The 2022 NFL season was certainly full of surprises as the league had seven new playoff teams from the previous season. Such is parity in the NFL and it's what makes the offseason intriguing. It should be similar next season, as teams push to become one of the 14 playoffs teams in 2023 -- while getting a leg up on some of the fringe playoff teams that were surprising the year prior.
There are always teams that fall from grace over one season to the next, whether that's from a few wins or a full implosion. Each year a team doesn't perform up to expectations or undergoes a rebuild in the hopes of building a winner for the next season and beyond. Quite a few teams in the NFL appear to be leaning that way this offseason.
Before free agency and the draft hits, here's a look at five teams that could be poised to take a step backwards in 2023. Of course offseason moves can change all this, but this is going off 2022 results and an offseason outlook.
Minnesota Vikings (13-4)
The Vikings were quite the surprise in Kevin O'Connell's first year at the helm, winning 13 games and cruising through the NFC North en route to the No. 3 seed and a playoff appearance. There was always something missing with the Vikings, however. They were the 28th ranked defense in points allowed, the 31st ranked defense in yards allowed, and had a minus-3 (-3) point differential.
Minnesota was the first 13-win team to finish with a negative point differential, so they were an easy target to be a one-and-done in the playoffs (which is exactly what happened). The Vikings were 11-0 in the regular season in one-score games, setting an NFL record in the process. Can Minnesota really bank on that happing again in 2023?
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The Vikings made a huge offseason move in firing Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator and hiring Brian Flores, so the defense should be immediately better. The offensive line needs to be improved and Minnesota will need an upgrade at the No. 2 receiver spot or hope K.J. Osborn takes the next step. Regardless, the Vikings should regress based on how their season went in 2022.
They could still contend for the NFC North, but it's hard to win 13 games again -- even if Minnesota improves its roster.
Tennessee Titans (7-10)
Tennessee already had a major free fall in 2022, losing its final seven games and blowing a three-game lead in the division after Week 13 to miss the playoffs entirely. The Titans may have had a worse record if the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans weren't two of the worst teams in the NFL.
Fortunately for Tennessee, Houston is still in a rebuild and Indianapolis is starting one. So there's hope for the Titans in 2023, but Tennessee is facing an uncertain quarterback situation with Ryan Tannehill and an aging Derrick Henry. There's also the lack of pass catchers for Tannehill to throw to, making the situation worse. Malik Willis provided no indication that he can unseat Tannehill for the job either.
Can the Titans improve on the 28th ranked scoring offense? They were last in the league in percentage of drives ending in an offensive score (27.9%). Tennessee hasn't hired an offensive coordinator yet, but that offense is concerning heading into 2023.
Seattle Seahawks (9-8)
The Seahawks arguably were the biggest surprise in 2022, as Geno Smith became a Pro Bowl quarterback and led them to the postseason on the final day of the year. Seattle has a lot of encouraging rookies to build a team around, starting with running back Kenneth Walker and cornerback Tariq Woolen. Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas have the makings of starting tackles for the next decade.
Perhaps Seattle doesn't take a massive fall, yet there's reason for concern. Can Smith have the same impact on this offense as he had in 2022? He did have 12 turnovers in his last nine games (Seattle went 3-6 in that stretch), so it's worth wondering if he can recapture his form from the first half of the year.
The Seahawks will have to improve a run defense that was 30th in the NFL in rush yards allowed and 26th in yards per carry allowed. They'll also need to improve the third down conversion rate (20th in NFL) and red zone conversion percentage (28th in NFL), as too many points were left on the board.
A tougher schedule won't help, but the 2023 season comes down to Smith. Can he do it again if Seattle brings him back? If Seattle gets the first half version of Geno Smith back, the Seahawks will be a playoff team. If not, expect a losing record.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
The Buccaneers appear to be a team without an identity now that Tom Brady has officially retired -- and they were a bad team when Brady was on the field, anyway. The only reason the Buccaneers were in the playoffs was because the NFC South was horrible, as a team with an interim coach (Carolina Panthers) was the only one that was a serious contender for unseating Tampa Bay.
Who is going to play quarterback for this team? Tampa Bay will certainly test the market for its next signal caller, running an offense that still has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The offensive line -- specifically the interior -- needs to be tinkered with. Ryan Jensen coming back is a plus, but the Buccaneers may have to find a left guard either in the draft or via free agency. Getting a reliable tight end is also on the offseason shopping list.
The secondary has key free agents in Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting -- and who knows if Lavonte David is back at linebacker? Then there's the horrible run offense that finished 32nd in yards per game, touchdowns, and yards per carry.
Is Todd Bowles the right head coach? Who is going to be offensive coordinator in the post-Brady era? This Buccaneers team as a lot of questions and not a lot of answers at the moment.
Only playing in the NFC South could prevent this team from being one of the worst in the league in 2023.
Las Vegas Raiders (6-11)
Any team coached by Josh McDaniels is always in danger of a free fall, especially since the 2022 version of the Raiders went from a playoff team to a losing record. The Raiders moved on from Derek Carr as a result, leaving them without a quarterback as the offseason begins. NFL rushing champion Josh Jacobs is a free agent too, so it will be interesting to see if the Raiders decide to pay him.
The Raiders shelled out a lot of money to Chandler Jones and received little production. Vegas had just 27 sacks this season -- the third-fewest in the NFL -- a task defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has to fix if they are going to compete in the AFC West. Finishing with the fewest takeaways didn't help a defense that was 26th in points allowed and 28th in yards allowed.
Can the Raiders convince Aaron Rodgers to go to Vegas? This could change the entire conversation. McDaniels probably shouldn't have his job, but the Raiders owe him a lot of money. They'll see if he can improve his situation in 2023.
This team has the markings of one that's getting worse, not better.