NFL team previews 2023: Predictions, sleepers, depth charts - ESPN

UniqueThis 124 September 4, 2023

The 2023 NFL season kicks off Thursday night, when the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs host the Lions (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

Week 1 then continues on Sunday with 14 exciting matchups -- including the Cowboys visiting the Giants on "Sunday Night Football" (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). The Bills head a little south to face the Jets to round out the slate on "Monday Night Football," which you can catch at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC and ESPN+.

To welcome back football, NFL Nation reporters identified strengths and weaknesses of all 32 teams, NFL analyst Matt Bowen named a fantasy sleeper you should consider, analytics writer Seth Walder made 32 bold predictions and ESPN's Stats & Information department gave a stat to know for every team heading into the season. In addition, you'll find the chances for every team to win its division and make the playoffs, projected wins on the season and the strength of schedule. Plus, depth charts, schedules and rosters for every team.

This is everything you need to know for the start of the season, which will conclude Feb. 11 at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. The ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) ranked every team from 1 to 32 based on how it projects the season to play out. The Chiefs start us off at No. 1:

Jump to a team:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

1. Kansas City Chiefs

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC West: 56%
Chances to make the playoffs: 77%
Projected wins: 10.6
Strength of schedule: Second hardest

What do the Chiefs do the best?

Score points. The Chiefs led the league in scoring last season and show no signs of slowing down. In fact, the offense might be improved. New offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor played well in camp and the preseason and appear to be an upgrade from last season. The Chiefs are deep with playmakers at wide receiver, and with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and Andy Reid calling the plays, the Chiefs again look potent. -- Adam Teicher

What is the Chiefs' biggest weakness?

Pass rush. The Chiefs last season were second in the league in sacks. But Chris Jones' holdout continues while another of their top pass-rushers, Charles Omenihu, was suspended by the league for the first six games because of a violation of the league's personal conduct policy. The Chiefs still have some players capable of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, most notably end George Karlaftis. But do they have enough to generate consistent pressure? -- Teicher

Stat to know: To illustrate how important Jones is to the Chiefs' defense, let's take a look at the numbers in the past five seasons with and without Jones on the field -- according to NFL Next Gen stats. When he plays, the QBR of opponents is lower (52), the defense's pressure percentage is higher (35%) and third-down conversions are 10% lower (38%).

Fantasy sleeper candidate: WR Justyn Ross. Take a shot on Ross late because he could develop a role in one of the league's most explosive passing offenses. And Ross has all the physical tools to win perimeter matchups for quarterback Mahomes. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Bold prediction for 2023: CB Trent McDuffie will make the Pro Bowl. In 2022, McDuffie ranked 10th among outside corners with at least 300 coverage snaps in yards per coverage snap allowed (0.9). That's a promising sign for a player entering his second season. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

2. Buffalo Bills

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC East: 48%
Chances to make the playoffs: 74%
Projected wins: 10.5
Strength of schedule: Third hardest

What do the Bills do the best?

Stay in games. Since 2019, the Bills have finished with the best points margin per game (8.4), which means not only is Buffalo winning by a significant margin but also losing close games, making outlier games like the playoff loss to the Bengals stand out. The Bills are strong on offense behind Josh Allen, but the defense has allowed the fewest passing yards per game since 2019 (200.8), which will be tested with multiple defenders coming off injuries. -- Alaina Getzenberg

What is the Bills' biggest weakness?

Offensive line. The depth on the Bills' line has taken multiple hits with tackle Brandon Shell deciding to retire and tackle Tommy Doyle suffering what coach Sean McDermott called a "season-ending injury" in the second preseason game. The team did bring in a reinforcement, signing veteran Germain Ifedi, and liked what it saw from young linemen Ryan Van Demark and Alec Anderson, but the question remains if the work done will be enough as keeping Allen healthy is the team's top priority. -- Getzenberg

Stat to know: Since Stefon Diggs joined the Bills in 2020, Allen's career numbers have improved. His Total QBR went from 50 to 71 and his completion percentage rose from 56% to 65%.

Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB Damien Harris. Harris has the potential to emerge as the primary goal-line back for the high-scoring Buffalo offense. Even with Allen seeing designed carries in the red zone, Harris is a physical runner who could bring touchdown production to fantasy lineups. -- Bowen

More: Adam Schefter's fantasy football cheat sheet (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: Deonte Harty will finish second among Bills players in receiving yards after Diggs. I remain fascinated by Harty's 2021 numbers, when he posted a ridiculous 2.9 yards per route run and an 81 open score (per ESPN's Receiver Tracking Metrics) with the Saints. Teaming up with Allen should be a good thing for him. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

3. Cincinnati Bengals

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC North: 44%
Chances to make the playoffs: 73%
Projected wins: 10.6
Strength of schedule: 16th hardest

What do the Bengals do the best?

Run an efficient offense. Last season, the Bengals ranked fifth in points per drive (2.34) and red zone efficiency (64.9%), the highest finishes in those categories in the Joe Burrow era. Even when defenses forced Burrow into shorter passes to gain yards, Cincinnati still ended 27.8% of its drives for touchdowns. If the Bengals can create more drives and maintain that touchdown rate, the combo could yield one of the NFL's best offenses. -- Ben Baby

What is the Bengals' biggest weakness?

Offensive line. The Bengals have significantly improved the offensive line over the past two years by putting new starters at all five spots. However, there's still a gap between that unit and the others on the team. Bringing in Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle, moving Jonah Williams to right tackle and a second year of chemistry for the interior players could be crucial to improving a unit that ranked 30th in pass block win rate (50.1%) in 2022. -- Baby

Stat to know: The Bengals signed Brown, a top free agent, this offseason -- and for good reason. Since drafting Burrow in 2020, Cincinnati has had the worst pass block win rate (49.6%) in the NFL. And only the Bears (152) have allowed more sacks than the Bengals (147) in that span.

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Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB Chase Brown. As a complementary options behind starter Joe Mixon, Brown has the contact balance and one-cut running ability to pepper the ball between the tackles. He handled heavy volume during his final season at Illinois. If Mixon were to miss game time, Brown would become a fantasy starter in your lineup, with the ability to release out of the backfield in the pass game. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy football Ultimate Draft Board (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: Burrow will set the new standard for completion percentage over expectation (CPOE), beating out Matt Ryan's plus-8.3% in 2016. Burrow's elite trait is accuracy -- he led the league in CPOE in 2021 with a plus-6%, and he has exceptional receivers yet again. That will allow him to establish the highest mark in the metric, which was developed by NFL Next Gen Stats in 2016. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

4. Philadelphia Eagles

ESPN FPI's chances to win NFC East: 52%
Chances to make the playoffs: 82%
Projected wins: 10.3
Strength of schedule: 12th hardest

What do the Eagles do the best?

Put defenses in a bind. With quarterback Jalen Hurts running an offense based on the run-pass option, he can keep the ball, hand it off or fire a pass depending on what the opponent does post-snap. The results last season tell the tale: Philadelphia finished third in total yards (389.1 per game), fifth in rushing yards (147.6) and ninth in passing yards (241.5 per game). With a supporting cast around Hurts that features A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and now D'Andre Swift, defenses will be hard-pressed to find good answers on how to slow this attack. -- Tim McManus

What is the Eagles' biggest weakness?

Linebacker and safety. The Eagles lost multiple starters at each position in free agency. Nakobe Dean and Zach Cunningham look to be in line to take over at linebacker, while Philly has yet to land on a dance partner to play opposite Reed Blankenship at safety. Young players like Dean and rookie Sydney Brown offer promise, but this is a largely unproven group playing for new coordinator Sean Desai. One area to watch is how this unit performs against the run. The 2022 version of the defense struggled against the ground attack in spurts, including in Super Bowl LVII when it allowed 158 yards on 26 carries (6.1 average) against the Chiefs. -- McManus

Stat to know: In 2022, the Eagles became the first team to have four different players with double-digit sacks in a season since individual sacks became official in 1982. Only Javon Hargrave is not returning of those four players (Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat).

Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB Kenneth Gainwell. The Eagles will continue to use a committee approach in their backfield, but Gainwell has the traits to impact both the run and the pass game. He's a late-round bench stash who could emerge from the pack to see consistent touches. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy football mock draft: 12-team, PPR

Bold prediction for 2023: The Eagles will rank in the top 10 in designed pass rate. They ranked 22nd in the category last season but move up to 12th if we look only at plays run when a game's win probability is between 15% and 85%. In other words, the Eagles want to pass; they just were winning by too much too often last year. This is relevant for Hurts and the Eagles' pass-catchers in fantasy. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

5. San Francisco 49ers

ESPN FPI's chances to win NFC West: 64%
Chances to make the playoffs: 82%
Projected wins: 10.2
Strength of schedule: 13th easiest

What do the 49ers do the best?

