Our series of NFL preview articles continues with a look at one burning question for all 32 NFL teams heading into the 2023 season.
Even top Super Bowl contenders such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers have some major burning questions. Those who are looking to get into that conversation, including the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets, also have a lot to answer for in 2023.
Without further ado, let’s look at one burning question for every team:
NFL preview: Burning questions for AFC teams
Buffalo Bills: Will drama be the name of the game?
Last season ended in dramatic fashion in Western New York with the Bills putting up a dud at home in the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals. It led to some drama surrounding star wide receiver Stefon Diggs. That did not die down during the offseason with Diggs lamenting the Bills’ playoff struggles over the years. With games against the Jets, Dolphins and Jaguars over the first month of the season, one has to wonder if struggles early on will lead to more drama.
Miami Dolphins: Can Tua Tagovailoa stay healthy?
It was the talk of South Beach last season. Tua Tagovailoa missed four games with multiple concussions. At one point, there was a question about whether the former Alabama star would be able to continue his career. We’re not at that point heading into the season. But it is a burning question for a championship-contending Dolphins team. Tagovailoa, 25, had a breakout third season in the NFL with 25 passing touchdowns against eight interceptions. Miami needs him fully healthy in 2023.
New England Patriots: Has Mac Jones upped his game?
Most reviews from Patriots camp this summer were positive regarding Mac Jones after a disastrous sophomore campaign (14 TD, 11 INT, 84.8 QB rating). This wasn’t all on the former first-round pick in that New England had two inexperienced play callers, Joe Judge and Matt Patricia, heading the offense. Now that the respected Bill O’Brien returns to New England, this has changed. With the best supporting cast he’s had, the onus is now on Jones to prove naysayers wrong. Heck, Bill Belichick’s future in New England may depend on it.
New York Jets: Can offensive line hold up?
Aaron Rodgers is not a question mark. New York also added multiple big-time skill-position players for the newly acquired quarterback. Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense will be one of the best in 2023. Instead, it’s all about offensive line play in front of the aging quarterback. It starts with former first-round pick Mekhi Becton at left tackle. He’s struggled with conditioning issues and has played in just one game since the end of the 2020 season. Rodgers needs protection at this stage of his career. It’s now up to Becton and Co. to provide just that.
Cincinnati Bengals: Can the stars align for Super Bowl run?
Joe Burrow will be on the field Week 1 after the star quarterback suffered a calf injury in the Bengals’ first training camp practice. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is 100% healthy after missing five games to injury last season. These are the two biggest cogs for a championship contending Bengals squad. They both need to be 100% healthy if Cincinnati is going to come out of the ultra-tough AFC North and earn home-field in the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens: How will new wide receivers look?
To say that star Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has the best supporting cast of his career would be an understatement. Baltimore exhausted a first-round pick on talented receiver Zay Flowers. It signed Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. Meanwhile, fellow wide receiver and first-round pick Rashod Bateman returns to 100% after missing all but six games of his sophomore season. The Ravens finally paid Jackson to be their franchise quarterback. The onus is on him to make sweet music with this trio in 2023.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Is Kenny Pickett the real deal?
This 2022 first-round pick was not great in replacing Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie last season (7 TD, 9 INT). He showed some flashes throughout, but consistency was an issue. It now looks like Pickett has made that dramatic Year 2 jump. The youngster led Pittsburgh to touchdowns on all five his preseason drives. Second-year receiver George Pickens looks unstoppable. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is a great safety valve. Meanwhile, Najee Harris is that dual-threat back teams need in the modern NFL. It’s now up to Pickett to prove that he’s the real thing.
Cleveland Browns: Has Dashaun Watson turned the corner?
Watson’s struggles (7 TD, 5 INT) in six games after returning from suspension in his first season with the Browns were understandable. He sat out the entire 2021 campaign in Houston and was working in an entirely new offense. Heading into the 2023 season, there are no more excuses. Cleveland has built this team to win now. Watson is playing under a fully guaranteed contract. The Browns’ success is all on the embattled quarterback. With the likes of running back Nick Chubb and wide receiver Amari Cooper, the Browns’ offense should succeed. If it doesn’t, more questions will be raised about Watson.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Can the defense hold up?
