Saturday, December 2 2023

Every NFL team enters the season with dreams of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. And every team knows the odds are stacked against them. 

Simple math is the clearest way to convey that. Thirty-one of the league’s 32 teams will fail in their quest. Reaching — and winning in — February tends to require immense talent, incredible coaching and pristine health. Only a few teams will check those boxes. 

A lot will change over the next five months. But from where we stand now, days away from the start of the 2023-24 NFL season, FOX Sports’ staff of football writers delivered their predictions on who will be left holding a trophy at Allegiant Stadium on the night of February 11, 2024.

FOX Sports NFL expert picks

Ben Arthur: Eagles over Ravens


Greg Auman: Eagles over Bills

Chris “The Bear” Fallica: 49ers over Browns 

San Francisco has been knocking on the door for some time now. Two years ago, the 49ers cost themselves a Super Bowl berth with some very conservative decisions against the Rams in the NFC title game. Some bad luck also came into play. Last year, an injury to QB Brock Purdy early in the team’s big playoff showdown with the Eagles eliminated any chance of winning in Philadelphia. 

I think the Niners have the best roster in the league, so I like it to all come together this year. I see them matching up in the big game against a surprise participant from the AFC — the Cleveland Browns — who also have a great roster and a favorable schedule. If the Deshaun Watson we saw last year was a byproduct of rust, then the Browns have everything they need to make a deep playoff run.

Jen Hale: Eagles over Bengals

David Helman: Cowboys over Dolphins 

Lord help me, I don’t know exactly how I wound up with a Super Bowl VI rematch. It feels completely insane to pick the Cowboys, given their 27-year absence from the NFC Championship Game — let alone the Super Bowl. But I truly believe this is the best roster in Dallas since at least 2007, and this is as wide open as the NFC has looked in modern memory. 

The Cowboys have an elite pass rush, a top-tier secondary an explosive receiver corps, a strong offensive line and a Pro Bowl running back. There’s not much in the way of excuses for Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy, and if it doesn’t happen this season, I’m just not sure when it will. 

The AFC looks like a demolition derby, and in a conference with about 10 legitimate contenders, why not Miami? The big question is obviously the health of Tua Tagovailoa, but if the Dolphins can keep him on his feet they’ve got arguably the most talented roster in the league. The juice on offense speaks for itself, as I expect both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to have All-Pro-caliber seasons. But I think people overlook the Miami defense. The defensive front of Bradley Chubb, Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler and Jaelan Phillips is one of the best in football, and Vic Fangio is now coaching them. Do I feel confident about it? Absolutely not. But with this much talent scrapping in the AFC, someone has to come out on top and I’m down to take a chance on the Dolphins.

Why Cowboys are in a better position to make a Super Bowl this year

Henry McKenna: Jaguars over Seahawks

It’s easy to imagine the Jaguars finishing atop the AFC at the end of the season and, yes, MMQB’s Peter King stole my thunder. He predicted they’d finish with the No. 1 seed due to their talent and modest strength of schedule. I think the Jaguars will use that top seed (and bye) to propel themselves into the Super Bowl. Trevor Lawrence took a massive step forward and the offense only got better, with Calvin Ridley set to return. I legitimately wonder if people have forgotten just how good he was in 2020 (90 catches, 1,374 yards, 9 TDs.) He’s going to explode, particularly in the second half of the season. 

And then there’s the other unlikely contender I have in the Super Bowl: the Seahawks. I can see their young cornerback room, led by Riq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon, looking like one of the NFL’s best. Their offense only got better, with rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njiigba joining D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and rookie running back Zach Charbonnet joining Kenneth Walker. Some expect Geno Smith to regress. I just don’t see it. He’s surrounded by so much talent that I think he’ll get hot for the postseason and rise above the Eagles, Cowboys and 49ers.

