The Elusive Eleven -NFL
The Elusive Eleven
Is it ever too early to start evaluating the best teams in the NFL? I say no, it never really is. So now, still weeks before the start of training camp and with some valuable players still available in free agency, let’s take our first look at what I believe are the eleven best teams in the NFL.
#11. Jacksonville Jaguars (+1200/+2500) - The Jags have the pieces in place: high-end defense, a star quarterback, and a winning head coach. The concern will be the fear of a fall-back season after breaking through in 2022. The skill level of Trevor Lawrence should overcome that as well as the fact that the Jags play in the relatively weak AFC South.
#10. Detroit Lions (+1000, +2200) - Can the Lions continue to grow under the always-enthusiastic Dan Campbell? Expectations are higher this year than they’ve been in over a decade for a Lions team that has arguably the best offensive line in the NFC Central as well as one of the best in the conference.
#9. New York Jets (+1100, +1800) - The Jets have not been to the Super Bowl since 1969 so perhaps any enthusiasm might be considered unbridled. Rodgers makes the Jets relevant and the team has filled the wide receiver room with talent but can this offensive line get the job done? This will likely be the most talked about team, win or lose, all season.
#8. Miami Dolphins (+1100, +1900) - The pickup of Mike White to back up Tua Tagovailoa can’t be understated. Tagovailoa’s injury history is well documented as is the Dolphins’ struggles without him. The addition of Jalen Ramsey gives the Dolphins the ability to defend pass-happy AFC teams like Kansas City and Buffalo.
#7. Dallas Cowboys (+600, +1400) - The Cowboys improved their secondary with the addition of Stephon Gilmore. They have the league’s best pass rush outside of Philadelphia. The key will be Dak Prescott. Can he get over the hump this year and get the Cowboys past the first round of the playoffs?
#6. Baltimore Ravens (+1100, +2000) - The Ravens came out of what was a fairly tumultuous offseason with all the key pieces back in the fold. The Ravens have gone all in with QB Lamar Jackson. They have surrounded him with five former first-round picks at wide receiver to go along with All-Pro TE Marc Andrews. Jackson has it all at his disposal, now what will he do with it?
#5. Buffalo Bills (+500/+900) - The Bills have been so close to the promised land in each of the last three seasons but have nothing to show for it. This feels like a team that might take a step back this season and the cracks have already shown with WR Stephon Diggs already complaining in the offseason. They can still win the AFC East but they will be challenged this year more than in the previous three.
#4. Cincinnati Bengals (+550/ +1100) - Joe Burrow is a surgeon and has the best top-3 receivers in the conference. He also has an offensive line that will be in their second year together after a strong season in 2022. The Bengals have proven to be a handful against the Chiefs and look superior to the Bills at this point.
#3. SF 49ers (+425/ +1000) - The 49ers likely have the NFL’s deepest roster but I can’t put them higher than this based on the uncertainty at quarterback. Purdy is coming off shoulder surgery and backup Trey Lance is coming off ankle surgery. The fact that Purdy was quickly named the starter while injured and before camp tells us all we need to know about how the team feels about Lance. If Purdy returns healthy and effective, they’ll be tough to beat with the league’s best defense and a slew of dynamic playmakers.
#2. Philadelphia Eagles (+250/+650) - The Eagles were a half away from a Super Bowl title in 2022. The last team to lose a Super Bowl and get back the next season was New England in 2018-19. Prior to that, you’d have to go back to the Bills and their four consecutive Super Bowl losses from 1991-94. The Super Bowl Hangover is real. The Eagles have all the pieces but can they handle being the hunted this season after surprising the NFL in 2022?
#1. Kansas City Chiefs (+330/+600) - The Chiefs have been to three of the past four Super Bowls, winning two. As long as Mahomes is healthy, this team will be a favorite. This team might be their best yet with a young secondary that proved their mettle in 2022. They will have to find ways to rest TE Kelce a bit this season with his worth far more important in the playoffs.
Stay tuned for our annual NFL Preview Issue in the coming weeks that will break down each team more comprehensively and look at the odds for each team, the win total over/under for each team, and much more.
*Odds courtesy of Draftkings.com