Skip to main content

NFL schedule: Each AFC team's win total projection for 2023 season

The 2023 NFL regular season schedule is set! The season starts at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Detroit Lions. Aaron Rodgers will make his Jets home debut in Week 1 on Monday night against the Bills. We'll get a Super Bowl LVII rematch in Week 12, when Philadelphia visits Kansas City, and the top two (well, really, three) picks in this year's draft will square off when the Texans and C.J. Stroud (and Will Anderson Jr.) visit Bryce Young and the Panthers in Week 8. I also can't wait to see how Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill fares against his former Chiefs teammates (in Germany, no less), as well as the sure-to-be-emotional Bills-at-Bengals game later that same day. There are so many awesome storylines and so much to look forward to!

In our third season with 272 games on the schedule, and with the NFL heading into its fourth campaign with a 14-team playoff field, we've started to experience more contests with postseason consequences. While we've long known the identity of each team's opponents (and, in most cases, the location of each game), the actual sequencing of the schedules has an impact on projected win totals. For example, having to make multiple cross-country trips (or adding an international one ... or even staying abroad for a week) could influence a team's win probability. Facing elite QBs in back-to-back weeks has had a substantial impact over the past six seasons, as defenses have seen a statistically relevant dip in first-quarter production. In fact, in that same time span, the order of games played has shifted season win totals by as many as 0.70 wins.

This season, the AFC has become so chock full of great QBs that earning the coveted solo playoff bye is forecast to occur quite late in the campaign; in fact, it easily could take until Week 18. As an example, there is about a 14 percentage-point difference between the projected winner of the NFC East versus the AFC East earning the bye. The AFC is tough (real tough), and some of these near-50-50 games -- even early on -- are going to go a long way in shaping the postseason.

Here's how to read these win projections: Using the projected 53-man rosters as of May 11, I ran 100,000 simulations for all 272 regular-season games. (A quick note: Barring injuries, which are typically the biggest source of uncertainty, I have made roster projections using the best information available. It's May, for goodness' sake, so you should check back for the updated versions of these win-total projections just before the season starts.) These simulations yielded a projected win total for each team, which, thanks to the multitude of factors involved, is not always a round number. The top seven teams in each conference are my projected playoff participants.

Remember, these simulations account for many contextualized data points that have been proven to correlate to wins and losses based on historical football games that were actually played; personnel is the most important, but other key factors include play-caller tendencies and in-game situations. I re-run these simulations should any player change teams, suffer an injury or otherwise be made unavailable, thus changing the complexion of his team. The more important the player involved, the more the win totals shift -- including opponents' probabilities. Should a high-impact player (or two) change status, we can track how those moves shift everything. Again, this all suggests that you check back in September -- and that it's kind of fun to track everything from May until Super Bowl LVIII!

Below, you'll see win projections for the AFC, with projected division winners and wild-card teams noted. Click here to see win projections for the NFC.

The lines below provided by Caesars Sportsbook & Casino are current as of 2:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 11 unless otherwise noted below.

Kansas City Chiefs

It's no secret that Andy Reid has had a ton of success coming off bye weeks during his career, but he'll really have his hands full this season, as the Chiefs host the Eagles in a Super Bowl LVII rematch. Fortunately for the Chiefs, their bye comes in Week 10, which corresponds to one of the best weeks to recharge. Kansas City has several other tests scattered throughout the calendar, including the Jags (Week 2), Jets (Week 4), Dolphins (Week 9), Bills (Week 14), Bengals (Week 17) and, of course, home-and-away matchups within the AFC West. It's worth noting, though, that Kansas City currently doesn't have any back-to-back games in which their win percentage projection is lower than 53.5%. A 55% win projection now is akin to 60% in August.

Cincinnati Bengals

As it stands right now, the Bengals' most difficult four-game stretch this season occurs from Weeks 15 to 18:

  • Week 15: Vikings
  • Week 16: at Steelers
  • Week 17: at Chiefs
  • Week 18: Browns

First, you get a date with the Vikings, who could very well be atop the NFC North at that point. That's immediately followed by two late road division games sandwiching a trip to Arrowhead. All of this can either serve as a nice tune-up for a playoff run or be part of a really tough fight for a postseason spot.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills' toughest four-game span is broken up by their Week 13 bye, which should provide a nice cushion but won't completely soften the slate.

  • Week 11: Jets
  • Week 12: at Eagles
  • Week 13: Bye
  • Week 14: at Chiefs
  • Week 15: Cowboys

Week 11 will be their second matchup with the Jets, and New York will likely be a much more cohesive unit at this point than when the two teams face off in Week 1. I also want to go on record as loving the Bills' decision not to have their bye after their Week 5 game in London; as a result, they ended up with the latest bye in the AFC East.

