For the first time since 2005, Aaron Rodgers will not start an NFL season in a Green Bay Packers uniform.
Rodgers’ stunning move to the New York Jets, combined with Tom Brady’s retirement, further shifts the balance of power across the league to the AFC. The Jets, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, have suddenly emerged as the NFL’s “it” team. Rodgers starred in HBO’s Hard Knocks over the final weeks of the summer as a host of celebrities flocked to Jets training camp to watch the four-time league MVP.
With Rodgers behind center, the Jets have odds of +1100 at DraftKings to win the AFC. Only three teams — the Bills, Bengals, and the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs — have shorter odds. The Jets also have odds of -130 at DraftKings to make the postseason. If Rodgers leads the Jets to the playoffs, they will likely eclipse a projected season-win total of 9.5 (-115).
The arrival of Rodgers in the Big Apple impacted a number of wagers in Sports Handle’s staff picks for the 2023 NFL season. As a staff, we did fairly well last season while fading Brady and the Bucs. We hope to do even better this year, although these picks are presented more for your entertainment than to influence your betting slips.
The nation’s leading online sports betting sites are offering hundreds upon hundreds of markets heading into the NFL regular season.
MIA-BUF-NYJ-NE exact order in AFC East, +1000, FanDuel
Nick Chubb, NFL leading rusher, +390, FanDuel
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Although I think the Jets will make the playoffs, I’m not buying the Super Bowl hype. Instead, I am bullish on the Dolphins. If Tua Tagovailoa can stay healthy, Miami will have one of the most explosive attacks in the league.
The former University of Alabama quarterback torched the Ravens secondary for 469 yards last September and nearly upset the Bills last December in snowy Buffalo. At odds of +1600, Tagovailoa is among the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks in terms of price to win league MVP.
Dolphins by the Odds 🐬
• To make the Playoffs: -105
• Win Total O/U: 9.5
• Tua MVP: +1600
• AFC Title: +1100
• Super Bowl: +2000 pic.twitter.com/BPAFdFlaL9
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM) July 31, 2023
The Dolphins, after losing Mike Gesicki, have one of the league’s most underrated blocking tight ends in Durham Smythe. They also added a burner in Devon Achane, a former track runner at Texas A&M. I love the odds on the exact order wager at +1000. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll take the Dolphins to make the playoffs at -105.
I also like the Browns to make the postseason (+112) in Deshaun Watson’s first full season with the team. The departure of Kareem Hunt will give Nick Chubb more carries in the Cleveland backfield. There is value on Chubb to lead the NFL in rushing yards at +390. Expect Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett to thrive in an aggressive scheme employed by new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Steelers more regular season wins than Browns, -102, FanDuel
FanDuel offers an option not necessarily common among the sportsbooks — selecting which of two division rivals will finish the season with the better record. One of those betting matchups involves Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and a case can be made that the wrong team is favored (FanDuel has the Browns -120).
Last year, the Steelers finished 9-8, the Browns 7-10. Those comparative records are not unusual. Since Mike Tomlin arrived as Steelers coach in 2007, Pittsburgh has never had a losing season, while Cleveland has been below .500 in all but two of those years.
The sportsbooks expect the Browns to make more progress in 2023 than the Steelers, but we like the Steelers’ offseason moves better. And while the two AFC North teams play many common opponents, Sharp Football Analysis ranks Pittsburgh’s schedule seventh easiest, compared to 19th for Cleveland. We like that and the history of the two teams and the coaching under Mike Tomlin and, being from Pittsburgh, well, we just don’t like Cleveland.
So, yes, give us the Steelers vs. the Brownies all day when it’s nearly even money.
George Pickens season receiving yards, over 750.5, -125, DraftKings
By now, you’ve heard the hype: Second-year Steelers wide receiver George Pickens is primed for a breakout season after a respectable rookie campaign that saw him catch 52 passes for 801 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Kenny Pickett joined the Steelers at the same time as Pickens and was drafted one round ahead of him.
While Pickett may not be the second coming of Justin Herbert, he’s a safe bet to improve upon his rookie-year performance, which can only benefit Pickens, a human highlight reel with an Adonis-like build. And, come on, is there a more alliterative QB-WR combo in NFL history than Pickett to Pickens?
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) September 3, 2023
Interestingly, sportsbooks aren’t expecting much improvement out of Pickens, setting his season receiving yardage total at anywhere between 750.5 (bet365, DraftKings) and 800.5 (Caesars, FanDuel).
On the lower end of that spectrum, DraftKings is offering a better price (-125 to bet365’s -130) on the over. I’m absolutely hammering it — while placing a more modest wager on Pickens to haul in 1,500 yards or more at odds of 30/1. Dream big, baby.
Colts season-win total, under 6.5, +100, DraftKings
There is one reason, and one reason only, to support the notion that the Colts will win a respectable number of games this season: They play in one of the NFL’s weakest divisions, the AFC South. The problem with pushing that line of reasoning is that the Colts are the biggest reason it’s such a soft division. The defending division champ Jaguars have talent. The Titans are consistently competent. The Texans will be improved over last year. Indy is the inept team the rest of the division licks its lips over the opportunity to face twice.
