2023 NFL Surprises: Who is Looking to Enter Elite Status?

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NFL teams have finished their OTAs and mini camps. Now, the preparation begins for training camps in late July. Before you know, the 2023-24 season will be underway.

2023 NFL Schedule

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Sports Hub: Another Player in 2023 NFL Surprises

A number of eye openers occurred last season, from Geno Smith to the NFL East. We’ll take a look at those first before we try and identify the biggest 2023 NFL surprises. With the latest in software technology, Sports Hub is changing the sports handicapper industry.

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Familiar Faces, Worn Out Places

Like them, you probably see some familiar faces – Kansas City and Buffalo, for example – among the favorites to win Super Bowl LVIII. The Chiefs, last year’s Lombardi Trophy winners, are the current betting favorite at +600 at most sportsbooks.

There are a number of contenders among the next tier of teams in the NFL.

The question is if there are any teams currently not on the radar that could crack that upper echelon of the NFL. Anything is possible in today’s NFL.

Last Season’s Biggest Surprises

Well, we can start with the whole Russell Wilson-to-Geno Smith move in Seattle. The Seahawks pulled off a blockbuster offseason trade that sent Wilson to the Denver Broncos. Everyone in the Mile High City was ecstatic…until they weren’t anymore. More on that later.

Geno Smith, on the other hand, turned in the best season of his decade-long NFL career. Smith had career-highs in most every category and led the NFL in completion percentage (69.8). He passed for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns.

The Seahawks QB led his team to a 9-8 record and a wild card berth in the playoffs. They lost to San Francisco in the first round. Smith was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year for his efforts. Even more impressive was the fact that Smith was the only NFL quarterback to play every snap of every game in 2022. 

J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!

After beating Chicago 31-10 in Week 12, the New York Jets were 7-4. The Jets hadn’t seen that kind of success in years. Unfortunately for the Jets, they closed the season with six straight losses to wind up 7-10. Four of those six losses at the end of the season were by eight points or less. 

The Jets defense was a big part of why they were successful through those first 12 weeks of the season. At the end of the season, New York became just the third team in NFL history to have both the league’s Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

WR Garrett Wilson had 83 receptions for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns to take the Offensive ROTY. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner recorded 75 tackles, 20 pass break ups, and 2 INTs and was a key to the success of the Jets defense while winning the Defensive ROTY.

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The Broncos Flop

So, we mentioned Russell Wilson and his trade to Denver. While it looked like a great move, it really only paid off for Seattle with the rise of Smith. Wilson could never get on track in Denver. He had career lows in completion percentage (60.5) and passing touchdowns (16).

The Broncos finished 5-12 on the season last year. Wilson went 4-11 as a starter.

First-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett was fired after that 4-11 start.

Wilson ended up being sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL in 2022. In the offseason, it was revealed that Wilson had arthroscopic knee surgery. The 2022 season ended up being the sixth straight losing season for Denver.

2023 NFL Surprises – Cowboys Nose Dive

If you’re old enough to remember Ross Perot and the giant sucking sound, you know where this is going. If not, Google it. Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy fired offensive coordinator Kellen Moore after complaining the Cowboys didn’t run the ball enough.

What did Dallas do next? Release one of the best RBs in the NFL over the past five seasons in Ezekiel Elliott.

Sure, they still have Tony Pollard, but he’s coming back from a knee injury. Don’t forget, Dallas QB Dak Prescott will not have his go-to guy, TE Dalton Schultz, who signed with Houston in the offseason.

The result is going to be a Cowboys nose dive to the bottom level suite in the NFC East. Philly and the New York Giants are playoff teams and even Washington is a contender. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are headed for disaster in 2023.

Wait, J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets Again?

Yes, the Jets again, though the surprise may be bigger in 2023. Check this out.

