NFL predictions 2023: Projecting teams with best odds to make playoffs, win Super Bowl 58

The Chiefs are once again atop the NFL world. The race to unseat them begins on Thursday.

The 2023 NFL season is days away from beginning, with the reigning Super Bowl champions set to face off against the Lions to kick off the campaign. 

The Sporting News is publishing the second edition of its preseason NFL projection model. The model takes all-time game results and quarterback performances to calculate values for each team ahead of the 2023 season, and regresses teams toward the mean each season to account for any offseason moves. It does not take into account individual moves — a trade of Jonathan Taylor would not impact the results — unless that move is made at quarterback.

From there, the model simulates each season 10,000 times through the Super Bowl. The model logs the outcome of each game in every season and creates average outcomes for everything, from division and wild card winners, to team records and head-to-head results, to conference champion and Super Bowl picks. The predicted standings for each team are the average wins and losses in the simulations.

Bear in mind that every number is rounded up to the nearest whole number or percentage. Wondering why a 9-8 team is left out of the projected playoff picture in favor of another 9-8 team? It’s because ultimately the average wins was a few decimal points ahead — the missed playoff percentage also indicates why certain teams were ranked ahead of another.

Check out the full results of the 2023 Sporting News NFL projection model below.

WEEK 1 PICKS: Against the spread | Straight-up predictions

NFL predictions 2023

AFC East

  1. Bills (11-6)
  2. Jets (10-7)
  3. Dolphins (9-8)
  4. Patriots (7-10)

The arrival of Aaron Rodgers and the continued emergence of the Dolphins gives the Bills perhaps the most difficult path to a division title since 2019. And for once, it appears the Patriots are outside the list of the top contenders to emerge from the East with a division title.

Even with the changes, this is still the Bills’ division to lose. Josh Allen is still by far the best quarterback in the division, according to the model, and Buffalo has established such a run of continued success that it will be difficult to unseat them. An early playoff exit a season ago hurts the overall AFC outlook for Buffalo, and they’re not nearly as heavily favored to win the division a season ago, but the model’s money is still on Buffalo.

Rodgers is not the quarterback he used to be. The model did not like his performance in 2022, and expects continued regression as he gets older. But with that said, the Jets posted a 7-10 record last year despite having the fifth-worst quarterback situation last season. The model sees the rest of the team around the quarterback as a fit roster needing only a good quarterback to be added to the mix to make this a playoff team. 

The Dolphins made the playoffs last year in the first season under coach Mike McDaniel, and they’re expected to be right in the mix of teams close to a wild card in 2023. The injury concerns for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa dings Miami’s overall playoff odds, and even when healthy, he’s still just graded as the third-best QB in the division. The roster is stout enough that it would not be at all surprising for Miami to emerge as a legit contender; it just has to navigate one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.

It’s already unfair enough that the Patriots have the hardest schedule in football this year. But they’re also playing in one of the league’s toughest divisions. That is a tough recipe for New England to reach the playoffs in 2023, let alone win the division. Add in a rough quarterback outlook after a huge letdown season from Mac Jones, and it’s easy to see why the model sees them as the least likely time in the division to reach the playoffs by far.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
Bills 48.9% 24.8% 13.4% 26.3%
Jets 31.8% 28.0% 7.0% 40.3%
Dolphins 15.0% 22.3% 2.3% 62.3%
Patriots 4.4% 8.3% 0.4% 87.3%

IYER: Why Aaron Rodgers, Jets can win the Super Bowl in Year 1

Joe Burrow

AFC North

  1. Bengals (12-5)
  2. Ravens (10-7)
  3. Browns (9-8)
  4. Steelers (8-9)

No division figures to be more challenging to win in 2023 than the AFC North. Each of the four teams are graded by the model as top 14 teams, including one that grades out as a top-two AFC squad. It also features a pair of top 10 quarterbacks and another who at least has the past track record as one.

