11 NFL experts answer big questions on next season: Super Bowl, MVP and breakout picks

Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs were crowned the Super Bowl LVIII champions Sunday night, which means it is now officially the 2024 NFL offseason. We’re only a few weeks away from free agency and less than two months from the draft, and this spring is expected to bring a lot of movement.

Will the Bears return with Justin Fields at quarterback, or will they draft a QB at No. 1 overall in April? Will Baker Mayfield return to the Buccaneers or cash in somewhere else in free agency? Is Derrick Henry‘s time in Tennessee over? A lot can happen before the season starts in September.

We asked our NFL experts — Matt Bowen, Mike Clay, Jeremy Fowler, Dan Graziano, Matt Miller, Eric Moody, Jordan Reid, Mike Tannenbaum, Lindsey Thiry, Seth Walder and Field Yates — to make picks for next year’s Super Bowl matchup and 2024 MVP, along with potential breakout teams/players and one offseason move they would like to see.

Let’s get into the questions, starting with whether the Chiefs will three-peat.

Jump to:
Super Bowl LVIX picks | MVP picks
Breakout candidates | Offseason wish list

What’s your early Super Bowl LVIX pick?

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Packers over Bengals. A healthy quarterback Joe Burrow will put the Bengals back in the mix as one of the top teams in the AFC. It’s the Packers, however, who win the Super Bowl because of quarterback Jordan Love‘s difference-making ability and a change in defensive philosophy under new coordinator Jeff Hafley.

Mike Clay, fantasy football writer: Lions over Texans. Why not have some fun with two rising teams for this pick? Detroit was one late-game collapse from a Super Bowl appearance and will return nearly its entire core (especially on offense) in 2024, though an improving NFC North will make things tough. Quarterback C.J. Stroud appears to be the real deal, so a strong offseason from the Houston front office could quickly get the Texans to contender status in the AFC.

Jeremy Fowler, national NFL writer: Bills over Rams. Although Buffalo was a better team than Kansas City in the 2023 divisional round, it found a way to lose. The Bills will break through, and this might be the last season to do it because of looming roster/cap constraints. The Rams are trending up on offense and finally have the cap space and draft capital to improve their defense for one more run.

Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Bengals over Lions. Obviously, this is a bold exercise at this point, so I’m putting two teams in the Super Bowl who’ve never won it and banking on someone making history. (Even though the real answer is probably the Chiefs making a different kind of history.) Assuming Burrow is 100% healthy from his thumb injury, Cincinnati has a loaded roster (that went 9-8 in 2023 because Burrow got hurt) and gets to play a last-place schedule. And the Lions, who came closer to the Super Bowl without getting there than many, return with their coaching staff intact and should improve on defense through free agency and the draft.

Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst: Chiefs over Packers. Just like last year when I picked the Chiefs over the 49ers, I’m not betting against quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In what was supposed to be two “down” years to get the team’s salary cap healthy, the Chiefs won back-to-back Super Bowls. The talent is there, and the franchise has money and draft capital to fill holes this offseason. Oh, and the Chiefs have the greatest quarterback ever.

Eric Moody, fantasy football writer: Chiefs over Packers. It’s difficult to bet against the Chiefs after witnessing their ability to overcome adversity during the regular season, navigate a challenging playoff schedule and emerge victorious in the Super Bowl against the 49ers. Mahomes is only 28 years old, and imagine how much more dangerous Kansas City’s offense could be if it adds additional offensive playmakers this offseason. Meanwhile, Love and the Packers exceeded expectations, establishing themselves as legitimate contenders for the top spot in the NFC.

Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst: Chiefs over Lions. With everything staying intact for Detroit, the Lions will be a popular candidate to return to the NFC Championship Game, and I think they get over the hump and end up in the big game. But the Chiefs have plenty of motivation to accomplish a three-peat, and Mahomes continues his reign as the best player in the NFL.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front office insider: Lions over Chargers. The Lions will benefit from both coordinators returning to Detroit after Ben Johnson and Aaron Glenn each attracted head-coaching interest, and this time I expect the team to win the NFC Championship Game and win the Super Bowl. I see them holding off QB Justin Herbert, Jim Harbaugh and the Chargers in a close game.

