2023 NFL Schedule Release Analysis

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A general view of the NFL logo on the field at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Start circling dates as the NFL released the full schedule for the 2023 regular season last night. Dates are subject to change as the league will finally adopt flex scheduling for Monday night games late in the season for the first time.

But we are breaking down the schedule with a look at how this new information can impact the division races and different betting markets at U.S. betting sites.

Some division races look like dog fights and some look like pillow fights in 2023. We take a quick look at what impact the schedule could have on these races.

AFC East

The Best of the Best?

This could be the best division race in the league, especially if Tua Tagovailoa stays healthy in Miami and Bill Belichick can cook up a more formidable offense in New England.

But the big story is of course Aaron Rodgers going to the New York Jets. The NFL wasted no time in showing it off too as the Jets will host Buffalo on Monday Night Football in Week 1. This could be a blessing or curse for Rodgers given that it is so early in the season. The Bills have had some Week 1 flops before like losing to Pittsburgh at home in 2021.

But Rodgers will have to come out sharp against a Super Bowl contender, and beyond that, he also will see the Chiefs and Eagles before the Week 7 bye. With this schedule, it does not look like the Jets are going to have a great record to start the year.

We will get a great sense early of how strong the Jets can be against the best competition, but they may not show they are truly ready for it until playoff time after Rodgers settles into his new team. The Buffalo rematch is in Week 11.

The Bills could do a lot to establish their dominance by winning that Week 1 game on the road, but this will not be the third year where the team peaks in October by beating Kansas City. The Chiefs will not face the Bills until December (Week 14), and the Bills also have to close in Miami in Week 18 in a possibly huge game for the AFC East.

AFC North

Put the Word Out That the Ravens Are Back Up

This is another potentially loaded race in the AFC, especially if Kenny Picket has a sophomore surge and Deshaun Watson stops embarrassing himself in Cleveland.

But it also centers on the battle between the Bengals and Ravens as Cincinnati looks to win a 3rd-straight division title, which is hard to do. Ravens fans can argue it may be Baltimore in this position had Lamar Jackson not been injured in December the last two years.

But Jackson has his second contract, a new offensive coordinator that should be more pass-friendly, and he has arguably his best collection of skill players yet in the NFL. This team could be special if he stays healthy, but he has to do that first.

The Ravens also get to host the Bengals on a short week on a Thursday night in Week 11, which should be a considerable advantage. Baltimore also does not have to play the Chiefs and Bills in the regular season as Cincinnati does. This could help the Ravens reclaim the division, but they must take care of business in those Cincinnati matchups.

AFC South

See No Rookies, Hear No Rookies

Unless the Jaguars use last season’s playoff experience as the jumping pad to something special, this could be an intriguing race. But while the Texans (C.J. Stroud), Colts (Anthony Richardson), and Titans (Will Levis) drafted three of the top four quarterback prospects in this draft, we may see very little of them this year.

That is not because the Titans may sit Levis in favor of Ryan Tannehill for most of the season either. The Colts and Texans are two of the four teams along with the Falcons and Cardinals to not be scheduled for any prime-time games in 2023.

Something could always come along with flex scheduling, but it looks like the first Stroud vs. Richardson matchups (Week 2 and Week 18) may be buried at the bottom of the CBS broadcast pool.

It really is set up for Jacksonville to do well, but there is no guarantee that teams that finish hot will carry it over the following year.

AFC West

Can Anyone Dethrone the Chiefs?

The Chiefs’ attempt at winning the division for the eighth year in a row would give them sole possession of the 2nd-longest streak in NFL history.

All of us who predicted an incredible division race last season were bamboozled as the Chiefs basically wrapped things up by Thanksgiving. The Chargers could not close out Patrick Mahomes and company twice, the Broncos could not score, and the Raiders forgot games are 60 minutes long. But what if we were just a year too early?

  • Maybe the Chargers will finally stay healthy at key positions and play better defense for Justin Herbert.
  • Maybe the Raiders will not blow a league-high six fourth-quarter leads and Josh McDaniels can get what he wants out of Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.
  • Maybe Sean Payton and some better health are all the Broncos need to get Russell Wilson on track in Denver.

The Chiefs have been owning this division since Peyton Manning retired in 2016, but maybe 2023 is finally the toughest challenge yet for them to continue this historic run. The Kansas City schedule is backloaded with games against the Eagles, Bills, Bengals, and Chargers all coming after the Week 10 bye.

