NFL News & Analysis

Bold predictions for every NFL team in 2023 — NFC East

2M7EXR1 Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) throws the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

• Cowboys take hold of the NFC: The Eagles are the favorites once again in the NFC. Dallas, however, made some major moves this offseason and also has a very good roster.

• Giants regress and miss the playoffs: Last season was an overachievement, and unless the coaching staff can repeat the trick, the team might take a step back in 2023 even with better quarterback play.

• Sam Howell takes the most sacks but leads Washington into the playoffs: While he still needs to work on preventing sacks, Howell has the talent to guide the Commanders into the postseason.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 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.

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NFC West

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Dallas Cowboys

1. Dallas earns the No. 1 seed in the NFC

All of the focus is on the Philadelphia Eagles after their Super Bowl run last season. With much of the same core still intact, the Eagles are the favorites once again in the NFC. Dallas, however, made some major moves this offseason and also has a very good roster. It wouldn’t take much to go right for Dallas — or wrong for the Eagles — for the Cowboys to jump them in the NFC and be the team to beat this season. The talk has been about whether the Cowboys can rival the Eagles, but let’s set our sights higher and ask whether they can be the best team in the conference.

2. Dak Prescott earns a career-best PFF grade

Dak Prescott has rarely had a better group of playmakers around him on paper heading into a season. CeeDee Lamb is a star, but adding Brandin Cooks — who is still somehow under 30 years old — to take some of the attention away from him is a huge move. Michael Gallup is another year removed from the injury that left him looking like a shadow of himself upon his return in 2022, and there are solid role players elsewhere in the offense. Prescott’s career-high in PFF grade was 85.2 in 2020 on just 240 dropbacks outside of injury. There’s no reason he can’t hit that mark over a full year in 2023.

3. Trevon Diggs has a career-best PFF grade

Trevon Diggs, like Prescott, should also benefit from an upgrade in his environment. In his case, the team added Stephon Gilmore this offseason. Even independent of the veteran experience and influence he can have off the field in mentoring Diggs, Gilmore still has more than enough juice on the field to be a real factor for opposing offenses. He will stress opposing receivers and quarterbacks alike, forcing them into some gambles that they might not have taken the season before — the types of throws that Diggs can capitalize on.

New York Giants

1. Daniel Jones posts a career-high PFF grade

Many expected Brian Daboll to get the best out of Daniel Jones last season, and while some numbers certainly improved, he still passed for just 6.8 yards per attempt and earned a 76.0 PFF grade — lower than his career high of 78.4 in 2020. It’s impossible to overlook the lack of receivers Jones had last season, though.

The team improving that group in the offseason should lead to a jump in play from Jones, even before factoring in a second season in the system and any natural development. He has Darren Waller to be a principal target, as well as more live threats at receiver. This should be the best version of Daniel Jones we have seen in the NFL.

2. The Giants will miss the playoffs anyway

Even the best version of Jones might not be enough to counter the regression from last season. The Giants ranked 15th in scoring drive percentage last year on offense and 28th in expected points added per play against on defense. They finished the season with a negative points differential yet won nine games and made the postseason as a wild-card team before knocking off the Minnesota Vikings.

The roster looks very patchy on paper and heavily reliant on very young players. Last season was an overachievement, and unless the coaching staff can repeat the trick, the team might take a step back in 2023 even with better quarterback play.

3. Rookie center John Michael Schmitz will be the team’s second-best lineman

A second-round selection, John Michael Schmitz put together some elite tape in college. He may not have had an elite athletic profile — that probably would have pushed him into the first round — but his tape is littered with the blocks you need elite athleticism to make.

Schmitz earned a 92.3 PFF grade in 2022 and allowed just 13 pressures in his last two years. Andrew Thomas is an All-Pro caliber player at left tackle, but a solid rookie year could see Schmitz already install himself as the team’s second-best lineman.

Philadelphia Eagles

1. Jalen Carter wins Defensive Rookie of the Year

There is a very easy argument to make that Jalen Carter was the best football player in the 2023 NFL Draft. Never a candidate to go No. 1 overall, Carter has the most dominant tape of any prospect available, but legal issues and questions over his off-field makeup caused a mini-slide in the draft. The Eagles were able to take advantage of that to grab him at No. 9 overall, and now he gets to play his rookie season on an already dominant defense with longtime veteran Fletcher Cox still around to help mentor his progress. Carter showed in his first snap of preseason action how unstoppable he can be. Over a full season, that’s a Rookie of the Year candidate.

2. The Eagles will have the best O-line in the NFL from pillar to post again

The Eagles fielded the No. 1 offensive line in PFF’s preseason line rankings in 2022 and were the No. 1 team every week of the season until its conclusion. They were the only team in the NFL not to change ranking at least once, and they enter the 2023 season atop those rankings once more.

The only change in the lineup will be guard Isaac Seumalo being replaced by Cam Jurgens, leaving four out of five starters in place, two of which have strong arguments to be the best in the league at their respective positions (Lane Johnson at right tackle and Jason Kelce at center). This is an elite line playing in a system that enhances it. If the group stays healthy, nobody will challenge it.

3. Nakobe Dean records a top-five linebacker grade

The NFL has been hoovering up talent from the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs defense over the past couple of years, including top draft picks (Travon Walker was No. 1 overall in 2022) and elite-looking talents (Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, among others).

Arguably the best player on that team was linebacker Nakobe Dean, who slid to the third round a season ago and has had to bide his time until T.J. Edwards‘ departure opened up the opportunity for him to start this season. Dean reads the game exceptionally well and is always around the football. With so much talent around him, just like at Georgia, expect an elite 2023 season.

Washington Commanders

1. Washington makes the playoffs

Washington finished just a game back of the playoff-bound New York Giants a season ago. Though it felt like another mediocre season, the fundamental underpinnings of this roster are strong. Still, none of it matters if they can’t find solid quarterback play.

Sam Howell has been named the starter and, together with new offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, has to show he can deliver that type of play right away. And if they can, this is a playoff team in the making. Howell has a great arm and is an unexpectedly potent rushing threat, and Washington has a lot of talented playmakers for him to get the ball to.

2. Sam Howell is the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL

The jury is still very much out on what Sam Howell can be in the NFL. There are good and bad aspects to his game that have flashed in very limited samples across the preseason and regular season, but one thing we can probably safely say at this point when you include his college career is that he takes a lot of sacks.

During his final college season, Howell took the most sacks of any quarterback in the Power Five and also ranked last in the ratio of pressures turned into sacks. He was sacked three times across 25 dropbacks in his regular season cameo last season, and he has a preseason sack rate of just over 10% in his career.

3. Washington has a bottom-five O-line

The biggest concern for Washington might not be Sam Howell at quarterback at all but, rather, the foundation that the entire offense is built on: the offensive line. Charles Leno Jr. at left tackle is the best player on paper, and Leno epitomizes “average starting tackle.” There is immense value in an average starter at a valuable position, but it also means that he averages more than five sacks allowed per season starting in the NFL. There is a world where each member of this group plays to an average level and the unit as a whole survives, but if multiple players hit their low range of outcomes, the line is in trouble.


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