2023 NFL predictions: Early picks for Super Bowl, MVP, breakouts

ByESPN NFL Experts ESPN logo
Friday, February 17, 2023

The NFL offseason is here. And even though the Kansas City Chiefs were just crowned the Super Bowl LVII champions on Sunday, we are already looking ahead to next year's title game in Las Vegas -- and how the 2023 season might play out.

There is still a lot of change coming, and teams will improve or decline over the coming months.NFL free agencyofficially begins on March 15, roughly six weeks beforethe league holds the2023 NFL draft. But as of now,Caesars Sportsbook has the Chiefs (+550) as the favorites for Super Bowl LVIII, followed by the San Francisco 49ers (+600).

So what should we expect next season? Who will win the Super Bowl and MVP? Which teams could be the stories of the season? Who are the top breakout candidates to watch? We asked a panel of 10 NFL experts for their early picks.

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Early Super Bowl picks | Early MVP picks

Most interesting teams| Breakout season

What's your early Super Bowl LVIII pick?

Stephania Bell, fantasy football analyst:49ers over Bengals. I thought this would be the Super Bowl LVII matchup, so it's just being deferred a year. Both teams have the rosters, coaches and recent playoff experience to navigate the path to Las Vegas, as long as they can each stay healthy.

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst:Bengals over 49ers. Coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have the roster depth and multiple options at quarterbackto make a run, but I'm betting on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrowand Lou Anarumo's defense here to win the title out in Vegas.

Mike Clay, fantasy footballanalyst:Eagles over Bengals. The Eagles' 2023 schedule will be much tougher than it was during their Super Bowl run this season, but this is a legitimately good roster that figures to return a majority of its star/cornerstone players. That includes Jalen Hurts, who exploded into a superstar in his second year as an NFL starter. Similarly, the Bengals have most of the core still in place for 2023, as well as an elite, franchise QB in Burrow.

Tristan H. Cockcroft,fantasy football analyst:Bengals over 49ers. The AFC is a little more up-in-the-air for me, with as many as six teams looking like pretty good candidates to win, whereas the 49ers are one of the few truly well-rounded NFC teams. But I consider it Burrow's year to finally win.

Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst:Chiefs over 49ers. Sure, this might seem like an obvious choice, but the 49ers have been to two consecutive NFC Championship Games only to lose to teams that were simply healthier than they were at the time. There is a big decision coming at quarterback, but Shanahan has proved he can win with Jimmy Garoppolo or Brock Purdy. And the Chiefs ... well, they're the Chiefs. As long asPatrick Mahomesand coach Andy Reid are there, it's foolish to think of anyone else as the Super Bowl favorite from the AFC.

Eric Moody, fantasy football analyst:Chiefs over 49ers. Having won their second Super Bowl in four years, the Chiefs are hard to fade withMahomes under center. Although the 49ers have the roster they need, having a healthy starting quarterback for an entire season could transform them into a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Jason Reid, senior Andscape writer:Chiefs over 49ers. Mahomes is the league's best player, and both Reid and general manager Brett Veach are at the top of their fields. The 49ers' roster is loaded, and Shanahan will get it figured out at quarterback.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front office insider:Bengals over Cowboys. Look forBurrow and the Bengals to take advantage of playing an AFC title game at home, which will buoy them into the Super Bowl. Dallas has a championship defense, and adding a wide receiver likeMichael Thomas -- a potentialsalary-cap casualty in New Orleans -- could help its balance.

Seth Walder, sports analytics writer:Dolphins over Eagles. When the Dolphins had Tua Tagovailoa on the field this season, they generated 0.13 expected points added per play -- slightly better than the Bills did with Josh Allen on the field (0.12). Now they added Vic Fangio to fix a defense that already has some star power on it? Sign me up.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Chiefs over 49ers. I'll simplify this: The Chiefs have the best QB in the league, and the 49ers have the best roster when examining the non-QB players in place.

Who's your pick to be next season's MVP?

Bell:Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals. After a rough opening week (and let's remember he was coming off a preseason ruptured appendix), Burrow returned to his calm and cool playmaking style, ultimately leading his team to eight straight wins in the back half of the regular season. If he starts next season fully healthy -- which would be the first time in three years -- he could put together a record year.

Bowen:Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers. Herbert finished with 4,739 passing yards in 2022, the second most in the NFL behindMahomes. With a new offensive system in '23 under coordinator Kellen Moore, Herbert should have a stronger play-action/boot presence in the offense and see more vertical concepts, putting his physical tools to use.

