With the NFL season now in full swing, it’s time to take a deep dive into the big stories taking shape thus far in 2023. From the most intriguing storylines to the can’t-miss games, there’s something for everyone to look forward to this fall.
The Defending Champs: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are showing no let-up as they seek their third Super Bowl title in five years. Despite losing on opening night when they didn’t have Travis Kelce, the champs have rattled off five straight wins and have taken command in the AFC once again. Led by Patrick Mahomes, one of the league’s most dynamic quarterbacks, the Chiefs have a potent offense that can score points in bunches. With Chris Jones resigning, the defense should continue to be a factor as the season progresses.
New Faces, New Places
Several teams are entering the 2023 season with new faces at quarterback. These have led to some mixed results. The most notable transitions include the following:
- Baker Mayfield: The new quarterback has helped Tampa Bay fans utter out, “Tom Who?” Through the first quarter of the 2023 season, the former Browns, Panthers, and Rams gunslinger has the Buccaneers offense operating efficiently, leading them to a healthy 3-1 start. If he keeps up this level of play, Mayfield could help the Bucs win their third straight NFC South title. In Week 1, he led the Bucs to a big upset win over the Vikings on the road. Mayfield threw for 317 yards in a home win against the Bears and then went 25-for-32 for 246 and three touchdowns in a huge road win in New Orleans. He currently boasts a passer rating of 101.5.
- Derek Carr: Overall, Carr has played well at times for the Saints but has also shown a lot of inconsistency, going 98-for-150 for 946 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. An injury to his shoulder could have been a detriment in his poor outing against the Bucs, but he rebounded by helping his team shutout the Patriots 34-0 a week ago. Playmakers like Chris Olave and Michael Thomas have helped him settle in.
- Jimmy Garoppolo: It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Garoppolo so far, with some wins, some losses, and an injury and concussion thrown in the mix. He’s shown the ability to lead game-winning drives but has also struggled with turnovers. He’s built great chemistry with wide receiver Jakobi Meyers thus far but still seems to be trying to get on the same page with Davante Adams. The Raiders are 2-2 through the season’s first quarter with Jimmy G as starter (2-3 overall) and are coming off a solid victory over the Packers. Garoppolo has thrown six touchdowns and seven interceptions and amassed 917 yards in his first season with the Raiders.
The Most Intriguing Division Races
Several hot divisional battles are already taking shape in the NFL. Here are the most competitive divisions that look to be thrilling all year long:
- AFC South: For the longest time, the AFC South was the worst division in football. But things have changed with the Jaguars making a Super Bowl run last year and the Houston Texans showing incredible promise with their new head coach and rookie quarterback, C.J. Stroud. The Jaguars and Colts are both 3-2, leading the Texans and Titans by just one game. The Colts’ big victory on the road in Baltimore and the Jaguars’ win over the Bills in London illustrate that this division is for real and should remain competitive all year.
- AFC North: This division race is wide open in 2023, with the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers all battling for the top spot. Currently, the Steelers and the Ravens are leading the way at 3-2, but the preseason-favorite Bengals bounced back in the race a week ago when Joe Burrow looked healthy and like his old self. They are tied with the Browns with two wins.
- AFC East: While it’s not necessarily a 4-way race like the divisions above (mainly because the Patriots look horrible and the Jets are without Aaron Rodgers), the battle for first between the Dolphins and Bills could be one of the best storylines this year. The Bills got the upper hand in Week 4, beating their division rivals 48-20, but the Dolphins have a one-game lead on the Bills at 4-1. They will meet in Miami for a critical matchup on Jan. 7.
New Contenders Emerge
The Chiefs, Bills, Eagles, and 49ers still seem to be the four teams that most teams look at when picking Super Bowl favorites for the 2023 season. The Bengals are also not to be discounted after two straight AFC Championship trips. Despite a slow start, Joe Burrow is getting healthy, and that’s always a dangerous thing. Keep an eye on the NFL Week 14 odds when the Chiefs and Bills battle in Kansas City.
But new teams are entering the scene. The Detroit Lions are the only team to knock off the Chiefs this year and are sitting in good shape in the NFC North at 4-1. In Week 6, they take on another surprise starter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1), who will sport their old creamsicle jerseys at home in a late start at Raymond James Stadium.
The Dolphins have sprinted out to a 4-1 start, and we do mean sprinted. Their offensive speed is unlike anything the NFL has ever seen. They scored 70 points on the Broncos Week 3, amassing an NFL-record 725 yards. Behind Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and DeVon Achane, they look like the newest version of the “Greatest Show on Turf” (or rather grass).
From coaching changes to blockbuster trades, the lead-up to NFL Kickoff 2023 has been a whirlwind that we’re now seeing play out. With the regular season underway, the drama on the gridiron is taking center stage. Every game represents a chance for players to cement legacies and teams to stake their claim. After months of anticipation, football season is finally back.