Baltimore Ravens

Weeks 4-8 will be particularly interesting for the Ravens, who will travel to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and then London (to meet the Titans) in consecutive weeks, before games against Detroit (home) and Arizona (away). So four of five on the road, with one taking place in Europe. Detroit's odds in Week 7 improved 0.31 percentage points based on this stretch for Baltimore -- and that's with the Ravens playing at home.

New York Jets

The Jets have the hardest four-game stretch to start the season, per my math:

  • Week 1: Bills
  • Week 2: at Cowboys
  • Week 3: Patriots
  • Week 4: Chiefs

They also have the hardest first six games of any team, with a trip to Denver in Week 5 followed by a home game against Philadelphia in Week 6. One of the biggest question areas for New York is the health of its O-line -- especially considering most of the teams the Jets face early on seem to specialize in defensive pressure. And let's not overlook that it typically takes a beat for a new QB -- even one of Aaron Rodgers' elite level -- to establish a rhythm and chemistry with a (mostly) different set of pass catchers.

Miami Dolphins

Three of Miami's first four games are on the road, including Week 1 at the Chargers and Week 4 at the Bills. The Dolphins' postseason potential could very well come down to how well they perform away from home. Their kickoff game against the Bolts and Week 17 at Baltimore stand out in particular, as both have the highest odds of being playoff determiners. The Dolphins' win potential for both of these road tilts decreased slightly due to the timing of the games -- the Fins play the Ravens immediately after hosting the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, while the Chargers game ranks top-three in the AFC in terms of playoff implications for a non-division matchup (it matters in 8.1% of simulations; the next-closest game matters in 6.2%).

Jacksonville Jaguars

To assess the Jaguars' back-to-back games in the U.K. in Weeks 4 and 5 (a first in NFL history), I used the comp of a West Coast team staying on the East Coast for the same period to help approximate the time-change consequences (assuming Jacksonville stays overseas between games). The Jags' favorable odds within their division and against all four NFC South teams (the Jags are at least 0.5% higher than any other AFC South team is against those same opponents) help project them to finish first in the AFC South.

Cleveland Browns

Weeks 12-16 look to be crucial to the Browns' postseason potential: If they can take at least four of five during this stretch, they'd be extremely likely to earn a wild-card berth.

  • Week 12: at Denver
  • Week 13: at Rams
  • Week 14: Jaguars
  • Week 15: Bears
  • Week 16: at Texans

According to my model, the Steelers' most likely record by their Week 6 bye is 2-3. But fear not: They still end up with at least nine wins by Week 17 in 56% of simulations. Remember, we're still months away from the start of the season, so that percentage is actually more significant than it may sound.

The Chargers have an early bye (Week 5) followed by their most challenging four-game stretch (vs. the Cowboys, at the Chiefs, vs. the Bears, at the Jets). The good news is, they'll get a few extra days of rest (coming off a Thursday night game against the Raiders in Week 15) before Week 16's showdown with the Bills.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are on the road from Week 9 through 11 (Steelers, Bucs, Jags), though they won't have to travel too far for any of those matchups. Also, Jacksonville will be coming off a game against San Francisco before hosting Tennessee in Week 11, which had a more significant negative impact on the Jags' win total than the Titans' travel situation had on their tally.

Denver Broncos

Playing the Chiefs twice within three weeks (Weeks 6 and 8) is a funny little wrinkle to this schedule ... though I doubt the folks in Denver are amused at having to face the Jets just four days before that first game against Kansas City. The good news? Their trip to Buffalo in Week 10 is insulated by their bye in Week 9.

The Pats have the second-hardest four-game schedule to start the year of any team:

  • Week 1: Eagles
  • Week 2: Dolphins
  • Week 3: at Jets
  • Week 4: at Cowboys

We typically see the Pats make the most adjustments in September, so don’t be surprised if they look quite different when they host the Saints in Week 5 and visit the Raiders in Week 6. New England, already the favorite against Vegas in this matchup, saw its odds improve, per my model.

The Raiders' schedule could pose some real challenges for Josh McDaniels' crew in Year 2. Three of their first four games are on the road (including the Bills' home opener in Week 2), and they face the Jets, Dolphins (in Miami) and Chiefs in consecutive weeks to close out November. They also have the latest bye of any team in the AFC West (Week 13), which could be a positive if they're in position to make a postseason run. However, it could also work against them if they get off to a shaky start and wind up missing the chance to reset.

Houston Texans

Houston and Tennessee play both of their matchups late in the campaign (Weeks 15 and 17). This schedule quirk shifted the Texans' win probabilities up slightly (about 0.6 of a percent), because the two key rookies they have at top-value positions (QB C.J. Stroud and pass rusher Will Anderson Jr.) will have had ample time to adjust to the NFL speed and game by that point.

Should the rookie QBs drafted in the first round all be playing by the time of their matchups, we would get QB2 versus QB3 twice -- potentially as soon as Week 2. In between those two games, Anthony Richardson and the Colts travel to Carolina (Week 9), setting up a potential QB1 versus QB3 showdown.

Follow Cynthia Frelund on Twitter.

Related Content