NFL

NFL 2023 Midseason Review: Division Races and Super Bowl 58 Odds

By Scott Kacsmar

We are halfway through the NFL’s 2023 regular season. If Weeks 1-9 are any indication on where things are heading, then we could be looking at a very familiar Championship Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs (+490 at FanDuel), Philadelphia Eagles (+500), and San Francisco 49ers (+600) have the best Super Bowl 58 odds at top-rated sportsbooks.

Will we see a Super Bowl rematch for only the second time in history between the Eagles and Chiefs? We will definitely see them meet in Week 11 when they return from their bye weeks.

We looked at the individual NFL award races last week, but this is the right time to review where the division races stand, who should win in the end, and a look at the updated Super Bowl 58 odds and best bets before we start the second half of this season.

AFC North

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • Baltimore Ravens (-145)
  • Cincinnati Bengals (+320)
  • Cleveland Browns (+500)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (+1000)

Welcome to the best division in the NFL where every team is 5-3 or better and would be in the playoffs if they started today. While the Bengals (5-3) are certainly surging after their 1-3 start, we were on the Ravens (7-2) before the season and see little reason to change now.

Baltimore leads all teams in scoring differential (+115), Lamar Jackson is No. 3 in MVP odds (+600 at FanDuel), and the Ravens have the No. 1 scoring defense. They also have road wins against the Bengals and Browns in hand already, and they can put the clamps on this division if they complete those sweeps at home in their next two games.

The Ravens are not a perfect team, but who is this year? They have the best combination in the division of a successful coach, top quarterback, a running game, and great defense and special teams with the best kicker ever.

But if the Bengals were to somehow win out, they would be on top of the conference. They still have plenty of tough challenges with the Ravens, Jaguars, and Chiefs all coming on the road. You never know when the Steelers can upset them like they did to start 2022 too. But the Bengals swept the NFC West, and Joe Burrow’s calf is clearly healthy now, and he still has one of the best receiving groups in the league, and their defensive game planning for big games is top notch. They are still a threat, but the big head start for the Ravens will be tough to overcome.

Cleveland is a solid team but losing Nick Chubb in Week 2 really hurt the running game’s effectiveness and consistency. Deshaun Watson is still not playing like he used to in Houston. They are living fully on defense, which has been great against some really poor competition like shutting out Clayton Tune with the Cardinals last week, but it is hard to see this working out for the Browns when they face a real contender. They already lost to the Steelers and Seahawks, who are decent teams that are not real Super Bowl contenders this year. This goes back to Watson and his inability to connect with Kevin Stefanski’s offense at a high level.

But speaking of the Steelers, they continue to make history for the wrong reasons. They are the only team to get outgained in yards in each of their first 8 games and still have a winning record (5-3). Mike Tomlin continues getting timely stops and takeaways from T.J. Watt and the defense, and Kenny Pickett’s nickname should be OneDrive as he’s only good for about one scoring drive a game. But sometimes it’s the most important one to win the game.

It is hard to see Pittsburgh’s style and struggles on offense with Matt Canada sustain itself to a playoff spot, but when you check the schedule, 10 wins is still realistic. But Baltimore should come through and win this division that they were leading in December in 2021 and 2022 before Jackson was injured and never played again those seasons.

Here’s hoping he stays healthy all year and we get to see a real ending in the AFC North.

Pick: AFC North Winner – Baltimore Ravens (-145 at FanDuel)

NFC North

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • Detroit Lions (-800)
  • Minnesota Vikings (+800)
  • Green Bay Packers (+3100)
  • Chicago Bears (+21000)

Credit to the Lions for living up to and possibly exceeding expectations with some of the highest odds for any division winner right now. They still have to face Minnesota twice late in the year, but the Achilles injury to Kirk Cousins is going to catch up with that team regardless of how well Joshua Dobbs’ debut went in Atlanta on Sunday. Remember, he was 1-9 as a starter before that game.

