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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Predicting NFL playoff bracket and Super Bowl 2023 winner

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl 2023: The Los Angeles Rams took out the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, bringing an NFL title to the City of Angels for the first time in nearly 40 years.

As the regular season continues, it only makes sense to predict who will face one another in Super Bowl LVII in Arizona next February.

Who will be the Super Bowl 2023 winner in the next calendar year? Check out Sportsnaut’s predictions, which will be updated each week during the regular season.

Predicting Super Bowl 2023 winner, playoff teams

AFC West champions: Kansas City Chiefs

NFL: Washington Commanders at Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In what was expected to be the stiffest competition among divisions in 2022, the AFC West hasn’t been as good as many envisioned. While some unexpected developments have changed the outlook, the Kansas City Chiefs are as dominant as ever.

Some thought the loss of Tyreek Hill would slow Patrick Mahomes down. Aside from an argument with his offensive coordinator, we haven’t seen any evidence of Mahomes missing his top receiver through three weeks. Defensively, they’ve at least held their own, limiting Jonathan Taylor to just 3.4 yards per carrying, tied for the fifth-fewest average in his career. We expect the Chiefs, led by Mahomes, to lead the way all season long in the AFC West, winning their seventh consecutive division crown.

The Las Vegas Raiders (Josh McDaniels) and Denver Broncos (Nathaniel Hackett) have new head coaches, but neither has been any better than their replacements, and that’s after adding Pro Bowl talent at some of the most important positions in football. Davante Adams, Chandler Jones in Vegas, and for Denver, Russell Wilson, just haven’t been big enough difference-makers to change the outcome in the win column.

Related: NFL Top 100 players in 2022

AFC North champions: Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Just when it appeared the Baltimore Ravens would win convincingly for the second week in a row, they allowed the Miami Dolphins to roll out 42 points in a late loss. Still, we’ve seen enough to know the Ravens don’t have any offensive concerns after abandoning their receiving corps, putting Rashod Bateman as the WR1.

Defensively? Obviously we have much bigger concerns after allowing four Tua Tagovailoa touchdown passes in one quarter. Are the Dolphins just that good with their new weapons, or are the Ravens still experiencing troubles with their pass defense? Compared to their AFC North foes, we like the Ravens to figure things out down the stretch. There’s too much talent in the secondary to allow such an embarrassing comeback to ensue yet again.

The Cincinnati Bengals looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2021, so what happened now that they’re 2-2? The supposedly reinforced offensive line that cost $74 million this offseason? Not holding up any better than the 2021 unit that was among the worst in football, but is at least improving as of late.

Losing T.J. Watt for an extended stretch gives the Pittsburgh Steelers a large hurdle to clear early on. But we’d be foolish to ever rule out a Mike Tomlin-coached squad. We’ll see how having Kenny Pickett under center can provide a boost to the locker room. Even without Watt, the Steelers still boast a strong enough defense to compete.

The one wild card here is the Cleveland Browns. Depending on how Jacoby Brissett handles the first 11 games of the year in Deshaun Watson‘s absence, the Browns can’t be forgotten. They’re longshots in the AFC North, but starting 2-2 is better than most anticipated. Yet, the fact that a perfect record was in sight before Joe Flacco led a 14-point comeback in just over 90 seconds, well, that’s a different factory of sadness.

Related: 2022 NFL Power Rankings

AFC South champions: Tennessee Titans

Syndication: The Tennessean
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Likely the worst division in the AFC, we could see the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to lead the way, but the track record of the defending division champion Tennessee Titans leads us to give them the leg up in the competition. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have to improve his play to do any damage if they do reach the postseason after throwing just three touchdowns in three weeks.

For now the presence of Derrick Henry makes Tennessee too difficult to beat in this division. Yet, the loss of Harold Landry could be a big blow to their playoff chances.

Tennessee potentially running away with the crown is magnified by the fact that every other team in the division has significant question marks. The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are premiering new head coaches, yet only the Jaguars have started their seasons showing great improvement over last year’s roster. Trevor Lawrence in particular is showing more signs of flashing the potential that made him the top pick in 2021. A 2-2 start keeps the Jags in contention for the division lead, King Henry still holds the crown.

Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts felt Carson Wentz was the problem, so they replaced him with former NFL MVP Matt Ryan. Problem solved, right? Not exactly. A 1-2-1 start isn’t ideal, but beating the Chiefs feels like a win that should count as two. In the end, we still don’t know much about the South, other than the fact that this division will be far more competitive than it was in 2021.

AFC East champions: Buffalo Bills

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Though they’ve faced plenty of obstacles of their own, Josh Allen has gotten the Buffalo Bills back on top of the AFC East. Perhaps adding Von Miller can help them stay there. They’ve also improved in the trenches by adding Rodger Saffold and Tim Settle in free agency. These additions have the Bills as the current Super Bowl 2023 favorites, and some suggest they have the best roster in football.

We may have seen an early Super Bowl preview in Week 1 when the Bills battered the Rams. If so, this herd could be better than we think. Von Miller still has a pep in his step, and you can count on the offense to score 30+. Getting Tre’Davious White back from injury later in the season will only improve their chances of going deep into the postseason once again, but they’ll have to do so without Micah Hyde.