Clay:Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles. If the Eagles make another Super Bowl run, Hurts will undoubtedly be in the MVP race. He was a contender this past season and is set up for yet another huge year thanks, in part, to an elite offensive line and group of targets led by A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Hurts' dual-threat role has allowed 38 passing and 23 rushing TDs over the past two seasons, and it's possible we've yet to see the 24-year-old's best work.

Cockcroft:Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals. He has been outstanding in all three NFL seasons, has among the best groups of receivers in the league and has beaten defending MVP/Super Bowl champ (Mahomes) in high-leverage situations multiple times. Need I go on? As with my Super Bowl pick, I think it's his time to shine. For the second straight year, the league's MVP will also win the Super Bowl after such a long time without it happening.

Miller:Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals. It's rare for a player to repeat as MVP, so I'm going away from the obvious choice of Mahomes and looking at the second-best quarterback in the NFL. Burrow has the targets around him that Allen, Herbert and even Hurts might not have in 2023. With receiversJa'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd all on board for another run, Burrow is a lock to be on the shortlist for MVP.

Moody:Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles. Hurts' 2022 season was pivotal as it determined he was capable of being a franchise quarterback. During the regular season, he surpassed expectations. In the Super Bowl, he had 304 passing yards and 70 rushing yards against the Chiefs, and he should be even more calibrated with his supporting castin 2023. A unique talent, Hurts also benefits from the Eagles' creative yet aggressive offense.

Reid:Patrick Mahomes, QB,Chiefs. One of only 10 players to win at least two AP MVP awards, Mahomes was a big-play artist when he won his first in 2018 and a methodical tactician in earning his second this past season. There's a wide gap between Mahomes and the rest of the pack.

Tannenbaum:Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers. Getting back left tackle Rashawn Slater, who played in just three games in 2022, will allow Herbert to take the next step in his career. I'm predicting the Chargers to win the AFC West, too.

Walder:Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs. I thought about Herbert, but Mahomes has to be the most likely. Sure, tight endTravis Kelce is getting older, and Orlando Brown Jr.is a free agent. But you have to think the Chiefs find a way to add a receiver this offseason. And besides, Mahomes already won an MVP without a great wide receiver room.

Yates: Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals. There are a handful of players who all inspire great confidence here. However, I'll go with Burrow, given the way he finished this regular season and the likelihood that the top-tier receiving talent in Cincinnati is back and improved next year. ImagineChase with another offseason under his belt?

Who is the most interesting team of the offseason?

Bell:Raiders. It's simple. Who's going to take over at the helm with the departure of Derek Carr? All-pro receiverDavante Adams and running backJosh Jacobs(assuming he returns) are already waiting in the wings. Besides, wouldn't the Raiders love to make a run at the Super Bowl being hosted in their own stadium next year?

Bowen:Jets. It's the quarterback. Potentially adding Aaron RodgersorCarrcould change the dynamic of a Jets team featuring young, impact talent at several premium positions.

Clay:Lions. I fully expect Detroit to be the most popular sleeper team this offseason. Coach Dan Campbell has the franchise headed in the right direction, and while Jared Goff's career output has been inconsistent, he has a terrific offensive supporting cast. If the front office makes a few additions to a defense that has struggled for years, the Lions can make a run at the NFC North crown.

Cockcroft:Lions. The Lions were a surprisingly competitive team last season and are a sleeper contender for a deep playoff run depending upon how their draft and free agency run shakes out. They have two of the top 18 picks in the draft and a pretty solid salary-cap situation, so I'm curious to see what kinds of reinforcements they bring in as they attempt to take the next step.

Miller:Packers. With the ongoing Rodgers saga, the Packers are absolutely fascinating. Will he return? Do the Packers want to take another approach under center? Who would step up to take over for the 39-year-old quarterback if he is traded? The Packers have a major decision at that position that will no doubt shape what many other teams do as the dominos fall into place.

Moody:Texans. While the Texans hit rock bottom offensively and defensively last season, DeMeco Ryans, another young former player turned coach, makes them intriguing. As a former 49ers assistant coach, Ryan is bringing in pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik and others from San Francisco's staff. So while it will be interesting to see who will be the Texans' starting quarterback, the good news is that Houston seems to be on the rise with a lot of talent already on the roster.

Reid:49ers. The 49ers have so much talent and depth, and Shanahan is as good as it gets with the X's and O's. If not for Purdy's elbow injury in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers' season might have ended in Super Bowl LVII. They have uncertainty about only that one position, but if the 49ers get the QB room figured out, watch out.

