Bills Top Way Too Early 2023 Projections

Bills QB Josh Allen
Bills QB Josh Allen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - For the last two years, I have presented a set of very, very early DVOA projections immediately after the Super Bowl. It's time to do the same projections for 2023. They were a lot harder to do this year.

The original goal of the way too early projections in 2021 was to try to adjust for games where teams had COVID issues or were stuck with backup quarterbacks for large stretches of time. The 2022 projections were the same. Essentially, I am trying to say "this is what the team's offensive DVOA would have been in 2022 with the same starting quarterback all year." Then I use very simple equations that project next year's DVOA based solely on last year's DVOA and the usual regression to the mean. Defense and special teams regress to the mean stronger than offense does.

The problem for 2023 is that we have no idea who on earth will be starting at quarterback for something like one-third of the teams in the league. Sure, I can project Baltimore based solely on the weeks that Lamar Jackson was the starting quarterback in 2022, but that assumes Lamar Jackson will be the starting quarterback in 2023. What do I project for Carolina? Do I expect them to start a rookie, or a free agent? How about for a team that will have a new quarterback but won't be in position to draft a top rookie, such as Tampa Bay?

Each year when I run these projections, I remind readers not to get too excited: the goal here is to be incredibly simple. This year, I caution you to be even less excited because I made more subjective guesses than usual. The best value for these projections is probably not to look at the teams with unknown quarterback situations, but rather to look at the projected schedule strength numbers. At least that gives you a better idea of schedule strength than looking at 2022 win-loss totals, because of teams such as the Giants and Vikings where DVOA and point differential came out very different than final win-loss record last season.

Otherwise, the value here is to understand that offense is more predictive than defense. Therefore teams with better offenses last year will appear higher than teams with better defenses. For example, Kansas City was behind San Francisco and Philadelphia in the final 2022 DVOA ratings but moves ahead of those teams in these projections.

Here is a list of various subjective changes and decisions that I made while putting together these numbers:

First of all, I left Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, Daniel Jones in New York, and Geno Smith in Seattle. Obviously, some or all of those guys may be elsewhere next year.

I took the four highest-drafting teams that need quarterbacks and gave them rookie quarterbacks. Those teams are assigned offensive DVOA based on the average offensive DVOA of teams drafting top-10 quarterbacks since 2011. Note that drafting a rookie gets you a lower projection than having an "unknown free agent" because the rookie is probably better in the long run but not in the short run.

Arizona is based on Kyler Murray even though we know Murray will probably only play half the year. Arizona's offensive DVOA in Murray's starts was already so bad that it wouldn't make much sense to try to average out Murray's performance with a free agent who would start the other half of the year.

The Los Angeles Rams are based on a mix of Matthew Stafford last year and Stafford the year before. Same thing with Denver and Russell Wilson. Cleveland is a mix between Deshaun Watson last year and Watson in 2020.

Washington is based on the average performance of lower-drafted quarterbacks who start in their second NFL seasons. Atlanta is based on a number halfway between that number and what they did in Desmond Ridder's four games this season.

Like in past years, I gave a small bonus to second-year starting quarterbacks. That only means Pittsburgh and Kenny Pickett for 2023.

I penalized New Orleans and Tampa Bay a little extra because they are in such horrible salary cap situations, twice as far below the cap as any other teams. I gave Chicago a small bonus because their salary cap room far surpasses any other team.

I gave the Los Angeles Chargers a bit of a bonus because they had so many offensive injuries this season.

I gave Baltimore a small special teams bonus because they are the Ravens and should have the top projected special teams.

Finally, once all that was done, I re-normalized all the DVOA ratings so the league averaged 0.0%.

I didn't account for all the things that are accounted for in the usual preseason projections, such as three-year trends, coaching changes, turnover regression on defense (as opposed to general regression), and free-agent movement. I didn't account for any injuries except for starting quarterbacks and the Chargers. I didn't account for salary cap issues except for New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Chicago.

The hardest projected schedule in these way too early projections belongs to the Washington Commanders. They have to play four games against the Eagles and Cowboys plus the AFC East which is a good division and the NFC West where the Rams should be improved. Their three games based on place in the standings include Chicago and Denver, which should both be better in 2023.

