Thursday, September 7, 2023

2023 NFL Predictions: NFC South

Before the start of the season, I will post my division-by-division predictions for the 2023 NFL regular season and postseason.

Instead of projecting an outright winner and loser in all 272 regular-season games, I've assigned a win probability to each team in every game and totaled them up.

Check out our 2023 NFL Predictions page for other divisions.

With that said, here are our early NFC South projections for each team including their win total.

1. New Orleans Saints - Projected Wins: 8.93

Compared to Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season, all four NFC South teams have a new starter as they enter Week 1 of the 2023 season. Derek Carr is an upgrade over Andy Dalton, and Chris Olave is one of the best young receivers in the NFL. It's unclear what the team will get from Michael Thomas, who was once the most productive receiver in the NFL but has appeared in only 10 games over the past three seasons combined. Alvin Kamara is suspended for the first three games of the season, but the team will have a talented trio of backs with Kamara, Jamaal Williams, who led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year, and rookie Kendre Miller.

The Saints have ranked top 10 in DVOA in five consecutive seasons. The 2023 version of this defense will look different up front. While Cameron Jordan is still there, the team lost four linemen that played significant snaps. The strength of the defense is its secondary with Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye at safety and Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo and Bradley Roby at cornerback.

MORE: New Orleans Saints 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

2. Atlanta Falcons - Projected Wins: 8.44

Desmond Ridder, who started four games as a rookie, enters 2023 atop the depth chart. In his 2022 starts, he completed 63.5% of his pass attempts for 708 yards (6.2/A) with only two touchdowns (1.7%) and no interceptions.

Over the past three years, the Falcons have used top-eight picks on skill-position players (Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson). The Falcons also have one of the better offensive lines in the league, especially in terms of run blocking.

The Falcons ranked bottom six in total defense (362.1 YPG) in 2022, and they have perennially struggled to get to the quarterback (21 sacks, 31st). On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons have added a number of veterans — Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Jessie Bates and Bud Dupree, all of whom collectively should help this defense take a step forward.

MORE: Atlanta Falcons 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

3. Carolina Panthers - Projected Wins: 8.05

Frank Reich started the first game in Panthers history, and now he begins a new era as their head coach. In conjunction, it's the start of the Bryce Young era, and there is plenty of reason to be excited about the long-term future with the top pick from the 2023 NFL Draft under center. There may be some growing pains in the short term, as the team ranks fourth in the division in terms of talent among its skill-position players. The offensive line returns all five starters, and although they are young, they are heading in the right direction.

The Panthers have lots of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers drafted Brian Burns, Derrick Brown and Jaycee Horn with three consecutive first-round picks from 2019 to 2021. They also drafted Shaq Thompson and Jeremy Chinn, added Frankie Luvu and Xavier Woods in recent years, all of whom ranked top four on the team in tackles in 2022. This offseason, they added Vonn Bell, Shy Tuttle and Justin Houston, all of whom will start in 2023. Long story short, the Panthers have the potential to have one of the league's best defenses in 2023.

MORE: Carolina Panthers 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Projected Wins: 6.41

With Tom Brady retired, the Buccaneers will go into the season with the quarterback depth chart as Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, is on his fourth roster in the past 18 months. Mayfield started a total of 10 games (six with the Panthers and four with the Rams) in 2022, and completed 60% of his pass attempts at 6.5 Y/A while throwing 10 touchdowns (3.0%) and eight interceptions (2.4%). The Bucs have a talented duo of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, who has nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start his career.

Even if the Bucs are one of the league's worst teams in 2023, it won't be because of their defense. They have plenty of talent in their front seven (Shaq Barrett, Vita Vea and Lavonte David) and secondary (Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis III and Antoine Winfield Jr.). If Mayfield can play closer to his 2019 level, this team may be a pleasant surprise.

MORE: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

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