Do you like hot takes?! No, us either. Believe it or not, we don’t think it’s very helpful to throw out a single incendiary statement like “Kirk Cousins is the worst quarterback in the NFL” to get hate clicks while you scream at us about why we’re wrong. We’ll leave that to blue checks on Twitter who are yearning for some Elon bucks.
Instead we’re calling this “Bold Predictions.” They’re the things we feel strongly about this NFL season and think will happen, believing we can back up our gut feelings with logic. Let’s go.
The Raiders will learn Derek Carr wasn’t the problem
Derek Carr is not a world-beater quarterback who will crack a Top 5 list at the position, but he’s a damn sight better than the Raiders treated him. It’s impossible to see the move from Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo as anything but a step down, and here’s why.
Jimmy G thrived in San Francisco because of their defense. It was built in such a way as to take massive pressure off the quarterback to be incredible, because they would routinely give their offense great field position. The 49ers were second-best in the NFL in first downs allowed, recording 30 takeaways on the season, while only allowing a league-best 16.3 pts per game.
This isn’t the case with the Raiders. Their defense is fine, but unremarkable. Las Vegas was last in the league in takeaways (13), they were 27th in first downs allowed, and gave up 24.6 points per game. This put huge pressure on Carr to win shootouts, which is where his worst traits shined.
Furthermore, the offense in San Fran was built to help the QB. They ran a West Coast offensive utilizing YAC, which masked some of Garoppolo’s inadequacies as a passer. Now he moves to back to the Patriots’ Erhardt-Perkins system, which shares some DNA — but one that requires Garoppolo to work more vertically to Davante Adams. I’m not sure the Raiders have the receivers needed to run the system correctly,
I think when the dust settles we’ll see the the reason the Raiders couldn’t get over the hump was far more wholistic than just issues at QB.
Brock Purdy will come back to earth
The hype behind Brock Purdy at the tail-end of 2022 was as feverish as we’ve ever seen. Whenever you have a late round quarterback perform well there’s an element of underdog enthusiasm mixed with Tom Brady romanticism that makes them the talk of the league. Now Purdy moves from late-season curiosity to 17 game starter, and there’s something about this that makes me really cautious.
Okay, I put my finger on it. Extrapolate of his season and let’s compare with a player that for now we’ll call “Quarterback X.”
Brock Purdy: 67.1% CMP, 3,336 yards, 32 TD, 10 INT
Quarterback X: 67.6% CMP, 3,801 yards, 22 TD, 13 INT
Obviously Purdy threw more touchdowns, and less yards — both of which can be attributed to the incredible field position provided by the 49ers defense, but you’re fundamentally looking at very similar players. Quarterback X is Mac Jones during his rookie season with the Patriots.
Jones came back to earth in a very big way after being a rookie Pro Bowl phenom, largely because defensive coaches had time to analyze the film and find ways to beat him. No, that doesn’t mean Purdy is destined for the same fate. This is more of a “let’s pump the brakes a little” when it comes to anointing him as the next great one.
I don’t think Purdy will be bad, nor do I think he’ll be spectacular. I think he will be simply regress to the mean and become a decent NFL starter, rather than be the next Tom Brady.
The Giants will shock everyone and win the NFC East
**ducks a rock from an Eagles fan** Okay, hear me out: I actually really like the Giants this year. I like the Giants probably more than a non-Giants fan should reasonably like the Giants. So much so that I think this team has the opportunity to shock a lot of people and win the division.
The biggest reason for this: Consistency. When we talk about the class of the division (Dallas and Philly) both teams underwent some pretty significant changes structurally this offseason. Brian Schottenheimer becomes offensive coordinator for the Cowboys, taking over for Kellen Moore — while the Eagles have had to replace two coordinators lost to head coaching jobs.
Meanwhile the Giants showed last year that Brian Daboll is the real deal. Mike Kafka returns to lead the offense, as does Wink Martendale on D. There are no major personnel shifts that greatly impacts this team, they’re just steady — while adding nicely in free agency.