While the depth of the division makes it a challenging road to a third straight title, the Bengals are still the favorites to come away with the AFC North title. The model views them not just as division contenders, but one of the strongest title contenders after back-to-back AFC championship game appearances. The roster is loaded, Joe Burrow is a star and only the Chiefs have had more success in the AFC over the past two years than Cincinnati. That all looks like a winning formula.

The division might be loaded, but the model still thinks the Ravens are the most likely team to de-throne Cincinnati. Lamar Jackson has been a top-tier quarterback when healthy — though there has been some regression since his MVP campaign — and he now has his best array of offensive weapons perhaps in his career. If Jackson can stay healthy, the Ravens have everything it takes to be an AFC contender.

When Deshaun Watson returned from a year-and-a-half hiatus, he was awful. Before that injury, however, he was an annual Pro Bowler. The model is expecting something in the middle, which gives the Browns a good shot of making a wild card and possibly being a threat in the division. That leaves plenty of room for Watson to over-perform expectations and carry a stout roster to more success, even in a deep AFC North.

How many more times will the Steelers defy the odds? Mike Tomlin just refuses to allow his team to fall below .500, even when the team appears to be behind the pack. So why does the model think it will happen this year? The Kenny Pickett second-year breakout bandwagon has been off the rails, and the model thinks it needs to pump the brakes after a mediocre rookie season — bear in mind, it does not take into account preseason stats. But the model still sees Pittsburgh overall as a quality squad, and like with the Browns, a better-than-expected year from the QB could mean a big jump in the odds.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
Bengals 54.3% 28.4% 21.1% 17.4%
Ravens 23.9% 35.8% 6.5% 40.3%
Browns 13.5% 26.8% 3.1% 59.7%
Steelers 8.4% 20.4% 1.7% 71.2%

MORE: Meet SN’s NFL All-Breakout Team for 2023

Trevor Lawrence

AFC South

  1. Jaguars (10-7)
  2. Titans (8-9)
  3. Colts (6-11)
  4. Texans (6-11)

A breakout 2022 from the Jaguars has pushed Jacksonville to the clear top of a division that by the end of the season could have three rookie quarterbacks. The Titans feel like they’re caught in the middle of the rebuilding bottom teams and the clear contending top squad in what is by far the weakest division in the AFC.

Don’t let the overall lack of depth in the AFC South distract from the Jaguars: they are legit. It’s perhaps most surprising that they’re division win odds aren’t higher. Trevor Lawrence shook off a shaky rookie season to look more like the signal-caller Jacksonville expected when he was picked first overall in 2021. The defense has some major question marks, which appears to be why the team isn’t as much of a runaway favorite, but this offense might be among the NFL’s best.

The Titans have maintained a level of consistency in recent years without top-tier quarterback play, which is in large part why the model thinks they could still be a threat to Jacksonville. The same squad that was the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021 is largely still there, though there are now more questions at receiver and about the future with Ryan Tannehill under center. Giving Tennessee a 30 percent chance of winning the division feels generous, but Mike Vrabel seemingly always finds a way to keep the Titans competitive.

Now the division gets to the two clear rebuilding clubs, and it starts with the Colts. Though the model gives C.J. Stroud the better rookie rating over Anthony Richardson, the Colts have still featured a better roster the past several seasons compared to Houston, and that appears to be the same case in 2023. With rookie QBs, there’s always some volatility, and perhaps Richardson can make some noise in his first year, particularly under coach Shane Steichen. This still appears to be another down year for Indianapolis as it works toward a new core of players.

The Texans haven’t won more than four games since 2019, but quarterback has also been a major issue for Houston during much of that time. The model views Stroud as an upgrade under center, and there are enough reasons to see Houston taking a step forward in the first year under coach DeMeco Ryans. Don’t expect to see Houston reach the playoffs, but this could be a step forward compared to past years.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
Jaguars 54.5% 10.4% 6.2% 35.1%
Titans 30.0% 11.4% 2.4% 58.6%
Colts 8.9% 4.8% 0.3% 86.4%
Texans 6.7% 3.7% 0.1% 89.6%

MORE: Who will be the NFL coach fired in 2023?