Jacksonville’s offense will once again be dynamic with Trevor Lawrence leading the charge. He took that next step as a sophomore and will once again lead a top-10 unit. The question here is whether the Jaguars’ defense can take that next step. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Travon Walker struggled as a rookie (10 QB hits, 3.5 sacks). Fellow edge guy and former top-10 pick Josh Allen has not taken his game to elite status. Both of these guys will need to step up and do their part with the Jaguars’ secondary among the most underrated in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans: Is Mike Vrabel on the hot seat?
By virtue of retaining Ryan Tannehill as a placeholder, the Titans are making it clear that they plan on contending in the AFC South this season. The decision not to trade impending free agent running back Derrick Henry adds another layer to this. With that said, the Titans’ ceiling seems to be second place in the AFC South given the ascension we’re seeing from Jacksonville. The question now is whether Vrabel will find himself on the hot seat should Tennessee struggle out of the gate. Remember, this team lost its final seven games a season ago after starting 7-3.
Indianapolis Colts: Is Shane Steichen set up to fail?
The same question can be asked of Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. With the Jonathan Taylor drama and the fact that he’s unlikely to play for the Colts again, both Richardson and first-year head coach Shane Steichen could be set up for failure. Indy’s running back group is among the least-talented in the NFL. Its offensive line struggled a season ago. Meanwhile, there’s not a consistent threat in the passing game outside of Michael Pittman Jr.
Houston Texans: Is starting C.J. Stroud a mistake?
The No. 3 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, C.J. Stroud was on and off during the preseason. Despite this, first-year Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans opted to start him over Davis Mills. There are going to be struggles on Stroud’s part as a rookie. That much is clear. However, Houston has a talented defense that should hold up its end of the bargain. Not asking too much from Stroud could set him up for success. Even then, he’s about as green as it gets for a starting quarterback in today’s NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs: Will the Chris Jones situation be settled?
It’s looking more and more like Jones will hold out into the season as the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year finalist seeks a new contract. This is no small thing for a Chiefs team that struggles getting to the quarterback when you take Jones out of the equation. He recorded 15.5 of Kansas City’s 55 sacks last season. Frank Clark (five sacks) and Carlos Dunlap (four sacks) are no longer with the team, either. With games against Jared Goff, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Aaron Rodgers over the first month, this could create some early-season issues for the defending champs.
Los Angeles Chargers: Can they take the next step?
Last season ended in brutal fashion for Brandon Staley’s squad. Los Angeles blew a 27-0 lead against Jacksonville in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs. It represented one of the biggest choke jobs in recent memory. Now heading into the 2023 season, expectations are high in Los Angeles. Star quarterback Justin Herbert just landed a record-breaking contract. He’s a top NFL MVP candidate. The question here is whether the Chargers have that supporting cast to help him. Austin Ekeler struggled on the ground in 2022 (nine games with under 40 yards rushing). Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams missed a combined 11 games. This trio must step up for Herbert.
Las Vegas Raiders: Will second year be better for Josh McDaniels?
Rumors persisted during his rookie season in Vegas that McDaniels could go one-and-done. From an on-field standpoint, it was a complete and utter disaster. The Raiders finished with a 6-11 record with nine of their losses coming by one score. Heading into his second season, McDaniels will now rely on Jimmy Garoppolo to do his thing under center. Defensively, there are still some major issues for a unit that yielded nearly 25 points per game in 2022. If the Raiders do end up struggling, this could be it for McDaniels in Southern Nevada.
Denver Broncos: Is Russell Wilson washed?
To say that Wilson was a shell of his former self in the future Hall of Famer’s first season with the Broncos would be an understatement. He threw just 16 touchdowns passes in 15 starts, boasting a 4-11 record in the process. Wilson’s QB rating of 84.4 was, by far, the worst of his otherwise brilliant career. It led to the firing of head coach Nathaniel Hackett after just 15 games. The Broncos then acquired Sean Payton in a rare trade for a head coach. The decision was made in large part to help Wilson return to form in 2023. But we really do have to wonder whether the veteran is washed. Ups and downs during the preseason add another layer to this.
NFL preview: Burning questions for NFC teams
Philadelphia Eagles: Are they facing Super Bowl hangover?
Five of the past eight Super Bowl losers went on to miss the playoffs the following season. We’re not in any way suggesting that Philadelphia won’t be playing postseason football in January. The team is just too talented. The question here is whether the Eagles can get out of the NFC for a second consecutive season. Their win over the 49ers in last season’s NFC Championship Game was clouded by an early-game injury to San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys are much more talented than they were a season ago. It’s not going to be a cake walk for the Eagles in the NFC this season.
