The NFL released the full 2023 schedule on Thursday evening. The season will get started on opening night with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Detroit Lions, a trendy pick to win the NFC North.
Things will look a bit different this year as not everyone is guaranteed to have a prime-time game. In fact, four teams (Texans, Falcons, Cardinals, and Colts) are not scheduled for any night games. There will also be flex scheduling for Monday night games starting in Week 13.
With the schedule out, the paths to the Super Bowl become a lot clearer. We are looking at the futures odds and the best bets on OddsTrader to bet on right now. You can find these bets at many of your favorite sportsbooks, and you can always use OddsTrader to find the best prices available.
- Super Bowl Winning Conference: AFC (-145) at BetMGM
- NFC Conference Champion: Philadelphia Eagles (+400) at BetMGM
- AFC North Winner: Baltimore Ravens (+300) at BetMGM
- New York Giants to Make Playoffs – No (-169) at BetMGM
- New York Jets Over 9.5 Wins (-132) at BetMGM
Super Bowl Winning Conference
Full Odds at BetMGM:
- AFC (-145)
- NFC (+120)
One thing people are starting to take away from this upcoming 2023 season is just how much deeper and more impressive the AFC looks than the NFC. You still expect the top teams in the AFC last year to remain very good when it comes to the Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills.
But consider how many legitimate Super Bowl contenders there can be from the AFC in addition to that trio:
- New York Jets – If Aaron Rodgers is an instant hit like Brett Favre (2009 Vikings), Peyton Manning (2012 Broncos), and Tom Brady (2020 Buccaneers) were before him, this is a new contender.
- Baltimore Ravens – This team would have been a bigger contender the last two years had Lamar Jackson stayed healthy past December, so hopefully he can do that this time.
- Denver Broncos – It is up to Sean Payton to fix Russell Wilson and turn this offense, which also lost some receivers, and running back Javonte Williams, to injury in 2022, into a contender.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett is no longer a rookie, Mike Tomlin is allergic to losing seasons, and they had a very good draft.
- Los Angeles Chargers – After a taste of the postseason under Justin Herbert, maybe this team can finally field a respectable defense.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – We’ll see if the playoff win and second-half surge can carry over into bigger things with Calvin Ridley joining the receiving corps
- Miami Dolphins – Things could be special if Tua Tagovailoa avoids concussions this year.
We thought the conference would be really deep last year, but Russell Wilson (Broncos) and Matt Ryan (Colts) did not pan out as the big quarterback moves, and the playoffs were weakened by the injuries to Lamar Jackson and Tua Tagovailoa.
But if the key players can stay healthy in 2023, we could be talking about six or seven legitimate contenders instead of the usual suspects.
What About the NFC?
As for the NFC, you are basically talking about another NFC East arms race between the Eagles and Cowboys, and just counting on the 49ers to be involved somehow. But Kyle Shanahan does seem to have some bridesmaid syndrome, as he always comes up short of the Super Bowl victory.
The Eagles were also last year’s surprise team, and it is hard to say the roster is significantly better this year with more teams expecting them to be great. It will be really hard for the NFC to produce a new juggernaut short of Justin Fields making a huge improvement in Chicago or Jordan Love being the real deal with the Packers.
Whether or not the Chiefs get back to the Super Bowl, it just feels like the team that survives this AFC should be the favorite to win it all this season. Based on the odds, three of the top four divisions expected to produce this year’s Super Bowl winner reside in the AFC. That is why we think the AFC should be the Super Bowl winning conference.
NFL Pick: Super Bowl Winning Conference – AFC (-145) at BetMGM
NFC Championship Winner
- Philadelphia Eagles (+400 at BetMGM)
- San Francisco 49ers (+400 at BetRivers)
- Dallas Cowboys (+650 at Caesars Sportsbook)
- Detroit Lions (+1100 at BetMGM)
- New Orleans Saints (+1400 at Caesars Sportsbook)
Is it not rather jaw-dropping to see the Detroit Lions and a New Orleans team with Derek Carr at quarterback among the five-highest odds to win the NFC this year? We still have the best three teams from 2022 at the top in the Eagles, 49ers, and Cowboys, but finding that other contender is going to be difficult.
Minnesota was 13-4 last year, but that team infamously had a record number of comebacks and allowed more points than it scored. Everyone expects that team to regress and not be a serious contender.
A Tough Challenge Ahead for Lions and Saints
The Lions are a good story, but they are going to have some difficult road games with the Chiefs, Ravens, Cowboys, Chargers, Saints, and Vikings. Jared Goff threw just 6 touchdown passes on the road last year compared to 23 touchdowns at home.
The Lions also spent a big chunk of the season ranked dead last on defense, so let’s cool down on the team who has not won a playoff game since the 1991 season going all the way to the Super Bowl.
The Saints may have the favorable schedule by virtue of playing in the NFC South, but we are still talking about a team with Derek Carr and Dennis Allen as the quarterback and head coach. The Super Bowl feels like a huge stretch for a quarterback who has a losing record as a 9-year starter.
The Top Three
It comes back to that trio of teams, and the Eagles still look to be a cut above the Cowboys and 49ers. Are you really going to trust the brain trust of the Cowboys in big games? This is the same team that has not been to the NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season.
The 49ers also have that quarterback dilemma between Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, and there is no Jimmy Garoppolo to bail them out with his veteran presence this time.
Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni give the Eagles a big edge over the rest of the conference, as does having a loaded offensive line and front seven that even added more pass-rushing talent in the first round of the draft.
The NFC loves a new flash in the pan, but it is hard to be sold on a Detroit, New Orleans, or Chicago surge in 2023. Let’s go with the Eagles to win the NFC again.