Play defense. No disrespect to the Niners' deep supply of offensive talent, but this is a defensive unit that returns eight starters and added elite defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in the offseason. New coordinator Steve Wilks won't change much schematically, but his background working with defensive backs should help improve that group, which some observers consider the potential weakness of this defense. The Niners had a top defense last season, and they'll view anything less than that as a letdown in 2023. -- Nick Wagoner

What is the 49ers' biggest weakness?

The kicking game. As it stands, the Niners don't have a healthy kicker, let alone a proven one. Rookie kicker Jake Moody was excellent in practice during training camp but has struggled in the preseason games and is now dealing with a right quad injury. Given the Niners' Super Bowl expectations, Moody won't have time to ease his way in when healthy. Misses in preseason games don't mean much, but Robbie Gould, the kicker Moody is replacing, had never missed a field goal or extra point in 68 career postseason attempts, a tough act for Moody to follow on a team planning to play in playoff games in January. -- Wagoner

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Stat to know: Quarterback Brock Purdy returns from right elbow surgery to start Week 1. He's a perfect 5-0 in the regular season. Purdy recorded six straight games with multiple passing TDs in the regular season, which is tied for the fourth-longest streak by a 49ers quarterback since the merger. He was especially effective when dealing with pressure last season. From Week 13 on, he had the second-highest completion percentage (58.3%) and second-highest yards per attempt (8.2) when pressured.

Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB Elijah Mitchell. In coach Kyle Shanahan's schemed run game, you can tag Mitchell as one of the league's top backup runners. If Christian McCaffrey were to miss time, Mitchell would move up as an RB2 with his decisive running style and short-area speed to produce rushing totals. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy football draft rankings

Bold prediction for 2023: George Kittle will reach 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since 2019. Despite fewer receiving yards over the past few seasons, Kittle's receiving ability hasn't wavered. In each of the past four seasons, he has ranked in the top two in the receiver tracking metrics' overall score among tight ends. He also established a rapport with Purdy late last season that will pay off in 2023. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

6. Miami Dolphins

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC East: 25%
Chances to make the playoffs: 52%
Projected wins: 9.4
Strength of schedule: Fifth hardest

What do the Dolphins do the best?

Stretch a defense, as any offense with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle should. The Dolphins were tied for most completions of 50 or more yards (eight) in the NFL last season, and probably would have led outright if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remained healthy the entire season. He is back after an offseason focused on his durability, and Miami should be near (or at) the top of the league in this category once again. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

What is the Dolphins' biggest weakness?

Special teams. The Dolphins were one of the worst teams in the NFL at returning and defending returns. Dolphins opponents started drives with the third-best average field position (minus-27.6) in the league last season, which put a strain on their defense. It's an area that must improve this season; and the addition of former All-Pro returner Braxton Berrios should help. -- Louis-Jacques

Stat to know: With the likes of Hill and Waddle downfield, Tagovailoa ranked first in completion percentage (59%) and yards per attempt (15.9) on throws at least 15 yards downfield in 2022. He also converted a first down on 57 passes of at least 15 yards, which was tied for second in the NFL.

Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB De'Von Achane. Achane was working through a shoulder injury in camp, but the rookie has the versatile skill set to be deployed from multiple alignments in coach Mike McDaniel's system, like the run game, fly sweeps and receiving targets. Achane is a sudden mover with playmaking traits. Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. will miss time to start the season. -- Bowen

More: Matt Bowen's favorite draft targets (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: The Dolphins will finish as a top-three defense in terms of EPA allowed per play, even with cornerback Jalen Ramsey expected to miss most of the regular season. With defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Kader Kohou, edge rushers Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb, safety Jevon Holland and linebacker David Long Jr., there's too much talent for Vic Fangio to work with for this defense to not be good. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

7. Los Angeles Chargers

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC West: 27%
Chances to make the playoffs: 52%
Projected wins: 9.4
Strength of schedule: Seventh hardest

What do the Chargers do the best?