Tannenbaum:49ers. It's all about the quarterback position, because you really can make an argument that any of Garoppolo, Purdy orTrey Lanceshould be their starter. Garoppolo is a free agent again, but they brought him back last summer, and he ended up playing after Lance's injury. This is a fascinating situation.

Walder:Bears. Roll your eyes all you want, but choosing whether to keep Justin Fields and trade the No. 1 overall pick, or take another QB at No. 1 and trade Fields is a real decision. And it's a tough one. That choice will have massive ramifications and set the direction of the franchise for years to come.

Yates: Packers. We don't know what's going to happen withRodgers, but that decision could swing multiple teams' fortunes for 2023 and beyond. That, of course, includes the Packers. Beyond that, Green Bay has yet to make a decision this offseason on the fifth-year option for Jordan Love. It's not an easy one to make when he has hardly played.

Make your pick now: Who's going to have a breakout 2023 season?

Bell: Jameson Williams, WR, Lions. The exciting rookie out of Alabama didn't make his season debut until Week 13 after recovering from atorn ACL,but he gave us a glimpse of what could be in Week 14 when he scored a 41-yard TD against the Vikings in just his second NFL game. With more recovery time under his belt and a chance to work with the team through OTAs and training camp this year, Williams will be a star in a potent Lions offense.

Bowen:George Pickens, WR, Steelers. Pickens has all the traits of a boundary receiver who can be isolated to win with his frame, ball skills and three-level ability. Given another year of development and with quarterback Kenny Pickett, Pickens should play a difference-making role in '23. He had801 receiving yards in his rookie campaign.

Clay:Justin Fields, QB, Bears.This one feels like cheating after we saw Fields experience a minibreakout (certainly from a fantasy standpoint) during the 2022 season, but he's a candidate to make a giant leap in his third pro season. He has shown tremendous upside as a rusher (QB-high 1,143 rushing yards and 7.1 yards per carry in 15 games last season), but his supporting cast has not been particularly good and has led to underwhelming passing production and massive sack numbers (league-high 55 in 2022). With Chase Claypool, Darnell MooneyandCole Kmetin place, and perhaps a few offseason additions coming, Fields will be better positioned to put it all together in 2023.

Cockcroft:Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars. Perhaps he's also too obvious after steering his team into the playoffs' second round as an NFL sophomore, but I think Lawrence has another significant step forward to make. And his strong finish to 2022 signals that's probably on the way in 2023. Lawrence has a solid set of receivers, and that's before considering the possibility that Calvin Ridley returns to give added depth.

Miller:Rashod Bateman, WR, Ravens. The hiring of Todd Monken to run the Ravens' offense was great news for Bateman. Monken, while the offensive coordinator at Georgia, set his wide receivers up for success with a ton of slants and inside routes. That's the specialty of Bateman, who has flashed WR1 potential. If healthy, he is primed for a 1,200-yard season.

Moody:Drake London, WR, Falcons. London is a huge receiver who can separate from defenders and make contested catches, and he will be one of the Falcons' most important players in 2023 with Desmond Ridder under center. In his past six games, London averaged 8.6 targets and 76.2 receiving yards, giving us a glimpse of what is to come.

Reid:Trey Lance, QB, 49ers. After having multiple surgeries on his right ankle, Lance is expected to be ready for OTAs. Purdy won't be, though, as he recovers from elbow surgery. Assuming the 49ers move on fromGaroppolo, the path should be clear for Lance to be the team's Week 1 starter for the second straight season. Let's not forget that the 49ers traded up in the 2021 draft to take Lance third overall. With this roster, Lance could shine.

Tannenbaum: Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys.Pollard made the Pro Bowl in 2022, but I expect him to level up even more next season, as Dallas could move on from Ezekiel Elliott. Pollard has a tremendous skill set and should burst onto the national scene behind a really good offensive line (when it's healthy).

Walder:Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE,Texans. Okoronkwo flashed with a 19% pass rush win rate off the edge (13th-best) on a bad Houston team, yielding five sacks. He's a free agent now, and in a better situation where opponents are forced to pass more often and he's getting more playing time, he could have a late breakout.

Yates: Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons. All right, this might be a mayhem pick, but I'm trying to will it into existence. With improved quarterback play, there is simply no way that Pitts' production can be close to what it was in 2022 (just 356 yards and two TDs). I won't give up on a player with his raw talent, and I think a massive 2023 is in store.

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