As for the rest of the AFC East, aside from the undefeated Miami Dolphins, it’s going to be all about the New England Patriots putting pressure on Buffalo in Mac Jones‘ second season. Yet a high-ankle sprain could be a big setback for Bill Belichick’s squad. The Jets are still a step behind, but after an incredible draft class, this could be a team ready to soar. Their late-game rally to fly past the Browns can’t be ignored.

Related: Updated NFL defense rankings

AFC Wild Card spots: Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As for the AFC Wild Card teams, we’re looking out west. Led by young quarterback Justin Herbert, we’re going with the Chargers to snag one of the spots. They stepped up big in free agency, adding Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson to a defense that couldn’t stop anything a year ago, yet they held the Raiders to just 19 points in Week 1. Then they paid a visit to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, where Patrick Mahomes still rules the land. As long as Herbert’s rib cartilage injury holds up, we still like the ‘Bolts.

Despite the change from Brian Flores to Mike McDaniel being a surprise move, the additions that followed have built the Dolphins into a strong roster more than capable of doing damage in the playoffs. If they can keep averaging 24.5 points per game, Miami’s passing defense has enough playmakers to keep them in any game once Byron Jones returns. As long as Tua Tagovailoa’s injury doesn’t have lingering concerns, we like this team to make the playoffs.

It’s tough not to also pick the Denver Broncos here, but one of these AFC West teams has to be on the outside looking in. After Nathaniel Hackett displayed a new level of incompetence trying a 64-yard field goal instead of allowing Russell Wilson to try for five yards, no thanks.

The Jaguars could be true threats to win the South. Trevor Lawrence continues to scratch the surface of his sky-high potential, and Doug Pederson has this team looking entirely different than the Urban Meyer-led squad that led to several embarrassing moments. Is it too early to peg the Jags as a playoff team? We don’t think so.

Related: Super Bowl odds: Every team’s championship futures for 2022-23 NFL season

NFC West champions: Los Angeles Rams

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This division will continue to be a battle between the defending champion Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. However, the Arizona Cardinals can’t be ignored.

A new and improved group of pass-catchers featuring a healthy DeAndre Hopkins to go with Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore make for an electric cast for Kyler Murray to grow with, and they too are coming off a playoff berth. Unless the wheels fall off, the Cards will compete into December. It’s either that, or Kliff Kingsbury heads back to college. No in-between. Another inspired effort to come back from a 21-0 deficit to beat the Raiders shows this team has grit.

The San Francisco 49ers aren’t going anywhere either. Trey Lance‘s disheartening injury awkwardly makes Jimmy Garoppolo the leader in the locker room again. But we know his floor and his ceiling, and both are fairly high. With a roster that features George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and a strong defense led by Nick Bosa, Mike Shanahan’s crew should be able to snag a playoff spot, even after a 1-2 start.

The Seahawks are a step behind these three teams. They are coming off a down year and just basically folded on the 2022 season when they traded their franchise quarterback to Denver. Drew Lock and Geno Smith aren’t bringing them to the promised land even if they manage to give other teams a fight, as we witnessed on Monday night in Week 1. But we do have to give coach Carroll and his QB credit, as they’ve shown they won’t be a pushover as many expected.

It’s hard to envision the Rams not taking the division crown or at least sneaking into the Wild Card. This roster is among the best in football, and they already know they have what it takes to win a Super Bowl. The biggest concern likely revolves around Matthew Stafford‘s elbow and whether it can last through the rigors of another long season in a pass-dominant scoring attack.

Related: 12 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL

NFC North champions: Green Bay Packers

5 crazy QB trades that could happen in 2021 NFL offseason
Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

With Aaron Rodgers announcing a return to the Green Bay Packers for another four seasons, this spot seems secure. Obviously, the NFC North race would have changed on a dime if the two-time reigning NFL MVP requested a trade to another team, but those talks never got far. For now, these Packers have to be seen as legit favorites with Rodgers still in the mix, even after parting with his leading receiver. With Green Bay’s ground game plus their talent-riddled defense, this is a team poised to compete.

There are some question marks behind Green Bay in the NFC North. But the Minnesota Vikings, aside from a dud on Monday Night Football, have looked fairly strong in all three aspects. With an easy matchup against the Chicago Bears up next, their next true test will come against the Miami Dolphins in Week 6. For now, this could be a team that vies for the division crown, depending on how Rodgers and his receivers continue to adapt.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears also have a completely new regime. How might that look? It hasn’t been good. They’ve scored fewer points than they’ve allowed, which tells us even their 2-2 record is too good to be true. As for the Lions, they might be able to become the second-best team in the division, but it depends on how consistent Jared Goff can be with a new stable of weapons. So far, so good, as they’ve scored the most points in the NFL through four games, and that’s without Jameson Williams.

Check Out: Take a look at NFL.com’s deals on Green Bay Packers wares, including hoodies, gifts, and more

NFC South champions: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady
Credit: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

Is Tom Brady slowing down in his age-45 year? Of course not. After a slow start, Brady managed to beat the Saints again, which has proven to be his toughest foe since joining the NFC South. The Buccaneers are going to be here, competing until the end even with a very suspect offensive line.