Throw the ball. It's apparent that the offense is at its best when enabling quarterback Justin Herbert to utilize his arm strength to throw downfield to any of his playmakers -- all of whom he has established a comfortable connection with. In three seasons, Herbert has thrown for 14,089 yards (the most through a player's first three seasons in NFL history) and 94 touchdowns (the second most through a player's first three seasons in history -- Dan Marino, 98). -- Lindsey Thiry

What is the Chargers' biggest weakness?

Uncertainty at running back and tight end. Running back Austin Ekeler is the established starter, but it's unclear if Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller have made enough progress in their development to provide Ekeler a breather and be relied on to shoulder some load. At tight end, where the Chargers opted not to add depth in the draft, Gerald Everett will be depended on as the starter with Donald Parham Jr. behind him. -- Thiry

Stat to know: The Chargers have high expectations for safety Derwin James Jr. in 2023. He is a versatile defender -- 55% of his snaps last season came at safety, but he also spent 25% of the time as an outside linebacker and both of his interceptions came as a cornerback. James is one of three players over the past two seasons with 5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 10 passes defended (Isaiah Simmons, T.J. Watt).

Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB Isaiah Spiller. Spiller is competing with Kelley for the No. 2 role behind Ekeler. I'm betting on the upside of Spiller, given his second-level elusiveness and lower-body balance. He could emerge as the top insurance back for the Chargers. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy football players to avoid: The Do Not Draft list (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: Herbert will lead all non-Mahomes quarterbacks in QBR. Everything is there for him -- strong receivers, good pass protection and a new offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore. Herbert has had an amazing start to his career, but he'll take another step in 2023. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

8. Baltimore Ravens

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC North: 28%
Chances to make the playoffs: 60%
Projected wins: 9.8
Strength of schedule: 17th hardest

What do the Ravens do the best?

Put up points. Since 2019, the Ravens have averaged 26.9 points with Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback -- which is nearly what the Chiefs have averaged with Mahomes over that span (27.3). Now, Jackson has the best supporting cast of his six-year career with the addition of wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers. The Ravens also hired Todd Monken as their offensive coordinator after his offense averaged 40.7 points last season at Georgia. -- Jamison Hensley

What is the Ravens' biggest weakness?

Cornerback. With Marlon Humphrey possibly missing the start of the season after having foot surgery, the Ravens' top options at cornerback are three players who are coming off injuries: Rock Ya-Sin, Ronald Darby and Jalyn Armour-Davis. Baltimore struggled mightily the last time Humphrey was sidelined. When Humphrey missed the last five games in 2021, the Ravens allowed an NFL-worst 294.6 yards passing per game and 12 touchdown passes (second worst in the league). -- Hensley

Stat to know: The Ravens' receiving corps combined for 1,517 yards last season, fewest in the NFL and the fewest combined yards by a wide receiver group in a single season since ... the Ravens in 2019. Baltimore made an effort to address that problem by adding first-rounder Flowers and a three-time Pro Bowler in Beckham this offseason.

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Fantasy sleeper candidate: WR Rashod Bateman. The oft-injured Bateman has played a total of 19 games through his first two seasons, and Baltimore upgraded its perimeter targets with Beckham and Flowers. If healthy, however, Bateman still fits as an intermediate target -- with catch-and-run ability -- in a new Ravens system that will create more space in the pass game. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy football 'do draft' list (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: Ronnie Stanley will be named a first-team All-Pro tackle. When the oft-injured Stanley is on the field, the performance has been there. Stanley ranked ninth in run block win rate last year and would have ranked fourth in pass block win rate had he qualified. Now all he has to do is stay healthy, and he's an immediate contender. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

9. New York Jets

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC East: 21%
Chances to make the playoffs: 47%
Projected wins: 9.2
Strength of schedule: Sixth hardest

What do the Jets do the best?

Frustrate opposing quarterbacks. With a 10-man defensive-line rotation and lockdown corners in Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed, the Jets rush the passer in waves and squeeze quarterbacks into throwing harmless passes over the middle. The Jets allowed a league-low 15 touchdown passes last season and only 5.5 yards per dropback, second only to the Eagles. You can't survive in a passing league without a strong pass defense, and the Jets have one. -- Rich Cimini

What is the Jets' biggest weakness?

