Reading the Tea Leaves For the 2023/24 Season: Deciphering Early NFL Season Trends

The 2023 NFL season is just getting underway, but already, there are some early trends and stories developing that could give us insight into how the season may unfold. As football fans and analysts, we love to read the tea leaves and make bold predictions after just a few weeks of action. While it’s still very early, here are some of the top storylines and potential season-long arcs that are starting to reveal themselves.

Don’t Be Alarmed By Chiefs Loss, Eagles Struggles

After their thrilling Super Bowl matchup last season, many want to see a Chiefs-Eagles rematch in the Super Bowl. But both teams seemed a bit shaky in their openers, with the Chiefs losing to the Lions and Eagles nearly blowing a 16-0 lead to the Patriots. That being said, the Chiefs still have a lot of reason for optimism. Travis Kelce, who was missing against the Lions, will return either this Sunday or next, and Chris Jones just signed a contract extension and will rejoin the team this week. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles still have a very balanced roster that includes many of last year’s players. Additionally, only a couple of NFC teams can truly challenge them. Two teams, however, stood out over the weekend: San Francisco and Dallas. No disrespect to teams like Green Bay or the L.A. Rams, but it seems like a three-way race in the NFC.

Where Do the Jets Go From Here?

Not many teams can win their first game and see their odds go from 18-1 to 50-1 overnight. That’s because Aaron Rodgers’ injury sent shock waves not just in New York but all around the country. The question now is whether the Jets can contend despite having a very shaky starting quarterback now, Zach Wilson. Many experts believe a postseason berth is possible because of a rushing attack led by Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, along with a fierce defense that figures to be one of the best units in the league, as evidenced by how they dissected the Bills on Monday. As for the Super Bowl? They’ll probably have to wait until next year.

The AFC West Will Be a Dogfight

Many predicted the AFC West would be competitive, but it’s shaping up to be an absolute dogfight. The Chiefs are still the favorites, but the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos all showed this weekend there is a lot of talent on their rosters. Apart from the Raiders, who have their first win of the season, all teams are 0-1 and battling for supremacy. With the AFC looking wide open, whichever team emerges from this division battle-tested could have the edge come playoff time.

Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers Start the Season With Win

When Tom Brady retired and the team signed struggling starter Baker Mayfield, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers figured to go from Super Bowl contenders to jockeying for the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Mayfield has had all sorts of problems the last two seasons, going from Cleveland to Carolina to Los Angeles and now to Tampa Bay. A rough start to Training Camp led many to believe Kyle Trask would beat him out as starter. But Mayfield and the Bucs, with the help of a talented wide receiving corps and stout defense, surprised everyone and won in Minnesota, 20-17. Given how weak the NFC South is, the Bucs could easily come out on top in that division.

Justin Fields’ Growing Pains Continue

The development of second-year QB Justin Fields is key to the Bears’ rebuild. Fields has shown flashes of star potential, using his legs to create explosive plays. However, he is still experiencing struggles in reading defenses and going through his progressions. This past Sunday did not go well for Fields, who was overwhelmed by the Packers’ defense in a 38-20 drubbing that was a lot worse than the score indicated. This is a big year for Fields; if the Bears have another season like last with inconsistent performances from the offense, the Bears could look in a new direction, especially given the quarterback pool entering the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Cardinals Seem Primed For that No. 1 Pick

The Arizona Cardinals odds of contending this season look as bleak as ever after an 0-1 start. Don’t be fooled by their close call against the Commanders; the offense was dreadful, and with Kyler Murray not expected to return until at least the second half of the season, the team may struggle to find wins. Their offense lacks an identity, while the defense, which played admirably, lacks talent in the secondary. With how competitive the NFC West is shaping up to be, the Cardinals look to be heading towards a lost season if they can’t turn things around quickly.

Conclusion

After just two weeks, the 2023 season is already shaping to be fascinating. Some contenders have emerged, while others have questions to answer. But as we know, early season trends can be deceiving in the NFL. Still, it’s always fun to read the tea leaves and see where these developing stories may lead us. One thing is for sure – we’re in for an exciting ride this season.

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