New Arena senior writers Dylan Fraychineaud, Harris Ahmadzai and Jason Fray will offer their divisional and postseason predictions — as well as major awards predictions — for the upcoming 2023-2024 season.
DF: Jacksonville Jaguars
The AFC South is a division in flux. Houston and Indianapolis are both set to enter Week 1 with rookie quarterbacks. Tennessee has selected a QB early in back-to-back drafts, but Ryan Tannehill remains QB1. The Titans should be competitive as long as Derrick Henry and coach Mike Vrabel are in town, but I see Jacksonville as the clear favorite. The Jags won their final five regular season games last season to win the South, and upended the Chargers in the playoffs. Trevor Lawrence will be better in 2023, and the addition of Calvin Ridley could make the offense lethal.
HA: Jacksonville Jaguars
While still considered one of the weaker divisions, the AFC South is on the path to stabilizing itself thanks to a crew of young QB’s. The Texans, Colts, and Titans all selected who they hope to become their next franchise quarterback in this past April’s draft. However, the Jaguars already have one of those in the form of Trevor Lawrence. I’m high on Lawrence and the Jags this year (more on that in a bit), and they should be able to cruise to a division title thanks to having by far the most complete offense among the four teams.
JF: Jacksonville Jaguars
It has to be Jacksonville — right? The Jaguars have the best quarterback in the division, the best coach in the division, and the most talented roster top-to-bottom. The main narrative hanging around the team this season will be whether Trevor Lawrence takes that next step in becoming a premier quarterback in this league. If the former Clemson star can prove to be even a top-7 QB in this league, the Jaguars could be a threat to make the Super Bowl.
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DF: New York Jets
This is possibly the hardest division to predict. Buffalo has won the AFC East three years in a row, and has won at least 11 games each year. Miami has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and expects to win the division if Tua remains healthy. The Jets are now led by Aaron Rodgers and recently signed Dalvin Cook to bolster the backfield. New England will be feisty. I may be caught in the moment, but I’m riding with Rodgers and the new-look Jets.
HA: Miami Dolphins
While the Jets and Bills are getting much of the publicity this offseason, the Dolphins are going under-the-radar. Losing Jalen Ramsey was a blow, but the star CB is expected to return at some point. But, what separates this team is their efficiency on the offensive end. Tua Tagovailoa was one of the most potent quarterbacks in the league last year when healthy. Defenses don’t really have an answer for the WR tandem of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
JF: Buffalo Bills
The Bills haven’t really evolved its roster too much other than nabbing talented TE Dalton Kincaid out of Utah. With that said, even if there are some warts when it comes to rushing the passer, we come back to the same point over and over again: Josh Allen really is that good. He’s the best quarterback in the division, and has been a lock for double-digit win totals over the last few years. Until he’s knocked off that perch, we generally believe that the Allen-Stefon Diggs connection will lead this team to yet another division crown. There are too many questions surrounding the lack of talent in New England, the lack of continuity in New York, and the injury issues up front in Miami.
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DF: Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati was a few plays away from reaching its second Super Bowl in as many years last season. The Bengals were ousted by the Chiefs, 23-20, in the AFC Championship Game. While Joe Burrow’s injury made me think about this pick for a few seconds, my opinion remains — the Bengals are the team to beat in the AFC North. All four teams can finish above .500, but the Bengals are the best of the bunch.
HA: Baltimore Ravens
This Ravens offense has a chance to be special. After years of poor WR play alongside Lamar Jackson, the Ravens went out and grabbed two potential difference-makers in the form of Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers. Adding those two to a pass-catching group that already includes Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman gives the former MVP Jackson his best stable of weapons that he’s had during his career. And, we know that the Ravens are always going to bring it on the defensive end. In possibly the most competitive division in football, the Ravens come out on top.
JF: Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati will be the trendy pick here. However, until we really know the severity of Joe Burrow’s leg injury, we’re opting to roll with Pittsburgh. Kenny Pickett flashed some real ability towards the end of last season. He got into a very nice rhythm with OC Matt Canada. In the offseason, the Steelers addressed its offensive line issues. We’ll soon see if the ‘legend of WR George Pickens’ is fools gold or actually legit. From there, as long as the team still has Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, and Mike Tomlin, the defense should be (at the very least) competitive.