The Lions have the best team and the best quarterback in the division, which is something they haven’t been able to say in decades really. The draft class is living up to the hype, and that’s even with their insistence on playing David Montgomery over rookie Jahmyr Gibbs at running back.

Detroit did get blown out in Baltimore, but so far that is the only eyesore on the team’s resume. The Lions should be favored in most games going forward, the defense has improved from last year, and they have a great shot to win 12-plus games and get a high playoff seed.

It is finally Detroit’s year in the NFC North as the Packers learn how the other side lives when you don’t have a Hall of Fame quarterback. Jordan Love has struggled with accuracy and decision making, and the Packers are in one of their worst scoring droughts in the last 30 years with a 5-game streak of not scoring 21 points.

The Bears know all about scoring droughts, and they are 2-7 with still little clarity on whether Justin Fields can be a franchise quarterback for them. C.J. Stroud has already shown more in half a season for Houston than Fields has in the NFL since 2021, so a hard reset could be coming to this team in 2024.

Pick: NFC North Winner – Detroit Lions (-800 at FanDuel)

AFC East

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • Miami Dolphins (-195)
  • Buffalo Bills (+210)
  • New York Jets (+1100)
  • New England Patriots (+43000)

We thought this had a shot to be the best division race in the league this year, but it only took 4 snaps for the Jets to lose Aaron Rodgers to an Achilles injury that has ruined things for this team. The defense is still great, but as always, the Jets lack a quarterback and passing game.

We thought the Bills were still the class of the division, and they looked like it after they held the Dolphins to 20 points a week after Miami lit up Denver with 70 points. But some injuries on defense and inconsistency on offense have led to a 5-4 record for a team that has so many good statistics on both sides of the ball.

We thought the Dolphins had the fastest offense in NFL history, and they likely do, but you can probably cancel any ideas that this would be one of the best offenses in NFL history. Miami has folded every time it faced a tough team, going 0-3 and failing to exceed 20 points against the Bills, Eagles, and Chiefs. Miami only beats up on the worst teams in the NFL, and there is some precedent for that last season for Mike McDaniel’s team too. It is just more glaring this season as their results could not be any different in these games.

The one thing we thought that has been absolutely true is that this was going to be the worst Patriots team in over two decades. New England (2-7) has the worst record in the AFC and looks awful on both sides of the ball. We examined earlier this season why it is over for Bill Belichick and the Patriots as contenders.

This comes down to Miami (6-3) and Buffalo (5-4) with the Dolphins surprisingly having a good edge in the odds right now. Remember, the Bills have a head-to-head win in hand over Miami, but they will have to meet them again in Miami in Week 18, which is how this could ultimately be decided. The Bills also still have to play the Chiefs and Eagles on the road, teams the Dolphins have already lost to. So, the best way to figure this out is to go through the remaining schedules for both teams and project where this ends up before Week 18’s rematch.

Bills (5-4): Broncos (W), Jets (W), at Eagles (L), at Chiefs (L), Cowboys (W), at Chargers (W), Patriots (W). Record going into Miami in Week 18: 10-6.

Dolphins (6-3): Raiders (W), at Jets (W), at Commanders (W), Titans (W), Jets (W), Cowboys (L), at Ravens (L). Record going into Buffalo game in Week 18: 11-5.

Interesting. In this scenario, Week 18 would be a game for the division title. I don’t think I was too generous with Buffalo in handing them a win against Dallas. They are not getting swept by the Jets and Patriots, games they should have won the first time around. They also cannot be counted out in Kansas City where they have won the last two regular seasons, but we’ll give them a loss this time.

For the Dolphins, you cannot rule out the Jets stealing a game (likely the one at MetLife Stadium) thanks to their defense shutting down the Miami offense. You also never know when someone like the Commanders or Titans stun them with a big day. Based on their status quo of losing to the best teams, I feel good about Dallas and Baltimore beating this team.