Martin Rogers: Bills over 49ers

Geoff Schwartz: Bengals over Eagles

The Eagles are my default team in the NFC until I see anyone else take command of the conference. The 49ers have the best roster in football, but I do not trust Brock Purdy to lead them to a Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys have a roster good enough, but I’m not sure Dak Prescott can return the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl in nearly three decades. So I’m going with the Eagles. 

As a Chiefs fan, I’ve come to admire the Bengals. The Bengals play a brand of football that wins. They do not make mistakes. They don’t have bad turnovers. They do not take killer penalties. They do not allow a ton of explosive plays on defense. The Bengals appear to have fixed their offensive line and if healthy it will provide Joe Burrow enough time to find his weapons. I think it’s their time this season.

Are Bengals the biggest threat to Chiefs’ reign atop the AFC?

Ralph Vacchiano: Eagles over Bengals

The odds are stacked against the Philadelphia Eagles, considering only three teams in 56 years have lost a Super Bowl and managed to win it the next season. In fact, only eight teams have lost a Super Bowl and even played in the next season’s game (and three of those were the early-1990s Buffalo Bills). But the Eagles look as loaded as any Super Bowl loser in recent history. 

They not only kept the core of the NFC champs together, they actually might be even better – particularly along what was already a dangerous defensive line. If they were in the AFC, maybe there would be a tougher road. But the NFC has only three teams anywhere close to their level. The Bengals have the tougher road in a stacked division and a conference that includes the defending champs. But Joe Burrow has a knack for finding a way to get them where they need to be. He’ll just run into a brick wall in Super Bowl LVIII against a team with what might eventually be remembered as one of the best pass rushes in NFL history. Even the Bengals won’t have a good enough offense to overcome that. And they definitely won’t have the defense to stop Jalen Hurts.

Chiefs, Eagles predicted to win Super Bowl LVIII

Carmen Vitali: Eagles over Dolphins

Eric D. Williams: Chiefs over Cowboys

Patrick Mahomes has an uphill climb in his quest to chase down Tom Brady’s GOAT status. Helping make the Kansas City Chiefs the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions since Brady accomplished that feat with the New England Patriots after the 2004 and 2005 seasons would move him closer to achieving that goal. Kansas City must overcome several hurdles in getting back to the big game, including the signing of disgruntled superstar DT Chris Jones to a contract extension. But if there’s a franchise built to conquer that sort of adversity, it’s Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Behind another former Super Bowl champ in head coach Mike McCarthy, the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones finally get back to the big game after a lengthy absence. Dak Prescott should take better care of the football with McCarthy now leading the offense, and the Cowboys still have an opportunistic defense (NFL-high 33 takeaways in 2022). However, Mahomes will not be deterred in his chase of Brady’s seven Super Bowl rings, making it three at the end of this season for the Texas Tech product.

How Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs resemble ’90s Michael Jordan, Bulls

FOX Sports CFB expert picks

Michael Cohen: Eagles over Chiefs

Bryan Fischer: Bengals over 49ers

Laken Litman: Chiefs over 49ers

R.J. Young: Cowboys over Chiefs

Final tally

Eagles:  6
Chiefs: 2
Cowboys:  2
Bengals:  2
Bills: 1
49ers:  1
Jaguars:  1

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These predictions were made by:

AFC South reporter Ben Arthur (@benyarthur)
NFC South reporter Greg Auman (@gregauman)
NFL on FOX reporter Jen Hale (@JenHale504)
Dallas Cowboys reporter David Helman (@davidhelman_)
AFC East reporter Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis)
NFL and betting analyst Geoff Schwartz (@GeoffSchwartz)
NFC West reporter Eric D. Williams (@eric_d_williams)
NFC East reporter Ralph Vacchiano (@RalphVacchiano)
NFC North reporter Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV)
Columnist Martin Rogers (@MRogersFOX)
College football writer Michael Cohen (@Michael_Cohen13)
College football writer Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
College football writer Laken Litman (@LakenLitman)
College football writer R.J. Young (@RJ_Young)

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