The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The NFL Returns

Good Luck Trying to Pick a Champion
The NFL Returns

Hard hits. Fantasy football. Terrible calls by officials. It’s all back, for real this time! The first-string players are playing, real stakes are on the line, not only on the field, but on the betting books as well. The NFL is back and better than ever. 

The return of the NFL season marks the 104th year of the league, and this could be one of the best years. The teams are faster, more talented, and hungrier than ever to win a championship. 

Attempting to predict a champion is also much more difficult now than it ever has been. 

Because of the incredible talent that contending teams have, the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic accomplishment for several teams. 

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The AFC is especially brutal when trying to pick a winner, largely due to many of the top quarterbacks in the league playing in the conference. With Patrick Mahomes in the west, Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers in the East, Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson in the north, and Trevor Lawrence in the south, the margin for error allowed for each team is tiny. Any play from a game in any week can determine the outcome for entire seasons. 

The kickoff for the 104th season was no different, with the Detroit Lions outlasting the Chiefs 21-20 in a defensive battle. The Chiefs were heavily favored to win the game, but injuries, one big contract holdout, and especially ill-timed drops lead to the Lions escaping Kansas City with a hard-fought win. The Chiefs are the defending champions, picked by many to repeat, but the 2023 season did not start without adversity. 

On the NFC side, being successful picking the winner of the conference is much more realistic. The Eagles and 49ers are the two clear favorites, but who follows them?  

It would seemingly be easy to say the Lions could win the NFC north after knocking off the defending champions, but each team in the division could realistically have a shot at coming out on top. 

Who will win the NFC south? The Buccaneers and Falcons have huge questions at quarterback, the Panthers are threading a rookie into their scheme, and the Saints are weaving a new quarterback into their own. 

The NFC west should play out similar to last season, with the 49ers coming out on top and the Seahawks following. The Cardinals are a disaster, and the Rams have too many questions marks on both sides of the ball. Who will Matthew Stafford throw to if Cooper Kupp isn’t present? How will Stafford himself play after returning from an injury? How much of an impact will their draft picks (or lack thereof) actually make? These are all questions that us fans will have to wait to see the answers to. 

Similarly to the south, the NFC East should not have any major differences in the standings when the season concludes.  

The Eagles still have one of the best top-to-bottom rosters in the NFL, and their offensive line will continue to dominate the clock in games. The major question within this division would clearly be which team will win second place? The Giants made major strides last season, and there should not be any major steps back from Daniel Jones. The Cowboys should have a solid season if Dak Prescott can limit the interceptions, but winning the division would be an extremely tall task for a team that has not made it past the divisional round of the playoffs since 1995, when they won the Super Bowl. And what of the Commanders? The team has a talented wide receiver and running back room, their defense is solid on paper, but how will Sam Howell play in his first season as a starter? 

The NFL season is always a roller coaster, but this year seems especially difficult to predict. However, that will not stop me from trying.  

Here are my picks for each division: 

NFC- 

East: Philadelphia Eagles 

North: Detroit Lions 

South: New Orleans Saints 

West: San Francisco 49ers 

AFC- 

East: New York Jets 

North: Cincinnati Bengals 

South: Jacksonville Jaguars 

West: Kansas City Chiefs 

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About the Contributor
Kemper Koslofski, Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-Chief: January 2023-Present Sports Editor: March 2023-December 2023

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