We’re now past midpoint of the 2023 NFL regular season, with Week 13 set to kick off tonight with a prime time matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys.
If, back in June or July, someone were to step in a time machine and find themselves transported to this moment, they’d find a league unlike anything they probably would have expected. After years of think pieces about drastically improved quarterback play league wide, it’s been an ugly season for NFL signal callers.
The Jets were penciled in as early championship contenders, but a devastating Achilles injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers in their first quarter of the season might’ve put those hopes to bed, even as Rodgers attempts to push the limits of what’s possible and return for the playoffs. Houston Texans’ rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has been getting some buzz to win league MVP with a string of stellar performances while the Cincinnati Bengals have cracked back to Earth with the season-ending injury to Joe Burrow after being one of the hottest teams in the league following their 0-3 start.
Here’s a look at what’s happened so far in a stunning NFL season, with players and betting odds to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Bengals Breaking Out, Then Crashing
Hometown hero Joe Burrow was the early favorite to win league MVP this offseason, but a calf injury he suffered during training camp hampered his effectiveness for the first month of the season. Burrow seemed to be back with a vengeance, throwing ten touchdowns to just two interceptions during Cincinnati’s ongoing four game winning streak.
As the Bengals were surging before the Burrow injury, they were an interesting pick to get to the playoffs that you could have selected with the ESPN Bet Kentucky promo code, though that bet would have blown up with the injury. That team seems to be going nowhere now with their backup quarterback.
The NFL seems the widest open it’s been in years this season, and now the Bengals and Charger are probably finished, while even the Buffalo Bills might have trouble making the playoffs with their 6-6 record and a tough schedule ahead of them.
C.J. Stroud, MVP Sleeper?
Right now, Stroud is a shoe-in to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, listed as high as -500 to do so at various sports betting sites. With 14 passing touchdowns to just one interception, the fact of the matter is that the OROY award doesn’t cut it. Stroud should be in the MVP race, where he’s given much longer odds.
The Texans have been dysfunctional for years, making Stroud’s ascendance all the more impressive. After having the worst odds of winning it all this season back in June, tied for that dishonor with the miserable Arizona Cardinals, Stroud has Houston at 6-5 and flirting with a playoff spot.
Ravens Super Bowl? It all depends on Lamar Jackson
I hate to double-dip in the same division — it’s good to have some variety when writing for a wide audience — but some think that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens win it all this season.
The Ravens play complimentary football, grinding away at the opposition with the league’s best rushing attack. Bleeding away at the clock limits their opponents’ ability to counterattack, and their defense is ready, well rested and waiting to capitalize off the first mistake they see.
Perhaps even more important is the fact that this Ravens team is the most well-balanced of any we’ve seen during the Lamar Jackson era. Sure, they run the ball a lot, but they have the luxury to do so when they’re building up a big lead early.
With Todd Monken taking over play-calling duties this season, Jackson isn’t being asked to do it all this season, which will help him stay healthy and ready for a championship push. He’s more than capable of standing on his head when necessary, as he’s shown throughout his career. The scary thing about this Ravens club is that they don’t even need him to play hero ball in order to win handily.
That said, Jackson still tends to struggle against good defenses. He has a lot to prove in terms of winning playoff games. Let’s see if things change this year.
The 2023 NFL season has been full of surprises. Quarterback play, typically a strong suit, has been inconsistent. Tons of rookies and mediocre quarterbacks have had to start games due to injuries. Just look at what the Cleveland Browns have accomplished with their quarterback situation. The New York Jets’ championship hopes were derailed by Aaron Rodgers’ injury, while rookie C.J. Stroud is a dark horse MVP candidate for the Houston Texans.
Meanwhile, top teams like the Eagles and Chiefs are thriving. For all the drama this season, we may see a Super Bowl rematch. Though I suspect the Dolphins and 49ers will have something to say about that.