Otherwise, the hardest schedules are almost all in the AFC East, with the Patriots second, Dolphins third, Jets fifth, and Bills seventh. These teams start by playing each other, then add on the NFC East and the AFC West.

The easiest schedules by far belong to two NFC South teams, New Orleans and Atlanta. Could the Saints or Falcons surprise next year thanks to an easy path? I guess "surprise" probably means "win that division at 9-8." The NFC South teams play each other, of course, which makes for an easier schedule. They play the AFC South and the NFC North. The Saints' other three games are the Giants, Rams, and Patriots. The Falcons' other three games are the Cardinals, Commanders, and Jets.

BUF J.Allen 17.0% 1 10.9% 2 -4.4% 4 1.7% 2 2.1% 7
KC P.Mahomes 14.1% 2 15.0% 1 0.5% 17 -0.4% 19 0.9% 16
BAL L.Jackson 14.1% 3 8.9% 4 -2.9% 7 2.3% 1 0.6% 17
SF B.Purdy 12.8% 4 7.2% 8 -5.6% 1 -0.1% 15 0.3% 19
PHI J.Hurts 12.2% 5 8.4% 5 -3.8% 6 0.0% 13 1.7% 11
MIA T.Tagovailoa 9.4% 6 10.5% 3 0.3% 14 -0.8% 28 2.5% 3
CIN J.Burrow 9.3% 7 7.8% 6 -1.8% 10 -0.3% 18 1.8% 9
DAL D.Prescott 8.3% 8 2.6% 12 -5.3% 2 0.4% 10 1.6% 13
DET J.Goff 4.8% 9 7.3% 7 2.9% 28 0.4% 9 -1.8% 23
SEA G.Smith 2.4% 10 2.4% 13 1.1% 21 1.2% 4 1.4% 14
GB A.Rodgers 2.1% 11 3.4% 11 1.1% 20 -0.3% 17 -3.0% 28
JAX T.Lawrence 1.9% 12 4.0% 9 2.4% 26 0.4% 11 -1.0% 22
PIT K.Pickett 1.6% 13 0.9% 14 -1.4% 11 -0.7% 27 0.4% 18
DEN R.Wilson 1.5% 14 0.4% 16 -2.1% 9 -0.9% 29 -0.3% 21
LAC J.Herbert 1.0% 15 0.8% 15 0.4% 15 0.5% 6 2.1% 6
NYJ Unknown 0.0% 16 -3.6% 22 -4.0% 5 -0.4% 21 2.4% 5
NYG D.Jones -0.6% 17 3.9% 10 4.0% 29 -0.5% 22 2.0% 8
NE M.Jones -0.6% 18 -4.5% 24 -5.0% 3 -1.0% 32 3.0% 2
LAR M.Stafford -1.3% 19 -0.2% 17 0.6% 18 -0.5% 23 1.7% 12
CLE D.Watson -3.3% 20 -1.7% 18 1.5% 23 0.0% 14 1.3% 15
TEN R.Tannehill -4.6% 21 -3.4% 21 0.7% 19 -0.5% 24 -2.1% 24
TB Unknown -5.0% 22 -3.6% 22 0.4% 16 -1.0% 31 -2.5% 25
NO Unknown -5.1% 23 -5.7% 25 -1.2% 12 -0.5% 25 -5.1% 31
MIN K.Cousins -5.6% 24 -2.0% 19 2.6% 27 -0.9% 30 -0.1% 20
CHI J.Fields -9.3% 25 -3.2% 20 5.9% 32 -0.2% 16 -3.0% 27
WAS S.Howell -9.5% 26 -12.1% 32 -2.2% 8 0.5% 7 3.1% 1
ATL D.Ridder -9.7% 27 -5.9% 26 4.4% 30 0.6% 5 -5.6% 32
ARI K.Murray -10.0% 28 -7.4% 27 2.2% 24 -0.4% 20 1.8% 10
HOU Rookie -10.2% 29 -10.2% 28 1.3% 22 1.3% 3 -2.6% 26
IND Rookie -10.5% 30 -10.2% 28 -0.3% 13 -0.6% 26 -3.1% 30
CAR Rookie -12.1% 31 -10.2% 28 2.3% 25 0.4% 8 -3.0% 29
LV Rookie -15.2% 32 -10.2% 28 5.2% 31 0.2% 12 2.4% 4


34 comments, Last at 19 Mar 2023, 6:25pm

#1 by theslothook // Feb 16, 2023 - 3:06pm

My way too early, sure to be wrong, prediction is Cincy over Seattle. I know, I of those picks looks absolutely insane.

