Every team’s goal should be to win the Super Bowl. That’s why they play the game.
But some teams’ paths are a little more complicated than that. Some do not necessarily want to win now – if only because the current composition of their selection will not facilitate that goal. Others, however, know they have the resources to clinch a championship and will do whatever it takes to give themselves the best chance of clinching the Lombardi Trophy.
Here we divide all 16 NFC teams entering the 2023 season into four categories: win-now, rising, transition or rebuild.
winnowing: Throwing all the chips in the center of the table with a short-term mindset
Ascending: Building steam with a solid core of players, but don’t mortgage the future just yet
Transition: A plan has been drawn up and steps have been taken, but they are not there yet
Rebuild: Full teardown – usually with rookie QB and a roster with no top talent
The Cowboys are in a very weak position right now and may be on the verge of their continued rise or their eventual demise. Dallas is chock full of expensive talent that they can switch from if this season goes sideways and Jerry Jones wants to revamp the team. They also have to pay linebacker Micah Parsons and receiver CeeDee Lamb (and maybe Tony Pollard too). The Cowboys must strike in 2023 while the iron is still hot with Dak Prescott.
The Eagles are looking to return to the Super Bowl in the 2023 season and have taken the necessary steps to strengthen positions where they lost talent this season. As the running back room is full of new faces, the defense has replaced defensive tackle Javon Hargrave with rookie stud Jalen Carter. Jalen Hurts’ new contract also means that Philadelphia is all in for their quarterback, even though the team lost its offensive and defensive coordinators in one summer.
San Francisco 49ers
This team was already stacked heading into the season, so there’s not much they can do but progress. San Francisco removed Hargrave from the Eagles in free agency, but otherwise kept their key roster the same. Everything will – again – depend on Brock Purdy, alongside skill position players Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.
Seattle’s surprise 2022 campaign meant the team was not rebuilding or transitioning; they were always one of the up and coming teams in the league. Geno Smith looked fantastic, the attack was played efficiently and the defense held it together. First-round picks Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba complement their respective sides of the ball well, and third-round running back Zach Charbonnet gives Seattle a new dimension in the running game. The Seahawks have built it well and don’t need to make earth-shattering moves just yet to compete.
New York giants
New York gave Daniel Jones a lot of confidence this season and found a way to keep Saquon Barkley. That’s enough to keep the Giants on track in 2023, as long as they can repeat their 2022 success. The Darren Waller trade is as close to an all-in move as General Manager Joe Schoen is likely to get, as it only took them a third-round pick to add a tight quality end. The low-risk additions of Isaiah Simmons and Boogie Basham on defense are also intriguing.
The release of Dalvin Cook isn’t enough to take the Vikings to the next level, especially after they just won the NFC North and drafted Jordan Addison wide in the first round. A gripping trio of Addison, tight end TJ Hockenson and reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson is enough to keep them in the conversation as conference participants. Keeping defensive Danielle Hunter is also a sign that the team hasn’t given up yet.
The Lions are the most popular team in the NFL to fail the playoffs last season. And there was a good reason for that: Dan Campbell made Detroit play sensationally after an 8-2 finish to the season, and the team added depth on offense and defense this offseason. Rookies Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta could make an immediate contribution on offense, while fellow freshman players Jack Campbell and Brian Branch could play a role on defense. This season will show whether the Lions will stay here or not.
Green Bay Packers
Every time a team makes the move from a quarterback to the Hall of Fame, there is always a period of uncertainty. The Packers did it in 2008 when they promoted Aaron Rodgers after sending Brett Favre to the Jets, and they’ll do it again in 2023 with the trade of Jordan Love for Rodgers. There will certainly be problems, especially with the Packers’ young passcatcher core, but that doesn’t mean the Packers will immediately implode. However, it may be some time before Green Bay takes over the NFC North again.
The Falcons are a tough nut to crack because they seem to have their core team with a third-year head coach, but without a clear quarterback. Their last three picks in the first round – Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson – form the core of the offense, and the defense is led by Grady Jarrett and AJ Terrell. This is a team that will quickly teeter on the brink of a rebuild if this season goes off the rails.
Rams from Los Angeles
The Rams could very well rebuild without fully signaling it, but for now they remain in limbo with key members of their Super Bowl roster remaining. Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald are good enough at their respective positions to keep Los Angeles somewhat relevant. The Rams will probably still have a hard time competing in the division, let alone the conference.
Saints from New Orleans
Derek Carr could be the Drew Brees replacement the Saints have been looking for since 2020. He is only 32 and already has four Pro Bowl appearances to his name. New Orleans boasts quality offensive players like receiver Chris Olave and solid defense at the back. The lukewarm NFC South leaves a playoff game wide open for the Saints in their second full season without Sean Payton at the helm.
Is Sam Howell the future? Who knows, but at least the Commanders are willing to find out in 2023. In Washington, however, things can change quickly if a new owner is in charge. The team has some core elements in key positions, such as wide receiver and defensive line, and they’ve been pushing for a place in the playoffs for the past two seasons after winning the NFC East in 2020. But until they get the quarterback- have determined position, this is a team in flow.
Chicago is another team that isn’t quite rebuilding just yet, but isn’t quite either not reconstruction, either. Therefore, the Bears are in transition after deciding to keep quarterback Justin Fields and trade the No. 1 pick for receiver DJ Moore and other draft capital ahead of the selection of offensive tackle Darnell Wright. The Bears could surprise the NFL in 2023 or be stuck at the bottom of the league.
Tampa Bay buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ hopes faded once Tom Brady officially retired from the NFL. While the team remains largely intact, the lack of a quarterback puts Tampa Bay on track for a rebuild unless Baker suddenly transforms Mayfield into the stallion the Cleveland Browns expected him to become two years ago. More than likely, Mayfield will be a bridge to a rookie in 2024 as the Buccaneers sort out their future in a pinch.
It’s hard for a team not to be in rebuild mode after trading for a quarterback with the number 1 pick. The Panthers also have a brand new, experience-laden coaching staff that could accelerate their plans if Bryce Young makes it to the NFL soon. A wide open NFC South also makes things a bit easier, but for now, Carolina will spend the 2023 season looking for its new identity.
Cardinals of Arizona
This is the ultimate rebuilding team of the 2023 season. The Cardinals hired a new general manager and a new head coach, traded back in the draft to pick up a second pick from the 2024 first round (from the Texans, no less ) and annexed pieces for pennies a dollar all season long. Arizona is yet to name a starting quarterback, with Josh Dobbs and Clayton Tune the only options. Despite handing Kyler Murray a new contract a season ago, the Cardinals are very clearly looking at 2024 rather than the upcoming season.