Offensive tackles. The Jets have durability concerns at both tackle spots. Left tackle Duane Brown had no training camp after recovering from rotator-cuff surgery, and he just turned 38. Projected right tackle Mekhi Becton, playing on a twice-repaired right knee, hasn't played a complete game since 2020. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers needs protection. Over the past three years, he has the second-highest Total QBR on plays when the defense doesn't get a pass-rush win, but that drops to 28th when the defense has at least one pass-rush win on a play. -- Cimini

Stat to know: Rodgers has thrown for 4,000 yards in 10 seasons of his career -- that's tied with Matt Ryan for the fifth most all-time. The Jets have had one season with a 4,000-yard passer in their history -- 1967 by Joe Namath, the first player to pass for 4,000 yards in a season in NFL history.

Fantasy sleeper candidate: WR Allen Lazard. Lazard averaged 11.7 PPR points per game last season with Rodgers in Green Bay, and it's a seamless transition to the Jets, where former Packers coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is now running the offense. Lazard has the upside of a WR3 in deeper leagues. -- Bowen

More: NFL Nation answers questions for your fantasy draft board

Bold prediction for 2023: Bryce Huff will finally get more playing time and pick up at least eight sacks. The backup edge rusher has had incredible numbers when on the field, with a 30% pass rush win rate and 15% pressure rate. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, those percentages would have ranked first and fourth, respectively, had he played enough snaps to qualify. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

10. Dallas Cowboys

ESPN FPI's chances to win NFC East: 33%
Chances to make the playoffs: 68%
Projected wins: 9.5
Strength of schedule: 11th hardest

What the Cowboys do the best?

Rattle the quarterback and take the ball away. These two things go hand in hand. With Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler Jr. and Sam Williams, the Cowboys are deep with pressure players. Last year, the Cowboys finished tied for third in sacks with 54 and led the league in takeaways with 33. They will look to be the first team since the 1972-74 Pittsburgh Steelers to lead the league in takeaways for three straight years. The addition of Stephon Gilmore, a former Defensive Player of the Year, to complement Trevon Diggs, who has 17 interceptions in three years, makes the Cowboys even more formidable in the secondary. -- Todd Archer

What is the Cowboys' biggest weakness?

Offensive line depth. And this isn't a Cowboys-only deal. It's leaguewide. Beyond their five starters, they do not have experienced depth. Left tackle Tyron Smith has played in 17 of a possible 50 regular-season games with Mike McCarthy as coach. Right tackle Terence Steele is coming back from a major knee injury. If the Cowboys lose one or more of their starters -- and history says they will for at least a few games -- then they will be tested and perhaps forced to rework their offensive plan. -- Archer

Stat to know: Receiver Brandin Cooks gives Dallas a deep threat and a player who can generate separation. Last season, the Cowboys had four receptions on passes thrown 30-plus yards downfield, the same amount as Cooks had on his own in 13 games.

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Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn flashed during the preseason, using his short-area speed and vision to find daylight as a runner -- there's some juice to his game. Now, it's on the rookie to lock down the No. 2 role behind starter Tony Pollard in Dallas, creating fantasy potential as an insurance play. -- Bowen

More: Field's fantasy favorites for the 2023 NFL season (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: Parsons will break the single-season sack record. Sure, he's never had more than 13.5 sacks in a season. But he's also never not led the league in pass rush win rate. With his exceptional skill and good corner play behind him, I think this could be the year for Parsons' sack number to explode. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

11. Detroit Lions

ESPN FPI's chances to win NFC North: 43%
Chances to make the playoffs: 65%
Projected wins: 9.3
Strength of schedule: 11th easiest

What do the Lions do the best?

Score. Behind a strong offensive line, which is returning Pro Bowlers Penei Sewell and Frank Ragnow, the Lions averaged the fifth-most points scored (25.7) in 2022. They have added running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, while returning wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and quarterback Jared Goff, who are looking to pick up where they left off after winning eight of their final 10 games last year. -- Eric Woodyard

What is the Lions' biggest weakness?

