The NFL season is almost upon us and the AFC features a handful of Super Bowl contenders and one of the most hotly contested divisions in the league.
The Buffalo Bills are $2.10 favourites to win the AFC East and you can bet Josh Allen will be part of the Most Valuable Player ($8) conversation throughout the year. They’re going to pile up points and Allen’s numbers will stack up with anybody. They face a little bit more competition in the AFC East this year. Still, they’re a tier above those still trying to chase them down.
.@JoshAllenQB hasn't changed one bit.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) August 31, 2023
The Miami Dolphins ($3.75) are the most likely team to usurp the Bills at the top of the division and Tua Tagovailoa’s health will determine how close they get. With him, they’re worth considering as Super Bowl contenders at 25e1d1f977a9. Their offence has that much potential. The 25-year-old has never played more than 13 games in a season, though. Should he play every game, he will do so within one of the NFL’s toughest schedules.
Aaron Rodgers at the New York Jets changes their trajectory. While far from his best last season, he’s a significant upgrade on what the Jets had and Rodgers is back with his former Packers coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett. There is a mid-to-high chance that the Jets offence is overrated. However, they will play with a reliable defence led by Sauce Gardner which should see them scrape through games to win Over 9.5 ($1.72) where the offence doesn’t fire.
Seeing the New England Patriots at $8.50 is still somewhat strange, but that’s the state of play for Bill Belichick. Mac Jones didn’t impress all that much last season and while the Patriots faithful tried to will a serviceable Bailey Zappe into existence, he was cut from the squad entirely. They won eight games last season and should again be strong defensively which will make them tough to beat regardless of the quarterback play.
The AFC North is wide open.
Winning it last year but falling short of the Super Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals are $2.40 favourites to do it again. An injury cloud hanging over Joe Burrow takes some of the shine off their potential but the expectation is for the Bengals to be among the contenders to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy at $11. They’re a cohesive unit playing out a fairly favourable schedule. Having started last season slowly before winning ten games on the bounce, they’re unlikely to make the same mistake again.
— Cincinnati 💔 (@CincyProblems) August 30, 2023
The Baltimore Ravens started the last season 6-2 before finishing last in the division following yet another injury to Lamar Jackson. They’re a different team with him and their $3 to win the division assumes he’s there all the way through. There is a decent chance he remains healthy within a new-look spread offence. Jackson won’t need to shoulder so much of the load on the ground. However, new-look offences take time and it may take a few weeks to start seeing the true potential of this Ravens outfit.
Everybody has been burned by the Cleveland Browns at some stage. They’ve offered so much in recent years but produced so little. Deshaun Watson is an interesting element and could be the catalyst to success but we need to see it to believe it. Their ceiling on offence is high with Watson but uncertain in defence under a new coordinator. It’s all potential at the moment. Much like the Ravens, it will take a few weeks to get a read on the Browns.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will feature in highlight reels but those individual plays may not translate into W’s. Kenny Pickett is an exciting young talent and his connection with George Pickens will be crucial. A healthy Najee Harris is important, too. It all looks nice on paper but Pickett is prone to a turnover or two. Teams have more film to scheme for him now as well. The Packers are $5 to win the division and $2.56 to make the playoffs for a reason.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ $1.35 is the shortest division-winning price in the conference. Doug Pederson turned things around for Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars and the expectation is for them to continue on their current path. Perhaps even to Super Bowl contention ($26). They will need to improve on their 3-7 start from last season if they’re to clear the 9.5 wins set for them ($1.62). While the defence is a slight cause for concern, the Jaguars have more than enough with the ball to comfortably control the AFC South and book a spot in the NFL playoffs.
Welcome back, Calvin Ridley.
In five drives this preseason with Trevor Lawrence:
100% route participation
31% target share
39% air yard share
Was WR4 overall the last time we saw him healthy for a full season. The "rusty" narrative is dead.
Worth a mid-to-late Round 2 pick. pic.twitter.com/3iLZccyQcJ
— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) August 28, 2023
While the Tennessee Titans will have to play the Jaguars twice, they get to play the rest of a rather lacklustre division twice, too. They’re not a flashy team. Much of the cast from last season returns for this one. But the Titans will play tough and should grind out enough wins to finish with more than 7.5 wins ($1.67).
In contrast to the Titans, it’s all new for the Indianapolis Colts. Changes to the coaching staff and therefore the system, a system run by a rookie quarterback, will make winning rather difficult for the Colts this season. They can still play well and improve without picking up W’s. Anthony Richardson playing well would be a win would they fail to actually win seven or more games ($1.83).
The Houston Texans are at $1.67 to finish with under 6.5 wins. Predicting even five is generous given they won only three last season. We won’t be talking much about this team until the draft position becomes relevant.
As expected, the Kansas City Chiefs are $1.50 favourites to take out the division and on the first line of betting to win Super Bowl Lviii at $7. They started last season with a few doubts surrounding them and a lot of the conversation now is the same. However, we know that Andy Reid can get the best out over whoever he is left with. Provided Patrick Mahomes stays healthy enough to action it all from quarterback, the Chiefs will be there at the pointy end of the season once again.
Can Isiah Pacheco be relied on as the lead RB for the Chiefs? @AdamSchein thinks so.
"You can tell Mahomes loves him. Andy Reid loves him. … Absolutely Isiah Pacheco's gonna be a key component of the great success, once again, on offense for the Kansas City Chiefs." pic.twitter.com/dOVFS3uhIx
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) August 29, 2023
Sean Payton is used to being at the pointy end himself but put his squad under pressure to get there from Week 1 by calling the five-win Denver Broncos of last season “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”
Unlike last season, there are low expectations in Denver. With their win total set at 8.5 and at $6.50 to win the division, they’ll need a special season from Payten and Russell Wilson if they’re to be relevant in the playoff picture.
The Los Angeles Chargers have brought in a new offensive coordinator but it’s all down to Justin Herbert, really. He will have a bit more of a say in how the Chargers move the ball. With five of their seven losses decided by one score last season, an improvement in close games would see them sail past their 9.5 win total after winning ten games.
The uncertainty around the Las Vegas Raiders makes it difficult to be confident in them improving on their six wins from last season. All things going well, their $2 to finish over 6.5 wins appeals. However, they’re faced with the second-hardest schedule in the NFL, Jimmy Garoppolo is injury-prone, there are concerns around the offensive line and while Josh Jacobs says there is a clean slate following his contract situation, it remains to be seen whether or not it translates onto the field.