The Super Bowl slump is real. It’s very difficult to get a team back on track after losing the Super Bowl, and even great teams need a year to get back on track. With the changes in Philadelphia I could easily see this team needing a year to redevelop their chemistry, the Cowboys to rework under Schottenheimer, and the Giants to swoop in and steal it all.
It’s going to be close as hell, and all the teams will be good — which makes this even more possible.
Kyler Murray does not play this season
There is one big reason why the Arizona Cardinals will want to see Kyler Murray on the field this season: He is their clear best option at the quarterback position.
But there are around 67 million reasons they might want to keep him sidelined for the 2023 campaign.
$67 million, to be precise.
Murray, who is coming off an ACL tear, will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. As a result, he will need to miss at least the first four games of the 2023 season. Having suffered the injury back in December last year, it was unclear during the offseason if he would be able to return for the start of the schedule.
That became clear with his move to PUP.
However, the Cardinals might not rush him back. Under the terms of his contract Murray is due nearly $67 million in injury guarantees if he cannot pass a physical prior to March of 2024. Expectations are not exactly high around the Cardinals, and with the organization making some moves this offseason that have led to speculation about a roster refresh, they may want to keep their options open as they enter the next offseason.
Including a potential trade involving Murray.
Or, they could view this season as a reset and take their time with Murray, insuring that he is fully healed for next year. As we outlined back in May, the Cardinals are in position to control the start of the 2024 draft. Not only are they projected to have an early pick of their own, but they control the Houston Texans’ first-round pick next year.
Current projections hold those as the top two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.
If that holds, the Cardinals will truly own the keys to the draft next season.
There is precedent for a team sitting down a quarterback due to injury guarantee concerns. Indianapolis did that with Matt Ryan, as did the Raiders with Derek Carr. While doing it for an entire season might be a new step, the Cardinals have a lot of reasons to go down that road.
Including $67 million reasons.
Trey Lance, however, does play this season
When the San Francisco 49ers traded Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys, it brought the curtain down on a disappointing run in the NFC West for the former third-overall selection. Lance started just four games in San Francisco, after the team traded three first-round picks to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select him.
While the Cowboys have Dak Prescott entrenched as their starter, one of the biggest things that Lance needs is reps.
Time running the scout team and working with the backups in practice will help, but nothing can duplicate in-game action.
Whether it is a small package of plays for him, or a start late in the season when the Cowboys’ postseason plans are finalized, they are going to find a way to get him some of those reps during the year.
Every team in the AFC East finishes above .500
Since the NFL shifted to the four-division format ahead of the 2002 season, there has never been a campaign where all four teams in a single division finished above .500.
On three occasions, the division had all four teams finish at or above .500. During the 2007, both the Houston Texans and the Philadelphia Eagles finished in fourth place in their respective divisions, each with an 8-8 record. A year later, both Washington and New Orleans finished with 8-8 records, putting them last in the NFC East and the NFC South.
Last year Washington did it again, finishing last in the NFC East with an 8-8-1 record.
In an NFL first, all four teams in the AFC East finish above .500 this year.
Obviously, this is a bet on the New England Patriots. While most believe that the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins are contenders for the division, and perhaps the AFC itself, prognosticators are not as high on New England. The bulk of the questions they face are on the offensive side of the ball. But if Bill O’Brien can maximize this New England offense — or at least guide them to a big step forward from last year — that combined with what looks to be a very good defense could see them surpassing expectations. It might not be enough to get New England into the playoffs, but it might just be enough to finish above .500.
Aaron Rodgers’ New York honeymoon ends by Week 6
So far, the New York Jets have enjoyed all the positives of having Rodgers as their quarterback. Fans, media and players are talking about how good the offense can be. There has been talk about how much Rodgers has helped create heightened expectations and accountability.
Even the team’s begrudging time with Hard Knocks has presented the caring, jovial side of the notoriously enigmatic quarterback.