Patrick Mahomes

AFC West

  1. Chiefs (12-5)
  2. Chargers (9-8)
  3. Broncos (7-10)
  4. Raiders (7-10)

It’s time to stop getting cute. There’s no reason to expect the Chargers’ loaded roster to leap to the top. Sean Payton won’t make that much of a difference. The Raiders certainly won’t be there. This is the Chiefs’ division to lose — at least in the preseason. Still, the model expects at least some improvements from the bottom half of the division.

The loss of Tyreek Hill and a huge offseason by the Chargers had plenty thinking the time had come for a new AFC West champion. All the Chiefs did was win the division by four games, go 14-3 and win a Super Bowl. The model sees Kansas City as the best team in the NFL with the best quarterback in the NFL. This doesn’t need to get complicated. Until someone else proves they’re better, it’s hard to bet against the Chiefs.

The Chargers might have had the most disappointing 10-7 season ever. Los Angeles came into the year with a revamped roster and a top-tier quarterback. It left the year after blowing a 27-point lead and watching the division rivals win another Super Bowl. The model still sees this as a deep team led by Justin Herbert, who continues to establish himself as one of the league’s best quarterbacks. A challenging schedule could make the path back to the postseason harder.

The model does not account for coaching changes, so Sean Payton’s hiring does not get factored into the Broncos’ projection much. Denver is a popular breakout with many expecting Payton’s arrival to help turn around Russell Wilson and a disappointing offense. Does that mean it will happen? Denver’s schedule isn’t easy, and Wilson was really bad last year. That could be a lot to overcome.

The Raiders disappointed with the first year reuniting former Fresno State teammates Derek Carr and Davante Adams. Now they’re hoping the reunion of Josh McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo will be the missing link. The model’s outlook of Las Vegas isn’t great, especially with a downgrade at QB. The Raiders appear headed for the cellar, especially if Wilson experiences some positive regression in Denver.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
Chiefs 72.3% 16.7% 29.9% 11.0%
Chargers 17.4% 30.1% 4.2% 52.5%
Broncos 5.8% 15.9% 0.8% 78.4%
Raiders 4.5% 12.3% 0.7% 83.2%

POWER RANKINGS: Chiefs start on top; Jets jump Bills; Lions, Jaguars ride hype into Week 1 

Jalen Hurts

NFC East

  1. Eagles (11-6)
  2. Cowboys (10-7)
  3. Giants (8-9)
  4. Commanders (6-11)

There might be no better microcosm of the NFC than the NFC East. There are a few clear contenders that are fully capable of winning a title. But the depth just isn’t there the way it is in other divisions.  

It wasn’t surprising that the 2022 season ended in a Super Bowl berth for the Eagles. It was perhaps just surprising they didn’t win it. Philadelphia is not expected to go 14-3 again — though that is certainly a possibility — but the talent is absolutely there to claim the No. 1 seed again and return to the Super Bowl. Jalen Hurts vaulted himself up the model’s quarterback rankings, and the rest of the roster puts the Eagles comfortably in the elite tier of teams.

The Cowboys might be the biggest reason the Eagles aren’t expected to rank higher in Super Bowl odds and division win odds. Dallas has a top 10 quarterback in Dak Prescott, and its roster is the only non-projected division winner to fit into the elite tier of teams. The defense ranks among the best in the league, and if Prescott can stay healthy all season, the sky is the limit for the Cowboys.

Few teams are expected to hit regression harder than the Giants. New York was a surprising wild card team in 2022 with Daniel Jones finally enjoying a breakout season. But this was still a team that allowed more points than it scored, and it returns to a division that features two Super Bowl contenders. The Giants could still prove everyone wrong again if Jones takes another step forward and if the defense steps up, but that could all be easier said with as challenging a schedule as they face.

