Bold predictions for every NFL team in 2023 — AFC West

2K4GA7A Houston, USA. Houston, Texas, USA. 2nd Oct, 2022. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) warms up prior to the game between the Houston Texans and the Los Angeles Chargers at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX on October 2, 2022. (Credit Image: © Erik Williams/ZUMA Press Wire) Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News

• Denver bounces back: The Broncos have a roster capable of making noise, plus a new, proven head coach.

• Skyy Moore breaks out: JuJu Smith-Schuster's departure opens a door for Moore to live up to his potential alongside Patrick Mahomes.

• Justin Herbert paces the NFL in PFF grade: If new Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore can coax out a little more aggression from Herbert, the sky is the limit for Los Angeles' offense.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 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.

Other Bold Prediction Articles

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South

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Denver Broncos

1. The Broncos make the AFC Championship game

Last season was a disaster for Denver. The Russell Wilson trade is in danger of being one of the single-worst roster moves in NFL history, and the head coach presiding over the debacle was fired before the season concluded. His replacement, Sean Payton, already cost the Broncos a first-round pick to hire and has been confident enough in his own analysis to publicly blowtorch Nathaniel Hackett. Payton has an incredible track record of success and an elite win rate without Drew Brees as his quarterback. If he pieces Wilson back together again, the Broncos still have a roster capable of making major noise, even in a loaded AFC.

2. Denver signs a veteran running back before Week 1

All of the reports surrounding Javonte Williams are positive so far, talking about a miraculous comeback and recovery. For him to be ready to go and effective in Week 1, given the severity of his knee injury, would be truly bordering on miraculous. But anything short of that would give Denver a real incentive to sign a veteran for cover in the meantime. Samaje Perine is a nice addition as a third-down back, but the team doesn’t have any proven Williams cover as the bell cow if he can’t hit the ground running from his recovery.

3. Marvin Mims Jr. leads the team in receiving

Jerry Jeudy is one of the best route-running separators in the NFL, but his biggest strength is the middle of the field — the area Russell Wilson has struggled to connect with the most. Courtland Sutton has been solid when healthy but has not rediscovered his play from 2019 or threatened to exceed that. Mims excelled in virtually every measure in college and has a skill set that could remind Wilson of Tyler Lockett in Seattle. Mims generated 2.7 yards per route run last season, and all six of his touchdowns came on deep strikes.

Kansas City Chiefs

1. Skyy Moore finishes with 1,000-plus receiving yards

I’m going back to the well with this one. A season ago, I expected Moore to be an impactful rookie for a Chiefs receiving corps waiting for somebody to grasp the opportunity. Moore showed he could run routes and separate in man coverage right away, but he wasn’t always on the same page as Mahomes and struggled as a return man. With JuJu Smith-Schuster gone in the offseason and Kadarius Toney consistently dealing with injuries, Moore has a chance to take a big step in Year 2 and become the team’s leading wideout.

2. Trent McDuffie has an elite season at cornerback

Sauce Gardner was an All-Pro right out of the gate and Tariq Woolen grabbed a lot of attention in Seattle with turnovers, but McDuffie was quietly excellent for the Chiefs after he cleared injury issues earlier in the season. The best team in football was consistently giving him tough coverage assignments on an island from the outset, and McDuffie’s overall PFF grade trailed only Gardner among rookie cornerbacks. He allowed just 10.1 yards per reception and could be in line for a big year if he stays healthy.

3. The Chiefs don’t win the AFC West

At this point, it’s a bolder claim to anticipate any kind of failure for Kansas City than it is success. The Chiefs are rightly the favorite to win the Super Bowl in any given season as long as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are front and center. But in a loaded AFC, it wouldn’t take a disaster for them to lose a game or two and not win the division, particularly if either the Chargers or Broncos can take the kind of leap forward they hope to. I wouldn’t bet the farm on this one, but it’s probably a likelier thing to happen than people believe.

Las Vegas Raiders

1. Josh McDaniels doesn’t make it to the end of the season

Josh McDaniels' first crack at being a head coach was one of the most disastrous tenures in NFL history. He spent years waiting for the right opportunity to do it better his second time around, but now he enters Year 2 in Las Vegas without a real answer at quarterback and in a loaded division and conference. There must be an understanding internally that he hasn’t necessarily been given the ingredients he would want to thrive, but if the Raiders struggle badly this year, he will be under intense pressure.

2. Jakorian Bennett is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate

Bennett was arguably the star in the Maryland secondary ahead of the 2022 season, before Deonte Banks eclipsed him. The fourth-round pick has elite athleticism in his own right and the ability to make plays on the football even if they don’t always result in interceptions. Bennett also has the flexibility to play inside and outside in this defense, giving himself a good shot to see the field a lot. He allowed just a 47.5 passer rating into his coverage last season and didn’t give up a touchdown.

3. The Raiders are vying for the No. 1 overall pick

The Raiders are very unlikely to be the worst team in football this season, but they play in a tough division and conference where they could easily end up on the wrong side of some close games. If Jimmy Garoppolo — who has completed a full season just once in his career — misses extended time, the backup is currently Brian Hoyer. Things wouldn’t need to spiral out of control for this team to be in the running for the worst record in football.

Los Angeles Chargers

1. The Chargers will be healthy this year

There’s no bigger claim than suggesting the Chargers — a team perennially cursed by injury — will actually be relatively healthy in a given season. Last year, the team was actually in the middle of the pack in terms of the frequency and volume of injuries, but it was the WAR-adjusted injury measures that showed the true impact. In a nutshell, they weren’t losing players more often than many teams, but the players they were losing were vital. If that part of their luck settles down this year, the Chargers will be significantly better off.

2. Justin Herbert leads the league in PFF grade

Kellen Moore is in at offensive coordinator to unlock the last few percentage points in Justin Herbert and finalize his development in the NFL. Even dealing with a rib injury almost all of last season, Herbert threw for almost 5,000 yards and had the lowest turnover-worthy play rate in the league for the second season in a row. He has endless arm talent and doesn’t put the ball in harm’s way. If Moore can coax out just a little more aggression from him, there is no reason he can't rival Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen for the best PFF grade in a given season.

3. The defense still doesn’t improve

Despite Brandon Staley being hired because he was a coaching disciple of the league’s hottest defensive scheme, the Chargers' defense has failed to come together as an elite unit under his stewardship. In two years under Staley, the defense has ranked 27th in expected points added per play and only climbed one spot year-over-year. There have been significant resources spent and key players brought in, but the sum of the parts has yet to improve.


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