp to throw to. On the defensive side, Aaron Donald remains a force on a starting 11 that is among the most athletic in the league.
Predicted Winner: Detroit Lions
Ever since the legendary quarterback Brett Frave first donned a yellow and green helmet, it feels like the NFC North has been run by the Green Bay Packers. This season, many have them following that track atop the north, but I have a dark horse candidate in mind to take the throne this year: the Detroit Lions. Number two overall pick from Michigan Aiden Hutchinson is likely to be a star in the league on the defensive end and 12th overall pick Jameson Williams is an athletic wide receiver from Alabama who is poised to make an immediate splash. Ultimately, the Lions’ chances at making a return to the postseason will likely rest on quarterback Jared Goff’s shoulders, but with all of the pieces this team has made, the amount of work Goff himself has to do has lessened considerably since last fall.
Predicted Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For a brief period last fall, every NFC South team save the Buccaneers were seemingly counting their blessings as legendary quarterback Tom Brady had announced his retirement. This, of course, was short lived, with Brady reversing his decision shortly after, putting the Buccaneers back in a prime position to not only secure the South, but also go far in January. On the offensive side, there is no question it’s one of the most talented squads the league has to offer, with skilled players like Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin, all at the aid of Brady. Defensively, it's a solid group that has a penchant for forcing turnovers and limiting big plays, with star Shaquil Barrett at the forefront of that effort. Barring injuries or age finally dragging Tom Brady down to mediocrity, I expect the Buccaneers to run the division with little resistance.