It’s Brady, and there’s a reason he has seven rings. Whatever weaknesses they do have, expect Brady to be able to figure it out. He’s an incredible leader and knows how to get the most out of his teammates. It’s not how the Bucs look in the early portion of the season, it’s how they come together in December that counts.

But what about the others? The other three teams in the NFC South, they’re not doing so well.

The Atlanta Falcons don’t have a consistent quarterback or a good defense, so we can almost rule them out. In Carolina, they’ve improved under center with Baker Mayfield, and they have youthful talent ready to explode on both sides of the ball. Yet, we don’t see a sudden turnaround where they can win the division, especially since Mayfield still hasn’t solved his turnover issues.

The New Orleans Saints are stuck between bottom-end playoff contention and a complete rebuild under veteran quarterback Jameis Winston, only now he’s hurt. Yet, the selection of Chris Olave and the signing of Tyrann Mathieu, are proving to be wise moves. With a roster built to win now, the Saints are going all-in down in the Big Easy, and it just might help them sneak into a Wild Card spot.

Related: Updated NFL MVP odds 2022-23

NFC East champions: Philadelphia Eagles

NFL: New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of reasons for optimism in Philadelphia with young quarterback Jalen Hurts under center and A.J. Brown pairing with De’Vonta Smith to form a wicked duo. Aside from the passing attack, which has exploded sooner than anyone anticipated, they still boast possibly the best ground game in football.

Defensively, the Eagles have a group full of youth plus experience. Darius Slay and James Bradberry help form a playmaking cornerback duo, and Fletcher Cox and Haason Reddick can create pressure up front. Rookies Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean could help this unit take their game to the next level. As a whole, this is a fearless unit that may have everything needed to go on a deep run in the playoffs.

The New York Giants are an interesting team to look at with a major upgrade at head coach and a strong draft class, what can Daniel Jones become under Brian Daboll? So far it’s been the same story, where he’s effective as a dual-threat, but a lack of downfield passing options continues to hold back the young QB. With Saquon Barkley back to being his best, the G-Men could do some damage in a suddenly weak NFC East. A 3-1 start is better than anyone envisioned, but outscoring their opponents by just five points so far isn’t doing anything to convince us they’ve changed.

Meanwhile, the Washington Commanders have tried to supplement Carson Wentz with more weapons, adding Jahan Dotson in the first round. Will their defense suddenly be better too? It hasn’t happened so far, and the offense doesn’t have enough balance to make it work. Maybe Brian Robinson getting in the mix can help.

Dallas could have run away with the division, but a sudden Dak Prescott injury throws a wrench into those plans, yet Cooper Rush keeps winning games that nobody gives him a chance to win, and that too has altered our expectations for the Cowboys.

NFC Wild Card predictions: Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC Wild Card race will be up for grabs. For now, we’re going with the new regime in Minnesota to lead this squad back to the playoffs. Bringing in Za’Darius Smith to pair with Danielle Hunter has improved the defense, but we still have major questions about the secondary. Still, Justin Jefferson is just unfair, and if they can get their protection scheme figured out, maybe the offense becomes more stable over time. A 3-1 start has the Vikings looking more like a contender early on.

With Jimmy G re-installed as San Fran’s QB, it’s not hard to see them returning to the playoffs. He knows exactly what’s needed and expected in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and now that he’s had his team lead taken away from him, he won’t want to show anything that allows Trey Lance to relinquish the role next season. Not having Trent Williams for the next few weeks could make life much more difficult. Depending on how what’s already been a bad offensive line comes together, it may end up derailing their season.

Amazingly, Cooper Rush has gone 3-0 in Dak Prescott‘s absence, keeping the Dallas Cowboys on course to make the playoffs. No one expected the former undrafted free agent to keep up this ruse, but he’s continued to play mistake-free football, giving his team a chance to win. Long term, the Cowboys have one of the best young defenders with Micah Parsons and plenty of offensive firepower to hang with any opponent that comes to JerryWorld. They have the potential to do some serious damage come playoff time, as long as head coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t get in the way.

Check Out: Take a look at NFL.com’s deals on LA Rams wares, including hoodies, gifts, and more

Who will win Super Bowl 2023?

Who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LVII? We look at our predictions for the NFL Playoff bracket.

Check Out: Watch the NFL on one of these amazing 80-inch 4k smart TVs

Let’s project the path to Super Bowl LVII.

NFL playoff bracket: Full postseason predictions for AFC and NFC

AFC Playoffs

  • Wild card round: Chiefs over Ravens, Chargers over Dolphins, Jaguars over Titans
  • Divisional round: Bills over Jaguars, Chiefs over Chargers
  • AFC Championship Game: Bills over Chiefs

NFC Playoffs

  • Wild card round: Cowboys over 49ers, Packers over Vikings, Rams over Eagles
  • Divisional round: Buccaneers over Rams, Packers over Cowboys
  • NFC Championship Game: Buccaneers over Packers
  • Super Bowl 2023: Buffalo Bills over Tampa Bay Buccaneers



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