Washington just missed the playoffs in 2022, and the model is expecting another down year for the Commanders in 2023. Sam Howell is a major unknown coming into the year, and the model grades him as one of the lowest-rated quarterbacks in the league. The defense stands out as a strong unit, but if quarterback is problematic, it’s hard to see a path to the playoffs from this division.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
Eagles 50.8% 30.8% 18.6% 18.4%
Cowboys 36.7% 35.3% 12.5% 28.0%
Giants 9.8% 22.6% 1.9% 67.6%
Commanders 2.7% 9.0% 0.3% 88.3%

MORE: Patriots, Giants and 6 other teams with absolutely no chance to win Super Bowl 58

Jared Goff

NFC North

  1. Lions (10-7)
  2. Vikings (9-8)
  3. Bears (8-9)
  4. Packers (8-9)

This is going to be a strange year in the NFC North. Rodgers is gone, and two long-time doormats smell the blood in the water and have made moves to strengthen their chances at becoming the new power in the division. And the model is starting with a preseason hype darling.

Are you drinking the Lions’ Kool-Aid? The model sure is. Detroit has not won a division title since playing in the NFC Central in 1993, but Jared Goff grades out as an above-average quarterback and the offense looks legit. The Lions went 8-2 in the final 10 games of the season to post a winning record, and the model is believing the hype is building toward a division title and the first postseason appearance since 2016.

Minnesota was unquestionably the luckiest team in the NFL in 2022. The defense ranked 28th in points allowed and the offense ranked only eighth, yet the team went 13-4. Expectations for the 2023 Vikings are quite a bit more tempered. The model still sees the team as having a solid, albeit unspectacular offense, that features a solid, albeit unspectacular quarterback. Justin Jefferson is a mega-star, but he can only carry the team so far, and there are still major questions on defense. The Vikings will face a tough schedule that could make another lucky season more challenging.

Perhaps the first big surprise of the 2023 predictions is having the Bears at No. 3 in the NFC North. Justin Fields’ improvement showed that he has the potential to be a standout QB in the NFL, and the model expects him to continue to further build off last year. Chicago faces the easiest schedule in the division, and some offseason improvements around Fields could help the Bears make a big step forward.

This is not a position in which the Packers often find themselves. Green Bay has not finished last in the division since 2005. But while the Packers are graded as a slightly better team than the Bears, the model grades Fields ahead of Jordan Love, who has done little to prove himself in the league despite having been in the league since 2020. That certainly leaves plenty of space for improvement from Green Bay, but the model needs to see something from Love before it buys into him.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
Lions 43.3% 21.5% 7.8% 35.2%
Vikings 28.0% 21.4% 4.2% 50.6%
Bears 14.5% 15.5% 1.4% 70.0%
Packers 14.2% 15.3% 1.6% 70.4%

NFL RANKINGS 2023: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | Head coaches | Defense

Derek Carr

NFC South

  1. Saints (11-7)
  2. Falcons (8-9)
  3. Panthers (8-9)
  4. Buccaneers (5-12)

Someone in the NFC South has to win the division. And despite the fact that there are cases to be made for perhaps three of them, the model is fairly decisive in picking the team it expects to win.

That would be the Saints, which the model is surprisingly quite high on even outside the division. New Orleans experienced an underwhelming debut campaign for Dennis Allen, due in large part to a rotating quarterback room. That instability should be resolved in 2023 with Derek Carr taking over. It’s not hard to see why the model likes the Saints: the defense was legit in 2022 and Carr has some weapons around him in New Orleans. If the Saints take advantage of the weaker division, New Orleans could position itself well in a conference that lacks a clear No. 4 team after the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys.

The Falcons grading this highly is about all you need to know about what the model thinks of the division. Atlanta has finished 7-10 in back-to-back years, and heads into the season with Desmond Ridder, an unproven quarterback, as the starter. But only the Saints have an easier schedule than Atlanta, and there are some improvements made to the roster that could help Arthur Smith turn this team around.