No matter how you slice it, there is a strong likelihood that the division will come down to the Week 18 game in Miami. Can the Bills win that one on the road? They can, especially if the first matchup is any indication.

While most of these division races should be won by the current leader, this is the one with the best value of the No. 2 team pulling it out in the end. Buffalo has been too good statistically to not rebound and it is a better team than Miami, which looks like a paper tiger with a bad defense and an offense that is only great against scrubs.

Sticking to the gut pick of Buffalo on this one.

Pick: AFC East Winner – Buffalo Bills (+210 at FanDuel)

NFC East

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • Philadelphia Eagles (-600)
  • Dallas Cowboys (+500)
  • Washington Commanders (+80000)
  • New York Giants (+150000)

Before the season, we liked the Eagles to end the drought of no repeat champions in the NFC East since the Eagles did it in 2001-04. By beating Dallas in a 28-23 nail biter on Sunday, they take a huge step forward in the odds with the best record (8-1) in the NFL.

It is true the Eagles have a tough schedule coming up with the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, and Cowboys in Dallas, but unless they go 0-4 in that run, it is hard to see Dallas catching up. The Cowboys still have to play the Bills, Dolphins, and Lions right after that rematch with Philly, and losing corner Trevon Diggs hurt on defense, and some of the changes Mike McCarthy has made to the offense haven’t panned out. The Cowboys should still be a top wild card team.

The Giants have been abysmal and just lost Daniel Jones to a torn ACL. It is a miracle that Sam Howell has taken every snap for the Commanders given how many sacks he has taken, but the Eric Bieniemy-coordinated offense has had its struggles, and it doesn’t look like Washington will be a surprise team despite scaring the Eagles with 31 points in both matchups.

Dallas had a good showing on Sunday in Philadelphia, but the Eagles should win this one even if the upcoming schedule is brutal.

Pick: NFC East Winner – Philadelphia Eagles (-600 at FanDuel)

AFC South

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • Jacksonville Jaguars (-470)
  • Houston Texans (+600)
  • Tennessee Titans (+1800)
  • Indianapolis Colts (+2300)

The Jaguars (6-2) were our preseason pick in the AFC South, but there was absolutely some caution with the way they won it last year after Tennessee collapsed. But even without Calvin Ridley being a perfect fit in the offense, the Jaguars are on a 5-game winning streak with impressive wins over the Bills, Saints, and Steelers. They lost to the Chiefs at home in Week 2, but they will have chances to flex at home against the 49ers (Week 10) and Ravens (Week 15).

It is interesting to see the Colts in last place as they are 4-5, the only team in the NFL to score at least 20 points in every game, they’ve already played Jacksonville twice, and the only remaining game where they should be a significant underdog is Week 14 at Cincinnati.

The playoffs aren’t out of reach yet, but I guess people see Gardner Minshew’s turnovers and just have a lack of trust in this team getting it done. But the odds should be closer than this to a team like Houston, which lost to Indy at home, still has to play there later, and is the only team to lose to the Panthers this year. But the hype for C.J. Stroud, who all but locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year against Tampa Bay, is very real.

But this is Jacksonville’s division to lose, and they are not likely going to repeat the 7-game losing streak that buried the Titans last year.

Having said that, this could be a very fun division going forward with promising starts for Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson at quarterback to go along with the more established Lawrence. That’s just another reason the Jaguars need to take care of business now, because it won’t always be this easy to win the division.

Pick: AFC South Winner – Jacksonville Jaguars (-470 at FanDuel)

NFC South

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • New Orleans Saints (-155)
  • Atlanta Falcons (+210)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+550)
  • Carolina Panthers (+8000)

As it turns out, our schedule analysis for the Saints was right on the money. It is possible the only 10-win teams the Saints have to play all year are the Lions and Jaguars.