NFL Pick: NFC Conference Champion – Philadelphia Eagles (+400) at BetMGM
AFC North Winner
- Cincinnati Bengals (+125 at Bet365)
- Baltimore Ravens (+275 at Caesars Sportsbook)
- Cleveland Browns (+400 at BetRivers)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (+650 at BetMGM)
The AFC North could be an excellent division in 2023, especially if the Steelers get more out of Kenny Pickett in his second year, Deshaun Watson starts living up to his contract in Cleveland, Lamar Jackson stays healthy in Baltimore, and if the Bengals get better offensive line play.
The Bengals are favored to win the division for the third year in a row, but one could make an argument that the reason Baltimore did not win it in 2021-22 is because of Jackson’s health.
They were 8-4 two years in a row before he was injured, and the season started going south with close losses. Even without Jackson in the wild-card game in Cincinnati, the Ravens may have pulled off the upset if not for a quarterback sneak fumbled and returned for a record-setting touchdown.
With the schedule, it should be favorable to the Ravens to host Cincinnati on a Thursday night in Week 11. Those are hard games to win on a short week. The Ravens also do not have to play the Bills or Chiefs while the Bengals do. The Ravens have a tough finishing slate, but they get the 49ers on a Monday night, and will host the Dolphins and Steelers.
New Additions and Schedule Favor Ravens
The schedule should be in Baltimore’s favor, and the offseason also should make the Ravens a better team more than what the Bengals did to improve.
Jackson is getting a new offensive coordinator (Todd Monken), and he should have his most complete set of weapons around him yet, with Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie wideout Zay Flowers joining the likes of Mark Andrews, J.K. Dobbins, Rashod Bateman, and Isaiah Likely.
It is a great opportunity for Jackson to immediately live up to his new contract by reclaiming the AFC North for Baltimore.
NFL Pick: AFC North Winner – Baltimore Ravens (+275) at BetMGM
New York Giants: Playoffs?
Full Odds via BetMGM:
- Yes (+140)
- No (-169)
Another good futures bet is the ability to bet on whether a team qualifies for the postseason. Last season, the Giants were a surprise playoff team at 9-7-1, allowing Brian Daboll to win Coach of the Year in his first season.
While the Giants did win a playoff game against Minnesota, you have to admit that was about the only team in the NFC field you could have expected the Giants to beat. They were 0-6 against the other NFC playoff teams, including an 0-3 record against the Eagles late in the year. The Cowboys swept them and the Seahawks also beat them decisively.
New York largely built its playoff resume by beating up on the soft part of the schedule early in the season. Daniel Jones became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead five game-winning drives in his team’s first seven games. Add a 6th game-winning drive in the playoffs, and Jones had double the game-winning drives (6) in 2022 than he had in the first three seasons of his career combined (3).
The Giants finished middle of the road on both sides of the ball in many categories. Bringing in tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Parris Campbell will hopefully elevate things a little for Jones, but he still did not have a traditional breakout season last year.
Giants Face Uphill Battle
While the NFC is weak, New York’s other problem is that the Eagles and Cowboys still look like superior teams and both know how to beat this team. That already makes it tougher, as you are looking at the No. 6 seed at best.
The schedule makers also seem to have it out for the Giants, because they will play seven road games in the first 11 weeks of the season. The only teams since 1988 to be faced with that are the 2000 Ravens, 2001 Ravens, and 2021 Packers.
Of the Giants’ four home games in that start, one is against Dallas on Sunday Night Football to begin the season. Another is with the Jets in Week 8, which is basically a neutral site with the teams sharing MetLife Stadium.
The Giants were a fun story early last season, but they also were 4-7-1 over their last 12 games. This feels like an easy pick of a team to not return to the playoffs following a surprise playoff berth.
NFL Pick: New York Giants to Make Playoffs – No (-169) at BetMGM
Win Totals – New York Jets
Full Odds via BetMGM:
- Over 9.5 (-132)
- Under 9.5 (+110)
We are staying in New York and looking at win totals. The Jets are over/under 9.5 wins, which is tied with a slew of teams for the 4th-most wins in the AFC.
The Jets were 7-4 last year before imploding, but they also lost five games where they allowed no more than 20 points.
Those are games you expect to win with Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback, especially if he has a legit No. 1 wide receiver again (Garrett Wilson), a running game with Breece Hall coming back, and possibly his best defense since his Super Bowl win in 2010.
There is no denying the early schedule before the Week 7 bye should be difficult, especially if Rodgers needs an adjustment period to his new team. But there are reasons to think this will not lead to a poor record:
- Week 1 vs. Bills (MNF): At least it’s a home game in his first crack against the Bills.
- Week 2 at Cowboys: Rodgers has owned Dallas his whole career.
- Week 3 vs. Patriots: New England is not what it used to be.
- Week 4 vs. Chiefs: Jets will almost certainly be underdogs at home.
- Week 5 at Broncos: Depends on how well Denver is playing under Sean Payton.
- Week 6 vs. Eagles: Another huge test and potential underdog situation at home.
That is going to be tough, but you still have to believe 3-3 is possible. Regroup at the bye week, then go on your run when the schedule lightens up with the Giants, Chargers, and Raiders up next.
December brings what should be the easiest stretch of the schedule with Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Washington, Cleveland, and a rematch with New England.
There are at least 10 wins on this schedule, and the potential for more is certainly there if Rodgers acclimates well to a talented roster with an offensive coordinator (Nathaniel Hackett) he has won multiple MVP awards with.
The long playoff drought ends here. Take the Jets over 9.5 wins.
NFL Pick: New York Jets Over 9.5 Wins (-132) at BetMGM