The most interesting team in the NFC South just might be the Panthers. Carolina brought in Heisman winner Bryce Young to a team that lacked quarterback consistency but boasted an impressive running game in 2022. Like the Falcons, the Panthers have made some offseason moves to try and give themselves a boost in a winnable division. They aren’t that far off from the Falcons as the No. 2 team in the South.

No reigning division winner is expecting as much regression as the Buccaneers, and it doesn’t take a projection model to figure out why. Tampa Bay is going from a Hall of Fame quarterback to Baker Mayfield, who the model has as graded below all returning starters. The Buccaneers were already bad enough with Tom Brady last year, finishing 8-9 to win the NFL’s weakest division. A seismic downward shift is expected from there.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
Saints 61.4% 16.9% 13.4% 21.7%
Falcons 22.6% 23.0% 2.7% 54.4%
Panthers 13.6% 17.2% 1.3% 69.3%
Buccaneers 2.5% 4.6% 0.1% 92.7%

NFL DRAFT 2024: SN’s latest mock | Updated top 50 big board

Deebo Samuel (left) and Brock Purdy (right)

NFC West

  1. 49ers (12-5)
  2. Seahawks (9-8)
  3. Rams (7-10)
  4. Cardinals (4-13)

It’s the best of times, and it’s the worst of times. The NFC West is led by the 49ers, a squad with among the loftiest expectations of any in the NFL. It also has the Cardinals, the team clearly poised for the worst season of any in the NFL. 

No team in the NFL is a larger division favorite than the 49ers. San Francisco could have been headed to the Super Bowl last year if it didn’t lose literally every quarterback it had on the roster to injury during the course of the season. That’s unlikely to happen again. Brock Purdy is no elite QB, but he doesn’t need to be as the model sees the rest of the roster as the best in the NFC. Combine that with a very winnable division, and the 49ers could be headed for a huge regular season in 2023.

The Seahawks rode the Geno Smith breakout to a surprising wild card appearance in 2023, and the model is buying into both Smith and Seattle. The offense stood out for its array of receivers — which only got better this offseason — and for the breakout of Kenneth Walker III. There are still questions defensively, but the model likes the offense and Smith enough to see this as a team that can get back to the playoffs, even if it is still not a major threat to San Francisco.

Don’t write off Matthew Stafford quite yet, but also don’t expect him and the Rams to get back to the Super Bowl. Stafford was injured and struggled through the season behind a patchwork offensive line. The model expects some positive regression for Stafford and Los Angeles, but this is still a team that had more holes than just on offense. This might not be another 5-12 team, but it also isn’t going to be a real threat in the West.

Remember how we said that a team that has a 0 percent chance is more likely to be a minuscule decimal that was rounded out? That’s not the case with the Cardinals’ Super Bowl odds. In 10,000 simulations, the model saw zero where Arizona even reached the Super Bowl. Let’s face it, the Super Bowl is really getting that No. 1 pick next year. The defense was terrible last year, and a mediocre offense last year traded DeAndre Hopkins and will now be missing Kyler Murray for much of the year. It could be an ugly year for Arizona.

Team Win Division Wild card No. 1 seed Miss playoffs
49ers 73.5% 16.1% 28.4% 10.4%
Seahawks 19.1% 32.3% 4.3% 48.6%
Rams 7.1% 17.4% 1.1% 75.5%
Cardinals 0.3% 1.2% 0.0% 98.6%

AFC playoff predictions

Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes
  • Division winners: Chiefs (1), Bengals (2), Bills (3), Jaguars (4)
  • Wild cards: Ravens (5), Jets (6), Chargers (7)

The model does not see a ton of changes coming to the AFC playoff picture despite the conference being all the deeper. It has picked the same four prediction winners and two of the same three wild-card winners, with the Jets being the only new entrant to the field — replacing another AFC East team.

The race for those wild cards are close, however. The Browns just missed the cut as the last wild card team, and the Dolphins and Steelers aren’t far behind them. The AFC playoff picture certainly feels anything but locked in.