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DF: Kansas City Chiefs
I picked the Chargers last year, I will not be making that decision again.
HA: Kansas City Chiefs
Is there any question? The defending Super Bowl champions comfortably won the AFC West last year by four games. They’ve dropped just one division game in the last two years. They will reign supreme once again.
JF: Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid. Enough said.
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AFC Wild Cards
DF: Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens
I originally had the Dolphins winning the East, but couldn’t pick a Tua-led team over a Rodgers-led squad. Still, I believe Miami is too talented to miss the playoffs. The Chargers are one of the most talented teams in football, and should take a step forward offensively with Kellen Moore calling plays. My last spot came down to Baltimore and Buffalo. In the end, the noise surrounding the Bills scared me off. They could easily prove me wrong and win the East for the fourth year in a row — but I envision a 10-7 finish not being enough.
HA: Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers
The AFC North will have three playoff teams, as even the Browns will be a threat to reach the postseason. The division has an endless amount of talent, and also matches up against arguably two of the weaker divisions in the league (AFC South and NFC West). Despite Joe Burrow’s injury, I believe in the Bengals’ infrastructure and their ability to win close games. Same goes for the Steelers — who should see some improvement on both sides in Year 2 of Kenny Pickett and with a full season of T.J. Watt. The Bills aren’t missing the playoffs with the talent they have on both sides of the ball. That leaves a few very talented teams on the outside looking in. Namely, the Chargers and Jets.
JF: Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots
We have to think that Justin Herbert will be good enough to lead his team to the playoffs. The Chargers are far too talented not to be in the mix. The same can be said with Cincinnati and Joe Burrow. As for the Pats, we’re going out on a major limb here. The defense was great last year — and should be even better this year. Those in Foxboro are ecstatic over the draft class it recently had. The team added some weapons around Mac Jones, and Bill Belichick is still there. With the Patriots sitting there sans any hype, don’t be shocked if they’re a lot better than people believe them to be.
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DF: Minnesota Vikings
The Packers remain a mystery with Jordan Love at quarterback. Chicago should be an improved team, but anything more than six wins would be surprising. That leaves me with the Vikings and Lions. Minnesota finished with 13 wins last year, and Detroit shocked many by finishing 9-8. I think both teams can win between 9-11 games, but I’m rolling with the established Vikes.
HA: Detroit Lions
It’s Detroit’s time to seize the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is gone. The Vikings can’t possibly win as many one-score games as they did last year. And, the Bears are the Bears. Detroit boasted one of the league’s best offenses last year, and are adding two additional playmakers into the mix in Jahmyr Gibbs and Jameson Williams (after he serves his six-game suspension). If Jared Goff can continue his play from last year, the Lions will be the team to beat.
JF: Green Bay Packers
Detroit is still Detroit at the end of the day despite the hype. Until the Lions can get over the proverbial hump, we can’t count on them. The Bears are a little ways away, and the Vikings still have Kirk Cousins behind center. Green Bay’s roster — particularly on defense — is littered top-to-bottom with former first-round picks. The offense is now led by Jordan Love, a guy brimming with confidence and the motivation to prove himself. He’s looked quite good in the preseason. Duly, the Packers’ fleet of receivers looks a whole lot better than it has in recent years.
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DF: New Orleans Saints
My guess is as good as yours. This division is a mess. Tampa Bay may be one of the league’s worst teams…or could flirt with a .500 record. Carolina has some promising pieces, but Bryce Young would need to play like a star for the franchise to make a serious push for the division. Atlanta and New Orleans are fine(?) Ultimately, I think Derek Carr will have a strong season and lead New Orleans to the playoffs.
