Bold predictions for every NFL team in 2023 — AFC South

2M9JJTE Tennessee Titans tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo in action during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

• Houston fields a much-improved offense: Sam Monson makes the bold prediction of the Texans climbing the EPA-per-play rankings by more than 16 spots from their 2022 finish.

• Anthony Richardson dominates with his legs: While Richardson evolves as a passer, he could surpass 1,000 rushing yards — akin to how Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields, among others, have developed.

• Keep an eye on Chig Okonkwo in 2023: He averaged an excellent 2.6 yards per route run in 2022 despite limited usage. 2023 is set up to be a breakout year for the Titans tight end.

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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Houston Texans

1. Houston’s offense improves 16-plus places in EPA per play

Houston’s offense ranked dead last in 2022 in expected points added per play. That led them to earn the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, despite being in pole position for the top overall selection for most of the season. The team has new coaches and a new quarterback, in addition to new weaponry, that should all contribute toward changing that outlook.

Bobby Slowik as offensive coordinator comes over from the Shanahan coaching tree that has had success almost everywhere it has gone in the NFL. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud was one of the most accurate quarterbacks PFF has measured in college and made 25 big-time throws last season.

2. Xavier Hutchinson becomes one of the steals of the draft

The receiver depth chart in Houston is an evolving entity, but rookie Xavier Hutchinson has been impressing in training camp and had exceptional college production before sliding to the sixth round of the draft. Hutchinson had the fourth-best PFF receiving grade (89.4) in the nation last season, right behind Marvin Harrison Jr., generating 2.7 yards per route run and succeeding at all levels of the field. Teams were underwhelmed by his physical tools, but it could very well turn out that Hutchinson’s ability to make plays translates in spite of those limitations.

3. Houston’s O-line finishes the season as a top-half unit

Last year, Laremy Tunsil was one of the best pass-blocking linemen in all of football, but the Texans' line as a whole was still an underachieving unit. This offseason, they have continued to invest in the group, locking down players such as Tytus Howard and adding Shaq Mason as well as rookie center Juice Scruggs. The offense employed by Bobby Slowik is a system kind to offensive linemen and should combine with the personnel upgrades to catapult this unit up the offensive line rankings over the course of the year.

Indianapolis Colts

1. Anthony Richardson rushes for 1,000-plus yards

The Colts know that Anthony Richardson is going to have to tap into his rushing ability to keep his head above water as an NFL quarterback while he develops as a passer. Recent seasons have shown the pathway for this with first Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, then Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields all heavily reliant on their rushing ability to varying degrees early in their careers.

Richardson possesses unprecedented athletic gifts and is playing for a head coach who just ran this gameplan with Hurts in Philadelphia. One thousand rushing yards for an NFL quarterback is no longer crazy, and that could easily be within Richardson’s reach if he plays all 17 games.

2. Bernhard Raimann looks like a Pro-Bowl left tackle in year two

Bernhard Raimann had an awful debut in the NFL, coughing up five total pressures and four penalties against the Denver Broncos. After that, he very quickly pulled his play together and was playing good football for most of the season. He ended the 2022 campaign with six straight games of 70.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grades.

For a player as young to the position as he is in terms of experience, Raimann could take a big leap in year two and play at an extremely high level, given the growth he has already shown and a presumed bounceback from the rest of the Colts' line.

3. Jonathan Taylor remains a Colt all season long

Taylor wants to be traded after failing to get a new contract from the Colts. Unfortunately for him, he has no leverage and Indianapolis has no real incentive to trade him. Any prospective team isn’t just trading for Taylor, but they’re trading for him and the new contract he wants. This offseason has shown that teams aren’t looking to hand those deals out anymore to the position, and so Taylor’s only real pathway is to play out the season and try to cash in next offseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Trevor Lawrence finishes the season with a strong All-Pro case

From Week 9 onward last season, Trevor Lawrence trailed only Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes in PFF grade. He threw 20 touchdowns to seven interceptions and finally looked like the generational talent he was billed as when entering the NFL. If he simply picks up where he left off, he will be a true All-Pro candidate this season, and that’s before factoring in the potential impact of a receiver like Calvin Ridley, who was suspended in 2022. Lawrence has always had the talent, but now he has an environment conducive to showcasing it.

2. Calvin Ridley sets career highs in receiving

Calvin Ridley is one of the best route runners in football and has had an unusual, albeit enforced, break from the game due to a league suspension for gambling. He now joins an offense moving in a hurry in the right direction with a quarterback who was playing as well as anybody late last year. Ridley’s best season came in 2020, when he had 90 catches for more than 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns. Zay Jones saw 117 targets in the Jaguars' offense last season, so if Ridley can quickly establish himself as the best option for Lawrence, the opportunities will be there for him to shatter his previous career highs in receiving.

3. Travon Walker finishes with a sub-70.0 overall PFF grade

The Jaguars selected Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick almost entirely due to never-before-seen physical tools. Walker was not productive in college but had a measurables profile that has never been matched at edge rusher, so the team bet big on his potential.

As a rookie, he had the occasional flash of that talent but finished with a 60.3 overall PFF grade and a pass-rushing mark of 59.0. There was little evidence that Walker is going to put it together at this level, at least not quickly, so I’m anticipating his play to remain disappointing in his second season.

Tennessee Titans

1. Chig Okonkwo scores 10-plus touchdowns

One of the few bright spots in Tennessee’s offense last season was the play of tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. The rookie caught 32 passes for almost 500 yards at a massive 2.6 yards per route run. Passes thrown his way generated a 125.1 passer rating, and he displayed immense dynamism with the ball in his hands, breaking seven tackles and averaging almost eight yards after the catch. This man needs to be fed the ball more in year two. He could be a huge scoring threat for the Titans.

2. Tennessee’s O-line remains a bottom-10 unit

The Titans finished 2022 ranked 32nd in PFF’s offensive line rankings. It was the worst group in football, and the front office focused on improving the unit over the offseason. The Titans are likely starting four new players this season, and while that could feature several upgrades, that much change is inherently risky in a position group that thrives on cohesion. Plus, some of the additions aren’t obviously big improvements. Andre Dillard was a former first-round pick by the Eagles but gave up five sacks and 45 total pressures from fewer than 500 pass-blocking snaps at left tackle in 2022 before losing the job to Jordan Mailata.

3. Arden Key leads the Titans in pressures

Tennessee has had a strange relationship with edge rushers, paying significantly for players who have not hit the mark due to poor play or injury, or a combination of both. Arden Key was brought over as a player who struggled early in his NFL career before finding his feet as a situational rusher in recent years. The Titans are going to give him the chance to prove he has grown enough to resume a more every-down role, and that will provide him a shot to lead the team in pressures.

Last season, the best mark on the team was 54 pressures from Denico Autry. Harold Landry returning may push that higher in 2023, but Key had 44 in a limited role in Jacksonville. With more snaps in Tennessee, he will push to top that list.


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