Over the past two years, the same two teams have played for a conference championship and a spot in the Super Bowl. The model is eying the same two teams as the clear favorites once again. The Chiefs are running away with the best conference title odds at 29.4 percent, while the Bengals have a 6 percent edge over the Bills. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Jaguars, who come in behind two projected wild-card teams. 

Team Win Conference
Chiefs 29.4%
Bengals 19.8%
Bills 13.8%
Jets 7.7%
Ravens 6.5%
Jaguars 5.7%
Chargers 5.1%
Dolphins 3.1%
Browns 2.9%
Titans 1.9%
Steelers 1.3%
Broncos 1.2%
Raiders 0.7%
Patriots 0.5%
Colts 0.2%
Texans 0.1%

NFC playoff predictions

Jalen Hurts
  • Division winners: 49ers (1), Eagles (2), Saints (3), Lions (4)
  • Wild cards: Cowboys (5), Seahawks (6), Vikings (7)

There is a bit more turnover in the NFC than in the AFC. The model expects two new division winners, with the Buccaneers and Vikings out and the Saints and Lions in. The wild cards are all teams that made the postseason in 2022.

The wild card picture has fewer true contenders in the NFC than in the AFC. The Falcons and Giants each have above a 20 percent chance of reaching via wild card, and the Rams and Panthers each come in just above 17 percent.

When it comes to winning the conference, it is clear that three teams come in as the heavy favorites: the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys. San Francisco has a 7.1 percent edge over the Eagles, while Philadelphia is 6.6 percent above Dallas. New Orleans is once again a major surprise, coming in with the fourth-best odds to win the conference.

Team Win Conference
49ers 27.8%
Eagles 20.7%
Cowboys 14.1%
Saints 9.7%
Lions 8.6%
Vikings 4.9%
Seahawks 4.8%
Giants 2.4%
Falcons 1.8%
Bears 1.3%
Packers 1.3%
Panthers 1.1%
Rams 1.0%
Commanders 0.3%
Buccaneers 0.1%
Cardinals 0.0%

Super Bowl 58 prediction

Patrick Mahomes

The last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots in 2004 and 2005. The model expects the Chiefs to be the team to beat in 2023, giving it a 16.7 percent chance of making it two straight championships.

The rest of last season’s conference championship teams come in with clear edges over the rest of the field. The final four are the only teams with double-digit Super Bowl odds in 2023, coming in just ahead of the Bills (6.9 percent) and the Cowboys (6.3 percent). It is a bit surprising to see the Eagles as the lowest of the four, but Philadelphia also has the lowest division win odds of the four teams, meaning its path to the Super Bowl could be the hardest.

The model is not without its surprises. Again, the Saints appear higher than many might expect at 4.4 percent, coming in above the Lions, Jets, Ravens and Jaguars. That certainly has more to do with its high division win odds, which give it an easier path to a Lombardi Trophy. The model is also just not seeing it for a popular sleeper pick in Denver, with the Broncos having just a 0.5 percent chance to win it all, tied for the ninth-lowest odds.

Team Win Super Bowl
Chiefs 16.7%
49ers 14.4%
Bengals 11.6%
Eagles 10.1%
Bills 6.9%
Cowboys 6.3%
Saints 4.4%
Lions 3.9%
Jets 3.7%
Ravens 3.1%
Jaguars 2.8%
Chargers 2.4%
Seahawks 2.1%
Vikings 1.9%
Dolphins 1.6%
Browns 1.5%
Giants 1.0%
Falcons 0.9%
Titans 0.9%
Steelers 0.6%
Bears 0.5%
Packers 0.5%
Panthers 0.5%
Broncos 0.5%
Rams 0.4%
Raiders 0.2%
Patriots 0.2%
Commanders 0.1%
Buccaneers 0.1%
Texans 0.1%
Colts 0.1%
Cardinals 0.0%

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