2023 NFL bold predictions for season's second half: Vikings' underdog run continues, Raiders find their new HC

2023 NFL bold predictions for season's second half: Vikings' underdog run continues, Raiders find their new HC
2023 NFL bold predictions for season's second half: Vikings' underdog run continues, Raiders find their new HC

Halfway through the 2023 NFL season, we've already had our fair share of surprises across the league. The Raiders are off to a better start than the Broncos despite firing coach Josh McDaniels in-season, Patriots legend Bill Belichick appears to be legitimately on the hot seat, and Texans rookie C.J. Stroud has the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in all of football.

What other surprises await us in the second half of the 2023 campaign? Here are five bold predictions:

The Vikings make the playoffs
Joshua Dobbs Getty Images

Any hopes of a Minnesota postseason bid appeared to vanish the minute Kirk Cousins suffered a torn Achilles in Week 8. But there wasn't a more spirited team on Sunday, with journeyman Joshua Dobbs coming in cold off the bench to guide a comeback upset of Atlanta. Couple Dobbs' emergence with Justin Jefferson's eventual return from injury, plus Brian Flores' perpetually aggressive defense, and it won't be a shock if these Vikings outlast the Buccaneers, Commanders and even Seahawks in the wild card race.

Antonio Pierce earns the Raiders' head coaching job
Antonio Pierce USATSI

Las Vegas has cycled through coach after coach under owner Mark Davis, so an extensive search will inevitably follow the 2023 season, regardless of how the Raiders finish under Pierce. But the top priority for Davis is a "player-centric" leader, per CBS Sports Senior NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, which is precisely what Pierce seems to be after guiding an emotional blowout of the Giants in Week 9. After passing on internal favorite Rich Bisaccia to hire Josh McDaniels, this time Davis could side with the homegrown up-and-comer.

Will Levis challenges for Offensive Rookie of the Year
Will Levis USATSI

C.J. Stroud has one of the best passer ratings in the NFL. Jordan Addison has seven touchdowns. Puka Nacua has over 800 receiving yards. Levis, meanwhile, only made his debut in Week 8. But two games into his career, he looks the part as the Titans' signal-caller, even with a subpar line and receiving corps. You simply can't teach his talent, which is evident every time he flicks the ball downfield, and that alone should put him in position for splash games that keep the Titans far more competitive than they ought to be.

Rashaad Penny Icon Sportswire

The former Seahawks standout has been a total nonfactor in Philadelphia through the first half of the season, mostly remaining inactive while D'Andre Swift and Kenneth Gainwell headline the Eagles' backfield. But it may have been partly by design; Penny's one weakness during his NFL career has been availability, so it stands to reason the Birds have been preserving him for the stretch run. Rested up, the big man is primed to seize more carries as Sundays get colder and the Eagles look to re-establish the ground game moving toward the playoffs.

Ron Rivera parts ways with Commanders
Ron Rivera Getty Images

Call it a mutual split that occurs immediately following Week 18. A full-on dismissal is certainly in the cards, with Rivera now at 26-32-1 after three-and-a-half years on the job. But the estimation here is that he's done too much to help reshape Washington's on- and off-field culture to be booted without a "say" in the matter, even if it's just a formality.

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