The 2023-24 NFL season kicks off on Thursday September 7. Here’s what Voice staffers think will unfold on the gridiron this fall…
Bills over Lions
Wild Card: 49ers over Vikings, Lions over Seahawks, Cowboys over Saints
Divisional: Eagles over Cowboys, Lions over 49ers
Conference: Lions over Eagles
Wild Card: Bills over Jets, Ravens over Dolphins, Bengals over Chargers
Divisional: Chiefs over Bengals, Bills over Ravens
Conference: Bills over Chiefs
This is peak Lions homer, picking them to finish as the Superbowl runner-up. Why not win, you ask? Because we can’t have nice things in Detroit, that’s why. I kid, mostly.
But in all seriousness, the Lions return many of the key pieces from a top-five offense in the NFL last season, and that coupled with significant improvements to their secondary is why I have them squeaking through a very weak NFC. Elsewhere in the NFC the 49ers in particular were difficult to predict given their history of injuries at quarterback. While I have the Eagles as my one seed, I have concerns about the historical precedent of them being a viable pick to go the distance.
In the AFC, I have the Bills finally pushing past the Chiefs, and winning it all. I feel good about the Bills depth as a team as compared to the Chiefs. The Ravens are a sneaky pick to make it to the Super Bowl, but for that to happen quarterback Lamar Jackson has to finally stay healthy. Beyond those teams I am also predicting that the Sean Payton-Russell Wilson marriage struggles, and that Aaron Rodgers and the Jets are coming into the year a bit overhyped.
49ers over Ravens
Wild Card: Cowboys over Saints, 49ers over Commanders, Lions over Giants
Divisional: Eagles over Cowboys, 49ers over Lions
Conference: 49ers over Eagles
Wild Card: Ravens over Jaguars, Bills over Steelers, Chiefs over Chargers
Divisional: Ravens over Bengals, Chiefs over Bills
Conference: Ravens over Chiefs
As an unabashed 49ers fan, I am confident about their chances this year even though they play both the AFC North and the NFC East, two relatively strong divisions. Although no one (except for the 49ers’ front office) is confident that Brock Purdy can repeat his stellar end to the 2022 season, I think the overall strength of the roster can propel the 49ers to their sixth ring. However, the AFC is clearly the stronger league this year, and several good teams (Miami, New York, Cleveland, and Tennessee) will be left out of the playoffs. I have no doubt that Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Kansas City are still in the upper echelon of the league thanks to their strong rosters and superstar quarterbacks, but I picked Baltimore to make a surprise Super Bowl appearance thanks to a rejuvenated Lamar Jackson and retooled coaching staff.
Bengals over Eagles
Wildcard: 49ers over Bears, Lions over Giants, Seahawks over Saints
Divisional: Eagles over Seahawks, 49ers over Lions
Conference Championship: Eagles over 49ers
Wildcard: Chargers over Colts, Chiefs over Ravens, Bills over Jets
Divisional: Bengals over Chargers, Chiefs over Bills
Conference Championship: Bengals over Chiefs
I chose the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl LVIII. I believe Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes are the two best quarterbacks in the league, and I think Burrow has a better team around him this year than Mahomes. It’s also very difficult to repeat as Super Bowl Champions, so the Chiefs will have an even harder road to the title. I picked the Eagles to repeat as NFC Champions over the 49ers. At the end of the day, quarterback play is the most important determining factor in winning, and Brock Purdy isn’t good enough to win San Francisco a conference championship. I think (and hope) that the Colts will win the AFC South thanks to a breakout year from Anthony Richardson but will ultimately fall to a strong Chargers team in the Wild Card Round. I think the Chiefs and Bills have another strong year and win their respective divisions, then take down the Ravens and Jets in their Wild Card games. Overall, the AFC is full of strong teams this year, and it’s very difficult to predict what will happen. In the NFC, I chose the Saints, Lions, 49ers, and Eagles as division champions. I think both the Bears and Lions will have surprisingly successful seasons and both make the playoffs before losing the stacked 49ers. I think the Seahawks will win their Wild Card game against the Saints, then lose to the Eagles in the Divisional Round. The Eagles and 49ers both look like real contenders, but besides them it’s hard to see who has a real shot of winning the NFC.
