The NFL officially released its 2023 schedule on Thursday. The 18-week, 272-game regular-season calendar is now completely available. As we swiftly head towards the 2023 campaign, analyzing the AFC and its loaded competitors has become an increasingly difficult and fun exercise.
The conference received quite the makeover this offseason, particularly at the quarterback position. Aaron Rodgers was traded to the New York Jets in a blockbuster deal. The Las Vegas Raiders swapped Derek Carr for Jimmy Garoppolo. The Houston Texans (C.J. Stroud) and Indianapolis Colts (Anthony Richardson) drafted rookie quarterbacks. The AFC possibly contains more star power now than ever before.
In the wake of the NFL’s schedule release, we’ve compiled our predictions regarding the winners of the four divisions in the AFC.
AFC EAST WINNER: BUFFALO BILLS
PREDICTED RECORD: 13-4
The Bills enter the 2023 campaign with lofty expectations after capturing three consecutive AFC East division titles. Despite their consistent success, the Bills are seeking a change of fortune. Buffalo’s last game was a 27-10 home upset to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round. The drafting of Josh Allen has transformed a Bills organization that now expects to contend for Super Bowls on an annual basis, although the Bills have yet to qualify for a Super Bowl under Allen.
Bills General Manager Brandon Beane added several intriguing pieces to his roster this offseason in hopes of getting over the hump. Offensively, Dalton Kincaid and Damien Harris help round out what should be a top-five scoring offense. Second-round guard O’Cyrus Torrence could help solidify an offensive line that struggled to meet expectations last season.
The division has received another makeover. Rodgers makes the Jets contenders. The Miami Dolphins continue to aggressively stockpile talent. The New England Patriots should be better under the guise of a legitimate offensive coordinator. Ultimately, the Bills possess far too much firepower for their AFC East rivals to contend with.
AFC NORTH WINNER: CINCINNATI BENGALS
PREDICTED RECORD: 12-5
The Bengals followed up their Cinderella campaign in 2021 by proving they’re for real in 2022 with a second consecutive division title. The Bengals appropriately dealt with new-found expectations after qualifying for Super Bowl LVI. There’s no reason to doubt the Bengals.
The offense got better by adding Orlando Brown Jr. as the new blindside protector for Joe Burrow. The league’s best offensive supporting cast remains completely intact. The defense took a hit with the loss of Jessie Bates III in free agency but still possesses enough difference-makers to be better than the league average. The Bengals could make a third straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
The division will be competitive though. The Baltimore Ravens retained Lamar Jackson after what felt like the longest contract-related standoff in history. The Ravens further invested in Jackson by acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers at receiver. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns should also be better in year two under Kenny Pickett and Deshaun Watson.
AFC WEST WINNER: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
PREDICTED RECORD: 14-3
We spent a lot of time last summer predicting that the AFC West would be the most competitive division. It was a fair forecast given the aggressive offseasons enjoyed by the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, and Las Vegas Raiders. Nobody came close as the Chiefs finished 14-3 en route to capturing their seventh straight division title and the second Super Bowl of the Patrick Mahomes era.
I’m predicting another dominant 14-3 campaign for the Lombardi Trophy-defending Chiefs. I struggle to identify weaknesses on this roster. Changes have occurred at offensive tackle, but Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor should be league-average at worst. There are questions at wide receiver, but Travis Kelce is their true No. 1 receiver, and the supporting cast that includes Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, and Richie James should be able to play second fiddle.
Nobody is slowing down the Chiefs.
AFC SOUTH WINNER: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
PREDICTED RECORD: 10-7
The Jaguars won the AFC South last season after rounding off five consecutive victories to finish 9-8. First-year head coach Doug Pederson was everything and more for franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars should showcase growth throughout Year Two of the current era.
Continuity should lead to a productive offense. The Jaguars also acquired a No. 1 receiver in Calvin Ridley, who should return from suspension with a vengeance. Speaking of, the suspension of left tackle Cam Robinson hurts, but the Jaguars protected themselves by drafting Anton Harrison. Ascending defenders like Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd should get better.
The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts aren’t ready to compete after accepting rebuilds by drafting C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson respectively. The Tennessee Titans seem stuck between competing for one last time and a hard reset. The Jaguars are the best team in the AFC South.
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