2023 NFL Schedule Predictions: Bills vs. Bengals on Black Friday, Bryce Young vs. C.J. Stroud on Prime Time

The 2023 NFL schedule release is coming soon. We take a look at our five top NFL schedule release predictions, including the season opener.

The NFL calendar never ends. The 2023 NFL Draft is officially over, and the next event coming up is the full 2023 regular-season schedule release. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL is “targeting” Thursday, May 11, as the release date.

As we await the official word on the schedule release, we’re diving into our top 2023 NFL schedule predictions.

2023 NFL Schedule Predictions

We already know how many prime-time games each team will have and who each team will play, so using that knowledge and league tendencies, we have five predictions for how the 2023 NFL schedule will shake out.

We See a Bengals vs. Chiefs Rematch in Season Opener

It’s a safe prediction to say the Kansas City Chiefs will host the season opener because the defending Super Bowl champion always does. Knowing the Chiefs will host the Bills, Bengals, Dolphins, Bears, Lions, and Eagles, in addition to their AFC West foes, the NFL has a tough choice to make. Could we see a Super Bowl rematch in Week 1?

I don’t think so, and the league has been avoiding divisional games earlier in the season when it’s possible. Pitting Patrick Mahomes against Josh Allen will be tempting, and the Dolphins present a stellar offense to bring fireworks to Arrowhead. However, an AFC Championship rematch is too good to resist.

Considering that Travis Kelce and the Chiefs got the best of the Bengals after Cincinnati tried to call Kansas City’s home field “Burrowhead,” this matchup is a must for prime time.

Ravens vs. 49ers Will Be an Early Monday Night Football Matchup

With Lamar Jackson back in Baltimore and the Ravens adding more firepower in Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers around him, they’re a much more interesting team than ever before. The NFL will reward their investments around Jackson by pitting them against the NFC’s second-place team from 2022-23, the San Francisco 49ers. We could see this as early as Week 1.

The first three weeks of the NFL season will have doubleheaders on Monday Night Football compared to two last year. The league will also be able to flex Monday Night Football games starting in Week 12 for the first time in history. Considering the star power in this matchup, the NFL doesn’t need to wait to promote it.

The 49ers have the second-best odds to win the Super Bowl despite starting quarterback Brock Purdy recovering from a torn UCL in his elbow. It’s possible the NFL doesn’t want to see the 49ers forced to start Trey Lance if Purdy isn’t ready in Week 1, but it’ll happen quickly.

Eagles and Patriots Face Off in Germany

We know the New England Patriots and Chiefs will both be hosting a home game in Frankfurt, Germany, at some point this season. This is a great opportunity for the Philadelphia Eagles to go abroad for the second time in franchise history. They haven’t crossed the Atlantic Ocean since the 2018 season.

The NFL has often erred by putting uninteresting teams in the early international time slot, giving viewers little reason to wake up early on a Sunday. Instead of putting a boring matchup on display on Sunday morning, pitting Bill Belichick’s Patriots against the defending NFC champions would dramatically increase interest.

Seeing how Belichick defends Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts would become a top storyline for the week, and both teams should be battling for a playoff spot at the midpoint of the season.

Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud Face Off on Prime Time

Neither the Carolina Panthers nor Houston Texans have created a ton of positive national buzz in recent years, but having the top two quarterbacks drafted will help alleviate that concern. Though rookie quarterbacks are rarely transcendent, having the top three picks of the draft overall in one game can be an intriguing angle to bring fans in. Even if the teams are bad, everyone wants to see the newest NFL stars.

Panthers quarterback Bryce Young and Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud would be the obvious headliners in this matchup, but Will Anderson Jr.’s presence adds another dynamic wrinkle. A prime-time matchup could become a legendary moment in their careers if each of these players ends up being a star.

It’d also be nice to breathe some life into both franchises.

Bills Travel to the Bengals for Black Friday

A Black Friday game is coming this fall. Peter King of NBC Sports reported that the Eagles and Giants matchup is the “leader in the clubhouse” for the Black Friday game on Amazon. But we have a better idea.

There’s no doubt that the defining moment of the 2022-23 NFL season was Damar Hamlin’s shocking on-field cardiac arrest. The Bills and Bengals game was canceled in the wake of the upsetting sight, and the playoff ramifications were significant. With Hamlin miraculously cleared to return to football only four months later, fans deserve to see the heavyweight showdown we missed out on.

Considering Allen and Joe Burrow are two of the NFL’s biggest stars and these markets aren’t generally popular, the NFL can take advantage of each’s unique profile with a historic matchup. I’m sure Amazon would be more excited about having two Super Bowl-caliber teams than featuring a relative mismatch.

Predicting Who Will Have the Toughest NFL Schedule

We already know which teams everyone will play, but we’re unclear on when those games will occur. Nevertheless, we can somewhat predict who will have the toughest and easiest schedule in 2023-2024. Of course, teams fall short or exceed their projected win totals from sportsbooks all the time, but it’s a better barometer of success than nothing.

Using the projected win totals from DraftKings Sportsbook, the three teams with the hardest schedules for next season are the Patriots, Bills, and Chiefs. This would be a tough blow for New England, in particular, as they have a win line of just 7.5. If Belichick can’t get more out of his team than expected, the Patriots will be put in an uncomfortable position with their legendary head coach.

In addition to a difficult set of AFC East foes, the Patriots will host the Chargers, Saints, Eagles, Commanders, and Colts this coming fall. They’ll travel to Dallas, Denver, New York Giants, Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh. After looking at that list, there aren’t many easy matchups that we can simply chalk up to a win.

The Bills and Chiefs may not have quite as much to worry about. As mentioned, the AFC is loaded in general, and the East and West may be the two best divisions in football. However, outside of Philadelphia, Buffalo and Kansas City may have the two best overall rosters and quarterbacks.

Those two things go a long way in projecting a winning season and overcoming a tough schedule. New England, on the other hand, has uncertainty with Mac Jones under center, so he’ll have to answer the question of how viable he is as their long-term starter.

Predicting Who Will Have the Easiest NFL Schedule

On the flip side of the Patriots’ position are the teams looking toward the easiest NFL schedule. The NFL’s formula is meant to help bad teams bounce back after a tough year, leading to a limited number of matchups against divisional leaders. Sometimes that backfires, but it often creates parity.

The Saints, Falcons, and Panthers have the easiest projected schedules based on win totals. New Orleans, with a 9.5-win line, is far ahead of their peers with predicted success. Atlanta and Carolina, meanwhile, both have 7.5-win lines.

It’s interesting that each of these teams are in the NFC South. Considering that none of the division’s teams are especially scary, the Saints’ schedule is absolutely favorable on paper. They’ll travel to Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, and the Los Angeles Rams. New Orleans will host the Giants, Titans, Jaguars, Lions, and Bears.

Like the Patriots, the Saints have a quarterback who is less of a difference-maker than some of their peers. Derek Carr is a fine starter but failed to move the needle for the Raiders throughout his tenure. Still, he should be a big enough upgrade to push New Orleans over their win total, though.

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