Eagles over Ravens
Wild Card: 49ers over Giants, Lions over Bears, Packers over Panthers
Divisional: Eagles over Packers, Lions over 49ers
Conference: Eagles over Lions
Wild Card: Bills over Steelers, Jets over Bengals, Ravens over Jaguars
Divisional: Chiefs over Jets, Ravens over Bills
Conference: Ravens over Chiefs
I think the Eagles have built a complete enough roster to come back and win the title after narrowly losing out to Hall of Fame lock Patrick Mahomes and the surging Chiefs on the final drive. After further strengthening their defense through the draft and keeping Jalen Hurts, AJ Brown, and Devonta Smith together, I find it difficult to predict a regression. Their NFC competition is weak, so they will need to fight complacency, but an above-average NFC East slate will push them to hone their game. As for the rest of the conference, the Lions’ upward trajectory will push their talented roster forward to an NFC Championship spot, but their inexperience will cost them against the Eagles. Jordan Love will not be as bad as people expect, and the Packers’ offensive line and quiet strength in other positions will see them sneak in and advance to the divisional round by virtue of playing the worst divisional winners, my Panthers in the NFC South. The new-look Bears will seal NFC north dominance but fall to the Lions, and the 49ers will lose to the Lions next after easily winning the NFC West. The Giants quietly improved a lot this offseason and will just barely fall to the 49ers in OT in the best of the Wild Card slate.
In the AFC, my gut says the Ravens make it out of an entertaining and competitive playoff cycle. The Ravens have always had an elite defense, but Greg Roman’s plodding, conservative offense was only saved from total ineptitude by the talent of Lamar Jackson. Under Todd Monken, I expect Lamar to get the ball out to his cast of playmakers fast, including future AFC offensive rookie of the year Zay Flowers and TE Mark Andrews. Honestly, any team could make it out of this talented conference, so I went with the most exciting pick to get to the Super Bowl. The Bengals, Bills, Chiefs, and Jets could all also make it and the Chargers, although inexperienced and with poor fan support in Los Angeles, have enough offensive firepower to make a run. I picked the Steelers to make the playoffs since Mike Tomlin took this dull team to a 9-8 record when they were expected to do far worse, and they have definitely improved this offseason. The Dolphins will make the playoffs ahead of them if Tua can play the whole season, but I’m unfortunately not optimistic. Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars will win the south, and the Chiefs will surprise no one by winning the west. The Chiefs have never missed the AFC Championship since 2018, but winning back to back Super Bowls is unheard of in the modern NFL unless you’re the Patriots.
Eagles over Jaguars
Wild Card: 49ers over Vikings, Lions over Saints, Bears over Cowboys
Divisional: Eagles over Lions, Bears over 49ers
Conference: Eagles over Bears
Wild Card: Bengals over Steelers, Jets over Bills, Jaguars over Ravens
Divisional: Chiefs over Jets, Jaguars over Bengals
Conference: Jaguars over Chiefs
As with every season, this year’s NFL is a tale of two conferences with very different stories which are yet to unfold. The NFC has been a weaker overall conference than the AFC for years now, but this situation will be even more noticeable this season with the retirement of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers being traded to the Jets. It’s likely that the conference will continue to be dominated by the 49ers and the Eagles, but the window is open for multiple dark horses to emerge, especially in the NFC North and South. I think the Bears will come out on top of a competitive NFC North division, while the Saints will emerge from the bottom-feeding South division. As for the AFC, the conference will continue business as usual with the regular powerhouses of the Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills remaining relevant, but I also think that Kenny Pickett’s Steelers, Trevor Lawrence’s Jaguars, and a Jets team led by Aaron Rodgers could make some noise. Look for a regular season dominated by the usual suspects but with some chaos around playoff time, culminating in an Eagles Super Bowl victory over first-time AFC champions Jacksonville Jaguars.