NFC East

Two-Horse Race

No one has repeated as NFC East champion since the Eagles in 2004, but they will try to do it this year as Dallas remains the main competition. The schedule played a huge role in Philadelphia starting 8-0 last year and the schedule could help the Eagles do that again this year unless Aaron Rodgers and the Jets (Week 6 at MetLife) are really that good.

But the Week 9 showdown with Dallas in Philadelphia is the first major one to circle. After a bye week, the Eagles will be in Kansas City for a Super Bowl rematch, which is followed by home games with the Bills and 49ers, and then a rematch in Dallas in Week 14.

That 5-week stretch for the Eagles should be as defining as any in the league for any team this year. If they come out of that run in good shape, then this team is going to look like a very smart pick to return to the Super Bowl.

Last year, we were robbed of seeing Jalen Hurts vs. Dak Prescott as the Cowboys and Eagles beat each other with a backup quarterback on the losing end. Hopefully, we will get to see Hurts vs. Prescott two (or three) times this season to truly decide this NFC East race.

Also, the schedule makers seem to hate the Giants, because they are the fourth team since 1988 to get seven road games in 11 weeks to start a season. Tough draw there.

NFC North

Anyone’s Game?

According to the odds at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review), no division race is tighter in 2023 than the NFC North with the Lions (+125), Bears (+325), Vikings (+325), and Packers (+450). How you predict this division is likely going to make or break how good your season predictions are this year.

There are arguments for and against each team.

  • Lions – Could be great with that offense, but the defense has a long way to go to improve after spending much of 2022 at the bottom. They are also likely to start 0-1 with opening night in Kansas City.
  • Bears – Can you trust Justin Fields after he was the least effective passer in the league last year while saddled with a bottom-ranked defense? It is a risky pick.
  • Vikings – The worst 13-win team in NFL history, the Vikings are a regression nightmare after a record number of comeback wins in a season that still saw them lose at home in the Wild Card round.
  • Packers – Is Jordan Love any good, and how much credit does Matt LaFleur deserve for those 13-win seasons in 2019-21? We are about to find out plenty about LaFleur and the new-look Packers without Aaron Rodgers.

Detroit is the favorite, but it is easy to see another 9-8 record for this team given a schedule that has the AFC West, a Week 7 road trip to Baltimore, and a Week 17 road trip to Dallas.

Even the Vikings have a tough draw given a first-place schedule. They will face the Eagles and Bengals on the road and have to host the 49ers. The winner of the division may fail to have 10 wins.

This is why there could be serious value for the Bears and Packers to win the division if you believe in one of those quarterbacks to have a 2023 glow-up. Those teams will not have to face the Cowboys, Eagles, 49ers, or Bengals.

NFC South

Sisters of the Poor

The NFL’s worst division in 2022 says goodbye to Tom Brady and awaits a new winner as the Buccaneers look like a team without a long-term plan. But the schedules for these teams are so unbelievably soft that it may not be a surprise to see one team get hot and win 11 games or so.

The Saints are favored with Derek Carr taking over at quarterback, and while that does not sound intriguing at face value, the schedule’s toughest teams include Detroit, Jacksonville, and Minnesota.

It is possible not a single team on New Orleans’ schedule wins 10 games this year. The Falcons could be in the same position, though they will go to the Jets in Week 13.

The Panthers have to play Dallas, Seattle, and Miami, so that is a stronger second-place schedule. But it is still not that bad for a rebuilding team that could surprise people with Frank Reich and No. 1 pick Bryce Young.

Tampa Bay will draw Buffalo, Philadelphia, and San Francisco as part of that first-place schedule problem.

This makes those division games extra important because the team that cleans up there should win this division with so many other winnable games on the schedule. Someone is going to win this division with a better record than 8-9 this year, but they still may not be much of a contender come playoff time.

NFC West

No Rest for the Weary

In most years, the teams in this division do the most travel because of their location in the Pacific. Those trips over to Europe can especially be draining.

But this year, the 49ers (minus-20) and Rams (minus-17) also have the worst net rest differential according to ESPN. This is the net of days of rest between games for opponents. Playing an inordinate number of teams coming off a bye week could hurt you in this metric.

