In the dynamic world of the NFL, success can be a fleeting experience. Teams can rise to prominence one moment only to be on the outskirts of postseason contention the next. While perennial powerhouses exist at the league’s summit, many clubs experience ebbs and flows from season to season.
In this assessment, we cast our gaze toward the future of the NFL, identifying a selection of teams poised not only for a fruitful 2023 season but also for sustained success in the years ahead. Our exploration encompasses a blend of legitimate Super Bowl contenders and teams laying the foundation for future competitiveness.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs need no embellishment; they are not only set to dominate the present but have a bright future. The linchpin of their optimism is the phenomenal Patrick Mahomes, who, despite already enjoying immense success, is poised to enter his prime at just 28 years old. Mahomes, signed through the 2031 season, is a generational talent who can steer Kansas City toward Super Bowl contention for the foreseeable future.
Beyond Mahomes, the Chiefs boast the expertise of Andy Reid, a coaching virtuoso revered throughout the NFL. While Reid, at 65, may not coach Mahomes for the entirety of his career, he can guide the team to further triumphs in the years to come. The Chiefs also have the strategic advantage of securing future draft picks and a front office with a commendable track record in the NFL Draft.
However, their long-term challenge lies in fortifying their pass-catching options, especially as star tight end Travis Kelce ages. Despite this concern, the Chiefs are undeniably poised to compete for Super Bowls over the next five-plus years.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have proven their mettle, winning Super Bowl LII in 2017 and subsequently navigating their way to another Super Bowl appearance just five years later with different leadership. This resilience, coupled with their strategic decisions, bodes well for their future.
The Eagles have secured Jalen Hurts, the 2022 MVP runner-up, through a contract extension until 2028. On the defensive front, they have bolstered their lineup with promising talents like Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter. A.J. Brown, a star wideout, is signed through 2026, and retaining DeVonta Smith is feasible through 2025 with a fifth-year option.
The amalgamation of emerging talents on both offense and defense, under the stewardship of a seasoned coach, Nick Sirianni, who boasts a 28-12 regular season record, positions the Eagles for a sustained NFC run. Furthermore, they maintain substantial cap space, own significant draft picks, and have a second-round pick from the Saints in 2024.
3. Detroit Lions
The Lions have morphed into legitimate Super Bowl contenders, boasting a 5-1 start to the regular season. Their front office has displayed astute decision-making in the NFL Draft, bringing in promising players like Aidan Hutchinson, Penei Sewell, Jameson Williams, and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The 2023 draft class appears equally promising with Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, and Brian Branch. The presence of Hendon Hooker as a potential future quarterback further solidifies their long-term prospects.
Though Jared Goff may not rival elite quarterbacks, he performs at a high level within Ben Johnson’s offense. The Lions also maintain the seventh-highest salary cap space in the NFL for the upcoming offseason, adding a promising outlook. Concerns arise regarding potential departures from their coaching staff, but Detroit’s foundation remains robust.
4. Houston Texans
The Texans have overcome a formidable obstacle in their rebuild by discovering a potential franchise quarterback in C.J. Stroud. Under the guidance of first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans, Houston has exhibited strong performance, entering their Week 7 bye with a 3-3 record.
C.J. Stroud’s emergence positions the Texans for significant growth in 2024, coupled with their substantial cap space and draft resources. They have solidified their offensive line and drafted well in the skill positions, setting the stage for a promising future.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati’s early-season woes due to Joe Burrow’s injury have obscured their long-term potential. With Burrow, an elite quarterback at just 26, the Bengals are well-positioned for multiple Super Bowl runs. Burrow’s recent contract extension ties him to the franchise through 2029.
Cincinnati, a two-time AFC Championship participant, has significant cap space for the upcoming offseason, offering opportunities to secure key players for the future. The team also retains its full complement of draft picks for the next three years.
Despite some uncertainty surrounding their coaching staff, the Bengals’ strong foundation, led by Burrow and Zac Taylor, keeps them in the Super Bowl conversation for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Chicago Bears
The Bears deserve an honorable mention due to their blank slate and the potential for a rapid resurgence. The season’s trajectory might lead to a coaching change and even a change in the general manager role, causing some instability. However, their high draft selections, including possibly the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, offer opportunities to secure top talent, with USC’s Caleb Williams potentially serving as the franchise quarterback.
The Bears also boast the most cap space in the NFL this offseason, presenting a plethora of avenues to inject talent into their roster. While there are challenges ahead, they have the potential to make significant strides in a short span if they make the right moves.