Predicting the 2023 Divisional Winners of the AFC

Sep 6, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:03 am

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 1: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after a fo...

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It’s been too long since we’ve gotten to say this: The NFL season is back baby!

The 2023 NFL regular season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 7th with the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Detroit Lions. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes & the reigning Super Bowl champs will look to kick off the new season with a bang in the AFC.

But before we get there, we’ll conclude our NFL Preview with the Chiefs & the rest of the AFC.

Here’s how the American Football Conference could shake out by the New Year.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

2023 Prediction: 12-5

Record in 2022: 13-3

Key Additions: RB Damien Harris, RB Latavius Murray, DE Leonard Floyd, DL Poona Ford, CB Cameron Dantzler, S Taylor Rapp, OG Conor McGovern

Key Departures: LB Tremaine Edmunds, RB Devin Singletary, WR Isaiah McKenzie, OT Bobby Hart, OG Roger Saffold, OG Greg Van Roten

The most difficult division in NFL runs out of the east coast, with all four franchises hoping to make a deep playoff run in early 2024. But just like last year, the East runs through New York.

The Buffalo Bills comes into the 2023 season with a revamped roster, and a healthy Von Miller. Eventually. Miller will. remain on the PUP list for the first four games of the season, still getting into game shape after tearing his ACL last season.

Buffalo’s roster goes beyond the future hall-of-famer, with star quarterback Josh Allen leading the charge on offense. He will look to make Year 6 his best in the NFL, vying for an MVP-caliber season.

It’ll be tricky for the Bills though, with a very competitive division to best.

The New York Jets have QB Aaron Rodgers, the Miami Dolphins are still loaded, and the New England Patriots seem more competent than in recent years. That could mean a lot of series splits in the AFC North, with any of the four able to come away with big wins.

Because of that (and losing Tremaine Edmunds), Buffalo could lose some games they expected to win. But they could also win a few as underdogs.

Expect the AFC North to be ultra-competitive, but a division that Allen is ready to thrive in.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

2023 Prediction: 13-4

Record in 2022: 14-3

Key Additions: OT Jawaan Taylor, DE Charles Omenihu, LB Dre Tranquill, OT Donovan Smith, RB Jerrick McKinnon, WR Richie James

Key Departures: OT Orlando Brown, WR Juju Smith-Schuster, S Juan Thornhill, WR Mecole Hardman, DE Frank Clark

It’s hard to pick against the defending Super Bowl champions, despite making big roster changes in the offseason.

The Chiefs made the choice to let Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown walk to the Cincinnati Bengals this spring, a move due to the salary cap. Kansas City also lost key rotational wideouts as well, leaving them a little lackluster at skill positions. On top of that, their defense lost a starting safety and veteran Frank Clark.

All that together usually equals a down season; unless you have Patrick Mahomes.

The almost 28-year-old phenom fixes all of the problems in KC, eyeing his third MVP trophy this season. As long as you have him and star tight end Travis Kelce, they should still reek havoc on the NFL.

While the rest of the AFC West will look to be competitive (mainly the LA Chargers), none of them have the mental wearwithal and pedigree to surpass the Super Bowl favorite.

It’ll be tough, as it always is in the AFC, but don’t expect anything less than Mahomes on top once again.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals

2023 Prediction: 14-3

Record in 2022: 12-4

Key Additions: OT Orlando Brown Jr., LB Germaine Pratt, S Nick Scott, TE Irv Smith Jr., CB Sidney Jones, DE Myles Murphy (R)

Key Departures: S Jessie Bates III, S Von Bell, TE Hayden Hurst, CB Eli Apple, RB Samaje Perine

One of the most competitive divisions year-in-and-year-out, the AFC North promises to do that once again. And just like in 2022, the Bengals will win out.

It starts with Joe Burrow, superstar QB that has flourished in Cincinnati over the last two seasons. Only 26 years old, Burrow’s ability to play at an elite level has rejuvenated the franchise after years of mediocrity.

The last two years have seen first-place finishes in the division. And thanks to a revamped roster equipped with LT Orlando Brown Jr., that eh loud remain the norm for at least another season.

But it all rests on Burrow’s shoulders.

If he doesn’t perform well, the team doesn’t perform well. His early injury history certainly casts some doubt on the team’s future success, but he’s been able to bounce back in a big way each time.

This year’s injury is a calf strain from Training Camp, missing the entirety of the preseason. Now fully back to 100%, Burrow & the Bengals should pick up where they left off entering the fall.

Knocking on Kansas City’s door.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars

2023 Prediction: 11-6

Record in 2022: 9-8

Key Additions: WR Calvin Ridley, RT Anton Harrison (R), RB D’Ernest Johnson, OT Josh Wells, DL Michael Dogbe

Key Departures: WR Marvin Jones Jr., OT Jawaan Taylor, CB Shaquill Griffin

What a difference a year makes!

After the Jaguars’ disastrous 2021 season under Urban Meyer, Doug Pederson was a breathe of fresh air for the franchise, completely changing the culture in the locker room. And in turn, getting his franchise QB back on track.

Trevor Lawrence, 23, looked like a new man last season, tossing 4113 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Clemson prospect looks to be the real deal under Pederson, now looking to have a breakout 2023 season.

It helps that they’ll be getting former Pro Bowl wideout Calvin Ridley back, suspended all of last season. Coupled with staples WR Christian Kirk, TE Evan Engram and RB Travis Etienne; the Jags’ offense should be humming this fall.

The question remains if their defense can build off a good 2022, finishing 12th in points allowed (20.6 points per game). The problem was their sack total, struggling to get to the QB last year. If OLBs Travon Walker or Josh Allen can get an uptick in stats, Jacksonville could have good play on both sides of the ball.

And in the swamp of the AFC South, that’s really all you need in 2023.

Thank you for reading Follow us on Twitter and Google News, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Follow 49ers beat writer Amil Fragoso here.



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Predicting the 2023 Divisional Winners of the AFC