NFL

Predicting the 2023 Divisional Winners of the NFC

Sep 4, 2023, 6:00 AM

Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against Dre Greenlaw #57 of the San Francis...

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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 start with the Lions & the rest of the NFC.

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

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles

2023 Prediction: 13-4

Record in 2022: 14-3

Key Additions: RB De’Andre Swift, RB Rashaad Penny, DL Jalen Carter (R), S Terrell Edmunds

Key Departures: RB Miles Sanders, LB T.J. Edwards, DT Javon Hargrave, S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S Marcus Epps

It’s hard to pick anyone else but the defending NFC champs when it comes to the NFC East.

The Eagles are coming off a breakout 2022 season, where star quarterback Jalen Hurts made a major push for MVP. Coach Nick Sirianni is entering his third season at the helm, only expected to continue that trajectory with more chemistry on the field.

It also doesn’t hurt when you keep drafting Georgia Bulldog standouts (i.e. Jalen Carter). That should help offset the loss of Javon Hargrave for the future.

The defense did take a bit of a hit in terms of veterans but the main core is still intact. And truthfully, that’s what really matters here.

Philly knows they have a couple years to make this run for Super Bowl supremacy, wanting 2023 to be the culmination of all their hard work.

Dallas will challenge for the division, but the Eagles are too loaded to be dethrone at the moment.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

2023 Prediction: 11-6

Record in 2022: 13-4

Key Additions: Steve Wilks (coach), DT Javon Hargrave, QB Sam Darnold, DE Clelin Ferrell, S Ji’Ayir Brown (R), OL Jon Feliciano

Key Departures: DeMeco Ryans (coach), S Jimmie Ward, RT Mike McGlinchey, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, CB Emmauel Moseley, DE Samson Ebukam, DE Charles Omenihu

It’s been a rocky offseason for the 49ers, from QB Brock Purdy’s UCL injury recovery to kicker Jake Moody’s inconsistent in preseason. And at the center of all that, former future franchise QB Trey Lance being traded to Dallas for a fourth-rounder.

Despite all that, San Francisco is ready to make another run at Super Bowl trophy No.6.

A roster full of A-listers on both sides of the ball, the 49ers & coach Kyle Shanahan hope that talent will win out on the field. But they’ll all have to stay healthy or present, and so far, that hasn’t been the case.

Tight End George Kittle has been the newest star player to get the injury bug, dealing with a groin strain the last few weeks. His injury has kept him off the field, causing some concern for his Week 1 status.

Additionally, wide receivers Ray-Ray McCloud & Danny Gray will miss extended time due to injuries. This has also happened on defense, with safety Talanoa Hufanga dealing with a knee issue.

And at the center of that is Nick Bosa, still M.I.A. from 49ers HQ as you read this.

The pass rusher is holding out for a long-term contract extension, poised to be the highest-paid non-QB in the NFL. Unfortunately it hasn’t materialized yet, with reports indicating the two sides are a few million annually apart at the moment.

This casts certain doubt over his Week 1 availability, with very little time to be on the practice field before Gameday. But apparently, that’s not a concern for the organization, confident he can play at all times.

“I don’t know if Bosa’s ever done a training camp, and he’s done pretty good,” Kyle Shanahan said with a smirk on Aug. 7th.

It’s not a matter of if the Bosa deal will get done, it’s when for the 49ers. But that could come after the Pittsburgh game.

Regardless, San Francisco has a stacked roster and a young QB that loves to deliver the football accurately. If Purdy can continue doing that, the 49ers will have a lot of success this season.

The rest of the division is like the Wild West, with both the LA Rams & Arizona Cardinals barren of much talent on their rosters. But of course there is always one foe for the incumbent and that’s the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle was good with Geno Smith at the helm last season, finishing second in the West and making the postseason. The Russell Wilson trade was a success for the franchise; now it’s about getting the most out this current run.

And while the Seahawks have young, emerging talent everywhere, some regression from Smith shroud be expected in Year 2.

That will be the difference between them & the 49ers in 2023, with The Birds knocking on their rival’s doors once again. In the end though, San Francisco has enough firepower to win at least ten games, and will probably more.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings

2023 Prediction: 12-5

Record in 2022: 13-4

Key Additions: WR Jordan Addison (R), DE Marcus Davenport, RB Myles Gaskin, CB Byron Murphy

Key Departures: WR Adam Thielen, RB Dalvin Cook, CB Patrick Patterson, OLB Za’Darius Smith, DT Dalvin Tomlinson

The NFC North feels up for grabs for the first time in decades, thanks to Aaron Rodgers finally departing Wisconsin for the Big Apple this summer.

Eh, not quite.

Minnesota has remained a steady threat in The North for about a decade, last finishing fourth in the division in 2013. Bringing back a rejuvenated roster from last season’s success, the Vikings will look to win their second-straight division title.

But it all depends on the play of Kirk Cousins.

The veteran gunslinger has accomplished a good amount in the NFL, throwing for more than 37,000 yards and 250 TDs in 142 games played.

But he hasn’t won a championship yet.

Could this be the year for the Vikings? Probably not. But, you never know.

What you should count on is Cousins & Co. taking the division with their pass-heavy offense. And that’s thanks to emerging star Justin Jefferson at wideout.

“Jettas” is primed for another breakout year, looking to become the league’s best WR. That should bode well for their scoring abilities, hanging tough in multiple one-score games in 2022.

This season should be different, with a revamped defense. Additions like cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. and defensive end Marcus Davenport will provide legit help for the Purple People Eaters.

As for the rest of the division.

The Detroit Lions are the Vikings biggest threat, finishing 7-2 down the stretch in 2022. But their defense still needs some work. The Chicago Bears have a prospect in Justin Fields under center, still a few years away from terrorizing the NFL. And the Green Bay Packers still don’t have Aaron Rodgers. It’s still a wait-and-see approach with QB Jordan Love’s potential in the league.

Add that all up and what comes out of a messy division is one constant: The Vikings, as constructed, are the best in The North.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints

2023 Prediction: 10-7

Record in 2022: 7-10

Key Additions: QB Derek Carr, DT Bryan Breese (R), RB Jamaal Williams

Key Departures: DE Marcus Davenport, WR Jarvis Landry, K Will Lutz

Last season, the NFC South was the swamplands of NFL relevancy. 2023 would have had the same fate if not for the new & improved Saints.

New Orleans’ front office took a big risk by signing Derek Carr to a multi-year deal this spring, reuniting him with coach Dennis Allen. That doesn’t erase his poor play from last season entirely, struggling under Josh McDaniel’s system. He finished with only 3522 passing yds, 24 TDs and 14 INTs for the Raiders in 2022.

Now 32-years-old, does a change of scenery do that much for the veteran QB?

it just might.

It helps that the Saints’ roster is build to succeed now, fitting with standout players at every corner. The addition of RB Jaamal Williams will help the going game before Alvin Kamara comes back from suspension in Week 4. Carr also has a healthy Michael Thomas and Chris Olave to throw to this season.

Defensively, New Orleans is pretty much the same as last season. S Tyrann Mathieu is still there, so is LB Demario Davis and so is DE Cameron Jordan.

It’s do-or-die mode for this current regime, with jobs on the line if this roster doesn’t perform in a hurry.

In a division full of inexperienced QBs (Kyle Trask, Bryce Young, Desmond Ridder), being the one team with the veteran under center puts you at the top of the list. That’s their edge, hoping Carr plays at his Pro Bowl best this fall.

Thank you for reading SactownSports.com. 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 NFC