HA: New Orleans Saints
I am drinking the Saints ‘Kool-Aid’. New Orleans made the move for Derek Carr this offseason in hopes that the former Raider can bring the Saints back to the postseason. Thus far, he’s looked like the perfect fit. In his lone preseason appearance, Carr led a touchdown drive which looked a lot like one that would have been engineered by a former New Orleans quarterback who wore the No. 9. This is a veteran-laden team with a ton of established stars on both sides of the ball. We’re taking them over unproven teams led by Bryce Young, Desmond Ridder and Baker Mayfield.
JF: New Orleans Saints
This division does appear to be pretty wide open. Carolina and Atlanta are in the middle of a massive rebuild. Both franchises are smartly focusing their efforts around a host of first-year and second-year players. Tampa Bay is an aging team with some talent, though any team projected to start Baker Mayfield at quarterback likely won’t be any good. As such, that leaves us with Derek Carr and the Saints by default. The offensive line is a very solid unit, and there is some talent scattered throughout the roster. We just don’t think this team is overly deep — though it likely won’t matter in this division.
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DF: San Francisco 49ers
A two-horse race in the NFC West between the Niners and Seahawks. The Cardinals are awful, and the Rams might not be much better — although Kupp/Donald/Stafford/McVay will probably steal a few extra wins. Both Seattle and San Francisco should make the postseason, but I’m sticking with the Niners to barely outlast Seattle for the division title.
HA: San Francisco 49ers
Of course, the quarterback situation is a major point of contention when it comes to the 49ers. Brock Purdy is the alleged starter, but is coming off a major surgery. Trey Lance has reportedly disappointed in the offseason, so much so that Sam Darnold is being considered as the primary backup. Still, this is a team that went 13-4 last year after its starting quarterback went down after just 31 pass attempts. We believe strongly in Kyle Shanahan’s philosophies, and the overall talent around the QB.
JF: Seattle Seahawks
The only reservation I have with San Francisco is its quarterback situation. It probably will be Brock Purdy when it’s all said and done. The talent around him is immense — though we must see whether he can bounce back from his elbow surgery, as well as replicate last year’s high-level of play. Seattle is equally as loaded on both sides, though Geno Smith’s emergence last year gives the Seahawks a potential slight edge. Though to be fair, it’ll be neck-and-neck between these two teams the entire season.
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DF: Dallas Cowboys
The NFC East sent three teams to the playoffs last year — led by the 14-3 Eagles and 12-5 Cowboys. I firmly believe both of those teams (and maybe the Giants) will return to the postseason. Both squads will finish with 12 wins, but Dallas will win the division via having an advantage with the tiebreakers.
HA: Philadelphia Eagles
The Cowboys and Giants are capable of winning the NFC East. Both teams have immense talent on both sides of the ball, and got better in the offseason. The defending division champion Eagles lost some players to free agency, but should still be considered the favorite. Philadelphia’s roster is absolutely stacked from top-to-bottom, and boast talent in all the right places. The Eagles are built up front with one of the best offensive and defensive lines in football, but also have the ability to attack vertically with Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.
JF: Philadelphia Eagles
“Fly, Eagles, Fly!” Jalen Hurts is back to cement himself further as one of the best players in the NFL. Loading up again on Georgia players within the draft, the Eagles’ defense looks deeper within its front seven. When you can rush the passer as well as Philly does — along with the creation of explosive plays via its elite collection of skill players — you’re in pretty good shape.
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NFC Wild Cards
DF: Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions
The Eagles and Seahawks are locks to make the playoffs barring a disaster. For me, the final spot comes down to the Lions and Giants. I’m giving Detroit the edge because it plays in an easier division, and the Giants are facing a daunting non-division schedule. New York will play the Niners, Seahawks, Dolphins, Bills, and Jets.
HA: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks
We’re going with three playoff teams hailing from the East in the NFC. The Cowboys’ have arguably the best defense in the league, led by Defensive Player of the Year favorite Micah Parsons. The Giants shouldn’t be too far behind the top-two teams in the division, as they finally gathered some talent around QB Daniel Jones in the form of TE Darren Waller and rookie speedster Jalin Hyatt. The final spot goes to the Seahawks — who look to improve on an impressive 9-8 season from a year ago. The additions of WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba and CB Devon Witherspoon only further bolster Seattle’s advantages at two of the most important positions on the field.