Lindsey Thiry, national NFL reporter: Chiefs over Lions. It’s difficult to pick against the Mahomes and the Chiefs, who navigated a challenging season of growing pains on offense yet still emerged as the victors. Meanwhile, despite Lions coach Dan Campbell acknowledging their run to the conference championship game might be their “only shot,” expect them to contend and run it back deeper with the return of key playmakers and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

Seth Walder, sports analytics writer: 49ers over Bills. The best recipe for sustained greatness is an elite offense. No one was better offensively in 2023 than the 49ers, and there’s little reason to think that should change. Plus, while all teams carry injury risk, perhaps the most critical person to the 49ers’ offensive success can’t get hurt: coach Kyle Shanahan.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Chiefs over Rams. The Chiefs hardly need an explanation here, while the Rams are poised for a significant step forward, as Los Angeles is equipped with draft capital (the team hasn’t made a first-round pick since 2016 but has one this year) and is armed with cap space after operating almost exclusively around the margins an offseason ago.


Who’s your pick to be next season’s MVP?

Bowen: Jordan Love, QB, Packers. Love has a dynamic and versatile group of pass catchers, plus a system that maximizes his throwing traits. He’s in position to produce high-end numbers for a championship-level team.

Clay: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. Allen was arguably the most valuable player this past season, but some variance gone wrong cost Buffalo a few regular-season wins and thus shut down Allen’s shot at the MVP. The dual-threat quarterback has produced 42-plus touchdowns in four straight seasons and has finished no lower than eighth among QBs in both passing and rushing yards in each of those four campaigns.

Fowler: Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers. New coach Jim Harbaugh will streamline the offense for Herbert and help the talented passer put it all together. He’ll trade gaudy stats for more wins, more efficiency and a stronger running game.

Graziano: C.J. Stroud, QB, Texans. I’m banking on Houston pulling a Cincinnati and being aggressive this offseason to try to maximize its window with Stroud on a rookie contract. There were stretches this past season when he was in the MVP conversation, and a second year with offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and some improvements around him should catapult him to the front of the field.

Miller: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs. Granted, we might be entering a Michael Jordan-like era for Mahomes when, despite him being the clear-cut best player in the sport, Karl Malone wins the MVP award. But I think the NFL world has woken up and remembered that Mahomes is that dude. The ascension of Rashee Rice and an early-round draft pick at wide receiver will get Mahomes back into the statistical territory he needs to win hardware.

Moody: Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals. Burrow is in an excellent position to win the award, especially with Ja’Marr Chase as his No. 1 receiver, provided the quarterback can stay healthy. In 2022, the league began accepting first-, second- and third-place votes for the MVP award, and Burrow finished fourth behind Mahomes, Jalen Hurts and Allen.

Reid: C.J. Stroud, QB, Texans. I believe the Texans are poised to make another jump in 2024, similar to what we saw the Lions do. After getting playoff experience and winning a wild-card game, the young core returns. Houston is likely to add more targets to the team’s offense, and Stroud will likely continue to ascend with Slowik returning.

Tannenbaum: Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers. Herbert’s 2023 season ended early because of a finger injury, but if he plays all 17 games in 2024, he will put up MVP-caliber numbers. The Chargers can work to recover their power run game and play-action passing attack under Harbaugh, and that should lead to a big season for Herbert.

Thiry: Jordan Love, QB, Packers. In his first season as a starter and surrounded by youth at the skill positions, Love surged from Week 11 on, leading the NFL in QBR, touchdown-to-interception ratio and combined touchdowns. Watch for Love to continue to progress and flourish under coach Matt LaFleur.

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1:17

C.J. Stroud tells McAfee why being himself is so important

C.J. Stroud explains to Pat McAfee how important it is for him to be authentic to his character.

Walder: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. He was the most productive dual-threat quarterback in the league, and the only reason he didn’t win the 2023 MVP is because he had a bit of a down season passing the ball. With a slight bounceback in that department, he should have a great shot to win the award in 2024.

