Let’s look at five of the biggest betting surprises of the 2023 NFL season. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Surprises in NFL betting 2023
With the NFL playoffs set to begin this weekend, we wanted to take a look back at the biggest betting surprises of the 2023 regular season.
Last year’s Super Bowl contenders, the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, proved completely disappointing in 2023, while a decline in scoring across the league led to crazy results all season long.
Here are five of the biggest betting surprises from the 2023 NFL regular season.
#5: The Texans triumph while the Jaguars collapse
The Houston Texans finished 2022 at 3-13-1, the second-worst record in the entire league. They selected QB CJ Stroud with the second overall pick and paired him with first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans and several other newcomers to the roster and staff.
Houston went 10-7 and finished with its best record since 2019
Instead of resorting to the excuse of youthful ignorance, Houston went 10-7 and finished with its best record since 2019. Their Week 18 win secured them a spot in the playoffs, but didn’t guarantee an AFC South title since The Jacksonville Jaguars, who were 9-7 at the time, still had to play the next day.
Jacksonville had been just -1000 (90.9% implied probability) to win the division after beating the Texans in Week 12, but an untimely injury to QB Trevor Lawrence and an overall decline in play hurt them, as they lost five of their last six games. Their Week 18 loss to the Tennessee Titans 6-11 meant they not only lost the division, but also missed the playoffs entirely.
#4: Buffalo’s rapid turnaround
The Buffalo Bills had won the AFC East three years in a row and were once again the +120 favorites to win it entering the season. However, after falling to 6-6, they were at +950 to clinch the title, well behind the Miami Dolphins at -1550, and at +460 to even make the playoffs.
Buoyed by a change at offensive coordinator and an adjustment to their on-field identity, the Bills won five straight games and defeated the Dolphins 21-14 in the final game of the year to clinch the AFC East title and second place in the AFC to back up .
Oddsmakers have positioned the Bills as the third most likely team to win the Super Bowl following their dramatic turnaround late in the season. They haven’t made it this far since losing four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s, but the AFC is wide open and the odds are as good as they have been in recent years.
#3: Joe Flacco saves the day
Joe Flacco engineered one of the best playoff runs of all time and capped it off with a Super Bowl ring in 2012. But at the start of the year, he was sitting on his couch, watching the games like a regular fan.
last desperate attempt to save their season
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns had major problems at the quarterback spot. Deshaun Watson and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson both struggled and got injured, while PJ Walker played like the worst quarterback in the league. The Browns’ desperation led them to call in Flacco as a last-ditch effort to salvage their season.
Unsurprisingly, the Browns lost his debut and fell to +7,000 odds at major sportsbooks, but Flacco then led them to four straight wins and helped them to the fifth seed in the playoffs. You are now +3100 to win the Lombardi Trophy. While the Browns are still four wins away from a Super Bowl title, the crafty veteran has already made the magic happen once and could have another run in him.
#2: Money is printed during prime time
NFL betting is both an art and a science and is nearly impossible to master. That’s why the trick of blindly betting on the under in prime-time games was a big surprise during the 2023 NFL regular season.
Primetime unders are 149-99-1 (60.1%) over the past five years and are close to 70% in 2023. Using 52.4% as the breakeven mark for lines with odds of -110, the prime-time under was well in the green all year.
Possible explanations for this trend include the added pressure on the national stage, different rest periods and a league-wide decline in offensive production. Still, this proved to be one of the best betting strategies in the NFL.
#1: Touchdown Contest between $5 and $489,000
It’s really hard to win parlays. This is why sportsbooks advertise them so much, as the profit margins are much larger and they know that people are willing to take the extra risk because of the excitement.
One DraftKings bettor must have missed the memo because, against all odds, he cashed in a 14-leg contest that turned $5 into $489,383.01. All 14 legs were touchdown scorers at any time, the highlight being Christian McCaffrey on Christmas Day.
The punter recorded himself watching the final game and cheered with his family as McCaffrey crossed the goal line. It’s safe to say he had a pretty great Christmas thanks to NFL betting.