  • The Jets defense ranked fifth in EPA (expected points added) per play last season
  • New York ranked 29th in EPA per play on offense in 2022
  • The Jets were 29th in scoring offense averaging 17.4 points per game

The Jets defense will remain strong with head coach Robert Saleh around. The big difference in 2023 is going to be the offense. 2023 NFL surprises? The Jets are on many lists.

Last season, the Jets ranked 29th in EPA per play on offense. They were also 29th in scoring offense averaging 17.4 points per game. That should change with the acquisition of future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. 

In ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), the Jets rank ahead of both Miami and New England. Buffalo, believe it or not, has a 44 percent chance of winning the AFC East. That’s because the Jets have a 25 percent chance and Miami has a 22 percent chance of winning.

New York’s win total checks in at 9.5 with the Over at -122 odds. With Rodgers in the driver’s seat of the offense with players like Wilson and RB Breece Hall, the Jets will be much better on offense making that win total attainable.

Saints Also Among 2023 NFL Surprises

Sometimes, you just get lucky. The New Orleans Saints will play in what is likely to be the NFL’s weakest division this season – the NFC South. Carolina will have a new head coach (Frank Reich). Tampa Bay watched Tom Brady retire for real at the end of last season and Atlanta is still trying to rebuild under head coach Arthur Smith. 

Enter the Saints. New Orleans got themselves one of the better free agent quarterbacks available in former Raiders QB Derek Carr. Wide receiver Michael Thomas should be back to pair with Chris Olave and RB Alvin Kamara is one of the more dynamic playmakers in the NFL. 

What really makes the Saints a strong candidate to hit double digit wins is the NFL’s weakest schedule. There will be the six games against the division. Then, the Saints will not play one team ranked in the preseason FPI top-10 all season long.

In fact, New Orleans will play exactly four teams that had a winning record in 2022.

  1. Jacksonville Oct. 19
  2. Minnesota Nov. 12
  3. Detroit Dec. 3
  4. NY Giants Dec. 17

The 2023 schedule makes the Over bet on the Saints win total (9.5) is an enticing one. It’s currently priced at +120. Not only a good over bet, but marked down as one of our 2023 NFL surprises.

The Biggest of the 2023 NFL Surprises

Coach Rick is one of Sports Hub’s top NFL experts. He has played and coached the game at very high levels. He’s also been writing about and handicapping football for years. When it’s NFL information you need, you go to Sports Hub and find Coach Rick stat.

Coach Rick is a lifelong Pittsburgh Steeler fan. That said, he has lived not far from Detroit Rock City for the past decade. It’s interesting when you are a fan of a franchise that has experienced great success and live in a city where NFL fans want to repeatedly jab their eyes out with a dull pencil. 

Last season, the Motor City faithful actually had something to cheer about. The Lions turned the corner under second-year head coach Dan Campbell. Can they be one of the 2023 NFL surprises? Detroit went 8-2 over its last ten games in 2022 to finish the season 9-8. The Lions failed to make the playoffs, but it was the first winning season since the franchise went 9-7 back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.

NFL Team Totals – Where Do the Lions Stand

Hopes are high coming into 2023. The offense ranked fourth in EPA per play last season. The Lions were fourth in total offense (380 ypg) and fifth in scoring (26.6 ppg). The problem last season was defense. Detroit was awful…28th in scoring (25.1 ppg) and dead last in total defense (392.4 ypg). 

The defense should be better with the additions of rookies Jack Campbell (LB) and Brian Branch (S). Add them to last year’s No. 1 pick DE Aidan Hutchinson (9.5 sacks) and Detroit has the makings of a unit that can help them win a division. 

With Rodgers now gone from Green Bay, the Lions are now favored (+145) to win the NFC North this season.

On top of that, the Lions NFL team win total is set at 9.5 with Detroit favored at -122 to surpass that number. The schedule is favorable with six games in the division and the Lions playing the entire NFC South, arguably the weakest in the NFL.

If you’re looking for a bandwagon to jump on this season, Coach Rick likes the Motor City’s Lions.

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