Yates: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. Allen was the second-most-deserving candidate for the award this past season, and I expect him to be at the front of the chase next year. He’s still among the best dual threats in the NFL and is asked to carry a significant load annually.


Name one team, coach or player that will breakout in the 2024 season.

Bowen: Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Bears. Stevenson had four interceptions and 11 pass breakups in his rookie season. He was an easy fit in Matt Eberflus’ defense and has the physical play style and ball skills to produce breakout numbers in 2024.

Clay: Bryce Young, QB, Panthers. Year 2 is the most common breakout time for quarterbacks, even when said QB struggled as a rookie. Young had to overcome a shaky supporting cast and an in-season coaching change as a rookie, but the arrival of head coach and playcaller Dave Canales (who did wonders for quarterback Baker Mayfield last season) and inevitable upgrades at wide receiver will help get the 2023 No. 1 overall pick to the next level.

Fowler: Travon Walker, EDGE, Jaguars. Aidan Hutchinson garners much of the shine among the top picks in the 2022 draft, but Walker quietly posted a 10-sack season with 45 pressures. Walker is immensely talented but is a developmental player. He should hit his stride in his third NFL season and become a big-money player.

Graziano: Roschon Johnson, RB, Bears. He was a part of a three-man running back committee for most of his rookie season, but Bears coaches thought all along he was the back who had the most complete skill set. With a full offseason to work on the holes in his game, a new offensive coordinator and a season’s worth of reps under his belt, Johnson should emerge as a star in his second season.

Miller: Jordan Love, QB, Packers. Love started his breakout over the second half of the 2023 season, but in 2024, we will see him emerge as a legitimate franchise quarterback and game-changing dual threat. Love is why I’m picking the Packers to make a Super Bowl run.

Moody: Tyjae Spears, RB, Titans. There are many signs that Derrick Henry‘s time with the Titans is coming to an end, which puts Spears in a great position to break out. He is dangerous as a runner in between the tackles and as a receiver out of the backfield. In the lone game last season in which he had double-digit rushing attempts (16), Spears accumulated 75 yards.

Reid: Anthony Richardson, QB, Colts. Richardson had an opportunity to sit, learn and become more comfortable in coach Shane Steichen’s offense after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury early in his rookie season. As long as he stays healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Richardson become one of the biggest breakout stars in 2024.

Tannenbaum: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Commanders. After an up-and-down rookie season, I expect this undersized (6-foot, 180 pounds) corner to thrive in coach Dan Quinn’s defense. Forbes had one interception (and nine pass breakups) in 2023, but he had six picks in his final season at Mississippi State.

Thiry: Nico Collins, WR, Texans. The third-year receiver saw a major jump in production — his 1,297 receiving yards were more than he produced in his first two seasons combined — when paired with Stroud. With another offseason to build chemistry with Stroud, watch for Collins to produce among the top five receivers next season.

Walder: The Falcons. The roster already has talent and potential, and now the Falcons have brought in coach Raheem Morris and a new offensive system with coordinator Zac Robinson. Capable quarterback play would go a long way, and while the need at quarterback is substantial, there are a few different ways the Falcons can address it (the draft? Kirk Cousins? Justin Fields?). All of those options are likely to be an upgrade over the Desmond RidderTaylor Heinicke combination they rolled out last season.

Yates: Garrett Wilson, WR, Jets. This will sound a bit odd for a player who had back-to-back seasons of 1,000+plus yards to begin his career, but Wilson is ready for liftoff with the healthy return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Wilson was held back by quarterback play in his first two years, but as long as Rodgers stays on the field, Wilson is a legitimate bet to finish top five in catches and receiving yards in 2024.


What is one move you want to see this offseason?

Bowen: CB L’Jarius Sneed signs with the Eagles. Upgrading the cornerback position is an offseason priority in Philadelphia. With Sneed, the Eagles land one of the top veteran free agents, who has the coverage skills and ability to produce in Vic Fangio’s system.