NFL win totals with majority of bets on UNDER at @BetMGM
89% on Buccaneers 6.5
69% on Colts 6.5
69% on Panthers 7.5
68% on Raiders 6.5
64% on Jets 9.5
61% on Cardinals 4.5
58% on Vikings 8.5
— John Ewing (@johnewing) August 22, 2023
Between the Jonathan Taylor mess (he’s on the PUP list for the first four games, with management hoping to trade him for future considerations), a true project rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson, and a defense ranked No. 24 in the league by The Action Network, this is a team that is not built to win games in 2023. The Colts went 4-12-1 last season after entering the year hoping to contend. They’ll be hard-pressed to win more than that this season.
If the line was set at 4.5 wins? Tough call. Somehow it’s 6.5. In the “lookahead lines” from Caesars, the Colts are favored in exactly two games, are a “pick’em” in two games, and have one game (Week 18 vs. Houston) with no line.
It’s ludicrous to me that this team’s total is set at 6.5 — and that we can get the under for even money at DraftKings! The books are begging me to take the under. I will gladly oblige.
Chargers to win the Super Bowl, +2500, BetMGM
The Los Angeles Chargers are going to win Super Bowl LVIII, and you can bet them to do so at +2500 at BetMGM, DraftKings, BetRivers, and more. At +2500, they have the 10th best odds, sandwiched in between the Lions and the Dolphins.
They are not getting the respect I believe they deserve.
The winner of the loaded AFC is going to be the team that scores last, and the Chargers offense — which has basically been cut at the knees over the course of the last two seasons by since-fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi — is poised to (ahem) be super-charged this year.
Why? Kellen Moore has taken over the reins of the Justin Herbert-led offense, and if history is any guide, Moore is going to have the Chargers playing at one of the fastest paces in the league and stretching the field to its breaking point.
And most importantly, this will allow Herbert to utilize his natural talent. An ESPN ranking from last year had Herbert with the third-strongest arm in the league, according to insiders.
We’re going to be seeing a lot more of Justin Herbert slinging the ball deep under #Chargers OC Kellen Moore.
Not only will this be a big season for Herbert, but also for the WR corps.
— Chargers Central (@BoltCentral) September 1, 2023
So what did Lombardi do with this? He had Herbert attempt the 28th-most passes of 15 yards or more.
The Chargers brass is clearly buying this new direction, using a first round pick in this year’s draft on Quentin Johnston. Plus the returning Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Plus running back Austin Ekeler. Plus tight end Gerald Everett. Plus a ninth-ranked offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus.
Oh, and our sister site Action Network has the Chargers defense also ranked ninth heading into the season.
So, yes, the Chargers at +2500 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy feels like a live longshot to me.
Seahawks season-win total, over 8.5, -142, FanDuel
Cowboys to win NFC East, +175, DraftKings
Seattle, which went 9-8 last season, returns Geno Smith at quarterback with ample weapons on the outside. The trio of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba give Seattle’s offense the chance to be one of the better units in the NFL.
The defense should be improved after adding rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon, safety Julian Love, and veteran Bobby Wagner. After going 7-11 in one-possession games the last two seasons, a little more luck in close games should help Seattle reach nine or more wins in 2023.
The Seahawks also have a season-win total of nine victories at SuperBook Sports, with the over set at +100. The SuperBook favors Seattle in nine of its 17 games.
Last season, the Seahawks win total was set and 6 and they had 9 wins…
Their win total this season is o/u 9 –– What are you taking? 💰 pic.twitter.com/N7ncSp3pWr
— SuperBook Sports (@SuperBookSports) August 29, 2023
As for Dallas, the Cowboys boast arguably the NFL’s best defensive unit. Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs are capable of making game-changing plays, and I like the addition of Stephon Gilmore at cornerback.
A healthy Dak Prescott gives Dallas quality at quarterback, and I’m expecting a slight regression from Philadelphia inside the division.
Two-leg parlay: Justin Jefferson receiving yards over, Garrett Wilson receiving yards over, +250, DraftKings
After being overly ambitious last year and trying to string together a five-leg parlay of overs on receiving yards, I’m keeping it simple with a two-legged one featuring known No. 1 WR commodities: Justin Jefferson (1400.5 yards) and Garrett Wilson (1150.5 yards).
In just three seasons, the thesaurus of superlatives is practically exhausted when it comes to Jefferson. He racked up 324 catches for 4,825 yards in the first 50 games of his career and is coming off a banner 2022 with personal bests of 128 receptions and 1,809 yards.
Vikings by the Odds 📊
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM) August 6, 2023
Jefferson will be the target of double teams early in the season as the Vikings integrate first-round pick Jordan Addison into the offense. But a full training camp with T.J. Hockenson could provide a solid No. 2 option to help occupy the defense. Jefferson’s total is at the floor of his three single-season totals, making this pick feel like a safe one.
Wilson’s number of 1,150.5 yards at DraftKings is slightly higher than other markets (notably 1,125.5 yards at FanDuel and Caesars), but this is where the parlay market is available. The belief is that there’s plenty of upside to Wilson after he was named 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In addition to his growth, Wilson will likely be the beneficiary of an enormous upgrade at quarterback with the arrival of Rodgers in New York.
The Jets did improve their receiving corps around Wilson, and there is reason for confidence that he can get the 48 extra yards on top of the 1,103 he accumulated as a rookie. Rodgers should be the tide of the offense that lifts all boats, and Wilson’s yardage should be one of those watercraft.