Points: 1

#4 by Leurq // Feb 16, 2023 - 7:32pm

Only thing Seattle needs is pass rush, LB and G. If they shore those up they’ll be a great team next year.

Points: 0

#14 by scraps // Feb 17, 2023 - 12:20pm

If Geno is about tenth in the league -- and I think it's at least 50% that he is -- that's good enough.

Points: 1

#29 by anthonytwotimes // Feb 20, 2023 - 8:17am

The real Geno is the one we saw the 2nd half of the season

Points: 1

#16 by scraps // Feb 17, 2023 - 12:24pm

As a Seahawks fan -- a half-glass-full Seahawks fan -- I would say that we also need a defensive backfield that is going from Potentially Good to Actually Good most of the time.

Points: 1

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 16, 2023 - 3:55pm

Man, I just don't trust Detroit at 9.

Points: 5

#22 by LionInAZ // Feb 17, 2023 - 8:49pm

There's no arguing with that kind of logic.

Points: 4

#3 by Run dmc // Feb 16, 2023 - 5:30pm

Nobody STILL believes in the Chiefs!

Points: 10

#7 by thok // Feb 16, 2023 - 10:03pm

Like in past years, I gave a small bonus to second-year starting quarterbacks. That only means Pittsburgh and Kenny Pickett for 2023.

This is likely irrelevant to the Niners prediction, but doesn't Brock Purdy count as a second-year starting quarterback?

Points: 5

#10 by Aaron Schatz // Feb 17, 2023 - 9:26am

I wouldn't count Ridder because he only played four games and was probably a little overrated in those games because of teams playing out the string at the end... You're right about Purdy! But just like I didn't give a bonus to Mac Jones after 2021 because he was already pretty high, I probably shouldn't give a bonus to Purdy because he's already even higher.

Points: 4

#19 by Sixknots // Feb 17, 2023 - 3:40pm

I though I heard that Purdy might be out most of 2023.  What's the latest news on his elbow?

Points: 0

#20 by rh1no // Feb 17, 2023 - 4:53pm


Purdy has surgery scheduled for next week. If all goes as planned, he'll have a 6 month recovery window. But it's possible the surgeon will opt for a more invasive procedure with a longer recovery time once he opens up purdy's arm and sees the extent of the damage. In that case, Purdy would be out until November.

Points: 0

#8 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 17, 2023 - 7:53am

I would say anyone in the top 8 has a chance of being the SB teams, with the Lions even having a reasonable shot.

Points: 1

#11 by RickD // Feb 17, 2023 - 9:31am

If the Patriots repeat as the worst ST in the NFL, I will eat my hat.

Points: 6

#32 by scraps // Feb 20, 2023 - 11:17am

Everyone promises hat-eating, but almost nobody does it.

(In the 1950s, rhetoric was taken seriously, and many a hat was eaten.  That is why there are so few hats today.) 

Points: 3

#12 by SandyRiver // Feb 17, 2023 - 9:34am

The Pats' special teams were good to excellent for many years but crashed and burned last year.  I guess Aaron's methodology says that nothing good will arise from the ashes.

Rick D beat me to it.

Points: 1

#13 by serutan // Feb 17, 2023 - 12:09pm

I penalized New Orleans and Tampa Bay a little extra because they are in such horrible salary cap situations,


  While there's little reason to believe that the Saints will do anything other than continuing to limp along, does anyone familiar with Tampa Bay think they might bite the bullet to fix their cap?

Points: 0

#17 by Bryan Knowles // Feb 17, 2023 - 2:40pm

There's some tealeaves that indicate they might try to take care of the cap this season.  They're taking the full brunt of Brady's $35.1 million cap hit, rather than spreading it over two years -- there was talk of a dummy contract with Brady which would have allowed them to have more money available for 2023, but that didn't happen.