Rush defense. As a whole, the entire Lions defense struggled last season, but particularly against the run, where opponents averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which tied for the second most in the league. The interior defensive line still needs work, but they're hoping Alim McNeill and Isaiah Buggs along with Aidan Hutchinson and John Cominsky will help them get off to a strong start. -- Woodyard

Stat to know: An issue for the Lions last season was their defense, which had the second-worst efficiency (39.59) in the NFL, ahead of only the Bears, who had the worst record in the NFL. The pass defense was particularly bad as Detroit ranked last in the NFL in QBR allowed (58.1). As a result, the Lions revamped their secondary in the offseason, signing three new starters in Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Fantasy sleeper candidate: TE Sam LaPorta. I'd take a late-round shot on LaPorta in deeper leagues. The rookie will start the season as the No. 1 tight end in Detroit's play-action-heavy pass game. He can stretch the seams, flex outside and rumble after the catch. He's a rugged mover with 4.59 speed. -- Bowen

More: Mike Clay's 2023 NFL Betting Props Playbook (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: Jameson Williams will finish the season as a top-20 fantasy wide receiver in points per game played after he returns from his six-game suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy. Had it not been for his torn ACL in his left knee that he suffered at Alabama, Williams probably would have been drafted higher than 12th overall last year. With that injury in the rearview mirror, I'm betting on a player worth that type of draft capital. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

12. Jacksonville Jaguars

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC South: 54%
Chances to make the playoffs: 62%
Projected wins: 9.3
Strength of schedule: Eighth easiest

What do the Jaguars do the best?

Score points. The Jaguars, led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, were 10th in points scored last season. And it's Year 2 in coach Doug Pederson's system, so there could be a jump in production -- like what happened with his Philadelphia offense in 2017. The team added receiver Calvin Ridley, who had 1,374 yards receiving in his last full season (2020), and two rookies who will have big roles: running back Tank Bigsby and tight end Brenton Strange. -- Mike DiRocco

What is the Jaguars' biggest weakness?

Pass rush. The Jaguars had 35 sacks last season (ranked 25th), lost a key contributor (Arden Key), didn't draft a pass-rusher until the fifth round and haven't signed an available veteran. They're counting on former No. 1 pick Travon Walker to make a significant jump (he had 3.5 sacks as a rookie) and on linebacker Josh Allen to produce more than he did last season. Allen's 64 quarterback pressures ranked fourth in the NFL, but he had only seven sacks. -- DiRocco

Stat to know: The Jaguars need Lawrence to start the season like he ended last season. In the second half of 2022, Lawrence's QBR jumped from 44.3 to 63.9, his completion percentage rose from 62.5% to 69.7%, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio went from 10-6 to 15-2.

Fantasy sleeper candidate: RB Tank Bigsby. An a No. 2 option behind starter Travis Etienne Jr., the rookie can play downhill and find daylight in zone run schemes. Bigsby doesn't bring high-level receiving traits to the pros, but he would elevate to the RB2 ranks if Etienne were to miss time. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Bold prediction for 2023: The Jaguars will finish last in pass block win rate, and the offensive line will sink any chances of them being an actual Super Bowl contender. Lawrence will have a low sack rate because he's good at avoiding sacks, but the line will crush the team's passing efficiency. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

13. Cleveland Browns

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC North: 17%
Chances to make the playoffs: 44%
Projected wins: 9.1
Strength of schedule: 18th hardest

What do the Browns do the best?

Rush the passer. All-Pro Myles Garrett has never had a teammate reach double-digit sacks. That could change with the arrival of Za'Darius Smith, who has finished with 10-plus sacks in three of the past four seasons and appears to be over the knee injury that plagued him last year. Garrett was the most double-teamed edge rusher (31.1%) in the league last year. If that continues, Smith will have plenty of favorable opportunities to get to the quarterback. -- Jake Trotter

What is the Browns' biggest weakness?

Special teams. The Browns have tried to address their special teams woes. In 2022, they drafted kicker Cade York in the fourth round and signed Pro Bowl returner Jakeem Grant Sr. They even switched special teams coaches. But York's struggles prompted the Browns to cut him last week and trade for kicker Dustin Hopkins. Grant suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason for a second straight year. As a result, special teams continue to be a major question mark. -- Trotter

Stat to know: The Browns have finished 15 consecutive seasons with a negative point differential, a streak that dates back to 2008. That is tied for the longest streak of its kind in NFL history (with the Buccaneers, 1982-1996). Can Garrett's defense and Deshaun Watson's offense snap the streak in 2023?

