Is it finally Buffalo’s year? Photo credit: USA-Today Sports/Mark Konezny
Let the hype begin.
The chatter, the office pools, the trash-talking – it all starts this week.
Can Kansas City repeat as Super Bowl champions?
Will Philadelphia get back to the big game?
Is it finally Buffalo’s year?
Three questions that will soon be answered as the 2023-24 National Football League season kicks off Thursday night when aforementioned Kansas City hosts Detroit.
First let’s look at the big off-season NFL stories.
Aaron Rodgers joined the New York Jets.
The AFC East got a lot more competitive and interesting with the arrival of Rodgers.
The Washington Commanders were finally sold.
NFL owners unanimously approved the sale of the Washington Commanders Dan Snyder to a group led by Josh Harris and including Magic Johnson for a record $6.05 billion. All 32 team owners voted for the sale, which is the highest price paid for a North American professional sports team.
And what’s with running backs not getting the respect they deserve?
Last season, teams averaged 121.6 rushing yards per game, the most since 1987. And they averaged 27.3 rushing attempts per game, the most since 2011, yet NFL franchises were not giving up the loot for running backs.
And oh yeah, for the first time since 1972 the NFL is allowing most players to wear the number zero.
Onto the season ahead.
Let’s start in the American Football Conference (AFC).
And the AFC East to be exact.
Many so called experts and pundits feel this could be the most competitive division this season with the Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. Toss in the always interesting Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots, and these four teams’ records could determine the playoff picture in the AFC.
In terms of strength of scheduling, the Patriots and Dolphins have the first and third toughest schedules in the NFL this season.
Josh Allen and the Bills open their season next Monday night on Prime Time against Rodgers and the Jets at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
The AFC North will be intriguing as well after Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow failed to take a single snap in the preseason following a calf injury sustained in training camp.
Could the Bengals start slow?
If so, Pittsburgh, and its easier schedule, and Cleveland will be right there as well. And we didn’t even mention Baltimore. Could Lamar Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr. find some magic?
As for the AFC West, Patrick Mahomes and KC are the team to beat, but you have to respect what Justin Herbert brings to the Los Angeles Chargers, while Sean Payton is now in charge of Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos.
Trevor Lawrence officially arrived last season, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone not picking Jacksonville to win the AFC South.
Keep in mind Tennessee lost seven straight games to end last season, but still have Derrick Henry. The other two teams in the division are led by rookie quarterbacks. Second overall pick CJ Stroud in Houston, and fourth overall selection Anthony Richardson in Indianapolis.
To the National Football Conference, and first the NFC East.
The Eagles will try to continue to soar and get back to the Super Bowl, but both of their coordinators from last season’s NFC Championship team are now head coaches elsewhere. Still, you have to respect what Jalen Hurts can do in the air and on the ground for Philadelphia.
Somehow, Mike McCarthy is still head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Some feel this could be the season for the Cowboys.
Speaking of NFL head coaches, Welland born Brian Daboll is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year and will try to guide the Giants to an improved record from their (9-7-1) mark last season.
Former Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is now in charge of Washington’s offense, and is someone that demands accountability and respect from his players. We should see more discipline from the Commanders this season.
The San Francisco 49ers and Brock Purdy are the favorites to win the NFC West.
Purdy went 7 and 1 as a starter last season.
Can Geno Smith repeat an improbable 2022-23 season? If so, Seattle will be in the playoff conversation come January.
The LA Rams went from the Super Bowl champs to chumps last season after posting a (5-12) mark. It’s inconceivable the Rams will be any worse in 2023.
Considering Kyler Murray will start the season on the injured list, most feel it’s going to be a long season for the Arizona Cardinals. Sports books are even offering winless season bets on the Cards.
You can’t call them Cinderella, but the Detroit Lions are ‘the’ feel good story of 2023.
The Lions wrapped up last season with an 8-2 record, and haven’t won a divisional championship since 1993.
The Jordan Love era officially begins in Green Bay, while Kirk Cousins takes the reins once again in Minnesota.
Chicago lost 10 straight games to conclude the 2022-23 campaign.
Quick, name the only division in football where every team finished below .500 last year?
Your answer. The NFC South.
Baker Mayfield won the starting quarterback job in Tampa Bay. The other story line in the South involves another QB in Derek Carr who leaves Sin City, Las Vegas Nevada, for the Big Easy, New Orleans, Louisiana.
It should be an interesting season but as of September it appears we could see a repeat Super Bowl as Kansas City will meet Philadelphia on February 11, 2024 at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada.
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.