The honeymoon phase has been fun for everyone around the Jets despite concerns about the offensive line and the overall unproven nature of the team’s roster. With the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles on the schedule within the first six weeks, the honeymoon will be over for Rodgers.
It may not take until the sixth week, the Bills pass rush could lead to Rodgers complaining about his offensive line and/or his young receivers not adjusting their routes by the sixth play of the season. Rodgers has spent the last 10-plus seasons being a certain way and that way has mostly led to success. “Kumbaya Rodgers” isn’t here to stay.
One of the AFC’s “big three” will break down
There’s been a pretty clear pecking order in the AFC for two years now, and that ends in 2023. The Chiefs, Bills and Bengals have been the class of the conference with everyone picking them to run all the way to the end, but that ends this year.
The Chiefs proved last year that Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce were enough to carry the offense without a star on the outside, but this year they have the weakest receiving corps since Mahomes entered the league, Orlando Brown is gone, Kelce’s injury is a thing to watch, and barring a breakthrough Chris Jones wont play for half the year.
The Bills are incredible, but keep struggling to get over the hump. At this point it seems a little like Sean McDermott and the front office are running out of ideas, which has led to frustration creeping in. There’s a chance they could falter too.
Cincinnati added a huge piece in Orlando Brown, and the offense should cook — but the Bengals’ secondary was looted in free agency, putting a lot of new faces in a unit that isn’t wholly convincing.
This is the year one of these three teams drifts out of the playoffs and needs to rework their roster.
The Cardinals won’t just be bad, but historically bad
Two teams have gone 0-16 in NFL history. The Cardinals could be the first to go 0-17. The 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns are two of the most disgusting, fetid teams of all time — and it’s shaping up that way in Arizona as well.
This is a team clearly tanking and building for the future, which they have the assets to do well, but if Kyler Murray is shut down for the year it’s impossible to see this team winning more than two games, at best. Arizona has a brutal neutral schedule because of the NFC West, and other than the Texans it’s tough to see who they’ll beat.
Oh, and as one of my coworkers said: “I wouldn’t follow Jonathan Gannon into a Burger King, let alone a football field.” Yeah, pretty much.
The Lions let everyone down
I know, I know. You love the Lions, I love the Lions — we all love this Hard Knocks-fueled underdog story being realized. This year they disappoint us again.
Expectations have never been higher for Dan Campbell’s team, but they won’t reach the 9-8 record of a year ago. It’s not just the gambling suspensions that hurt the team’s depth, but the array of coaching staff departures caused by Frank Reich poaching several key position coaches to bring with him to the Panthers.
This team smells like one that will lose a lot of close, unfortunate games and not reach the potential so many had for them this year.
A RB wins Offensive Player of the Year
One of the biggest scenarios of the offseason was the plight of the running back. Backs aren’t getting paid what they feel like they deserve, and the entire ‘RBs don’t matter’ discussion hit a crescendo. However, during the season, what’ll play out is the notion that teams will be running more gap scheme concepts and the teams that can create explosives on the ground will be the ones that succeed.
RBs who mean a lot to their singular teams will be getting a lot more run. Players like the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey, who will more than likely be very good once again in his first full season with the Niners. Saquon Barkley is back with the Giants, and depending on the overall health of that offense he could see a whole lot of touches. We could even get into some sleepers, such as if the Titans were to win the division and Derrick Henry regains full strength. Either way it goes, running the ball might be en vogue again, and a RB winning OPOY after this offseason would be kinda shocking.
Jonathan Gannon doesn’t finish the season as Cardinals HC
Look man, the Cardinals are bad bad. Kyler Murray will be gone for at least the first half of the season, and the selling of parts has already begun. Gannon seems in over his head and nothing about that franchise is exciting or interesting right now. The recipe for disaster could hit Arizona real quickly, and if things get historically bad, Gannon might not be the one to see it through to the top overall pick.