Points: 2

#15 by johonny12 // Feb 17, 2023 - 12:20pm

I have a strong belief in Miami's ability to build 9-8 teams.

Points: 10

#18 by rh1no // Feb 17, 2023 - 3:32pm

Fun exercise. Here's my Way Too Early 2023 Predictions:


It seems silly to pick against the Bills, and maybe it is. But crazy things happen each season that completely upend the NFL status quo, and I think the AFC East is a primed to provide that craziness.

My Magic 8-Ball says that Josh Allen's reckless play finally catches up to him, and an injury leads to a lost year for Buffalo. Tua spends more time in concussion protocol, and the Patriots' new OC makes enough of a difference for New England to squeeze into the playoffs as a WC. I throw up in my mouth a little bit as I listen to Pat's fans declaring Mac Jones "elite."

Meanwhile, the Jets land Derrick Carr, who elevates Garrett Wison and rides a stout defense -- for the first time in his career -- to a surprising AFC East title. 


I don't trust Lamarr Jackson to stay healthy. Even if he does manage to avoid the injury bug, the off-field drama seems like it's going to wear on this team. The Stealers build on their 2022 campaign and land a Wild Card spot while the Browns continue to languish.

The Bengals lose some key elements of their defense, but with Anarumo around for one more year before he gets poached for a HC position, the Cincinnati defense stays competitive. Draft picks add enough depth to the o-line for the Bengals to survive injuries and challenge KC for the #1 seed.


Pederson leads the Jags to a second-straight division title as Lawrence continues his ascension. The Titans continue their slow decline while the Colts continue to ride the hamster wheel of futility. The Texans begin their rebuilding process under Demeco Ryans.


At this point, picking against the Chiefs is silly. 

Sean Payton's presence in Mile High is enough to erase the stink of 2022, and Russ regains enough of his form to lead the Broncos to a Wild Card berth. Los Angeles is haunted by their playoff collapse and waste another precious year of Justin Herbert's rookie contract. The Raiders do what every Josh McDaniels team does: they lose football games.


Like the 2022 Bengals, the 2023 Iggles duck the curse of the Super Bowl loser as Hurts continues his climb to superstardom.

The Cowboys convince themselves they're one player away from a championship, so they sign OBJ and his bionic knee to a mega contract, but they settle for the #5 seed once again. The Giants snag a WC behind another plucky performance as the team builds its talent and depth. Dan Snyder is forced to sell the Commies and the new ownership axes Rivera after a poor start; Bienemy is promoted to HC, but can't turn around Taylor Heinecke.


Minnesota loses close games this year. The dumpster fire that is the Chicago Bears continues to burn regardless of what they decide to do with Justin Fields and the #1 pick. Aaron Rodgers sticks around one year too long and ends his career not with a bang but a whimper. 

That leaves the Lions. Why not? They're not bad! They're maybe even good!


I'm tempted to pick Carolina to turn things around, but Frank Reich is no Doug Pederson, and I imagine the new coaching staff is going to want to take a year to find their own position guys, maybe even tanking for Caleb Williams. 

TB was crappy with Brady and they're going to be even crappier without him. Dennis Allen is 15-38 as a head coach, and he'll be 21-49 after the 2023 season, assuming he isn't fired midway through.

By the process of elimination, let's pick the only team in the division whose quarterback I know by name.


Kyle Shanahan elevates me to starter status after Trey Lance, Brock Purdy, Josh Johnson, and Stetson Bennett the IVIIX all get injured. Aaron Donald decapitates me on a sack, but my headless corpse still leads the 49ers to a division title.

The Rams remain old and injured. The Cardinals stink less with Gannon as HC, but they still stink. Geno leads Seattle to another playoff berth simply by being less bad than the other mid-tier NFC teams.

Points: 6

#23 by scraps // Feb 18, 2023 - 4:48am

I don't think the Jets are going to make the playoffs, let alone win the division.  If somehow the Bills pull a Rams next year, I would bet on the Dolphins.

Points: 4

#26 by rh1no // Feb 18, 2023 - 1:23pm

Dolphins are talented for sure. 

