The pre-season is over, and it’s on to the regular show. The NFL’s 2023 season kicks off in earnest on September 7 as the Detroit Lions travel to battle the Kansas City Chiefs. With the pre-season behind us, and my series of Sleeper Candidates done, I’m offering ten bold predictions for the 2023 NFL Season. Be sure to bookmark this piece and come back in January to see how I did.

No. 1: Tua Tagovailoa finishes as a QB1 this season

About: Tua was enjoying a strong 2022 campaign before he suffered a series of concussions that ended his season. In fact, there was some talk he might be forced into a medical retirement this off-season. That didn’t happen, and he appears fully healthy and ready to resume his work with the Dolphins. I think with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Tua can finish as a QB1 this season. I also believe he’ll be able to stay on the field, and the Dolphins will be a real threat in the AFC. Am I crazy? From Week 7 to Week 15, as Tua was back and hitting his stride, he was QB8. I think he can continue that pace again this season.

No. 2: Kyler Murray won’t play this season

About: Murray tore his ACL in December of last year. Some have returned from ACL injuries on an accelerated timeline, including some quarterbacks. But Murray isn’t your typical quarterback. Much of his game relies on mobility. Let’s say he’s on a more traditional 11-to-12-month timeline that would put him game-ready in November or December. We saw last season with Odell Beckham, Jr., at that point in time, it’s really a question of whether you can get in game shape. Add to that the fact the Cardinals appear to be in a rebuild, and I think this is a redshirt season for Murray. It’s also possible he’ll never play another game for the Cardinals. I don’t have him ranked in the 2023 re-draft rankings, and I think it’s time to wonder what his long-term future holds.

No. 3: Mike Gesicki will finish as a TE1

About: Gesicki earned the Franchise Tag for the 2022 season and practically disappeared. Now, he’s moved on to the New England Patriots. Given recency bias, it’s likely people have forgotten about the Gesicki we saw in 2020 and 2021. In 2021 he was TE8. In 2020 he was TE7. The Patriots acquired him for a reason and need more weapons to improve a lackluster passing attack. Juju Smith-Schuster will help, but I suspect the offense will benefit from dual threats at tight end in Gesicki and Hunter Henry. I’m pushing my chips in on Gesicki returning to TE1 value.

No. 4: Trey McBride will out-target Zach Ertz

About: I know Ertz is a talented veteran. He’s also recovering from a significant injury. Add to that the fact the Cardinals are in the midst of what looks like a multi-year re-build and focusing on the young pieces, and that opens the door for McBride. He thrived down the stretch for the Cardinals in 2022, and I think he’ll overtake Ertz as the top pass-catching option for the team at tight end in 2023. Will it be a great season? Nope, I don’t believe the Cardinals will be incredible. But I think we see McBride take another step forward.

No. 5: Javonte Williams will finish as a Top 15 running back

About: Williams is returning from a major knee injury, and the question was how fast he could recover. His appearance in the Broncos’ second pre-season game, coupled with him seeing three carries and four receptions on five targets in just about 20 snaps, put to doubt those concerns. Williams is a great talent, and he looks to be in for a huge workload as a runner and receiver. We’ve seen it from Sean Payton before. In his last five seasons with the Saints, Payton led Alvin Kamara to finishes in the Top 15 each season, often in the Top 10. Williams has that ability and looks to have that role. It’s wheels up in 2023.

No. 6 Damien Harris outscores James Cook for the Bills in fantasy

About: I know a lot of people think it’s going to be a monster year for Cook. I guess it could be, but I’m more bullish on Harris. I think he could take a number of the touches that went to Devin Singletary last year, and we’ve seen him thrive as a pure runner. Call me crazy, but I like his chances of being a primary rusher and even taking some goal-line carries. Cook is a better pass catcher, but I don’t see pass-catching being a big part of the deal for the Bills running backs. I like Harris.

No. 7: Brandin Cooks will finish as a Top 24 receiver

About: A WR20 finish in 2021. A WR17 finish in 2020. A WR13 finish in 2018. A WR15 finish in 2017. Those are the last five years of finishes for Cooks when healthy for the season. Last year, with the dumpster fire in Houston, Cooks was WR49. Don’t let that fool you. Back in a good offense with the Cowboys, I expect him to thrive. I realize CeeDee Lamb is there, but when Lamb and Amari Cooper were together and healthy in 2020, both finished in the Top 24. I think we’ll see two Cowboys in the Top 24 again in 2022.

No. 8: Tyler Lockett will finish in the Top 24 at WR

About: With the drafting of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, it seems many thought Lockett would take a hit. I wasn’t sold on that even before JSN broke his wrist. JSN is a better dynasty prospect, but Lockett is a receiver we’ve slept on for years. Despite that, he’s continued producing. Last season he was WR13. In 2021, he finished as WR16, and in 2020 he was WR8. We keep sleeping on Lockett, and he keeps producing. I think it will happen again in 2023.

No. 9: The Falcons will win the NFC South and make the playoffs

About: Every year, a team goes from worst to first. The Falcons technically finished as the last-place team in the NFC South in 2022 despite sharing the same 7-10 record as the Panthers and Saints. I like the weapons the team has amassed in Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London. It’s all on Desmond Ridder to pull it together on offense and Arthur Smith to pull the Falcons together in general. The bar to the playoffs figures to be low in the NFC South once again. Eight wins got the Buccaneers in last season, and I think nine wins will do it this season. I think the Falcons get there and win the NFC South.

No. 10: The New York Jets miss the playoffs

About: The Jets pushed their chips in on Aaron Rodgers this year. No doubt the team has talent and figures to be competitive. The problem is that, unlike the Falcons, the Jets aren’t in the NFC South or the NFC in general. The AFC is loaded. There are strong contenders throughout the AFC West and AFC North. And in their own division, the Jets are chasing the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins. Plus, you know, the New England Patriots. I think the Jets can win nine or ten games, but that’s no guarantee of the playoffs in the AFC. I think the Jets will have a winning season but fall just short of the postseason.

Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.

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