Unfortunately, the Saints have looked shakier on defense in recent weeks, and Derek Carr had a weak start to the season in leading the offense. Still, the Saints are 5-4 and they have the best combo of quarterback and defense in the division.

The Panthers have been terrible with a 1-7 record. Frank Reich is not getting much out of No. 1 pick Bryce Young and new running back Miles Sanders. Only Adam Thielen seems to shine in that offense.

The Buccaneers (3-5) are on a 4-game losing streak after a heartbreaker in Houston after Baker Mayfield led the team down the field for a late go-ahead touchdown. They still have to play the 49ers and Jaguars too. It’s not looking good for Todd Bowles and company.

Atlanta started 2-0 but is 2-5 since. Head coach Arthur Smith does not seem like he knows what he’s doing with his skill players, which is supposed to be his area of expertise. They benched Desmond Ridder a bit prematurely, but Ridder also was not showing a ton of positives. They still don’t use Kyle Pitts much at tight end, and they don’t seem to utilize Bijan Robinson the way we thought they would as the run-heaviest offense in 2022. It’s not good, and that’s without saying anything about a defense that has been lit up by Will Levis (Titans) and Joshua Dobbs (Vikings) in their team debuts the last two weeks.

Atlanta has an easy remaining schedule, but it won’t matter if this team can’t even beat the Cardinals with Kyler Murray potentially back this weekend. But the games to circle are the matchups with the Saints in Weeks 12 and 18. Atlanta gets the first matchup at home, but if the Saints prevail in that one, you can start printing the hats and t-shirts for division champions.

While the Saints still look like a fraudulent Super Bowl contender, they should ultimately prevail and win the NFC South just as we expected before the season started.

Pick: NFC South Winner – New Orleans Saints (-155 at FanDuel)

AFC West

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • Kansas City Chiefs (-800)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (+850)
  • Las Vegas Raiders (+3600)
  • Denver Broncos (+10000)

Will the Chiefs be seriously challenged in this division any time soon? We thought it might happen this year, but the Raiders already had to fire Josh McDaniels and bench Jimmy Garoppolo, the Broncos got off to a terrible start under Sean Payton, and the Chargers are essentially still the Chargers.

At least things look a little closer now than they did after the Chiefs improved to 6-1 by beating the Chargers. It looked like they could lock up the division by Halloween, but since that point, the Broncos ended their 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs with a shocking 24-9 win, the Chargers have breezed to wins over the Bears and Jets to get back to .500, and the Raiders fired McDaniels and instantly had their best game of the season.

But in the end, the Chiefs should still cruise to an 8th division title in a row, which would be the second-longest streak in NFL history behind only the 11-year run by the Patriots in the AFC East (2009-19).

Pick: AFC West Winner – Kansas City Chiefs (-800 at FanDuel)

NFC West

The current odds from FanDuel:

  • San Francisco 49ers (-360)
  • Seattle Seahawks (+310)
  • Los Angeles Rams (+4200)
  • Arizona Cardinals (+200000)

The Cardinals overachieved for about a month before we saw them as the team we expected to compete for the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Rams (3-6) have also fallen off from relevancy with a 3-game losing streak and injury to Matthew Stafford.

This is a two-team race, and it feels like last November when the Seahawks still had a better record than the 49ers but the oddsmakers were heavily on the better team from San Francisco. Sure enough, the 49ers never lost again until the NFC Championship Game while the Seahawks finished 9-8.

Seattle went into Week 9 with the division lead before getting blown out 37-3 in Baltimore. With the offense regression and the marginal improvement on defense, it is hard to take Seattle seriously as a division winner. The games with San Francisco are coming up soon in Weeks 12 and 14, and the Seahawks were 0-3 against this team last year.

The 49ers have gone from Super Bowl favorites to questionable with a 3-game losing streak that has exposed what can happen when Brock Purdy’s risky passes start getting caught for interceptions. The 49ers have 6 turnovers in their last two games, but they should get Deebo Samuel back from injury. They traded for Chase Young from Washington for more pass-rushing depth.