JF: San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings
San Francisco is a lock. The same likely can be said for Dallas (assuming Dak Prescott stays healthy). As for a third team, you’re really looking at a competition between Minnesota, New York, Detroit, and potentially Chicago. The NFC East is a tough division, which will hurt the Giants’ chances at collecting easy wins. Detroit is….Detroit — which means it’s far from a certainty that the Lions do anything of consequence. Minnesota plays in an easier division than New York, and it boasts the best receiver in the league. This could get the Vikings over the top before crashing out in Week 1 of the playoffs.
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Offensive Rookie of the Year
DF: Bryce Young
One rookie has received more hype than anyone ahead of the season: Bijan Robinson. Robinson figures to play a huge role for the Falcons and should end up with good numbers. However, I think Bryce Young — the No. 1 overall pick — will win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Young will guide Carolina to a second-place finish in the NFC South and do just enough to upset Robinson for the award.
HA: Jahmyr Gibbs
The Lions love to run the ball. A team that loves to run doesn’t pick a RB with the No. 12 overall pick unless they have the intention of feeding him the rock early and often. Gibbs isn’t the traditional ‘between-the-tackles’ runner, but he has exceptional burst and will be a major threat in the passing game. Though they did sign David Montgomery in the offseason, Gibbs will be the leader in touches in Detroit’s backfield.
JF: Bijan Robinson
Atlanta drafted Robinson No. 8 Overall in this past draft. He was the unequivocal top rusher coming into the National Football League out of college. From the jump, he’ll get the chance to be the Falcons’ featured back. The offensive line (led by Chris Lindstrom) is actually quite decent. When you pair that with Arthur Smith’s philosophy in wanting to set a tone with a solid ground game, Robinson should get every opportunity to become a 1,000-yard back as a rookie.
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Defensive Rookie of the Year
DF: Jalen Carter
If not for off-the-field concerns, Jalen Carter likely would have been a top-3 pick. The former Georgia Bulldog star is an absolute force on the field. The opportunity to play for a very good Philadelphia defense will only make things easier for the talented rookie. I expect Carter to make an instant impact.
HA: Will Anderson Jr.
The Texans clearly have high hopes for their No. 3 overall pick. Houston traded away quite a bit to move up and select Anderson Jr. just a pick after they took QB C.J. Stroud off the board. That leaves Anderson Jr. needing to have a big season to prove that he was worth the trade package. He had a bit of a down year for the Crimson Tide as a junior, but just turn on his sophomore tape to see how much of a game-wrecker Anderson Jr. can be.
JF: Devon Witherspoon
A hamstring injury has slowed Witherspoon’s progress throughout fall camp. However, assuming he gets healthy, Witherspoon should be starting opposite Riq Woolen in Seattle’s secondary. There’s no better head coach equipped with coaching up secondary players than Pete Carroll. A former DB himself, he’s tutored a plethora of elite players at the position — such as Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Jamal Adams, and Woolen. The team is sky-high on Witherspoon’s ability to cover in space, and also pack a punch when defending versus the run.
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Coach of the Year
DF: Robert Saleh
With Aaron Rodgers in the building, Robert Saleh’s Jets will win the AFC East and Saleh will capture Coach of the Year. It almost seems too predictable…
HA: Mike McDaniel
The future is now, and offensive savant Mike McDaniel is leading the charge. The 40-year-old coach dazzled in his first year in Miami. It cannot be understated how much he (along with Tyreek Hill) helped in the development of Tua Tagovailoa. With another year to ‘cook’, McDaniel will likely have even more surprises in store for unsuspecting defenses. The Dolphins have a chance to win big this year, and McDaniel should receive a ton of credit if that happens.
JF: Bill Belichick
Nobody is expecting anything of the Patriots this year. Most sportsbooks have them finishing dead-last in the AFC East. This is surely how Bill Belichick will want it. Despite a roster lacking in elite talent or big-name recognition, he’ll engineer a spectacular run to the playoffs. Whether the Patriots succeed from that point on or not is moot. The mere ability in even getting the team to that point is what I’d be impressed by.