Clay: The Bears trade QB Justin Fields to the Falcons. Entering the offseason, two things needed to happen in order for Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts to reach their potential: 1. Atlanta needed a more pass-friendly offense, and 2. Atlanta needed a QB upgrade. The first one is complete with Arthur Smith out and Zac Robinson in as the team’s playcaller. The second one will be trickier, but a trade for Fields would go a long way.

Fowler: The Patriots submarine the Buccaneers by signing QB Baker Mayfield. While Tampa is the clear-cut favorite to re-sign Mayfield, now a coveted free agent after a banner year with the Bucs, anything can happen in free agency. And the Patriots’ new brain trust — including lead personnel man Eliot Wolf and personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith — were part of the Cleveland regime that took Mayfield No. 1 in the 2018 draft. They believed in him. Yes, the Patriots can take a quarterback at No. 3 overall. But who’s to say they wouldn’t still need a veteran? Or, if they believe Mayfield is a long-term answer in this case, they could draft Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. or trade back for more capital.

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Are Patriots under more pressure this offseason than Steelers?

Tim Hasselbeck and Mike Greenberg disagree on who’s under more pressure to win the offseason between the Patriots or Steelers.

Graziano: DT Chris Jones re-signs with the Chiefs. I know, boring, right? This is supposed to be some big-splash relocation idea. But after watching the Super Bowl and being reminded that Jones is the Chiefs’ second-most-important player, I can’t help but think they need to find a way to keep him there his whole career. I’m never going to tell a guy not to go get his money, and if Jones wants to max out on this contract and go somewhere else to do it, good for him. But he’s playing at a Hall of Fame caliber in Kansas City, and it’d be good if the Chiefs and Jones could find a way to keep it going.

Miller: The Bears trade QB Justin Fields to the Steelers. Pittsburgh is desperate for a quarterback, and Fields has the tools to thrive in Arthur Smith’s offense. With a good offensive line in place and talented skill players around him, Fields can excel there.

Moody: WR Mike Evans signs with the Jets. New York should take advantage of the veteran wide receiver market during free agency. There is a lot of talk about Davante Adams because of his relationship with Aaron Rodgers, but I would love it if the Jets signed Evans. Rodgers, Evans and Wilson would give defensive coordinators migraines all season long.

Reid: The Vikings make WR Justin Jefferson the league’s highest-paid non-QB. There’s no question that Jefferson deserves the money. Even after returning from a hamstring injury last season, Jefferson showed his worth with 32 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns in the final five games of the season. Keeping Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson together would benefit the Vikings as they enter an offseason with uncertainty at quarterback.

Tannenbaum: The Bears trade QB Justin Fields to the Falcons. Atlanta needs to go get Fields for a second-round pick. Such a move would send the 2021 first-rounder to his native Georgia and help stabilize the quarterback situation there for new coach Raheem Morris. Fields, with an abundance of young talent around him on offense, could push the Falcons into the playoffs.

Thiry: The Commanders trade up with the Bears, from No. 2 to No. 1 overall, to select USC QB Caleb Williams. This means Fields would remain in Chicago, while Williams would reunite with new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who served as a Trojans offensive analyst last season.

Walder: The Browns trade for QB Justin Fields. This is a wild one, I know. But if I were the Browns, I would look at Deshaun Watson as mostly a sunk cost and try to upgrade at quarterback. With no first-round pick and so much money already heading Watson’s way, this would be tough to do. But trading a second- or third-round pick for Fields (still on his rookie contract) is feasible, and I’d like to see Fields in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. The alternative is simply hoping that Watson improves and, if not, wasting another year of a talented roster.

Yates: The Seahawks sign LB Patrick Queen. I suspect you’ll hear buzz of this nature involving any Ravens defensive free agent, as new Seahawks coach Mike McDonald architected a brilliant defense in Baltimore. But the Queen match is particularly pertinent as McDonald was Queen’s position coach in Baltimore early in his career. Seattle has two key starters who are going to be free agents (Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks), and this draft class is not deep on inside linebackers.

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