They still have a smart coach and the most talented roster in the league. Purdy may not be MVP material, but he can win this division again. Even if the 49er lose to the Jaguars, Eagles, and Ravens to finish 11-6, that should still be enough for the NFC West as long as they sweep the Seahawks, who also still have to play the Eagles and Cowboys.

Pick: NFC West Winner – San Francisco 49ers (-360 at FanDuel)

Updated Super Bowl 58 Odds

The current Super Bowl 58 odds from FanDuel for the 17 teams with odds of +10000 and better:

  • Kansas City Chiefs (+490)
  • Philadelphia Eagles (+500)
  • San Francisco 49ers (+600)
  • Baltimore Ravens (+850)
  • Dallas Cowboys (+1100)
  • Miami Dolphins (+1200)
  • Cincinnati Bengals (+1400)
  • Detroit Lions (+1500)
  • Buffalo Bills (+1500)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (+2000)
  • Cleveland Browns (+2800)
  • Seattle Seahawks (+3400)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (+3900)
  • New Orleans Saints (+4200)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (+8500)
  • Atlanta Falcons (+9500)
  • Minnesota Vikings (+10000)

Swipe Left on Cinderella

If we are just being honest, none of the teams from Seattle down are winning the Super Bowl this year. They are either too inconsistent or not strong enough on either side of the ball to take out the top teams, especially if they have to do it from a wild card position.

More often than not, the Super Bowl winner is a team that finished in the final 8 (divisional round) the year before. None of those six teams at the bottom of the list did that last year. Several are going to miss the playoffs entirely too.

What About the Cleveland Defense?

In a season where scoring could finish at its lowest point since 2009 (21.7 points per game), can defense power a team to the finish line a la the 2000 Ravens, 2002 Buccaneers, or 2015 Broncos?

The team to pick there would be Cleveland, but I just don’t see it without Nick Chubb there to power the running game, and Deshaun Watson continues to underwhelm in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. That defense also could get exposed against better quarterbacks in the playoffs if it gets there. You won’t see Clayton Tune or Gardner Minshew (who had over 300 yards and 4 total touchdowns against the Browns) in January.

Which Quarterback Goes Flatliner in January and Shocks the World?

Could this be a year where someone unexpectedly goes on an Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, or Nick Foles type of playoff run all the way to a Super Bowl? These are quarterbacks who showed elite play in flashes, but they have the flatliner personality where nothing phases them, and they can make it through a whole Super Bowl run without messing things up. Eli even did it twice.

I think that’s where Jared Goff (Lions) or Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) could come in play with their teams who are flying under the radar. Goff has been to a Super Bowl before, and Lawrence has a 27-point comeback win in the playoffs under his belt. Both should win their divisions and start the playoffs at home. There could be some value there with +1500 and +2000 odds right now.

Fading the Paper Tigers

I will not go on record as saying the Dolphins, Bills, and Cowboys cannot win a Super Bowl this season. I just do not trust them enough to bet on them to do it. The Cowboys and Bills have had multiple shots at this already, and they always seem to come up short in the big games. The Cowboys seem to have a real mental block in playing the 49ers, and the Bills have not looked good against Cincinnati. Maybe if they somehow got to avoid those teams in the playoffs, they would find a way to get it done, but that’s unlikely given the way each conference is aligning for the playoff seeds.

As for Miami, we already hit on this in the AFC East pick, but that is the definition of a paper tiger. That team is chasing the 2000 Rams rather than the 1999 or 2001 Rams that reached a Super Bowl because they still played great defense too. The Dolphins have disappointed defensively, and the offense continues to disappear against the good defenses. Do not buy this team for the big game.

If you had to back one of these teams to pull it off this year, Buffalo is still the best pick with their ability to excel on both sides of the ball, and we know Josh Allen is one of the only quarterbacks who can go into Kansas City and go drive for drive with Patrick Mahomes.