However, people who get a concussion are more prone to future concussions, with the visible symptoms of future concussions being more severe and lasting longer. I'm pretty bearish on Tua ever playing another full season given the fact that multiple gruesome concussions led him to miss 5 games this year after, including Miami's wildcard matchup against the Bills. I hope I'm wrong because he's a fun player to watch.

Points: 1

#33 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 21, 2023 - 8:25am

More prone is an open question. People who have gotten a concussion are more likely to get one in the future seems to be true, but it is unresolved whether the phenomenon is reduced tolerance, low baseline tolerance, or both.

Points: 0

#27 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 18, 2023 - 9:32pm

If the Bills fall off, I'd take the Patriots honestly. They had the best defense in the division by DVOA (yes, even over the Bills and Jets), they can start getting out from under some of their bad contracts like Jonnu Smith this year, and they hired an actual OC.

Points: 2

#24 by AFCNFCBowl // Feb 18, 2023 - 9:26am

BUF certainly has yet to prove anything in the postseason, but their regular seasons the last 3 years have been nothing short of totally dominant. Seems like a huge reach to project NYJ to win the division with an average QB like Carr.

Also, the wild-card teams from the NFC remain the same?

Points: 1

#25 by rh1no // Feb 18, 2023 - 1:14pm

It's definitely a huge reach to project NYJ, and it rests solely on the assumption that the Bills will have to play without Josh Allen for an extended stretch. But just about every QB misses significant games at some point during his career ... last year alone saw Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, Tua Tagovailoa, Lamarr Jackson, Trey Lance, Jimmy Garropollo, Matt Stafford, and Kyler Murray all sit out multiple games with injuries. Josh Allen plays as hard as any QB in the league, so I feel like his luck is going to run out at some point.

Calling Carr "average" is selling him short. He's been a top 10 QB by DYAR for most of his career, and I think his lackluster performance this year is due more to Josh McDaniels than anything else. I don't have a ton of faith in the competency of the Jets' offensive coaching staff, but Carr is a significant improvement over the Mike White/Zach Wilson Disappointing Duo.

As for the NFC wild card teams, I could imagine a resurgent season from the Packers or the Rams leading them over regressing Giants or Seahawks teams. I see a lot of question marks on those teams, though, and I already used up all my chaos when projecting the AFC East.

How do you see the season playing out?

Points: 2

#30 by buck_phuchett // Feb 20, 2023 - 9:08am

Respectfully, I hate predictions that hang on a player getting injured. When the Bills win the division, you don't want to be the guy "well, if Josh Allen DID get injured for more than just 3 games last year, the Jets WOULD have..."

I think Jets are firmly #2 in the  AFC East. If Allen gets hurt and the bills do not win the division, i don't think that says anything about the other teams in the league as much as how good Allen is.

And to really drive the fact that I am a homer - Allen has battled injuries and being hurt. Concussions (*knocks on wood*) have not been an issue, the Elbow/shoulder/collarbone.

Points: 1

#28 by occams_pointed… // Feb 18, 2023 - 11:42pm

Since the creation of the AFC North in its present form NOBODY has won three straight titles.

If the Bengals do win the North in 2023 people better give Zac Taylor some props.

Points: 1

#34 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 21, 2023 - 8:33am

So far he has reigned over the Ravens suffering serial injury apocalypses, and the first Steelers rebuild in 35 years.

You don’t get a trophy for beating the Browns.

Points: 1

#21 by GwillyGecko // Feb 17, 2023 - 8:35pm

But how will the Chiefs be any good without Eric Bienemy as offensive coordinator?


On a more serious note, I expect my Buffalo Bills to continue to disappoint in January as long as the current coaching staff remains in place.

Points: -2

#35 by Bill96744 // Mar 19, 2023 - 6:25pm

Please help me understand the Bears apparent decision t stick with Fields. 

Are they going to use the 2023 picks to build more and the 2024 picks for a new QB?

Fields was not good. He was worst in DVOA among QB with 200 passes. He does not seem to read D’Souza well. He can run but got hurt.

(Was he hurt while running?) 

Accuracy is low for NFL these days.

What do they see in him?

Points: 1

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