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NFL: Five bold predictions for 2023 season

With the 2022 season firmly in our rear-view mirrors, it's time to look ahead to what the next campaign could have in store for fans of the 32 teams.

Will teams that have struggled of late be able to turn things around and will anyone be able to break the dominance of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC? It's time to make some bold predictions.

The Lions make the playoffs

The Detroit Lions finished the 2022 season hot and will be on everyone's radar come the start of training camp next summer. After going 3-13-1 in Dan Campbell's first year at Ford Field, the Lions roared back to relevance with a 9-8 campaign that saw them go 5-1 within the NFC North.

Much will depend on Jared Goff staying healthy and consistent, but Detroit have a young, hungry roster and a coaching staff that look capable of squeezing out a bit more from the talent pool.

The Jets beat the Patriots

The New York Jets looked to be on course to end the NFL's longest active playoff drought in 2022 only to fall flat on their faces again, derailed after a 5-2 start by two damaging mid-season losses to their arch nemesis - the New England Patriots.

The Patriots essentially put paid to any lingering hopes in the Big Apple that Zac Wilson could be the franchise's savior by picking him off three times in their Week 8 win and limiting him to nine completions in the return clash.

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New England have now won 14 straight games against their AFC East brethren, averaging an impressive 30 points to the Jets' 11 across that run.

But the sequence finally ends in 2023 because the Jets will have one of the best defenses in the NFL again and a competent veteran QB at the helm. They were unlucky not to take the Patriots to overtime when they last met in November but for an incredible 84-yard walk-off TD punt return from Marcus Jones that gave New England the 10-3 victory.

The Bucs miss out on the postseason

Tom Brady's second and almost certainly final retirement from the NFL leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a gaping hole to fill at quarterback. They will probably try to pull off a trade for a veteran in a bid to keep a talented roster in the playoff mix for 2023, but there are a lot of variables at play.

The Bucs are $55million over the projected 2023 salary cap of $225million and will need to be fiscally nimble before they can re-sign their first impending free agent. And they have 24 projected unrestricted free agents set to hit the market with those on defense having accounted for 54% of the total defensive starts in 2022.

Their division rivals in Carolina and New Orleans also have some salary cap and quarterback issues, but there is a very real prospect that Tampa Bay don't make the postseason for the first time since 2019.

The Packers win the NFC title

An offseason of upheaval is expected in Green Bay where the Packers look set to part company with Aaron Rodgers after 18 seasons, 15 of which were as their primary starting QB. In 2022, the Cheeseheads experienced only their third losing season with Rodgers when he played more than nine games but it feels like it is time for a change.

There could be some hard financial hits to be shared by all parties before a trade is eventually worked out, but the Packers believe they already have Rodgers' successor in 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Love. The third-year QB didn't see much game-time in 2022 but did little wrong when he got the chance.

He replaced an injured Rodgers in a 40-33 Week 12 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and completed six of nine passes for 113 yards and a touchdown while finishing the game with a 146.8 passer rating.

This stands out because the Eagles held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low passer rating of 81.6 across the regular season.

Everyone in Green Bay had hoped Love would spend his first couple of years in the league picking up tips from Rodgers, but there's nothing like learning on the job. It's also highly possible that Love flourishes even more without the sometimes surly starter blocking his path as the four-time MVP did himself when Brett Favre retired for the first time in 2008.

A new face of the franchise and a fresh start may be the impetus the Packers, +1100 to win the NFC Championship, need to get back to dominating the NFC North.

They entered the 2022 season with seven first-round picks on defense plus several high-priced veteran free agents, but struggled terribly in run defense. But if DC Joe Barry can sharpen up his and a talented defense's act this coming season then Lambeau Field could be rocking again next January.

The Bengals win it all

The Cincinnati Bengals have lost to the eventual NFL Championship winners in each of the past two seasons, losing 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams in the big game itself last year before seeing the Kansas City Chiefs gain revenge in the AFC Championship matchup this past January.

In both of those crunch contests, Zac Taylor's team came up short because of one crucial weakness in their makeup - the offensive line. It was a problem all year in 2021 as Joe Burrow was sacked an NFL-high 51 times in the regular season before adding 19 more in the playoffs, including seven against the Rams.

Cincy appeared to address the issue in offseason by adding NFL Championship-winning veterans Ted Karras and Alex Cappa to bolster the interior of the line and landing ex-Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle La'el Collins too.

Despite some struggles at the start of the regular season, the line showed some improvement as Burrow took 10 sacks fewer than the previous year, but the line was so chewed up by injuries by the time they faced the Chiefs that it became a huge problem again.

Expect the Bengals, who are +900 to win the next NFL Championship, to target the upper end of the free agent linemen market again this spring as they are projected to have the sixth-highest amount of available salary cap space in 2023.

Burrow is a baller, the Bengals have a track team of wide receivers that will frighten any defense and Taylor rightly spoke about the character of his team in the wake of the Chiefs' defeat, which could have easily gone the other way but for the crucial roughing the passer penalty that put Kansas City in FG range at the death.

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