The Final Four + Baltimore

After an offseason of hype and half the regular season in the books, we might be looking at the same final four teams on Championship Sunday as last year: Eagles and 49ers in the NFC, Chiefs and Bengals in the AFC.

Oddly enough, it is hard to say any of the four teams look stronger right now than they did last year:

  • The Chiefs finally have a great defense for Patrick Mahomes, but with a 34-year-old Travis Kelce and next to nothing at wide receiver, it is the weakest offense in the Mahomes era. Kansas City has been held under 300 yards of offense in back-to-back games (Denver and Miami) for the first time since 2016.
  • The Eagles are 8-1 just like they started 2022, but they have taken some steps back on defense, and they find themselves playing a lot more closer games this year. They are also in the toughest stretch of their schedule right now as we will see them play the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, and Cowboys again in their next four games.
  • The 49ers were the talk of the NFL at 5-0 after they dismantled Dallas in a 42-10 game. But since then, they are 0-3 and have not scored more than 17 points in any game. Brock Purdy is getting picked off frequently, and the defense has lost some of its edge.
  • The Bengals were playing legitimately horrible offense for a month when they were 1-3, but since Joe Burrow’s calf healed, they are 4-0 and heating up on both sides of the ball. Last year, they won 10 in a row after a 4-4 start to reach the title game in Kansas City.

But in what has been a down year for the NFL in general, it is okay that these teams are not firing on all cylinders. They are still in the best position to go the distance this season, unless the Baltimore Ravens continue improving and keep their key players healthy.

Baltimore is the team that can throw a wrench in this march towards a repeat Championship Sunday and possibly a repeat Super Bowl between the Eagles and Chiefs. Baltimore has the best scoring differential, the No. 1 scoring defense, has already waxed multiple teams with winning records by 25-plus points, Lamar Jackson is third in MVP odds, and it doesn’t even feel like they have peaked yet.

Yes, the Ravens lost to the Colts and Steelers, but they felt like self-inflicted losses, especially with all the dropped passes in Pittsburgh. We haven’t seen any team bully the Ravens yet like we have seen the Chiefs get embarrassed by Denver, the Eagles get embarrassed by the Jets, the 49ers lost wire-to-wire in Minnesota, and the Bengals played like trash for a whole month. Baltimore can especially shake things up if they relegate the Bengals to a wild card team.

Remember, the Ravens were leading the AFC North in December the last two seasons before Jackson was injured. We haven’t really seen what this team is capable of in the playoffs in years because of that, and they were a better quarterback sneak away from possibly beating the Bengals in Cincinnati with Tyler Huntley in the wild card round last January.

Jackson has not performed well in the playoffs in his career, but again, we have not seen him start a playoff game since the 2020 season. That’s a long time ago in the NFL and players can change.

If there was ever a season where the Ravens could play a physical brand of football and win lower-scoring games against the likes of the Bengals and Chiefs in January, even if they had to go to Arrowhead, it would be this season. Given Jackson is 18-3 against NFC teams in his career, just getting to the Super Bowl should be harder than winning it once he is finally there.

No team has repeated as champion since the 2003-04 Patriots, the longest drought in NFL history. The Chiefs have what it takes to do it again, but if they are going to rely on defense this time, what happens if they face the only team that may have a better defense, and that team also has a better offense now? That’s never been the case before with Jackson vs. Mahomes, and Baltimore did win the last matchup, 36-35, in 2021.

On the other hand, no quarterback has ever won his first Super Bowl when starting for the same coach for more than five seasons, and this is Year 6 for Jackson and John Harbaugh in Baltimore. But after the last two years were technically incomplete with Jackson injuries, maybe this is the year they get the job done.

Let’s go with Baltimore to crash the repeat party while the odds are still this high.

Pick: Super Bowl 58 Winner – Baltimore Ravens (+850 at FanDuel)

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