Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Caroline Hendershot will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: How many teams can win the AFC in 2023?
EA: Robert Saleh said this week that 32 coaches stand in front of their team every year and talk about winning a championship but added "realistically" there are maybe 6-8 teams that have an actual chance to do it. Saleh believes his team is included in that group this season, but he stressed that none of it matters unless they take care of their work today. The AFC is the stronger of the two conferences and you can make an argument the AFC East is the NFL's best division. The number I keep coming back to is 5 in the AFC — the Chiefs, Bengals, Ravens, Bills and Jets. Those clubs have Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers as their starting QBs. The Jets should absolutely enter the contender conversation with Aaron Rodgers taking over the reins on offense and pairing him up with one of the best defenses he's ever lined up with. I think the Dolphins and Chargers are good teams and the Browns and Broncos are potential surprises, but I'm sticking with my five for now.
EG: I think 5-6 teams can win the AFC in 2023. Off the bat, the Chiefs, Bengals and Bills should be considered shoe-ins to be contenders for the conference. The next wave, to me, includes the Jets, Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers. Who will emerge in the regular season? On paper, the talent is there. There's almost always a surprise team, too. Robert Saleh said he believes 6-8 teams can win the Super Bowl and that the Jets are one of them. It's hard to argue against it with a top-5 defense in 2022 (that left meat on the bone in terms of forcing turnovers) that returns almost of their starters and improved its depth. The offense grew stagnant after a 7-4 start, averaging a league-low 12.3 points per game after their bye in Week 10 because of a litany of reasons. That won't be the case with Aaron Rodgers, who helped the Packers score 24.4 points per game in that same stretch last season while dealing with a broken thumb. Rodgers' supporting cast with the Jets has depth and top-end talent. With a league-long 12-year playoff drought, the Green & White need to prove their mettle, but on paper, they should be considered an AFC contender.
See the 2023 Jets on the field during Thursday's OTA practice at 1 Jets Drive.
RL: Robert Saleh says six to eight teams realistically have a chance to win the championship. That would mean three to four in the AFC. That's a pretty small pool of candidates. Kansas City and Cincinnati were last year's AFC finalists. Buffalo has been knocking on the door for four years. Baltimore's a perennial contender. The LA Chargers have the QB. But this question is really about the Jets. Can they realistically win the AFC in '23? Players such as Aaron Rodgers, Breece Hall, the improved WR room, Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley, Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed say yes. The tough overall schedule, the tough primetime sked, more than a decade not even making the playoffs say not so fast. "I do think we are one of those teams," Saleh says, but in the same sentence adds, "none of it matters unless we take care of it today." I'll go along with the coach, but I'll have a much better answer in November, once we see if the Green & White have taken care of it for 10 weeks of todays, and in particular have shown that they can win a division title. Beating the Bills twice, on opening night and on the road in Week 11, would provide a lot more input to better answer this poser.
CH: While Robert Saleh said earlier this week that 6-8 teams have a legitimate chance of making the Super Bowl, I think 5 of them have a realistic chance of winning the AFC in 2023. The standouts for me are the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, and the New York Jets. Four of those five clubs made the playoffs last season and the Jets just barely missed out. Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 quarterbacks ahead of the start of the 2023 season, and Aaron Rodgers is 5th. So, with Rodgers added to the mix, almost the entire defensive side of the ball returning, and new WR weapons to throw to, I think the Jets will be a hard out for any team in the conference.