Dallas Cowboys: Can Dak Prescott turn it around?
For the first time in his otherwise solid career in Big D, Dak Prescott was a weakness for the Cowboys last season. He led the NFL with 15 interceptions despite missing five games to injury. For the second consecutive season, Prescott came up small against the hated San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Playoffs. That included throwing two more interceptions in a 19-12 loss. Dallas has built a contender around Prescott. It’s now time for the franchise quarterback to prove that he’s the long-term solution for a team that has not earned a spot in the conference championship since January of 1996.
New York Giants: Is Daniel Jones a franchise guy?
Jones is now the 11th highest-paid quarterback in the NFL on a per-year basis after signing a four-year, $160 million contract with New York during the spring. Whether Jones is anywhere near a top-11 quarterback is very much in question. He led the Giants to a surprise playoff appearance last season, but also threw just 15 touchdowns in 16 games. The two seasons prior saw Jones combine for 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense ranked in the middle of the pack at 21.5 points per game in 2022. Can Jones prove his worth as an elite quarterback in 2023? New York’s success could very well depend on it.
Washington Commanders: Is this Ron Rivera’s final season?
Expectations are high for the Commanders heading into 2023. Young quarterback Sam Howell looks very much the part. Washington has talent at the skill positions on offense and on all three levels defensively. Meanwhile, the ill-fated Daniel Snyder era is now a thing of the past. None of this means that Rivera isn’t on the hot seat heading into Week 1. He’s posted a mediocre 22-27-1 record in three seasons with the Commanders. Meanwhile, the veteran head coach has no built-in relationship with new Commanders owner Josh Harris. Struggles in 2023 will lead to Rivera’s departure from the organization.
Minnesota Vikings: How important was Dalvin Cook?
Cook has to be considered one of the most productive skill-position players in Vikings history. It’s one of the reasons many were surprised that Minnesota moved on from the four-time Pro Bowler for financial reasons. We’re also intrigued to see how Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense does without him. Dating back to 2019, Minnesota is 35-22 when Cook plays. That very same span has the team at 3-6 when Cook is sidelined. The onus is going to be on Alexander Mattison to perform well as a RB1 in order to create balance for Cousins in the passing game. Whether that happens? Well, it’s a major burning question.
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Detroit Lions: Can they meet expectations?
Detroit heads into the 2023 season with its highest set of expectations since Barry Sanders’ heyday back in the mid 1990s. Jared Goff is coming off a brilliant 2022 campaign. The likes of wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs provide elite-level skill-position talent. Having won seven of nine to end last season, expectations are lofty for Detroit in the NFC North. Can the team’s defense step up after yielding the fifth-most points in the NFL last season? Can Goff prove 2022 wasn’t a fluke? Is head coach Dan Campbell the long-term answer? These are some huge questions relating to the up-and-coming team.
Green Bay Packers: Jordan Love or Jordan bust?
What we saw from Love during the preseason was pretty darn special. He showed a great relationship with young receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Green Bay’s offense was clicking on all cylinders with the former first-round pick throwing three touchdowns against zero interceptions. He did not look inexperienced or rattled. That’s all fine and dandy. But we’re talking about a youngster who enters 2023 as only the third full-time Packers starting quarterback since 1991. The other two — Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre — are considered all-time great signal callers. There’s a ton of pressure on Love. We’ll see soon enough if he’s up to the task.
Chicago Bears: Can Justin Fields improve more?
The embattled Justin Fields is coming off a record-breaking season on the ground in which he ran for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. It led to general manager Ryan Poles and Co. doing everything possible to provide him more help in the passing game during the offseason. That included acquiring Pro Bowl wide receiver D.J. Moore. As good as Fields was running the ball last season, he was equally as inconsistent through the air (2,242 passing yards, 17 TD, 11 INT in 15 games). The onus is now on this third-year quarterback to take that next step through the air. Chicago’s ability to contend in what promises to be a wide-open NFC North will rely on it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Why not Kyle Trask?
Tampa Bay is in a tricky situation following the retirement of Tom Brady. In a vacuum, the team shouldn’t be considered talented enough to compete for a playoff spot. From a broader perspective, the Bucs won the NFC South with an 8-9 record last season. It is one of the weakest divisions in football. That’s likely why Tampa Bay opted to start the season with veteran Baker Mayfield at QB1. Unfortunately, this decision could come back to haunt the Bucs. They need to see what they have in Trask, who boasts more upside than his older counterpart. Short of things spiraling early and Trask replacing Mayfield, Tampa will head into the 2024 offseason without a clear long-term answer at quarterback.