Fantasy sleeper candidate: WR Elijah Moore. Moore's versatility as a motion/movement player in the Browns' offense should generate opportunities on manufactured touches. Plus, he can operate out of the slot for Watson. With an anticipated bump in overall volume, Moore is worth a late-round pick in deeper leagues. -- Bowen

More: Adam Schefter's fantasy football cheat sheet (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: The Browns will win six or fewer games or 11 or more -- no in-between. Because of Watson, this is the highest variance team in the league. If he's the Watson of 2019, the Browns are Super Bowl contenders. If he's the Watson of 2022, they'll be a mess. -- Walder

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

14. Denver Broncos

ESPN FPI's chances to win AFC West: 14%
Chances to make the playoffs: 33%
Projected wins: 8.4
Strength of schedule: Eighth hardest

What do the Broncos do the best?

Rush the passer. The Broncos need Randy Gregory to have a full, productive season of work -- he has never played more than 14 games in any season -- and for Frank Clark to muster some of his postseason mojo into the regular season. Jonathon Cooper has been the most consistent of the rushers in camp and preseason games, Nik Bonitto has shown he's ready for a jump in production, and they expect Baron Browning back from knee surgery sometime after Week 4. With Gregory leading the way, the pass rush is one to watch. -- Jeff Legwold

What is the Broncos' biggest weakness?

Depth. The Broncos dealing five first- or second-round picks -- and six picks overall -- in the past two years to trade for Russell Wilson and coach Sean Payton has this team thin in plenty of spots. The reserves (the second and third teams) have not held their own in the preseason games or joint practices with the Rams. If injuries to starters pile up, the Broncos could have a problem. -- Legwold

Stat to know: Payton's Saints teams averaged 27.6 points per game during his 15 seasons as head coach, the highest for any coach in the Super Bowl era (min. 40 games). This is a welcome sight for a Broncos team that finished last with 16.9 PPG in 2022.

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Will Russell Wilson allow Sean Payton to coach him?

Booger McFarland questions whether Sean Payton's coaching can bring out the best in Russell Wilson this season with the Broncos.

Fantasy sleeper candidate: WR Marvin Mims Jr. A burner with 4.3 speed, Mims is an explosive-play target who can stretch defenses and attack open space after the catch. While his route tree will need to expand in the pros, he has the traits to win schemed matchups in the new Denver pass game under Payton. -- Bowen

More: Fantasy football Ultimate Draft Board (ESPN+)

Bold prediction for 2023: Wilson will finish in the top 16 in QBR. This one scares me because it really could go the other way, as it did in 2022. But even in 2021, when Wilson was far from his peak, he finished 10th, and I'm banking on a motivated Wilson, now being coached by Payton, showing that he still has something left in the tank. -- Walder

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15. Seattle Seahawks

ESPN FPI's chances to win NFC West: 27%
Chances to make the playoffs: 54%
Projected wins: 8.7
Strength of schedule: 19th hardest

What do the Seahawks do the best?

Cover. This is a projection based more on how strong the Seahawks' secondary looks now than how that group played last season. It was solid in 2022. Seattle's defense finished with the third-lowest opponent Total QBR (49) but also allowed 53 pass plays of at least 20 yards, tied for eighth most. It should be better in 2023, especially at cornerback. Seattle drafted Devon Witherspoon at No. 5 and could see a jump from Riq Woolen, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last year in his third full season at the position. -- Brady Henderson

What is the Seahawks' biggest weakness?

Run defense. It's at least the biggest question mark, because it's hard to imagine the Seahawks being as bad against the run as they were last year, when they allowed the third-most rushing yards (2,554) of any team and lost at least five games because of it. They overhauled their front seven, highlighted by their free-agent splurge on Dre'Mont Jones and a reunion with Bobby Wagner. They have to be better against the run to have any chance of catching the 49ers in the NFC West. -- Henderson

Stat to know: Quarterback Geno Smith was a big reason for the Seahawks' success in 2022. Smith set the single-season Seahawks record for passing yards (4,282) and completion percentage (69.8%). To help out Smith, the Seahawks drafted receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba with one of two first-round selections. Smith-Njigba joins Tyler Lockett and Read Full News here