The 2023 NFL season is still many moons away. However, following the recent draft, excitement has already reached a fever pitch before a ball has even been kicked. And the upcoming campaign could be one of the most wide-open football seasons in recent memory — especially for one AFC heavyweight!
In the draft, headlines were made from the off. The Carolina Panthers selected Alabama Crimson Tide superstar quarterback Bryce Young as the first overall pick, and they will hope that he can be the face of the franchise at Bank of America Stadium, just as Cam Newton was for so many years. The Panthers haven’t been the same since Super Cam’s injury woes curtailed his career, and it’s essential that their new 21-year-old upstart hits the ground running next term.
Following Young’s selection as number one overall, the Houston Texans were the next team on the clock, and they shocked everyone. Firstly, they too selected a new franchise quarterback in the form of Ohio State star C. J. Stroud. They then agreed on a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to secure the third overall selection, a selection they used to secure the services of linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
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Following the draft, it was the New York Jets who then captured the minds of football fans the world over. They managed to tempt four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers to swap Lambeau Field for MetLife Stadium in a blockbuster trade that will see the 39-year-old leave the Green Bay Packers after 17 years with the franchise. The deal has seen the Jets’ odds for a first Super Bowl triumph in 55 years tumble to +1400, making them the fifth favorites.
The Upcoming Season
While the Jets’ odds have indeed shortened somewhat since they announced the capture of A-Rod, they still have some way to go before they are considered outright favorites. If you click here and check out NFL odds provided by Bovada, you will see that it is indeed the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs who have been made the +600 favorites for yet another Lombardi this season. The Missouri-based outfit has been the dominant force in the league throughout the last half a decade, reaching the conference championship game in each of the last five seasons, converting two of those appearances into Super Bowl championships.
With Patrick Mahomes at the helm, it’s clear to see why the bookies fancy the Chiefs to go all the way once again. The 27-year-old has stepped into the mantle left by Tom Brady and is widely considered to be the best quarterback in the league. He took his side all the way last season despite playing through injury in the postseason, and if he is fit and firing next term, he will take some stopping.
In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles (+750) and the San Francisco 49ers (+900) are considered the main contenders. For the former, it is a case of picking up where they left off last season and ensuring that Jalen Hurts continues in the same scintillating vein that he showed at Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. For the latter meanwhile, the Levi’s Stadium outfit needs to do their utmost to keep their quarterbacks fit and healthy so that they don’t capitulate like they did towards the end of last season.
While those two are considered contenders in the NFC, the AFC has a new heavyweight which could go all the way this season. And they have never lifted the Lombardi before.
Cincinnati Bengals , an AFC Heavyweight in Waiting
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Has any team improved quite as rapidly as the Cincinnati Bengals in recent years? Ever since the Ohio-based outfit selected quarterback Joe Burrow as the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bengals have gone from strength to strength. Add to that the additions of wide receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, and it’s obvious why the Bengals have reached the conference championships in each of the last two seasons.
Back in 2021, Cincy stunned the Chiefs on the road thanks to a dramatic field goal from Evan McPherson, securing their spot in the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years. Ultimately it wasn’t meant to be, and Cooper Kupp’s last-gasp touchdown for the Los Angeles Rams meant that that maiden Lombardi still remained elusive from the Paycor Stadium trophy cabinet. Last season, the Chiefs then got their revenge for the previous year, defeating the Bengals in dramatic circumstances in the AFC championship game.
This year, Burrow and Co. are expected to continue their upward trajectory. The former LSU standout is one of the top three quarterbacks in the entire league, and at 26 years old, he is starting to come of age. He displayed his immense talent in the divisional round of the playoffs last season, performing brilliantly to help his side secure a 27-10 victory away at Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills, and further success is expected to follow.