The good news is the 49ers have the Seahawks as their only serious rival for the playoffs in 2023. But the 49ers will have two Thursday night games, including a Thanksgiving trip to Seattle. They also are hosting Baltimore on Christmas.

With the quarterback battle up in the air, the 49ers open with T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh) and Aaron Donald (Rams), so Trey Lance or Brock Purdy better be ready. There is no longer a Jimmy Garoppolo backup plan in San Francisco.

Schedule’s Impact on the MVP Award

Winning MVP in the NFL has a lot to do with a quarterback producing great statistics on a team that wins a lot of games. But there is also usually a narrative component to each case, and it is easier to build that narrative with high-profile games in front of national audiences.

Patrick Mahomes largely won MVP last year because he had the narrative of losing Tyreek Hill and still leading the No. 1 offense. He also had some of his best and most dramatic games in prime time against the Raiders, Chargers, and Titans.

In looking at the MVP favorites this year, Mahomes (+600), Joe Burrow (+650), Josh Allen (+750), and Jalen Hurts (+1000) return to situations they largely had in 2022. That makes it hard to build a narrative when the statistical output and team record are unlikely to improve on what we already saw last year.

Voter fatigue is also a real thing, so voters may want to find some new blood over Mahomes.

Justin Herbert (+900)

Justin Herbert taking his game to a higher level and possibly winning the division over Mahomes would certainly help his case out, but the best values for MVP right now are two previous winners who are tied for the 6th-best odds.

Aaron Rodgers (+1500)

Rodgers will have the narrative of transforming a team that has been looking for a great quarterback basically since Joe Namath had healthy legs 50 years ago. If he can play like the two-time MVP he was under offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in 2020-21, then he can absolutely win his record-tying 5th MVP award this year.

That familiarity with Hackett and wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb from Green Bay could be a big advantage for Rodgers picking up the offense faster than most.

No one has won an MVP award in his first season with a team since Earl Morrall on the 1968 Colts, but we know the voters still love Rodgers, and the Jets having a great passing offense is something to celebrate.

Rodgers will also get plenty of chances to prove it with five prime-time games scheduled for the Jets, including Week 1 at home against the Bills. If Rodgers can outgun the likes of Allen and Mahomes in prime time, that would be huge for his MVP case. NFL fans have been dying to see a Rodgers vs. Mahomes game, and we may finally see the first one in Week 4 on Sunday Night Football.

Lamar Jackson (+1500)

But if you are tired of Rodgers, then Lamar Jackson is also a great choice in Baltimore now that he has his new contract and the security that comes with that.

He also has a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken, who once got over 5,000 yards passing from Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick in Tampa Bay. Monken also engineered the championship-winning offense in Georgia in college the last two years. He should make this offense better, and he has more talent for Jackson to work with than in his first five seasons in the league.

Throw in the fact that Jackson is still one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in NFL history, a past MVP winner, and you have a great redemption arc here if he has a big season.

If he stays healthy, he will be in prime time four times later in the year against the Bengals, Chargers, Jaguars, and 49ers. Big performances in those marquee games can be crucial to MVP narrative building late in the year.

But Rodgers or Jackson will likely have to beat out the Bills and Bengals for that division title to win MVP. If you think that is doable, then you should love them for MVP at +1500 odds.

Schedule’s Impact on the Coach of the Year Award

The Coach of the Year award often goes to someone who took over a team with low expectations and managed to make the postseason. This is why Brian Daboll won it last year with the Giants, and why 4-of-6 winners since 2017 were in their first year with their teams.

The favorites for Coach of the Year this season include Detroit’s Dan Campbell (+1000), Denver’s Sean Payton (+1200), Carolina’s Frank Reich (+1200), Chicago’s Matt Eberflus (+1200), and the Jets’ Robert Saleh (+1600). The real value here should be Payton and Reich.

Why the Rest Carry No Value?

We talked about Detroit in the division races above, and it is very possible that team finishes 9-8 again, which should not do much to elevate Campbell over his peers. Is winning a division with the same record after Aaron Rodgers left and Minnesota inevitably declined that impressive? Not really.

If Chicago greatly improves, you have to believe Justin Fields will get the credit there as Eberflus’ defense ranked No. 32 at the end of the season. Fields taking that step forward as a passer will be the biggest factor, and that is not something a defensive-minded coach like Eberflus will generally get credit for.