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Rushing & Receiving Leaders
DF: Nick Chubb & Justin Jefferson
Since 2019, Chubb’s second season, this is where he has finished on the rushing leaderboard: 2nd, 7th, 2nd, and 3rd.
Since 2020, Jefferson’s rookie season, this is where he has finished on the receiving leaderboard: 4th, 2nd, and 1st…both Chubb and Jefferson will finish No. 1 in 2023.
HA: Nick Chubb & Tyreek Hill
Not sure how you can bet against Nick Chubb to lead the league in rushing. Last year’s leader, Josh Jacobs, may not even be on the field in Week 1. Derrick Henry will be in the mix, but is coming off leading the league in carries in three of the last four seasons. I consider Chubb the league’s purest runner, and he has a chance to completely dominate the backfield with Kareem Hunt out of the mix.
Justin Jefferson should be the favorite to pace the league in receiving yards, though the Vikings WR room should be improved with Jordan Addison in town. That could lead to Jefferson getting a slightly reduced target share — just enough for Tyreek Hill to take advantage. Hill was unbelievable last year (1,710 receiving yards), and did so without his staring QB for basically five games.
JF: Nick Chubb & JaMarr Chase
Cleveland’s passing attack might still be a work in progress with Deshaun Watson shaking some of the rest off of his arm. Hand the ball to Chubb, run behind a big offensive line, and let him do some damage. Assuming Burrow is fully healthy, the connection he has with Chase is something few in this league can replicate. I can envision this former LSU Tiger usurping the crown from another (Justin Jefferson) as the leading receiver in this league.
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Comeback Player of the Year
DF: Damar Hamlin
The moment Hamlin takes the field in a regular season game, this award will be locked up.
HA: Damar Hamlin
Not sure how you can pick anyone else. Second place vote goes to T.J. Watt, who will have a monster season after being limited last year.
JF: Damar Hamlin
This seems like a pretty straightforward acknowledgement.
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Offensive Player of the Year
DF: Christian McCaffrey
In 10 starts with the Niners last season following the trade from Carolina, CMC scored 10 touchdowns and accumulated 1,210 yards. Entering his first full season in San Francisco, I am expecting McCaffrey to put up insane numbers — 1,900+ total yards and 20+ TDs.
HA: Tyreek Hill
Hill takes home OPOY honors after becoming the first player in NFL history to record over 2,000 receiving yards in a season. It is set in stone.
JF: Joe Burrow
Bet on Burrow to be a beast this year. Cincinnati has the look of a team which can compete for a Super Bowl. With Josh Allen and the Bills slightly stalling, there’s room at the top for Burrow to compete head-to-head with Patrick Mahomes.
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Defensive Player of the Year
DF: T.J. Watt
Watt will bounce back from an injury-plagued season to win his second Defensive Player of the Year. Two years ago, Watt led the NFL with 22.5 sacks en route to his first DPOY win. The year prior, Watt paced the league with 15.0 sacks and was the runner-up. It’s hard to go against the young star.
HA: Micah Parsons
There is no player quite like Micah Parsons. The do-it-all Cowboy has been a complete monster since joining the league. In just two years, Parsons has a Defensive Rookie of the Year award, two first-team All-Pro nods, and two second-place Defensive Player of the Year finishes. He takes the leap from ‘bridesmaid’ this season and captures his first DPOY award.
JF: Myles Garrett
Garrett is coming off back-to-back seasons in which he’s notched 16.0 sacks. As he approaches the apex prime of his career, one could total envision Garrett going off with a 20.0 sack year. He’s certainly talented enough to pull off the feat. As is the case with any player, Garrett just has to stay healthy.
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Most Valuable Player
DF: Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes is in a class of his own. Kansas City’s superstar is going to secure his second MVP in a row, and third overall, in dominant fashion. No. 15 will throw for 5,100 yards with 44 TD passes. Christian McCaffrey will finish 2nd, with Trevor Lawrence finishing rounding out the podium.
