Column: Predicting the playoffs team for the 2023 NFL season

Sep 7, 2023, 2:30 PM

Derek Carr #4 of the New Orleans Saints looks on during a preseason game at Caesars Superdome on Au...

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - AUGUST 13: Derek Carr #4 of the New Orleans Saints looks on during a preseason game at Caesars Superdome on August 13, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Over the last few NFL seasons, I have tried my best to make a bold prediction and I keep getting it wrong.

Instead of giving up, let me make myself vulnerable AGAIN and try one more time. One common thing that happens in the NFL is a team that finished last in their division ends up winning that same division the next year.

For example, in 2019, Washington finished last in the NFC East with a 3-13 record and then followed that up in 2020 with a first place finish at 7-9. In 2020, the Cincinnati Bengals were at the bottom of the AFC North at 4-11-1 and then bounced back to take the North in 2021 at 10-7. In 2021, the Jacksonville Jaguars were dead last in the AFC South and won the division last year at 9-8.

The same thing will likely happen this year but let me see if I can figure out which teams make the jump. The last-place finishers from 2022 include the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, and the New York Jets from the AFC. In the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Saints-Falcons-Panthers combo, and finally the Washington Commanders finished last.

The teams I am considering that could make the jump are the very-hyped New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns, and the trio of teams that tied for last in the NFC South. With all that said, I am going to take the New Orleans Saints. This may be a cop out but that division is WIDE OPEN and the Saints seem to be the cream of the crop. New Orleans is a tough place to play, they have the quarterback with the most experience in the division with Derek Carr and they still have some pretty talented players remaining from the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era.

The NFC has some strong teams in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Dallas but after that the conference is open. The NFC South is even more open and to me, the Saints will be the team to take down that division and return to the playoffs.

I will likely be writing this piece again next year at this time admitting that I was wrong AGAIN but until then, as they say in New Orleans, laissez le bon temps rouler. Who dat?

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