The same can be said about Robert Saleh. If the Jets suddenly win 11 or 12 games, you know it is because they got Aaron Rodgers and finally have a quarterback. That is why Rodgers makes more sense for MVP than Saleh would for Coach of the Year.

Sean Payton

In the case of Sean Payton, he would be cleaning up what became a laughingstock last year with Russell Wilson’s debut in Denver. The Broncos scored a league-low 16.9 points per game, they were 3-10 at the game-winning drive opportunities Wilson used to crave, and they blew five leads in the fourth quarter.

Throw in some injuries to key players, and this actually makes Denver a great candidate to improve in 2023. Add a coach like Payton who has won 63% of his games and has a lot of clout in the league, and you are talking about a likable choice for Coach of the Year, especially if Wilson is back to playing great football under him.

Frank Reich

Finally, in the case of Reich, he gets that winnable schedule as part of being in the NFC South, the weakest division. He gets to develop the No. 1 quarterback in the draft, Bryce Young, who does look like he could have a big impact in 2023 if he is as good at improvising as his college tape suggests.

He should be closer to 2012 Russell Wilson than 2021 Justin Fields, and Reich has had to prepare a new offense for a different quarterback every year going back to his Indy days. He is built for this, and Carolina may have the best defense in the division.

If the Panthers worked some magic and won that division, even at 9-8, Reich would be a lock for Coach of the Year.

Which Team Winds Up Picking No. 1 in 2024?

Finally, we are looking at the schedule to figure out the team most likely to hold the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft. The prize there looks to be USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who is a heavy favorite (-550) to go No. 1 in that draft at Bovada.

With so much parity (read: mediocrity) currently in the NFL, only four teams have a projected win total of under 7.0 wins right now:

  • Colts O/U 6.5 wins
  • Buccaneers O/U 6.5 wins
  • Cardinals O/U 5.5 wins
  • Texans O/U 5.5 wins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Obviously, the Buccaneers could use Caleb Williams the most out of those teams after losing Tom Brady to retirement and bringing in Baker Mayfield as a stopgap. The Bucs also played like a 4-13 team last year that rode Brady’s voodoo magic to an 8-9 record. Without him, maybe they are 4-13 for real this time, but that usually is not enough to get the top pick.

Also, the NFC South schedule is so favorable that Tampa Bay could still luck into a 5-12 or 6-11 record, which surely will take them out of the Williams Sweepstakes at No. 1.

Indianapolis Colts & Houston Texans

The Colts and Texans are expected to get a lot of action for their rookie quarterbacks (Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud) in the AFC South. The Colts get to host Tampa Bay after a bye week in Week 12, so that could be an advantage to Indy to avoid the No. 1 pick if they win that game.

The Colts and Texans also meet in Week 18 again, and that was the game last year that resulted in Chicago earning the No. 1 pick after the Texans came back to beat the Colts. While neither team will hopefully be interested enough in Williams in 2024, that game could decide it again. The Colts are also home for that one.

But the Texans should have some real incentive to win as much as possible this year after giving up so much to Arizona to move up to No. 3 to take Will Anderson. If Stroud and Anderson are studs in the NFL, then few will care about the compensation. But there is a lot of pressure on rookie coach DeMeco Ryans to make sure he wins quickly with this group.

However, the Colts should be better off in 2023 with Shane Steichen as head coach if he can take a Jalen Hurts-type approach to bring Richardson along in an offense led by Jonathan Taylor at running back. The Colts also blew a lot of winnable games last year and feel further along than Houston at this point.

Arizona Cardinals

Finally, that leaves Arizona. After a failure of a 4-13 season, the team fired Kliff Kingsbury and replaced him with a very uninspiring hire in Jonathan Gannon, the defensive coordinator of the Eagles.

He is going with first-time coordinators with a team that lost J.J. Watt to retirement, still may move DeAndre Hopkins, and Kyler Murray is coming off a torn ACL suffered late in the year.

The team looks like a mess, and it is hard to say that the Cardinals are better than any of the 17 teams on their schedule.

That is not to say the Cardinals will go 0-17 because even some of the worst teams can luck into a couple of wins. But if the Cardinals lose in Houston in Week 11, this team may not do better than 3-14. Set your sights on Arizona as the worst team in the league in 2023.