HA: Trevor Lawrence
Patrick Mahomes is an easy pick for this every year. The KC quarterback will put up monster numbers for a Chiefs team that will almost certainly finish with one of the best records in the league. However, MVP has always been a narrative-driven award, and voters rarely like to vote for the same player twice in a row. Looking at a team that can make a leap, the Jaguars certainly have a chance to do so. And, they’re led by a young, star QB who has a chance to put up huge numbers. After a dreadful rookie campaign just two years ago, Lawrence takes home MVP honors with a 5,000-yard, 40-TD season.
JF: Joe Burrow
Notice a trend here? I’m thinking the Bengals are going to have a special season. If that’s going to be the case, it’ll have Burrow going off for some gigantic numbers.
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AFC Championship Game
DF: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Boring, I know. I see the Bengals and Chiefs meeting in the AFC Championship for the third year in a row. The two powers have split the first two games — and this one will be yet another classic. Cincinnati will make a run in the first half and enter the break with a 13-point lead. Mahomes will lead Kansas City down the field with a chance to win in the final moments of regulation, but an untimely fumble by Travis Kelce will end Kansas City’s quest to repeat.
HA: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City Chiefs
2023 MVP Trevor Lawrence facing off against 2022 MVP Patrick Mahomes. With all due respect to the other great QB’s in the league, this could be the matchup that defines the NFL for the next decade. Both offenses can score at will, but time and time again we’ve seen the defenses step up in these AFC Championship games. With that said, the Chiefs have the best defender on either team in Chris Jones. Jones collects three sacks en route to Kansas City’s fourth AFC Championship in five years.
JF: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Shocker! Playoff fatigue and mental fatigue from various recent playoff runs will see the Chiefs bow out earlier than expected. The upstart Jags will announce themselves as a true contender within the AFC. Unfortunately for Doug Pederson and co., the Bengals are on a special quest of their own.
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NFC Championship Game
DF: Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers
Just like in the AFC, we have a rematch in the NFC. These two teams were clearly the best the NFC had to offer in 2022, and it was unfortunate that injuries ruined the NFC Championship Game. This time around, the Niners will be at home — and led by Sam Darnold at quarterback. In a low-scoring game, Darnold will orchestrate a touchdown drive late in the 3rd quarter to put San Francisco up for good. As the clock hits zero, the scoreboard will read: 49ers 23, Eagles 14.
HA: San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints
After the Eagles were shockingly upset in the Wild Card round, the 49ers cruised to a win in their first playoff matchup against the No. 7 seed Giants. Meanwhile, the Saints and Cowboys met on the other side of the bracket with Taysom Hill icing the game on an overtime touchdown run much to the pleasure of the home crowd in the Superdome. This sets up a matchup between the 49ers and Saints. While Carr would surely feel at home in Northern California, the 49ers defense would prove to be too much as they take down the Saints on the way to another Super Bowl berth.
JF: Seattle Seahawks vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Battle of the birds. Both of these teams are stacked on both sides of the ball. We could see this becoming a very competitive contest. However, in this hypothetical case, I’m rolling with the experience of Pete Carroll in this one. Seattle’s defense is much improved from where it once was, and the influx of talent — plus Carroll’s defensive chops — seem to cater to Seattle in this showdown.
Image Source: Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images
DF: Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Francisco 49ers
A rematch of Super Bowl XIII. This time around, the game will feature two stacked teams who have both lost the Super Bowl in recent years. Unfortunately for the Niners, the third time won’t be the charm. The Bengals will have too much firepower offensively for San Francisco to keep up. Bengals win the Lombardi, 27-21.
HA: San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
We got another rematch, this time we’re running back Super Bowl LIV. The 49ers have arguably the most talented team outside of QB. But, the Chiefs have the most talented QB. Kansas City doesn’t need a double-digit fourth quarter comeback to claim this one. Chiefs win 28-17 with Mahomes capturing his third Super Bowl win.
JF: Seattle Seahawks vs. Cincinnati Bengals
It’s Burrow time, baby. While Seattle will be the more talented team, Cincinnati will have both the best quarterback and the best player on the field. I believe in Burrow’s talents so much so that the Bengals will come away with a narrow 30-27 victory.
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