Carolina Panthers: Is Bryce Young set up to fail?
Carolina’s offensive line was absolutely atrocious in front of the No. 1 pick during the preseason. In fact, Bryce Young found himself sacked three times on just 24 drop backs. He was hit a total of nine times. That’s not the definition of setting a young quarterback up to succeed. Carolina will utilize the quick passing game under first-year head coach Frank Reich. It also has some capable skill position players, including the consistent Adam Thielen and an underrated running back in that of Miles Sanders. In short, Reich is going to have to tailor his offense to take into account an inexperienced quarterback and lackluster offensive line. If not, Young will struggle big time as a rookie.
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New Orleans Saints: Is Derek Carr the solution?
Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston proved that they were not the answers at quarterback following Drew Brees’ retirement after the 2020 season. It’s why general manager Mickey Loomis went out there and handed Derek Carr a four-year, $150 million contract in free agency despite a down 2022 season with the Raiders (24 TD, 14 INT). Carr was exceptional in the action he saw during the preseason. He seems to fit offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael’s system to a T. Can Carr overcome the struggles we saw last season and prove he’s not only the short-term answer in the Bayou, but also the long-term solution? New Orleans’ ability to compete for a playoff spot will depend on it.
Atlanta Falcons: Just how good is Bijan Robinson?
Very good. That’s the obvious answer. Atlanta wouldn’t have bucked the trend and selected a running back in the top 10 if the team didn’t think Robinson was a generational talent. He proved this at Texas and was dominant during the summer at Falcons training camp. The larger question here is if Robinson can make such a big impact that it helps young quarterback Desmond Ridder prove he can be the long-term solution under center. With tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Drake London joining Robinson, the talent is there for the Falcons to compete in the NFC South immediately. Robinson’s ability to dominate NFL competition out of the gate will play a big role in this.
San Francisco 49ers: What is Brock Purdy’s ceiling?
Head coach Kyle Shanahan is a believer in this former seventh-round pick. What Purdy did last season in leading San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game was nothing short of extraordinary. The 49ers put up an average of north of 33 points per game in Purdy’s five starts. They have elite skill position players at nearly every turn. This offense can be dynamic in 2023. It’s now all about Purdy proving that his rookie season wasn’t a fluke. We’re talking about a 6-foot-1 quarterback who was selected with the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He doesn’t have a ton of arm talent. Meanwhile, the sample size was small last season. In reality, San Francisco’s ability to get over the hump and win its first Super Bowl since 1995 will depend on what Purdy does under center. No pressure there.
Seattle Seahawks: How will the rookies look?
Rookie No. 5 pick Devon Witherspoon has already been ruled out for the season opener with a hamstring injury. Fellow first-round pick, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, just underwent wrist surgery and is questionable to go. Last season saw Seattle rely a lot on its rookies to earn a surprise playoff appearance. Heading into 2023, the onus is going to be on its most-recent draft class to narrow the gap between Seattle and the hated 49ers. Both Witherspoon and Smith-Njigba have the talent. It’s now up to them to remain healthy and make an immediate impact.
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Los Angeles Rams: Is this Sean McVay’s swan song?
There was some talk early this past offseason that McVay would walk away from the sidelines. He’s seemingly interested in taking some time off to work in the media and spend more time with his young family. Even after an injury-plagued 2022 campaign in which the Rams won just five games, McVay opted to return. The question now is whether he’ll be with Los Angeles after the 2023 season. The Rams blew up their roster. They are seen as one of the least-talented teams in the NFL. Yet another down season could spell the end of the McVay tenure, dramatically changing the future of the Rams’ franchise in the process.
Arizona Cardinals: Are they tanking for Caleb Williams?
Through the first two games of his junior season, the reigning Heisman winner has looked very much the part of a franchise guy (9 TD, 0 INT). Williams is seen as a generational type of talent and will be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. It’s now all about teams positioning themselves to land him by tanking. The Cardinals are among those teams. Former No. 1 pick Kyler Murray’s future in Arizona is in question. He’s sidelined to a torn ACL. In turn, the Cards might sit him out the entire season in order to avoid injury guarantees on the quarterback’s contract. With Joshua Dobbs and Clayton Tune competing for the starting job, it’s rather clear that the Cardinals are tanking. How bad is it going to get?